St Michael Garicoïts
Michael Garicoits was a Basque, from the French region of the Pyrenees. He was born on the 15 April 1797 in the hamlet of Ibarre.
Michael was ordained a priest on the 20 December 1823 and was appointed curate to the important town of Cambo not far from Bayonne.
It is interesting to note that while Michael was still studying for the priesthood the Bishop asked him to teach at the Junior Seminary at Larressore. Here Michael was much loved by the pupils and staff at the seminary. So it was not surprising that after two years as curate at Cambo Fr Michael was sent to Bétharram to teach Philosophy.
Bétharram, situated at the foothills of the Pyrenees, is an ancient shrine of Our Lady.
When in 1833 the Bishop closed his seminary at Bétharram Fr Michael was left to care for the shrine and its many pilgrims. This allowed Michael to fulfil a dream, to start a Congregation of Priests and Brothers. The task of this congregation, which was dedicated to the Sacred Heart, was to evangelizes the people through missions and to teach the young a Christian way of life. The ideal Fr Michael placed before his congregation was the very programme of the Sacred Heart: when entering this world, He said, "Here I am, O God, to do Your will’. (Heb. 10: 5-7)
Bétharram is eight miles from Lourdes and is situated on the same river. When Fr Michael learnt the details of the apparitions from Bernadette he immediately recognised their reality. This is in contrast to most bishops and priests of the area who did not recognise the apparitions for a long time. Despite his personal certainty Fr Michael remained discreet and prudent. He did not go on pilgrimage to Lourdes until the Bishop recognised the apparitions on the 18 January 1862.
Did Michael’s understanding of Our Blessed Lady’s designs at Lourdes come from his great love and devotion to Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother? Many times during the day Fr Michael could be seen saying a decade or so of the rosary. St Michael died on the 14 May 1863 at 3.00 o’clock in the morning. This was the time he use to start his day by saying the whole rosary of Our Blessed Lady.
The feast day of St Michael is on 14 May.