Brother James Miller—born and raised in central Wisconsin, martyred in Guatemala, and living today in the Heavenly Jerusalem—will be declared “blessed” this Saturday, December 7, in Huehuetenango Guatemala.
Like all others who have been declared “blessed” by the Church, Brother James was remarkable—indeed, heroic—in sanctity. He lived, served, loved, taught, and died after the example of Jesus. Through Brother James’s own flesh and blood, Jesus became incarnate to those whom Brother James served.
Yet, even in his holy heroism, James Miller was one like us. He was born in Stevens Point, raised on an Ellis dairy farm, and graduated from Pacelli High School. In these and many other respects, Brother James was no different from you or me.
Brother James entered the novitiate for the Christian Brothers in 1962, and eventually taught at Cretin High School in Saint Paul. In addition to teaching religion, Brother James taught English and Spanish, coached football, and worked in the maintenance of the school building. “Brother Fix-it,” in fact, became his nickname from his ability and desire to work with his hands. He is often depicted today with wrench in hand!
Brother Miller would go on to take final vows as a Christian Brother in 1969. He would serve as teacher, director, and even builder of schools, both in Nicaragua and in Guatemala, serving the poor in need of his—and Christ’s—care.
On February 13, 1982, Brother James Miller was shot multiple times and killed by three unknown gunmen. He was doing what God had made him to do. Standing on a ladder, attending to his school’s building, Brother Fix-it was restoring God’s kingdom—ordered, beautiful, and at the service of those in need—out of the rubble of a fallen, sad, and sinful world.
The ordinary ladder upon which he died, a tool of work in a mundane world, is, by God’s design, an extraordinary image of his own elevated path to heaven. In some ways, this ladder, like the wrench in his hand, signifies his own life: an ordinary boy with Wisconsin roots rises to an extraordinary man of faith in Guatemala and radiates a blessed image of Jesus from heaven.
A “beatification,” such as James Miller will receive on Saturday, is not simply another step along the road to an official declaration of “Saint.” To be declared “blessed”—which is what the ceremony of “beatification” does—is to be declared joyful, blissful, and happy. Being like Jesus makes us happy, and Brother James, in the service of Jesus to his people, was a happy, blessed man. Such is the lesson worth pondering in James Miller. Do the seemingly small things well—coach football, fix the fence, teach the children—and Jesus can radiate through you. And make you joyful.
Because Blessed James Miller was one like us, we can aspire to become one like him. In light of his beatification, reflect upon your own life: Where were you born? What are you doing today to further God’s kingdom in the ordinary life around you? How are you working for heaven? From Wisconsin to the Heavenly Jerusalem, let us live our ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.
Blessed James Miller, pray for us!
Celebrating our Blessed Brother James Miller, FSC
Loving and gracious God,
we thank you for the gift of our
Blessed Brother James Miller.
By his example and intercession,
grant that we may follow his example
of selfless service to those entrusted to our care.
May we also carry on his work
of educating the poor and alleviating their oppression.
We ask this through
Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle—Pray for us!
Blessed Brother James Miller—Pray for us!
Live Jesus in our Hearts—Forever!
—Prayer provided by the Christian Brothers of the Midwest