A new Blessed for the Order of Preachers: Beatification of Fr Jean-Joseph Lataste, OP

Until the early 1990's there were flourishing contemplative communities of Dominican Sisters of Bethany in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The Congregation closed these monasteries and called the sisters back to France. A few of the American sisters returned here and entered Dominican cloistered monasteries. From the Order's website:

On the 3rd of June, 2012, the Holy Mother Church will beatify Fr. Jean-Joseph Lataste, a French Dominican priest of the nineteenth century. The beatification will be celebrated at Besancon in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. The Holy Father will be represented by his delegate, Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

His Life Fr JJ Lataste was born as Alcide Lataste on the 5th of September, 1832 in Cadillac. He was the youngest of seven children. While his mother was a Christian, his father was a freethinker. He was baptized the next day after his birth and his elder sister, Rosy was his godmother. As a child, he was miraculously healed from a serious illness and he attributes this to the personage of the Blessed Virgin.

He studied at the minor seminary of Bordeaux where he made his first communion and confirmation. There he met Henri Lacordaire for the first time. Although he had the desire for the priesthood, he never thought himself worthy. He went ahead to study in the secular college but kept his desire alive with the support of his sister, Rosy who was already in the convent. He graduated in 1850 and returned to his hometown. He stayed with his parents for a year and devoted his time to reading and writing poetry. He worked in the public service between 1851 and 1857.

While he was  working, he was an active member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul. This helped him to nurture his desire for the religious life. After much reflection, he finally entered the Dominican Novitiate at Flavigny in November 1857. He became seriously ill again and this delayed his profession. After his cure, he made is profession in the presence of his father and two brothers and was sent to Toulouse for his studies. He lived at the Convent of Chalais, Grenoble and St Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume where he became acquainted with Mary Magadelen through deep contemplation. On the 10th of May 1862, he made solemn profession and on the 8th of February, 1963, he was ordained to the priesthood in Marseille by Bishop Petagna. He did more studies and was finally assigned to the convent of Bordeaux. He priestly ministry was characterized by inspirational sermons, retreats, confessions, mortifications and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The Sisters of Bethany He first learnt of the plight of women prisoners at Pyrenees and never had direct contact with then until the meeting with inmates of Cadillac in September 1864. This meeting which was inspired by his strong devotion to Mary Magdalene led to the foundation of Bethany. He had a retreat for the inmates who were serving different sentences for various crimes and he sensed their deep repentance and faith. These were enough for him to start a religious congregation.

As the women were regaining their freedom, Fr Lataste offered them the opportunity of consecrating their lives to God in religious vows. They were to be member of the Dominican Order, wearing same habit like Dominican Sisters with nothing to distinguish them. With the assistance of Mother Dominique-Henri of the Sisters of the Presentation, Tours, Fr Lataste started the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Bethany in 1866. The congregation now exist in different parts of the world.

His Death Fr Lataste became ill again in 1868. This time, it was so serious that he had to orally dictate the constitutions of the Sisters of Bethany to Mother Dominique-Henri. This was later completed by Fr Baker after his death. He died on the 10th of March 1869 with deep love for his sisters and gratitude to God. He was initially buried at the sisters’ convent at Frasne-le-Chateau. His body was however translated when his sisters moved to a new convent at Montferrand-le-Chateau. He was again translated to the sisters’ chapel when the cause of his beatification was opened.

The Cause of Beatification The cause of his beatification was opened in 1937 in Besancon by the Sisters of Bethany in conjunction with the diocese.  There were initial difficulties because at that time, there were very few direct witnesses and they knew him only as children. Most witnesses could only give indirect accounts of what they heard about him. However, the cause moved ahead with the collection and reviews of volumes of his writings. After much delay, the synthesis conducted by Fr Jean-Marie Gueullette, Vice Postulator with the help of Sr. Jean de Notre Dame enabled them to get the drafting of the Positio on the virtues and fame of the Servant of God by the Holy See in 1996. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI further acknowledged his heroic virtues publicly in 2007. An investigation was launched into the claims of a miracle through his intercession. This claim was formerly recognized as a miracle on the 27th of June, 2011 by the Holy Father, paving the way for his beatification. This will be celebrated on the 3rd of June, 2012 at Besancon. Blessed Jean Joseph Lataste, Pray for us.

Programme of Activities Saturday, June 2, 8:30pm - Prayer Vigil at the Cathedral of St. John, Besancon. A Reading of texts from fr. Lataste Preaching by Fr. Jean Maria Gueullette, OP (Vice Postulator of the beatification of Fr Lataste). Meditation to be led by Fr. Jean-Dominique Abrell, OP on the organ and assisted on the organ by Sr Venlo, OP (A Dominican Sister of Bethany)

Sunday, June 3,

9:30am – A procession of the young Dominican Sisters of Bethany to the Micropolis Exhibition Grounds, Besancon. 3pm – Mass of Beatification at Micropolis Exhibition Grounds (3 Western Boulevard, Besançon). Chief Celebrant: Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and Papal Delegate. Homilist: Fr. Bruno Cadoré, OP, Master of the Order of Preachers.

If you can not be present at the ceremony in Besançon, you can watch the beatification of Father Lataste through retransmissions provided:

  1. Prayer Vigil at the Cathedral, Saturday, June 2 at 20:30hrs Live FCR
  2. the celebration of the beatification will be broadcast Sunday, June 3 to 15hrs live on KTO or on its website

For more information, see  http://lataste2012.org/