Father Ren? Mulot

This portrait of Father René Mulot is derived from a painting of him that is kept in the presbytery in Questembert, where Father Mulot died during a mission in 1749.

Father René Mulot (1683-1749)

First Superior General after St Louis Marie

René Mulot was born in Fontenay-le-Comte in 1683, and was ordained a priest in 1707. However, he very soon became ill, suffering from breathlessness, serious inability to sleep and perhaps even a degree of paralysis. Because of this, by 1715 he had retired from any active ministry and was living with his brother, Jean Mulot, also a priest and the pastor of Saint-Pompain in Poitou. Abbé Jean Mulot decided that he wanted a mission preached in his parish, and his brother René, having heard much about the missions preached by Father de Montfort, suggested that he should be the one to be asked. He set off in search of the missionary, and found him in Fontenay-le-Comte in September 1715, where he asked him to come to his brother's parish to preach the mission. But Father de Montfort's first reaction was to say 'no': he said that "he was already booked for many other places," and he saw no reason to upset his plans to give preference to Saint-Pompain. Rene Mulot, however, was not put off by this, and he redoubled his pleas to get the missionary to agree. In the course of this, he happened to say: "If only I had the strength and the knowledge, I would follow you everywhere." At this, Louis Marie told him that he would indeed come to Saint-Pompain, but only if René Mulot would go with him to help in another mission that was arranged in Vouvant. René, taking fright at this, tried timidly to step back: "What would you do with a missionary like me? I would be more of a burden than useful." The reply he received was: "If you have the will to follow me and work with me for the rest of your life, I will go to your brother's parish, but not otherwise. All your ills will disappear the moment you start to work for the salvation of souls, and you must make a first attempt at the mission in Vouvant."

Father Mulot, despite his misgivings, agreed, and indeed his illness does seem to have left him, for he worked with St Louis Marie in Vouvant in October, in Saint-Pompain in November, in Villiers-en-Plaine in January 1716 and finally in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre from 1st April to the end of the month. As St Louis Marie lay dying, during this mission in Saint-Laurent, it seems clear that he wanted Father Mulot to follow him as the leader of the missionary team he had formed, which was the beginning of the growth of his Company of Mary. When the mission ended, however, after the saint's death, Fathers Mulot and Vatel (the only two priests who had so far committed themselves to belong to the Company of Mary) retired to Saint-Pompain, and for two years they remained there, apparently afraid to take on any parish missions themselves. It was almost by trickery that they were finally convinced to take up again the work that Father de Montfort had intended for them.

At the beginning of Lent in 1718, the parish-priest of Saint-Etienne-des-Loges, near Saint Pompain, asked them to help him prepare his parishioners for their Easter duties. Thinking that all they would be required to do was to hear confessions, the two priests agreed. However, without their knowledge, the wiley parish-priest had announced to his parish that they were coming to preach a mission! When rumours of it reached the ears of the missionaries, they could not allow themselves to disappoint such a large number of people: they were condemned to improvising a mission! Because they did not have any sermons prepared, they contented themselves with reading from the pulpit some passages from good books, and making brief commentaries on them. And their mission was a great success! This encourgaed them to take up again the work of parish missions that Father de Montfort had all along intended for them, and they preached a total of thirty-four missions during the next four years.

In the meantime, Father Mulot had established contact with Sister Marie-Louise Trichet, the Superior of the Daughters of Wisdom, and, at her urging, he moved his still small but gradually growing band of missionaries to Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre in 1721, and was officially elected Superior of the Company of Mary the following year, 1722, and the confreres made their profession into his hands. Although also responsible for the Daughters of Wisdom, he continued his mission work, and preached many missions over the next 27 years, becoming highly renowned as a preacher.

It was during a mission in Questembert in the diocese of Vannes in Brittany that he died on 12 May 1749. Following the example of St Louis Marie, he would often, during his missions, set about the restoration of neglected chapels and churches. In Questembert, he was working to restore the cemetery chapel when he stepped on a rusty nail; tetanus set in, and within a few days he was dead. He was buried in the very cemetery where he had been working when the accident occurred, and his tomb became something of a place of pilgrimage in the century that followed.

At Father Mulot's death, the Fathers of the Company of Mary numbered 12, the Brothers 6; the Daughters of Wisdom numbered 100 in 26 houses, 19 having already died.