Earlier this year, on May 22, 2022, Pauline Jaricot, a French lay woman (1799-1862), was solemnly proclaimed Blessed by the Roman Catholic Church during a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle at the Eurexpo in Lyon, with 12,000 faithful in attendance. Founder of the work of the Propagation of the Faith and of the Living Rosary, she knew the importance of the transmission of the Faith for the future of the Church.
As Saint Paul wrote in his Letter to the Romans (10:14): "How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher?" This transmission of the Faith to future generations remains a challenge even today. Teaching is essential, of course, but also it is necessary to have testimony and examples of life lived faithfully to the message of Christ.
The following was published in the June 2001 letter from the Saint Joseph of Clairval Abbey in France, and summarizes the life of Blessed Pauline. We ask her to inspire us in our efforts to evangelize and propagate the faith.
by Dom Antoine Marie, OSB
In the spring of 1805, shortly after the French Revolution, Pope Pius VII, returning to Rome after having crowned Napoleon in Paris, stopped in Lyon. Antoine Jaricot, a silk merchant in the city, seized the opportunity to bring his family, including Pauline, to the Pontiff for a special blessing. Pius VII rested his hands on little Pauline's head. Blessed by the Vicar of Christ, Pauline would soon distinguish herself for her love for Jesus and her tenderness toward all the poor.
Pauline Jaricot was born in Lyon on July 22, 1799. Her parents, Antoine Jaricot and Jeanne Lattier were deeply Christian. Pauline would later write, "Happy are those who have received from their parents the first seeds of Faith. Be praised, Lord, for giving me a just man for a father, and a virtuous and charitable woman for a mother." Six children already crowned this family when Pauline was born.
In the yard of the family home stood a deep well. One day when her mother had drawn a full bucket of water, Pauline, seven years old, became worried. "Mommy, tell me, is there still water left in the well?" — "Of course! The spring doesn't dwindle." — "Oh! How I'd like to have a well of gold to give some to all the unfortunate, so that there wouldn't be any more poor people at all and so no one would cry anymore."
At the age of ten, the child was placed in a boarding school. "I had the misfortune," she would admit, "of making friends with someone who, having neither the candor nor the simplicity of her age, already knew the ruses and ways of coquetry. She told me of the'conquests'that she believed to have won over." At first frightened and concerned, Pauline soon developed the need to please and to be loved. Fortunately, with the coming of her First Communion, she parted with this questionable companion. She wrote: "Jesus Christ triumphed then in my heart, and when it was decided that I would receive Him soon, I thought of nothing but preparing for Him a dwelling place that would not be too unworthy of Him." After a long examination of conscience, she made a good confession, then received Jesus in the Eucharist with immense joy. The same day she was strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation. Nevertheless, the world still tempted her. She liked elegant clothes and flattery.
One day, Pauline fell from a stepladder. The accident resulted in a strange illness in which she walked like a drunk, absently and completely lost the power of speech. Her mother, who watched over her day and night, fell seriously ill herself and died, far from Pauline, on November 26, 1814, while offering her life to God for her daughter. This death was hidden from her for some time so that Pauline might recover her health. With her convalescence, Pauline rediscovered her desire to please others, and among the young women in her circle, she distinguished herself as the most elegant. Yet, she was not happy: "My heart felt a raging thirst that nothing could quench because this poor heart, always slave to the creature, found in perishable affection nothing but an infinite void and an unimaginable torture in resisting the divine call."
On one of the last Sundays of Lent in 1816, a priest of singular virtue, Father Jean Wendel Würtz, vicar of Saint Nizier parish in Lyon, gave the sermon. Pauline had come to listen, wearing her beautiful spring dress. The preacher's words on the dangers and illusions of worldly vanity won the young woman over. She recognized herself in every detail of the sermon. At the end of the service, she went to the sacristy and opened her heart to the man of God. After a general confession, the penitent, beaming and bathed in tears, was radically changed. She wore a very plain purple dress and white bonnet on her head. But, she wrote, "It was so difficult to break with my ways of luxury and elegance that in the first months of my conversion, I suffered cruelly when I showed myself in public with my ridiculous attire. At that time, I avoided looking at my friends'lovely dresses because these things still held such a great attraction that I would never have been able to overcome this vanity had I been sparing with myself."
Her soul purified, Pauline clearly heard the call to a more perfect life. She devoted herself fervently to prayer and penance, visiting the poor and the sick, whose most repulsive ulcers she dressed with great tenderness. She organized a little studio for making artificial flowers for young unemployed women. On Christmas night in the chapel in Fourvière, Pauline came before the altar of the Black Madonna and offered her life to God through the vow of perpetual virginity. Rewarded with numerous graces from Heaven and endowed with a high level of contemplation and intimacy with the Lord, she heard the call from God to dedicate herself to the service of others. Through contact with Christ in the Holy Eucharist, profound enlightenment on the mystery of the Redeemer was communicated to her which she wished to share with others. Indeed, devout girls, workers or servants, sharing her desire to make reparation to the unknown and scorned Heart of Jesus, gathered around her.
The upheavals of the French Revolution had dried up the resources and recruitment of missionary congregations. While reading bulletins from the Foreign Missions, Pauline was moved by the situation and began to collect alms for the Missions. After prayer and reflection, she received, in the fall of 1819, the inspiration for a charitable institute to help the Missions: "One evening when I was searching in God for help—I mean for the desired plan—the clear vision of this plan was given to me and I understood the ease that each person close to me would have in finding ten associates to give a sou (French coin of little value) each week for the Propagation of the Faith. I saw at the same time the opportunity of choosing, from among the most capable of the associates, those who would inspire the most confidence to receive collections from ten persons who were in charge of ten other persons each, and the appropriateness of a head, gathering the collections of ten other persons in charge of a hundred each, to deposit all of it at the headquarters." When consulted, Father Würtz told her, "Pauline, you are too stupid to have thought up this plan. Clearly, it comes from God. Also, not only do I permit it, but I strongly advise you to put it into operation!"
Despite much opposition and lack of understanding, the Institute for the Propagation of the Faith spread at lightning speed, first in France, then throughout the world, bringing significant help to the Missions. A board of trustees was created. Pauline stepped aside: "I left, to those who wanted to take it, the honor of this divine foundation, the inspiration for which was from Heaven." In her prayer, she thanked God: "You have cast Your eyes on her whom You have thought the littlest on Earth, so as to make her the instrument of Your Providence and obtain the glory of Your adorable Name, in order that no flesh might glorify itself before You."
Pauline's intense zeal for the Missions was directly inspired by the Gospel. Before His Ascension into Heaven, the Lord Jesus dispatched His disciples, saying: Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; cf. Mt. 28:18-20). This missionary mandate reveals the goodness of God, who wants humanity to know the truth and be saved (cf. I Tim. 2:4). Indeed, "Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the promptings of the Spirit of truth are already on the way to salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary" (Declaration Dominus Jesus, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, September 6, 2000, no. 22).
Nevertheless, in the modern world, observed the Pope, "Some people wonder if missionary work among non-Christians is still relevant. Does not respect for conscience and for freedom exclude all efforts at conversion? Is it not possible to attain salvation in any religion?… If we go back to the beginnings of the Church, we find a clear affirmation that Christ is the one Savior of all, the only one able to reveal God and lead to God… for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). This statement, which was made [by Saint Peter] to the Sanhedrin, has a universal value, since for all people—Jews and Gentiles alike—salvation can only come from Jesus Christ. This definitive self-revelation of God is the fundamental reason why the Church is missionary by her very nature. She cannot do other than proclaim the Gospel, that is, the fullness of the truth which God has enabled us to know about Himself. Christ is the one mediator between God and mankind (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5-7). No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit. Christ's one, universal mediation, far from being an obstacle on the journey toward God, is the way established by God Himself" (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, December 7, 1990, no. 4 and 5).
To the question, "Why the Mission?" the Holy Father replied that in Christ, "and only in Him, are we set free from all alienation and confusion, from slavery to the power of sin and death. Christ is truly our peace (Eph. 2:14); the love of Christ impels us (2 Cor. 5:14), giving meaning and joy to our life" (Romans, no. 11).
With the saints throughout the ages, Pauline recognized the necessity of the Missions. The work of the Institute she founded continues today, as the Propagation of the Faith comes to the assistance of more than 900 dioceses in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania, awarding to each an annual ordinary grant and extraordinary grants according to need. The money comes from collections and gifts made throughout the world, and gathered in Rome.
Between 1822 and 1826, illness as well as the need for greater intimacy with the Lord forced Pauline to retreat into silence. The divine illuminations that she received at that time urged her once more to action. Very much attached to the Holy Rosary, she wished to spread devotion to it. Noticing that few people had enough time and fervor to pray it in its entirety, she had the inspiration to divide it among fifteen people who would each recite a decade each day while meditating on a mystery.
"It seemed to me that the hour had come," she would later write, "to carry out the plan, formed long ago, of an association open to everyone which would bring about union through prayer and the unique and short practice of which, frightening no one, would make it easier for the faithful the practice of daily meditation, be it nothing more than a few minutes, on the mysteries of the life and death of Jesus Christ." Thus was founded the Living Rosary in 1826. With the help of a Jesuit priest, Pauline added to this work the distribution of religious items and good books to awaken and maintain the faith. Through prayer and the spreading of sound doctrine, the Living Rosary would contribute to countless conversions.
So as to give a way of life to the young women who had gathered around her, Pauline founded the Daughters of Mary, dedicated to the care of the sick in a little house on Fourvière Hill. She then bought a large neighboring property, Lorette, which became the official headquarters of the Living Rosary. In April 1834, Pauline became seriously ill and received Extreme Unction. She nonetheless went to Italy and, encouraged by Pope Gregory XVI, begged for and obtained her cure from Saint Philomena. The Holy Father, filled with admiration and joy at the news of this miracle, received her at the Vatican.
Returning to Lyon in 1836, Pauline noted that Lorette had become a place of encounter and spiritual life visited more and more and where guests were welcomed with respect and warmth. Among them were Saints Peter Julian Eymard, John Vianney, Thérèse Couderc and Claudine Thévenet. Always at her post, Pauline listened, comforted and enlightened, opening her heart and her purse. One day in 1842, a young woman, Françoise Dubouis, brought her a letter from the Curé of Ars: "Miss Jaricot, I am referring to you a soul which God in His goodness has surely made for Himself and for you. The Blessed Virgin has protected her from all evil up to the present—now it is your turn to protect her, and teach her to love Jesus and Mary even more." Françoise became Pauline's confidant until her death.
For a long time, Pauline had been aware of workers'financial difficulties brought on by the Industrial Revolution. The conditions of silk workers were particularly tragic in Lyon. Some were housed and fed by the head of the shop where they were employed, crammed in close quarters with their families, earning a pittance for 16 hour work days. Pauline noted, "Poverty, little by little, weakens the workers'courage and virtue. The rich have no idea, in the midst of their abundance and security, of what a father or mother feels whose children are begging them for bread when they have no work, or when sickness makes it impossible to work. Bread! But then, in order to have it, they have to beg, and not everyone has the strength to do so. It seems more and more apparent to me that we must first give back to the worker his human dignity, snatching him from his slavery to relentless work. We must give him back the dignity of a father, having him find again the tenderness and charms of family life; the dignity of the Christian, in obtaining for him, with the joys of the family circle, the consolations and hopes of religion."
After praying at length, Pauline decided to dedicate her wealth to the creation of an industrial center where prudently paced and justly compensated work would permit Jesus to reign in workers'hearts. Taking advantage of a good opportunity, she laid the foundations of an enterprise which would be a veritable Way of the Cross for her from 1841 until her death twenty years later.
To launch the factory, Pauline entrusted 700,000 gold francs to individuals who had been recommended to her. At first, the enterprise seemed to operate satisfactorily and the reports were optimistic. But the businessmen to whom she had entrusted the money diverted the capital for their own profit. She wrote: "I have fallen, like the man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, into the hands of thieves." Pauline lost her fortune and found herself burdened with debt and hounded by creditors. In this dramatic situation, her concern turned first to the many poor who had lent her small sums of money for the factory. She was firmly resolved to repay them to save them from extreme poverty, and, to this end, made up her mind to beg. But her reputation had been affected. The direction of the Institute of the Propagation of the Faith, which she had founded, did not support her request for assistance: "Seeing that we do not recognize her office as foundress, of which she avails herself, the council refuses to grant financial assistance."
Pope Paul VI said, "More than others, Pauline had to encounter, accept, and overcome with love a number of objections, defeats, humiliations, and renunciations which would give her work the mark of the cross. Indeed, all the doors closed in the face of one who had opened so many for others. With each new suffering she repeated,'My God, forgive them and, in the degree that they have showered me with sufferings, heap blessings upon them'." The saintly Curé of Ars exclaimed one day from the pulpit:'My brethren! I know a person who knows well how to accept the cross, even the heaviest of crosses, and who bears them with great love. This person, my brethren, is Miss Jaricot, of Lyon!'
In 1852, it was suggested to Pauline that she create a shortcut through the Lorette property leading to the sanctuary in Fourvière. The revenues thus earned would allow her to pay back all her debts. Unfortunately, in 1856 a neighbor started a rival path which, in defiance of the right of property, crossed the Lorette garden. In spite of a court decision in her favor, Pauline refused to act against the neighbor. Thus, she would have the sorrow of dying without repaying her debts.
What is more, the factory no longer existed—it had been sold for a profit by one of her creditors. On the surface, Pauline had indeed failed. In reality, by her well-accepted sufferings she had fertilized other charitable works of the same kind which would be undertaken after her. Within the Church, hers was one of the first voices to be raised against the abuses of the Industrial Revolution, thus preparing for the Encyclical, Rerum Novarum (1891) by Leo XIII, on workers'rights to a fair salary and decent living conditions.
Today, the Church, confronted by new situations, continues to emphasize the duties of justice and solidarity. On November 4, 2000, Pope John Paul II declared to political leaders during their jubilee in Rome: "With the phenomenon of the globalization of markets, the rich and developed nations tend to improve their economic status further, while the poor countries tend to sink into ever more grievous forms of poverty. Truly there needs to be a greater spirit of solidarity in the world, as a means of overcoming the selfishness of individuals and nations. Those Christians who feel themselves called by God to political life have the duty to conform the laws of the'unbridled'market to the laws of justice and solidarity. Only in this way can we ensure a peaceful future for our world and remove the root causes of conflicts and wars. Peace is the fruit of justice."
After a 35 year remission, Pauline's heart condition worsened. Languishing for several months, the Servant of God again received Extreme Unction on the evening of the first Sunday of Advent, 1861. The following January 9, well before dawn, she was heard murmuring: "As we forgive those who trespass against us, Mary! Mary! Yes, yes, fiat!" Finally: "Mary, my Mother, I am all yours!" These were her last words. At five o'clock in the morning, a smile upon her lips, Pauline breathed her last breath and entered into true life, Eternal Life. On February 25, 1963, Blessed Pope John XXIII declared the heroism of her virtues, which earned her the title of Venerable.
Six years before her death, Pauline had written a spiritual testament in which she said: "My only treasure is the cross! In abandoning myself to You, Lord, I subscribe to my true happiness. I take possession of my sole true good. What does it matter to me, then, oh will of my God, so loved and so lovable, that You take away my earthly goods, reputation, honor, health, life, that through humiliation You make me go down into the deepest pit and abyss… I accept Your cup. I acknowledge that I am entirely unworthy of it, but again, I wait for Your help, Your transformation, Your union, and the consummation of the sacrifice for Your greater glory and the salvation of my brethren."
In Lyon and Paris, from September 17-19, 1999, celebrations were held in honor of the bicentennial of Pauline Jaricot's birth. On this occasion, Pope John Paul II addressed a letter to the Archbishop of Lyon, praising the Venerable: "By her faith, her trust, the force of her mind, her gentleness and her serene acceptance of all crosses, Pauline showed herself a true disciple of Christ. Highlighting this person, distinguished at a young age by an unprecedented spirit of initiative, should encourage love for the Eucharist, a life of prayer and the missionary activity of the whole Church, whose goal is to be united with her Savior, to make Him known and to draw all humanity to Him. Learning from Pauline, the Church must find encouragement to strengthen her faith which opens to love of others, and to continue her missionary tradition in its most varied forms."
May Saint Joseph, Protector of the Church and her Mission, obtain for us the grace to imitate Venerable Pauline's examples, and to work untiringly for the salvation of souls.
Dom Antoine Marie, OSB
This article is reprinted with permission from the Abbey of Clairval, France, which every month publishes a spiritual newsletter on the life of a saint, in English, French, Italian and Dutch. Their postal address is Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval 21150 Flavigny sur Ozerain, France. The website is www. clairval.com.