Sunday, August 24, 2014


Michael of Ecuador

St. Michael Febres Cordero

Feast day: February 9

Birth: 1854

Death: 1910

Beatified By: October 30, 1977 by Pope Paul VI

Canonized By: October 21, 1984 by Pope John Paul II
 Also known as Miguel of Ecuador and Miguel or Francisco Febres Cordero Muñoz
Ecuadorian de Ia Salle Brother, the first native vocation there. A teacher, he was honored with membership in the great Academie Francaise. Michael died near Barcelona in Spain after teaching for many years and serving as a model of prayer and charity. In 1936, his intact body was returned to Ecuador. Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1984.

 Born at Cuenca, Ecuador, on November 7, 1854; died near Barcelona, Spain, on February 9, 1910; beatified with fellow Christian Brother Mutien-Marie by Pope Paul VI on October 30, 1977; canonized by Pope John Paul II on April 7, 1984 the feast of the order's founder.

 "The heart is rich when it is content, and it is always content when its desires are set upon God." --Saint Miguel of Ecuador. Miguel, baptized Francisco, is first person from Ecuador to be canonized. He was the grandson of León Febres Cordero, a famous general who fought for Ecuador's independence from Spain, and son of Francisco Febres Cordero Montoya, who was influential in the political affairs of the country. Francisco senior was a cultured man of charm, who was fluent in five languages and, in fact, was teaching English and French at the seminary in Cuenca at the time of the saint's birth. Undoubtedly, the son's vocation was influenced by his mother Ana Muñoz and her pious family. She was one of 19 children, five of whom became nuns and one a Jesuit priest. God established the perfect family for the cultivation of a scholar saint.

 At the age of nine, Francisco became one of the first students at the school opened in Cuenca by the Christian Brothers (De LaSalle Brothers) in 1863. He could scarcely walk because of a deformity of his feet but he became a brilliant scholar.

 Francisco loved the intellectual life he discovered at the school and the humble lifestyle of the brothers. Later wanted to join the order. In fact, he later wrote: "From the moment I entered the school of the Brothers, God gave me a burning desire one day to be clothed in the holy habit of the Institute. I always enjoyed being among the Brothers..."

 But his parents objected. They would be proud to have a priest in the family, but could not understand his desire to be a lay brother. Knowing that he had a calling to the religious life and not wishing to disappoint his parents, Francisco entered the seminary. Within a few months he fell gravely ill and was forced to return home. His mother finally agreed that he should try his vocation as a brother.

 On March 24, 1868, Francisco became Miguel when he took the black and white habit of the De LaSalle Brothers at Cuenca. He taught languages (Spanish, French, and English) at his alma mater and a year later was assigned to the Beaterio at Quito. The six-year-old school had 250 pupils when he arrived and six years later had over 1,000. During this period Brother Miguel published his first of many books.

 But writing and teaching secular subjects was not his primary joy-- his first love was preparing children for their first Communion. And it appears that his joy translated into learning: he was a very popular teacher. Brother Miguel saw his teaching as an apostolic vocation. He wrote: "In the miserable state of modern society, my divine Savior calls me to conquer souls, without really needing my help or without considering my absolute incapacity for any good. Can I be deaf to His voice? Can I be afraid of disappointment when He promises to be with me? Can I be so bold as to refuse this demonstration of love and gratitude? I must engage in all the works that I undertake with a spirit of love, of gratitude for the divine goodness which has been gracious enough to employ me for His glory and the salvation of souls."

 Official recognition of Miguel's talents as an educator first came in the form of the appointment as a public examiner and inspector of Quito's schools. In the midst of these duties, teaching, and monastic obligations, Brother Miguel found the time to continue to be a scholar. He wrote textbooks, a catechism, poetry, and works of Christian spirituality. He gained special renown for his studies of Castilian Spanish, some of which became required texts for all schools in Ecuador. Eventually he was elected a member of the National Academy of Ecuador 1892; which included membership in the Royal Academy of Spain, the Academie Française 1900, and the Academy of Venezuela 1906.

 In March 1907, he was summoned to Europe to translate more textbooks and other documents from French. The aura of civil and religious unrest in France made it urgent to translate the documents of the De LaSalle Institute into Spanish in order to ensure the continuance of the order's work outside France. Miguel fell ill soon after his arrival in April. Upon his recovery, he worked at the house on the rue de Sèvres in Paris. From Paris he wrote, "I have my room, some books, and a nearby chapel. That is complete happiness."

 In July he was transferred to the motherhouse at Lembecq-lez-Hal near Brussels to continue his work and attend the generalate of his congregation in Belgium. He was allowed to stay in Europe so that he would have more time to write. When Miguel became sick in Belgium, he was sent to the institute's junior novitiate at Paremi de Mar near Barcelona, Spain, where he taught Spanish for a few months. The outbreak of civil unrest in Barcelona on July 26, 1909, led to attacks on religious and the destruction of Church property, which caused stress for all the brothers. It resulted in Brother Miguel catching a cold in January 1910, but his condition deteriorated rapidly until he died in the presence of his religious brothers on February 9, 1910.

 Brother Miguel's reputation as a teacher and scholar was matched by the renown of his holiness. A popular cultus arose shortly after his death, especially in Spanish-speaking countries. From his earliest years he had such a strong personal devotion to Jesus and the Blessed Mother that they were living presences to him. He conversed with them as easily as with his brothers.

 His first biographer wrote: "Our beloved Ecuadorian Brother was certainly not gifted by heaven with that sort of plastic beauty which so easily fades with years. Although rather tall in stature, his posture became stooped quite early in his life. His countenance was dark and somewhat emaciated, prematurely furrowed with wrinkles that came from his sufferings and his practices of mortification. Even so, his facial expression reflected in some indefinable way the beauty of his soul and the interior illumination of divine grace. This reverberated through his whole being which overflowed with a certain gentleness that came from his peaceful and kindly nature. His very thin lips always bore the glimmer of a continual and gracious smile. His eyes, limpid and transparent as those of the most innocent child, sparkled with the joy and serenity that could only be due to that indescribable peace of which Scripture speaks. In sum, the serene expression in all his features gave the impression that underneath there was a calm and imperturbable spirit."

 His relics were returned to Ecuador during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and received a triumphant welcome upon their arrival in Ecuador on February 5, 1937. Within a short time, his tomb at Quito became a pilgrimage center.

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