Founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Family: His Purpose and Work
The Founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Family, Servant of God Father John Berthier, M.S., was born in Chatonnay, France on February 24, 1840. As a boy, he learned about the apparition of Our Lady of La Salette and his interest in Our Lady never faded. John showed a desire for religious life when he was very young and prepared for the diocesan seminary by studying Latin. On October 23, 1858, at the age of 18, he entered the seminary in Grenoble. As a deacon, he joined the Missionaries of La Salette at the mountain of La Salette on July 14, 1862. Despite health issues, his strong will and trust in God helped him to arrive at his goal. On September 20, 1862, at the age of 22, John Berthier was ordained a priest by Bishop Ginoulhiac.
For decades, Fr. Berthier enjoyed his summers at the mountain, La Salette, ministering to the visiting pilgrims. He celebrated Mass, preached, heard Confessions and explained the message of Our Lady of La Salette. There were few staff members, so, in addition to priestly duties, he did a variety of manual jobs to help care for the pilgrims. Those who heard Fr. Berthier preach were moved by his modesty, education, and humility. Two thoughts remained on Fr. Berthier’s mind. First, he wanted to promote the message of La Salette to help lead people to the Lord. Second, he saw a lack of missionaries in the Church. This Bible verse was on his mind: “The harvest is abundant, but laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38). During his missions throughout France, he met many men who wanted to become priests, but, in general, they were considered too old to begin their studies.
Fr. Berthier wanted to offer these men a path to become priests, and he made plans for a school. After encouragement from Pope Leo XIII to follow his work for late vocations, Fr. Berthier, at the age of 55, went to Grave, Holland and on September 28, 1895, he founded the Institute for Late Vocations. With the permission of the Holy See in Rome, this became the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Family. While there were many challenges, Fr. Berthier had a deep confidence in God and persevered. In 1908, just 13 years after the Institute began, Fr. Berthier witnessed the ordination of 25 priests and nearly 200 seminarians as members of the Missionaries of the Holy Family. Fr. Berthier now judged that his presence was no longer required and desired only, according to his own words, “to disappear from the face of the earth.” The first days of October 1908 were particularly difficult for him. On October 16, early in the morning, his last agony noticeably began. Repeatedly he said: “I wish to say one more Mass!” He celebrated Mass, but he himself was the victim of his sacrifice because a few minutes after he had uttered these words, he gently breathed his last surrounded by his spiritual sons. His institute was still very young at the time of his death, but he had trained the missionaries well. Today there are over 900 priests, brothers, and seminarians serving throughout the world.
Prayer to obtain the beatification of SERVANT OF GOD JOHN BERTHIER:
(Here mention your intention)
Grant, O Lord, that JOHN BERTHIER soon may be privileged with sainthood, in order that he may serve as a model of the virtues he practiced so faithfully during his life. Amen.
Very Rev. Philip Sosa, M.S.F. - Provincial Superior, North American Province
Anyone receiving special favors through the intercession of Father Berthier, please notify in writing:
Very Rev. Father Provincial, M.S.F.
Missionaries of the Holy Family
3014 Oregon Avenue
Saint Louis, Missouri 63118
The Cause for Sainthood
The process of "sainthood" is formerly called the process for canonization. The candidate for sainthood must first be proposed to the local bishop, and typically this does not happen for at least five years after the person's death. Once the bishop accepts and "opens the cause" -1- for canonization, an investigation into the person's life and work is begun and the person can be called a Servant of God. -2- This is an exhaustive study of the candidate's written works and, when possible, interviews with those who knew or worked with him. There is careful scrutiny of his life, -3- virtues, and weaknesses. Only one who has lived the Christian life in an extraordinary manner can be seriously considered for canonization.
If the diocesan process is positive, all the information is forwarded to Rome to the -4- Congregation for the Causes of Saints - where there is a waiting list of causes to be reviewed.
Fr. Berthier is number 242 on this list. A miracle attributed to his intercession would make his case be considered much sooner.
Here a new investigation by professional historians and theologians begins. Once completed, the evidence is reviewed by the Congregation. If favorable, the case is forwarded to the Pope who decides if the person is a role model of Catholic Virtue. If so, the Pope proclaims the person Venerable. -5-
Next, a miracle must be verified to have occurred after the candidate's death and be attributable to the candidate's prayerful intercession. God's act of a miracle in this situation is seen as affirmation and cause to continue the sainthood process. After the miracle is verified, -6- the Pope declares the candidate as Beatified -7- and referred to as Blessed. -8-
Before someone can be canonized as a saint, the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints must be presented with evidence of a second posthumous miracle. This miracle must be verified before the canonization can proceed, and it must have occurred after the candidate's beatification. This second verified miracle is seen as God's final affirmation.
This final step to sainthood is not taken lightly -- canonization is considered to be an infallible act of the Pope. That explains the rigorous process; there cannot be errors in the selection of saints. Sainthood is not revocable. The Pope proclaims the person Canonized, -9- and the candidate is given the title Saint.