Written by Sherry
Tuesday, 10 July 2007 22:06
Catherine Jarrige is one of my favorite heroines of the faith because she was so unpretentious,creative, and fearless. Catherine was not a "catechist" in our normal sense of the word - one who teaches catechism lessons to small children. But what do you call a lay woman who created an underground for priests and carried the entire weight of Catholic religious life on her shoulder for several years during the French Revolution. Parish life director, indeed!
Here is an article that I wrote year ago about the charism of service, using Catherine as an examplar.
This July 4, American Catholics will have something more than independence and fireworks to celebrate. It will mark the first celebration of memorial of Blessed Catherine Jarrige, who was beatified last November.
By any standards, Catherine, a French peasant and lay Dominican who outwitted a revolutionary government in order to keep Catholic life alive in a time of oppression, is a remarkable women. But more remarkable is the fact that her exploits seem to have been empowered by a gift that we consider one of the most ordinary and unremarkable - the charism of service.
The charism of service empowers a Christian to be a channel of God’s purposes by recognizing the logistical gaps or unmet needs that can prevent good things from happening, and by personally doing whatever it takes to solve the problem and meet the need. Christians with this charism see what the rest of us can so often miss—the organizational roadblocks and practical gaps that keep good things from happening. They are gifted with a kind of radar that seeks out and anticipates potential logistical problems.
Those with a gift of service are also energized by the challenge of taking personal action to solve the problem they have recognized. These are the people who will set up chairs without being asked when the facilitator of a meeting falls sick, or will spot a vacancy in the schedule of ushers and voluntarily fill in for the missing person.
People with the gift of service really know what it takes to get a job done and are personally willing to do whatever is necessary. Usually able to turn to their hands to most any practical task, servers are the hard-working backbone of any community. They are usually deeply involved in their local parish or Christian community because they find it intolerable that things should not be done for want of a little “common sense” and elbow grease.
Of course, their sense is anything but common. Catherine Jarrige, for example, was shrewd, fearless, and absolutely ingenious. During the French Revolution, all Christian churches and monasteries in France were closed and priests who were caught were routinely executed.
Catherine set up an underground for hunted priests, hiding them in robber’s dens and provided them with food, shelter, safe passage, and false papers. In her region, no babies went unbaptized or the dying without last rites. The entire religious life of the area rested on her capable shoulders for several years.
Catherine also helped restart parish life after the Revolution. There is real evidence that Catherine is still busy coming to other’s aid today. Attending her beatification ceremony in St. Peters last November was a man who had been miraculously healed at the age of six through Catherine’s intercession
I must not forget to mention that Catherine was a lay Dominican as well.