Today is 75 years since the death of one of my favorite people, Felix of Jesus Rougier (1859-1938). Fr. Felix was a Frenchman who chose to follow Christ by dedicating his life to love others. Born in rural France, he joined the congregation of the Marist Priests and worked as professor, catechist, military chaplain, missionary, parish priest, formator director, founder of four religious communities, spiritual director, and spiritual writer.
No matter what you think about the Church or priests, no matter what religion you are, no matter what your political views are, we all admire a life lived with passion and purpose. A life that is given away. And he lives his life that way.
I hope that you can join me and my brothers in celebrating today the life of a man who gave the best of him for others. For he loved prophetically. That is, he publicly expressed his love for God and for God’s priestly people in the midst of enormous difficulties: war, religious persecution, intolerance, false accusations, and poverty. He didn’t love just a particular group of people, but all people: he ministers to the soldiers, as well as to the revels. He served the indigenous, and ministered to the hierarchy of the Church, among his friends were bishops, beggars, political leaders, cloister nuns, Mexicans, Irish, Spanish, people who practiced the faith, and people who didn’t. That kind of love that reminds us of another person who worked in and around Galilee, publicly loving all sorts of people -lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles, Roman centurions-.
When I thought about Felix’s 75th anniversary of his death, I thought of today’s Gospel, taken from the Gospel of Luke, which says: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
There is a lot of talk about who deserves our care and attention and who doesn’t these days. But in every thing we say and do, particularly for Christians, love must come first. And not the love that condemns first, or judges first, or labels first. But the love that loves first. Because God is love.
Seventy-five years after Felix’s prophetic life on earth ended, the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, the Oblates of Christ the Priest, the Guadalupan Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, and the Daughters o the Holy Spirit, continue in different Countries, languages and ministries the legacy of a Frenchman who loved much. Such is the power of a life lived with passion.
May Felix intercede for us, and may we always love prophetically, recklessly, prodigally… eternally. Written by Juan Gonzalez