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.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sister Marie-Aloyse of the Love of God, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Gagny (1863 – 1896)

The Monastery of Gagny.

Martha Hello (this was the family name of Sister Marie-Aloyse) was born in Paris on 5th February 1863. She was the fourth child who issued from the marriage of Mr. Charles Hello and Miss Gauthier of Saint-Michel, the worthy guardian of such a home. Her parents, who were profoundly convinced Christians, gave her an excellent education in the paternal home, so she practised good virtues from an early age. The family home, the castle of Keroman, in Brittany, saw her attain the most perfect obedience, and show charity towards the poor, and patience in illnesses. And what is worth even more, from her earliest years, she had the most tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin, whose colours she wore until the age of seven. Later on she was to write: “Ah, how much the holy Virgin protected me! Until I was seven, I was vowed to this good Mother, and then when I had to leave the blue and white, I remember that at Saint Merry, in Paris, there was a consecration of my little being to the Blessed Virgin, at her altar. How many prayers surrounded me, I cannot doubt! I attribute all of this as to why I was not in hell.” [1]

Martha made her first communion at the age of eleven, two weeks after having been received as a Child of Mary. Her joy on this wonderful day was immense. She seemed not to touch the ground, and her feet scarcely rested on the carpet with which the apartment had been furnished to honour the divine Host of her heart.

But trials were not long in coming. In 1879, Martha saw her brother Henri leave the paternal home to join his uncle, Father Hello, in the Congregation of Saint Vincent de Paul. Three years later, the head of the family, Mr. Charles Hello, a councillor at the Court of Appeal in Paris and a magistrate of great merit, was carried away from the affection of his family by a chest complaint. Six months after the illness of her father, the young lady revealed the secret of her heart, and, on the occasion of an offer of marriage, manifested her intention, or rather her firm decision, to leave the world. She then had some conflicts to go through, but her constancy triumphed over everything. After many prayers and much advice, she entered the Convent of the Redemptoristines of Grenoble on 15th February 1884. Less than a year afterwards, on 26th January 1885, she took the habit, and the following year, on the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, she made her profession. This was when, following the expression of one of her companions, Martha became Mary. And indeed she received as her name in religion the name of Sister Marie-Aloyse of the Divine Love.

* * * * *

In the admirable sermon that Father Hello gave on the day of his niece’s religious profession, he told her: “Sister Aloyse of the Love of God, launch yourself ardently into the career of the love of God which is open to you, and of which your name in religion will now remind you unceasingly. May your heart overflow with love, may it be wounded with the wounds of love that Our Lord bore on the Cross, and which have made the Saints all suffer and love so much. Do not be half-hearted in your desire for sanctity and in the giving of yourself to God.”

The newly-professed had been well prepared to follow these counsels, but she had to overcome herself, and she had a number of sacrifices to make. Let us now listen to one of her companions, who knew her very well.

“Sister Marie-Aloyse,” she said, “was an elect soul, great, generous, ardent, with an upright and powerful will that a certain native pride sometimes doubled with a little haughtiness, and even rigidity. As for her heart, it was excellent and sensitive, because it was always pure. However, for those who only judged her superficially, the cast of her mind, which was a little caustic, and where the occasion warranted it, had recourse to sarcasm, was capable of doing her great harm. It was not without some work that she was able to redress this little defective point in a good and noble character.

“The habitual cheerfulness of our good Sister, her spiritual and good-humoured conversations in the common recreations would have made anyone believe, at first sight, that joy was overflowing in her soul. This was not the case, however, at least for a certain number of years, and her constancy in covering an often very crucified interior state with a veil of the most gracious sweetness was no little proof of her virtue.

“Her zeal for souls was very ardent and effective. If the state of her health had permitted it, she would have imposed all sorts of penances upon herself for the sake of poor sinners and the souls in Purgatory. She supplied for this physical incapacity by a very sustained constancy in prayer and struggle against her defective tendencies ; every exterior shortcoming had its expiation in an exterior humiliation.

“As for her interior life, she loved to accuse herself in every detail to Our Lord Himself for her least oversights, and spiritual confession was one her favourite practices.

“The customary accusations regarding failures to observe the holy Rule or the Directory she did with great exactitude both in the refectory and in the Chapter of Faults, in terms well measured to put her to shame. She confessed to me a number of times that this cost her enormously. “I sweat on it,” she told me one day, when, for the twentieth time perhaps, she had added her formula of accusation, emphasizing the little word: again, which in the past had cost Rev. Father de Ravignan so much when he was a novice.

“Her exactitude in observing our holy Rule was in all respects absolutely exemplary. At the first sound of the bell, she would leave a letter unfinished, in order to fly to where the voice of God called her.

Fly is indeed the word, and sometimes even, at the beginning of her religious life, she would fly a little too quickly, so quickly that they had to cut her wings a little. Reverend Mother then stopped her by a little admonition whose ordinary conclusion was to begin her journey again at a monastic pace.

“All our Sisters are also unanimous in testifying in favour of her perfect religious poverty. She kept nothing that was useless, and all the objects for her own use bore the stamp of her favourite virtue. She was very skillful in handing over to the officers what she thought was superfluous regarding clothes or work objects, and kept only what was strictly necessary. Even before she left the world, she exercised a great zeal in the practice of voluntary poverty.

“The virtue of the angels was of an immaculate whiteness in her. This dear little Sister was truly virginal and well merited to bear the name of the holy protector of pure souls, Saint Louis Gonzaga.

“She loved him greatly, her dear Patron. Each month she would prepare herself, by a very fervent novena, to celebrate the twenty-first day of the month in his honour, and how many times did she tell us that she had obtained from him, by this means, the most signal graces!

“As for the most excellent of all religious virtues, holy obedience, she took it so much to heart that she practised it a bit too much at the beginning, and we had to weigh our words when we gave her an obedience, as she was resolved to push the practice of it to the last limits of voluntary blindness.

“Her devotion in the tasks of refectory assistant, robe mistress, portress, sacristan and supervisor of the novitiate which were successively entrusted to her, left us nothing to desire, and her companions who had her for their assistant praise her exactitude, willingness, attention to rendering service, and her dependability.

“This last point cost her more than one struggle, and in return, it brought her many little victories, for as she had a lively mind and quick eyesight, it would take her a long time to come to a solution that she could accept there and then, and which she wanted to carry out in the same way.”

* * * * *

These most instructive details are completed by the following remarks which are no less interesting.

“One salient feature is missing from this sketch if we do not make a special mention of the little drop of spiritual originality which seasoned the words of Sister Marie-Aloyse and her whole manner of being. This often served to entertain us by inspiring the most amusing impromptu verse in her playful little mind. She was quite unique in this, and anyone else would have been hard put to try and imitate her.” This liveliness also comes across to us in the tone of sweet resignation which reigns in her letters. One day the good Sister was in the grip of painful suffering. She wrote to her brother who was a priest, Father Henri Hello:

“As you can see, your skinny sister is still on earth, in body and soul, and wishes to reassure you a little. I have been in my cell for a whole month now, but I’m getting better, however. Yet I still need a jolly good dose of your lovely prayers if I am to be patient and really cheerful, because I can see that I’m going to need you to make a sign of the cross over my health. The good God does all things well and He has chosen just the right moment to crucify me well and truly.

“Thank my good uncle for his letter, and be sure to tell him that I’m praying as much as I possibly can to be cured. But I’m beginning to run out of patience, because all the good saints are doing so well in Paradise that I think they’ve become a little bit deaf! However, Father Passerat has better hearing than Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Francis Regis. To start with, I did a novena, which, they tell me, does many miracles. Oh yes for sure! Every day I got worse and on the ninth day I took to my bed. Then a Sister did a novena to Saint Regis for me, with the same result. These good saints can only hear together, I think. Finally Father Passerat gave me a little bit more strength.”

A tender and holy affection united Sister Marie-Alphonse to her brother Henri. The pious Redemptoristine was to make the sacrifice of her beloved brother twice in some way before her death. On two occasions, in fact, during his sister’s last months, Father Henri Hello was struck down by an illness which threatened to take him away from the affections of his family. On 19th July, the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, he was struck down by a sudden illness which immediately put his life in danger. These are the terms in which the good nun expressed to her uncle the feelings that inspired these lines:

“What a dreadful surprise the letter I got from you yesterday has caused me! I would scarcely have expected such a cross, but nonetheless my heart remains full of hope.

“Your letter today is more reassuring, but this illness is so often mortal that, like you, I count even more on prayers, and the prayers of little children, than on remedies.

“The good Lord knows what this sacrifice has cost me, but He also knows that I am ready for whatever He wants, as His wisdom is infinite and everything He does is good.

“I was lying down in bed when your first letter reached me. I told the good Lord that it was sufficient for His very useless Sister to suffer, but her very useful brother ought to be cured. Not having permission to do more, I leave it to the good Lord to act.”

* * * * *

Many trials filled the career, outwardly so peaceful, of Sister Marie-Aloyse. Her almost constant condition of poor health was not the least of it, but this hard-working soul wanted to do nothing by halves, so she embraced the cross ardently. Let us listen to some more testimonies.

“What struck me the most about her, especially during the course of her last illness,” wrote the Sister Infirmarian, “was her indomitable energy in following, as far as lay in her power, all the spiritual exercises of the Community, aided by Reverend Mother and Mother Vicar. Her Infirmarian could give her no greater pleasure than to read out loud to her all the prayers of the Rule. She joined in them heart and soul, and she did so not just until her last day, but until the last moment of her life.”

Her Superior also says: “We would see her continuing to come to the refectory when she could no longer participate in the meals and even the very smell of the dishes would cause her nausea. This strength of will extended to everything. Sister Marie-Aloyse carried things so far, that sometimes, when she was full of sorrow, she would show herself happy and laughing during recreation, without letting anyone suspect how much pain she was in. We saw her, during her last illness, persisting in sleeping on one of the straw palliasses that the nuns use. The mere offer of a mattress caused her so much pain that we had to give up on making her accept it.

“Who knows the repugnance that sick people suffer? Sister Marie-Aloyse sometimes felt them profoundly, but her respect for poverty and her spirit of mortification made her over come all this. Whenever we mentioned a remedy or some kind of drink, she would hide her repugnance, and so that nothing would be lost, she would take everything we gave her without leaving anything. Those who have been ill for a long time find it nothing to laugh about.”

The death of Sister Marie-Aloyse was worthy of her life. At the age of thirty three (the age she wanted to die in order to imitate Our Lord), the valiant religious rendered her beautiful soul to God. This was on 17th October 1896, on the feast of the Blessed Marguerite Mary, the hard-working Visitandine who too had once bought, at the price innumerable victories over herself, the love of her beloved Saviour.

[1] Sœur Marie-Aloyse de l’amour de Dieu, rédemptoristine, Marthe Hello [Sister Marie-Aloyse of the Love of God, Redemptoristine], by Charles Maignen, a priest of the Fathers of Saint Vincent de Paul, Paris, imprimerie des Orphelins-Apprentis [press of the Orphan Apprentices], 40, rue de la Fontaine, 1897. A booklet of 50 pages.

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, 27 July 2014

Mother Marie-Joseph of the Child Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of St. Amand-les-Eaux (1836 – 1903)

Chapter V. Exile and the death of Mother Marie-Joseph.

I. Exile. – The Monastery of Kain-la-Tombe.

The year 1900 brought the Monastery of Saint-Amand a triple subject of joy. They were to celebrate at one and the same time the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Redemptoristines in France; the superiority of Mother Marie-Joseph, who had lasted the same amount of time, and finally, the twenty five years in which Father Vaillant had exercised his functions of Chaplain to the Monastery with an admirable zeal.

Everything was done with devotion and the accustomed warmth. The great solemn Mass was accompanied by the singing of the College, and a special sermon for the occasion, a far from ordinary one, was preached by Rev. Fr. Arséne, Redemptorist. Their gratitude and love was transmitted in a thousand ways as varied as they were touching. We should not forget to mention here the two Sisters [4] who had most particularly shared with their Mother the work and suffering of the foundation. And the deceased Sisters, the parents and benefactors who had passed away, all had their fair share of suffrages and prayers.

But so joyful a feast was to be succeeded by more sombre days. At the end of the 18th Century (1790), the Benedictines of Saint-Amand had seen their magnificent abbey become the prey of the revolutionaries, and now the Redemptoristines of Saint-Amand were to see their beautiful Monastery fall into the hands of a greedy treasury, and the road to exile open up before them. Summoned to ask the government for an authorisation which would have been only an illusory one, and in every case very precarious, Mother Marie-Joseph preferred to ask Belgium for its generous hospitality where she and her daughters could at least serve God tranquilly and pray to Him in peace for their ungrateful country. And then she could remember how her Sisters from Vienna, in 1848, had themselves had to bow to the storm and ask neighbouring countries for the liberty snatched away from them by the Revolution. How could she ever forget how Mother Marie-Alphonse, whose Life [5] she had just read, had herself sought refuge in Belgium and had even received amongst the number of her daughters the future Superior of Saint-Amand?

The test was no less a cruel one. It meant saying farewell to the Monastery where they had all spent the best part of their lives and spent the best part of their energies, where pains and joys had been mingled to make the link closer which united their hearts to the blessed walls where they had become a close community. This cloister and this chapel where they had prayed so much together, they now had to leave! The good Mother’s heart was distraught with grief, but her faith and her energy soon took the upper hand. With an unparalleled courage, she went to Tournai and searched for a refuge in the suburbs where she could take her community, no less strong and no less resigned than herself. She spared herself neither journeys nor effort, and finally found a temporary swelling at Kain-la-Tombe. It was a country house, the property of the Count of Hespel. She rented it, adapted it to the present necessities, and installed herself there. She decided to leave Saint-Amand on 25th August 1901, and on 19th September, the feast of Our Lady of Salette, the departure of the exiles took place. Mons. Monnier, their devoted protector, gave them his blessing. A short time afterwards, Mons. Walravens, the Bishop of Tournai, came to give his own to the reunited community. Some months later, the venerable Prelate came to bless her and encourage her once more.

There were not too many of these consolations. Their afflicted hearts had such need, that their Fathers in the faith offered them their sympathies and assured them of their protection! But the Mother had in no way failed her children. Indefatigable in putting everything in order in their new home, she made sure with the solicitude of a Mother that spiritual help was in no way lacking for her children. The episcopal College of Kain came to her aid in this respect with an admirable devotion. On the other hand, the revered Mother gladly reminded her children of the examples of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, and got them to offer their sacrifices to God for this redemption of souls which was the purpose of their whole lives. These were noble thoughts which elevated their hearts above the sorrows of this world and made them courageously accept the harshest trials!

However, these rude shocks had undermined the health of Reverend Mother Marie-Joseph. Several nasal haemorrhages, judged very grave by the doctor, had surprised her in the midst of her labours and alarmed the community. Prayers led to an improvement. On 29th December they were able to celebrate the ninth re-election of the much-beloved Superior, and hearts began to fill with hope again. But a burning pain remained in the good Mother’s heart, that of not being able to establish the enclosure in this house which she had rented for only three years. Her energy and her love of religious regularity made her take on new labours, but this time it was her life that was under threat, as she did not spare herself.

A spacious property, formerly the therapeutic establishment of Kneipp, situated not far from her former house, became available. The courageous Mother obtained permission from the Bishop to acquire it. The contract was signed on 20th March 1903, and they immediately began the work of adapting the house for its new purpose. However, they had to build a chapel and parlours. The construction work soon began. This time, so many preoccupations added to the heart complaint from which the revered Mother suffered, that they took a toll on her constitution, and she had to renounce the supervision of the work. One of her most devoted daughters said: “From then on her life became on long series of sufferings that crucified her and enriched her with merits for heaven by making her practise the most heroic virtues. For more than six months she had to take her rest in an armchair, yet it was still a long time before she would allow one of her children to sleep next to her in her room. Besides, her long insomnias permitted her to deliver herself at leisure to her prayers, and this exercise was her strength and consolation. Soon she let some words escape that seemed to announce to her dear daughters a coming separation. Then she put her papers in order, tore up and burnt all those which were of a personal nature, went to confession regularly twice a week, and held herself ready to respond to the call of her divine Spouse. Some months before her death, in memory of the terrible haemorrhage of 1st November 1902, she pronounced these words: “Oh, the anniversary! What will it bring us this year? By the grace of God, may His holy will be done!” and she accompanied these words with a significant gesture. Soon, in fact, her soul was to take its flight to its homeland.

II. Death of Mother Marie-Joseph of the Child Jesus.

“The more the end of our Mother’s life approached,” continues the narrator, “the more also her goodness was manifested, at the same time as her sanctity. Every day, morning and evening, she would bless her children and always a few words of piety and edification to them. She did her best to attend the common recreations, knowing how much her presence was agreeable to us. She herself appeared happy in the midst of her daughters, who showed her their respectful affection. When the time permitted her, she would go out in a little carriage along the paths in the park, surrounded by her dear community, and we all competed zealously with each other to render her this service. But always, before going back to her room to take a little rest, she would pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament."

Every day, she would attend the Holy Mass and take communion. She would often tell us about the benefits of suffering. She would say: “Meditate on the blessings of the Cross. Suffering is a great grace, so accept with love and gratitude everything that Jesus sends us. If we wish to be true Redemptoristines, we should know how to suffer.” She also said: “Let us love the good God well, my children, let us ask Him to make Himself known and loved. There are so many people who no longer want Him! We at least should love Him with all our hearts, so that, on this little corner of the earth, He may be well loved and served.” “O Mary,” she sometimes cried out, “take from the Heart of your Jesus a little spark of love that it encloses, make in burn in our souls.”

Thus the good Mother Marie-Joseph went gently towards her eternity. Faithful to her exercises of piety until her very last day, she satisfied the obligation to the Divine Office as far as her sufferings permitted her, but soon they increased. Apoplexy, the beginning of congestion and a painful eczema all struck her in succession. She offered nothing but the most entire resignation and her usual prayer: “My God, give me patience.” In spite of her pains, she never lost sight of the removal of the community into its new home, and finally fixed the departure for 21st November. But, like Moses, she was not destined to enter this Promised Land. The Blessed Virgin had reserved another for her.

On 11th November, while the Sisters were reciting the Vespers of the day in choir and saying with the disciples of the great Saint Martin: “Father, why have You abandoned us? To whom have You left your grieving sons?”, Mother Marie-Joseph was struck with paralysis. Soon her speech was affected, and the revered invalid was deprived of the ability to speak. A priest, a friend of the community, was there in the convent. He judged it prudent to administer the last sacraments to Mother. She received them with a tender piety, as she still had the lucidity of her mind, and followed all the prayers and ceremonies with great faith. The haste with which it was necessary to proceed to the administration did not permit her disconsolate daughters any demonstration, and this simplicity even helped them in their sorrow.

“The recreations were suppressed,” says the narrator, “and everyone started praying. The following day, the Rosary was recited the whole day, and the chapel did not cease to be the witness of our supplications. But the Lord remained deaf to our ardent desires. Her illness gradually got worse, her paralysis increased, and all hope soon vanished. We were scarcely able to guess if our good Mother was still conscious, but sometimes, however, her eyes recovered their power, and one could have said that she wanted us to understand her thoughts. We made use of this to address some good words to her, but everything stopped there. How much sacrifice and suffering did this state impose on our revered Mother! As for us, we were doubly afflicted by not being able to speak to her or understand her. She was about to leave us without being able to give her last recommendations and receive the homage of our filial love.

"On the 17th, at four o’clock in the morning, the Infirmarians believed that our Reverend Mother was entering into her agony and warned the community, but this state continued right into the following night. They recited the prayers of the agonising, and during the day, the Father Superior and the Parish Priest of La Tombe gave the holy Mother the indulgences in articulo mortis [at the moment of death]. It was at about one-thirty, on the night of Wednesday 18th, that our revered Mother and foundress rendered her beautiful soul to God, surrounded by all her children. She was in her 68th year of age, her 47th year of her religious life, and her 28th year of Superiority. Her death had been as gentle and calm as her life, and it was under the auspices of Saint Joseph her special patron and the Patron of a good death, that her soul took its flight.

“The funeral service was celebrated on 21st November, on the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin. The Sisters did not even have the consolation of keeping the mortal remains of their good Mother, near them, in a cemetery that belonged to the community, as authorisation for it had not been granted to them. They decided to have her transported to the community vault at Nivelles, near Saint-Amand. There Mother Marie-Joseph of the Child Jesus seems to still watch over the Monastery that was formerly erected by her cares, and await her religious exiles at the moment marked out by the will of God.”


Many tributes were paid to the memory of the revered Mother, but none, in our opinion, surpasses the one that Father Vaillant, the former Chaplain of the Redemptoristines of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, dedicated to her in the following pages:

“What Mother Marie-Joseph never lost sight of, and what she excelled in, was making her community a truly Alphonsian community, that is to say, completely impregnated and devoted to the spirit of the holy Founder, his principles, his maxims, his teachings, his doctrines, his virtues, and his preferred devotions – in a word, devoted to forming her spiritual daughters in the school and upon the model of the holy Doctor.

“We should recall here that Saint Alphonsus was not simply one of the greatest saints who have shone in the Church. He was also an eminent director of souls, an incomparable doctor and master in the ways of perfection. All the Popes who have succeeded since his death have been pleased to praise his doctrine and his maxims, and recommend them as eminently proper to the sanctification of souls, and to elevating them to the highest peaks of virtue. Both the instructions too of the Reverend Mother, her opinions, her habitual recommendations, as well as the particular direction of each one of the religious, were profoundly marked by this Alphonsian imprint. She herself preached by example, showing herself in everything the image of her Blessed Father. To this special formation she consecrated all her prayers, her efforts, an indefatigable zeal, and her whole soul. Her great and only ambition was to light the fire of true love in the souls of her daughters, and to make it reign there as the master. She had the ineffable consolation of succeeding in it. A quality developed to a rare degree in the heart of the Reverend Mother contributed powerfully to this result. I mean by this the very maternal affection with which she surrounded each one of her daughters, an affection which was truly devout, strong, supernatural, and entirely inspired by a zeal for their perfection. In return, her daughters offered her the most tender affection and the most sincere obedience.

“The Monastery of Saint-Amand was consecrated to the Holy Family and bore their name. Consequently, this was the model always proposed for the imitation of the religious who lived there, and invitation which was always encouraging them to bring about everything this beautiful name recalls, and reproduce the life and virtues of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Mother Marie-Joseph of the Child Jesus could never forget this for a single instant. She put her whole heart and her whole soul into bringing into her community the ineffable union that reigned between Jesus, Mary and Joseph. What happiness for this very loving Mother to manage to establish among her daughters a perfect union of spirits and hearts, an inalterable peace, friendship and cordiality in all their relationships! This view enraptured her heart and brought her a wonderful happiness, paying her for all her labours.

“In addition, the Reverend Mother did not like melancholy, or a bad and taciturn humour. She wanted to see her daughters habitually bright, happy and outgoing, with their faces calm and relaxed, with a disposition always even and open, edifying each other mutually. She herself preached by example, in spite of the continual cares of her position. It was one of her favourite maxims that sadness and concentration on oneself depresses the strength of the soul and the energies of the will, while spiritual joy doubles them, supports generosity and the spirit of sacrifice, and makes us accept everything with warmth, joy and as she said herself, joyfully.”

[4] Reverend Sister Marie-Claire of the Blessed Sacrament, and Reverend Sister Marie-Angèle of the Precious Blood.
[5] See the Life of Mother Marie-Alphonse of the Will of God, by Father Nimal, Redemptorist.

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, 13 July 2014

Mother Marie-Joseph of the Child Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of St. Amand-les-Eaux (1836 – 1903)

Chapter IV. Virtues of the venerated Mother (continued).

I. Her love for her neighbour.

We have already spoken of the zeal that inspired Mother Marie-Joseph for the salvation of souls. We must now speak of her charity in regard to her daughters.

The goodness of her nature was united to grace to make it easy for her to exercise a very maternal charity. Always disposed to help and devote herself with warmth and good humour, she received the Sisters with a great kindness and family spirit. To everyone she showed a great confidence and a sincere affection. In regard to everyone she acted with uprightness, seeking only God and the good of souls.

To a high degree she possessed the spirit of counsel, and in difficulties, she was found to have a prompt and assured decisiveness, given without emphasis and with the affection of a mother. “God and our neighbour” was the usual sense of her recommendations, but, so that no one was deceived, she insisted most particularly on the love of neighbour, as per the example of Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Alphonsus and so many others. She herself saw all her daughters in the Sacred Heart of the Saviour, made everyone most welcome, and showed herself always ready to do them good. It was a grace that she earnestly requested from God, and she obtained it. Also, in the community, we could testify to the fact that she showed everyone a very special care. Whether they were professed, novices, educandes or postulants, no one was excluded from her heart. As soon as she appeared, joy shone on everyone’s faces, and if some cloud of sadness betrayed interior cares, the good Mother was soon able to make them dissipate. How many times did she in all simplicity make the first move to put a soul at ease and give it serenity! How many times did an admitted fault become the title to a more lively affection towards she who had committed it! How many times did we see the revered Mother show a very special charity towards she who had caused her some distress or brought her some difficulty!

In certain circumstances, however, she deployed a rare firmness. Certain faults found no grace with her. One day, she imposed a penance upon a Sister to which she reacted strongly. “I wished for your good,” she told her some time afterwards, “and you will thank me in Paradise.” – “Oh, I never thought about that!” replied the Sister immediately. “Yes, my Mother, you have done me a great good, and I am very grateful to you for it.”

“The care of the sick,” said Saint Alphonsus, “is one of the principal duties of the Superior.” Mother Marie-Joseph in no way forgot it. It was a terrible trial for her maternal heart when, in the space of a little more than two years (11th January 1890 – 22nd May 1892) five Sisters of a little advanced age were taken from her after long illnesses! How much care and time did she devote to these dear invalids, calculating neither fatigue nor inconvenience when she could console or comfort them! She watched with an extreme care to make sure that the Sisters Infirmarian surrounded them with all their care. As for herself, she attached herself particularly to preserving them from sadness, that bad counsellor, and suggested holy thoughts to them. Far from hiding the gravity of their state from them, she encouraged them to unite their sufferings to those of Our Lord, and showed them heaven as their reward. Assisting them right to the end and burying them with her own hands was for her a duty, as she said, and a duty that she did not cede to anyone. Once they had entered into their eternity, she did not forget them. How many were the prayers that she addressed and had addressed to God for them, and on the return of their anniversaries, she never failed to recall them to the memory of their community and have them pray for them. And so the Sisters lived united with each other, even after deaths, and their memory did not perish.

Everything has been said about goodness. When it is good, that is, based on the love of Our Lord, it infinitely passes the natural goodness that is too often allied with weakness. The revered Mother’s goodness of heart drew from the divine love all its sensitivity and constancy, and her daughters have preserved the most delightful memory of this too.

One of them writes: “When I came to present myself to the Convent of Saint-Amand, what struck me the most vividly in Mother Marie-Joseph was her maternal goodness. From the very first instant I felt at ease and easy to open up to her. A postulant whom I knew then came to see me in the parlour, and I admired the touching benevolence that the venerated Mother showed her, and on the other hand, the filial confidence that inspired the young Sister, who was rather feeble and sickly, in her dealings with her Superior. From this moment I was enlightened about the spirit that reigned in that blessed house. I told myself: “Here is a true house of the daughters of Saint Alphonsus. I shall be happy there.”

My presentiments did not deceive me. We know how slow to heal the wound caused by a tenderly cherished child is. Our good Mother excelled in that difficult art. I remember her with my grand-parents who had come full of tears to pour out their regrets and sorrow. The impression caused by the grilles added still further to their torments. They were broken-hearted and grieving, but our venerated Mother knew how to find such good words, and showed herself so sympathetic, so compassionate for them, and so maternal towards me that, from this first visit, they were won over and left less afflicted.

“How can I quote the thousands and thousands of stories about her sensitivity and her goodness? With an incomparable tact, with a rare understanding of the different characters, and the different ranges of spirit and virtue, she knew how to adapt herself, if that is the right term, to the measure of each one, to encourage them, console them in all their pains and give each one of them the best advice. If her intervention was not enough to dissipate certain kinds of anguish, she would call the venerated spiritual Father of the community to her aid, and would seek superior lights from him.”

The Sister to whom we owe these edifying details was one day named Mistress of Educandes. The revered Mother gave her these most wise counsels. “Be united to your Superior,” she told her, “You will not do good except for this condition. As for the Educandes, form them little by little to despoil themselves of the views and habits of the world, and from their too strong attachment to their families, but make them love the yoke of Our Lord. Accustom them to a prompt, simple and entire obedience, and support them in that dilatation of heart which helps them so marvellously to follow the good way. Form them to think habitually of Our Lord, to unite their actions to His, and to imitate His most holy virtues. Nourish in them a great love for the Blessed Virgin, and may they honour her especially on Saturdays. They will go far, if, right from the beginning, they conduct themselves thus according to the views of the faith. So accustom them all to receive everything from God, to offer everything to God, and especially the pains, sufferings and trials of life. Thus they will become the friends of the cross of the divine Redeemer, the only good of our souls and our only true joy here below.”

The revered Mother would forget, if necessary, her own sorrows to sympathise with those of others. The very same day she was struck down by apoplexy, she received, for the Sister whose witness we have quoted, some very painful news concerning the health of her mother. She did not wish to communicate it to her without preparing her first. “At about eight o’clock,” said the Sister, “she had me called, and reading with me, she sympathised greatly about the state of my poor mother, reduced to being not able to express herself except by signs. Her compassion was immense for this kind of trial, so she put all the resources of her great heart into action to console me. I will never be able to forget that last conversation, provoked entirely and uniquely by her maternal goodness, and when, on that very same day, I found that she herself was deprived of language and incapable of saying a single word, you can guess how poignant my feelings were. But the Lord had judged her strong enough to bear this last cross.”

II. Her generosity towards the poor. – Her meekness, her humility, and her spirit of mortification.

The charity of the Reverend Mother Marie-Joseph extended beyond the limits of her Monastery, and when the community was in the position of being able to give a little more, the poor soon felt the effects of this relative ease. Every week, the good Superior would have a certain quantity of bread distributed, and each day she would feed some poor family. The houses in the street at Saint-Amand which she had bought never paid rent. Her goodness led her especially to help the families of Sisters that a reversal of fortunes had tested. It was thus that she invited to the Monastery the two nieces of one of them, whose brother found himself without a position, as his wife was ill. She housed them in the exterior, and these two children were the object of her tender solicitude, until their parents were able to take them back.

She also contributed to good works and helped the priests to do good by providing them with help. She did this one day with a great deal of sensitivity. The brother of one of the nuns in the Monastery had just been named the priest of a parish situated some miles from Paris. When his sister received the news, the Reverend Mother immediately told her: “Child, we must do something for your brother. Embroider a pall, and make it a good one.” A short time later, another sister came to see the nun. Immediately the good Mother wished to know what was lacking in the church, and they told her that there was an old statue of Saint Joseph there, all chipped, that had been relegated to the baptismal font. “I want to give them a new one,” said the Superior, “but your brother must never know where it has come from, and (she added laughing) he must believe it is a miracle.” So she had them make a little bag of white satin on which they attached a piece of parchment with these words: “To do me more honour”, and then they enclosed two bills of a hundred francs. “Go now,” she said to the visitor, “but keep our secret.” As was said, so was done. The good priest could not overcome his surprise when he found what he needed to buy a beautiful statue of Saint Joseph. In his next homily, he did not fail to recommend the unknown benefactor to the prayers of his parishioners. It was only later, on a visit to the Reverend Mother, that he saw the mystery solved.

The question of common recreations in convents is important. The revered Mother wanted them inspired, happy and charitable. The enemy of melancholy, she could not endure it in her Sisters. The conversations there were thus edifying, without being forced, and everyone was able to say her piece. The Reverend Mother had a good memory. From it she drew a mass of instructive stories drawn from the Lives of Saints, and she would recount them with interest. Sometimes she had some little feast organised, and it was filled with much warmth and happiness. Sometimes also, she began a canticle, and they had to continue it, especially if they were sad. The least sadness found no grace with her. And thus it happened that the Sisters would come out of the conversation sometimes more united to God than when they entered it. “It is through humility and meekness,” says Saint Alphonsus, “that a Superior gains the hearts of her Sisters.” The good Mother Marie-Joseph understood this, so one of her great merits was to have a disposition that was always the same. In every circumstance she possessed herself perfectly, and no one ever noticed in her any flashes of impatience or temper. Even in the greatest difficulties she would preserve a calm that recalled the eulogy given of Father Cafaro: “Always the same, Semper idem,” or of that other, applied to another priest: “He is as unchanging as the sun.” But she did not attain this without great humility.

On this point, the good Mother has left us some thoughts in a retreat notebook, the only one which has been preserved, as if providentially, as all the others have fallen victim to the flames. “I must try my best,” she says there, “to seek and aspire only to be scorned and forgotten by everyone. I must regard myself as the sweepings of the convent, which everyone has the right to trample under their feet. As a true Spouse of Jesus Christ, I must desire only humiliations and suffering, and to arrive there, I must try to receive with love and joy the occasions of humiliation, criticism, etc., which the good God will send me. When dame nature cries out, I shall take refuge with Our Lord who has become, for love of me, the opprobrium of mankind, and disowning everything that has happened to me, I shall thank Him and beg Him to aid me with His holy grace. I shall apply myself especially to receive little reproaches with an even temper and in a spirit of humility. If I learn that my conduct is blamed, and I am criticised, I shall not make excuses for myself, and I shall watch especially to be very considerate and charitable towards my Sisters. I recognize that I must apply myself wholeheartedly and not let any occasion pass to humble myself. This virtue is the foundation of the spiritual life, and God has made me see the whole price of it too clearly for me not to feel obliged to apply all my strength to make some progress in it every day.”

While she exercised the office of Housekeeper at Malines, she wrote: “I must try my best to acquire a great love for the cross and suffering. To get there, I shall nourish in myself a true devotion to the Passion, and I shall try to receive the smallest obstacles with respect, as if coming from the hand of God. The state of my health does not permit me to make great mortifications, so I shall apply myself especially to interior mortification, bearing in silence my little failings in the eyes of God, and taking what is given to me, pleasant or not. I shall profit well from the occasions of sacrifice that my work involves, and I shall cheerfully bear its fatigues, being very happy that it gives me some small occasion to suffer.”

Later on, the Reverend Mother had the joy of seeing her health recover, and then she was able to accomplish the mortifications prescribed by the Rule. She even surpassed its measure, but she let herself be guided in everything by obedience.

“Always have,” she said one day to one of her daughters, “a great esteem for suffering. Always accept it generously and unite yourself to Our Lord, but at the same time, ask from Him the strength and courage to bear it well.” She also said: “Let us accept with a good heart, and with love and gratitude, all the crosses that Jesus sends us. If you want to be a true Redemptoristine, you have to suffer.”

The revered Mother, in her position as the Superior, knew a great deal of suffering. Her interior pains were sometimes very great, but she knew that the mystery of the Crown of Thorns belongs most particularly to those persons clothed with authority. And so she united herself interiorly with the Ecce Homo, invoked the aid of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, and sanctified her pains by plunging them, if we are permitted to say so, into these two sources of life.

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, 15 June 2014

Mother Marie-Joseph of the Child Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of St. Amand-les-Eaux (1836 – 1903)

Chapter III. The virtues of the venerated Mother.

I. Her love for the Rule. – Her Faith, her Hope and her Love for God.

If her care for their temporal administration made the wisdom of Mother Marie-Joseph stand out, then her daughters admired her even more for the zeal and the gentle sweetness with which she strove to inculcate the spirit of Saint Alphonsus in them.

Let us say first of all that her government was mild and sweet, and full of openness and uprightness. The sensitivity of her procedures was exquisite, her conversation simple and very dignified, her nature was bright and open, and at the same time, sensible and generous.

The great preoccupation of the Mother Foundress was to inculcate in her daughters a love of regularity. She herself was the faithful observer of it, and if we can call perfect the religious who observes her vows and Rules exactly, then we can count Mother Marie-Joseph among the number of these chosen souls, who are the pearls of the convents they inhabit. Sometimes she would say to her daughters: “If you do not observe the Rule, I myself shall be your accuser at God’s tribunal”, and also: “A good religious must be a living Rule by her fidelity in observing it in the smallest details and as perfectly as possible, always having before her eyes her divine Model, Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Her faith was a living one. She had an extraordinary esteem for all the maxims of our holy religion, and the most entire submission to the teachings of the Church, of which she loved to proclaim herself as its daughter. One day a person praised a controversial article to her, and encouraged her to read it. “I shall prefer not to”, she replied, “It is enough for me to believe.” She greatly recommended the spirit of faith, and supernatural views: “See Our Lord in all your Sisters,” she would say, “and serve Him in their persons. Seek to give them pleasure, in order to please Jesus Christ Himself.” “Always see everything in God,” she would also say, “and go straight to God in everything.” And at other times: “In all your actions, make sure you address them: Straight to God! And then they will go straight to heaven.” If someone appeared to be cast down: “Sursum corda!” she would tell them, “What is it in the face of eternity!”

To strengthen the spirit of faith more and more in the hearts of her daughters, she employed all the means indicated by the Rule: retreats, instructions, chapters, special talks and everything which could feed piety and stimulate fervour.

Her firm hope and confidence in God sustained her in all her difficulties, and in the midst of her most grave concerns she would say: “Oh, I put all of that into the heart of our good God.” She had a special gift of bringing peace to troubled souls. To one of them she said: “The good God is all love and mercy, and on our part especially, He wishes to be glorified by our confidence and love. Let us always be guided by the thoughts of our faith, and let us count on Our Lord alone. Let us tell Him often: ‘I despair of myself, but I hope for everything in You.’”

She had a very great confidence in the divine Providence, and received unexpected help many times. At the end of one year, when she had nothing to pay the suppliers of the community with, she was suddenly called to the parlour. There she found Reverend Father Darras, given the task by a charitable person of doing a good work in her name. The good Father had the inspiration to bring the sum of three thousand francs to the community, which he was permitted to dispose of. It is unnecessary to say that it was received with the greatest gratitude. It was just equal to the present needs of the community.

Mother Marie-Joseph made the love of God the continual object of her prayers and thoughts. She loved prayer and the contemplative life, she consecrated to it all the moments she could find, and when the days had been overloaded with occupations, she would employ a part of the night for it. In the last times of her life, her long insomnia permitted her to pray a great deal, and rosaries, ejaculatory prayers, meditations and conversations with God succeeded each other with no relaxation. Her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and the long visits she made to Our Lord, proved her love and maintained this divine fire in her. “I shall nourish”, we read in this respect in her resolutions for her retreat, “I shall nourish in myself a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. May Holy Communion be all my delight and may I always prepare myself for it with more care and love. I shall do a novena on the first Fridays so as to grow in love. May my whole life be a continual preparation for prayer by a complete abnegation of myself. I shall watch attentively to guard my heart so that Jesus alone may reign there, and if creatures wish to enter, I shall give my heart to God, begging Him to forever be its unique possessor.

“I shall recite the Divine Office with great attention and interior recollection. I shall not voluntarily lose a single moment, praying always, be it in coming and going, or in working. I shall often keep company with Jesus in His Passion. When meditating on the love of Jesus, my soul shall learn to find her happiness, her joy, her peace and her treasure in Him. The Passion of Our Lord shall be engraved more profoundly each day upon my soul. The more I shall consider it, the more I shall love this good Saviour. As much as possible, I shall try to be exact in doing the Way of the Cross.”

This was not just a matter of sentiments. Mother Marie-Joseph realised them in practice. She admitted to one of her daughters that, during the first six months of her stay at Kain, she had always lived in union with the Blessed Sacrament, practising the spirit of adoration almost as if she had always been in the chapel. “There are graces,” she added, “that I must not lose by my own fault.”

The divine charity that inflamed the heart of the good Mother had necessarily to be translated by an ardent zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. As a worthy daughter of Saint Alphonsus, her whole life was inspired by this sacred fire. Her works, the Monastery she had founded, the souls formed by her to perfection, the instructions that she had given them, all were the fruit of the divine love that was consuming her soul. Unceasingly she recommended to her daughters to pray for sinners, for the holy Church, the Sovereign Pontiff, the priests and especially the missionaries. The sins of mankind excited her zeal and led her to preach the great duty of reparation. To this effect she established the Association of the Guard of Honour in the Monastery chapel. On every first Friday of the month there was Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during the day with prayers of reparation recited publicly at Benediction. Each year there was a day of Adoration in union with the Basilica of Montmartre, and each week a day specially set aside for prayers of reparation.

And often too she told her daughters: “Remember that you are Redemptoristines, and that this title obliges you to work for the salvation of souls in union with Jesus the Redeemer.”

How could so fervent a spouse of the Lord not be penetrated by the most tender devotion towards the Blessed Virgin? Every day, she recited the Rosary in its entirety, and prepared herself for all the feasts of the Queen of the Angels by novenas, and sometimes even by forty days of prayers. Often, on the day of the feast of her good Mother of Heaven, she would offer her a crown of a thousand Ave Maria's. To do this she used part of the night, as she did not have enough free time to do so during the day. She encouraged her daughters to a great love for the Blessed Virgin. On the vigil of her feasts, she would deliver to the community, gathered together in the evening, some words of edification concerning the feast for the next day, in order to get them to celebrate it piously.

She requested and obtained an affiliation to the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Perpetual Help being established in the Monastery chapel, under the direction of the Chaplain, who assembled the members of the Association each month and gave them a homily. The feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was solemnised in a very special manner. She established the custom of having a procession in the Monastery on that day, with the chanting of canticles and the recitation of prayers. At the end of the procession, a solemn consecration was made before the picture of the Madonna, by which the Blessed Virgin was established as the Mother and Superior of the community.

The revered Mother also had a great devotion to Saint Joseph, her holy Patron, the head of the Holy Family, under whose patronage she had placed the Monastery of Saint-Amand. She had recourse to him in all her temporal needs, and more than once unexpected help came to justify her confidence. She also invoked him as the Patron of the interior life. We read this passage in her Resolutions: “I shall continue my four exercises each day in honour of Saint Joseph, the good saint who has already obtained many graces for me. I shall do them especially with an interior spirit.” Moreover, in the first years of her religious life, she had received an assurance from a very enlightened lady that she would receive great favours by means of her holy Patron.

As a true Redemptoristine, Mother Marie-Joseph honoured Saint Alphonsus as her Father and did not cease to ask from him, for herself and her daughters, love for the vocation to which he had called them. She wanted everyone to be attached to reading the spiritual books of the holy Doctor, especially his magnificent work: The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, an inexhaustible treasury of doctrine which is as consoling at it is sure, and a masterpiece of piety, wisdom and profound learning.

She herself composed some forty prayers of preparation for the feast of Saint Alphonsus, and for it, she proposed a point of the Rule for her daughters to meditate on and put into practice, every day. The Very Rev. Father Desurmont, such a good judge in these matters, looked over this writing and gave it his full approval. As for the feast of the holy Founder, it was solemnly celebrated every year. The chapel was clad in its best ornaments, and as long as the Redemptoristines were at Saint-Amand, the choir of the College of Our Lady of the Angels would sing the Mass in music.

Another devotion was also very dear to Mother Marie-Joseph, that of the holy Angels. She had a very great confidence in their protection against dangers and accidents. During the building of the Monastery, every day, one after another, a Sister had the task of reciting a chaplet of the Sanctus in their honour. She herself recited it daily, and she often said that every time some numerous occupations prevented her from reciting it, her whole day felt the effect of it. She established the custom of saying the Trisagion every evening in common, and they attributed their protection by the Angels to it, and never having had to lament unpleasant accidents in the sometimes dangerous work necessitated by the building of the convent. It was also to honour the holy Angels that the good Mother fixed 2nd October for taking possession of the new Monastery. It was with the same intention that she had seven lamps placed in the sanctuary in honour of the seven Angels who are unceasingly before the throne of God. For this reason we read in her Resolutions: “I shall pray to these blessed Angels to help me to acquire the despoliation and interior detachment that God wishes to find in my soul in order to fill it with His holy love.”

Let us not forget to say that the good Mother Marie-Joseph had a tender devotion for Saint Amand, the Patron of the town where she had established her Monastery. This devotion inspired in her the idea of renewing a tradition interrupted by the French Revolution, and she had a beautiful candle burning in the convent chapel night and day in honour of the great saint. This custom goes back to the 9th century, and it was established following a marvellous event told the way it happened by Father Maës in his very interesting Popular Life of Saint Amand. [2]

“One evening, after the Office, when the monks had left the church and gone back to their cells, the Brother porter, at the moment of closing the doors, noticed two candles alight near the casket enclosing the relics of the holy bishop. Persuaded that he had extinguished all the candles on the altar, he was astonished, but, believing he was wrong, he retraced his steps and extinguished the two candles. Arriving at the extremity of the church, how great was his surprise to see the candles once again alight!

“He returned to the tomb and again extinguished them carefully. Finally, after assuring himself that there was no one in the church, he observed attentively, and then for a third time the candles lit themselves spontaneously. The poor Brother, now distraught, then called all the religious, and told them of what had just happened, and made them witness the miracle.

“It was in memory of this fact that at the beginning of this era, in the abbey, they let a candle burn day and night at the tomb of Saint Amand, and this custom was perpetuated until the Revolution.” [3]

[2] 1 vol in 18-mo of 240 pages. (Desclée, de Brouwer and Co., Lille – Paris, 1894).
[3] This fact is told by the famous monk Milon, after the account of the Abbot Hilderic, an eye-witness.

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.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP