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.

Footnotes
[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.”

Epilogue.

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.”

Footnotes
[4] Reverend Sister Marie-Claire of the Blessed Sarament, 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]

Footnotes
[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.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

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


Chapter II. Saint-Amand-les-Eaux.


I. Their arrival at Saint-Amand (1875).
The provisional house. – Trials and consolations.


Saint-Amand-les-Eaux is a little town in the Department of the North, famous for its ancient abbey, whose imposing ruins still evoke astonishment from travellers. It is also renowned for its medicinal waters or mud, whose effect is truly salutary. And so, on the evening of 14th October 1875, Mother Marie-Joseph arrived in this town. She was accompanied by Sister Marie-Madeleine of the Cross, the sister of Mr. Prosper Basiez, the pious lay promoter of the new foundation; Sister Marie-Claire of the Blessed Sacrament; Sister Marie-Ange of the Precious Blood; Sister Marie-Augustine of the divine Providence, who belonged to the community of Velp (Holland), and the niece of Sister Marie-Madeleine; and finally two converse Sisters completed the community, which was entirely of French nationality.

The little colony in the company of Rev. Father de Buggenoms, was received at Lille by Rev. Father Darras, of holy memory, with the most touching cordiality. That evening they were at Saint-Amand. In the light of some pale torches, the Sisters were able to see that the house that had been prepared for them bore the heraldry of poverty. This was the first joy to their hearts. They also saw with pleasure that the furnishing of the kitchen, the gift of charitable benefactors, was similar. Some good straw mattresses, on which they would soon enjoy a refreshing sleep, completed the scene.

On the evening of 15th October, the feast of Saint Therese, Father Duriez, the Dean of Saint-Amand, came to bless the little chapel and placed it under the patronage of the Holy Family. The next day, Father de Buggenoms celebrated the Holy Mass and left the Sisters the treasure of treasures, the Blessed Sacrament. On Sunday the 17th, Father Vaillant, the community’s chaplain, began the ministry that he was to exercise for twenty seven years with a devotion above all praise. Finally, on 5th November, the work of taking possession having been completed, the Dean came to proceed to the ceremony of the enclosure. On that day, a Te Deum of thanksgiving united the voices of the founders and foundresses in a concert of praises to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The life of the community began in poverty, as they had foreseen in the beginning, but also in happiness and peace. Their food was rather scanty, and their resources scarcely sufficient, but Mother Marie-Joseph, through her goodness and examples, stimulated their courage. Soon illness came to be added to their privations. Two Sisters fell ill, and the work of the household, already great, now increased. Water invaded the cellars and they had to get rid of it. In short, there was no lack of sorrows, but everyone had their courage for the work.

However, divine Providence, in whom the good Mother placed her trust, never once failed her. Several times, she found that the payment of the least expenses had not made a hole in her purse, and then, the Sisters of Ireland, whose Superior was Mother Marie-Jeanne de la Croix, gave evidence of their fraternal charity by incessant offerings, always received with gratitude. Other offerings could be recalled here if the limits of our account and the modesty of the benefactors did not impose silence on us.

Soon some postulants presented themselves. The first of them made her entry on 29th February of this leap-year 1876. She herself gives an account in these terms of the history of her admission. “On 2nd February, I presented myself to the Reverend Mother Marie-Joseph, and this first interview left me with a very sweet impression. The goodness, courtesy and simplicity of the Reverend Mother charmed me, and from then on I devoted all my affection to her. Some weeks later, I made my entry into the Monastery, which I found in the most complete state of poverty. They took me to the Educandate, which, it seems, they had hardly prepared to receive me, and which was nothing else than a corner in the attic. A tiny altar had been placed against a wall, decorated with fixtures in pearls. I could not prevent myself from laughing when I entered that garret, which reminded me more of Bethlehem than Nazareth. The floor was so worm-eaten that the foot of my chair made a hole in it the first time I sat down. The beams of the roof were laid bare, and in place of a cupboard they were using a corner of the attic into which they had fitted a door. In spite of this extreme poverty, I was convinced that I would find the happiness there promised to the poor in spirit. The example of the Reverend Mother and the Sisters would fortify my courage and inspire me to sacrifice. My expectations were not deceived.”

Other young persons did not delay in presenting themselves, and on 6th February the following year (1877), on the feast of Saint-Amand, the protector of the city, they were able to give the holy habit of the Order to three novices who received the names of Sister Marie-Alphonse of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sister Marie-Paul of Jesus Crucified, and Sister Marie-Josephine of Jesus. On 9th February of the following year, the first two were admitted to holy profession, and Rev. Father Berthe, Redemptorist, gave the customary sermon. The eloquent preacher did not fail to recommend to the Sisters’ prayers the soul of the glorious Pius IX, who had died two days previously (7th February 1878). The community made it their duty to unite their prayers to the entire world. The Holy Sacrifice was offered and the Divine Office celebrated for the holy Pontiff.

The successor to Pius IX was his Holiness Leo XIII. The community soon received his blessing through the medium of Mr. Etienne Basiez, received in audience with the French pilgrims. When he begged the Holy Father to bless the Redemptoristines of France, His Holiness replied: “Yes, I bless these good religious.” The Holy Father, who had met the Redemptoristines of Bruges when he was the Nuncio in Belgium, repeated his blessing some time afterwards, when he gave an audience to the Most Rev. Father Mauron, the Rector Major of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. He added some advice for always maintaining the good spirit and fervour of the Order. This advice was faithfully transmitted to Saint-Amand by the Very Rev. Father Desurmont, the Provincial of the French Province. This holy religious took the keenest interest in the nascent foundation.

II. The New Monastery.

However, the consolations of the present and concern for the future required them to think of leaving a residence that had now become too cramped. Mother Marie-Joseph then turned to His Lordship Mons. Monnier, the coadjutor to Mons. Régnier, the Archbishop of Cambrai, to explain her views and her wish to build a Monastery that would respond entirely to the exigencies of religious life. The venerated Prelate, who for more than forty years did not cease to be the devoted protector of the community, approved the project and gave all the authorisations necessary. Then the good Mother, in the company of two Sisters, went to examine a property situated in Bruille Street, which had been suggested. The sale was completed, and on 21st June 1877, the first stone of the new building was laid. The Monastery was to be constructed according to the plans drawn up by Mr. Leroux, architect, an employee of Mrs. V. Maillard of Tourcoing.

Fifteen months were sufficient for the building, which the good Mother had managed to superintend, and which was constructed under the best conditions. Beginning from 20th September 1878, there was a dispensation from the enclosure to permit the Sisters to tidy up their future convent. On 24th, the Rev. Father Darras, the extraordinary confessor of the community, came to bless the cells, and on 1st October, at five o’clock in the evening, Father Duriez, the Dean of Saint-Amand, blessed the temporary chapel, and it was decided that on the following day the Community would leave Condé Street and move in to their new Monastery. It was not without regret that they were about to say farewell to their little Nazareth, where they had encountered the sweetness of their first trials and their first joys, but they were also happy to have a stable home from now on where they could work without concerns of any kind for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

The departure took place on 2nd October, on the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. Some pious families sent their carriages in which the fifteen religious who formed the community took their place. They then went in procession to the choir in the new Monastery, the Holy Mass was celebrated, and after a fervent thanksgiving, they had a frugal lunch which was shared by some ladies, the relatives or friends of the Sisters.

Some days afterwards, Mons. Fava, the Bishop of Grenoble, accompanied by his secretary and nephew, Father Méresse, came to visit the Sisters and bring them the wonderful news of the Redemptoristines recently being established at Grenoble. Then on 16th October, it was the good Father Darras who came to bless the Monastery clock, the clock, this faithful and vigilant guardian of regularity. Finally, on 31st August 1879, Mons. Monnier came to perform the solemn ceremony of the establishment of the enclosure. The Vicar General, Father Destombes, the Dean of Saint-Amand, Father Sinsoillez, the Superior of the College of Our Lady of the Angels and Father Vaillant enhanced this ceremony with their presence. His Lordship gave the community an excellent sermon. Monsignor reminded the Sisters of the beauty of their vocation and the obligations it entailed. He promised them, in return for their fidelity, the heavenly joys and consolations. This pious solemnity, which finished worthily with a Papal blessing, finally delivered the community to the peaceful and calm life which is its ordinary element.

Mons. Monnier had preached on the love of sacrifice. The first sacrifice which was imposed on the community by Providence was to be separated from one of its best subjects. The house of Grenoble had just lost its worthy Superior and foundress, Mother Marie-Véronique. It asked Saint-Amand for a subject capable of receiving this inheritance. The community’s choice fell upon Sister Marie-Augustine of the divine Providence. The good Sister had rendered immense services to the Monastery during the three years she had spent there. Her cheerfulness, her energy and her extraordinary love of work had sustained their courage and inspired their good will many times. So they separated with regret, but with the sweet thought that God Himself wanted this departure. The new Superior left on 1st February 1880.

Another separation, equally sorrowful, was brought about by the death of the oldest of the founding Sisters (1st February 1883). Sister Marie-Madeleine of the Cross was aged 69, 40 of which were passed in religion. A model of regularity and fervour, this good religious had earnestly asked her Superior not to let her be interred in the cemetery of Saint-Amand, where, as she said, she could find herself beside a hanged criminal, as the graves were mixed together indiscriminately. Mother Marie-Joseph acquiesced with her request, and bought a concession of land in the cemetery of Nivelles, and this is where Sister Marie-Madeleine was interred. Later on they constructed a vault, and it is there that the Sisters went to sleep their last sleep while awaiting their glorious resurrection.

But if the sacrifice was there, then the promised joys were never lacking. Seven professions had increased the number of the Sisters since the opening of the new Monastery. The Archbishopric rewarded this progress by associating the community with the perpetual adoration established in the Diocese. The favour of nocturnal Adoration was also granted (1882).

The 28th April 1884 was a feast day in the Monastery. They celebrated the 25th anniversary of the religious profession of the Mother Foundress. The humility and modesty of the good Mother did not permit them to give this feast the publicity it deserved, but everyone’s hearts were united in the most sincere prayers and expressions of the greatest gratitude. In addition, the community did not neglect any occasion to witness its gratitude to her who was the true Mother of all the Sisters and the support of each one of them: Saint Joseph, her patron’s feast, the anniversaries of her birth, her entry into religion, her taking of the habit, her religious profession and her entry into responsibility were all celebrated with great happiness. At each triennium, they earnestly sought her re-election, and this favour, which was a remarkable thing, was granted right up to the death of the Foundress, a striking witness to the affection of which she was the object.

However, the days were passing by without one of the most dear wishes of Mother Marie-Joseph being realised – the construction of a chapel. After seven years of waiting, divine Providence rewarded her desires by the medium of Miss Eugenie Grimonprez of Valenciennes. When she entered religion on 29th June 1884, Sister Marie-Aloyse of the Eucharistic Jesus brought with her not just the virtues which were to call her one day to the dignity of Superior, but also the dowry which permitted them to elevate to the Lord the chapel they so ardently desired. It was begun on 8th September 1885. This pretty chapel, the work of Mr. J. B. Maillard, an architect of Tourcoing, was blessed on 23rd June following. When they began it, they would never have expected it to be totally completed.

The time for the profession of Sister Marie-Aloyse had arrived, and they could do no better than to celebrate this pious ceremony in the beautiful sanctuary that she had given so generously. Father Prouvost, the Dean of Our Lady of Valenciennes was the presider at the feast and Rev. Father Berthe gave the usual homily.

Mother Marie-Joseph wanted to use it for splendid celebrations of the feasts of the Church, and also the feasts of the great family of the Most Holy Redeemer. One of these last was particularly a subject of joy for her: the celebration of the first centenary of the death of Saint Alphonsus (1787-1887). Mons. Monnier, the Bishop of Lydda, was happy to be the presider at the ceremonies of 31st July, and 1st and 2nd August and also give the address on the day of the holy Doctor’s feast.

The Beatification of the Venerable Brother Gerard Majella was equally well celebrated in the Monastery of Saint-Amand. Three entire days were given to it in November 1893. A Redemptorist Father exalted the newly Blessed and called on all those attending to have recourse to his powerful intercession. On the third day, an imposing ceremony was conducted by Mons. Monnier - the solemn consecration of the beautiful altar all shining with marble and gold. The Venerable Prelate, in an excellent homily, first of all explained the mysterious and symbolic sense of the prayers and benedictions prescribed in these circumstances by the holy liturgy. Then he proceeded to carrying out the sacred rites. Everyone brought away the sweetest memories from these beautiful feasts.

The year 1899 was marked by a very special event. Many projects of foundation had already been conceived without anyone being able to realise them. But that year a new foundation, issuing from Saint-Amand, was inaugurated at Armentières. It was Sister Marie-Alphonsa of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour who was chosen to be its Superior. She left Saint-Amand on 18th September of that year, accompanied by Sister Marie-Berchmans of the Holy Spirit to superintend the works and make the arrangements for the new Monastery. Later on, Mother Marie-Joseph herself brought two other religious, and she continued to help this nascent house with her wise counsels. Today it has become the flourishing house of Maffles (Belgium).

Such were the principal exterior events that marked the twenty five years whose history we have just sketched. But we have said nothing of the interior life of Mother Marie-Joseph. So now, in outlining the virtues of the venerated Superior, we must show how she knew how to govern the Monastery she had founded wisely, and make the beautiful tree she had planted produce the fruits of salvation.

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 April 2014

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


Chapter I. Roubain, Esquermes, Malines.


I. In the boarding school.

The revered Mother Marie-Joseph of the Child Jesus, in the world Miss Marie Wattinne, was born at Roubaix (France) in one of the most honourable families of that town. Her worthy parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wattinne-Prouvost, in spite of the most striking contrasts of nature, demonstrated in themselves the archetype of Christian spouses.

Mr. Fidèle Wattine, of pure Tourcoing descent, preserved a proverbial good humour under the ice of his old age, and very skillful did he need to be to extricate himself from the pleasant stunts he dreamed up. Later on, the account of his bizarre schemes enlivened more than once the monastic recreations of the pious daughters of the Reverend Mother.

Mrs. Wattinne, a woman of duty par excellence, personified in herself the imperturbable calm of her family lineage. When she was a young lady, she was called the good Therese Prouvost. The revered Mother has said more than once that she could never recall having ever seen her laugh, but she well remembered the tears that she saw her shed one day when her little Marie committed one of those trifling indiscretions usual at a young age.

Nonetheless, the most virile faith united these two hearts by bonds that soon the joys of maternity rendered more sacred and more sweet.

Miss Marie was the sixth or the seventh of their thirteen children, six of which died at an early age. She came into the world on 22nd March 1836 and was baptised the following day in the church of Saint Martin. It was also under the auspices of the Thaumaturge of the Gauls [St. Martin of Tours] that she later made her first communion and received Confirmation. She was held over the baptismal font by her great-great-uncle, Mr. Jacques Desmazières, and by her first cousin, Mrs. Jules Desurmont-Wattinne. She was called Marie Laurente Joseph, names which were always dear to her tender piety.

In the example of her divine Mother and Patron, little Marie was devoted to God from the moment she learnt to know Him, and prayer was the habitual recourse of her soul. Under a timid exterior, the effect of her reserve and angelic modesty, flashes were revealed in her private friendships of a lively, outgoing and always lovable nature. A charming simplicity detracted nothing from the niceties of her little pranks. She was readily given the name of miss busy-body, as her natural activity led her to spread animation and life all around her.

The precocity of her judgement made her appreciated by the venerable Dean of Saint Martin, Father Maës. One day when he had gone to pay a visit to Mr. Wattinne, he was told that one of the little girls was ill. “Which one?” he asked. They told him that it was Josephine. “If it had been Marie,” Father Maës replied, “I would have confessed her.” Yet the child was then but scarcely seven years old.

Marie was enrolled successively as a day scholar at the boarding school run by the sisters Guffroy, and then that of the Ridder ladies, and merited to be seen by them as a model of good behaviour. On 6th April 1847, she had the sorrow of losing her excellent mother, whose virtues and examples had sown in the souls of her children the seeds of the most solid piety. Mrs. Wattine, a true type of the strong woman, left behind her the reputation of a saint. The following story will prove the strength of her faith. Fidèle, one of her sons, had a chest complaint and had been given up by the doctor. The following day, when he called again, he found the boy out of danger. “But Madam, what have you done?” the doctor asked. “Sir,” replied the Mother, “I prayed.” The boy recovered and survived until 28th October 1870.

Justine, the oldest in the family, a worthy scion of her virtuous mother, was thereafter in charge of the government of the house. She demonstrated a remarkable ability for it and pushed her devotion to the point of refusing the most suitable young men, until the day when, feeling herself less necessary to the family, she became in her turn a model spouse and mother.

However, the young Marie joyously saw the long-desired day of her first communion approaching. On 3rd June 1847, the day when the Church that year was celebrating the feast of the Blessed Sacrament, the angelic child, now aged eleven, and in the second month of mourning for her mother, received her God for the first time. Some days afterwards, the sacrament of Confirmation was administered to her by Mons. Giraud, the Archbishop of Cambrai. It was doubtless in these memorable days that she heard the first call of the Spouse of virgins in the depths of her heart. A soul so docile and so good was completely prepared for God’s plans.

In addition, she soon saw one of her sisters consecrate herself entirely to God. Two years after the death of Mrs. Wattinne, Sophie, her youngest, obtained permission from her generous father to become a Daughter of Charity. During the last twenty eight years of her religious life she was almost always in charge and died as the Superior of the Orphanage of Providence at Toulon on 6th December 1877, in the fifty first year of her age and the twenty eighth or her religious vocation.

In April 1849, the same year as the departure of her sister Sophie, Marie, now aged thirteen, was sent as a boarder to the Monastery of Our Lady of the Plain, directed by the Bernardine Nuns of Esquermes. Her tender piety, her exactitude and her spirit of piety soon classed her among the most pious Children of Mary in the boarding school. There as everywhere, her sweetness and good behaviour gained hearts for her and merited for her the nickname of little saint which has remained attached to her memory. After four years spent in this blessed house, she had to leave these fervent religious whom she had so greatly edified and whose happy vocation she envied.

II. At the paternal home.

When she came back to the paternal home in the month of August 1853, she gave clear evidence of the fruits of the solid and lovely virtues she had just gathered so abundantly from the vine of the Lord. All her family made it their duty to admire her examples, their law to follow her advice, their need to open their hearts to her, and their happiness to love her.

The following story will prove the greatness of her spirit of conciliation. One of her brothers, who loved her greatly, nonetheless, told her one day: “Marie, I would not like to have you for my wife, because you say ‘yes’ to everything, and I need someone who knows how to rein me in.” The future was to give a response to that remark, and justified sweet Marie by making her a mother as strong as she was tender when duty required it.

Miss Justine married on 29th May 1854 and left the family where for seven years she had taken the place of her mother. Marie, then aged eighteen, replaced her in the government of the house, yet she limited herself in the direction of the household and refused the supervision of the shopping, as she did not wish to make herself indispensable. Besides, her modesty was so great that she made one involuntarily think of her as a religious in the world. And yet she knew how to enjoy the relaxations permitted. On one occasion, the only one perhaps, she had to attend an evening of dancing which was given by her family. She astonished everybody by her joyful spirit, and when later on someone reproached her, she replied: “I assure you that everything happened with the most perfect propriety, and thank heavens, I did not lose my awareness of the presence of God for an instant.”

At the age of nineteen, Marie asked her father, for whom she was his joy and consolation, for permission to leave him in order to embrace the religious life. This request saddened, without surprising, this generous Christian whose faith had never been able to refuse anything to his God. So he authorised his daughter to present herself to the Redemptoristines of Bruges. This was in April 1855.

Thirteen years had scarcely passed since the opening of the first sheep-fold of the Most Holy Redeemer in Belgium, and already the happy flock who had placed themselves under the staff of the revered foundress, Mother Marie-Alphonse, had greatly exceeded the number fixed by the holy Rule.

Mons. Malou, the Bishop of Bruges, judged that the moment had come to establish a new monastery. After discussing it with the Superior, he profited from a meeting with the Belgian Bishops at Malines to ask them to accept this foundation. The suffragan Bishops found difficulties, but Cardinal Sterckx, the Archbishop of Malines, declared that he would be happy to see a house of the Daughters of Saint Alphonsus in Brussels. Mons. Malou went to the Monastery of the Redemptoristines in his episcopal city on 2nd April to himself choose the Sisters destined for the future foundation, and these left Bruges on Monday 16th, and on Wednesday 18th they arrived at the provisional house rented in Josaphat Street, in the suburb of Schaerbeek, Brussels, by Mother Marie-Alphonse.

It was there that our young Marie presented herself on 9th July 1855 to request her admission. Then she went straight back to Roubaix. When she returned to Brussels on 26th November, she stayed at the Monastery for about six weeks as had been arranged with her father. During this time she was so sad and so disappointed that the never ceased weeping. Mother Marie-Alphonse asked her why she was so afflicted. She replied: “I am weeping because everything here displeases me, and yet God wants me to remain here.” Nonetheless the religious, at her departure, asked her if they would see her again. When she went back to Roubaix, she did not say a word to her father about what she had suffered interiorly, but when the time agreed upon had elapsed, she went back courageously to her sheep-fold on 13th May 1856. She was then only twenty years of age.

III. The Novitiate. – Her religious profession. Her first trials.

As in all foundations, the beginnings were hard, and the deprivation of spiritual help was the greatest trial. However, nothing can describe this intimate union of hearts and minds whose memory is inseparable from this poor house in Brussels, where everything was lacking except fervour, good spirits and generosity.

Marie, resolved to belong to God no matter what it would cost, was also sustained by the advice of Mother Marie-Alphonse and the examples of the thirteen professed nuns. This pious community, satisfied with the young postulant, judged her worthy to have the three remaining months of her educandate cut short and admitted her to vesting. This ceremony took place on 19th February 1857. The new novice then received the name of Sister Marie-Joseph of the Child Jesus.

The year of her novitiate was spent in the fervent practice of the religious virtues. The 28th April 1858 was the wonderful day of her profession. This ceremony attracted from the other end of Lorraine the Redemptorist priest who had discerned, hatched and nourished this beautiful vocation. Rev. Father Assemaine [1] left his dear Convent of Saint Nicholas de Port for a moment and came to celebrate the grandeurs and duties of the religious life in a very apostolic discourse. There was a fine feast at the Monastery, and a great joy in the midst of the trials it was going through at this moment.

In fact, they had built the convent on a vast property overlooking the zoological garden in Brussels. Every bit of advice had been requested, and all the approvals granted, but, when the building had nearly reached completion, opinions changed and reproaches fell as thick as hail upon Mother Marie-Alphonse. Why had she chosen an estate so near to a public garden for her Monastery? Why had she given so grandiose an air to a refuge intended for poor religious? The good Mother recalled in vain that she had not chosen the site, and that on different occasions, she had recommended to the architect the most severe economy, but nothing sufficed. The good Mother saw only one refuge – prayer, and she threw herself into it. Throughout the whole Sunday that followed the feast of the Apostles Saint Peter and Paul, the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly exposed. While all the religious were at the feet of the Good Master, the Reverend Mother asked the divine Saviour exposed on the altar out loud to deign to save them in their distress. Her prayer was heard. Cardinal Sterckx suddenly felt, while he was celebrating the Holy Mass, irresistibly drawn to offer the Redemptoristines the Saint Louis Institute at Malines, which he could make available in the month of September. As if there was any need to say it, the Community accepted the offer with joyful gratitude.

“At this time,” says a contemporary, “the bills to pay rained down upon the community. Every ring of the bell brought fear into every heart. The good Mother did everything she could to satisfy the pitiless creditors as much as possible. But all the efforts of her heart, at once so upright and so generous, could not avert the catastrophe. Some time after the installation of the community at Malines, the lawsuit brought against her was won and the debts liquidated. The shareholders of the zoological garden of Brussels (Ixelles) became the owners of our magnificent property and the monastery, at a price below their real value.”

On 6th October 1858, on the feast of Saint Bruno, two special carriages left Josaphat Street, bringing, not into the land of captivity, but to the promised land, the religious victims of this long and harsh trial. Canon Van Campenhout, the Superior of the little seminary of Malines gave the community the most paternal welcome and promised them his most devoted assistance. This promise was kept, in both spiritual and temporal matters, with a benevolence that never decreased. The following day, Cardinal Sterckx came to pay the Sisters a visit. On 13th December he returned, accompanied by a numerous clergy, blessed the new Monastery and established the enclosure.

Sister Marie-Joseph of the Child Jesus spent seventeen years in the Monastery of Malines. There she held the most diverse functions. Equally apt to the government of souls and the management of temporal affairs, she fulfilled in turn the charges of Mother Vicar and Housekeeper, cared for the sick with the greatest devotion in her capacity as Infirmarian, and was named Mistress of Novices. In brief, her charity, discretion and good judgement had many occasions to be exercised, and her virtues gained her every heart. Also, when it was decided that a new foundation would be established in the Diocese of Cambrai, the community was unanimous in entrusting Sister Marie-Joseph with the direction of this enterprise. The very French heart of the good Sister thrilled at this news, and under the auspices of Our Lady of Grace, the patroness of the Diocese of Cambrai, who had smoothed out all the difficulties, she set off resolutely at the head of her little colony.

Footnotes
[1] Rev. Father Assemaine was born at Tourcoing on 21st March 1825, entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer on 15th October 1854 and died at New Orleans on 10th October 1870, after a very apostolic 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.

Mother Marie-Cecilia of the Child Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Gars (1834 – 1890)

Born Angela Druffel

Angela Druffel was born at Wiedenbruck in Westphalia on Christmas Day 1834. She felt herself attracted towards the religious life during the exercises of a mission, but she did not make her choice until she had visited several convents. The Institute of the Redemptoristines pleased her above all the others, and she entered the Monastery of Marienthal on 21st November 1854. The holy habit was given to her the following year on the same day, and in 1856 she took her vows on the same day as the feast of Saint Cecilia, her patron in religion.

What distinguished good Sister Marie-Cecilia first and foremost was her admirable calmness, her recollection, her regularity and a maturity quite unusual for her age. Moreover, suffering had already made its mark upon her, by means of premature fasts in her youth. But her strength of soul made her overcome every fatigue. Miserly with her time, she consecrated it entirely to the duties of her state and to prayer, continually nourishing her spirit and her heart with good thoughts, and profiting from everything to acquire the treasures of the soul. Moreover, the Lord led her by the way of spiritual joy, and the heavenly Spouse habitually gave her His interior assurances, which, as Saint Teresa says, makes us fly rather than walk in the way of perfection.

Her love of prayer, recollection and silence was also the soul of the government of Mother Marie-Cecilia when she was elected Superior. At the same time there could be seen radiating from her person a great prudence and a very delicate charity both in her words and in her judgements, with a great humility and a wise distrust in her own illumination. She was still the Superior when the Convent of Marienthal went up in flames in 1877. Meeting one of the Sisters in the corridor while the convent was all in flames, she said to her with an admirable submissiveness: “This is the will of God, we must be resigned to it. What has happened to us happily is not a venial sin.” These were sublime words which show us all the greatness of her faith. Moreover she attributed this trial to her own sins, but in it we can admire her profound humility even more. In the temporary exile which followed this catastrophe, she showed herself at her very best, sustaining all her Sisters by her maternal charity and her unshakeable confidence in God.

After having been the Superior at Marienthal twice, she was appointed in 1884 to fulfil the same functions at the Monastery of Gars [1] in Austria. It was at the end of her triennium that she manifested the symptoms of the illness that was to bear her away. This illness was long and painful, but she sanctified it by a continual prayer and an unchanging patience. In her last days especially she felt as though she was being devoured by an interior fire. “I would never have thought,” she said sometimes, “that a human creature could suffer so much.” The ardour of her love for God here became even more admirable. With what edification did we not hear her often repeating these beautiful words: “My Jesus who is so good, I thank you for these sorrows!”

Her merit was all the greater because her constantly unwell state made her suffer even more than anyone could see. In her last years, her state became a veritable Purgatory, but her constancy was never shaken. On the night preceding her death, she could be heard offering up this admirable act of love, well worthy of a daughter of Saint Alphonsus: “My God, I wish to suffer as much as You wish, and I wish to suffer not so as to escape Hell, not to acquire Heaven, but simply out of pure love for You, since You merit us suffering for You, and You wish it so. O my God, as often as I make a movement of my finger, then as often do I wish to renew the act that I have just made.” Then, turning towards the Sisters, she said: “God is so good!. How many graces have I not received from Him!”

She invoked her guardian Angel with confidence, and Saint Cecilia, her patron saint, but the thought of Jesus crucified was her thought of predilection: “I have been served so well,” she would say, “but Jesus has no one to serve Him!” It was with these beautiful sentiments that, after receiving the last sacraments of the Church, she peacefully rendered her soul to God on 10th May 1890. At the beginning of the month, she had received this devise on that day as her lot to put into practice: Confidence in the mercy of God! It is this mercy that she now sings forever, we hope, in the splendours of Paradise.
Footnotes
[1] ] The house of Vienna gave birth in 1839 to that of Stein, near Donon. The revolution of 1848 suppressed these two houses and the Redemptoristines of Stein moved to Gard (Bavaria). On 2nd August 1854, the day of the feast of Saint Alphonsus,the community was solemnly installed in its new Monastery.

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

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