The great miracle of Mugnano One of the most illustrious heroines which the Church has given to the world in the nineteenth century is without doubt the sweet French girl, Pauline Marie Jaricot.
Many were the obstacle which this noble child had to confront whilst following the high but arduous career marked out for her by God. She was the favorite daughter of wealthy parents from whom she inherited a vast fortune. Her beauty was striking and singled her out in the most fashionable gatherings as an object of admiration. Added to this she was clever, bright and gay, gifted with a most attractive personality and possessing a heart overflowing with gentleness and affection. Everything in the girl drew one towards her. Society was at her feet. Notwithstanding the allurements of pleasure and the soft flattery of many friends, Pauline always felt a call to higher things. God beckoned her one way the world another. This first combat was long and fierce, but at last grace triumphed and the victory was for God. The next struggle that our heroine was destined to encounter was of a far different nature. She lost her beloved mother at an early age and, at the same time, fell herself a prey to a violent disorder which attacked both body and mind, leaving her a veritable caricature of her former self. This trial like the former was long and intensely painful. After this came a breathing space, which in turn was followed by a still more grievous malady which kept her for long years at the very gates of death.
Wonderful are the ways of God who ever purifies in the crucible of suffering the souls which He has chosen for great designs. It was this sorely tried child who was to give the Church three of its most important modern Associations, each of which is gathering into the fold of Peter millions of abandoned souls.
Her first work was the foundation of the Association of the Living Rosary, the fruits of which are incalculable. The Society of the Propagation of the Faith came next. This society infused, in an incredibly short time, new life and vigor into the foreign missions and extended still further their already vast radius. By a single system – the inspiration of Pauline herself – abundant funds flowed in from all parts, enabling the missionaries to achieve results far in excess of their wildest dreams.
Finally, if not the sole Foundress, she at least took a leading part in the establishment of the Holy Childhood, an association which is annually rescuing countless babes from the horrors and degradation of paganism.
Pauline’s life story is well worth perusal not only because it is teeming with interest, but much more because it sets before us an example which might well serve as a model and stimulus to other girls who, like her, could do great things for the world had they only the necessary confidence in God and themselves. Unfortunately it does not come within the scope of this work to give a more lengthy account of Miss Jaricot. We refer to her merely because of her connection with Saint Philomena by whom, as we shall see, she was miraculously restored to health and whose devotion she was instrumental in spreading all over France and, indeed, throughout the world.
We entitle the cure of Miss Jaricot the Great Miracle of Mugnano, firstly, because the Holy Father Gregory XVI, who was a witness of it, declared it to be a miracle of the first class; secondly, because it was the immediate reason why the office and feast of the Saint were granted to the universal Church and, lastly, because, more than any other of the wonders worked at Mugnano, it served to make the name of Saint Philomena known far and wide.
We still allow the young heroine to recount in her own words the history of her illness and the miraculous nature of her cure
“It would be well-night impossible to describe the sufferings I endured for the past ten years. I do not pretend to give a scientific explanation of all I went through. I merely state what I felt and what I heard the doctors say.
Up to March 1835 I was, as a rule, able to bear my pains in such a way that those around me had no idea of what I was going through. After the Revolution, however, the disease showed unmistakable signs of aggravation. As my malady chiefly affected the heart, in proportion as it increased, the palpitations became ore violent so that they could be heard at a distance. On these occasions my sides heaved with the agony I endured. A slight movement or change of position was sufficient to send the blood rushing violently back to my heart, thus causing imminent risk of suffocation. My breathing seemed to cease and the beatings of my pulse became imperceptible, so that the most drastic remedies had to be applied to restore some degree of heat to my frozen limbs
The abnormal dilation of my heart compressed the lungs, and breathing became a positive torture. As a consequence, I was compelled to lie perfectly still lest the over-charged blood vessels should burst
In the part of my chest where the palpitations were most violent, a cavity was gradually formed into which most violent, a cavity was gradually formed into which the food that I attempted to swallow lodged, causing still further danger of suffocation
The doctors now made two openings in my side in a vain effort to check the progress of the disease and with a view to lessen the danger of suffocation. I was in consequence reduced to such a state of pain and exhaustions as made it evident that death could not be far off
During these awful years of torture I had some short intervals of relief. The most appreciable of these was at the end of a novena made to Saint Philomena. The body of this Virgin Martyr ad been recently discovered in the Roman Catacombs, and the marvels wrought by means of her precious relics were so extraordinary that the name of Philomena was on every tongue. At the mention of this dear name I experienced intense joy and longed to kneel at the shrine of this illustrious Virgin. But alas! Such a thing seemed impossible, for her sanctuary was far away in Naples and I was unable to bear the least fatigue. Yet I felt inspired to go to the Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart, at Paray-le-Monial, not, indeed, to ask for a cure but to settle the affairs of my soul
Utterly worm out with pain I said to myself: “I survived the fearful shock and excitement of the bombardment and thought weeks and months have passed I am still alive. Surely there is some hidden design of God’s Providence in all this.” I knew that the Association of the Living Rosary was praying for me, so, placing my trust in God and these good prayers, I resolved on a step which, had it been known, would certainly have been deemed pure and simple madness
In fact I had some scruples about the matter myself as I had no wish to do anything of which my conscience did not fully approve
I therefore elicited from the doctor the information that my state was so desperate that nothing I might do mattered much one way or another. This declaration set my scruples at rest.
When I mooted the project I had at heart, I met at once with opposition. Though he was not aware of it, I heard the doctor say in a whisper: “Let her alone, let her go, she will not go far.
The preparations for the projected journey had been made in secret so Pauline started immediately in a carriage for Paray-le-Monial, accompanied by her chaplain, a young lady friend and a confidential servant. The few who knew of her departure said: “She will not reach the first resting place alive.” Even those who accompanied her feared that every jolt of the carriage would cause her death. No such thing however happened.
She arrived safely at her journey’s end and settled the affairs she had so much at heart. Then she said to herself: “This first journey did not keel me so let me go to Rome and get the Holy Father’s blessing.” This was the ambition of her life
If we think of what a journey to Rome meant in those days of coach-traveling over the Alps, through wild and abandoned stretches of territory infested with brigands, we shall be able to form some idea of the heroic faith and magnificent courage of this young girl. The journey was at all times wearisome and full of danger but, for one in Pauline’s state of exhaustion and with so small an escort, it was perilous in the extreme. Death seemed to dog the steps of the travelers. The pains endured by the poor invalid were excruciating. Only when her sufferings were most intense could she be induced to make a short halt, and, even then, after the briefest rest she would insist, with indomitable courage, on pursuing the journey. When the party reached Chambery, Pauline herself lost hope and resigned herself to die for from home and far from the Vicar of Christ. Her weakness was extreme and she completely lost the use of her senses, remaining unconscious for two whole days. The pupils in the Convent of the town made a novena to Saint Philomena for her recovery and, at its conclusion, she was much better and the journey was resumed. The snow was so deep on the road over the Alps, that notwithstanding their powerful horses and the valuable aid of sturdy mountaineers, their progress was slow and difficult
On reaching the summit of Mount Cenis a glorious view burst on their delighted gaze and they halted for some time to contemplate the magnificent panorama that stretched before them.
As they gazed on this wondrous scene, a beautiful child suddenly appeared – no one knew whence he came – and approaching the carriage where Pauline lay, smiled on her sweetly and presented her with a beautiful white rose which exhaled a delightful perfume
The guides had never before seen the child, who disappeared as quickly as he had come, nor could they form any idea of who he might be. The rose, they declared, could not have bloomed in the mountains. No such flowers were found in these regions of snow. The little incident was a consolation for the travelers after all they had undergone. Pauline’s companions saw in it a symbol of the beautiful present she was about to make the Holy Father, nothing less than the gift of her first great work, the Living Rosary, of which the white and fragrant rose was so fit an emblem
“On our arrival in the Italian plains” she goes on to write, “we were forced to travel by night, as the heat of the day was excessive. I had no fear of brigands or of evil spirits since we were under the protection of our Lady and Saint Philomena. We made sure to have their medals hung on the carriage and we likewise gave one to the postilions. It was eleven o’clock at night when we reached the foot of the mountain of Loreto and, though warned that the roads were not safe, we pushed on in the hope of soon reaching the “House of the Holy Family,” (now the Basilica of Loretto), which we did as the dawn was breaking over the hills.
Here again the invalid had a serious relapse, and once more all hope was lost of saving her life. Nevertheless she rallied and after a few days’ rest started anew on the road to the Eternal City. During this last stage of her journey the attacks were frequent and she arrived in Rome in an almost unconscious state
The nuns of the Sacred Heart, at the Trinita deiMonti, received her with the greatest affection. Her weakness was extreme and it was simply unthinkable that she should leave the convent
Thus after a long and perilous journey, in which she braved so many dangers and even death itself, she had to halt at the very threshold of the Vatican. She could go no further
The Blessed Mother and Saint Philomena were with her and she was not to lose her reward. The Holy Father soon heard of her arrival in Rome and aware of the state of exhaustion in which she lay, resolved with truly paternal affection to go himself and visit “his dear daughter” whom he so tenderly loved and who deserved so well of Holy Church.
It was surely an extraordinary honor but a still more extraordinary consolation for this most humble girl to receive the visit of the Vicar of Christ who came expressly, not merely to visit and console but to thank and bless her
The Holy Father opened his great heart and poured forth his thanks in the most affectionate terms. He told “his dear child” how please he was with all she had done; he praised her great courage and ardent faith in coming to Rome, and blessed her most abundantly. It was like a visit of our Blessed Lord, for in His Vicar she saw and reverence the Master Himself. Seeing how exhausted she was he asked her to pray for him when she got to Heaven.
“Yes, Holy Father,” she replied, “I promise to do so but, if on my return from Mugnano I come back well and go on foot to the Vatican will your Holiness deign to proceed without delay with the final enquiry into the cause of Saint Philomena?”
“Yes, yes, my daughter,” replied the Pope, “for that, indeed would be a miracle of the first class.
Turning to the Superiors the Holy Father said in Italian; “How ill our daughter is! She seems to me as if she had come forth from the grave. We shall never see her again. She will never return.”
Pauline understood what he said but only smiled confidently.
When leaving, the Pope blessed her anew and said to Cardinal Lambruscini who accompanied him; “I recommend my dear daughter to you. Grant her all the indulgences and privileges it is possible to bestow.”
It was now August and the heat was terrific. The little party started for Mugnano but had to travel by night and rest by day. They arrived at the Sanctuary on the eve of Saint Philomena’s feast
The Neapolitans and the crowds from all the surrounding districts, who flocked to the Sanctuary for the feast, went wild with excitement when they heard who Pauline was and why and whence she had come. Their sympathy for her on the one hand their jealousy for the reputation of their dear patroness on the other awakened the highest enthusiasm. Here was this French Lady, so loved by the Holy Father, who had done so much for religion, come hundreds and hundreds of miles, over the snow-capped Alps, through mountain fastnesses, braving perils and death itself to invoke Saint Philomena – She must, she must be cured
“Dear Saint Philomena” they cried, “you must cure this dear lady who has come such a distance to ask your aid. She has done enough for God and for the Madonna for you to cure her.” And then, knocking at the urn of the Saint, as it were in threatening tones, they called out! “Do you hear us, Philomena? If you do not grant our prayers at once we will invoke you no more, it will be all over between us.
So much the worse for you great Saint.”
The uproar became so terrific that Pauline could scarcely endure it.
The next day, the feast itself, when Pauline received Holy Communion near the Urn of the Saint she experienced such frightful pains all over her body, and her heart beat so violently that she fainted way. At the sight of what they thought was death the crowds gave way to such cries and vociferations that it was thought safer to carry the chair, on which Pauline was lying, out of the Church. She, however, regained consciousness enough to make a sign to be left near the Urn, on which she fixed her eyes with an expression of the deepest affection. Suddenly an abundant flood of hot tears burst from her eyes, the color came back to her cheeks, a warm, healthy glow spread through her numbed limbs. Her soul was inundated with such heavenly joy that she believed that she was about to enter Heaven. But is was not death, it was life, Philomena the beloved had cured her, and she was reserved for long years of toil and labor which were to end in a glorious though bloodless martyrdom.
Although she felt that she was cured, Pauline dared not for some moments reveal the fact, dreading the outburst of enthusiasm that it was certain to provoke. However, the Superior of the Sanctuary understanding what had happened, ordered all the bells to peal and announce the miracle.
The crowds on hearing the news went frantic with joy and were literally beside themselves with delight. The Church and the streets rang with their shouts. Vivas, vivas resounded on all sides. It would be impossible to describe adequately this magnificent and soul-stirring demonstration of faith. “Viva Saint Philomena, Viva our dear Saint – Viva the great Virgin and Marty – Viva the good French Lady.
In their wild enthusiasm they rushed towards Pauline and wanted to carry her in triumph on their shoulders. This however, she absolutely refused to allow.
Idolized by the people, Pauline tarried in Mugnano for some time, her soul overflowing with joy. She passed long hours in sweet colloquy at the feet of her Heavenly benefactress and great were the graces she received, more even for soul than body. At last, when the day of departure arrived and she had to tear herself away from the Sanctuary, she took with her a great relic of Saint Philomena which she placed in a life-sized statue of the Saint. This was clad in royal robes, given the seat of honor in the carriage and was hailed by all as the “Princess of Paradise.
At the various stages of the journey, the potilions who had brought Pauline to Mugnano, more like a corpse than a living person, cried out: “A miracle, a miracle.” “Viva Saint Philomena.” At this cry crowds used to gather, bringing wreaths and garlands which they hung on the carriage, invoking at the same time the name of the Saint with the most intense piety and love.
Naples was profoundly moved on the arrival of the Miraculee. A thrill ran through the people. The Bishop received Pauline with great honor and, in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio and the King of Sicily, presented the blood of St. Januarius for her to kiss and venerate.
Blessed and invoked on all sides, the “Princess of Paradise” and her escort soon arrived in Rome where, the better to enjoy the Holy Father’s surprise, Pauline had not announced her cure
When in the full enjoyment of health and strength she presented herself in the Vatican, all those who had heard of her were thunderstruck. “Is it really my daughter?” said the Holy Father. “Has she come back from the grave, or has God manifested in her favour the power of the Virgin Martyr?” “It is, indeed, I, most Holy Father,” she replied, “whom your Holiness saw so recently at the very door of death and on whom Saint Philomena has looked with pity. Since she has given me back my life deign, Holy Father, to give me permission to build a chapel in honor of my benefactress.”
“Most certainly,” replied the Pope, in accents full of joy and affection
Then he insisted on hearing from her own lips the details of the cure. In his delight and wonder he ordered her to walk up and down in his presence. “Again, again, quicker, quicker” he exclaimed laughing. “I want to be sure that what I see is not an apparition from the other world but really and truly my dear daughter from Fourvière.” And as his dear daughter walked backwards and forwards, she naturally, without meaning it, turned her back on the Pope. The Master of Ceremonies hastily reminded her that she must not turn her back on the Holy Father, whereupon the Pope said with a smile: “Nonsense, do not trouble about that. God Himself has made far greater exceptions in her favour.
The Sovereign Pontiff now ordered Pauline to remain in Rome for a whole year, that the miracle might be thoroughly investigated. During which he conferred on her many and great privileges, and gave orders for an immediate enquiry to be made into the cause of Saint Philomena
At the close of the year, with the blessing of Christ’s Vicar, Pauline returned to Fourvière.
Foundress of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith and the Association of the Living Rosary, born at Lyons, 22 July, 1799; died there, 9 January, 1862.
At the age of seventeen she began to lead a life of unusual abnegation and self-sacrifice, and on Christmas Day, 1816, took a vow perpetual virginity. In order to repair the sins of neglect and ingratitude committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she established a union of prayer among pious servant girls, the members of which were known as the “ Réparatrices du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus-Christ”. During an extended visit to her married sister at Saint-Vallier (Drôme), she succeeded in effecting a complete transformation in the licentious lives of the numerous girls employed by her brother-in-law. It was among them and the “Réparatrices” that she first solicited offerings for the foreign missions.
Systematic organization of such collections dates back to Her 1819 when she asked each of her intimate friends to act as a promoter by finding ten associates willing to contribute one cent of a week to the propagation of the Faith. One out of every ten promoters gathered the collections of their fellow-promoters ; through a logical extension of this system, all the offerings were ultimately remitted to one central treasurer. The Society for the Propagation of Faith at its official foundation (3 May, 1822) adopted this method, and easily triumphed over the opposition which had sought from the very start to thwart the realization of Pauline Jaricot’s plans. In 1826 she founded the Association of the Living Rosary. The fifteen decades of the Rosary were divided among fifteen associates, each of whom had to recite daily only one determined decade. A second object of the new foundation was the spread of good books and articles of piety. An undertaking of Pauline’s in the interest of social reform, though begun with prudence, involved her in considerable financial difficulties and ended in failure. The cause of her beatification and canonization has been introduced at Rome.