A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Beatification of Pauline M Jaricot

Pauline Jaricot will be beatified in Lyon on 22 May 2022. She is best known as the founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In the early 19th century the Church was experiencing a flourishing of its missionary activity in the so-called New World. The Society for the Propagation of the Faith grew out of the need to assist this missionary activity. Funds raised were sent initially to Asia and also to America to support the efforts of missionaries. 

Born during the French Revolution in 1799, Pauline Jaricot’s life was to become a testament to the power of lay people in our Church. She believed that if we all dedicate ourselves to praying a little and giving a little, we can help share God’s love throughout the world. Pauline’s parents gave her a loving upbringing and a living faith; she witnessed, and was inspired by, their acts of generosity and charity. In her teens, Pauline was a pretty and worldly young woman who enjoyed socialising and her life in high society.  Then her life was changed forever due  to a severe fall which affected her mobility. Pauline’s health deteriorated and she became depressed. A local priest visited her and reinvigorated her faith. With his guidance, Pauline’s love of God  was renewed.  

Pauline committed herself to small acts of charity – she believed, that in alleviating the suffering of those around her, she was alleviating the suffering of Christ. She changed her life: she gave away her finery and began to take care of people living in poverty, making daily trips to a hospice to tend and accompany those who were dying. Pauline also devoted her time to the young workers from the city’s silk factories – she started meetings and catechism sessions with them. “The poor are God’s true favourites... they bear his mark and his benevolence... God’s love gives value to the smallest actions...” 

All of Pauline’s efforts and energy were channelled into fulfilling her missionary calling. She wanted to be a missionary overseas but because of her health,  and constraints as a woman of her time, she was unable to fulfil this role. So, she became a missionary from her  own home.

At age 19, Pauline established a penny collection among her father’s employees: the first social missionary network. Supporters met in small groups of ten to donate pennies, pray and exchange news about ‘the missions’. In turn, they created more groups. This network became the Association for the Propagation of the Faith in 1822. It then spread throughout the world. Pope Pius XI elevated its status to a pontifical society in 1922.

Pauline also founded the Association of the Living Rosary in 1826 because she wanted to reach out to others through prayer, connecting with all classes in society and spreading the Gospel through meditation on the mysteries of the rosary. Pauline saw the groups of the Living Rosary as a large spiritual family.

Pauline realised that for people to pray for ‘mission’ and support missionaries, they needed to know about the real challenges missionaries faced. What was it like to travel for months on a boat to the unknown? To become ill just after you stepped off the boat? To share Christ with those who had never heard of him?  To adapt to very different languages  and cultures?  So she began The Annals of the Propagation of the Faith. It was once the most widely read publication in the world.

Around 1823 Fr Colin, founder of the Society of Mary, had dealings with Pauline. He was on the point of abandoning his dream of founding the Society. Prophetically she exhorted him to leave aside his personal inclination against leading the project and encouraged him in his efforts to found the Society of Mary. 

In New Zealand, 200 years later, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith continues to support the mission of the Church. It is one of four Pontifical Mission Societies united under the umbrella of MissioNZ.

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