Holy Trinity Sunday, June 19, 2011 was a great feast in the city of Dax in is South Western France. A martyr of French Revolution, first Superioress and Director of the city hospital, Sister Marguerite Rutan, Daughter of Charity guillotined on April 7, 1794 was beatified. The solemn ceremony begun minutes after 3:00 PM (1300GMT) in the Parc des Parc des Arènes of Maurice Boyau in Dax, a facility built as bullring turned in the place of liturgical celebration for the occasion.
She was born on April 23, 1734 in Metz as eighth of fifteen children in her family. On her 21st birthday she entered the Company in the Motherhouse in Paris. As a Daughter of Charity she profoundly dedicated her life to the service of the poor and sick organizing the first hospital in Dax. She was its first Director and Superioress of the community. Captured during the French Revolution and convicted for refusal of taking Civil Constitution oath of loyalty. Guillotined on the square in Dax almost 105 years after St. Vincent de paul was born in nearby village of Berceau (presently Berceau St. Vincent de Paul). Her martyrdom was recognized in 2011 when Pope Benedict XVI approved it in special decree. This act opened the path to beatification.
The Arena de ville was filled with the faithful long time before the ceremony. “The enthusiasm of the crowd, comprised of many French and Spanish young people (including many among in the Vincentian Marian Youth movement, i.e., Juventud Mariana Vicenciana), along with the pride of the local community in hosting this event was evident.”, as later Fr. John Maher CM reported. The altar covered with flat roof was built on the big square podium in the center of the arena against the main entrance. A picture of Sr. Marguerite was placed behind the alter highly elevated. Through this entrance, where usually bulls are running in for the encounter with matadors, the celebrants came in long procession and later the gifts were brought during the offertory. There were some 5,000 attendants in the grandstands around the arena. In the special sectors in front of the altar a large group of handicapped and sick were present, many of the on moving chairs.
Hundreds of young people were present, too. Some groups of them came in pilgrimage from Berceau of St. Vincent de Paul, where they have special vigil service on Saturday evening. Many of youth is preparing for participation in the World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain in August. At the end of the Mass the Bishop of Aire and Dax formally sent them out for the WYD. Among participants there were about 900 Daughters of Charity from France, Spain, Italy and Central Europe as well as some representatives of their communities in distant countries like Congo or Philippines.
Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, a special envoy of Benedict XVI was presiding in the ceremony. He was assisted by Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religion Dialog and the Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Papal Nuncio in France. Another fifteen bishops, mainly coming from South-West region of France were concelebrants, too. Also present were Rev. Gregory Gay CM, Superior General of the Congreation of the Mission and the Company of the Daughters of Charity, Rev. Patrick Griffin CM, Director General of Daughters of Charity, Rev. John Maher CM, Office of Communication Director in the General Curia and Visitors of French Vincentian Provinces, Rev. Ellie Delplace CM (Paris) and Rev. Jean Yves Leboeuf CM (Toulouse). Dozens of other clergy (ca. 150) attended, too including numerous diocesan priests of Aire-Dax Diocese led by their Bishop Msgr Philip Breton.
There were State officials taking part in the celebration, too. The government of the Republique Francaise was represented by Mr. Michel Mercier, Guardian of the Seal, Minister of Justice and Liberty. Regional administration was represented by Mr. Evence Richard, Prefect of the Prefecture des Landes and Mr. Gabriel Bellocq, Mayor of Dax was representative of municipality. At the end of the Mass Sr. Evelyne Franc DC, Superiores General of the Daughters of Charity introduced all those official in her speech when she gave thanks for their arrival and participation in the festivity.
At the beginning of the celebration people gathered in the Arena danced in the rhythm of two very popular folk pieces “Paquito Chocolatero” and “Vino Griego” which usually “bandas” perform during popular festivals in Dax. The whole Congregation applauded “ola” frequently. White scarves with Sr. Rutan’s signature printed on were seen tied around necks of many participants, mainly Daughters of Charity.
According to the Rite of Beatification, at the beginning of the liturgy a short biography of the one “loved the Church and thus decided to give her life, to to remain faithful to Her” and “who dedicated her whole life to the service of the poor and sick she shed her blood for the Christ” was read by the Bishop of Aire and Dax Dicoese, Msgr Philip Breton. The Vicar General of the Diocese, Rev. Bernard Hayer and Sr. Evelyne Franc DC were standing behind him during his intervention. Next on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI Cardinal Amato read the act of beatification. He delivered a short homily, too.
[all photo credits: Jean Pierre Muller/AFP/GettyImages]
Fr. John Maher CM, Director of the Communication Office in the Curia, who was present at the celebration reported for Famvin.org, “the liturgy managed to incorporate the Mass for Trinity Sunday with traditional hymns as well as newly composed prayers and songs honoring Sr. Marguerite. At times, the crowd and choir broke out into spontaneous local songs and chants enlivening both the liturgy and the participants. When, as part of the beatification rite, the portrait of Sr. Marguerite was unveiled, prolonged cheers and camera flashes gave the liturgy an exciting “rock star” quality.” (read his complete report)
In a message after Angelus prayer, the Holy Father, who was celebrating a Mass in San Marino on Sunday, mentioned the beatification saying, “I am happy to recall that today in Dax, France, Sister Marguerite Rutan, Daughter of Charity, has been proclaimed blessed. In the second half of the 18th century she worked with great commitment in the hospital in Dax, but in the tragic persecution following the Revolution, she was sentenced to death for her Catholic faith and fidelity to the Church.” And continued in French “I participate spiritually in the joy of the Daughters of Charity and of all the faithful who, in Dax, are taking part in the beatification of Sister Marguerite Rutan, luminous witness of the love of Christ for the poor.”
The KTO TV channel prepared a short video bringing closer the person of Sr. Marguerite Rutan DC, and talking about preparation to beatification and presenting spots of some places where she was during her stay in Dax and other spots from Berceau St. Vincent de Paul a place were the Saint was born. Those pictures are worth to watch even if the narration is in French only.
And another short video based on information from official website of the beatification (narrated in French, too):
More about Blessed Sr. Marguerite Rutan DC:
- Homily during the thanksgiving Mass for the beatifiaction, June 20, Berceau St. Vincent de Paul by Fr. Patrick Griffin CM
- A great life in nutshell – biography
- Towards the beatification – the investigation process
- Sister Marguerite Rutan today
- Official beatification website (English, French, Spanish)
The liturgical commemoration of the Blessed Marguerite Rutan DC will coincide with the memorial of Blessed Maria Magdalene Fontaine DC and Companions, Martyrs of Arras – June 26. (In 2011 it will be omitted because of Sunday)