Pope Francis recently approved the beatification of Brother James Alfred Miller, a religious brother of the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools (also known as Christian Brothers) who was martyred in Guatemala in 1982.
Brother James was born and raised in Wisconsin, and was serving the poor in Guatemala when he was shot to death. He was 37 years old when he was killed.
Fr. Michaud explained that Brother James came from a very faithful farming family just outside of Stevens Point, WI.
“They were very faithful people,” he said of Brother James’ family. “And he went to Kelly High School, which was then administrated and taught by the Christian Brothers. He was rather enthralled by their charism, and so he joined the Christian Brothers as a freshman and eventually was sent to Nicaragua.”
Though far from home, Brother James was sent to Nicaragua to bring what he learned at home in Wisconsin to the people of Nicaragua – the beauty of the Catholic faith and the bounty of good farming.
“He taught the people there how to farm,” explained Fr. Michaud. ” He grew up on a farm, and his family still farms here. He was there working with the poor and teaching them how to farm. Bringing the ways of farming from the United States down there, and helping them to be more self-sufficient.”
However, in 1978 Brother James was called back to the United States by his superiors, as the danger grew in the country from the ongoing Sandinista Revolution. Brother James returned to the United States and taught in high school until he was sent to Guatemala in 1981.
“As the story goes, he was up on a ladder fixing a wall,” said Fr. Michaud. “These guerrillas in the civil war that was going on didn’t like the presence of the Church there because it was preaching peace and love, and they were quite the contrary of that. They came by and killed Brother Miller because of his presence there.”
Because Brother James was martyred there is not the requirement that miracles be attributed to his intercession in order to be beatified. But many American Catholics, inspired by the life of Brother James, are already invoking his intercession in their prayers.
“Since the announcement from Pope Francis that he will be beatified, since it was made official, our office phone has been ringing quite constantly from people who are already making pilgrimages here to his grave site for his intercession,” said Fr. Michaud.
Now that the beatification has been approved, what comes next? Fr. Michaud explained, “There will be an exhumation of his body. We don’t know dates yet, things are still up in the air. His beatification Mass will be in 2019 in Guatemala, but we don’t know the specific date. In the meantime, they will exhume his body and they will check for incorruptibility, and at that time they will take relics, but his body will stay here.”
Learn more about Brother James Miller by listening to the full conversation with Fr. Greg Michaud below: