BLESSED EDMUND RICE (1762-1844), religious brother and founder
Today, the Church honors Blessed Edmund Rice, an Irish businessman, who was so moved by the plight of children in the port city where he worked that he founded schools and eventually a religious Order to serve them.
Edmund was born in 1762 in Callan, Ireland. As a young man, he moved to Waterford and began to work for his uncle in the shipping business. He became quite wealthy, and when his uncle died, he took over the company.
When his wife passed away and his daughter grew up, Edmund began to contemplate his next direction in life. He thought about leaving everything behind and joining a monastery. One day, as he was talking about his vocation and his future with a friend, a ragged group of poor boys walked by on the street. Inspired by the sight, his friend exclaimed: “What?! Would you bury yourself in a cell on the continent rather than devote your wealth and your life to the spiritual and material interest of these poor youths?!”
Edmund took the conversation as a sign from God. He took on the mission of devoting his life to improving the lives of poor children through education. He founded his first school in Waterford, Ireland in 1802, with the intention of helping poor boys “become good Catholics and good citizens.”
Selling his business, he immersed himself fully in this new mission, and, in 1808, he founded the Presentation Brothers, a religious Order of men dedicated to education and the first Order to be founded in Ireland. The rule of the community was approved in 1821 by Pope Pius VII, and the name was changed to the Christian Brothers. By 1825, Brother Edmund and his 30 Christian Brothers were providing free education, as well as clothing and feeding about 5,500 boys in 12 different cities and towns.
Edmund served as the Superior General of the community from its inception until 1838, when he retired at the age of seventy-six. Brother Edmund died August 29, 1844 in Waterford, Ireland of natural causes. He was beatified on October 6, 1996 by Pope Saint John Paul II, who called him “…an outstanding model of a true lay apostle.”
We commemorate his life of sanctity and service to the Church on May 5.
(From catholicnewsagency.com/saint, saints.sqpn.com, edmundrice.net and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Holy Men ~ ministering to the underprivileged)
“Lord God, You teach us that the Commandments of Heaven are summarized in love of You and love of our neighbor. By following the example of Blessed Edmund in practicing works of charity, may we be counted among the blessed in Your Kingdom.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”