French Carmelite monk who visited PH to be beatified

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Fr. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, OCD. The Carmelite missionary's beatification is scheduled on Nov. 19, 2016 in Avignon, France. Beatification is a step before canonization. (Contributed Photo)

MANILA, Nov. 15, 2016 – A Carmelite monk who laid the cornerstone of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Broadway, Quezon City will be beatified on Saturday, Nov. 19 in Avignon, France.

Venerable Fr. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, OCD, a French national, visited the Philippines twice in his capacity as Vicar General of the Discalced Carmelites and even tried crossing the treacherous Lamon Bay in Infanta, Quezon to visit the Carmelite mission in Polillo Island.

For a time, the Prelature of Infanta was under the Carmelite bishops, notably Bishops Patrick Harmon Shanley, OCD from Feb. 17, 1953 until his resignation in June 23, 1961; Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen, OCD from July 26, 1966 until he retired on June 28, 2003; and the assumption of Bishop Rolando Octavus Joven Tria Tirona, OCD from June 28, 2003 until his appointment as Archbishop of Caceres on Sept. 8, 2013.
Beatification is a step toward canonization, permitting public veneration.

The boy who dreamed to be a priest

Fr. Marie-Eugene was born on Dec. 2, 1894 in a mining town in southwestern France. Baptized Henri Grialou, he dreamed of becoming a priest even as a child.

The family had meager resources. His father Auguste Grialou, died unexpectedly and his mother Marie Miral, was left to take care of their five children. The young Henri, barely 11-years old, accepted a scholarship that brought him to a seminary run by a religious congregation in Italy.

His separation from his mother was painful for both of them, and after a few years, Henri returned to his family, now determined to work and save enough money to pursue his religious studies.

His mother took on odd jobs to support his studies in the seminary. As a seminarian, Henri discovered the life of then Sr. Therese of the Child Jesus.

World War I disrupted his studies at the seminary and by the end of the war, he held the rank of lieutenant and prospects of a brilliant military career beckoned to the young officer.  He declined, went back to the seminary, and was ordained priest on Feb. 4, 1922.

Despite his mother’s objections, Fr. Grialou entered the Carmelite novitiate.  He then changed his name to Fr. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus upon donning the Carmelite habit.

Founder of Notre Dame de Vie

At the start of his ministry, Fr. Marie-Eugene began spreading the teachings of Carmelite saints with special emphasis on the integration of prayer and action in daily life.  He wrote the book titled Je Veux Voir Dieu which is known in its 2-volume English translation as I Want to See God and I am a Daughter of the Church.  The French text has since been translated into six other languages.

Fr. Marie Eugene was convinced that Carmelite spirituality can be lived by all Christians whatever their profession or status in life.  And so, he founded the Notre Dame de Vie Secular Institute in 1932 together with Marie Pila.

Initially, it was a secular institute for women. Today, it consists of laypersons, priests, and married couples working in five continents. The priests are mostly diocesan while the laypersons work in various professions. Filipino members work in Bulacan, Zambales, Manila, Quezon, Laguna, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Davao. Some are also in Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, and Benin.

At the time of his death in 1967, Fr. Marie-Eugene was the Provincial of the Carmelite monasteries of Avignon-Aquitaine in Southern France.

Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed him Venerable in 2011 and earlier this year, Pope Francis approved the inexplicable healing of a child attributed to his intercession. (Melo M. Acuña/CBCPNews)

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