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The Faith-Vision of Pere Jean Gailhac Part II

by Clevie Youngblood, RSHMCategory: Updates

This is a continuation of RSHM Sister Clevie Youngblood’s synthesis of two writings of Mary Milligan, RSHM, on Gailhac’s faith-vision.

Bas-relief in stone of Gailhac and Mere St. Jean helping woman and child

Central to living Love of God is identifying with Jesus. This identification is to be both interior and exterior. It is putting on the mind of Jesus as well as acting as other Christs. For Gailhac, the Heart of Jesus symbolizes His love of humankind. As a loving heart, it is a source of grace for us, a place of meeting, a place to develop our interior disposition in image of Him. Gailhac urges the study and contemplation of Jesus’ interior dispositions so as to be in union with Him, to allow His heart to become ours. The founder writes: “Study Jesus Christ, His life, His words, His works; ask Him to allow you to enter into His heart in order to contemplate its sentiments, intentions, love, devotion.”1 Then we must imitate it by reflecting it authentically in our lives.2

The Scriptures are a way for us to know the mind and heart of Jesus and to see the redemptive mission of Jesus in action. They are the work of the Holy Spirit and one of the strongest influences on the founder’s spirituality. His preferred texts are the Epistles of Paul and the Gospel of John. The former stress identification with Christ and conformity to Him. The latter is the basis of his Christology, which is summarized in the parable of the Good Shepherd. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is the one sent to the world in order to save the world (Jn 3:17). As the Good Shepherd, Jesus is the one who knows His sheep, leads his sheep, protects His sheep, even lays down His life for his sheep, in order that all “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).3 Meditation and study of the scriptures enable us to believe in Jesus’ saving mission and undertake our role in proclaiming God’s glory and working for the salvation of souls.

Sepia toned photograph of an older Jean Gailhac sitting, with arm resting on side table and hand on book

To become Jesus’ disciples we must imitate Him. Gailhac sees the example of Jesus’ life expressed in this quote from the Gospel of Luke: “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The conditions of discipleship, then, are renunciation of self, carrying one’s cross daily, and dying with Christ.

For the disciple, these actions are freely chosen. All are required to enter the life of God. Renunciation of our selfishness, pride, and ambition is what allows us to be free. We then are able to “carry” rather than “drag” our cross, that is, everything that causes pain, suffering or humiliation. We are enabled to carry it joyfully. The salvation of humans was accomplished through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, the paschal mystery. Disciples of Jesus have the power to enter into the life of Jesus by transforming their daily “deaths” into life. For Gailhac, renunciation is not physical fasting or corporal punishment, but it is the imitation of Jesus’ self-giving.4 It is done for no other purpose than for the disciple to participate in the work of redemption.

Conformity to the life and mission of Jesus Christ is God’s great gift to us. For through us, as through the Son, God’s love flows to others. Gailhac’s purpose in founding the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary was the glory of God through the salvation of souls. Our participation in this redemptive mission of Jesus requires holiness, that is, a union with Christ. To be a continuation of Jesus Christ in His mission we must be a continuation of His holiness. God’s redemptive mission can only be accomplished in Jesus. “Let us be holy, let us work to become more perfect so that we might be better able to win souls for God…. Only saints make saints; one holy person will do more than a thousand tepid ones.”5 Others will come to know and love God through the holiness and apostolic work of “other Christs.”

Gailhac characterizes the desire to participate in God’s work of redemption as zeal. It is the “holy fire” with which God filled him. This virtue reveals the unity of Gailhac’s theological vision: attaining personal holiness and continuing the work of redemption, all for the glory of God. It is knowing and loving God in order to make God known and loved. Zeal is an effect of identifying with Christ and also a means for achieving oneness with Jesus. Its result is love for God and others; for there is no authentic love of God without love for others.6

“Love sanctifies the heart it possesses, but love has its flame (zeal) which seeks to enkindle everything around it…. First, you must be holy; … (and) your holiness must be sufficient to make you an example.”7

To know and love God, to authentically imitate Jesus, there is no better model than Mary. Gailhac calls her “co-operatrix” in the work of redemption. Her loving acceptance of the Word of God and faithful commitment to that Word mirror Jesus. Her spirit is the spirit of Jesus. Her heart is a heart of love, whose source is Jesus. Not only is Mary the image of Jesus for us but she is our intercessor in the work of our transformation into other Christs. By following Mary, we can bring Jesus to “spiritual birth in all hearts” as Mary brought Jesus to birth.8 Gailhac says, “Study Jesus in Mary; the model will be more within your reach.”9

Jean Gailhac’s mission, the mission of the RSHM, is to know and love God, and to make God known and loved. Authentically living Gailhac’s Trinitarian and incarnational faith-vision, which is relevant to any age, is how the mission is accomplished. We hear today his words written in 1882: “The heavenly Father, loving the world with an inexpressible love, wished to save it by His own Son and He said to this Son, …Go and save the world.”10 Making God known and loved is how we can go and save our world.


  1. Ecrits, Vol.12, p. 4547, in That They May Have Life, p. 124
  2. 2 Milligan, That They May Have Life, pp 122-123
  3. Milligan, Spirituality, p. 1, 7-11
  4. Ibid, pp. 130-133, 137-139
  5. Ecrits, Vol.11, p. 3692, in That They May Have Life, p. 157
  6. Milligan, That They May Have Life, pp. 172-174
  7. Ecrits, Vol.11, p. 3692, in That They May Have Life, p. 176
  8. Milligan, That They May Have Life, pp. 177-178
  9. Ecrits, Vol.11, p. 3903, in That They May Have Life, p. 177
  10. Ecrits, Vol.11, p. 3733, in That They May Have Life, p. 73


  • Milligan, Mary. That All May Have Life. Gregorian University Press, Rome, 1975
  • Milligan, Mary. “Principal Elements of Gailhac’s Spirituality.” Spirituality Series, no. 1, 1983

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