Yesterday the Jesuits worldwide received a beautiful letter from Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., the superior general of the Society of Jesus, on Blessed Jacques Berthieu, S.J., the Belgian missionary and martyr who will be canonized (along with Kateri Tekakwitha and Marianne Cope) this Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI.  The Jesuit curia has graciously allowed us to publish Fr. Nicolás's moving tribute to Fr. Berthieu, whose story may not be as well known in this country as that of Kateri or Marianne, but is every bit as inspiring. 

Fr. Jacques Berthieu, a French Jesuit (1838-1896), priest and missionary in Madagascar, was declared a blessed martyr of faith and chastity by Pope Paul VI in 1965 during the Second Vatican Council. He will be canonized in Rome on October 21st with six other Blessed. This day coincides with the World Mission Sunday and is part of the celebration of the Year of Faith and the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. Moreover, for the Society of Jesus, this year 2012 is also marked by the Congregation of Procurators which took place last July in Nairobi. The apostolic vitality of the provinces of Africa and Madagascar and our renewed awareness of sentire cum Ecclesia invite us to receive with fervor the witness of Jacques Berthieu. After recalling the stages of his life and his martyrdom according to the sources, I will highlight some aspects of his holiness that challenge us today.

. . .

The total and irreversible gift of his life in the following of Christ was at the heart of his commitment. In the midst of trials, he retained his sense of humor, and remained affable, humble and helpful. He liked to quote the Gospel passage: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but rather of those who make one lose one’s soul.” (cf. Mt 10:28). In his instructions, he often spoke of the resurrection of the dead. The faithful remembered the following sentence: “Even if you are eaten by a crocodile, you will rise again.” Was this a premonition of his own end? In fact, after his death, two inhabitants of Ambiatibe dragged his body to the river Mananara, a short distance away from the place of his martyrdom, and his remains disappeared.

Read Father General's full letter here.

Comments

6466379 | 10/16/2012 - 6:33pm
Congratulations to AMERICA’s Jesuits, all Jesuits, the Catholic Church, on the canonization of Jesuit Priest Jacques Berthieu!  I’m happy because Saint Jacques validates yet again that fidelity to the teachings of Jesus are spiritually worth the effort for the individual, which in tangible ways benefit suffering, deprived humanity by way of the Corporal Works of Mercy, underlined by James who said, “Faith without works is dead!” St. Jacques certainly filled that slot. I mean excelled!


I’m also happy because I  love Jesuits  and if I could relive my life I’d probably try to become one, which on second thought might not be a good idea for Jesuits!  But I do like Jesuits and when they rejoice I rejoice too, when they get stepped on, I feel squashed too! I can say this even though I am a long professed lay Franciscan, who personally finds affinity  in Jesuit and Franciscan prayer life, as both intently focus on the power of the imagination to give a beating heart to prayerful converse with the Lord. Both are people of the heart underscoring Pascal’s truthful comment, “The heart has reasons that the mind cannot comprehend!”
 But Jesuits use their brains a lot too and that's another reason why I like them. They make me think, often expanding “outside the box” where, as  experience shows, elusive truth often resides.
Saint Jacques Berthieu, pray for us!  Again, CONGRATULATIONS to all Jesuits!