Spending time with an old friend

We are into our third week here in our Mother House in Brittany (= study session). This evening, I spent a few hours chatting with a remarkable 87 year-old, Brother Henri Caroff (see photo). I first got to know Bro. Henri 20 years ago when as a young trainee Brother (a "Scholastic") I would come to the training wing of our Mother house here in France for Christmas, Easter and part of the Summer for a few years to be the other young Scholastics.

As I've mentioned before on here he is from the western, most celtic part of Brittany (Finistere) and he learned English (which he speaks wonderfully) as a young boy on journeys by boat to England with his father who was an onion seller. He also speaks fluent Breton, German, Italian and Spanish. He has even taught himself some Russian and Portuguese. Every morning he gets his language books out and notes out and goes through lessons in each language. Whilst here in the Mother House where he lives in community, I ordered him a present which came the other day: a one-volume edition of C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles Of Narnia" which he is now devouring! Don't forget, this man is 87!!!

He taught in primary schools all his working life, and when he retired he spent some years going to Lourdes for the pilgrimage season where he worked in the Mass office. His linguistic skills served him very well during this time. For most of the last 20 years he has been based at our Mother House in Ploërmel, working as a gardener in the grounds. I took the below photo the other day just after he had been working for 4-5 hours weeding flower beds along the central path going through the Mother House grounds down to the Brothers' cemetery. The results of his handiwork can be seen over his left shoulder. Clean as a whistle!

He has stayed incredibly fit. Indeed, he has been a keen sportsman all his life and is still a passionate football supporter. He avidly follows news of the English Premiership and the BBC World Service. During my visits as a young Brother we used to regularly play table-tennis in the afternoons.

The two of us during a visit of mine a couple of years ago.

Bro. Henri painting the crucifixes on the graves in the Brothers' cemetery back in 1993.

I feel privileged that he considers me a friend and that we enjoy each other's company. Many are the chats we've had over the years. He could certainly talk the hind legs off a donkey, even now. His energy and dynamism, his fraternal warmth, his faith are such an example to me and always will be.
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