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Louis Even

Written by Therese Tardif on Saturday, 29 October 2016. Posted in About us

Louis Even and the Early History of the Pilgrims of St. Michael

Louis Even

Louis Even was the 14th of 16 children born to Pierre Even and Marguerite Vitré on La Poulanière farm, in Montfort-sur-Meu, in Brittany, France on March 23, 1885.

Montfort-sur-Meu was also the birthplace of Saint Louis de Montfort. Louis Even inherited the saint's great devotion to Mary, mother of our Lord.

He attended grammar school in his home village and received a sound Christian education.  At the age of 11 years, he entered the Juniorate of the Brothers of Christian Instruction, in Livré, France.  Six of his siblings became religious brothers and sisters.  

Six years later, on February 2, 1901, he began his novitiate in Ploërmel. In July of the same year, anti-religious sentiment raged in France. The government enacted the Combes Law and refused all requests to form religious associations.  In 1903, the Brothers of Christian Instruction were notified by the government that their Institute would be dissolved. Henceforth, the religious order was forbidden from wearing their habit and from teaching in France.

The Brothers decided to send their best on mission. Louis Even, part of this group, was sent to Canada in February, 1903. From there, he was sent to teach the native people in the state of Montana and remained in this capacity until 1906. During these years he acquired a fluency in the English language that would later become useful when studying the writings of Major C. H. Douglas and others on the subject of Social Credit.

In Canada

Louis Even returned to Canada in 1906, on the feast of Saint John the Baptist, the patron saint of Quebec. That same year, he taught school at Grand Mère. From 1907 to 1911, he taught at St. Francis' School in Montreal's Immaculate Conception parish.

The Brothers' printing shop

Louis Even lost his hearing and could no longer teach. He was sent to La Prairie, Quebec where the Brothers had a printing shop. (Les Frères de l'instruction Chrétienne was an important publishing house at the time. They printed many of the textbooks used in schools across the province). Hard working and intelligent, Louis Even made improvements and considerably expanded the shop.

He acquired new equipment which required that he study German in order to understand the instruction manuals. (He also studied Latin as a personal pursuit.) This apprenticeship in the printing business would later become most valuable during the growth of the movement.

It was the will of Providence that Louis Even was released from his vows and ended a religious affiliation with the Christian Brothers on November 20, 1920, at the age of 35.

On December 10, 1921, Louis Even and Laura Leblanc were married. They had four children: François, Gemma, Rose-Marie and Agnès.

 Garden City Press

Immediately, he found employment in Ste. Anne de Bellevue at Garden City Press, a printing shop owned by J. J. Harpell, a Catholic of Irish descent. There too, Louis Even left the mark of his genius upon the firm and worked as a typographer, proofreader and foreman at the business.

J. J. Harpell was more than a businessman. He wanted to promote the intellectual development and general knowledge of his employees and offered to them evening classes.

Harpell found an outstanding teacher in Louis Even. He translated into French The Instructor, the periodical of J. J. Harpell's Gardenvale study circle; trained new workers and taught evening classes to the employees.

Social Credit

Mr. Fielding, then Minister of Finance in Mackenzie King's government in Ottawa, once told his close friend, Mr. Harpell: “If you want to know where the financial power lies in Canada, look towards the banks and the insurance companies.” This was in 1934, in the middle of the Depression.

It was decided that the fall's evening classes would revolve around the study of money and credit. Several books and manuscripts were reviewed and I. A. Caldwell's Money, What Is It? was selected for study.  The book was translated into French by Louis Even. But it was a simple 96-page book that brought him the clarity he was seeking. It was entitled From Debt to Prosperity, written by J. Crate Larkin of Buffalo, and was a summary of Major Douglas's monetary doctrine, Social Credit.

“A light upon my path!” thought Louis Even. He obtained all of Douglas' books. He recognized in Social Credit a body of principles which would establish an effective monetary system and end the misery of the Depression. He told himself: “Everyone needs to know this” and from then on all of his energy was dedicated to fulfilling this pledge.

The apostle

Contacts established through The Instructor had given birth to new Study Circles, affiliated to the Gardenvale circle, in the cities of Sherbrooke, Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres and Shawinigan. Mr. Even visited these circles and lectured on Social Credit. He eventually held public meetings across the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick.

Louis Even translated Larkin's From Debt to Prosperity into French and wrote articles on Social Credit in Le Moniteur,which had some 1,200 French-speaking subscribers across Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario, and the Prairie provinces.

The Cahiers du Crédit Social

In August, 1936 Louis Even founded another periodical, the Cahiers du Crédit Social (The Social Credit Notebooks), which he wrote during the evenings after the end of his work day. On weekends, he lectured throughout the countryside. From October, 1936 to August, 1939, a total of 16 issues of the Cahiers du Crédit Social were published and distributed to 2,400 subscribers.

Salvation Island

It was during this same period that Louis Even published his famous brochure, Salvation Island (now called The Money Myth Exploded), which he would sell for a nickel a piece to people who attended his lectures. This essay has been distributed throughout the world in eight different languages and explains the fundamentals of Social Credit.

J. Ernest Grégoire

J. Ernest-GrégoireJ. Ernest-Grégoire
1886-1980

In January, 1936, J. Ernest Grégoire was Mayor of Quebec City and member of the Legislative Assembly for Montmagny, Quebec when he attended Louis Even's lecture on Social Credit at Quebec City's Commercial Academy. He immediately joined the  cause and became one of Louis Even's staunchest supporters.

Mr. Grégoire's credentials were impressive. He attended Collège Saint-Charles-Borromeo in Sherbrooke, QC, earned credentials as a Notary at Laval University, studied French Literature at Lille University in France, attended Louvain University in Belgium for Political and Diplomatic Sciences and earned a Law degree from Laval University in Quebec City. During his career he had a busy law practice in Quebec City, taught Political Economy and Commercial Law at Quebec City's Commercial Academy, was a professor of Political Economy at Laval University and taught Architecture and Art History at the Quebec City Art College.

In spite of his significant credentials and social standing, Mr Grégoire would tell anyone who cared to listen that he "did not hold a candle to Louis Even.” In a letter addressed to the latter on January 1, 1961, Mr Grégoire wrote: “All those who have come to know you remain loyal because they are convinced by your logic, sincerity, devotion and spirit of sacrifice. They wish, with me, for Providence to keep you with us for a long time to come.”

Once Mr. Grégoire understood Social Credit, he told his students at Laval University: “I have taught you errors. Now I will teach you the truth.” Mr. Grégoire was a great supporter of Louis Even's work, and despite earning some harsh criticism, he remained loyal until his death in 1980, at the age of 95.

 

Gilberte Côté

Gilberte Côté-MercierGilberte Côté-Mercier
1910-2002

Miss Gilberte Côté had some exposure to Social Credit before she first heard Louis Even speak in February, 1937 at the Church of the Nativity in Montreal's east end. Accompanied by her mother, Mrs. Rosario Côté, and her brother, Rosaire Côté, she was excited to meet the great man and hear him lecture on the solution to the Depression which had raged for 8 years and which caused such great misery.

Mrs. Rosario Côté invited Louis Even to present two lectures in the next month at her large home on St. Joseph Boulevard in Montreal. A total of 150 people, from all walks of life, attended. His economic solution was well received.

From then on, Gilberte Côté, highly educated and disciplined, became Louis Even's collaborator and was a co-founder of the movement.

 

Gérard Mercier

Gérard MercierGérard Mercier
1914-1997

Gérard Mercier received his early education from the Brothers of Christian Instruction and continued his studies at the College de Lévis.  At the age of 25, he was working at the Annals of St. Anne de Beaupré, run by the Redemptorist order of priests.

In 1938, he subscribed to Louis Even's Cahiers du Crédit Social. One evening he picked up a copy and read it in its entirety. The next day, inspired, he was talking excitedly about Social Credit with his work colleagues. 

Gérard Mercier, joined Louis Even and Gilberte Côté in June, 1941. He  was the first full-time apostle who joined the two founders in their mission and was nicknamed “the ball of fire” by Louis Even.

He married Gilberte Côté on February 14, 1946. Mr. Mercier passed away on September 4, 1997, after 58 years dedicated to the cause.

In the hands of Providence

Louis Even left his job at Garden City Press on September 4, 1938, at the height of the Depression. In doing so, he walked away from a share in the successful business which Mr. Harpell would later bequeath to his workers.  Placing himself in the hands of Providence for his material needs and those of his family, Louis Even then dedicated all of his time to the movement for monetary reform. Providence watched over them. His son, François, would later tell television reporters that the family never lacked for the necessities of life.

From door to door

Louis Even was armed with extraordinary courage. He went door to door inviting people to attend his lectures on Social Credit. He begged for his meals and for a place to sleep. This form of close contact with families won many over to the cause. Going door to door, and after his lectures, Mr. Even would offer his Cahiers du Crédit Social for a nickel a piece, but he often gave copies away because families were so poor. Miss Côté was blessed with the same courage. She would plan a lecture, prepare flyers to  announce a meeting and deliver notices door to door. Often, she would have to start over from scratch, as many as several times in one day, because political enemies of financial reform would force owners to cancel venue bookings.  But she, too, persisted.

Vers Demain

War was declared in September, 1939. Louis Even was greatly saddened but determined and decided to start a periodical. Because of war-time measures, starting a magazine critical of the monetary system was not an easy undertaking but he was prepared to overcome all obstacles and VERS DEMAIN was launched with Mr. Even its Chief Editor.  At the time, the family lived in a small house and his bedroom was also the office where he wrote his articles and essays.

Miss Côté set up the administration offices in her mother's home. She registered new subscribers, took care of correspondence, contributed to writing for the magazine and also conducted speaking tours. Office equipment was purchased and eventually Juliette Lavigne, her cousin, came to help and also joined in apostolate work. (Mr. Even referred to Miss Lavigne as “the little Providence”.) Rosaire Côté, Gilberte Côté's brother, joined as a full-time apostle from 1939 to 1943.

Louis Even and Gilberte Côté, accompanied by Mrs. Rosario Côté, Juliette Lavigne and Rosaire Côté offered lectures throughout Canada.  When they traveled by car or train, Louis Even would set his typewriter on his knees and write articles for VERS DEMAIN. After Sunday Masses, at different parishes, the founders would speak on the church steps and seek subscribers to the magazine. Speakers were trained to do the same and meetings in other locales took place.  In this way, the Social Credit principles were spread.  There was an answer to poverty amidst plenty!

The Institute of Political Action

In 1940, Louis Even was hospitalized following an accident. He thought about establishing a vehicle to promote VERS DEMAIN and The Institute for Political Action was formed. He later wrote: “Upon VERS DEMAIN was grafted The Institute for Political Action. The Institute recognizes that all political action to meet the common good and desires of the human being, must be based upon study. VERS DEMAIN offers the opportunity for study. We work without material reward because we need nothing less than apostles to re-establish order in a world made wrong by selfishness.”

The name of The Institute for Political Action was changed to The Louis Even Institute for Social Justice in 1991 to honour Louis Even.  

VERS DEMAIN sent out a call for volunteers who would seek subscribers to the magazine, thereby spreading the Social Credit message. The first to answer the call was Gérard Mercier. Many others joined over the years. Only two years after its launch, VERS DEMAIN had 25,000 subscribers.

Today, MICHAEL (the English language publication) and VERS DEMAIN have part-time volunteers around the world who go door to door, talk and pray with families and distribute educational material.

In the early years, the Pilgrims would leave Saturday mornings and return Sunday evenings. They would visit households in different communities on Saturdays, asking for a bite to eat and a bed to spend the night. On Sunday mornings, after Mass, one would speak on the church's steps, while others distributed VERS DEMAIN and solicited subscribers. They had lunch with families, visited more households during the afternoon and returned late on Sunday nights.

Thanks to the door to door initiative, Louis Even's movement remained in good health despite sometimes significant harassment.

Regional meetings are scheduled to teach Social Credit principles in various locales to this day. Since the very beginning of the movement, an Annual Congress is held for supporters. This Congress brings together Social Crediters from all regions of Canada, the United States and other countries.

The full-time apostles

1949 Congress in AsbestosMrs. Rosario Côté, Gilberte Côté-Mercier, Louis Even and J. Ernest Grégoire at our 1949 Congress in Asbestos, Que.

Men and women joined the ranks; some for a few years, some for several years, and others for life. They traveled to different regions holding meetings and encountering families in the door to door initiative. As unpaid but inspired volunteers,  motivated by a thirst for justice, they were sustained in their work by a reliance on Providence, asking for food and for a place to sleep on their tours.

The flag and the white Beret

A flag was conceived by Louis Even in 1941 as an emblem for supporters to attach to vehicles and mount on flagpoles.  The design featured the outline of a book in gold, representing knowledge, topped by a red flame on a white background.  The flag was blessed in Christ the King Church in Sherbrooke, Quebec with the warm approval of the Most Rev. Philippe Desranleau, then Bishop of the Sherbrooke diocese. In relating the event, Louis Even wrote in the September 15, 1941 issue of VERS DEMAIN: “We shall keep our white flag free of all blemish.”

The white beret, sporting the same symbols as on the flag, was introduced by Pierre Bouchard, a fervent Social Crediter from Arvida, to the 1949 Congress in Asbestos, Quebec.  The beret was unanimously adopted and became part of the uniform of the MICHAEL and VERS DEMAIN apostles.

In this Age of Plenty

Sous le Signe de l'Abondance (In This Age of Plenty) was written by Louis Even and published in 1946. The 6th revised French edition was printed in 2015 and the 2nd English language edition was printed in 2019. It offers a clear explanation of Social Credit principles even for readers with no prior knowledge of economics. Major Douglas, who developed the principles of Social Credit once remarked that Louis Even was the one who best understood and most clearly conveyed the teachings.

In 1993, a Polish translation was published by the Most Rev. Zbigniew Kraszewski, auxiliary Bishop of Warsaw. The book received a blessing from Pope John Paul II.

Mr. Even published other essays in booklet form: Modern Taxation is Robbery, A Sound and Efficient Financial System and What is the True Meaning of Social Credit?

An English journal, MICHAEL

In 1953, Louis Even founded an English language journal that was initially named SOCIAL CREDIT and later, THE UNION OF ELECTORS. From 1968 to 1973, it was known as VERS DEMAIN  and in 1974 its title became MICHAEL.

MICHAEL is the name of the Polish language edition which was launched in September, 1999.  SAN MIGUEL began publishing in Spanish in April,  2003.

Radio and television

In addition to door to door meetings and lectures across a large region, Louis Even and Gilberte Côté-Mercier offered 30-minute television and radio broadcasts each week.  These French language lectures aired on 33 radio stations from 1958 to 1969 and on 11 television stations from 1958 to 1964.  As immorality became rampant on these media platforms the directors decided to end their broadcasts and dedicate their efforts to printed materials.

The Pilgrims of Saint Michael

Louis Even had a great devotion to the Archangel, Saint Michael. In 1961 he placed the movement under the special protection of the great Archangel by naming the apostles of the Social Credit movement The Pilgrims of Saint Michael.

The House of St. Michael (Maison St-Michel) in Rougemont

Mrs Rosario Côté housed the VERS DEMAIN offices in her home for 25 years. More room was needed as the movement grew and a parcel of land was purchased in Saint Michel de Rougemont, 55 kilometers southeast of Montreal. Volunteers built the House of St. Michael under the supervision of Dollard Leclerc, a building contractor who was a full-time apostle at the time. The work was completed and in December, 1962 Louis Even moved The Pilgrims of St. Michael's into their new headquarters. Louis Even's wife died earlier that month and was buried in Rougemont's cemetery.

In 1965, at 80 years of age, Louis Even became seriously ill and remained bedridden for three months. Gilberte Côté-Mercier became Editor of the two magazines despite her many other duties. After his recovery, Louis Even continued to present lectures and write articles for MICHAEL and VERS DEMAIN.

In France

In 1968, after 65 years away, Louis Even, returned to France for the first time since his departure to hold a lecture tour to bring the light of Social Credit to his fellow countrymen. He was accompanied by Mrs. Côté-Mercier and by Gérard Mercier. A general strike in France prevented them from holding their meetings. They returned in 1969, and this time, a Social Credit presence was established and continues in France.

Brazil

In April of 1970, at 85 years of age, Louis Even, Gilberte Côté-Mercier and Gérard Mercier traveled to Brazil to meet with Dr. Plinio Correa de Oliveira, founder of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), a Catholic organization founded in 1960 and active in the anti-socialist movement. Mr. Even hoped for a collaboration in which TFP would embrace Social Credit economic reforms in its platform.  The offer was not accepted.

A printing press

From 1939, VERS DEMAIN had been printed by a local business. In 1964, The Pilgrims purchased a small printing press to produce 9 by 12 inch leaflets. In 1972, Louis Even and the other Directors went to New York City to purchase a press that could print 4-page offprints from the two magazines. This allowed the essays in MICHAEL and VERS DEMAIN to be reproduced by the millions for world-wide distribution.

Looking at his new purchase, Louis Even said: “We are nowhere near producing the millions of copies that Saint Maximilian Kolbe printed.” We have come a long way since that day, however. The movement now prints and distributes millions of copies of Social Credit literature around the world. Since 2015, about 1 million pieces of literature have been distributed annually.

Thus began the printing shop. A few years later, a word processor and other equipment needed to manage the magazines and offprints were secured. A larger printing press, capable of printing a 16-page tabloid, was also purchased.   

Religious life

The House of St. Michael received permission to keep the Blessed Sacrament and celebrate the Holy Mass in the chapel on July 14, 1972, at Louis Even's request. The privilege was granted by the local Bishop, H. E. Albert Sanschagrin of St. Hyacinthe diocese. In addition to attending Holy Mass each day, full-time Pilgrims in Rougement enrich their apostolate work by praying the Rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, reciting the Divine Office and other prayers.

The House of the Immaculate was built in 1975, once again with volunteer workers, under the supervision of Fernand Morin. Bishop Sanschagrin presided and blessed the chapel in the new building.

1974, the great departure

Louis Even passed away at the age of 89 years on September 27, 1974. Two days later we would celebrate the feast day of our patron, the great Archangel, Michael.

Louis Even was the man who changed the course of Canadian history and of our lives. We pay a tender tribute to him and we carry on with the work he started.  

If you are called to be a missionary for economic reform, in the great tradition of sacrifice and dedication exemplified by our founders, please contact us.

 

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