Born at Cassis (Bouches-du-Rhône), January 14, 1800.
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame du Laus, June 21, 1819.
Oblation at Notre-Dame du Laus, June 29, 1820.
Left the Congregation, expelled, October 20, 1822.
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, January 25, 1824.
François-Xavier Alphonse Coulin was born at Cassis on January 14, 1800. He studied at the minor seminary and the major seminary in Aix from 1812 to 1819 and was a member of the Youth Association of Aix from 1815 on. Very attached to Eugene de Mazenod and much esteemed by him, he began his novitiate at Notre-Dame du Laus on June 21, 1819. It was there that he made his oblation on June 29, 1820.
From 1820 to 1822, he taught the postulants and the novices of the final year of classical studies and of the year before of Notre-Dame du Laus community. In his frequent letters to the Founder, he enthusiastically sang the praises of the community that boasted 24 members at the end of 1821. On November 24, December 8 and 20 of 1820, he wrote: “What a paradise Laus is! I feel that the fullness of happiness can be experienced here and experience it myself. I love my brothers, all my brothers, as well as I love myself. I admire them and I am spurred on to the practice of the virtues by the admirable example they set for me. [...] We are increasingly more fervent, increasingly more united, increasingly more detached from everything... You should just see your children, how loveable they are, happy and joyful, and how good is the harmony that always reigns among them; it is the rule of charity its most delightful form.”
But Coulin is a tormented soul, devoured by “a tainted fire,” unstable in his moods, faltering in his desires. On February 27, 1821, he wrote: “I am an extraordinary individual. I fluctuate from extreme joy to mortal sadness.” In 1822, everything was falling apart. His students could no longer stand him; 8 novices out of 12 left the Congregation. He sowed discord in the community. Already in February-March 1821 Father Tempier had written about him to the Founder: “While having sympathy for his human weakness, I do not feel I have to tolerate individuals who try the patience of everyone in a community of regular observance.”
In the course of the summer of 1822, he left the Congregation and was expelled on October 20. Bishop de Mazenod gives some explanation of this in his Diary entry of October 6, 1837. Mr. Coulin withdrew to his home at Cassis and announced to Father de Mazenod that he was going to join the diocesan clergy. The Founder answered him on November 23: “Apart from the advice that I gave you when sending you away, you know that, in spite of your pressing and repeated insistence that I present you as a candidate for the sub-diaconate, I never agreed to do so unless you agreed to live in a community of regular observance. I must even tell you that, unless that condition was fulfilled, you were better to leave the clerical state. [...] If you do become ordained as a secular priest and live in the secular world, I tremble in fear for your salvation.”
Abbé Coulin was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod on January 25, 1824. In Marseilles, he carried out a fruitful ministry. He had good memories of the Congregation. On November 30, 1822, he wrote to his cousin, Vidal: “A person can be good and at the same time not be suitable for all situations.” His relations with Bishop de Mazenod were always friendly. He worked with his bishop as vicar and director of the catechism of perseverance program.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Oblate General Archives in Rome. Oblation formula, Notre-Dame du Laus, June 29, 1820; 12 letters to Father Tempier (1821-1823) and 80 letters to the Founder (1817-1837).