February 13: Feast of Jean-Baptiste Lamy, Archbishop of Santa Fe

Jean-Baptiste Lamy

Bronze statue of Lamy in front of St. Francis Cathedral
Jean-Baptiste Lamy (October 11, 1814 – February 13, 1888), was a French Roman Catholic clergyman and the first Archbishop of Santa Fe (New Mexico), United States.
I have a devotion to Archbishop Lamy. He came to this country as a newly ordained priest from France and opened parishes and help settle Catholic Kentucky and Ohio. His zeal was so impressive that he was made first bishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1850. I’ll include a short excerpt from a homily he preached in Covington, KY on March 4, 1849 which was the 2nd Sunday in Lent. I’ll also include a short wiki of his remarkable life and I’ll ask you to join me in prayer to him for our poor country at this critical time in its history.

From Fr. Lamy’s homily on the Transfiguration: “Yes, beloved friends, we ought to say with the apostles, it is good for us to be here, to be within the pale of the Catholic Church. Let us build here a tabernacle; that is to say, let us raise up the spiritual building of virtue, let it be g rounded on the foundation of humility and perfected by charity, on the love of God and our neighbor. Christians, if we look upon it with the light of God, is it not the choicest of all blessings to have been called to the knowledge and true faith of Christ? What would all other favors or advantages either of nature or grace have availed you if this had been wanting? How miserable, how wretched must you have been for time and for eternity if, like so many others, you had been left to sit in darkness and in the shadow of death?…Ask, then, upon this occasion that God make grant you the grace to hear and receive with docility his commandments and those of His Church which he has appointed to teach you and to speak to you in His Name!”

Early life and priesthood

Lamy was born in Lempdes, Puy de Dôme, in the Auvergne region of France. He completed his classical studies in the preparatory seminary of Clermont and theological coursework in the grand seminary (major seminary) of Montferrand, where he was ordained a priest in December 22, 1838.[1] After a few months as an assistant priest in his native diocese, in 1839 Lamy asked for and obtained permission to answer the call for missionaries of Bishop John Baptist Purcell, of Cincinnati, Ohio. As a missionary in North America, Lamy labored in several missions of Ohio and Kentucky, when, to his surprise, he was notified of his appointment as bishop by Pope Pius IX of the recently created Vicariate of New Mexico on July 23, 1850. At the same time, he was appointed Titular Bishop of Agathonice. He was ordained bishop by November 24, 1850 by Bishop Martin Spalding of Louisville; Bishop Jacques-Maurice De Saint Palais of Vincennes and Bishop Louis Amadeus Rappe of Cleveland severed as co-consecrators.[1] After an arduous journey due to the primitive transportation of the period, Lamy reached Santa Fe in the summer of 1851. Lamy entered Santa Fe on 9 August 1851, and was welcomed by the Governor of the territory, James S. Calhoun and many other citizens. However, Juan Felipe Ortiz, who was responsible for administration of the New Mexico church, told Lamy that he and the local clergy remained loyal to Bishop José Antonio Laureano de Zubiría of Durango, who had visited Santa Fe just a few months before.[2] Lamy wrote to Bishop Zubiría asking him to explain the change of responsibility to the New Mexico priests, and when his request was unanswered went in person to Durango to meet with Bishop Zubiría, showing him the papal document appointed Lamy. In light of this, Zubiría had to agree to inform the priests of the change. On July 23, 1853, the Vicariate of New Mexico was changed to the Diocese of Santa Fe, and Lemy was appointed bishop. His early efforts as Bishop were directed to reforming the New Mexico church, the building of more churches in the territory, the creation of new parishes, and the establishment of schools. He ended the marriage of priests and suppressed religious brotherhood societies within individual communities. He participated in the First Vatican Council from 1869-1870. Lamy was responsible for the construction of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi (commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral) and Loretto Chapel. Both buildings were built in the style of the Romanesque churches of France familiar to Lamy. On February 12, 1875, the Diocese of Santa Fe was elevated to an archdiocese with Bishop Lamy as its first archbishop. On May 1, 1885, Lemy ordainedPeter Bourgade bishop; Bourgade would later become the fourth Archbishop of Santa Fe. Lamy’s ended his tenure as bishop when he resigned 1885. He was appointed Titular Archbishop of Cyzicus later that year. He died of pneumonia in February 13, 1888 and is buried under the sanctuary floor of the Basilica that he helped build. A bronze statue, dedicated in 1925, stands in his memory outside the front entrance of the Basilica, and the town of Lamy, New Mexico was named after him.

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About thereserita

Happy Catholic seeking to share that happiness with others.
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