As a boy, he visited his grandparents during the summers—and it was his grandfather who helped him learn how to recite the divine office every day. Jean Moët (godfather and maternal grandfather of John Baptist de La Salle) was married to Perrette Lespagnol and was the Seigneur of the small village of Brouillet. De La Salle visited them as a child, staying at their house and praying in the small church nearby.
Guibert, author of an “Histoire de St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle” for the canonization of De La Salle in 1900, may have been the first to suggest that the young Jean Baptiste used to visit his grandparents at Brouillet.
There’s a paragraph in the introduction to his book which, translated, is as follows:
“It was in 1555 that a Nicolas Moët bought the territory of Brouillet and became its ‘Seigneur’ [ie. Lord]. But the Moët family did not take up residence there but used it only as an occasional place to visit. Only a century later did Jean Moët take over the property as his permanent residence: the transaction is to be found in the deeds dated 1662. Many times, no doubt, Jean-Baptist de La Salle accompanied his venerable grandfather to the country retreat at Brouillet and there received from him lessons and examples of piety.”
The following is taken from the text of Br. Leon Aroz (CL 26, pp. 131-138):
“The domain of Brouillet, from which Jean Moët derived his title of nobility, was not inconsiderable.”
Its existence is attested from 1501. It was then a mere cottage dwelling belonging to Pierre de Thuisy who sold it to Nicolas Moët in 1555. According to a lease drawn up between the latter and a certain Lasnier family the property had become a thatched house, courtyard and garden situated in the village of Brouillet… with another house and twenty acres of land in Foligny. Both properties were enlarged by Phillipe Moët and was described in 1632 as a house situated in the village of Brouillet consisting of a main front block of living rooms, kitchen, basement-storerooms, and attics, the roof pitched and covered with flat tiles. In addition to this main building there are thatched stables, and a tile-covered dovecote … Jean Moët inherited the property from Phillipe, his father, and defended his rights as possessor against the claim of Simon de France and certain villagers.
An agreement signed April 30, 1658 settled the rival claims and recognized M. de Brouillet’s honorific position with regard to the (Brouillet) church which gave him a bench at the right side of the church and above that of M. de France. The bench to be of sufficient length to accommodate the said Sieur de Brouillet, his wife and his family. The said M. de France to have his bench some distance below according to his rank as bourgeois.
These clauses, simple as they are, would suffice to prove the presence of Jean Moët at Brouillet. But there are others more conclusive. In 1662, in a sales contract to a Marie Desnoilles, Jean Moët is described as the Seigneur de Brouillet, his place of residence. For eight years at least (1662-1670), he spent a part of each year at this country property. On more than one such occasion, no doubt, the kindly and religious-minded grandfather invited his grandson (who was also his godson) to spend some time at Brouillet. Together they would have explored the grounds, the woods, the sheepfolds and the outhouses, making a survey of the surrounding countryside.
Orphans since April 8, 1672, Jean-Baptiste de La Salle and his sisters and brothers were blessed with the tender love of their maternal grandmother, Perrette Lespagnol, whose ways and virtues kept them in mind of their mother’s. No doubt, they loved to gather around her and to accompany her to the little village church, saying their prayers along with her, devoutly kneeling, like her, at the foot of the altar at a place where a tablet would one day mark the spot where her husband’s heart, at his wish, was buried. For Jean Moët loved the land-workers and farm-hands of Brouillet. He was noble not only by title but, still more, by the virtuous qualities that adorned his life…
A wall tablet on the right hand wall, near the sanctuary, has the following epitaph:
‘TO THE MEMORY OF MESSIRE JEAN MOËT, SEIGNEUR DE BROUILLETAND, PART, OF DUGNY, LOUVERGY, RONVILLE ETC. SON OF MESSIRE PHILLIPE MOËT, AND
GRANDISON OF MESSIRE NICOLAS MOËT ALSO SEIGNEUR! OFTHE SAID PLACES WHO, AFTER HAVING MADE MANY GIFTS TO THIS CHURCH DURING HIS LIFE WISHED THAT
HIS HEART BE BURIED HERE. HE DIED IN THIS ESTATE OFBROUILLET ON 27 JULY 1670 AGED 71. HIS HEART IS INTERRED AT THE FOOT OF THE ALTAR OF THIS CHURCH AND HIS BODY IN THE CHURCH OF ST. HILAIRE IN REIMS IN THE TOMB OF HIS ANCESTORS. AND (to the memory) OF MESSIRE NICOLAS Moët SEIGNEUR DE BROUILLET AND, IN PART OF OTHER PLACES, (Jean’s) SON, WHO DIED ON25 MAY 1706 AGED 74 AND IS BURIED AT REIMS IN THE SAID TOMB OF HIS ANCESTORS. PRAY TO GOD FOR THE REPOSE OF THEIR SOULS.”
A few centimeters to the right of the epitaph is a portrait, the Leger I, of Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, a very modest affair of 18 x 24 cm, linking the names of godson and godfather, of nobleman and saint.
Everything is humble in this fifteenth century church with its modest bell-tower. Likewise in this tiny village where flows the Brouillet, a stream finding its way into the Ardre, a tributary of the Mame. Humble too is the Moët residence, existing since the XVth century but now in a state of dilapidation: a magnificent staircase giving access to the master bedroom, and a great dovecote are the only remaining vestiges of its ancient splendor.
Jean Moët died at Brouillet, July 27,1670, as the epitaph above assures us. The death-certificate, drawn up at Reims, gives the date as July 28. The burial took place on the 31st. The time between the death and the burial would support the accuracy of the epitaph date.
Panoramic view inside the Brouillet chapel De La Salle worshipped in as a child
1) What must it have been like for De La Salle to grow up in such a noble household, but with so many deaths of his siblings?
2) How could your life have been different due to where you were raised in your early life?