October 31 - Mission as a desire to spread the love of God

31 October 2021

At the end of this journey, it is interesting to link the launching of what was to become the Society of the Propagation of the Faith (1822) to the Living Rosary (1826). The former was conceived as a network of spiritual and financial support for the Catholic mission ad gentes. The latter appears more as a network of prayer for the regeneration of the faith, even where the links are deep. (See Chantal Paisant, "Le Rosaire vivant de Pauline ou la mission comme Amour d'extension", in Documents Épiscopat n°6/2013 on Pauline Marie Jaricot. Une œuvre d'amour, published by the General Secretariat of the Conférence des Évêques de France, pp. 23-30, especially p. 23). These two initiatives bear the mark of Pauline's genius, rooted in the love of Jesus with a universal vision of the Church. Like the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, the Living Rosary was to play a considerable role in the spiritual support and development of Catholic missions in the 19th century.

Pauline mobilised the "weekly penny collection" for the missions, after hearing the request for support from the Parish Foreign Mission Society, represented by her brother Philéas. She rallied the workers with whom she had already created the association of Réparatrices du cœur de Jésus méconnu et méprisé, dedicated to prayer and works of charity. She invented her famous decimal system, which enabled her to extend her network in an extraordinary way.

The system worked so well that, two years later, it had almost 1000 associates. At the time of the official creation of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, it provided the basis for the world-wide network of supporters of the missions in Asia and America. Soon missionaries throughout the whole world would benefit from the spiritual and financial support of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith and the Living Rosary. Pauline had the art of inventing the appropriate response to the needs of her time. She was able to put her capacity for social mobilisation and her sense of organisation at the service of Christ and His Church and its universal mission of proclaiming the Gospel. Faced with the general epidemic of impiety, she was able to find a spiritual remedy for what she called the new spiritual invasion that threatened society. Not only will devotion no longer be the business of a few people, who try to live it privately, but also it will become popular.

Small solidarity units would now multiply, not only based on the 10 as in the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, but on fifteen led by a group leader. Pauline compared her friends in the Living Rosary to weak, little ants of the good Lord  who, attracted by the sweetness of the air, came out of their retreat. (Pauline Jaricot, Le Rosaire vivant, op. cit., pp. 194 and 197) 

Well, since we rightly think that we are very puny beings, let us take one of these little ants as a point of comparison, and try to be humble and small like them, in our esteem, at the feet of the King of heaven and earth. In my opinion, the best thing we can do is to adore our Creator and to submit ourselves to the sovereign domain of his holy will. We shall say to him, “Lord, to manifest the glory of your mercy, deign to lower your gaze from heaven, where you dwell, upon these little intelligent ants, which your omnipotence has created! Take them in your hand to inspire them with new life by your vivifying breath”. Then, my God, if after that you say, “little ants carry this mountain”, we will no longer say, “this is not possible”, knowing that you would not know how to command anything impossible. Lord, what we cannot do, we must believe that you will do. (Pauline Jaricot, The Living Rosary, op. cit., p. 194; see p.197).

Let us meditate on a few lines written by Pauline Jaricot on Easter, joy and glory, but also on the Holy Trinity. Lord, your victory is our own inheritance [...] Ah! in this day of your Resurrection, come and visit your captive children; see the earth in its desolation; see the peoples seduced, infected by the pestilence of false doctrines; see the generations swept away by the torrent of bad examples... See your friends, your children discouraged, bound by I know not what impotence; see the earth covered with the shadows of death. O divine Light! lift up this stone which seems to hold captive, in the tomb of sin, most of your poor creatures; [...] triumph for each of the souls you have conquered by your death, and make them free by your resurrection. Yes, O my God, the mystery of your Resurrection is as powerful, as full of grace, strength and merit as it was at the moment it was accomplished. Apply, then, to our unhappy century and make the effect of your glorious Resurrection felt from one end of the world to the other. Forget our iniquities and remember our offences no more. Shake off all our chains at once; break all the fetters of the captives; renew the world and confound, for ever, the empire of Satan. (Pauline Jaricot, Le Rosaire vivant, Paris, Lethielleux, 2011, pp. 233-234).

Let us conclude this month of meditation with Pauline Marie Jaricot by reading an extract from her meditation on the Trinity. In the course of the month of Mary, the feast of the Most Adorable Trinity, the last of all our solemnities, and that of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in which are summed up all the mysteries of the charity of the God made man, are celebrated again this year. In the midst of the abundant harvest of grace that this beautiful month of Mary offers us to gather, one cannot help but be preoccupied by a concern that moves the soul to the core. God, before whom a thousand years are like a day, has hastened, it seems, to gather together in one day, not of twelve hours but of twelve years which have just passed, all the marvels which he has wrought for his people for more than eighteen centuries... And it is in the time when the iniquities of the earth seemed to have more than filled the measure, that God, yes, let us say it, to the glory of his infinite mercy, comes to oppose to the multitude of sinners who offend him, instead of a display of Justice, a superabundance of graces and sweetness.  (Pauline Jaricot, Le Rosaire vivant, Paris, Lethielleux, 2011, pp. 235-236).

Let us then note the reflection of Pope Paul VI, who in 1972 on the occasion of the second International Missionary Conference held in Lyon to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith said the following about Pauline.  More than others, she had to meet, accept and overcome in love a sum of challenges, failures, humiliations and abandonments, which gave her work the mark of the cross and its mysterious fruitfulness... The seed modestly sown by Mary Pauline has become a great tree. The work of the Propagation of the Faith... In the wake of Marie Pauline Jaricot, the whole Church is invited to this concrete commitment. (Georges Naïdenoff, Pauline Jaricot, op. cit, p. 102.)

Finally, it is significant that when Pauline experiences her “conversion” and decides to abandon her life into God's hands, she opts for a love oriented towards missionary commitment. She writes,  The immense desire to love, the devouring thirst to possess my God, made me desire also to act for his glory. I wanted to contribute to the glory of the Church. I had never felt attracted to the life of the nuns. I would go to see the ceremonies of taking the habit: an irresistible force drew me joyfully out of their holy asylum and seemed to cry out to me in spite of myself: this is not where you should consecrate yourself to Jesus Christ. (Georges Naïdenoff, Pauline Jaricot, op. cit., p. 39)

For Pauline, the only thing that counted was the interior cry of love, the prayer in which the Christian unites his or her heart with love to the admirable dispositions of the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary. This direction of intention teaches us little by little to act in union with Jesus and Mary. We are invited to follow Pauline Marie Jaricot in imploring Jesus and Mary give humanity glimpses of the love that awakens the most hardened hearts and resurrects the most sadly dead souls. (See Chantal Paisant, "Le Rosaire vivant de Pauline ou la mission comme Amour d'extension", in Documents Épiscopat n°6/2013 on Pauline Marie Jaricot. op. cit, p. 29)

We are invited to love and spread God's love to the ends of the earth by a meeting of forces which our hearts lend to each other to love more perfectly those whom God created in his likeness and redeemed like us by his precious blood. (Rules of the Living Rosary, 1829; see Chantal Paisant, "Le Rosaire vivant de Pauline ou la mission comme Amour d'extension", in Documents Épiscopat n°6/2013 sur Pauline Marie Jaricot, op. cit., p. 27).