The 2 French Coulais brothers: a complete brotherhood

Faith, pilgrimages and the path to the priesthood

In this interview, they tell us the importance of pilgrimages in his life and how the Lord led them on their path to be priests.

Childhood, adolescence, and return to the Lord

Vianney was born in Poitiers, France, on August 28, 2000, and is studying the first cycle of Theology, the first year of the Bachelor’s degree.

Vianney (V): That’s right! I am 23 years old, and I am the first of four brothers. We grew up in a family with no shortage of Sunday services, and I am grateful to my parents for passing on the faith to me as a child. I was always curious about my religion, and I was nourished by the training in the various summer camps I did with the Legionaries of Christ and the Franciscans.

However, when I reached adolescence, the school environment and friendships did not favor my relationship with the Lord, which I put aside.

His brother, Emmanuel-Marie, was born on December 21, 2002, in Poitiers, and is studying the second year of the first cycle of Philosophy, the so-called propaedeutic, to then continue studying Theology, the training that every seminarian needs.

Emmanuel-Marie (E): Yes, as Vianney said, we were raised in a Christian family that granted us the grace of being baptized as children. In our family, we went to Mass every Sunday, it was our date of faith. The Lord guided me on this path, and I must say that my father and mother played an important role in the development of my personal faith and my relationship with Jesus.

I made my First Communion when I was eight years old, and in our house we prayed the rosary and often talked about faith. However, I must say that I had not yet had that personal encounter with the Lord.

When I was young, we made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, the whole family, and there I especially felt the presence of the Virgin Mary. But when I returned, when I was about 12–13 years old, I immersed myself in the world, in music and in parties. I soon abandoned my relationship with the Lord and let myself be carried away by the world.

I still had the desire to receive Confirmation, and throughout that time I was searching for myself; so it was as if I played a double role, at home I was myself, I had a relationship with Jesus, I was interested in faith, and, when I was in high school, I returned to the world. I began to go to Mass us a habit, and it became more and more difficult for me.

The importance of pilgrimages in the lives of the two brothers

V: Totally. Until I was 18, the various pilgrimages to Marian sanctuaries helped me a lot, which represented ‘fuel’ for the whole year, in the midst of so many worries and fun. However, the call to be a priest had been growing in me since I was 13, when a person from the prison ministry came to school.

This encounter impacted me because I saw the beauty of bringing the message of the Gospel to those who no longer had hope, a horizon or meaning in life. I also asked myself what I would like to do with my life.

When I started college, at age 17, I found myself alone in a new city. Making new friends was not easy, and the party atmosphere no longer suited me. That year I found solace in prayer and sacramental life, which I lived with much more intensity.

E: Same for me… An important moment of my adolescence that marked me a lot was when I went to the youth festival in Medjugorje for the first time, at the age of 13. For a week I lived the festival program, the Mass, the conferences, and what especially marked me during the festival were the moving testimonies, true miracles of God’s mercy, especially the power of the Rosary prayer.

At that moment, the Lord touched my heart and placed this seed in me, which he let sprout little by little. But then I returned to the world and there was a year-long battle with the world, parties, alcohol…, and, on the other hand, my relationship with the Lord.

The following year, when I was 14 years old, I returned to the festival and again Jesus made the seed that he had placed in me sprout. But I must say that I never thought about being a priest, nor did I have the idea or the desire.

Those moments spent there were a source of peace and joy for me, but soon, when I returned home, I abandoned everything due to lack of desire. I no longer prayed, I no longer went to Mass on Sundays.

Discern the vocation among thousands of noises

Finally, the vocation was a calling among many difficulties.

V: Yes, and yet this call to be a priest was becoming stronger. But it had to be discerned among the thousand noises in the world. So at the end of the first year of high school I decided to spend a whole month with my godmother, who is a nun from the community of the Beatitudes. She has always been a model and a reference for me in my spiritual life.

I wanted to find an answer to this intuition that was growing in me, that of giving my life to the Lord by becoming a priest. After this period of discernment, I decided to leave university studies and enter the seminary. I then met the community of the Work of Jesus High Priest, to which I belong.

E: Well, for me a great impulse was the young people that I saw on pilgrimages, in the summer camps, at festivals… And of course, my brother!

After going with my family, at the age of 16 I went to Medjugorje alone for the first time, to the youth festival. And at that precise moment of my adolescence, the Lord made this prayer grow in me: “Make me your servant.” I remember that when I was in front of the Blessed Sacrament and received Communion, I repeated this prayer that accompanied me and welled up in me.

I think that at that moment Jesus put in me that desire to give myself more to Him, and I felt it in me with my friends, I prayed more, I went to Mass more often, sometimes to Adoration during the week. That alone encounter with Jesus in Medjugorje really changed my heart. And yet, I was afraid… Fear that the Lord would call me to the priesthood and I would have to give up getting married, having a life ‘of my own’, let’s say…

I was 16 years old and entering the last year of high school, the last year, in which I had to think about my future. And I wanted to dedicate myself to marketing and fashion.

What do you really want from me?                

But your brother entered the Work of Jesus High Priest and something changed in you…

E: Exactly. In that same year, my older brother entered the Work of Jesus High Priest and made the decision to enter the seminary. I was very moved by his choice and very happy for him. And even though I didn’t have him at home with me, every time I called him and had questions about God, he answered me and helped me in my daily life through prayer.

At that time, I remember that one day in December I went to Mass. When I entered the chapel, I looked at Jesus and said, “What do you really want for me, what do you want me to do with my life?” I made this request with great intensity and nothing, no response in my heart.

However, the Mass began, and when the priest raised the host and said the words This is my body, which will be given for you, I felt in my heart that Jesus was saying to me: your answer is before you, and I saw that the priest was holding the host. At that moment, so intense, but impossible to describe, even with the most beautiful words, I felt in my heart that Jesus was calling me to be a priest, as if he were saying to me internally: I would like you to give yourself completely to me, but you are free. It was a new feeling for me, a new desire.

I remember that when we left, in the car, I told my father: “Either I become a priest or nothing.” In the following months there was a lockdown due to Covid, so I was able to pray more at home, but I was deprived of Mass and this was a great pain for me.

Being connected to the Franciscans through summer camps, I was thinking about joining his order, so I asked Jesus to lead me to a seminary. I told him that the most important thing was to feel joy and peace when I entered the seminary, to know that it was his will. And after a few months I entered the Work of Jesus High Priest, where my brother was already.

His training in Rome

And with the decision of religious life, comes formation in Rome for both brothers.

V: After a propaedeutic period, I began to study philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. In October 2023 I started attending the first-year Theology course. I am very happy to be able to study at Holy Cross, where I can deepen my study of Theology, thanks to the help of our benefactors at the CARF Foundation.

E: I’m really very happy, too! I arrived on September 9, 2020 in Rome. I did two years of preparatory studies before entering the University of the Holy Cross, where this year I started my second year of Philosophy.

My brother and I would like to thank all our dear benefactors of the CARF Foundation, because thanks to their donations, we seminarians can sustain our studies to one day become priests. We carry you in our prayers every day with your intentions, and we thank you.