Inspiration and Discovery From Cover to Cover
To my great joy, I was given the opportunity to introduce myself to you and tell you about my extraordinary duties in the Rosemont convent. My name is Maxime Laprade, and I am a master’s student in medieval history at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Since fall 2018, I have been working as the rare books clerk at the provincial library, in the Rosemont convent in Montreal.
First, I have to say that the library contains an impressive number (thousands!) of publications of all kinds, including many duplicate copies, which means there is a need to prune the collection. I assist Fr. Pierre Brunette, OFM, who is responsible for managing the Franciscan book heritage. Fr. Brunette’s predecessor, the late Fr. Laurent Gallant, OFM, dreamed of arranging the library in a way that showcases the rich collection of Franciscan works, both antiquarian and modern.
Building on his tremendous work, which has been enhanced considerably by the efforts of the dynamic Brother Lucien Abalo, OFM, a student in library sciences at the Université de Montréal, we are humbly trying to build the most comprehensive library of Franciscana possible.
The library contains antiquarian and more modern books and periodicals. Many reference works or monographs tackle subjects such as history, theology, philosophy, sociology, and more. Some are very rare or very old. Most of the works from the 19th century and earlier fall within the categories mentioned above. The older books are organized differently, based on format, age and physical condition. For example, incunabula are printed books from before 1500. Post incunabula date from 1500 to 1530. The terminus ante quem (limit after which) date for “antiquarian” books is generally 1830. The library is also responsible for important manuscripts dating from the 15th to the 19th century, preserved at the convent in a secure and temperate location.
Also, Fr. Brunette and I are overseeing the work of a team from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières related to a cataloguing project. Ordinarily, three young doctoral students and their supervisor work with us to add the oldest works to an online database. The library is also culling its non-Franciscan rare books, a process begun by Fr. Gallant; these are sold through a specialized bookseller, with the funds benefiting the library.
Since my arrival among the shelves, I have discovered a place that holds one-of-a-kind treasures. Beyond the books and the spirituality or the history they contain, I have come across the collections of famous Franciscans of years past. I’m thinking of the books that belonged to eminent scholars, respectful dedications among colleagues or warmer ones between long-time friends. Wishes and notes, written in a number of languages, themselves contain fragments of each person’s story. A library is a gathering of great ideas, but it’s also a timeless meeting place with others in its own right. In a library, we are never really alone.
From the library, located right near the church, I sometimes hear the comforting sound of the organ, or that of the life of prayer that follows its daily rhythm. The company of others is a richness in itself. The brothers of Rosemont, with whom I never get tired of interacting, have shared with me their home, their table, but also many stories of their lives as priests or as pillars of communities around the world. I have been able to meet missionary pioneers, distinguished scholars and brothers whose light shines through the strength of their passion and their faith.
In the refectory, as is the case among the books, I have gradually been able to glean some snippets of Franciscan experiences to nourish my own interior life so it can blossom. The quiet atmosphere found there, the kindness of the brothers and their never-ending welcome of me, are and will always remain for me signs of a deeply inspiring charity. For me, they are proof of a humanity that lives fully its trust in Him.