De la Salle brother. A saint of Ecuador, Miguel was born at Cuenca; his father had been prominent in politics but became a seminary professor; his mother was extraordinarily devout and trusted that he would recover from having crippled legs at birth. Miguel proved extraordinarily precocious: he joined the De la Salle Brothers at the age of fourteen; only a year later he was sent to teach in the school at Quito. He remained a model teacher for 38 years, published his first book, a Spanish grammar, at the age of twenty, which was recognized at once as outstanding and followed it up with other textbooks in the next few years. He was also exemplary as a teacher of religion.
In spite of an anti-clerical government his fame spread throughout the country. For his translations into Spanish of John Baptist de La Salle's Life and writings he was chosen to represent his Institute in Ecuador at the founder's beatification in Rome in 1887. By now his textbooks had been adopted nationwide for their unrivalled clarity, methodology, and ease of expression and were regarded as a safe guide for the study of the Spanish language at every level. Elected to the Academy of Ecuador, he then attained international celebrity. In 1894 an Institute for adult education was begun, but was soon closed by government decree. Miguel returned to teaching in a free school in 1896; he then became novice master and head of the free school in 1902, but was relieved of this post within a year.
Meanwhile he was demanded in Europe and went to the mother house at Lembecq-lez-Hal (Belgium) in 1907. Here he was deputed to translate more French textbooks into Spanish, but the climate did not suit him and he was moved to a house near Barcelona in 1909. There he was overtaken by an anti-clerical revolution which involved a general strike and the burning of churches. The government however evacuated the Brothers in a gunboat. The whole experience caused further deterioration in his health but he managed a pilgrimage to the Virgin at Zaragoza. In January 1910 he developed pneumonia and died on 7 February.
His spirituality was Latin, meticulous and full of resolutions: consequently, as his biographer admits, it is not always easily understandable and attractive today. What was outstanding however was his constant and inspiring love of God, expressed in apostolic mission, and his never-failing care for the Brothers and their students. His relics were translated to Quito in Ecuador in 1937 and national celebrations marked the centenary of his birth. He was beatified by Paul VI in 1977 and canonized by John Paul II in 1984. Feast: 9 February.
L. Salm, Brother Miguel Febres Cordero, F.S.C: Teacher, Scholar, Saint (1984);Bibl. SS., ix. 450–2;B.L.S., ii. 94–9. A sumptuous monument to him was built by the government of Ecuador in 1954.