Born in Alleins, (Bouches-du-Rhône), January 30, 1768
Ordained to priesthood in Marseilles, in 1797
Oblation, November 1, 1818 (no. 3)
Died, March 10, 1841.
Father Pierre Nolasque Mie was, by reason of his age, the dean of the Congregation from 1815 to 1841. He was born at Alleins, in the diocese of Aix, on January 30, 1768, of a farming family. The local assistant priest taught him Latin and sent him to the minor seminary of Aix. He made his philosophical and theological studies at the major seminary of Aix where the abbé François Antoine Arbaud, the future bishop of Gap who invited the Oblates to establish themselves at Notre-Dame du Laus, was one of his professors. When the Revolution broke out, he was in his third year of theology and had already received minor orders. He left the seminary in 1790-1791 so as not to follow the priests who had taken the oath required by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and who had taken over the house.
Pierre found work first with a school master in Marseilles. Thereafter he spent several years in the La-Fare-les-Oliviers village where he helped priests who had not taken the oath carry on a clandestine ministry.
In 1797, the persecution became more and more violent against a clergy that was ever less in number. Pierre now decided to receive orders so that he could serve the people in their spiritual needs. Bishop de Prunières of Grasse ordained him in Marseilles. The newly ordained priest returned to La Fare where he was a tailor’s apprentice by day and did priestly ministry by night.
After Napoleon’s coup d’état of November 9, 1799, the abbé Mie was openly put in charge of the parish. After the Concordat of 1801, Archbishop de Cicé of Aix appointed him parish priest of Puyloubier, where he remain for some years. Then he stayed some six years with the Retreat Fathers, commonly referred to as the Grey Brothers of Aix, but without any commitment or vows. He was for some time chaplain to the hospital of Aix and then accepted to be assistant priest at Salon-de-Provence, during which time he also preached retreats and missions. Thus, in the spring of 1814, he gave a mission at Saint-Paul-lès-Durance with the abbé Tempier who had been ordained priest a short while before.
In the fall of 1815, the abbé de Mazenod invited him to join his missionary band. The abbé Mie readily responded to this invitation for it was in line with the desire to preach missions which the Lord had planted in his heart. He gave his adherence to the Missionaries of Provence in October 1815, but entered the community in a definitive way only during the annual retreat and General Chapter of 1818. Together with his confreres, he pronounced his vows on November 1, 1818. He had also been elected fourth assistant general; in fact, he was appointed assistant general by each General Chapter until his death in 1841.
Father Mie was tireless as a missionary. He took an active part in all the missions that were given from 1816-1819. For many years thereafter he spent half the year evangelizing the parishes of the south-east of France. His usual calm and placidity gave the impression of apathy. Thus, he was no orator in the pulpit but rather a good catechist. His word was calm, his gestures rare, his appearance not very lively. And yet, as Jacques Jeancard writes, he communicated a certain conviction and feeling which transmitted what he himself believed in his heart. His audience was gently filled with God’s Spirit as it listened to him. Few possessed, to the degree that he did, the art of giving the unlearned classes a solid religious instruction. He explained the Church’s teachings, both dogma and morality, with simplicity, clarity, precision of expression, bringing out the various elements and their mutual unity in such a way that unlearned and even gross minds could understand all he was saying.
Father Mie was also a good religious. Bishop Jeancard has much to say about Father Mie’s virtues of poverty, humility, obedience and charity. Everything about him earned him the Founder’s esteem and veneration. We still have some excerpts from fifteen different letters that the Founder wrote to him. Only in October 1826 did Father de Mazenod write to reproach him for preaching too much, for not taking a rest, for not even setting aside a week to make the annual retreat with the community.
He was superior at Notre-Dame du Laus from 1823 to 1825 and again from 1827 to 1829. From June 1825 to March 1827, he founded and directed the house at Nîmes. On February 1, 1829, Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod made him a Canon of Marseilles cathedral, a post that had become vacant with the untimely death of Father Suzanne. Father Mie then became resident at the major seminary where he was also a director; at the same time, he continued the ministry of preaching, catechizing children, and assisting the poor. Father Balthasar Paris, a professor at the major seminary, had chosen him for his spiritual director and wrote the following in 1831: “As for my interior life…the fine hand of Father Mie has healed more wounds in six months than the most skilled spiritual physician could have done in a hundred years. Experience is teaching me – and I shall learn from this for the benefit of others – that kindness and advice marked by candour are means a thousand times more powerful than the oft ridiculous solutions of all these great theologians who have never felt nor experienced the things they write.”
In his humility and instinct for all that was supernatural, Father Albini, then professor of moral theology at the seminary, was strongly influenced by Father Mie. In this regard, the Founder wrote to Father Tempier on July 16, 1829: “I believe you have settled Fr. Albini out in the country, this being not only beneficial to his health but also a good way to spare him the company of Fr. Mie who would embarrass him.”
On March 10, 1841, Father Mie died at the seminary from an attack of apoplexy. Bishop de Mazenod was quite affected by the death of one he then referred to as “our good and holy Father Mie” (Mazenod to Mille, March 11, 1841), all the more so because he himself now became the dean by age in the Congregation.
Father Joseph Alphonse Martin, having received the news of this death, wrote to the Founder on March 12th what can be seen as the funeral eulogy of Father Mie: “Our man of virtue, now deceased, had achieved the measure of his merits and accomplished his share of good works: he was ripe and ready to be received in heaven. I have always seen him as an example of the most scrupulous regularity, as one who edified his confreres by his spirit of abnegation and obedience We shall try and take up this precious heritage of edification that his entire life has bequeathed to us and, as I hope, we will be able to profit from such excellent lessons.
Father Mie is buried in the Oblate plot in the cemetery of Aix.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.