IN May of this year, the Vatican announced that a miracle attributed to Pauline-Marie Jaricot had been officially recognised, thus paving the way for her Beatification. This 19th century French laywoman is often referred to as the ‘Mother of Mission,’ due to her role in helping to establish the first of the Pontifical Mission Societies, which are active all over the world.
Her life story is documented, in part, elsewhere on the Missio Scotland website (https://www.missioscotland.com/history)—and will be expanded upon in due course—but what of the story of her journey to her Beatification?
Bringing faith to life
Pauline, born on July 22, 1799, belonged to a family of silk workers from Lyon. Her family business boomed in the aftermath of the Revolution and they made their fortune in the trade. However, despite coming from this upper middle class background, Pauline led a much simpler life, remaining celibate and taking a keen interest in the living conditions of those who worked in her family’s factory. Despite having a brother, Phileas, who was a missionary in Vietnam, she chose not to enter religious life herself, instead considering the world to be her cloister.
Inspired by her brother’s missionary zeal—she herself was member of an association founded by the Fathers of the Foreign Missions of Paris—and supported by the women in her family factory, who she was close to, she endeavoured to change the world for the better. She asked people to pray for missionaries and those living in mission countries and territories and donate a penny a week for the missions. That simple notion spread throughout her native land and eventually further afield leading to the foundation of the first of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, which became Pontifical in 1822 after being declared as such by Pope Pius XI.
Pauline also created the Living Rosary Association, whereby she invited Christians to recite the prayer in small groups. She expanded the organisation's work to include the distribution of prayer leaflets, holy pictures, medals and rosaries. The Living Rosary Association grew rapidly in France and spread to other countries. In 1832, Pope Gregory XVI gave Canonical status to the association.
“Her entrepreneurial spirit and her interpersonal skills allowed her to bring together thousands of people and to bring the faith to life, just as she wished,” Gaëtan Boucharlat de Chazotte vice-president of the Friends of Pauline Jaricot, said. "She was passionate, had a very strong temperament and, as a result, she was supported very quickly in her work.”
In 1831, Pauline acquired the house in which she was to spend her last days, the Maison de Lorette. She purchased land around it to install religious communities. She had a chapel dedicated to St Philomena as well as outbuildings and she also had the house re-modelled to host the main office the Living Rosary Association. She died in that house in January 1862, leaving behind a legacy of love for her faith and for mission. The house was acquired by the Pontifical Mission Societies in 1975 and is now a museum.
The Diocese of Lyon initiated the Beatification process of Pauline Jaricot before the Holy See in 1930. In 1962, Pope John XXIII recognised Pauline Jaricot as venerable. All that was missing was the recognition of a miracle in order to achieve Beatification.
This would take place in 2012. A three-year-old girl, Mayline Tran, was choking on a piece of food. Hospitalised, she went into cardiac arrest and was considered lost by the doctors. In her school, a prayer chain to Pauline Jaricot—whose jubilee was celebrated that year—was set up. A few days later, the child showed signs of life and eventually recovered.
A diocesan inquiry into the presumed cure was investigated at the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Diocese of Lyon, before the case was examined in Rome. After a long scientific and Canonical procedure, the doctors concluded that the cure was ‘unexplained.’ After sharing their findings with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis authorised the decree recognising the miracle.
Due to the current global pandemic crisis, no Beatification date has been set, but given that Diocese of Lyon has supported Pauline’s cause for so long, it is truly wonderful that almost 100 years later, the descendants of the future Blessed—and those who keep her memory alive—will see their devotion come to fruition.
"We welcome this Beatification with great joy and great enthusiasm,” Gaëtan Boucharlat de Chazotte said. “Pauline’s life and work has resonance even now, she breathed spirituality into society.”
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