PLAYING CARD `DOODLE' NETS MILLIONS
By Marian Curd
NEARLY £9 million poured on to the desk of the Association for the Propagation of the Faith at Propaganda H.Q. in Rome last year as a result of an idea worked out on the back of a playing card by a young girl of 18 who died 100 years ago on Tuesday.
Pauline Jaricot, founder of A.P.F., was born in Lyons I 1799, a time when martyrs nd confessors were rising apidly in a country which ppeared to have forgotten iod. She was the youngest aughter of a silk merchant
whose household was a place where almsgiving might almost be said to be looked upon as the end for which wealth
In June of that same year and only a few miles away, 13year-old Jeanne Marie Vianney was secretly making his first Communion.
Turbulence was the keynote of Pauline's life on leaving school to "come out" at the early age of 14, But the society butterfly was soon to be grounded. An engagemtnt, a phenomenal breakdown, the 'melting away" of her fiance, the death of her valiant mother. a dramatic restoration to health. and then the turning point in her life. Away went fine clothes, leghorn hats and silk shoes. On went an ugly violet gown. muslin cap and heavy shoes. Out came a request to dress the sores of the most afflicted patients in the local hospital.
Her brother about this time entered the Parish Seminary of Foreign Missions. The appalling destitution of the missionaries described in his letters set Pauline collecting from remaining friends and neighbours. But she realised that nothing short of a universal system of collecting alms could be sufficient.
Her own set moved off. So Pauline started among the working girls of Lyons an association of prayer and alms-giving for the support of the mission which was to be the nucleus of a world-wide association established in every country of Christendom. One evening the family were playing cards when Pauline sitting by the fire suddenly had her bright idea and, seizing a card she set down the outline of the famous circle system by which associations of 10 members are formed under a promoter, who again forms part of another 10. who pass on their united collections to a common centre.
The Paris Foreign Missionary Society took up the idea. but for Pauline came that criticism which so often accompanies pioneer work in the Church or out of it. She was even accused of seeking notoriety. But the work prospered and penetrated to Rome where PidS VII blessed it remarking "Let it increese and multiply".
The mark of papal favour encouraged others to take up the Work and Pauline, entirely selfless, withdrew from the public eye to such an extent that when the Association was formally founded in 1822 the name of Pauline Marie Jaricot did not appear. Forty years later, in time of great trouble, Pauline was to call in vain nn the Association for help and they, acting within their rights, refused.
Her second idea, thc "Living Rosary" was taken up eagerly by the Association but as with the A.P.F., persistent criticism was followed by papal approbation and the movement spread rapidly. On her father's death Pauline founded Loretto a centre for young women wishing to work for the missions. Another breakdown, another political storm, another extraordinary recovery and she was off on a pilgrimage to the then newly discovered (but now "demoted") shrine of Philomena, favourite of the Cure of Ars who later gave her a relic. Pauline's troubles multiplied. In 1848 a giant fraud robbed her of
her fortune leaving her and Loretto in debt to a mass of creditors. It was then that her appeals to the A.P.F. for help were rebuffed. A begging tour was a complete failure and most of her Loretto society left. More unpleasantness, lawsuits and criticisms followed and indomitable Pauline set off again for Rome this time in a railway truck. Rome vindicated her and approved her claim on the A.P.F. Back in France Pauline fought unsuccessfully to the last hut her health was completely broken.
She died at 3 a.m. on January 9, 1862 in the 63rd year of her life. Her friend the Cure of Ars was then 58; Bernadette of Lourdes was 18. The two latter are now canonised saints; the former's cause has been introduced.
In 1839. the year that the A.P.F. Was established firmly in England people could still remember the time when they were forbidden to hear Mass publicly. Newman was drawing near the Church and the future first Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster was here. But Propaganda had to conduct two-way traffic with this country until 1928-by which time England had contributed to the A.P.F. as much as she had received.
Then the A.P.F. in England went ahead in partnership with the Holy Childhood (also inspired by Pauline) and with our national missionary centre St. Joseph's College, Mill Hill. In 1927 the A.P.F. had 1,000 parochial centres with about 75,000 members. In 1960 152,0(N) members in England and Wales gave more than £90,000. The world total in MO to the fund which was "doodled" on the hack of a playing card: £8,928,570.
We are grateful to the Catholic Truth Society and in the A.P.F. for loan of long out-of-print publications containing material used in the above story.