Above: French Flag
SAINT ANDREW HUBERT FOURNET (1752-1834)
Cofounder of the Daughters of the Cross
His feast = May 16
SAINT JOAN ELIZABETH MARY LUCY BICHIER DES ANGES (1773-1838)
Cofounder of the Daughters of the Cross
Her feast transferred from August 26
SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS (1797-1863)
Founder of the Priest of the Sacred Heart of Betharram
His feast transferred from May 14
Each of these saints has a separate feast day on the Rom Catholic calendar. Yet telling their unified story makes much sense to me. And this is my ecumenical calendar of saints, so I can place anyone on any date I choose. So may 16, for my purposes, is the feast fay for all three, not just St. Andrew Fournet.
We begin with St. Andrew Fournet (1752-1834), born at Maille, near Poitiers, France. His mother wanted him to become a priest, but the young saint had other ideas. He studied law and philosophy at Poitiers instead. Yet a priest who happened to be his uncle convinced the saint to honor his mother’s wishes. Fournet, ordained to the priesthood, assisted his uncle then served as parish priest at Maille. There he lived quite simply–austerely, in fact–in contrast to his previous standard of living, which had been quite comfortable. The saint had to go into hiding during the French Revolution, for he refused to swear allegiance to the government. He lived in Spain from 1792 to 1797 and resumed life as a fugitive in France from 1797 to 1802.
We turn next to St. Elizabeth Bichier (1773-1838). Joan Elizabeth Mary Luch Bichier des Anges was the daughter of Anthony Bichier, lord of the manor, Chateau des Anges, at Le Blanc, France. Educated at the Poitiers convent, she succeeded in preventing the National Assembly from confiscating the estate after her father’s death. In 1796 Bichier was living with her mother at Bethines, near Poitiers. At Bethines the female saint kept the faith when doing so was risky.
The paths of St. Andrew Fournet and St. Elizabeth Bichier crossed in 1797, when they met and became friends. She was dedicating her life to teaching the young and caring for the aged and the ill of Bethines. Fournet composed a rule for her to follow. In 1802, with the announcement of the Concordat between Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII, Fournet returned to life as a parish priest. Two years later, Bichier’s mother died, so the female saint became a Carmelite novice at Poitiers. She and Fournet were preparing to found a new religious order. They did so in 1807, establish the Daughters of the Cross, devoted to teaching the young and caring for the aged and the ill. Fournet wrote the order’s rule.
There was a coworker: Saint Michael Garicoits (1797-1863). Born at Ibarra, near Bayonne, France, Garicoits worked as a shepherd when a boy. He studied at St. Palais College, Bayonne, becoming a priest in 1823. This was three years after Fournet had retired, thus beginning the period during which he served as a confessor and a spiritual adviser to the order. Garicoits, meanwhile, served as a pastor then as a professor of theology at the Lestelle-Betharram seminary then as Rector of that seminary. Garicoits, in 1834, succeeded the recently deceased Fournet as a confessor and a spiritual adviser to the Daughters of the Cross.
St. Elizabeth Bichier, in her final years, encouraged Garicoits to found a new order, the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Betharram. The members of this order, founded in 1838, devoted themselves to missionary work. Unfortunately, politics involving bishops delayed papal approval of the order until 1877, fourteen years after the death of Garicoits.
We human beings are supposed to support and encourage each other in good deeds and in works of righteousness. The overlapping stories of these three saints demonstrate this principle well. May we–you, O reader, and I–in our efforts, regardless of how humble of seemingly minor they might be, live accordingly.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 7, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINTS MONTFORD SCOTT, EDMUND GENNINGS, HENRY WALPOLE, AND THEIR FELLOW MARTYRS
THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST DE LA SALLE, FOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS
THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE AMERICAS
THE FEAST OF SAINT TIKHON, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW
Lord God, you have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses.
Grant that we, encouraged by the examples of your servants
Saint Andrew Fournet,
Saint Elizabeth Bichier,
and Saint Michael Garicoits,
may persevere in the course that is set before us and, at the last, share in your eternal joy with all the saints in light,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
—Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59