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Movie Review: “Heart of a Missionary”

NEW YORK – The life, work and legacy of the principal founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith are celebrated in the gripping documentary “Heart of a Missionary: The Story of Pauline Jaricot”.

Using interviews, dramatized scenes and a globe-trotting survey of the Society’s current activities, filmmaker Tim Moriarty powerfully demonstrates the lasting impact of Jaricot’s apostolate.

Born in 1799 – when the rise of Napoleon was set to curb the excesses of the French Revolution, including its attacks on the Catholic Church – Jaricot was raised in Lyon by parents who were both prosperous and pious. Although tempted by bourgeois worldliness, young Jaricot’s faith deepened following an accident that nearly cost her her life and required a long convalescence.

Its initial foundation was a union of prayer between factory workers aimed at making a devout reparation to the Sacred Heart. From this sprang organized intercessions in favor of – as well as small-scale but ultimately abundant fund-raising – for the spread of evangelism in the world.

Jaricot’s recognition of the role the laity could play in expanding the reach of the Gospel significantly anticipated one of the major themes of the Second Vatican Council. Among the clerics with whom she cooperated was her beloved brother Phileas, an aspiring missionary banned from traveling abroad for health reasons.

Jaricot’s other activities, as alluded to in the film, included founding the Living Rosary Association, whose membership exceeded 2 million in France alone at the time of his death. His attempt to create a model factory – one in which industrial workers would be treated well, properly paid, and had time for leisure and prayer – ended in disastrous failure, however.

Defrauded by those to whom she had entrusted the funds for the project, which constituted her entire fortune, Jaricot was forced into bankruptcy and treated in disgrace by the Lyon bourgeoisie, who until then had been receptive. She died penniless in 1862.

Yet that was not the end of his influence. As Moriarty’s screenplay reminds us, the United States was considered mission territory until the early years of the 20th century, and the Society was vital to the growth of the American Church, especially in the South.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, author, radio and television personality as well as national director of the Society from 1950 to 1966, was among the guests of Jaricot’s heirs.

Archbishop Sheen’s current successor, Monsignor Kieran Harrington, appears on screen to celebrate Jaricot’s accomplishments. The same goes for Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, who both serve in the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization.

Jaricot was declared venerable in 1963. She was beatified on May 22.

Although unlikely to be of interest to young children, ‘Heart of a Missionary’ is suitable for all ages and will inspire whether shown at home or used as a catechism tool for groups. . It can be viewed for free online, in English or Spanish, at: blessedpauline.org.

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