This brief outline is not a biography of Michel Guérin, but a short portrait of our own local priest. By his faith, his confident prayer and his love of neighbour, he transformed a parish which he built and held close to his heart until his last breath : “For you, stay good Christians… Oh ! that the parish should always remain as it does now” were his last words on May 29, 1872.
After the turmoil of the Revolution, the parishes of France found themselves beset with numerous difficulties. The churches were in ruins, the interiors were destroyed or run down. This was the situation facing the small rural chapel of Pontmain which was later to become a church. The roof leaked, the altar and the pews were worm eaten, there was no linen, no ornaments nor sacred vessels.
A zealous priest
Father Michel Guérin, a priest in the parish of Saint-Ellier of Maine, arrived on the evening of 24th November 1836. He already knew of the miseries of Pontmain. He went to Mans to beg his Bishop to entrust to him this small hamlet abandoned in the middle of the countryside. As there was no presbytery, he was satisfied with a furnished room in a modest thatched cottage. In a letter to his Bishop this is how he described one of the first Masses he gave : “Yes, Your Excellency, I celebrated Mass on an altar stone laid on a pile of wooden planks. My fellow-priests and I preached from a workbench”. (Letter of 15th October 1844).
A dynamic man
He got to work soon after arriving in Pontmain. With the help of his new parishioners he repaired the roof and made new pews. The women made linen for the altar and ornaments. Then came other projects ; new roads, the restoration of the chapel, which was later to become the Parish Church and the building of a co-educational school. He even opened a shop selling tobacco (he himself took snuff, but revenue stamps could be bought there, which saved the need to travel great distances to obtain them). He had a practical bent. He gave his all : through dealing with the material needs of his lowly people, he won them for Jesus Christ. It did not take long for him to turn Pontmain into a lively and devout parish.
A man of prayer
He attached great importance to prayer and devotion to the Virgin Mary and arranged to have a statue placed in every household. From this time onward every family prayed the rosary daily. He had numerous crosses built and put up along the roadsides. He had the statue of Mary put in the bell-tower. As from 8th December 1854 (definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception) four candles were lit on the altar of Our Lady at every parish service. In 1860, he had the church vault painted sky blue, with a scattering of stars.
Michel Guérin’s story is an unusual one. He was mischievously called by some “the good Virgin’s priest”, but his actions left a lasting impression on this small corner of the Mayenne countryside where Mary, “the Madonna of the stars” would appear on 17th January 1871.
June 1, 2013 : opening of the process for the beatification of Michel Guérin by Mgr Thierry Scherrer, Bishop of Laval, with Mgr Yves Saux, Bishop of Mans, in the Basilica of Pontmain.
Prayer for the intercession of the Servant of God Michel Guérin
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father)
With the permission of Mgr Thierry Scherrer, Bishop of Laval (1 June 2013)
For graces received as a result of prayer to Fr. Michel Guérin, please inform the Sancturary of Pontmain
Tel : 02 43 05 07 26 or e-mail : email@example.com
Visits to the "Michel Guérin" museum can be made by asking at the Sancturary
Cause de béatification de l’Abbé Michel Guérin
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