October 27 - The Spiritual and mystical aspects of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith

27 October 2021

When we look at the life and work of Pauline Marie Jaricot today, we soon realise that she was raised in a Catholic milieu where Christian values were passed on in the family and society. Certainly, before her radical “conversion”, she liked to have fun, to dress well and to participate in social gatherings. At the age of seventeen, however, she experienced God in a profound and personal way. This experience opened Pauline to the great Mystery of God in Christ now living in her heart.  From now on, Jesus Christ would be everything for her and, perceiving the happiness of living with and for him, she would developed a missionary logic that would remain with her for the rest of her life.

Pauline grew spiritually, through suffering and trials, while striving to conform in every way to God’s will. Did she not experience a true martyrdom of the heart, allowing Christ to live in her and in the hearts of the people she met? Pauline wanted the Gospel to reach the ends of the earth; that is why she wanted the Society of the Propagation of the Faith to support all missionaries throughout the world. At the time of its foundation, the President was right to say, We are Catholics and we must found something Catholic, that is, something universal. We must not think only of this or that mission in particular, but of all the missions and missionary initiatives throughout the world. (Mgr Cristiani and J. Servel, Marie Pauline Jaricot, op. cit., p. 39.) From its foundation, the Society of the Propagation of the Faith was able to rely on the participation of a group of prosperous individuals and those well situated in society.  This ensured it a solidity and a future that the young Jaricot alone could not have provided for the Society. From the onset, the universality of the initiative is paramount and clearly visible and it will be effective throughout the world (Ubique per orbem). It should, therefore be noted that a most important element regarding the event of 3 May 1822 was the entry onto the scene and into action of a group of high and wealthy people, which gave the work a solidity and a future that the young Jaricot had not been able to provide. (Mgr Cristiani and J. Servel, Marie Pauline Jaricot, op. cit., p. 42).

As already foreseen by Pauline, the Society was placed under the spiritual patronage of St. Francis Xavier. In fact the two major feasts of the Society are May 3rd, the day of its official foundation and December 3rd, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier. On these days the associates are invited to pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Many other elements were taken from Pauline, such as the penny per week, the collection by tens, hundreds and thousands; and various printed documents that were to become the Annals; the collection sheets (lists of the primitive work). Indeed, the name Propagation of the Faith, was proposed by Pauline, as was the invocation to St. Francis Xavier, the universal of the aim of the Society, even if the intention and the ultimate goal were not yet fully effective in the distribution of her almsgiving. (Mgr Cristiani and J. Servel, Marie Pauline Jaricot, op. cit., p. 41).

If Pauline was summarily dismissed or "ousted" (Mgr Cristiani and J. Servel, Marie Pauline Jaricot, op. cit., p. 52) in 1822 from the direction of her Society, she knew, in fact, how to dismiss herself, without showing any resentment. She simply assumed the modest role of centenarian. With a "holy indifference" (Mgr Cristiani and J. Servel, Marie Pauline Jaricot, op. cit., p. 43), she knew how to assume her responsibilities as initiator or founder of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, helping it to grow for the good of the Church in mission. In the end, Pauline made a great sacrifice, leaving her missionary enterprise to others who appeared to be more capable than she was to give it a rapid and sure development. What was important for Pauline was the "salvation of souls", the support given to missionaries through prayer, financial means, and promoting missionary vocations. She never stopped praying for the Society, which can be considered the masterpiece of her life and work. She never stopped thinking about it, promoting it and sharing in its life. The Propagation of the Faith is the expression of Pauline's offering, as if she had offered herself as a "victim". In this sense the Propagation of the Faith was a particular application of her fundamental act of personal consecration to the Lord. Her important idea was the universal apostolate, through prayer, sacrifice and action.

From this point on, it is easy to understand Pauline's devotion to the Sacred Heart: May our senses be overcome by the heart, and may our heart in turn be overcome by the infinite love of Jesus Christ! Without this, it is impossible for us to understand the mystery of a crucified God; his humiliations, his wounds, his crown of thorns, his cross.  His annihilation in the divine Eucharist does not flatter our senses. Indeed, our senses may make us insensitive to his love. It is therefore in order to overcome our hearts, as if in spite of ourselves, that this generous God, in these last times, shows us his own defeat by his love for us. He wants his Heart to be exposed to our veneration, in order to awaken our sensitivity by his tenderness set against our indifference, and in order to confound our ingratitude by the memory of his benefits. (Pauline Jaricot, Écrit spirituel, Paris, Mame, 2005, p. 101)

For Pauline, the logic of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith is that of making known to the whole world the God who loves us so much, the God revealed in Jesus Christ. She longed to have the light of Christ and the grace of Redemption effective in the masses who have not receive them. The logic of sharing the light of the Gospel and the grace of Redemption with the masses who have not yet received them. This includes providing these gifts to those who had lost them. This is an immense ambition, like that of Christ himself.

The Love of Christ was the great spring of Pauline's life, a love discovered through the Virgin Mary. Through the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, as well as through the Living Rosary, she contemplated Jesus through the eyes of Mary. Mary’s poor one, daughter of the Son offered to the Father, as she like to call herself (Sr Cecilia Giacovelli, Pauline Jaricot, op. cit., pp. 319-323). She wanted to make the merciful Heart of Christ known and loved everywhere. She is the "first match to light the fire", the missionary fire but also the fire of God's love, which must be contagious. It invites us to turn to God and to become, like Jesus, "a living offering to the praise of his glory. It is in daily prayer that Pauline draws her missionary impetus and the strength to undertake a task of global proportions. Her only wish was to do everything for the greater glory of God.

Until her death at the age of sixty-three, when she experienced difficult and even cruel moments, Pauline abandoned herself to the love of the One she loved more than anything else, and with absolute trust. As Paul affirmed in his letter to the Galatians, so Pauline could say, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). (Gal 2:20). From now on, she made every effort to transmit the inner flame burning within her, a fire of God’s love that is so intense that it cannot but flow out into love for people, for the poor and the little ones, especially the exploited workers who had become her friends.