Vatican City, 14 September 2013 (VIS) – The Argentine priest Fr. Jose Gabriel Brochero (1840-1914), “the gaucho priest”, and one of the nation's most popular figures, was beatified today in Cordoba. Brochero, who became known for the assistance he gave to the sick and dying during the cholera epidemic that blighted Cordoba in 1867, was appointed in 1869 as vicar of the department of San Alberto, now Valle Traslasierra. There, travelling from village to village by mule, he took care of the needs of its inhabitants, building churches, chapels and schools, and with the aid of the peasants, opened up paths and passages through the mountains. In his old age he became deaf and blind as a result of the leprosy he contracted through living in close contact with those who were afflicted with the disease.
On the occasion of his beatification, the Holy Father addressed a letter to Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo of Santa Fe, president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, ample extracts from which we publish here below:
“That Fr. Brochero finally joins the blesseds is a great joy and a blessing for the Argentine people and for devotees of this shepherd who had the smell of his sheep, who became poor among the poor, who always fought to stay close to God and to the people, who did and continues to do so much good, bringing God's loving caress to our suffering people. I imagine the good priest Brochero on his mule … travelling along the barren and desolate roads of the two hundred square kilometres that made up his parish, searching for your great-grandparents, your great-great-grandparents, to ask if they needed anything and to invite them to do the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He knew every corner of the parish. He did not stay in the sacristy combing his sheep”.
“Fr. Brochero brought Jesus to each family. He would visit them with an image of the Virgin and a prayer book with the Word of God, the things he needed to celebrate Mass each day. They would invite him around to chat, and Brochero would talk to them in a way that everyone understood, that came from his heart, his faith and the love he had for Jesus”.
This beatification is very important for today's pastoral care. Fr. Brochero embodied the current relevance of the Gospel, he was a pioneer who went out to the geographical and existential peripheries to bring the love and mercy of God to all. He did not stay in the parish office, but instead pressed on, ranging through the parish atop his mule, becoming ill with leprosy, seeking his flock, bringing faith to the street. This is what Jesus wants today: missionary disciples who take faith out onto the streets! Brochero was a normal man, fragile, like each of us, but he knew the love of Jesus … he learned how to leave behind the petty selfishness we all have, overcoming his own weakness, defeating with the help of God the inner forces the devil uses to bind us to comfort. … Brochero listened to the call of God and chose sacrifice for the good of His kingdom, for the common good that the enormous dignity deserved by every person, as a child of God, and was faithful to the very end, continuing to pray and celebrate Mass, even as a blind leper”.
“Let us allow Brochero to enter today, mule and all, into the homes of our hearts, inviting us to prayer, to the encounter with Jesus; let him deliver us from our bondage so that we too might go out to seek our brother, to touch the flesh of Christ in those who suffer and who need God's love”.