Saint of the Day – 27 March – Blessed Louis-Édouard Cestac (6 January 1801 – 27 March 1868) – Priest and Founder, Apostle of Charity. Patronage – Servants of Mary. Bl Louis was a French Roman Catholic priest and alongside his sister Marie-Louise-Élise co-founded the Serviteurs de Marie/Servants of Mary. Cestac was dedicated to the needs of the poor and he met with them on a frequent basis in order to get to know them better and to know how he could better serve them in terms of their material and spiritual needs. But he was concerned for girls who were poor and destitute and so decided to provide them with a stable environment. He enlisted the aid of his sister and the two founded a religious order that would be dedicated to helping them. His beatification received approval in mid-2014 from Pope Francis after the pontiff approved a miracle that had been found to have been attributed to his intercession. Cardinal Angelo Amato beatified Cestac in mid-2015 on the pope’s behalf.
Louis-Édouard Cestac was born in 1801 in France to Dominique Cestac and Jeanne Amitessarobe at number 45 on the Rue Mayou; his siblings were Marianne and the Servant of God Marie-Louise-Élise (14 March 1811-17 March1849). His mother Jeanne was Basque-Spanish. Marianne (b. circa 1795) was the eldest while Élise was the last, meaning Cestac was the middle sibling; he was Élise’s godfather at her baptism.
In his childhood he suffered an incurable neuralgia and complete mutism for a duration of three years. His mother decided to consecrate him to the Mother of God and Cestac’s condition improved to the point where he was healed. His healing was credited to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The Cestac’s later moved to Puntous due to the Peninsular War.
Cestac underwent his ecclesial studies from 1816 at Aire-sur-l’Adour and Paris where he befriended Saint Michel Garicoïts 1797-1863 (Memorial 14 May). He received the minor orders on 25 December 1821 and in 1822 was back to his studies and formation after recovering from a serious illness. He was ordained to the diaconate on 26 June 1825 before being ordained to the priesthood on 17 December 1825. He served as a professor in Larressore from 1826 until 1831. Father Cestac was later appointed as the vicar of the diocesan cathedral on 27 August 1831 and gave his full attention to the poor and met with them on a frequent basis in order to better serve them and to know them better.
In 1836 he established a home for poor girls. He and his sister Marie-Louise Élise together co-founded – on 6 January 1842 – their own religious congregation known as the Serviteurs de Marie. Two other women joined at the time of the order’s founding while Élise became Sister Marie Magdalene. There was once an occasion when Empress Eugénie de Montijo came to Cestac asking him to pray for her to have a son but the priest assured her that she would indeed bear a son – the empress did indeed have a son.
On 13 January 1864 a profound experience struck when a beam of light hit Cestac and caused him to see devils scattered across the globe causing grave damage. He was horrified but was relieved to see the Mother of God before him and who told him that those devils had been let loose. Yet she added that the time had come for the world to request her intercession to fight and end the grave powers of Hell. From her the priest received the prayer known as the “August Queen”. He presented this to Bishop François Lacroix and also had 500, 000 copies printed to be sent. At the time of the first printing the printing press broke down twice.
August Queen of Heaven,
Sovereign Mistress of the Angels,
you, who from the beginning,
has received from God
the power of the mission
to crush the head of Satan,
we humbly implore you,
to send your holy legions,
so that under your command
and by your power,
they may drive the devils away,
everywhere, fight them,
subduing their boldness
and thrust them down into the abyss.
Who is like unto God?
O good and tender Mother,
you will always be our love and our hope.
O divine Mother,
send your holy angels to defend me
and drive far away from me the cruel enemy.
Holy Angels and Archangels defend us, keep us.
His dedication to social and agricultural reform won him praise and it even earned him the Legion of Honour from Napoleon III in 1865 for his contributions to schooling and agriculture. He died on 27 March 1868 in Bayonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques France of natural causes.