Brother Neil (Francis Xavier) Müller/Miller, C.S.C. (1835-1919)
The Regulator and Lamplighter
In the Midwest Province, Brothers of Holy Cross, archives, in a file half hidden in the back of a cabinet is the information about this brother who led a “hidden life.” Francis Xavier Müller, now and then, referred to as Miller, was misfiled for nearly 100 years. The file is rich in photos but sparse in information about his life.
He was born in Salzstatten, Wertemberg, Germany in 1835. There is no record of when he came to the States, yet he entered the juniorate at Notre Dame in 1856 and took final vows of obedience and poverty in 1861. Until his death in 1919 he had but three jobs: he was the ‘regulator’ who rang a bell to call the religious to wake in the morning, go to chapel or meals, or be called to a “special” convocation by some superior. Secondly, he mended old clothing; and third, he was the campus lamplighter. There are no other records in his file save a short obituary in an unnamed newspaper.
“A man whom St. Francis would have loved on account of his simplicity, unworldliness and spirit of poverty was the venerable Brother Neil, of the Congregation of Holy Cross, who after receiving the last aids and blessings of the Church, departed for heaven last week at Notre Dame. For more than half a century he was the community’s bell ringer and mender of old clothes. Only that! But how wondrously well he performed his humble service—ringing his bell with unfailing regularity, and plying the needle until the end of his life! A more guileless soul, or one more meek, we have never known. By some special grace, he seemed to be protected from all the world’s sordidness and exempted from all fret. Never to lose the presence of God, to do His will in all things, to keep himself unspotted from the world, and to be ever ready for the summons to depart from it—this was his only solicitude. In the Ages of Faith there were many Christians like Brother Neil; but “truths have diminished” since then, and the “fine gold has become dim.”