Saint of the Day – 12 January – Blessed Pierre-François Jamet (1762-1845) Priest, Confessor, apostle of the poor, the deaf, the mentally ill, teacher and protector of the deaf-mute, called the “Second Founder” due to restoring the dwindled order of the Sisters of the Bon Sauveur. Born on 12 September 1762 in Fresnes, Aisne, France and died on 12 January 1845 in Caen, Calvados, France of natural causes, aged 82. Blessed Pierre built schools, homes and clinics for the poor and needy. In 1827 he was awarded the Legion of Honour for his service as a priest.
Pierre-François Jamet was born on 13 September 1762 in France to the poor farmers Pierre Jamet and Marie Madeleine Busnot. He had eight siblings – two became priests and one sister became a nun.
In 1782 he began his theological and philosophical studies at the University of Caen upon feeling that he was being called to become a priest and commenced his studies for the priesthood in that same village in 1784. He graduated with a masters in arts and completing a bachelor of theological studies. Jamet was Ordained to the Priesthood on 22 September 1787. However, he could not further his studies due to the outbreak of revolution not long after.
Fr Pierre refused to swear allegiance to the new government of the French Revolution in 1790 and was later arrested due to this dissidence. He even suffered death threats at this time. Upon his release, he set about the restoration of the Sisters of the Good Saviour, which was in decline at that time and would celebrate Mass in secret. On 19 November 1790 he was appointed as the Chaplain and Confessor of the Order. He became the Superior of the Congregation in 1819.
For nine years the Blessed was sought, denounced and persecuted, he was imprisoned and exposed to death several times but for this he did not cease to travel, now on foot, now on horseback, throughout the region to administer the Sacraments to the dying and animate everyone to the perseverance in faith. In the frequent visits he made to the nuns directed by him, he sought to nourish their hope for the future, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, frequent communion and meditation on the Passion of Jesus. Towards the end of 1796 the rigours of persecution began to fade. He took the opportunity to give lectures to the nuns, to celebrate Mass in song and to celebrate Benediction, assisted by Fr Carlo Boscher, his close friend, who was also hunted by the police.
As soon as he heard that the Capuchin monastery was for sale, he urged them to buy it for 30,000 francs and make it the centre of their apostolate. He also settled there to direct the work, help the nuns to pay their debts, instruct them in the practice of vows and get them used to celebrating liturgical services with piety, dignity and solemnity. The Sisters of the Good Saviour venerated him and blessed him as if he were their “second founder” and Fr Jamet in turn, placed all his energies and skills at the disposal of the Institute.
Among many his many occupations, Fr Jamet did not neglect sacred studies. His contemporaries admired him, not only for his zeal and charitable works but also for his scientific publications on the re-education of deaf-mutes and his ascetic and historical works.
Thanks to his cultural merits and talents, on 14 November 1822 Fr Jamet was appointed Rector of the University of Caen, despite the opposition of Freemasons and Gallicans. On the other hand, he himself had been aspiring to this position for some years, in order to offset the atheist, secularist and Jansenist teaching imparted there. In the eight years in which he held this position he worked, with extreme energy,
For all his memorable merits, King Charles X appointed the Blessed Fr Jamet as a Knight of the Royal Order of the Legion of Honour in 1827 but in 1830, he was so troubled and distressed by the political situation in France with the advent to the throne of Luigi Filippo d’Orièans (+1850), (known as “the usurper”) Fr Jamet resigned his position as the of Rector of the University.
Fr Jamet enjoyed robust health and was of ardent temperament, quick to notice the problems of his neighbour. However, the amount of work he had to take on daily, started to have a detrimental effect on his health and occasionally causing him illnesses which he endured by praying and suffering. His health began to decline seriously in 1836.
Blessed Pierre died on 12 January 1845. At his funeral, officiated by the Bishop of Bayeux, a large crowd of his admirers attended. St John Paul II recognised his heroic virtue on 21 March 1985 and Beatified him on 10 May 1987. His relics are venerated in Caen in the crypt of the chapel of the Sisters of the Good Saviour.
In the teachings that he imparted to the religious, the mystery of the Sacred Heat of Jesus and the Holy Trinity occupied a prominent place. He used to repeat to them: “We are part of the family of God … We must therefore resemble Him, walking in the footsteps of His only Son.” Or he said: “The soul consecrated to God no longer belongs to himself. It belongs entirely to God. By means of vows it gives God everything. Every sin becomes a profanation. From now on, God alone must count for us, God alone must suffice.”
Fr Jamet will be remembered widely for his devotion to the material and spiritual assistance to deaf-mute children and mentally insane. In this, he demonstrated that he truly possessed the “genius of charity”. With the help of the nuns directed by him, from 1816 he began to build special schools for the intellectual, moral and religious education of deaf-mutes, he also invented a sign language based on words and not on objects.
The assistance of the Sisters of the Good Savior gradually extended to other social classes which were in particular need. In fact, they opened free schools for the children of the people, a boarding school for girls, a retirement home for ladies and a dispensary for the poor.
Blessed Pier Francesco Jamet is considered an authentic martyr of charity at the time of the French Revolution. On the day of his Beatification, 10 May 1987, St Pope John Paul II said:
“He lived ardent charity in the many forms of his priestly activity. We are impressed by his courage, by his attitude in impressing on the faith an itinerary of a man of high culture, a faithful priest, a servant of the poor … We admire his intrepid generosity, his attention in not leaving the most handicapped without care of his brothers … he loved them to the point of learning to heal them and through them to heal ourselves.”
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Rare Saint indeed. And what a man!