Today is the feast day of Saint Michael Garicoits. Ora pro nobis.
Michael Garicoits was born on a small farm in the south of France, near the town of Ibarre, not far from Lourdes and from Betharram, an ancient pilgrimage site. Michael, the first son of young Arnold Garicoits and his wife Gratianne, was born here on April 15, 1797. As a little boy he had to help earn a livelihood by serving as a shepherd on a neighboring farm.
Often young Michael Garicoits expressed the desire of becoming a priest; but his parents always told him: “No! We are too poor.” However, his grandmother went to the parish priest at St Palais and told him about Michael. This priest had often found a hiding place in the Garicoits home during the Revolution and subsequent years. The priest, in gratitude, made arrangements so that Michael could study for the priesthood, first at St Palais and then at Bayonne.
The parents would not have to pay anything, and the boy would earn his expenses by working for the priests and in the bishop’s kitchen outside of school hours. Later Michael studied philosophy at Aire, and theology at Dax.
As a seminarian at Dax, he taught a class in the nearby preparatory school. He was ordained a priest at Bayonne in December, 1823. He was ordained a priest at Bayonne in 1823, and spent two years as Assistant in the parish of Cambo, where he established the devotion and confraternity of the Sacred Heart. He was summoned to the Major Seminary of Betharram to serve as a professor of philosophy and theology in 1825, and he became Superior there in 1831.
In 1832 he made a retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, which strengthened in him his desire to found a new Society of Priests, a desire confirmed by his superiors’ approbation. He had been greatly impressed by the poverty he had seen practiced by a holy Foundress of a Congregation of Sisters, herself compared to Saint Teresa of Avila, who during her lifetime saw 99 houses of her Congregation established in several countries. Father Michael desired the same practice of poverty for his priests, as he had seen instituted under the direction of Saint Elizabeth Bichier des Ages, who founded the Daughters of the Cross, or Sisters of Saint Andrew.
In his early efforts as founder, the fervent priest was faced with the opposition of his bishop, who desired that the new Institute be placed more specifically under diocesan authority than under that of its religious Superiors. Father Michael, devoted to the Will of God, the point of departure to attain sanctity, remained in submission for long years.
Father Michael died of apoplexy on Ascension Day, May 14, 1863.
The sainthood process started under Pope Leo XIII on 15 May 1899 and Garicoïts was named as a Servant of God. Pope Benedict XV confirmed that the priest had lived a life of heroic virtue and named him as Venerable on 10 December 1916. Two miracles approved allowed for Pope Pius XI to preside over his beatification on 10 May 1923 while a decree resumed the cause on 23 July 1924.
Two additional miracles were investigated and received the validation on 17 July 1929. A preparatory committee approved them both on 13 April 1943 as did a general committee on 15 February 1944 and Pope Pius XII on 27 February 1944 who confirmed his sainthood. Pius XII proclaimed Garicoïts to be a saint on 6 July 1947.
In 1877, fourteen years after the death of St. Michael, the congregation which he had founded received papal approval according to the original plan. It is called Auxiliary Priests of the Sacred Heart, and follows the rule of St Augustine. The members of the society take perpetual vows, and devote themselves to teaching and the care for souls.
Image: Image de st Michel Garicoïts, fondateur de la Congrégation des Prêtres du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus de Bétharram (3)