There is so much to say about our recently beatified founder, Blessed Pauline Marie Jaricot, I could write for weeks! Lest people think that Pauline was a hero of her times and celebrated during her life for founding The Society for the Propagation of the Faith and The Living Rosary, I thought it was time to tell, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story."
As Pauline's ten-person "Prayer Circles" for the missions met weekly, their ministry of to praying and sacrificing for the missions came to the attention of a local group called The Messieurs, whose work was like Pauline's. The biggest difference was that their idea was to fund just one mission at a time. They approached Pauline to merge efforts; she was hesitant until she received the support of one of the men who agreed with her vision of supporting all missions. After The Society for the Propagation was established on May 3, 1822, Pauline withdrew from active participation and The Messieurs took on its oversight. Backing away from the organization she loved, she modestly said, "I was the match that lit the fire."
Pauline went on to start the Association of the Living Rosary, another membership society to encourage prayer and material sacrifice for the missions. She began to suffer from heart problems and was frail in health.
At this time, St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, became her spiritual director. He advised her to withdraw from such an active life of charity.
But Pauline had a new dream. To show solidarity with local factory workers, she convinced some wealthy citizens of Lyon to invest in a new venture. They purchased a factory with housing and a chapel to create a Christian enclave with fair working conditions and affordable housing.
Unfortunately, Pauline entrusted the management of the project to an unscrupulous person who swindled the group and made off with the funds. Pauline spent the rest of her life working to pay off the debts of the investors. She wrote to the men who ran The Propagation of the Faith asking for help and was denied. For the last ten years of her life, she lived begging for food, living with those whom she had once served. Pauline died penniless, listed on the roll of the poor of Lyon.
Pauline once famously said, "I am made to love and serve. My cloister is the world." Then, she lit a fire of faith that continues to burn brightly, worldwide.
As we celebrate Pentecost, consider this: what fire of faith can you light with your "match?" Do it and go change your world.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.