Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sister Marie-Raphael of the Love of God, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Grenoble (1875 – 1899)

Born Maria G…

The predestined child whose short existence we are now about to relate, was born at F…, in the Department of the Loire, on 13th July 1875, of virtuous and honourable parents, to whom the Lord granted a numerous family. Her father was called Marcellin G… and her mother Catherine R…

At baptism she received the name of Maria, a privilege she was always happy and proud of, and quite rightly, as she regarded it as a pledge of her heavenly Patron’s protection.

Her good mother, whose multiple occupations with rather important matters absorbed all her attention, saw herself deprived of the consolation of feeding her dear little daughter herself. So she confided her to an outside nurse, a young and inexperienced lady, in whose hands she became so sickly, that Mrs. G… feared she would lose her, and so she took her back. Thereafter, her care and maternal love soon restored the fresh colours of health back to her.

For nine years she was the Benjamin of the family, pampered and caressed by her elder sisters, and protected at every instant by her older brother, who bore her the greatest affection.

In this Christian household, her young soul opened up as if naturally to matters of piety, while at the same time her very loving heart gave itself up, with a very childish abandonment, to the warm and salutary influences of family life.

She had a marked predilection for her Godmother, her aunt Mariette, and this was a reciprocal one. She spent long days with her without becoming tired of her company, as her aunt Mariette was indeed the most excellent person that one could meet – good, sweet, kindly, forgetting herself absolutely for others, and especially for her little God-daughter.

As her mother testifies, she spent even more time with her aunt than she did in the paternal home. They knew that she was in such good hands that no one was concerned about her long absences.

She did not have the restlessness typical of this age. Noisy games scarcely amused her, and more often she was quite content with somewhat serious conversations with her little friends.

If, however, the little group rebelled a little, aunt Mariette had in reserve a wonderful way to restore the peace. She would cry out in a winning tone of voice:

“Come, children, come and find for me all the four-leafed clover you can find in this field. I will give you a coin for each one, and you will be able to do what you want with it.”

They would dart forth, searching as best they could in all the clumps of grass, and when they returned, their good aunt gave coins to those children who were so proud of their discoveries, and who then ran to exchange their treasure with the first shopkeeper who sold lollies…

In these circumstances, our little child many times made the sacrifice of this little pleasure, which children are so avid for at this age, and, discreetly, she would give money and lollies to certain poor children whom she had a great compassion for. According to the testimony of her family, she could never refuse them anything. When her little finances were exhausted, she knew how to convince aunt Mariette about the hard luck of her protégés, and this was never in vain. The dear child and her Godmother were made so as to understand one another, and both of them had a heart of gold. This need, and this pleasure in giving was indeed one of the most remarkable features of our Maria.

When she went out walking, she would always linger behind gathering great armfuls of flowers, and, triumphant with her booty, she would run, out of breath, to bring them to her family, who were by now far ahead on their way.

Sometimes, however, her natural vivacity seemed to prevail over the meekness that she habitually showed. Little quarrels would arise with her sisters over her little friends, and she could be seen, with eyes of fire, ready to hurl herself upon them and support her side of the discussion with the power of her little arms… but these were indeed rare cases, and most often, seeing her so calm, one would have believed that meekness was natural to her.

She already loved prayer and everyone noticed her childish seriousness whenever attention turned to our good God, the catechism or anything else of piety.

Her intelligence was lively and open, and study had a great deal of attraction for her, even more than manual work, which she always found onerous.

At about the age of nine, she had a sort of cyst on her right hand that caused her a great deal of pain, and sometimes hindered the course of her studies. She showed a great deal of self-control on that occasion, and her very pronounced taste for reading served as much to subdue her sufferings as to repair the forced delay in her instruction.

In the meantime, the birth of a little brother was announced to her. Little Benjamin, in an attack of unconscious egoism, did not welcome his coming with much enthusiasm, but quite the opposite, showed her worst face to this poor dear, who had come to replace her as the pampered child.

Little by little, however, when she was permitted to play together with him, she came to enjoy the role of being a little mother, and when a second little brother followed the first, she came to love these two little babies with all her heart, so much so that Mrs. G… was able to entrust her with the task of supervising and amusing them.

The blessed time of First Communion was approaching for Maria. Until then, nothing had given any hint of her beautiful vocation. In her interests, her conversations, her attitude to the Church or anything else, she had demonstrated nothing else other than the ordinary devotion of a child from a Christian family. She fulfilled her religious duties with an extreme regularity, but quite simply, doing neither more nor less than the other children of her age. We know from herself, however, that it was at this solemn moment in her life that Jesus revealed Himself to her heart, captured all its affections and placed the blessed seed in it, which was to grow from year to year and flower, on the day marked by Providence, into the most sublime of vocations.

* * * * *

She made her first communion very piously with a great and profound joy, and thereafter she never spoke without emotion about this day, which was so truly called the most beautiful of her life. From that time on, a taste for the Eucharist became her principal joy.

At the age of fourteen, her good parents confided her to the care of the Marist nuns, who were vowed to the education of young ladies from the country. Together with the rest of her education, she drew from them a more lively piety, and even more enlightened still. Her vocation then became her whole ambition. She worked to study and develop it with a quiet, but profound and secret ardour, speaking of it only to Jesus.

She spent three years in this pious house, where her intellectual labours were crowned with success. She won many laurels in the peaceful contests of the annual competitions, and returned to her family with reputation of being an intelligent, pious and docile student.

This return home, which, for so many young hearts, is the long-desired moment for a freer existence, in which life, in all its effervescence, too often becomes a danger to piety, was successfully negotiated by our pious Maria without damage to her virtue. The angel of vocations watched over this virginal heart, which nothing was able to tarnish.

One of her friends speaks of it in these terms at this time: “She often told me: “How much I long to leave the world! No, no, I am no longer thinking of living here – I want to be in the cloister, as it is only there that I shall be assured of escaping damnation and going to heaven!”

Very often she would sing these lines from a hymn she loved:

“They are no more, these days of woe;
I soon discovered peace of heart,
When all the joys I first did know
Of tabernacles where Thou art!”

This leads us to say that indeed, the dear young lady had days of “woe”. At the age of seventeen, her vocation, which had been nourished since her first Communion in private dialogues with the God hidden in the tabernacle, now seemed so certain and so divine to her, that she could scarcely comprehend the wisdom of her confessor in taking his time to test out the desires which, moreover, she had confided to him for the first time. To her great desolation, all she obtained by way of reply to her overtures were these words, which were most disconcerting to her opinion: “Later, later, we shall see. These are all the ideas of a young lady coming from a convent (referring to her boarding-school), and you will get over them…” Poor Maria wept, returned to her ambition and begged the Lord, “if He so willed”, to enlighten her confessor and not let her languish much longer in the world.

All around her, certain flattering remarks about the graces of her person and the vivacity of her spirit had awoken certain fears in her heart.

Her native pride, if she had not made it her business to subdue it, would have had a field day. She knew it, and this was another spur to encourage her to depart from the world.

She no longer wished to be seen out on the busy main streets, and complained to a friend that she was still obliged to remain in a world that she detested. “I have no need,” she told her, “to go and become better known by the world. I no longer want it, and I wish with all my heart that I was already a nun.”

She expressed her sentiments by this other hymn she preferred among all others:

“Disappear, deceitful human forces:
You will not have the homage of my heart.
God leads me now to much purer sources,
Where torrents of joy are all my part.”

However, she knew how to hide her repugnance and show herself pleasant to her family, where she was very jolly, even full of laughter, loving the innocent amusements that she found there with her young friends.

The wedding of one of her sisters was the occasion for her to show her taste for a contrary vocation. Her devotion and recollected attitude was greatly remarked upon at the marriage ceremony. Many of the attending priests even told her parents as they left the church: “Miss Maria has prayed well for the happiness of her sister!” However, no one had the slightest suspicion that this solemn and pious recollection hid such resolute plans.

The following year, a mission was preached at Firminy by the Fathers of the Most Holy Redeemer. This was no doubt Jesus’ reply to this soul which wanted only Him and had not found either the light or the support she needed to respond to the divine call.

Maria followed the Offices very assiduously, heard nearly all the sermons, and devoted herself with great zeal in the following holy exercises in everything that depended on her. She realised, beyond all doubt, that the good God was making use of this mission to determine her vocation and settle her departure.

Unknown to her family and friends, she went and confided her desires to one of the Fathers who were preaching. He received her “very badly”, she said later, and did not wish in any way to hear her speak of this vocation, which he believed was borne of enthusiasm generated by the mission within this young lady’s ardent heart. The poor child was most disconcerted, but not discouraged, and thought she would find a better welcome in the next confessional … so sure was she of her vocation! Unfortunately, the second Father gave her the same reply, and then, with the sureness of her confidence, she told him: “If you do not want to listen to me, Father, I shall address myself to another, until I find someone who really wants to guide me and advise me, as I am firmly resolved to become a religious, and this is not a passing whim, as you seem to believe.” The Father understood from these words how resolved her soul was, and agreed to give her a few hints about the religious Orders he knew of, but reserved himself until he was more sure of the solidness of her vocation by the usual testing. To his questions about the kind of community which would be suitable for her, she replied without hesitation: “I wish to enter a cloistered Order, but I am rather afraid that the Carmel will be too austere for me and that I will not be able to get accustomed to it. However, I do not wish to enter a teaching Order, like that of the Visitandines, for example.”

Then the Father, who, through a prudent reserve, had not let her suspect the existence of the Redemptoristines, realised that this Order, which is intermediary between the Carmel and the Visitation, was the one that would suit her, and after some further examination, he obtained for her all the information she required, relating to our way of life. Maria, the more she became informed about it, the less she could contain her joy. The spirit of the Rule and the type of community suited her so well that she felt absolutely convinced that God was calling her in amongst us.

Upon leaving the church, the radiant expression upon her face betrayed the joy of her soul, to the point that a good priest who saw her then said to himself: “There is a child who has just taken a great decision!” He mentioned it later to her family, after her departure for the cloister. But she said nothing of it yet, praying with all her soul to the Virgin of Perpetual Succour, whom she had learned to love in the boarding school, to help her to leave this world that she could no longer endure.

At the end of the month of May, entrusting herself to the protection of her Mother in heaven, she made the effort to speak one day to Mrs. G…, not without some difficulty, and embraced her tenderly. She began by asking pardon of her for the involuntary pain that she was going to cause her … and then, in a more assured voice, she told her: “Mother, I want to become a religious in a cloistered convent, in the Redemptoristines. There is a monastery of this Order at Grenoble, and this is where I want to go.”

The good mother’s surprise soon changed into a supernatural joy, seeing the noble energy of her young daughter. She realised all the exquisite goodness of her loving heart, and understood very quickly that her vocation had to be a serious and divine one, to give her such strength to make the sacrifices it required so generously.

Besides, this pious lady had always sought and asked of God to choose Himself a bride from among her daughters and a minister from among her sons. Maria therefore was well placed to hope for her mother’s consent. She explained in detail to her mother about the rule, habit and customs of the religious of the Most Holy Redeemer, and communicated to her all the information that she had been able procure about it. After some moments of mutual outpouring, Mrs. G…’s conviction was formed, and the dear child for her part did not have to undergo the crucifying uncertainties of spirit or heart that are the trial and the martyrdom of certain vocations.

* * * * *

A pilgrimage to the grotto of Lourdes was organized at Firminy at about this time. Her good parents permitted her to take part in it, in order to obtain from the Blessed Virgin the fullness of the light required upon the way for her to follow. So she left with a friend and certain persons of confidence to whom they had been recommended. At Lourdes, Maria spent all her time in prayers in the grotto and the basilica, or in following the processions and joining ardently in the chanting of the hymns, so much so that her voice became quite hoarse with it. She scarcely took any rest before midnight, so much did she prolong her devotions. The persons to whom her parents had entrusted her finished by losing sight of her, which permitted her, even unknown to her friend, to pay a visit to the Reverend Mother Prioress of the Carmelites, with the aim of seeing if God was truly not calling her to the Carmel.

The Mother Prioress, arriving in the parlour, showed herself much astonished and very incredulous when she heard what so young a lady had to say… Maria, a little disconcerted at not seeing herself taken more seriously, replied to her questions in but a trembling and stammering voice, which, joined to her hoarseness, served as a pretext to the Reverend Mother to show her out politely and tell her: “I do not believe, Miss, that you will be able to accustom yourself to the Rule of our convent, and besides, your voice does not seem clear enough to me to satisfy the obligation of the holy Office.”

Maria, who later on recounted this setback good-humouredly, was not troubled by it, but comforted. She departed from the Carmel, persuaded now that her noticeable lack of attraction for this Order was not an illusion.

We cannot fail to admire here how God, through His Providence, arranges everything, so as to lead souls to the place that He has prepared for them from all eternity.

The dear fugitive returned very late to the hotel that evening, where everyone was in search of her person on all sides. She accepted the reproaches that seemed justified, and so as not to reveal the secret of her vocation, she did not let even her friend suspect what had been the reason for this solitary excursion.

Upon their return, they made a stop at Cette, where the view of the sea made a profound impression upon her naturally contemplative soul. We leave aside a thousand joyous incidents which a too long to relate and irrelevant to our subject, but which thereafter were the fruit of her most lively recreations.

The aim of the pilgrimage was attained, since our dear young lady brought back from the blessed grotto the interior and absolute certainty that God wanted her to be a Redemptoristine at Grenoble.

Her good mother, who finally decided not to make her wait too long a time, accompanied her to our Monastery in the month of June, with the aim of letting her examine close up the convent she so much desired. They were welcomed by our Reverend Mother Marie-Philomene, who from the very first meeting won all their confidence and deep affection, as did the community. Maria was completely filled with joy. Everything pleased her. She felt at ease, at home, in her place finally. Mrs. G… left her for ten days with the intention of giving her the ability of informing herself better about everything, and prepare herself, with a good retreat, for her departure from her family.

She was thus able to attend the beautiful feasts of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in our chapel, and hear a Redemptorist Father preach, which gave her great pleasure and did her great good.

At the same time as her, a young lady of a certain age was studying her vocation in our Monastery. Our happy Maria found, in this unexpected companion, a mentor as original as she was pleasant, for going on the little walks they did then. How many joyful remarks the memory of this evoked later on! For indeed we must say, her fine perspicacity very quickly found the pleasant side of people or things, and the novitiate was to mellow a little more that innocent maladroitness that was starting to become noticed in her.

Fully convinced of the divine call, her return to F… was enlivened by the prospect of forthcoming entry into our convent, and saddened at the same time, in her affectionate heart, by the thought of the definitive sacrifice that she was about to make.

She wanted to bring back some blessed souvenirs to her family, and in the process of procuring them she spent the rest of her limited funds.

Mrs. G… was busy at this time in obtaining the consent of her good father, who could not give up, except by means of floods of tears, this dear Benjamin to God who had chosen her for His bride. He objected especially to Maria’s age, but her good Mother replied to him very judiciously: “If she has no vocation, the younger she enters, the younger she will come out, and the less harm it will do her; but, if she truly has a vocation, as I believe, she cannot give herself too early to our good God.”

For two months Maria occupied herself with great ardour for her departure. A certain great trunk, that we were to find later, held all the objects she kept or believed to be useful. They were all crammed one upon the other.

On her table she had placed a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, before which she loved to kneel down to recite her chaplet, or do her prayers and pious readings. It was there that she would spend her days, after making her long visits to the church and finishing her duties to her family, scarcely paying attention to her interior travails, which never had any attraction for her, and less still to the news of the world. Some of her closest friends had occasion at that time to appreciate the firmness of her decision and the ardour of her desires. “I am saying farewell with all my heart to everything I love here,” she said, “to our church, and even the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, where I have received so many graces. Pray for it well.”

However, in spite of her enthusiasm, she never imposed her opinions upon anybody. If sometimes, in conversation, she met with resistance, she would simply change the subject without blaming anybody.

On a walk she took with some of her companions, she talked for a long time to one of them with a great abandonment, and this lady affirmed that she was quite astonished and very edified with the simple and judicious good sense with which she valued everything.

In her fervour, she would have liked the persons in whom she was interested to be full of religious sentiments like her. She would discreetly encourage the fidelity of her friends to all the duties of piety, especially those that she thought they were somewhat neglecting. A zeal for souls was thus burning in the soul of our future Redemptoristine.

She had set the date for her departure for the first days of September 1894, and now there only remained to her the time for her farewells. She prayed a great deal to her beloved Lady of Perpetual Succour, about whom she had spoken in confidence to one of her little study companions while she was still at the boarding school: “This holy Virgin is granting me everything I ask, even to know my lessons when I have not learnt them.” And then our dear postulant rose up quite resolute and with a strengthened heart to go and embrace all her family.

We have already spoken of the tenderness of her affections, that those around her conveyed by this apt expression: “Maria has a heart of gold.” We can only guess at what these last days meant to her, these last hours and these last embraces. How many tears did she pour out, in spite of her supernatural strength in the accomplishment of her sacrifice! But they were blessed tears! The angels counted them, and the harvest of merits that were watered by them has already been gathered into the barns of Paradise.

A friend has preserved for us the words of the solemn farewell that she uttered on the vigil of her departure. They bring out the beautiful sentiments of her soul into the daylight:

“Farewell, for I do not think I will see you again here below, but I shall see you in heaven! As for coming back into the world, I would rather die! Pray well to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and to blessed Gerard, whose picture I am leaving you. Our good God is separating us for a time, in order to reunite us forever in His beautiful heaven. Always go forward in courage and confidence! When we make sacrifices, we need to make them completely. “All or nothing” – this is the motto we should follow. I am going to Grenoble to be further away from my family, as I would not have the courage to be a religious near my family.”

She spoke likewise of the worthy mistresses who had brought her up, when they made clear their regrets and not seeing her enter their own institute, to devote herself there with them to the education of young people. Maria showed herself so resolved to embrace the contemplative life, and for such good reasons, that these good nuns understood her and congratulated her sincerely on her determination.

* * * * *

She left the paternal home on 5th September at four o’clock in the morning, accompanied by two of her sisters. Her good mother was consoled in not being able to make the journey with her, by promising to come soon to see her in her dear monastery. Mr. G…, in spite of the sobbing torn from his father’s heart by the sorrowful separation, decided to bring the travellers himself as far as Saint-Etienne, where they took the train for Lyon. They were all weeping, and Maria, although she was very brave, wept even more than the others, as she left those places where her youthful purity had run its course, innocent and happy, among so many loving hearts and which she had so tenderly loved. To give themselves more courage, the three sisters decided to make the pilgrimage of Our Lady of Fourvieres at Lyon together. Our young postulant received the Bread of the strong there, with the particular unction of sacrifice that God imparts to the beautiful days of vocation, when grace bears souls along. Then, with much interest, they visited the basilica under construction, and after meeting up with some of their friends from the boarding school, they could not refuse spending a few moments with them. The day was spent like this, hiding the feelings that filled all their hearts under a veil of apparent distractions.

They took the train at four o’clock and arrived in Grenoble at eleven o’clock at night. On the following day they had a long meeting with the Reverend Mother, who was happy to see them again. Finally on 7th September, having accompanied her two sisters to the station, she said her farewells to them and returned alone to the monastery, where she found Miss Noemi D… (Sister Marie-C... of the Holy Cross) who had come, like her, to consecrate herself to God. They both entered at two thirty pm. The chaplain presided at this touching ceremony. Maria, in spite of some tears and a great deal of astonishment, as everything was unknown to her inside the enclosure, found her every wish fulfilled and could not contain her childlike joy.

They had scarcely entered when the bell called them to Vespers. Reverend Mother led the two postulants there and they followed, as they loved to recall later on, with the solemness of canonesses, one beside the other.

Her good heart very quickly became attached to her new family, which received her very cordially, and yet how hard and painful the sacrifice of her family was to her! For long months, this was the subject of very meritorious efforts and bitter holocausts, which she made with all the generosity of her rich nature, aided by a lively and sincere piety. It is not possible to leave so Christian, so loving and so united a family without breaking your heart!

During one of those first days, her mistress suddenly heard cries and sobbing in her cell and came running. She found her sitting in the middle of it, on the floor, in a veritable fit of childish sorrow, striking her head and weeping hot tears. To console her, she knelt down beside her, trying by all the means suggested by her heart to soften this bitter desolation. Nothing worked. Maria sighed in a tone of utter anguish: My family, my family!... Getting up in a single leap she said: “I am going to find Reverend Mother” and she fled, running as fast as she could. It seemed that the cup of maternal consolations was difficult to drain, as she was not seen until a long time afterwards in the educandate. This little scene describes her vividly.

The beginnings of religious life were very arduous for this good child who, it is true, brought to Our Lord a soul full of candour and generosity, but which, having scarcely ever known any other yoke than that of her whims as a spoilt child, collided with all our observances. It required time, much meekness and a powerful grace to bend to the exigencies of an austere rule this spirit of infantile independence which dominated her, unknown to her. Yet to no one did success ever appear to be in doubt, because the dear educande, in spite of her boarding school pranks, showed a truly remarkable constancy in prayer, and a will to do well which one day was to become the source of her real virtues. She said: “I used to believe that, to be a religious, it was enough to love the good God well and do my prayers, and afterwards, I could go and talk with my friends and do whatever I wanted.”

So her first few months were rather difficult in certain respects, but in fact this served to highlight the strength of character with which Maria was endowed.

Very outgoing and active as she was, she had her work cut out to contain herself, and how many times did she have to retreat in order to advance! But then finally she showed that she had set her nature to one side after many sincere attempts.

As soon as she understood that religious life is a life of abnegation and sacrifice for the love of God, she moved forward, with a courageous and very sustained ardour, along this way of holiness, and she was never to stop. Of her sensitive and affectionate nature, she kept what was necessary for this good family life which our first Mothers have bequeathed to us, but she pitilessly immolated all satisfaction or seeking of heart that was too human, through efforts that God blessed visibly and by which the whole community was greatly edified.

Her outbursts of temper became more rare, and she was obliged to repair for them by acts of humility which were at no little cost to her natural pride.

Liveliness, going sometimes to little acts of temper; habits of independence and comfort; attachment to many persons or little things, especially those contained in her famous trunk, remained legendary; all this gave her the salutary need for this struggle which ended with the reform of herself according to the model of the virtues of Jesus Christ.

The educandate at this time contained five educandes, a number sufficient for this friction of tempers where we learn so well to know and contend against ourselves. She knew how to profit from it, and when, after six months of testing, she was presented to the chapter, the community admitted her with joy, in the hope of soon finding in her an excellent novice.

She made the retreat in preparation for her taking of the habit with a fervour whose echo we find in a letter written at this time to one of her friends. She told her:

“My dear retreat! Oh, such wonderful days! How quickly they have passed! Yet if only I was inflamed by the love of God… Our poor nature in itself is not very inflammable, especially if it is for a sacrifice. Pray well for me to really give everything to our good God, so that I may become a good religious, a true Redemptoristine, really all for Him, and it is in His Heart that I shall always find you. With God we are never lost.”

Another time she wrote to her: “Pray well for me that I may always follow my vocation courageously, without looking back. Religious life is a life of sacrifice, and when you enter, you need to have a good provision of courage in reserve.”

This courage was something she always had, because she was constantly faithful in asking for it through prayer. Her retreat was a laborious one. She willing gave herself to it, and God, who never allows Himself to be outdone in generosity, filled her with practical graces (as she said good-humorously) instead of spiritual sweet-meats, which her sensitive piety would perhaps have preferred.

Her vesting took place at the same time as that of her companion who entered with her, on 3rd September 1895, the feast of the Mother of the Divine Shepherd. Maria received the beautiful name of Sister Marie-Raphael of the Love of God. She was radiant with joy. Rev. Father F…, a Redemptorist, gave the usual homily.

After seeing her so happy under her white veil, her parents were no longer able to hold a single doubt about her vocation, which was considered by everyone as a blessing from God, reflecting upon the entire family.

Dating from this moment, she went forward with an even firmer step along the path of renunciation and mortification. The great openness of her heart and her perfect observance facilitated the way of perfection for her. Her novitiate was therefore very fervent, and her companions of that time remember with much edification her many acts of virtue, which took place before their eyes.

She was ingenious in profiting from little occasions to mortify her taste, saying that she had indulged it too much by the thousand dainties of her childhood. So this is why, with the permission of her mistress, she set aside the rare sweetmeats distributed in the noviciate during recreations, and brought them to the Reverend Mother, so that she could give them to the poor. Besides the penances prescribed by the Rule, which she always did with great fidelity, and for the sake of poor sinners, she applied herself very conscientiously to profit from all occasions, in the refectory and elsewhere, to mortify herself. She would have liked to wear instruments of penance, and pestered her mistresses to obtain them, but in vain, as her constitution and her youth commanded a prudent reserve which her ardour scarcely understood. Indeed, it was to her great sorrow that she was not able to attain her ends.

More than once she found matter for virtue, for her ardent and outgoing nature, in mutual relationships, and she made remarkable progress on this point. They are the indubitable index of her fidelity to grace. She brought to everything that perseverance of will which, with her piety, was the principal feature of her character.

Our feasts and recreations allowed her good heart to blossom.

No one was more ingenious than her in tearing Reverend Mother away from her occupations and bringing her either to the educandate or the novitiate. This was her happiness! When she became sad because of the long obligatory intervals that this good Mother placed between her visits, she would rise up very excited and say: “Permit me to go and find her, Mother Mistress, and you will soon see that I will bring her to you.” In fact, she often had this filial success dear to her heart. Many times she would repay her personally in the form of little poems, more rich in inspiration than in rhyme and metre, perhaps, but always full of life and religious spirit.

Her devotion to the community knew no other bounds than that of the impossible. She would importune parents and friends, without ever being dismayed by any delay.

“We are so poor,” she would say, “that you simply must come to the aid of the community.” And as her family’s generosity never failed her little requests, this was a great joy to her. The first year of her novitiate passed in this way, in a sincere fervour and application to her religious formation. We saw our dear novice change very rapidly and give us the most beautiful hopes. It was then that she took the recollected expression that she kept right to the end, and which spread across her whole personality the stamp of a modest gravity.

During the course of her novitiate, she had one of the most perilous temptations possible against her vocation. She read the life of Saint Teresa written by the Carmelites and imagined that she had been deceived, and that it was to the Carmel that God had called her. She felt herself attracted in this way and yet she did not wish to leave the dear community that she loved so much. She opened herself up to her Mother Mistress, who tried to make her understand that what she was experiencing was pure temptation and the attempt of the demon to deflect her from her true vocation, but this reasoning had little effect and the temptation continued. Then Mother Mistress spoke more strongly, telling her that since she was always thinking of the Carmel then she ought to go there. This time these words cut short her dangerous temptation, which did not return.

When the time arrived, the Chapter admitted her easily to her holy Vows. She prepared herself for them like a soul which understands the importance of this great act. Her retreat, like that of her vesting, was certainly not an oasis of pleasant sweetness, but a field of battle where her victory was complete. In a moment of abandonment, when she was in the infirmary, she said one day to her companion in profession, in a tone of malicious reproach: “You always take everything for yourself! During the retreat for my profession, and the three days that followed, our good God said nothing to me. You took everything!” (emphasizing these words with a smile full of good spirit). So we know from herself that our good Jesus left her all the merit of her immolation, which was the means of elevating her more and more into the serene region of forgetfulness of self, through love and the accomplishment of only the will of God, this manna in our desert, according to the words of the revered Father Desurmont.

This was the last testing of her vocation. A letter to a faithful friend initiates us again into her feelings:

“I am to make my profession on 8th September,” she wrote to her, “and I am fortunate in seeing this day arrive that I have desired for so long, a day of complete sacrifice which will make me the Bride of Our Lord forever. Oh, how the good things I am leaving behind seem as nothing compared to those I am acquiring! I am abandoning perishable things to have eternal ones… Ask our good God for me to become a very fervent religious, for if the honour we receive is a great one, it means we must live up to it in consequence: noblesse oblige – and I shall not leave my poor nature under the mortuary cloth, but suffering valiantly borne will merit us heaven. Courage, dear friend, and besides, what does it matter if the way is more or less a long one, a more or less united one, provided that we arrive in heaven! Always move forward, and we shall soon arrive at our goal.”

We can hear the young novice’s soul maturing and the enthusiasm of her infantile piety give way to the solid foundations of the religious virtues.

* * * * *

The great day finally arrived. It was 8th September 1896, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. Under the protection of her Mother in heaven, whom she loved so much, she vowed herself forever to poverty, obedience, chastity and perpetual enclosure, having well weighed this yoke of the Lord, which love rendered light. With a great and ardent love she gave herself totally to Jesus and did not hesitate once. Rev. Father G…, following the end of the retreat where he preached the exercises, presided at the ceremony of the vows and gave a beautiful homily on the excellence of the religious life.

Her family, so profoundly Christian, surrounded the dear novice at this solemn moment, which was a sweet consolation to her heart.

Full of the graces of this beautiful day, Sister Marie-Raphael continued her exercises in the novitiate with a fervour that was even more sustained and a very visible union of her soul with God. Her good character became more at ease than ever, transfigured by virtue. Little by little she acquired the habits of humility and punctual regularity, which had been so onerous for her at the beginning, and her spirit of prayer became almost continual. On the days when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, she would spend all her time in adoration. On those days, she told our Reverend Mother many times: “My Mother, your occupations prevent you from praying as much as you would like, but give me your heart, and I shall bring it with mine before the Blessed Sacrament.”

In the same way, on Sundays or during the week, she would devote all her free time faithfully to prayer, and when everyone retired to bed after our long Offices for the days of Lent or feasts of the 1st class, we would see Sister Marie-Raphael, always avid for prayer, still kneeling before the altar and remaining there until the last minute, whenever her duties permitted. This did not do any harm to her work, because, although she was more favoured with intellectual gifts than manual skills, our dear little Sister devoted herself joyfully to the service of the community in everything that was within her powers.

Finally she had to leave this dear noviciate, the home of the happiest years of her life. The poor little Sister poured out many tears. The sacrifice was a hard one, a very hard one for her loving heart, but, aided by the exercises of a solid retreat, she did so generously, and we had the joy of welcoming her into the community on 8th September 1897. And by her warmth, she was the joyful element there of our recreations. Her good family spirit made her participation welcome to all our Sisters. Nothing is so salutary as the cordial and open manner of a religious who is quite clearly dedicated to God and her community, and Sister Marie-Raphael had this gift more than anyone.

She was in turn portress, assistant to the refectorian and the laundry mistress, and practised a constant virtue in these different employments. Her transformation was complete, and there was not even a question of outbreaks of independence, of the kind that made her reply formerly to her mistress in the educandate, when she urged her to show obedience to the Reverend Mother:

“First of all I have to do the work, and I’ll be obedient afterwards.”

No more, either in her tone, or in her words, was there anything reprehensible. There was only a bright blushing which showed suddenly on her face during severe obstacles, and which showed the struggle in her nature, held in the vice of her strong will.

She had much to struggle with in her heart, which was very much disposed to lively and natural affections, and she did so with determination. She greatly loved Reverend Mother, and in the first year of her religious life she profited from the least occasions to go and find her and remain with her as long as she could without worrying in her mind if she was distracting her in her occupations. Later on, during her noviciate, especially in the last year, she mortified herself on this point and restrained herself from going to the Reverend Mother, doing so only for genuine reasons. She felt that Our Lord was jealous of this affection, and that He wanted her heart entirely to Himself, and so she made a complete sacrifice of it to Him.

Another little trait will also depict for us her generosity in virtue. The Very Rev. Provincial was visiting the Monastery, and the community was called to the parlour to receive his blessing and profit from a very paternal meeting. Our dear Sister greatly loved these meetings, but on this day she had to make a sacrifice of it. Being employed as the Companion, she had been sent to supervise the workmen who were working in the house. This privation cost her a great deal, but nonetheless she did not give the least little sign of annoyance or discontent.

Although her voice was off-key, she put herself to a great deal of trouble to learn the principles of Gregorian chant, so as to better fulfil her vocation. She said: “If only I could manage to intone the Psalms when I am the first choir Sister!” She loved the Divine Office so much that she studied the meaning of the liturgical words in a translation kept for the use of the Community. She showed a diligence that never wavered.

The keenness of her intelligence and her excellent memory, aided by the light of grace, also helped her to appreciate more and more this divine function which makes us similar to the angels in heaven.

Her health, without being the most robust, permitted up till then to follow the common life. But towards the middle of summer she began to cough from time to time, and somewhat neglected the precautions that she was recommended to take, telling the Infirmarian: “It’s nothing, it’s just a frog I have in my throat”, and she laughed at herself.

However, at the end of October, going with her companions to hang out the washing on wash day, she noticed that she was spitting some blood. As she did not know that this was a case that could turn serious, she did not say a word to anyone, and for three days she continued the same work. On 25th October, feeling a great weariness and having a headache, she thought she had a migraine, to which she was subject, and with an edifying energy, she would never take a moment’s rest except when she could not stand on her feet. So she went to ask if she could go and lie down on her bed with her migraine, without saying anything more, but one of our Sisters, who had seen her handkerchief stained with blood, told the Infirmarian, who informed herself of everything, and immediately understood the gravity of the imprudence she had committed.

Our Sister Marie-Raphael, with her heart of gold, had concealed her illness, as she admitted herself, because, knowing that Reverend Mother, whom she loved with such devotion, was very affected by the state of a sick Sister in the community, she did not want to add to her pain by speaking to her about her own misfortune, and also, in her simplicity, she did not believe that it would be anything of consequence.

Very quickly, she was submitted to an examination by the doctor who declared that her state was serious. She had to go to bed and maintain complete rest. The fever became intense. Nonetheless, Sister Marie-Raphael, in her inexperience, did not understand that it was a matter of life and death, but, ardent and pious as she was, she accepted this cross joyfully and let herself be looked after like a child.

Reverend Mother gave her an obedience to unite herself with the prayers the community was saying to obtain her cure from the revered Father Desurmont,[1] and she replied: “My Mother, I shall unite myself to them through obedience.”

She was entrusted with a handkerchief which this holy religious had once had. She put it on her chest with great confidence, and every time she felt her blood bubbling, she would cry out with a charming naïveté: “Father Desurmont, I must not spit blood, I do not wish to spit blood, because our Mother has forbidden me!” In fact she obtained this grace, but she did not obtain the grace of her cure. Divine Providence hastened the degrees of the ascension of her soul in such a manner, that she was very close to attaining her end, even though she was still so young, as she was only twenty three. It was very hard for us to think that we would not be able to be edified by the spectacle of her virtues for much longer. Her time amongst us was a very short one. Having entered on 8th September 1894, she was to leave us for heaven in February 1899. But always, especially at the beginning of her novitiate, she wanted to die young. She would say: “Life is not so wonderful that we can sin too much, and it is not worth the trouble to live a long time.”

On 20th November, the doctor declared that she would be lucky to last three months. So all we could do was to be resigned to this terrible news which cut all our hearts to the core. She was sent down to the infirmary where every care imaginable was offered to her, but without any appreciable result.

Even on this occasion she still gave proof of her strength of will, when it came to taming nature. Having recently come out of the Novitiate, and having then had some very distracting tasks to do, right up to the moment of her illness, she was little accustomed to the solitude of a cell, a solitude which is so agreeable once it is experienced! It also cost her a great deal to find herself alone in that great infirmary, and in spite of the promises which the Sister Infirmarian made to her about coming every moment and sending visitors to her, she scarcely welcomed being in her new residence. For three days we could see a struggle in her heart, but on the fourth day, when the Sister Infirmarian came in, she found her patient radiant with joy, and asked her the cause of it. “Ah!” she said, “it is because I have promised our good God to be very happy in the infirmary, and I have made my act so well from the bottom of my heart that now I am completely happy.”

Our dear invalid in no way had any inkling of her approaching end. It was the Rev. Father M…, who came to us for extraordinary confessions, who made her understand this, with a tact and delicacy by which she was greatly touched. She came out of the confessional radiant, happy that she would soon be going to Paradise.

In spite of this announcement, in spite of such evident symptoms of consumption, Sister Marie-Raphael still did not understand what illness had attacked her. And also, when Reverend Mother came a moment afterwards in the infirmary, our invalid asked her: “My Mother, what illness do I have?” – “An illness in your chest, my poor dear.” – “Ah, an illness in my chest! I didn’t know. But what I do know is that I will soon be going to see our good God, because Father M… has just told me. Oh, how happy I am! I am going to use the time that our good God has still given me for nothing else than acts of love and abandonment.”

From the very first visit by the Sister Infirmarian, our dear invalid hasten to communicate her joy to her also and once again witnessed the happiness that was flowing out of her soul at the thought of shortly being with out good God. The Sister Infirmarian was moved and told her: “Oh well! What acts would you like me to suggest to you, when the strength of your illness will prevent you from doing them by yourself?” – “Oh, acts of love and abandonment – yes, acts of abandonment, because this is what is the most perfect.”

All this happened on 7th December, the vigil of the Immaculate Conception, her privileged feast.

On the 24th, the vigil of Christmas, she asked Reverend Mother for permission to attend our beautiful night feasts, a permission that was granted to her. On that occasion our invalid gave fresh proof of her fervour, which seemed to grow the more the solemn moment approached. When, in the course of the procession, Reverend Mother came to the infirmary to bring her the blessing of the Infant Jesus, she expected to have to go right up to the bed where her invalid was, but you can imagine her surprise when she saw Sister Marie-Raphael at the door of the infirmary, just like all the other Sisters who were not sick, at the doors of their cells. And in spite of her extreme weakness, she also wanted to go and renew her vows. “Yes,” she said, “I have to go and renew my vows, and do so with all the strength I have, as I want everyone to know that I am blessed in being given to our good God and in soon going to begin my union with Him.”

In fact, she renewed her vows with a rather strong voice, but she had to stop at almost every word, because her suffocations were almost continuous.

On 28th December she received a visit from one of her sisters who thought she was saddened by the prospect of her approaching death and tried to delude her about her state: “You are still young,” she told her, “and you will soon be better, all the more so because you have never been ill before, and so you will have the strength to get on top of it more than other people.”

When she heard these words, our dear invalid contented herself with replying with a smile, and an instant afterwards, when she bid her farewells to her beloved sister, she told her: “We shall not see each other again here below, but I shall pray well for you, your husband and your children. I shall see you again in heaven, where I promise you I shall keep places for all of you.”

She keenly desired to arrive there on 31st December, the day dedicated to attracting all the Patrons of the year to her, so she would learn, she said, which Saint the Divine Providence would appoint to bring her to heaven. When Reverend Mother visited her for the first time, she told her: “My Mother, I am counting on your goodness to draw down my Patron of the year to me. As soon as you know who it is, I beg you, come quickly and tell me, so that I can tell them to bring me there as soon as possible.”

Providence appointed Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, which filled her with joy. “I could not be presented there better than by them to the Blessed Virgin, their august daughter, and to Our Lord. What powerful protectors our good God has given me!”

It would be difficult to say what edification our invalid gave us from day to day. At the beginning of January she told Reverend Mother that she was quite surprised to find herself in such great security in regard to the affairs of her soul. Her delicate conscience made her fear that she was living in an illusion, and in the false peace which is so much to be feared. She wanted to seek light on this subject from Rev. Father G…, who, as we recall, had preached the retreat which preceded her profession, and presided at the ceremony, and who, she said, had heard her general confession and was perfectly aware of the state of her conscience.

The Reverend Father hastened to reassure her by sending her the following letter on 9th January, which left her in such peace that no cloud, no matter how small, was ever able to trouble her. “Your letter, my dear Sister, has touched me profoundly. You are suffering, and yet you have thought to send me a few words. Regard this revelation about your state as a very great grace, and also the confident acceptance with which you have received it. Yes, my child, you are right, death is before anything else the gateway to heaven, and the entry into the palace of Jesus, our God, the beloved Spouse of your heart, for whom you have left everything else. You are not under any illusion in envisaging things thus – on the contrary. Your general confession has been well made; do not return to it again and be in peace. All the past has been annihilated completely in the blood of our divine Saviour.

“This is how you are to sanctify yourself. Renew often your acceptance of death, and tell Jesus that you are giving Him full power over your person. Enjoy repeating your vows of religion and offering them to God together with your life. To these acts join acts of repentance and love especially, or rather, acts of repentance through pure love, and then abandon yourself. Repeat the words of the Blessed Virgin: Fiat mihi (Let it be done to me). Unite yourself to Jesus in His agony on the cross, and often murmur the words of this good Saviour: “O my God, may Your will be done! – Do not abandon me. – I place my soul into Your hands…”

“It is quite probable, my dear child, that I shall not see you again upon this earth, but let us both say: “May the will of God be done!” I shall see you in the Heart of Our Lord and when you are there with our good God, you will not forget me, will you? You must pray for Reverend Mother, for your community, for me, for my works, and for one thing especially – that our good God will make you known in Paradise.

“So farewell, dear child, I bless you from the depth of my heart, and I promise you all of my prayers. Have confidence. Pray to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Saint Joseph, Saint Alphonsus and Blessed Gerard. Accept the consolations that are offered you in all simplicity. Take them the same way that you would offer them to another, that is the best thing.

“Have faith in your little brother. Once again, I bless you and I shall meet with you again in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and later on in heaven.

“Your devoted Father,
A. G…”

* * * * *

After reading these words, which were as consoling as they were fortifying, our invalid did just as she had been advised and did nothing else other than multiple acts of love and contrition. Her desire to go and see her Jesus grew from day to day.

Towards the end of January she received a visit from the doctor from whom she learnt with joy that she could expect no more than a few weeks, and said to him humorously: “For how many more months then, doctor?” – “Ah, my poor little Sister, not months, but days, and only a few days at that.” At these words, our dear invalid, who had the pious habit of joining her hands together when she had something to say or had to listen to something important, now joined her trembling hands and replied, radiant with joy: “I thank you, doctor, for the good news that you have brought me today, and I promise you that in gratitude for the pleasure that you have given me by your announcement, and also for the devoted care that you have given me, I shall pray a great deal for you and all your family.”

The doctor, who was a profoundly religious man, replied: “My Sister, I understand your joy at the approach of death. You have already given yourself to our good God with all your heart, and you realise that shortly you will be giving yourself to Him in an absolutely irreversible manner. Your fate is indeed worthy of envy. Pray for me to die with the same dispositions.”

* * * * *

One of her infirmarians has given us several notes which will help to show us to what degree of perfection our dear invalid had managed to raise herself in so few years. We shall include every word of them:

“What struck the most about Sister Marie-Raphael was her candour and her childlike simplicity. She had the soul of a child.

“We saw her always united to God. She did not have to say any words, but her eyes, whether they were fixed on the Crucifix, or on the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, or Saint Alphonsus, announced that her soul was praying. She would do like little pilgrimages to the paper pictures decorating her cell.

“The first time Reverend Mother came to tell her that the Chaplain would confess her and the next day he would give her communion in viaticum, I went up to her and found her in tears. “Why are you weeping?” I asked her. – “It is because I am happy, very happy, because tomorrow I will communicate.” The deprivation of Holy Communion was very painful for her. She slept but little, and most often with her mouth open, because of her painful oppression, and so her lack of sleep, taken in such conditions, became a new suffering for her, without mentioning her cough, which at every instant tore at her chest.

“When she experienced a more acute pain, she would repeat under her breath: “Everything for you, my Jesus, everything for you!” When she was able to walk for a while, her joy was in making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. She had a very confident soul; not a shadow, not a cloud in the sky.

“When she was not in too much distress, she would take up her little breviary of the Sacred Heart, and look over the little office of the day with her eyes. She particularly loved the Sunday one which was all about confidence, and the Tuesday one which was all about the cross. From this last one she transcribed these words which she often reread: “We become holy only by humbling ourselves, renouncing ourselves, and crucifying ourselves in everything and everywhere.” She was so good and so delicate in her sentiments, that she was always afraid that she was putting people to too much trouble. She sometimes told me: “Oh, what a burden I am. I sincerely ask your pardon.” She certainly was not a burden, poor little Sister, but devoured by fever as she was, we constantly had to give her something to drink. She was upset by seeing her Sisters caring for her during the night. It was to give them less trouble that she asked Father Desurmont to stop herself spitting blood. When she knew what her illness was later on, she never asked him for a cure, because she said she was quite content to go home to our good God. She was always so desirous of observing her Rule that, in her delirium, it was always the Divine Office to be recited or her job to do that made her speak. She was always very pleasant to look after, as she would take her remedies in perfect obedience. She always remained a child, but a child in whom the practice of virtue had corrected her faults. Besides her simplicity and her candour, she also had a great generosity of soul. She was great in her ideas and her sentiments and always had a great horror of anything which in any way smacked of littleness of spirit.”

The witness of our Reverend Mother Marie-Philomene is more precious still. We reproduce it in its entirely.

“Our dear Sister Marie-Raphael, during her illness, always showed a perfect obedience to the infirmarians and her Superior, and was always very grateful for the blessings and care that they offered her. “I will repay you all in heaven,” she often said. She retained her fervour from the novitiate until her death. If anyone asked her if she wanted this or that thing, she would reply: “I am a religious. It is wrong for me to be so occupied with my body, and I must not say what pleases me or does not please me.”

“She had given herself quite entirely to Our Lord and never regretted it, and also, the last months of her short life were spent in pure love and confidence. After she learnt the full gravity of her illness, she threw herself even more into acts of love and abandonment to the holy will of God. “I love You, I love You, O my God!” she would often say, “and I want whatever you want.” – “Look at me, O my God, here to do Your will.” She desired to die with all her soul to go and see her good God and love Him a great deal, “Yes, a great deal,” she would say, “because He is so good, and He must be so beautiful!”

“And she would say in her childlike simplicity: “He couldn’t put me in Purgatory, because I love Him too much! I asked Him on the day of my profession to let me die in an act of perfect love, and since then, I have asked Him every day at the holy Mass, and surely I shall be heard.”

The Chaplain gave her the sacrament of Extreme Unction on Sunday 15th January. She was radiant with joy and followed the prayers with a great deal of attention and spirit of faith. She asked pardon of the community in terms so humble and touching that we were all quite moved to tears by it. After the Chaplain departed she told me: “My Mother, the Chaplain has not said all the prayers.” – “But, my little one”, I told her, “he has given you Extreme Unction and an Indulgence for a good death, but only the effect of this will not be applied to you until your last breath.” – “Yes, but he has not said “Depart, Christian soul.” – “That is because it is not said until the moment of agony, and you are not there yet.” – “What a shame that I am not leaving right away, as I am so well prepared! I would fly straight away to heaven.”

“The next day she had enough strength to go and see her mother in the parlour. This poor mother was drowning in tears, but our dear invalid had enough strength of soul to remain calm. She told her mother about the happiness of a religious who dies within her community, in the midst of her Sisters praying for her.

“How beautiful it is, mother,” she told her, “our religious vocation, and how much I thank our good God for having given it to me!” She made her farewells in these terms: “Farewell, mother, I shall not see you again on earth, but we shall meet again in heaven, so make a good sacrifice.” At the door, she cast a last look at her good mother whose heart was broken, but resigned. When she got back to the infirmary, she told the infirmarian: “You know it costs a great deal to say good bye to your mother before dying, but it is all for our good God.”

“The thought of having received Extreme Unction filled her with joy. “You would not be able to believe,” she said, “what graces of strength and peace this sacrament gives.”

“The poor child was very ill the following night. At 12:30 we called the Chaplain, who as a measure of prudence was spending the night on the outside. He immediately gave her Holy Communion.

“At about nine o’clock in the morning she seemed to recover some life. Her good mother was told of it and expressed the desire to see her again one last time, but it was impossible for our dear invalid to return to the parlour.

“With the improvement continuing, Mrs. G… had her asked if she could leave.

“Yes,” she replied, “it is preferable if mother goes; tell her that she should abandon herself to the will of God, as it is in this abandonment that she will find the strength and peace that she needs. Let her read “Abandonment to the will of God” by Father de Caussade, as reading it will do her a great deal of good.”

“Let her kiss all the family for me. We shall see each other again in heaven.”

“From the day when she received Extreme Unction, we watched over her every night. She was very grateful to those who devoted themselves to remaining with her. They had to speak to her constantly about our good God.

“She communicated as often as her state permitted. It was such a great consolation to her to receive her Jesus! She said with her childlike naïveté: “He is speaking to me. He is telling me to suffer well and love Him a lot.”

“One evening, suffering more than usual, she held her crucifix in her feverish fingers, kissed it with all her strength and cried out: “My Jesus, I love You, I love You! Not because of the hell that You will deliver me from, nor because of the heaven You will give me, but for Your own sake, for You alone, my Lord, for my Jesus alone! The more I suffer, the more I love You.”

“A few days before her death, when the Infirmarian was doing her thanksgiving after Holy Communion, she interrupted her and made her a sign to stop. When I came to see her, she told me: “Sister Marie-G… was doing my acts for me after Holy Communion, but I told her to stop because our good Jesus wanted to speak to me.”

“I would go every evening to hear the candid and touching account of what the good God had told her during the day, the acts that He had inspired in her, and recite the evening prayer with her, which she heard with a truly surprising attention, given the feebleness to which she had been reduced.”

This is the end of the interesting notes that Reverend Mother was kind enough to communicate to us. We will have very little else to add to them. It remains to us only to say with what sentiments of love and confidence our dear little Sister rendered her soul into the hand of the God whom she loved so much.

Always impatient to go and see her Jesus, she found her last hours upon earth very long ones. Delirium seized her through the strength of a fever that nothing could stop, and on her last night, the Sister who was watching over her could scarcely perceive any lucidity at times, and this was only to address some acts of love to her Jesus.

In the morning, a comatose state, so often deceiving, gave way to the agitations of the fever, and the Sister Infirmarian asked her: “Do you recognize me?” A light pressure of her hand was the reply.

Reverend Mother, forewarned, arrived straight away, happy for this moment of lucidity, or rather without speech as she seemed to be sleeping. Our dear dying Sister was no doubt still formulating a supreme act of love and abandonment in the bottom of her heart.

The Chaplain entered and we recited the recommendation of her soul with him, and our good Mother stood beside our dying Sister. The blessed candle was there in her hand and lit up her pale and calm face. You would have said a child was sleeping…

And so she passed away, without shaking, without contractions, into the arms of the God whom she had always loved so much and whose possession she desired with so much ardour! This was on 31st January 1899.

Her zeal for Gregorian chant had once again been revealed a few days before her death, she had asked on several occasions, if the Office of the Dead had been well enough prepared for the Sisters to sing it for her. “Have you repeated my Office?” she often asked the Sister Infirmarian, and the choir Sisters who came to visit her.

So, thanks to her foresight, the Office of the Dead was performed in its entirely, and with a piety and effect that left a profound impression upon all those who heard it and were to celebrate her soul.

Also, while the remains of our dear little Sister were lying in the lower chapel, by closing the grille, we were able to sing first Vespers from the gallery, and the invitatorium and the second Vespers of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, in such a way that one would have said that divine Providence wished to surround those virginal remains with singing, rather than with tears and regrets. Death never appeared less dismal.

Her funeral was of the same kind. In spite of an intense cold, made worse by persistent rain, seventeen priests considered it an honour to come and pray beside our dear Sister, and enhanced the beauty of our religious ceremonies with their presence, accompanying her to our little cemetery. This cortege of white surplices and blue mantles had something heavenly about it. These gentlemen expressed all their pious emotions when they reached the enclosure.

And we, her Sisters, completed our pilgrimage within this blessed Monastery, embalmed with the memory of her virtues and her affectionate cordiality. Then we asked her to grant us the precious grace of fulfilling like her, with a great heart and a very pure love, the will of God which is the sanctification of life and the food of eternal beatitude. Amen.

Footnotes
[1] Died in an odour of sanctity on 23rd July 1898..

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Sister Marie-Alphonse of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Grenoble (1860-1886)


The Monastery of Grenoble.

God has sanctified her in her faith and meekness (Eccl. XLXV)

It is a consolation for us to speak, even if it is but briefly, of our dear lamented Sister Marie-Alphonse, this lily so pure that the divine Spouse hastened to transport her to the heavenly garden.

She was born at V… (Saone et Loire) on 23rd November 1860, in the bosom of an honourable family of landowners which one could call truly patriarchal. At her holy baptism our dear Sister received the name of Marie-Louise. Her childhood was surrounded only by examples of virtue.

At the first awakening of reason, her young soul opened itself up fully to grace, and from then on she was so faithful to it that we have the private conviction that she ascended to heaven adorned with her baptismal innocence.

Our little Marie-Louise, naturally serious and reflective, did not like games very much, but even then she was much concerned with her duties and was the angel of her home. Filled with a tender affection for her family, she evidenced it even more by her actions than by her words or caresses. She showed herself obedient and respectful towards her grandparents and her own good parents and totally devoted to her little brothers and sisters. Her pious Mistresses had nothing but praise for her application to her studies and her docility in all their lessons, when a little later on her education was entrusted to them.

She began to understand and enjoy the charms of piety at an early age and when, on the day of her first communion, Jesus descended into this pure and fervent heart, He found her well prepared to receive His favours, and so He was pleased to communicate them to her in abundance.

Already this privileged soul was feeling herself attracted to Him. She loved to pray at the foot of the altar, and as she grew up, she was better able to appreciate the happiness of possessing her God. And then Marie-Louise would sometimes flee furtively from the paternal home in order to visit the church and satisfy her piety and love before the tabernacle. Later on she reproached herself for not having attended the Holy Mass during the week then on as many occasions as she could have. This, in her opinion was a great fault against fervour.

Her greatest happiness was to go on pilgrimage with her dear parents or her pious Mistresses, to the sanctuary of Paray-le-Monial, and there she would forget herself in the delights that the divine Heart of Jesus would fill her soul with. She would have liked to remain there always, as she herself confessed.

The thought of entering the Monastery of the Visitation appealed to her, but she was still very young, and the divine Master had not spoken, and while she was waiting to know His will, our dear Marie-Louise continued her pious and devout life within her family.

She was always a stranger to the foolishness so common at her age. She did not like dressing up, and here is the place to recall an incident that took place some time before her entry into religion and shows her in her natural colours:

The parish priest, Father V…, preaching one Sunday on Christian simplicity, inveighed strongly against the vanity that reigned in the towns and also seemed to be invading the countryside. He particularly blamed the deplorable fashion that replaced the traditional head-wear of the young country folk with hats decorated with flowers and feathers. Our poor Marie-Louise was sitting there adorned with her most beautiful hat, which she only happened to be wearing by the will of her parents. She felt the point strike deep into her heart. Her face flushed red with embarrassment and she went back home very upset.

After this famous sermon, she had no more peace. Every time she encountered her venerable Pastor she would remember his words, and it felt as though he had said them for her sake alone. Finally, believing that it was her duty to surrender to Father’s exhortations, our dear Marie-Louise made earnest requests to her good parents, who, while they admired their daughter’s virtue, nonetheless only granted the permission she was seeking after her repeated prayers. But matters did not finish there, and the most severe test that the timidity of our good Sister had to endure was when she reappeared in the village, and especially in the Church, with a modest country headscarf, and found herself made the object of everyone’s stares. After this generous act, her conscience was satisfied and she was able to find peace again, and the example of her courageous virtue was not without effect on her young companions.

The cross did not spare our dear Sister’s Christian family. Her good parents had the sorrow of seeing many of their young children snatched away by death while they were still in the cradle. Marie-Louise did her best to soften their affliction by redoubling her tenderness. In the midst of the tears that she herself shed over these dear little angels whom she had cared for and loved so much, the thought of heaven was her consolation. She envied the happiness that they had had in flying there before her and in all the freshness of their innocence, and then the heavenly homeland became the favourite object of her meditations and ardent desires.

In 1879, Rev. Father F… of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer came to give the exercises of the Mission to V… Marie-Louise attended them most diligently and grace penetrated her soul. She had many conversations with the good Father, to whom she confided her attraction to the religious life. He recognized her call from God, but to test her vocation even further, he advised her to pray a great deal and to imagine her last moment by asking herself in the face of her eternity: “What would I like to have done by the hour of my death?” Accepting this advice, every evening when she went to bed, our dear Marie-Louise would lie down as if on her funeral bed, and then she would feel a great fear of death and a keen dread of judgement, but her obedience made her find so certain an assurance of her vocation in this exercise that she had no more hesitation. God really wanted her all to Himself! However, what Monastery was she to serve Him in? She still did not know. Rev. Father F… wrote for her to the very respected Mother Superior of the Visitation of Paray-le-Monial, who expressed her regret at not being able to accept her because of the lack of a place, as the number of her religious was complete. Simply the memory of the Apparition of the Sacred Heart which consecrated the sanctuary of Paray to our veneration had attracted our young postulant, and she had never thought of another convent of the Visitation. So placing herself in God’s hands, she awaited a clearer manifestation of His holy will.

Some time afterwards, Rev. Father H… then came to a neighbouring parish to give the Mission exercises. Marie-Louise consulted him, and it was he who managed to decide her, by making her aware of the existence and spirit of our humble Institute vowed to prayer.

At this decisive moment that showed her what would be her coming sacrifice, nature delivered her to violent struggles. How could she ever tear herself away from a family so Christian, so good and so loved, in which she could so easily practise all her devotions and achieve her salvation? And then, if she entered religion, could she be sure of persevering in it? Would she not soon be repelled by the difficulties of religious life that her timid and fearful nature greatly exaggerated to her? She had much to suffer in this combat, but grace rendered her victorious. In spite of the anguish in her heart, she explained her plan to her pious parents, whose spirit of faith was so well known to her. She asked them to agree to her vocation and generously make a sacrifice that she herself was feeling so keenly.

They agreed to her request, and her excellent father himself brought her to Grenoble, on Easter Sunday 1881, to see our Monastery, and be informed by our Reverend Mother about our manner of life. This dear Sister then knew in full certainty that God was calling her to live in our Congregation.

She went back to V…, filled with the desire to be a Redemptoristine, and to complete her sacrifice as soon as possible in separating herself from everything that was the most dear in the world to her.

* * * * *

Our dear Marie-Louise had been a model of filial piety in her family, and the edification of her companions. Her pure and fervent conduct had even been remarked upon by everyone and she had been chosen by her parish as the President of the Congregation of the Children of Mary. Pious and modest, she never gave anything but good examples, and so she was beloved by all and her departure was the occasion for many tears. The truly Christian resignation of her family softened the bitterness of her departure for her, but did not prevent her loving heart from feeling all the sorrow of it. Once again it was good Father H… who fortified both her and her family in these sorrowful moments, by reminding her of the magnificent promises of Our Lord to those who leave everything to follow Him.

She entered our Monastery of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour on 24th May, under the auspices of Our Lady Auxiliatrix, with the firm decision to give herself without reserve to the heavenly Spouse whom she already loved with all her heart.

Our dear postulant was from then on a model of regularity.

The trouble she had in overcoming her excessive timidity increased the difficulties for her in the beginning. She felt she was less than the others because she came from the countryside. She had the conviction of being good for nothing and quite useless in the Community, and all this made her suffer interiorly and hindered her in her exterior actions, by the fear of doing things badly. This dear Sister underwent much torment from these thoughts during her whole first year, but afterwards she was delivered from these puerile fears.

She passed the time of her postulancy in great fervour. Her humility, her obedience and her spirit of prayer all grew from day to day, and laid the solid foundation in her soul of the interior spirit which was to inspire her whole religious life.

Thus prepared, she was admitted to taking the holy habit on 9th May 1882. As she had a great devotion to our Founder, she was very happy to exchange her name of Marie-Louise for that of Sister Marie-Alphonse of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After this wonderful day, her fervour found a new impetus, and she was an example of virtue among the novices as she had been among the postulants. She excelled especially in humility, mortification and regularity.

Her obedience towards our good Reverend Mother was inspired by a great spirit of faith. She studied our holy Rules and practised them scrupulously.

While she was still in the world, she had practised fasting with a great rigour, and when she was in religion, she continued to do so, and when our good Mother or another one of us urged her to be less strict, she replied that she did not believe she was fasting if she did not feel hunger.

She always showed herself very diligent in fulfilling well the different tasks that obedience entrusted to her. But it was in choir especially that our fervent novice showed herself at her most edifying. Her serious and recollected demeanour was evidence of her profound respect for this holy place. She would always remain on her knees before the Blessed Sacrament and was always prepared and attentive to the Divine Office, for the recitation of which our good God had endowed her with a very pleasant voice.

Meditation was her delight. She was never tired of it and devoted all her free time to this holy exercise. She always did the Way of the Cross every day, even when she was ill, and with a great devotion. She was filled with zeal for the salvation of poor sinners and for the deliverance of the holy souls in Purgatory. Everything which affected the glory of God and the salvation of souls had a part in her prayers. We loved recommending our different intentions to her and when she learnt of someone in trouble, her charity would encourage her to pray for their relief, which she would do with a great deal of perseverance.

During the whole year of her novitiate, our dear Sister never ceased to sigh after the wonderful day of her religious profession. She was entirely imbued with the gravity of the obligations she was to contract, and she would study them every day to know them better in order to fulfil them more perfectly.

She made her preparatory retreat during the novena of Pentecost with a great deal of ardour. Uniting herself to Mary and the holy apostles during their retreat in the Cenacle, we may say that like them, she received a large part of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

It was with a feeling of holy gladness that, in the presence of Rev. Father P…, she pronounced the irrevocable vows that bound her to her heavenly Spouse of Virgins on 15th May 1883. None of us will ever forget the expression of pure and radiant joy which lit up her face under her crown of roses, but what we labour in vain to express is the peace and happiness with which her soul was flooded on that holy day! This Sister had given herself entirely to Jesus and it was clearly visible that He too had given Himself totally to her! We were pleased to have her repeat her cherished words: “My Beloved is everything to me and I am everything to my Beloved!” These words were so true on her lips and inspired every one of her actions.

Indeed, she sought only Jesus. Pleasing Jesus was her only ambition, and she sought in everything only what she believed was the most perfect.

Dating from this moment, she progressed more and more in prayer and union with God, an exercise which was very sweet to her soul, as her divine Spouse continued to reward her fidelity with the abundance of His consolations.

She also advanced in her abnegation of self, working hard to renounce all her natural inclinations. Our good Reverend Mother, who for a long time had appreciated the virtues of this truly interior soul, furnished her an occasion for renunciation which cost her more than one sacrifice… When she had finished her novitiate, she kept her there as Sister Mistress, thus delegating to her a part of her surveillance of the novices. The excessive timidity and profound modesty of our humble Sister suffered more than one struggle before bowing to a role that she believed herself so unworthy and incapable of fulfilling, but especially in that act of generosity which she had to make in renouncing the enjoyment of that dear solitude in her cell which she desired so greatly! She submitted humbly to obedience and fulfilled, with prudence, charity and wisdom, the delicate task that the confidence of our good Reverend Mother had imposed upon her.

In this as in everything else, she both wanted and sought only the accomplishment of the holy will of God made manifest by the voice of His Superior. This divine and adorable will had become, at this time, the dominant feature of her piety, and she surrendered to it with a complete abandonment. And then, on the occasion of our entry into the new building, we renewed the motto that each one of us placed on the door of our cells, she chose one which clearly showed the disposition of her soul: “The will of God is the only desire of my heart.

The divine Master did not let Himself be outdone in generosity to His fervent Spouse. In return for this abandonment of self, He granted her such a great grace of confidence that this dear Sister appeared quite transformed in our eyes and entirely despoiled of her former fears and pusillanimity. It could be said that then, in all points, she embodied these words of our Father Saint Alphonsus: “Oh, may the progress be rapid that a soul makes in perfection, when her heart is dilated by confidence in God, for she does not simply run, but flies along, because having placed all her confidence in the Lord, she ceases to be feeble as formerly, but becomes strong with the strength of God, which is communicated to all those who hope in Him.” At the same time that confidence dilated her heart and gave her a holy liberty, she increased her love, and then, from this time on, our good Sister loved to repeat the words of Saint John which encapsulated her feelings: “Love chases away fear.

In the midst of so many interior joys, she felt an increase in her desire to go to heaven to contemplate her Beloved and be united perfectly with Him… She desired death as the gateway to Paradise. She spoke of it readily and thought of it unceasingly.

One day one of our Sisters asked her why she never gave herself a moment of relaxation in her exact vigilance over herself, and she replied: “I cannot. It is stronger than I. If ever I stop for one moment, it is as if I can hear a voice that always repeats to me: You have to do in just a short time what others do in many years…” She added that she regarded this as a great grace and a warning and asked the secret of them, in fear that these words, which seemed to presage her death, might give pain to our good Mother.

Her health, which was always a little weak, began to cause concern. She was forbidden to fast. For her this was an heroic act of obedience in no longer following the common life. She admitted later on that this was the act that had cost her the most during her life and it was indeed her cross, so much love did she have for our holy Rules and horror of dispensations. Her submission contributed not a little to advance her in the work of perfection.

At the beginning of her illness, she had a great deal of grief to overcome. Since she incessantly drifted off to sleep, she could not abandon herself as formerly to her beloved meditations. Nature bore her away on the fervour of her spirit, but in spite of all her difficulties and her lack of apparent consolations, she preserved the same fidelity to all her exercises, and when this first state due to her illness had passed, she returned with a new impetus to her first desires, speaking only of heaven and the happiness of soon seeing her heavenly Spouse.

* * * * *

She had a great struggle within herself to obey our good Mother, who had forbidden her to think of dying so early and told her to pray a great deal against it, in order to obtain a cure so keenly desired by the whole Community. However, in spite of all the care lavished on her by our dear Reverend Mother who did everything she could to give her back her health and strength, in spite of all the novenas and prayers, our dear Sister grew weaker and weaker, and then it became evident that, instead of progressing towards a full recovery, she was gently drifting away to heaven. Although she was languishing, she wanted to follow our community exercises right to the end – the holy Mass, recreation, etc., and as she could not remain in bed, she was allowed this consolation, in spite of the swelling in her feet.

She even went down to the choir for the holy Mass on the last Sunday she spent here below and in the afternoon she made her last visit to the Prisoner of the Tabernacle, with whom she had kept such faithful company every day of her life.

At the news of her illness, her excellent mother hastened to come and see her, accompanied by her young sister, and our dear invalid went painfully to the parlour. Her heart was pierced with sorrow in seeing her poor mother so afflicted! She remained with her a long time, consoling her with holy thoughts of faith, telling her to be of good courage, to generously make her sacrifice by being resigned to the will of God, that one day they would see each other again in heaven, and while they were awaiting their eternal reunion, she would not cease to pray for her. She never tired of repeating to her how much she was consoled to be dying as a Redemptoristine, and that she was in no way terrified by the approach of death. But her good mother, in these cruel and final interviews, could not restrain her tears, in spite of her every effort, and our dear Sister gently chided her: “Please don’t weep,” she told her finally, “there are many people who must wait so long for heaven, and I – I have it at the end of five years!...” When we heard this, we felt that her soul was no longer attached to the earth.

The great charity of which our good Sister had given so much proof, and the tender compassion which made her mix her own tears with those she saw poured out, seemed to be transformed at this hour into a sweet strength of soul, which preserved her loving heart from her own natural weaknesses in the face of such keen sorrow from her beloved Mother.

She was amazed by the care and affection that was lavished upon her, always finding that they were doing too much for her, and persuaded that she was the most incapable, or, to put it in her own words, the most clumsy and useless of creatures. The confidence of her Superiors, as well as their devoted care for her, were an enigma to her humility. The love of her good parents seemed excessive to her, and she believed she did not merit it.

We can say in all truth that this beloved Sister was a model of all the religious virtues, and apply to her the words that the holy Church sings in praise of some young privileged saints: “She has accomplished a long career in a few years.” The perfume of her pure and hidden life was to rejoice the heart of her heavenly Spouse.

In her last days, more than ever, Jesus crucified, whose sorrows she had so often contemplated, became her strength and succour. Her little crucifix never left her, and she looked at it and kissed it at every instant. Her rosary, too, was always in her fingers. How much she loved to pray to her good Mother Mary while meditating on the mysteries of the rosary! Her faithful memory permitted her to continue, right up to her last moment, the practice of her accustomed devotions.

The need for rest that her great weakness made her suffer never prevented her from reciting the Divine Office during her illness, and so she had the very rare consolation of being able to recite it right to the end. On the eve of her death, when she was getting ready to say it once more, while thinking that it would be rather difficult for her, our good Reverend Mother arrived next to her, and seeing her breviary in her hands, she said to her: “It would be better for you not to do your office today, because you are too exhausted to read it.” Immediately our good Sister, stuck by the coincidence of this visit by our worthy Mother and her words so much in agreement with what she was thinking at that moment, exclaimed aloud to her: “How wonderful Superiors are, having the grace of knowing everything! I was just thinking that I could no longer do my office and see how you have arrived at the same moment to dispense me of it!”

Her great spirit of faith in obedience made her continually desire the presence of our good Mother, and in spite of the long and frequent visits she made to her, she asked for them even more frequently, not wishing to do anything without her.

She listened to each one of her words as if God Himself were speaking to her through the mouth of she who tells us His will here below, and she obeyed her with such a noticeable consolation that this appeared upon her face in her contented and happy demeanour. We shall speak again of this consolation which our dear Sister found in obedience, as it always went on increasing and became the most striking feature of the last hours she spent amongst us.

In spite of the excessive weakness of our patient, we did not think that she was so close to her end. Her good mother and sister were called away by their family duties and decided to leave, but they promised to come back and see her soon.

On Monday, 31st May, towards evening, she suffered such violent palpitations of her heart that our Reverend Mother was frightened and immediately had the doctor called. He found her gravely ill and was greatly astonished to see that the approach of death deprived his patient of none of her joy in dying to go and see God, but quite the contrary, it served only to increase with the progress of her illness. This good doctor, having unfortunately, like most of his colleagues, abandoned the practices of our holy religion, had nonetheless preserved his faith. With the desire of making a salutary impression upon him, our excellent Mother turned the conversation to the subject of death and eternity, which had always been the delight of our dear Sister Marie-Alphonse, and so she gave free rein to the sentiments of joy which flooded out of her heart at the thought of soon going to contemplate her God and be united with Him without the fear of ever losing Him!

The doctor was most impressed by her words and this spectacle and could not prevent himself from letting it appear. On his way out, he told our Reverend Mother: “What a great thing faith is!... I see death very often, but never like this!...” And this is how the joy with which our dear Sister was inundated was changed into a veritable jubilation which lasted the whole night long. Our dear Reverend Mother told us she had never seen a religious so consoled by obedience in her last moments.

Our dear invalid had no other desires than heaven, and she would smile every time she heard the name pronounced.

We all went to give her our commissions for the heavenly homeland. She received them with a modest assurance and a holy joy like the exile who is the first to have the happiness of returning to her native country and bears the wishes and memories of those who must still await the hour of their return. She asked us, in return for our pious messages, to pray a great deal for her and her dear parents whose inconsolable grief was her preoccupation. She herself prayed for them at every instant, beseeching our good God with all her heart to grant them the graces of resignation and consolation which they had so much need of. We were never tired of being beside her, for she was so sweet and so grateful for the least services, always smiling and saying “thank you” to us, or rather: “May our good Jesus reward you!” The devotion of the infirmarians greatly touched her, and she did everything in her power to spare them any trouble. She never ceased to witness the gratitude her heart was full of. How many times did she thank our excellent Mother for her goodness and maternal care! She even recommended to her good parents to do this for her even after her death.

* * * * *

We would most happily let ourselves speak much more fully still of our beloved Sister, but the brevity of a simple notice does not permit this to us, and so we must limit ourselves to these few facts about her beautiful life and arrive at her last moments, which so worthily crowned it, for she most clearly showed at her death what she had been during her life – a soul of a truly interior obedience, and having but God alone in view in all her actions.

After the visit by the doctor which we have mentioned, and which was the last one, our dear invalid, in spite of new remedies, continued to weaken and the violence of her palpitations prevented her from resting in bed, so she was put in an armchair near a half-open window, so that she could breathe more easily. As the assurance of her death drew nearer, our angelic Sister felt herself dilated by a confidence and an ever more intimate joy, and it was with these sentiments that she received the last sacraments with great fervour, as our good Mother believed that it was her duty to wait no longer in the face of the progress of her illness. It was our Chaplain who came to administer them to her. As this supreme ceremony took place at night after the Community had gone to bed, we did not all have the consolation of attending her, but those who witnessed it have remained most edified by her profound humility, the pious calmness of our holy invalid, and especially the great love with which she received in viaticum the heavenly Spouse who was already leading her to the eternal wedding.

The night was spent in prayers and thanksgiving.

Our good Reverend Mother became more and more the living representation of God for this soul of faith. She wanted her always at her side, and she was totally trusting and abandoned in her hands. She told her over and over again of her happiness in dying in obedience, and we felt a supernatural tenderness in her affection. At midnight, according to the desire she had shown, we reminded her that the beautiful month of Mary had finished and that the month of the Sacred Heart had begun. She immediately began ardently saying ejaculatory prayers and praying interiorly to this divine Heart which she loved so much, and which had always filled her with the most precious favours.

At four o’clock, our good Mother, who had visited her so many times during this last night, came once more to see her. Taking her by the hand she told her: “Your pulse is very weak..” At these words, our beloved invalid was filled with joy and fixed her great eyes on her. Their expressive gaze seemed to reflect the ardours of the desires of her soul!

She was again granted the consolation of receiving Holy Communion, because of the gravity of her state. This was the last time that she received, under the veils of the sacrament, Him who was about to show Himself to her in all the splendour of His divine glory…

Our dear sister preserved the full and perfect use of her faculties right to the end. She was astonished by this herself, telling us that she could remember all her prayers and was reciting them internally. Then she read some lines once more from the beautiful book called “Let us go to Heaven!” as well as the apology and consecration to the Heart of Jesus that she did every day.

Her dear novices, who had surrounded her with so much care and consideration during her illness, came once more to give her new witnesses of their affection and gratitude, and entrust their commissions for heaven to her one last time.

Our dear Sister wanted to die at a moment when the Community was free of any common exercise, and this, she said, was so as not to cause any disruption. Her pious desire was heard.

When we were finishing the hours of Terce and Sext, she had our Reverend Mother called with the intention of discussing something with her, and while our good Mother was speaking to her about the happiness she would doubtless have of dying during the month of the Sacred Heart to which she was so devoted, our dear invalid interrupted her, saying: “But, they are saying that I am going to die soon …. and I do feel as if I am going to die!...” Then, in calmness and recollection she listened once again to our worthy Mother’s pious exhortations, with the same tranquillity as if it was all about someone other than herself.

Seeing that she was failing more and more, the Community was notified, and we came to pray beside our dear invalid. She looked reasonably well. Always smiling and tranquil, she said her prayers quietly, invoking the holy names of Jesus and Mary, the Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Our good Mother, standing by her armchair, held her propped up against her chest and supported her bowed head in her hands. This was indeed the supreme moment… some gentle sighs growing weaker and weaker and more drawn out indicated that her life was ebbing away. And in this way, in the arms of our good Mother, our angelic Sister Marie-Alphonse rendered her pure soul to God, without her face undergoing the least contraction or agony! She flickered and burnt out like the blessed candle that was burning between her fingers. This was on 1st June 1886.

The heavenly smile that remained on her lips seemed to radiate her joy, which was now eternal! Oh what must have been the transports of her soul in finally seeing face to face Him whom she had so much desired?

In the midst of our tears we felt an immense consolation in the intimate conviction of the happiness now enjoyed by the dear and holy soul who had just left us, and we all envied her…

After having reclothed her body in the holy religious habit that our dear Sister had worn all her life with so much respect, we brought her down to the choir where she was laid out before the open grille. A crown of roses was placed on her head as on the day of her holy profession. Her hands held her crucifix and rosary beads with a lily flower, the emblem of the virginal purity the freshness of which she had never sullied.

Thus decorated and placed on a white bed, the body of our dear Sister still had the appearance of life, and we never tired of contemplating her, because she looked so good. Beside these virginal remains we felt the impression of a heavenly peace. Death lost its horrors and showed itself only as the blessed passage from earth to heaven. This is what was felt by all the people who came to pray beside her.

The poor parents of our beloved Sister had scarcely returned to Varennes before they received from our Reverend Mother the sad news of the sudden aggravation of her illness and the sad announcement of the death of their beloved daughter. Filled with grief, they once again set off for Grenoble and arrived on Thursday morning, 3rd June. How profound was their sadness when they beheld her stretched out upon her funeral bed! But the heavenly Consoler of the afflicted, from the depths of His tabernacle, blessed this heart-rending meeting. In the midst of their tears and the cries of nature, through His omnipotent grace, He was able to make their hearts, so profoundly Christian, feel assured of the perfect happiness of the daughter whom they mourned, and the consolation of having ensured it for her by their most generous consent to her vocation.

And then, how could our good Jesus, who had deigned to let us see all the tenderness of His affection for His friend Lazarus when He wept at his tomb, now refuse to console those afflicted hearts who had abandoned themselves to Him? Yes, we are convinced that one of the first graces that our dear defunct Sister obtained from the Heart of her divine Spouse, was the grace of consolation and strength for her good parents, for our Reverend Mother, and for us, which she had so often promised us.

Her excellent father, her good mother and her young sister, in spite of their overwhelming grief, wished to spend the night beside the dear remains. Their prayers softened the bitterness of their tears which, in spite of their Christian resignation, they could not retain. Divine Providence brought them Rev. Father H… as their support in this cruel affliction. He was the same Father who had encouraged them to the sacrifice, at the time of our dear Sister’s entry. Our worthy Bishop, Mons. Fava, whose paternal benevolence for the members of our humble community was so perceptible a consolation at this moment of testing, himself wished to bless our dear departed. He kneeled on the floor with much emotion before this virginal body and prayed for some moments.

When he got up, he was struck by the expression of peace and heavenly joy that was seen upon her face and that sweet smile that death could not efface. He could not prevent himself from expressing his pious sentiments, and he applied to our beloved Sister the following words of Sacred Scripture: “The strong woman shall smile at her last moment.”

Our humble and modest and dear deceased Sister would have been most astonished and confused if she had been able to see the pious throng that surrounded her funeral bed. Their testimonies of esteem and respect were lavished on her memory and her mortal remains. One would have believed that our good God was pleased to exalt our Sister who had never sought anything but to be abased and hidden. The solemnity of Ascension delayed the funeral, which took place only on 4th June (1886) afterwards. The impression of peace and joy experienced by all those who approached our beloved deceased Sister permitted us to do something that people who do not have the happiness of understanding the things of God would have found little in agreement with the preparations for a burial. After the Mass of the Ascension of Our Lord, we sang the beautiful canticle: Heaven, Heaven! which she loved so much. One would have said that she herself encouraged us in it by her angelic smile.

This chant produced an indelible impression upon everyone, which nothing could remove! One would have said that at that moment the Church in heaven was united with the Church on earth to make it taste something of the happiness that it celebrates in its chants.

The next day, the Parish Priest of Saint-Bruno, assisted by Rev. Father H…, Rev. Father G… and our good and devoted Chaplain, presided at the funeral ceremony. After the Mass and the absolution, our Sisters transported the coffin along the garden paths to our little cemetery.

The bright sunshine co-operated in giving the pious convoy the appearance of a festive triumph, and more than ever the thought of heaven dominated everyone else, even when we placed the body of our beloved Sister in the tomb where she awaits the resurrection, in the shadow of the cross.

Our account has reached its end. It has been very sweet for us to write it, but we have succeeded only imperfectly in depicting some of the virtues of a beautiful life crowned by a holy death. We hope, however, that, by recalling the hidden virtues of this humble flower in the garden of the Spouse, we have contributed to augmenting His divine glory, and in increasing in the hearts of those who knew and loved our beloved Sister, the desire to imitate her, so as to have, like her, the consolation of dying in the embrace of the Lord!

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

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