BL. CATHERINE JARRIGE


Memorial : 4 July

BL. CATHERINE JARRIGE was born on 4 October 1754 in the village of Doumis, France, situated in what is now the Diocese of Saint-Flour. Known in the local dialect as "Catinon-Menette", literally, "Cathy the little nun", she was the youngest of seven children born to a tenant farmer. She had a poor but happy childhood and was considered somewhat mischievous, since she liked to play jokes on her friends, for which she later apologized. She went to work as a domestic at the age of nine and lost her mother when she was 13. As she grew up she learned to make lace and at the age of 20 moved to Mauriac.

Poor and humble herself, the Lord called her to serve the less fortunate: the poor, the sick, the orphaned. She responded generously and entered the Dominican Third Order, becoming a 11 "menette", a "little nun", like her patron saint, Catherine of Siena. The "menettes" had no community life but lived in their own homes, a garret in Catherine's case, which she shared with her sister.

The "menettes" however made a promise of chastity and prayed in common. As she went begging for alms, she would finger her rosary, the Dominican prayer par excellence, under the apron of her dress focusing all her attention on contemplating the mysteries of Christ. Catherine loved to dance, particularly the graceful dance of Auvergne called the "bourree". Once she became a "menette", she had to give up all dancing: a difficult struggle for her, given her impetuous nature. At her sister's wedding, she yielded and was the first on the dance floor. The next morning she repented and promised never to dance again - a promise she kept for the rest of her life.

For 60 years, until the age of 82, the poor, the sick and orphans were her lords and masters. In them she saw the suffering face of Christ and she served, fed, clothed and cared for them as she would have for Christ himself. She spent part of the day begging for alms from the well-to-do families of Mauriac. With a gracious smile she would say in jest: "Put it there! Put it there!", pointing to the two pockets of her apron.

In 1791 Catherine was very concerned about the priests who had refused to accept the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and were being driven from their posts. She was firmly opposed to the meddling of the civil power in religious matters, but fought back with charity. For nine years she devoted all her charitable efforts to aiding nonjuring clergy, particularly in 1792 when the persecution reached the region of Cantal. She found hiding places for the priests and brought them food and clothing. She was also able to procure vestments, hosts and wine so they could celebrate Mass. She even accompanied to the guillotine a nonjuring priest who had defended the sanctity of marriage.

After the persecution ended, she helped rebuild the Church. Having been known as the "menette", of the poor", she was now called the "menette", of the priests". She died on 4 July 1836.


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