Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sister Maria-Hedwig of the Flagellation of Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Ried (1892 – 1897)

She was also a sweet flower of the Passion, this good Sister Maria-Hedwig who, in the humble condition of a converse, merited the heavenly favours during her life and at her death.

She was born at Wirgen, parish of Brixen, in the Tyrol. While still a child, she gave the signs of a tender piety. And also while still a child, she was as if vowed to the cross. Often, indeed, epileptic attacks would throw her to the ground, and the terrible illness left her as though dead before the eyes of her grieving parents. So her pious mother consecrated her little Elise to the Blessed Virgin, made her touch a picture of Mary three times, and had this picture hung on the privileged altar of Our Lady of the Snows. The attacks ceased completely, and thus the child became very devoted to the most holy Mother of God at a very early age.

Her character was sweet and obliging, so her six brothers and sisters happily benefited from it. Elise submitted to them all and did not neglect any occasion to render them service, as a consequence of becoming spiritually enriched. Later on, she entered service in the hospital in Innsbruck, and it was there that she met the Redemptorist Fathers and expressed her desire to them to enter a convent. In the example of her elder sister, she chose the Order of the Redemptoristines and entered the Convent of Saint Anne at Ried (Upper Austria) on 8th September 1892, on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.

And so on this wonderful day, as the Chronicle says, she had a new spiritual birth and was admitted to the cradle of religious life. It was with tears of joy and gratitude that she saw her elder sister again, who had taken the veil the preceding year. She cast herself at the feet of the Child Jesus, understanding in advance the words of the Saviour: “unless you be like little children…” and immediately exercised herself, by the practice of humility and obedience, in intimate life with Jesus and Mary. During the ten months of testing in the Postulancy, she climbed, as we may say, the steps of the Temple under the guidance of Mary, and then entered the sanctuary of the Novitiate. She took the veil on 28th September 1893, with the name of Sister Maria-Hedwig of the Flagellation of Jesus.

From then on she gave a good example of all the virtues. For her, work and suffering were the joys of her heart. She set her eyes on only Jesus and Mary and made herself a crown of virtues for the day of her wedding with her beloved Saviour. This much desired day arrived on 28thOctober 1894. Even though she had been greatly elevated by grace, she looked upon herself as the least in the house and made herself the servant of all the Sisters. However, she always remained recollected, absorbed in God, speaking but little, but always courteous and full of kindness. At the end of her Novitiate, the flowers were entrusted to her. She took a very special care of them, without thinking, however, that the divine Gardener would soon come to gather her soul as a flower agreeable to His eyes. Strong and robust as she was, one day she was carrying a heavy burden of flower pots. Suddenly she lost her footing and fell down many of the steps to the green-house. The terrible blow she received soon caused her to start spitting blood, and then pneumonia was diagnosed. This trial was a great one for the community. It was even more so for Sister Hedwig who, having been accepted without a dowry, had promised to make up for this lack of the goods of this world by her devotion and services. But this faithful soul remembered the great law of the will of God, and she generously accepted the cross that her name in religion reminded her of every day. With Mary she had entered, with Mary she had climbed the steps of the Temple, and with Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, she ascended Mount Calvary.

“Her illness made rapid progress. Sister Maria-Hedwig wanted no exceptions for herself and even asked for the soup of the poor. Her true food was doing the will of God, and she never ceased speaking of it. After receiving Extreme Unction, she gave a great witness of her gratitude to God and begged all the Sisters to thank Him with her. At one o’clock in the morning, she was seen to be full of joy and as if transfigured. She opened her arms and cried out: “Ah, here’s Jesus!” And when Mother Superior asked her what she had seen, she replied: “Oh, I am not worthy of such favours. I’m only a poor sinner.” And then she added: “O my Jesus, I love You! What happiness to be able to sacrifice myself!” She continued on like this, with her face all aflame, and did her acts of love and humility until the hour of her death. At the supreme moment she asked for the blessed candle, and radiant with joy, she then expired peacefully. This was on 24th September 1897, at two o’clock in the morning.

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, 16 March 2014

Sister Maria-Matilda of the Crucifixion, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Ried (1874 – 1897)

Sister Maria-Matilda was born on 10th October 1874 at Lebersham, in the parish of Schwannenstadt in Austria. At an early age she gave the signs of a great piety. Her greatest joy was to erect little chapels in honour of the Blessed Virgin, light candles there and pray there devoutly. Her excellent character made her loved by everybody.

Her three sisters entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross, devoted to the care of the sick. She would also have liked to consecrate herself entirely to God, but her parents did not consent at all and entrusted the direction of the paternal home to her. She submitted, but prayed so well to Him who has the hearts of mankind in His hands, that she obtained the object of her desires. Nonetheless, she was required to fix her choice on the Order of the Sisters of the Cross. More attracted to the contemplative life, the young lady refused. For an entire year, they tried to make her enter as per their original plan, and her Sisters did not spare her, but her fierce resistance disconcerted their efforts. A short time afterwards, her father recognized the holy will of God and sacrificed his cherished child, and she joyously took her flight and entered the convent of Ried on 29th September 1894. “Now,” she cried, “I am happy. I have chosen the better part!” From then on, this was the habitual refrain of her life.

After the most fervent of postulancies, Elise received the holy habit, and with it, the name of Sister Maria-Matilda of the Crucifixion. Yet this only caused an increase in her love for Jesus crucified, to whom she had already given her whole heart. The abundant fullness of her soul overflowed willingly in ardent acts, and her tears often betrayed the affections that filled it, especially at the holy table and on the Way of the Cross. Her fellow Sisters often told the Mistress of Novices: “Our Elise is consumed with love, and will not live for very long.” But what does time matter? “You need less time than will power to become a saint” they rightly said.

On 19th October 1896, Sister Maria-Matilda was joined by her holy vows to the Spouse of souls. From then on, she became more and more attached to the practice of that sincere mortification which is the royal road of prayer. Ingenious in tormenting herself, and even more ingenious in obeying, she showed that the love of Jesus crucified had truly penetrated her heart, and that, in the example of her Saviour, she was seeking for nothing else than the will of God. She became unwell, was dispensed from all her work and installed in the infirmary. However, one day the Mistress of Novices said to her: “Sister Maria-Matilda, go and wash the dishes today. The Sisters are so few in number!” Without saying a single word, Sister Maria-Matilda made her way to the door, took some holy water and appeared in the kitchen. But the Infirmarian in her turn then came running: “My Sister,” she said, “this is not necessary. Another Sister will come and do the work. Return to the infirmary.” And the good Sister returned that instant.

The will of God was soon declared in a more precise manner. It was the cross in all its rigour, that is to say, the sacrifice of her life that the Lord was about to impose on His servant. Throughout the whole duration of her illness, Sister Maria-Matilda had only these words on her lips: “The will of God!” Confined to her chair, she communicated every day in Viaticum and heard the Holy Mass every day. At the beginning of February 1897, she received Extreme Unction. “May I die now?” she asked. And the Infirmarian replied: “Yes, you may.”

This reply filled Sister Maria-Matilda with joy. The pneumonia that was consuming her had reached its last stage. In the night of 10th to 11th February, the invalid suddenly lifted up her head as if to listen to some words that she could hear, and then she fainted. They then recited the prayers of the agonising. The invalid came back to herself and smiled as is she had come back from another world. Her eyes were shining with joy and then seemed to fix on a marvellous spectacle, and when her Superior asked her if she could see her beloved Saviour, and her tender Mother Mary, and Saint Alphonsus her glorious Patron, she nodded her head at each one of these blessed names. Then she looked one last time at her Mistress of Novices and if to say one last “thank you”, and rendered her beautiful soul to God.

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, 2 March 2014

Sister Maria-Xavier of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Ried (1837 – 1852)

We know nothing of the life that Elisabeth Faust led in the world, except that she was pious and a source of edification for others.

Elisabeth was born on 5th March 1813 at Duren Protring Niedersheim (Prussia). On 19th October 1837, she entered the Redemptoristine Monastery of Vienna, received the holy habit on 7th January 1839, with the beautiful name of Sister Maria-Xavier of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and made her profession on 9th January 1840.

She had spent eight years in the exercise of the virtues of her state when the Revolution of 1848 drove her from her convent. This was on 6th April. On the 15th, she arrived at Aix-la-Chapelle with several of her Sisters and stayed there for some years. On 26th June 1851 we find her at Marienthal, and finally, in October 1852, she was sent with three other Sisters to Ried, in Austria, to establish a foundation there. Six other Sisters soon came there to join her.

It was in this Convent of Saint Anne that the cross of Our Lord especially came to visit our good Sister. With the others, Sister Maria-Xavier happily and joyfully endured the privations of the poverty and inconveniences at the beginning, but a short while afterwards a mysterious dream warned her unawares to the approaching arrival of her heavenly Spouse.

In her dream she saw Our Lord weighed down with His Cross. He was in the street and making His way to the Monastery. Seeing Him at the end of His strength, Sister Maria-Xavier said to Him: “Lord, come in here!” and the Lord asked her: “Do you love Me?” She replied immediately: “Oh, yes, we love you.” And the Lord replied: “Do you also love My Cross?” “Yes, we love it” replied the Sister.

Jesus (we soon saw Him) accepted the invitation that had been given Him. A Sister had caught smallpox in Vienna and was cured of it, but Sister Maria-Xavier then caught the illness and died of it. It was in a matter of three days. On 18th November at one o’clock in the morning, she died quite resigned to the holy will of God and all aflame with the desire to see Him whose cross she loved.

“On Friday,” says the Monastery Chronicle, “she was buried.” Some young ladies in white carried her coffin. On the following Sunday, the Reverend Father gave a sermon in our little church that impressed everyone. “Sister Maria-Xavier was a generous religious, humble and devout, and having in mind only the glory of God. After her several Sisters and the Superior fell ill, but they all recovered. Our Lord had judged Sister Maria-Xavier worthy to be the first victim of the new foundation and to be the first to receive the wonderful hospitality of Paradise.”

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, 16 February 2014

Sister Maria-Victoria of Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Ried (1805 – 1874)

God had permitted the religious Orders to be particularly persecuted in Vienna in the 18th Century, but this great capital, in the 19th Century, was to give the signal for their relief. The Emperor Joseph II had pursued them with his hatred, but in the very heart of his court there germinated, without him even suspecting it, vocations that were to give religious life an unexpected flowering.

Marie Anne Ernestine Welsersheimb was born at Graz in Styria on 12th January 1805. She was the grand-daughter of Count Godefroid Suardi, chamberlain to Joseph II. The Countess, her mother, a woman of lofty intelligence and great piety, brought up her eight children in a most Christian manner, her “eight beatitudes” as she called them. Then, when she had assured their future, she entered religion, thirteen years after the death of her husband. This resolution caused a great deal of talk and aroused much astonishment. The noble Christian was content to reply: “If someone goes far away, into a foreign country, to gather a rich inheritance and deprives himself for a few years of the commodities he has enjoyed in the midst of his own family, no one would think of being astonished. So from where does it come that people feel the need to speak to a person who is attracted by the magnificent promises of Our Lord and leaves everything to follow Him, and renounce for just a small number of years the pleasures that the world offers him!”

Marie Ernestine was worthy of such a mother. After smiling for some time on the brilliant world that surrounded her, she studied her vocation under the guidance of a holy religious, the Venerable Father Passerat, and on 4th September 1825, at the age of twenty, she went to rejoin, in the cloister of the Redemptoristines of Vienna, that great Christian who had brought her into the world.[1] Beginning from this moment, a complete transformation was worked in her. In the footsteps of the divine Redeemer she took up her cross and bore it courageously for the space of nearly fifty years.

In fact this life of privations, renunciations and immolation was a long way of the cross that finally ended with a holy death! Marie-Ernestine had scarcely left the world when she exchanged her brilliant home for a very poor convent, and her gentle and tranquil existence gave way to a life of work. First of all she was occupied with poor, abandoned children. She taught these poor children reading writing and arithmetic. When these years of testing had ended, her religious profession (30th January 1832) brought a new task to her who was now called Sister Maria-Victoria of Jesus. Was it not a very heavy cross for a religious of twenty seven years of age to have to direct the educandes? This meant receiving, as they left the world, persons of every age and every condition. It meant helping them to leave behind their ideas, their own habits and their own will. In a word, it meant struggling against habits of life already adopted and substituting others for them. This difficult office was one that Sister Maria-Victoria fulfilled with success. Soon she had to bear a cross heavier still. When she became Mistress of Novices, she had the future of her entire Institute in her hands, but her courage was at the summit of her mission.

However, separations came to add their thorns to cares already so grave. In 1841, Sister Maria-Victoria saw die before her eyes that pious, that heroic mother who, in a manner of speaking, had given her life twice. In the same year, she said farewell to Mother Marie-Alphonse who went to found the convent of the Redemptoristines at Bruges in Belgium. Finally there arrived that year 1848 which was so full of turmoil of every kind. On 6th April, the ferocious mob which had chased out the Redemptorist Fathers and thrown them out onto the highway, including, although they did not know it, Father Passerat, weighed down with his seventy six years, that impious mob laid waste to the nuns’ church, and they too had to seek their salvation in flight.

Once the rabble had been satisfied, the way of the cross continued for Maria-Victoria of Jesus. To the friendly offers of help, seductive to a soul less strong, she replied: “What! Abandon the Institute to which God has called me? Never! Even if I have to walk hundreds of miles on foot, or undergo the most severe privations, I shall seek out my Sisters, and I shall live and die in the midst of them.” She took refuge at Aix-la-Chapelle with six of her Sisters, and accepted the hospitality offered to them by the Sisters of Saint Elisabeth. Then Galoppe, in Holland, became her home. Three years of privations and sufferings did not discourage her. Finally, a beautiful convent, graciously called “Valley of Mary”, Marienthal, replaced the provisional house in 1851. Maria-Victoria was filled with the greatest joy, but the two years that she spent there were once again marked by her devotion to the common cause. She was Mistress of Novices, Consultor, and Secretary to the Superior. There were always responsibilities, and if you wish to call them that, honours, but there was always the cross.

In 1853 we find Sister Maria-Victoria of Jesus at Ried. She was there for eleven years as the Superior of a convent of her Order. The material situation there was precarious, but, in the school of adversity, a courageous soul is hardened against obstacles. And we may say more, she found her strength in the cross itself which crushes less generous souls. The 30th January 1854 was for this Servant of God the 25th jubilee her religious life. It was a triumph of a day, a charming feast which was to give way to new sorrows! For an elevated heart, what pains there were in seeing the concordat between the Holy See and Austria denounced, and the war in Italy open a long series of outrages and atrocious crimes! Sister Maria-Victoria keenly suffered these grave wounds given to the faith, both in her dear homeland and in the whole world, and how great was her sorrow in seeing, after the Council, a sect of “Old Catholics” establishing even at Ried, and almost at the door of the convent, its sacrilegious assizes! The “fiat voluntas” of the divine Saviour in the Garden of Olives presented itself unceasingly in the memory of the Servant of God in the midst of these circumstances. We may say more: after such long trials, after such a sorrowful climb up to Calvary, this last blow was truly her death blow.

In the month of June 1874, Sister Maria-Victoria’s strength suddenly ebbed. From then on she concentrated all her thoughts on her approaching end, and on heaven which she had so long desired. On 20th July, a severe crisis failed to carry her off, but her presence of mind did not abandon her. Her eyes were drawn to a picture hanging on a wall near her bed. This picture represented Saint Joseph expiring in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Soon she cried out in a loud voice: “Sedes sapientiae, ora pro nobis” – “Seat of wisdom, pray for us.” A touching invocation, very beautiful in the face of death, and very worthy of this wise virgin who had so faithfully imitated the Queen of Virgins! It seems that at that moment, the prayer that the dying Sister had so often addressed to Mary was heard as it had been for Saint Alphonsus, as the poor invalid suddenly said to the infirmarian: “My Sister, the Mother of God has just won a victory. I have never had an apparition during my life, and now I have had one at the approach of death.” This means in a few words the last temptations of the demon and the miraculous assistance of the Mother of the Saviour. On the same day of her death, 25th July, with the aid of her Sisters she accomplished all the exercises of her Rule – the examination of conscience, the Rosary, and the Way of the Cross. She received the last sacraments. One last time, she renewed her vows of religion, and then she gently inclined her head like her heavenly Spouse on the cross. She had courageously completed her course, and went to receive the crown of life.

The special character of the interior life of Mother Maria-Victoria seems to have been Christian strength. One of our former novices writes on this subject: “Our good Mistress was a soul full of generosity, and a great friend of mortification. She had a particular talent for leading her novices to the practice of this virtue. Her instructions were ordinarily about the dangers that a soul courts with an unmortified life, and she would express herself on this point in the starkest terms. ‘No,’ she would often tell us, ‘you cannot count on going directly to an easy life in Paradise.’ ‘One of the things she inculcated the most into her novices,’ says Father Hugues, ‘was the habit of combating and subduing their natural inclinations. And so she applied herself to humbling them often and testing the promptitude of their obedience by commanding them those things painful to nature. Moreover she had a favourite maxim which she put into practice: ‘With us,’ she would say, ‘prayer and mortification must march in front. The more we advance in mortification, the more we advance in prayer.’ – ‘We only advance in the love of God,’ she also said to us, ‘to the degree that we hate our own selves. We must hate not this or that employment, but our bad inclinations, our sensuality, our bad humour. This is what we must hate, and hate it for the love of God, because we know that this displeases Him.’

A soul so upright could not fail to feel a tender devotion to the Passion of the Saviour. Sister Maria-Victoria was particularly devoted to the mystery of the Agony in the Garden of Olives. When she was the Superior at Ried, she had a little chapel constructed in the garden. It was furnished with a statue representing Our Lord in His agony and fortified by an angel. Her great consolation in her moments of anguish and perplexity was to go and pray in this chapel. There, prostrate at the feet of her divine Spouse, herself delivered to a mortal sadness, she was persuaded that He could not fail to let a look of commiseration fall upon her and come to her aid. Often, after a prolonged prayer in this blessed spot, she would intone a canticle of thanksgiving and would go back to the house with her heart filled with a holy joy. As a true daughter of Saint Alphonsus, the pious Sister had a tender love for the Blessed Sacrament, the Blessed Virgin and the Saints. In particular she loved the martyr Saints. Without doubt in the midst of her innumerable trials she prayed long and hard to these friends of God. Saint Joseph was also the object of her filial confidence, and this great Saint rewarded her more than once for hoping in him.

The desire for heaven always possessed this beautiful soul. She would often sigh and cry out: “When then shall I arrive there finally to sing the eternal alleluia? Oh, how I rejoice in thinking of the first sight I shall have of eternity.” A holy priest advised her one day to take a remedy that cured her, and then awaited her thanksgiving. “Oh my Father,” she told him, “I cannot be grateful to you for that, for my most ardent desire is to die as soon as possible.” It was with the same sentiments that she wrote to Mother Marie-Alphonse in 1868, who was then gravely ill: “I am happy to learn that the doctor expresses the hope of your recovery. But if I rejoice, it is less for you personally than for your community, as you would wish ardently, I am convinced, to be reunited as quickly as possible with your supreme Good. And so, if I come to hear that you have left this earth, my heart will be sensibly afflicted no doubt, but I should not be able to prevent myself from rejoicing with you, and congratulate myself on having so good an advocate in heaven. We shall act in such a way, believe me, that you will not remain for long at the door of Paradise.”

About six weeks had passed since the death of Mother Maria-Victoria, when two religious consultors fell dangerously ill. Overcome with grief, the Superior felt herself brought to pray during the night at the tomb of the venerated deceased. With great confidence she said the following prayer: “Dear Mother Maria-Victoria, you know through your own experience that a Superior will find herself in pain when the consultors of the Monastery cannot fulfil their office, so help me in my distress and obtain for these two Sisters the recovery of their health.” An astonishing thing! A notable improvement was produced immediately, and at the end of five days the two invalids had entirely recovered. Some months before her last illness, Sister Maria-Victoria had written to the Superior of Marienthal that, if she was the first one to die, she would hope to warn by her death two Sisters who were no longer giving her any sign of life. Then on 23rd July 1874, on the same day of the death of Sister Maria-Victoria, a religious of Marienthal heard, at ten o’clock in the evening, a noise very close to her cell. Suddenly she perceived, standing before her bed, a Redemptoristine nun whom she did not know. The apparition was tall. Her veil was of a dazzling white. Her whole cell, which until then had been plunged in darkness, now became ablaze with light. Coming up to the bed of the invalid, the apparition blessed her and told her: “I have come from Purgatory, where I still endure a sharp pain from these two fingers.” And as she spoke, she showed her the thumb and index finger of her right hand. “I am praying for you,” she added, “so that you may go to Paradise.” Then the vision disappeared. The poor rheumatic, more dead than alive, could not close her eyes the whole night. The next morning she hurried to tell her Superior what had happened to her. Three days later, they received the news at Marienthal that Sister Maria-Victoria had died on 23rd July. On that very day, by God’s permission, she had kept her promise and by her own death she had warned her former companions.
AUSPICE DEI GENITRICE MARIA.

Footnotes

[1] See the charming work by Rev. Father Hugues called: Deux religieuses Rédemptoristines [Two religious Redemptoristines], 1 vol. Casterman

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, 2 February 2014

MONASTERY OF RIED

Foundation of the Convent of the Redemptoristines at Ried (Upper Austria), in 1858

The Convent of the Redemptoristines of Saint Anne of Ried [1] is rightly called the fruit of the sacrifices, tears and prayers of the Redemptoristines of Vienna. Driven out by the Revolution, these fervent religious had to leave their peaceful home on 6th April 1848 and look for a refuge, some with their families, and others in other convents further afield. And also, like the hart thirsting after a spring of refreshing water, this dear Community wished for nothing other than to reconstitute itself anew. But Providence, which is always at hand, did not remain deaf to the sighs of the exiles.

In March 1851, one of the religious learnt through one of her relatives that at Ried, in Upper Austria, there was a house for sale with an adjoining church. The inhabitants desired to see the establishment of a community of religious there. The clergy were also interested in this matter. Consequently, the necessary applications were begun immediately. Mons. Ziegler expressed it thus: “Since I have not been able to attract the sons of Saint Alphonsus to my diocese, I desire to receive his daughters here.” Pius IX himself entered into the matter and wrote about it to the Bishop of Linz.

However, the enemy of all good placed a thousand obstacles in the way of the realisation of this project, and everything seemed destined to fail. But this was when God showed Himself. His hand visibly conducted this work, and on 23rd August 1852, the Emperor Franz-Joseph signed the authorisation needed for the establishment of this convent. On 15th October, they proceeded to the solemn blessing of the house. Mons. Schiedermayer, surrounded by a dozen priests, officiated pontifically in the presence of a dense crowd. The parish priest of Ried, Father Brelsmayer, at once showed himself favourable to the foundation, and deservedly acquired the name of founder of the convent. A truly holy priest, he was charged by his Bishop with the direction of the Community, and fulfilled his duties of Chaplain to the general satisfaction. God blessed his work. His apostolic words attracted such a crowd of the faithful into our church on Sundays that it became too small. This chapel attracted admirers. Count Arko enriched it with a magnificent painting by Strasser that even to this day decorates the master altar.

However, the house, formerly an asylum for lepers, was a very poor one. The roof was in such a pitiful state that the religious found themselves obliged to open their umbrellas in order to protect their beds against rain or snow. This evil was remedied only gradually, as funds were lacking. Everything had been spent on the purchase of a parcel of land, which was indispensable for the growth of the convent. In addition, it had been impossible to bring anything from Vienna, as the revolutionaries had destroyed everything, including the pictures of the saints themselves. All in all, there remained for Ried no more than a poor florin! And with this they had to provide for the support of six religious!

In her distress, Reverend Mother Maria-Victoria of Jesus, born Countess Welsersheimb, prostrate at the foot of the tabernacle, expressed her distress to the good Master. She had scarcely terminated her prayers when a basket was brought to the Monastery full of bread and other provisions. Moreover, the divine Host permitted a young child, who had heard people talking about the nuns, to become bold enough to want to see their poverty for himself. Profiting from a favourable moment, he secretly penetrated the enclosure, and after a sufficient examination, he escaped in all haste. He made the extreme poverty of the good religious known, and his account made such an impression in the town and beyond, that he provoked a compassionate generosity. Gifts arrived from different directions. The Emperor Ferdinand, the Counts Welsersheimb and von Arko, and Baron von Lago became the benefactors of the house. The venerable Servant of God, Mons. Rudiger, having been able to take stock, on the occasion of a taking of the habit, of the great poverty of the Monastery, also sent some help. It was thanks to these generous gifts that it was possible to finish the building in October 1853.

However, they still suffered from the rigorous coldness of winter, as wood was lacking to dry out the new walls. In addition, a furious tempest in one fell swoop demolished the enclosure of wooden planks, and took 8000 tiles off the roof. These new setbacks made them doubt the possibility of a definitive establishment at Ried. In 1857, the situation was again so sad that Reverend Mother Maria-Victoria believed it to be her duty to write about it to His Holiness. Always supportive, Pius IX responded to her request with a beautiful letter preserved in the archives of the convent. He encouraged the Religious, and exhorted them to confidence and perseverance, but especially to tend more and more to perfection. He blessed them and promised them his prayers. The Sisters felt great joy because of it, and, inspired to a new courage, they continued to struggle on. God rewarded their confidence.

In 1860, Mons. Hagn, the Abbot of the Benedictines of Lambach, became the Vicar General of the diocese. Having obtained authorisation to establish a cemetery in the enclosure, he wished to give the benediction of it himself. They immediately brought in the remains of two Sisters, who had previously been interred in the town cemetery. In 1862, the church was enriched with two magnificent windows, and a Way of the Cross, a new Gothic altar, a pulpit and other embellishments. The wooden enclosure was replaced by a solid wall. Finally, in 1867, the convent, now that it had been finished, was able to house the number of religious required by the Rule.

Nothing was dearer to the good Superior than to see the house of the Lord decently furnished. Although the church was not her property, she was always careful to employ the charitable gifts that came her way to a pious end. In 1905 they proceeded to its decoration. Under the able direction of Mr. Schrems, the paintings were harmonised with the colours of the windows. Between the columns, upon the walls, Mr. Streikner, the religiously inspired artist, in his first painting displayed the divine Saviour giving Himself to the soul in Holy Communion. Another painting represented Saint Francis of Assisi who, disdaining the world, gives himself to his divine crucified Lord, who detaches His arm from the cross and embraces him lovingly. Then it is the Patriarch of monks, Saint Benedict, full of a sweet gravity, surrounded on the right and left side by Saint Maurus and Saint Placidus. Saint Gerard Majella has his place before the choir. He contemplates Jesus crucified, is consumed with love and is pouring out abundant tears.

The choir of the religious was also decorated with beautiful paintings. First of all you see the image of the founder, Saint Alphonsus. Plunged into a profound meditation, the artist shows him in the attitude of editing the Rules and Constitutions. Before him he has Saint Francis of Assisi, absorbed in contemplation, Saint Francis de Paul, Saint Dominic armed with the Rosary, and Saint Augustine enraptured in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. A little further on there is Saint Francis de Sales, whom the Redemptorists must honour, because of the numerous points in their Rule borrowed from the Constitutions of the Visitation. Another picture represents the divine Mother with the Child Jesus. Her eyes are saddened by the fear of seeing her Son escaping from her. Then comes Saint Gertrude, totally absorbed in Jesus whom she bears on her heart, then Saint Mechtilde, with her eyes questioning heaven, from which she receives the revelations consigned to the book which she holds in her hands. Above the door, you can see the Sacred Heart and the blessed Marguerite-Mary. At the back there is a painting representing the Annunciation, and then two escutcheons bear the arms of the Most Holy Redeemer and the Eye of God, which recalls His presence in every place.

How much people love to visit this pious church! Early in the morning, or to greet the evening, but especially on Sundays, a large number of people come for the recitation of the Rosary. On days of the taking of the habit or of religious profession, a numerous public crowds to the grille, to see the touching ceremony as closely as possible, which is presided over by Mons. Baumgartner, the Chaplain of the convent. We should not forget that it was this worthy priest who had a retreat house for ecclesiastics constructed near the Monastery. It is to him also that we owe the beautiful Calvary in the cemetery, and the tombstones on which are engraved the names of our dear deceased Sisters.

Footnotes

[1] Taken from the Monastery Chronicles.

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, 12 January 2014

Precious Deaths Before God of the Monastery of Sambeek (1882-1905)

“All our deceased Sisters,” says the Monastery Chronicle, “have had a sweet and tranquil death”.

When Sister Dominique, a converse, was on the point of dying, you would have said she was going to a feast. She firmly hoped to enter heaven without passing through purgatory, ‘as,’ she said, ‘Saint Alphonsus has said that those who accept death with a perfect resignation to the will of God go straight to heaven. And this is what I am doing.’ An hour before her death, when no one thought that the hour of her departure was so close, and the confessor even wanted to defer the last sacraments until the following day, she told a Sister who offered her something to drink: ‘This is not the time to drink – I am going to heaven.’ She received the last sacraments in full consciousness and died on 3rd February 1896 at four o’clock in the afternoon.

But no death has been as consoling or as moving as that of Sister Marie-Innocentia, who died on 26th May 1905. The Sisters who witnessed it will never forget it.

She had been born in Amsterdam of thoroughly Catholic parents. Her family name was Ten Winkel. Her brother entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, and her sister the regular Third Order of Saint Francis. She entered at the age of nineteen as an innocent and happy child. It is true that she did not have much in the way of talents, but on the other hand she was full of humility and candour. In the novitiate she became deaf, following a chill. For her it was a very heavy cross, both in relation to conversations and community tasks as well as in relation to lectures and conferences. When she was made gardener, she broke her arm, which had to be reset twice, which caused her the most atrocious pain, but she did not offer the least complaint. During her last years she suffered continual internal pain, the cause of which the doctors themselves were unable to discover. Her cheerful and lively nature suffered somewhat, but she rarely let anything show. Finally she was attacked by a pneumonia which did not seem to be serious at first, but which suddenly took such an alarming turn that they had to administer the last sacraments to our good Sister. She was terrified at first and said, “Must I appear before God so soon?” Then she began to accuse herself of her faults and imperfections. For some time she was unconscious, but then she came to at midnight and continued her dialogues with God until the hour of her death, which arrived at 2.30 on the night of 25 – 26 May. With her eyes closed, she kept talking aloud with her heavenly Spouse, and expired, we may say, producing the most beautiful acts of humility, confidence, love, desire to see God, and resignation to his good pleasure. She called on the Most Holy Virgin whom she had always honoured faithfully under the title of Perpetual Succour. She spoke to Saint Joseph whom she had always invoked for a good death, and she entrusted herself to their protection. She expected purgatory, but she submitted herself to them to be entirely purified. She said all this so innocently and in so touching a manner that the Sisters who were attending her were moved to the depths of their souls.

So we can see how Sister Marie-Innocentia was so occupied with God during her life, and so full of love for Him. Her effusive piety at this supreme hour was the echo of her years passed in the service of her heavenly Spouse. She spent twenty-two years in religious life, and was forty-two years old. The day after her death, her confessor said, “I am convinced she is already in heaven.”

“We count”, the Chronicle concludes, “we count on having her as our mediatrix in Paradise, charged with obtaining for all the Redemptoristine Nuns the grace of perseverance.”

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.

Monastery of Sambeek - Flowers of Saint Joseph

It was in 1882. The Monastery of Sambeek (Holland) was extending its enclosure. A chapel was being built, with a lower choir, a chapter room and a number of cells. Mother Marie-Clementine of the Most Holy Redeemer, the sister of Mons. Wulfingh, [1] was then fulfilling the office of Superior. It was under her government, in 1888, that two new wings to the building were erected, and the garden was extended by the purchase of a number of pieces of land. However, says the Chronicle of the convent, “a special Providence watched over the monastery, so that these purchases and extensions were done without the monastery being weighed down by debts. The Superior confided the task of housekeeper to our good and glorious Patriarch, Saint Joseph, and he acquitted himself marvellously, and in a truly surprising manner, especially on Wednesdays. One day, the idea came to the Superior to turn to a certain rich benefactor and ask him to lend her several thousand florins for an unlimited time, and without interest. The request seemed an extremely bold one. In spite of this, trusting in her heavenly housekeeper, the Superior sent the letter. The reply was that the addressee was not in the habit of lending money in this way and that he was in no way inclined to start doing so, but that he was giving the sum requested outright: six thousand florins. – Another day (it was a Wednesday), the Superior received some fish as a gift to the Monastery: “Ah! Saint Joseph,” she exclaimed, “I thank you with all my heart, but today money is what I need.” The day had not even finished before the necessary sum arrived. “This is how,” concludes the Chronicle, “the good God is always looking after us. We now have a very beautiful and holy chapel, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a spacious convent, and a great garden in which our deceased Sisters sleep their last sleep while awaiting their glorious resurrection.

Footnotes

[1] Mons. Wulfingh, Redemptorist, died in 1906. He was the Apostolic Vicar of Surinam (Dutch Guiana, West Indies)

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, 29 December 2013

Sister Marie-Agnes of the Precious Blood, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Sambeek (1865 – 1898)

Born Marie-Petronille Bruning

Marie Bruning was born in Amsterdam, the capital of Holland, on 5th January 1865. Her father, though he was a good and fervent Catholic, did not really understand the usefulness of the contemplative Orders, and he much preferred the Orders devoted to works of charity. And so Sister Agnes encountered great difficulties in following the attraction which brought her to the Order of the Redemptoristines. However, she managed to enter after the death of her mother, having then attained the age of twenty-three. Because of it, all she received from her family, even after her entry, were some very unpleasant letters. Her brothers and sisters would have no more to do with her, and this heavy cross weighed on her until her death. Mother Marie Agnes bore it courageously through her love of Our Lord, to whom she had sacrificed everything.

The newcomer had a lively, active character, devoted to her work, and her piety was sincere and naïve. After an exemplary Educandate and novitiate, she edified the community by her extreme love for the holy Rule, and by her exactitude in fulfilling all her obligations, even during the last four years of her life, which she spent in her cell or in the infirmary. When she was a novice, she started spitting blood, but she seemed to be cured to such a degree that the Superior felt able to confide the care of the house to her. And then she was first the dispensarian and the Mistress of the Educandes, but in this last task she had a very severe relapse of her former illness, and this forced her, in the fourth year of her communitarian life, to withdraw to the infirmary, where she received the last sacraments on 11th October 1894.

It was feared first of all that consumption would soon put an end to her sufferings. But this was not to be so. Her heavenly Spouse wished to embellish His bride’s crown with a painful illness for four long years. And so we saw her, with such an active nature, condemned to rest. Sister Marie Agnes compensated for this by serving the community through her work in sewing for the linen-room and the sacristy. She made herself even more useful to it by the perfect example of her perfect resignation to the will of God and by the practice of all the other virtues. In summer in her cell and in winter in the infirmary, trying sometimes to join with the others in the refectory, in the garden or in choir, she clung especially to faithfully reciting the Divine Office, in spite of the enormous pain her coughing caused her. The little choir in the infirmary was her abode of predilection, and she spent entire Sundays there, close to the sacred Tabernacle, living in continuous prayer and a generous effort to refuse nothing to God. Her cheerfulness, and the tranquil resignation with which she bore her heavy cross, without the most severe attacks being able to alter her patience or draw from her any complaint, greatly edified all those who visited her. And everyone was happy to go and see her. As for her, she was equally content with the visits or absences of the Superior or her nurses, when they were called away sometimes by other occupations. Her unalterable cheerfulness even struck the doctor with astonishment, and more than once he could not restrain himself from expressing his admiration. To the questions he asked this Sister, she would invariably reply: “I’m all right, doctor”, as if she had had nothing to suffer.

A remarkable thing! Her illness did not in the least diminish her exactitude in observing the holy Rule. In the spirit of poverty, she deprived herself of light at supper and on going to bed. For her work she utilised the smallest bits of cotton. She was always content with what was given to her and never ceased to witness her gratitude for the least services. In the last days of her life, burdened as she was by violent oppressions of the chest, she expressed only one fear, that of losing her patience. “My Jesus”, she exclaimed, “give me perseverance. Mother of Sorrows, help me”. And she was heard. Her patience never gave way, not even on that last night, which was the most painful of all of them for her. At about four o’clock in the morning, her powers began to diminish. After the Holy Mass, the prayer of the dying was recited before her, to which she replied. She then spent a few more moments with the confessor, and at eight o’clock she gave her beautiful soul up to God, on 22nd October 1898. She was thirty three years of age and had spent ten of them in religion.

The Sisters began to invoke her, especially to obtain spiritual favours, and her memory is always venerated in the Monastery. “It was a great sorrow for us”, the Chronicle records, “to lose our little Saint; but we adore the inscrutable decrees of God. In eternity we shall see why He took a Sister from us in the prime of her life when she could have been a pillar of our community. And now she is our advocate with God, she who, before dying, said that she was offering her life for our Monastery. May the divine Redeemer accept her sacrifice and hear her prayers!”

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, 1 December 2013

Mother Marie-Françoise of the Mercy of God, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Sambeek (1837 – 1893)

Mother Marie-Françoise, in the world Jeanne-Marie Cools, was born on 4th March 1837 at Eindhoven, a town in Brabant in Holland. Her father was a Clerk of the Court in that town. As the only daughter, she was the object of the greatest tenderness on the part of her parents, but after their deaths, and as especially when she was sought after by the world, she said a generous farewell to everything tempting that was offered to her, in order to enter the Convent of Marienthal. She was then twenty three years old.

She spent the first thirteen years of her religious life in this monastery. On 16th August 1874 she was sent to the Convent of Vienna with two other Sisters, but three years later she returned to Holland to replace the Reverend Mother Marie-Cherubine at Sambeek, who had been nominated as the Superior at Vienna. Mother Marie-Françoise filled the position of Mistress of Novices several times, she was elected Vicar three times, and Superior twice, and in the exercise of her different functions she showed as much ability as virtue.

She greatly loved prayer and in it she truly found the nourishment for her soul. She was always distinguished by her love for regularity, by a religious zeal for the Divine Office, and by a great affection for everything relating to the service of God. She always had a marked predilection for her Order, and she never ceased to pray for God to bless the apostolic work of the sons of St. Alphonsus. All the religious Orders were dear to her, but her very filial affection naturally went to the one she had embraced and she primarily proved her love for it in sustaining it by her punctuality in observing the holy Rules. Even in her last illness she wanted to ask for inclusion in certain exercises which her illness had discharged her from. She also practised poverty and obedience with a jealous care, even finding a way to match obedience with her office of Superior. She suffered much anguish in her soul and much sorrow in her body. Both of them were a source of humiliation for her, but she accepted them with humility for the profit of her soul. Two simultaneous illnesses, diabetes and a heart problem, whose treatments conflicted with each other, made her sufferings very meritorious for her. She endured them without letting anything show, never complaining, always keeping a laughing, happy face, like the others in recreation, and always ready to render service to her Sisters.

Finally her nature succumbed. Forced to keep to her cell, Mother Marie-Françoise ended up in the infirmary, where the severity of her sorrows soon obliged her to remain in her bed. She received the last sacraments in full consciousness. It was remarked that the scruples and fears that had caused her to suffer so much during her life disappeared completely during the last weeks of her life here below. She spoke of her death with great tranquillity and declared herself disposed to live or die according to God’s good pleasure. She regretted only one thing, she said, which was not being able to pray as well as before. She had the supreme consolation that she had so often asked of God, that of having a good death and dying on a Friday, the last homage she rendered to the Passion of her Saviour.

She died on 29th December 1893, in the fifty-sixth year of her mortal life, and the thirty-second of her religious 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, 24 November 2013

Sister Marie-Vincent of the Child Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Sambeek (1853 – 1878)

A child of Mary Immaculate

On 8th December 1878, a young religious of the Monastery of Sambeek, Holland, exchanged this mortal life for the eternal homeland. She was the first in her convent to leave this land of exile. Sister Marie-Vincent of the Child Jesus was born in Sambeek. She entered the Monastery in 1877, at the age of twenty three, after living with her brother, a vicar in a parish of Limburg, who had kept her with him for three years to test her vocation. This long and sorrowful delay caused great grief to the young girl, and perhaps even altered her health profoundly. However, the fact remains that immediately after her vesting, the first symptoms appeared of an illness that soon degenerated into consumption. Sister Marie-Vincent was an innocent soul, endowed with everything that could form a perfect religious, and faithful in corresponding to the numerous graces that she received from God. She was very pious, pleasant, obedient and given to mortification. Even during her stay with her brother she was greatly exercised in this last virtue. She was a precious flower that God soon wished to place in the heavenly flower-gardens.

Sister Marie-Vincent languished and wasted away slowly. Some weeks before her death she asked her doctor if she was going to die soon. She very much wanted to die on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The doctor replied negatively, not believing that the end of the illness was so near. She, however, continued to be sure that she would leave for heaven on that day, and although nothing gave any hint of an end so near, she asked the infirmarian to bring the Sisters to her to say goodbye to her, after the second Vespers on the feast of 8th December. The Sisters found her cheerful and pleasant as always, but did not believe that she was to die so soon. However, at eight o’clock in the evening she went to join the Immaculate Virgin to finish her feast in her company. In the course of her illness, she had indicated to her mother her desire to give the Monastery a great statue of the Most Holy Virgin. Her desire was heard. The statue now stands in the choir and reminds the Sisters of the virtues and precious death of this child of Mary. When she left the earth she was only twenty-five. She took her vows on her deathbed, happy, as she said, that she could no longer be sent back into the world, which she had never loved.

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, 3 November 2013

Sister Marie-Innocentia of the Holy Family, O.SS.R of the Monastery of Marienthal (1847 - 1870)

Born Philomena Huben

The life of Sister Marie-Innocentia was a short one, and the account of her actions can be told in just a few pages, but it contains so many edifying and charming features that we wish to recount it for the good of our Sisters and our future Sisters. [1]

Sœur Marie-Innocentia was born at Munster-Geleen, a village in Dutch Limburg on 24th October 1847, and received the names of Marie Catherine Philomena at baptism. She was the only child of Mr. John Peter Huben, a property owner, and Anna Catherine Donners, who died several weeks after bringing her to the light of day. At the age of seven she lost her father. Some close relatives then confided her education to the Ursulines of Sittard. The very pure heart of the little Philomena thus opened more and more to piety and virtue, and moreover, these were a family inheritance. Two of her uncles were consecrated to God. One was a secular priest and the other died in Ireland in 1893 in an odour of sanctity. He was Father Charles of Saint Andrew, a Passionist.

At the Ursuline Convent, the child was distinguished by her horror of sin, her filial obedience and her friendliness to her companions, and so she was loved and esteemed by all. She remained in the boarding-school until she was fourteen and then lived with her uncle and her two aunts, his sisters. And it was there that she remained until her entry into the convent, on 9th September 1865. She spent only a short time in the world. God gave her the grace of understanding that the world was not without its dangers for her, and even during her years in the boarding-school, He gently attracted her to religious life. Having heard a Redemptorist Father, in the course of a retreat, speak of the Order of the Redemptoristines, she felt herself strongly drawn towards our Congregation, but her attraction was to be keenly challenged.

Having fallen dangerously ill, she thought more than ever of her plan, but her near relatives and the doctor strongly urged her to renounce it. So then she lost all attraction for religious life, but this distaste seemed suspect to her. She wrote to her director, Rev. Father Vanderlinden, and explained the state of her soul to him. The pious Redemptorist did not have much trouble in showing her that she was under the attack of a temptation. He reminded her how he had approved her vocation, forbade her to speak to her doctor on her own, and recommended her to follow God’s call as soon as possible. She followed this advice to the letter.

* * * * *

Presented to the Superior of the Convent of Wittem by Father Vanderlinden himself, Philomena was accepted and entered the monastery a short time later. The prejudices that her doctor had inspired in her against the lack of charity which he said reigned in the convents, and against the lack of care that they gave to the sick, these prejudices, as we call them, soon disappeared. In fact she saw quite the opposite. She loved our house and our community as if she had been born there, and this contentment was only to grow to the degree that she discovered the treasures enclosed in the religious vocation, and so she would speak of this with enthusiasm.

From the very beginning of her new life, she recognized her faults and fought against them firmly. She understood that if she had been until then a somewhat spoiled child, she would now have to cut all caprice short and immolate her will, and she did so ardently. Her delicate constitution hardly permitted her any great austerities, so she turned more and more to obedience, which is the martyrdom of the soul. When she took the veil, which happened on 27th September 1866, she received the name, so well chosen for her, of Sister Marie Innocentia of the Holy Family. She took her vows a little later.

Beginning with her taking the veil, our dear Sister had only one desire, and pursued only one end, that of advancing in perfection. One could say that she had a presentiment of the little time that she was still to live, as she was a true spiritual miser, wishing to amass the treasures of merits, and as she had a real hunger and thirst for justice, she was filled, according to Our Lord’s promise.

A great perception about spiritual ways, a perfect obedience, a veritable passion for obliging everyone, but for the love of Jesus Christ, and finally, a sincere humility – these were the characteristics of the life of Sister Marie-Innocentia.

The things of God accorded well with her soul, and so she desired them keenly. Teaching, spiritual books and pious discussions found a well prepared soil in her heart, and it produced abundant fruit. And her delicacy of conscience led her to becoming entirely faithful to God, and we may say that she never committed a voluntary fault against the Rule. This delicacy, towards the end of her life, was even a source of scruples and anguish for her, but even though they harmed her health, her pains and struggles did not make her either sad or melancholy. She obeyed, and it was an edifying spectacle to see her, on certain days of communion, approaching her Superior to explain her doubts to her, and then at a simple sign from her, approach the holy table with the docility of a lamb.

Marie-Innocentia faithfully followed the inspirations of grace. From then on she observed even the least prescriptions of the Rule and even anticipated the wishes of her Superiors. If she heard the ringing of the bell, she flew, if that is the word for it, to the place where it called her. The Angelus caused her to abandon every occupation. She could be seen falling down on her knees while she washed her hands, and reciting the holy prayer before wiping them. She never permitted herself the least reply to her Superiors, and, what is even rarer, she willingly obeyed her subordinate Superiors, even the converse Sisters in the exercise of their charge. Had she not written: “I wish to obey everybody.”? However, she did it with wisdom. When a converse Sister said to her one day that she needed to take a tonic, she went looking for the Mother Superior everywhere in order to obtain the necessary permission.

Her zeal to oblige everyone was not inferior to her obedience. Because of the feebleness of her constitution (as from her childhood she suffered from horrible liver colics), she could not be assigned a particular function, so she took on, if we may so call it, the function of obliger general. And this is how, until her death, she had the task of going into the garden and gathering the different leaves used in making herbal tea. Later on, as an assistant infirmarian, she dried and arranged herbs with the patience of a professional herbalist. As she was not able to hang out the washing, she would at least clean the lines the clothes hung on. The stockings of the Choir Sisters, and those of the Converse Sisters, were all mended carefully by her hands. In the refectory or during the afternoon work, she became the Reader, and on Sundays and feast days and other days as well, she would wash the dishes. In a word, through a thousand little services, either general or particular, she made herself very useful to the community, and the good humour with which she did everything made this service even more valuable.

Her humility appeared in joyfully accomplishing the most insignificant occupations. She lacked the strength for large works, and fine work was forbidden to her, both because her hands sweated and because of the feebleness of her eyes, which she had to preserve because of the Offices. She submitted herself entirely to the will of God and accepted all her incapacities. She was even cheerful when the Mother Superior sometimes laughed at her and said: “After all, you are only a poor unfortunate!” In a word, her conviction on the subject of her incapacity was total, and she was singularly astonished when she was named as Auditrix, [2] as the Rule required a great deal of intelligence and tact for this function. However, she was not as deprived as one might have thought. She spoke and wrote three languages – Dutch, her native language, German and French.

This sincere humility and complete disengagement of herself also appeared in the letters that she sometimes wrote to her close relatives. We especially recall the memory of a letter that she addressed to Mons. the Archbishop Paredis to explain some temporal matters to him. She told him in a truly touching simplicity about her few means and her feeble capacities. In a word, she sought to humble herself in everything. During her retreat for her profession in 1868, she wrote: “From now on, I wish to practise the holy virtue of humility in words, thoughts and actions, and I wish to fight my sensitivities and apply my particular examination to this point.” To effectively keep such a resolution requires a rare virtue. In praise of Sister Innocentia, we may say that she was perfectly faithful in it. In fact, she was never observed as being hurt by any observation, and the shadow of discontent was never seen to appear on her face. If she was contradicted or corrected, she would say calmly and sweetly: “You are right. It is true”, or else she would ask pardon and promise to correct herself. One day, in recreation, she happened to mention the writings of the blessed Henri Suso, whom she loved to read. She said: “I always wish to be the cloth which the Blessed speaks of.” [3] So she let herself be guided and corrected without ever resisting. And may we add to that an extreme delicacy of charity indeed, and then we will have a good idea of her virtue.

Her uprightness of intention was no less remarkable. “I have given my heart entirely to my Saviour,” she wrote, “and I wish to seek nothing other than His holy will. I wish to seek God alone and please only Him.” This elevated and supernatural view singularly highlights the virtues we have spoken of. Her respect towards her Superiors, her kindness towards her fellow Sisters, her attention to judging no one – all this was inspired by supernatural motives, and her life, which in appearance was so little increased with all the beauty of the divine love that inspired it. One day she had sewn some bibs for a sick Sister. She gave them to the Infirmarian who told her the invalid would be very grateful for them. Sister Innocentia replied: “I have not made them so much for her as to warm the heart of the Saviour.” So she always had God in mind. If she visited the sick Sisters, which she did willingly and frequently, she always spoke to them of edifying things, and told them about conferences that she had attended. In recreation, too, she would speak about spiritual subjects, and we would often admire the profound meaning of her questions and replies. So she spread around her, without any doubt, the good odour of her virtues, as the humble violet spreads its perfume around itself. Everyone cherished her, everyone sought to be edified by her, and in the community, all the Sisters had their eyes turned towards this “beloved child” of the house, who dreamed only of becoming forgotten, but whom the Lord loved to raise up.

* * * * *

To a great simplicity, Sister Marie-Innocentia added a gravity beyond her age and a modesty that inspired respect. The source of it was her continual union with God.

Always recollected in God, she would have believed herself to have committed an infidelity or a fault if, even in recreation, she had in some way taken her thoughts away from her Beloved. Day and night, we might say, she was occupied with the Child Jesus, and following the example of the Venerable Marguerite of the Blessed Sacrament, she honoured Him at every hour with a special homage. It was a great joy for her when she got up at midnight, the hour when the Saviour was born. She also had a very special devotion to the holy house of Nazareth, and would plunge herself into the meditation of the great miracles of love and mercy which happened there.

How could she not have been devoted to the Blessed Virgin? It was to this divine Mother that she had recourse with all her heart in her trials and pains. She would kneel down willingly before the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel and would say, after the example of our Father Saint Alphonsus: “Mary, give me always good counsel.” She loved to say her rosary before Terce: “This is how I assure myself,” she would say, “of the protection of the Blessed Virgin for the whole day.”

Her love of prayer was truly prodigious. When she prayed, she seemed to have forgotten about everything. With her eyes closed, she was completely absorbed in prayer, and if anyone came in then to speak to her, she would experience a seizure as if she had been torn away from a deep sleep. How great was her devotion when she approached the tribunal of Penance and the holy Table! One day someone spoke to her about the six “Our Fathers” that she usually said after the holy Mass to gain the Indulgence. “The time of thanksgiving is so precious to me,” she replied, “that I can do nothing else than to cling to Jesus and love Him. I recite the “Our Fathers” afterwards.

This pious soul was in love with solitude and silence.

While still a child she loved to be alone and often passed entire hours in solitude. So she always felt very happy when she was cut off completely from the world. She had little love for visits from her close relatives. She either prevented them or diminished their number. One of her letters addressed a few days before her death to the Superior of the Ursulines of Sittard, clearly shows us her love of retreat. Here it is:

“Very Reverend Mother,
“You will no doubt have a certain astonishment in receiving a letter from me, who has already spent several years in religion without giving you my news. Our Reverend Mother Superior has offered me the occasion. It is in her name that I have come to ask you to be good enough to have the attached little cords of Saint Joseph blessed. Would you please send them back to us by post, and we will cover the cost of sending them.

“Oh, my Reverend Mother, how happy I am, and how I thank God for my holy vocation! Here I am in solitude. I neither see nor hear anything of the world. I have only one care, that of my perfection, my sanctification. Every day I beg Our Lord to give me the strength and courage to work on this sanctification, in spite of my sickly state. I hope, sustained by so many means, the Office, three meditations a day, and many communions – I hope, I say, to attain my end. Have the charity, I pray you, to remember me in your good prayers, especially before the little Jesus, my divine Brother.

“Our Reverend Mother Superior and all the Sisters send you their very best greetings. They have asked me to write you these lines because I knew you beforehand. I greet you very respectfully, and also the Mother Assistant. May she be kind enough to recommend me to the Blessed Virgin, as I am doing for her.

“In the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Your Sister in Jesus,
Sister Marie-Innocentia of the Holy Family.
Convent of Marienthal
5th September 1870.”

One can see from these lines how the good Sister ardently pursued her last end, that is to say, the perfect union of her soul with God in time and eternity. Her keen desire for heaven is easily explained from then on. One day they told her about the death of a Sister younger than herself. “How happy she is to die so young!” was her reply. She willingly watched over dying Sisters, and they heard her say more than once: “Oh, how wonderful their fate is! How much I too would like to die soon. I hope that my little Brother Jesus will not leave me for too long on this earth!” She had a premonition about her premature death. “I shall die soon,” she said one day, “as it is impossible for me to live a long time. I just long to die and go to see my Jesus!” A year before her death, they asked her one day, during recreation, what book she was reading. “The Eternal Truths by Saint Alphonsus,” she replied. “But you have known about them for a long time!” they told her. “Oh!” she replied, “one never knows when the Lord will come.” The pious child always lived in the spirit of the other world. “How much I love,” she said sometimes, “how much I love to hear the sound of a storm! It makes me think of the Last Judgement.” Sometimes too, she would say to the Reverend Mother and the Sisters with a sweet assurance: “No, no, I shall not live for too long. My little boys will not leave me for too long down here.” This is what she called the Holy Innocents with a charming familiarity, those heavenly friends for whom she always had a very special devotion.

* * * * *

Her ardent desire was accomplished. Her “little boys” came to seek her for the heavenly homeland sooner than we thought. Her frequent sorrows led her to gain many merits, and the patience with which she bore them greatly edified the community. Sometimes the crises lasted several days, during which time she could not take any food. She rejected everything, and it was almost impossible for her to have even a moment’s sleep. The Mistress of Novices told her one day that she should not always move around as she was doing, and she tried hard to obey her, but the violence of the crisis made her forget all about it, and then she was greatly saddened, believing that she had failed in obedience. In spite of everything she remained at peace and submissive to the holy will of God. Her lively faith showed her that her sufferings were a special occasion to show God her love. At the same time, she showed the greatest gratitude to the Sisters who were giving her their care.

However, death was approaching. Some months of respite were simply a halt before her final rest. On 16th September 1870 (it was the Friday before the feast of Our Lady of the Seven sorrows), Sister Marie-Innocentia was struck down by her previous illness. In the morning, she went up to the sacred table with all the Sisters, not thinking that this communion was to be her last. In the course of the afternoon, her pains began again, and the doctor declared that he feared a fatal outcome.

The feast of the Seven Sorrows was truly a feast of sorrows for the poor invalid. Because of her continual vomiting, she had to be deprived of holy communion, and what a privation in the midst of such horrible suffering! “My Jesus,” she kept repeating, “give me patience.” To such a sorrowful day an even more sorrowful night followed. The Sister who was caring for her told us: “She did not have a moment’s rest; she was constantly upright in her bed, with her hands behind her back, and leaning against the wall, and from time to time she said: “The Saviour was in this position in His dungeon, [4] and this thought gives me some comfort.” Soon the symptoms became more and more alarming, and all hope was lost. They went to find Rev. Father Van der Linden, and she told him with a touching sincerity: “Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi; in domum Domini ibimus.” * - Turning to her Superior and her Sisters: “Reverend Mother and dear Sisters,” she asked them, “help me to suffer patiently.” She asked for her picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, and pressed it to her heart. But in this very simple act, she had, by first kissing the hand of her Superior, and then the picture, observed her Rule to the letter. This is how she wished to die under the protection of Her who, during her whole life, had been, after Jesus, her sweetest consolation. However, Rev. Father Van der Linden still hesitated: “Come now, Reverend Father”, she said to him, “do not leave me to die without the sacraments.” Straight away she received a last absolution and Extreme Unction. Immediately afterwards, she died without agony, and her innocent soul flew up into the bosom of her Creator. This was at six o’clock in the morning. Sister Marie-Innocentia was aged twenty four, and in the third year of her profession.

All the Sisters wept because of the unexpected loss that they had just had. Father Van der Linden could not prevent himself from shedding tears, and as he left the enclosure he said: “Our young and holy little sister is already dead.” He immediately offered the holy sacrifice for her soul.

For several days the body was laid out at the grille and the public was admitted to pray before the deceased. From morning to evening the crowd did not cease to render her this last homage. After the funeral service the body of this dear little Sister was placed in the Convent’s vault. Everyone proclaimed her blessed and said: “She lived a long career in just a short time. Soon she will be reunited forever with her divine Spouse and will contemplate God in His glory.” The Mother Superior said: “I think I can already see our Sister Innocentia entering Paradise, followed by “her little boys.””

Many of our Sisters have addressed themselves to Sister Innocentia and successfully invoked her intercession. Her virtues, her good examples, and above all her innocence, obedience and punctuality, are still the object of our conversations. May we, after imitating her here on earth, one day go and rejoin her in heaven!..

Footnotes

[1] Extract from the Monastery Chronicle
[2] The name of Auditrix is given to the Sister charged with sitting in the background and attending interviews at the grille.
[3] Blessed Suso, preoccupied with the pains that awaited him, heard a voice telling him one day: “Open the window, look out and learn.” He opened it and at the entrance to the convent he saw a dog which had a tattered piece of cloth in its jaws. The animal was playing with the rag, throwing it in the air, catching it, biting it, and tearing it into pieces with its paws and claws. Brother Henri then groaned profoundly, and a voice told him: “This is how you will be torn one day by wicked tongues.” Then the Blessed thought: “may my soul trust in God and suffer without complaining like this piece of cloth!”
[4] The dungeon in which, according to some authors, Our Lord was thrown after His flagellation, and which Catherine Emmerich has so admirably described.
* Ps. 121: “I rejoiced in the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord.”

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

Friday, 11 October 2013

Sister Marie-Rosalie of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Marienthal (1822 – 1863)

Born Baroness d’Axter

 

I. Her life in the world. – The lady of honour.


On 24th January 1822 there was born in Ratisbon (Regensburg) the Servant of God whose life we will briefly recount. At baptism she received the names of Bertha-Genevieve-Josephine-Jeanne. Her father, Baron Louis d’Axter, was chamberlain to the King of Bavaria. Her mother, Josephine-Adelaide, Baroness de Verger, occupied herself especially with her family and the care of her subordinates. Their union was blessed, and God granted them a great number of children, and they applied themselves with all their powers to give them a truly Christian education.

From her earliest childhood, Bertha was distinguished by a lively spirit, a jovial character, and an unusually pleasant nature, and so she became the darling of her parents and the whole family. Her piety especially and her love of prayer attracted the attention of those who were witness to it. So one of her sisters wrote the following lines to her at the end of her life: “I still remember very often when we were young, how I saw you absorbed in prayer for entire hours, as pious as an angel, and I greatly regret now that I did not imitate your example better.”

The child was scarcely nine years old when death came to snatch her tender mother away from her. The whole time the illness of she who was everything to her lasted, Bertha admitted nothing that could soften or diminish her pain. Everything that her mother suffered she herself endured in the depths of her heart, and to preserve a life so precious to her, she would willingly have sacrificed her own. But the good God disposed otherwise. “The tree has fallen,” said Sister Marie-Rosalie’s historian, [1] “but the flower will never perish. Protected by the Sun of justice and covered by the beneficent shadow of the mystical Rose, she shall produce fruits in abundance, as Jesus Christ has chosen her for His spouse, and Mary for her beloved daughter.”

Bertha was sent to Munich, to pursue her education at the royal boarding-school for young ladies of the nobility. Everything was put in hand to respond to the views of Baron d’Axter, and to form her in such a manner that one day she would bring honour to the family and render service to society. Her father was not deceived in his expectations. As his daughter was endowed with more than ordinary talents, she made such progress in the different sciences to which the pupils were introduced, that her mistresses were able, a few years later, to confide the instruction of fifty children to her. Besides German, she knew French and Italian, had a deep understanding of music and drawing, and these different abilities were to be very useful to her later on. Add to this the natural qualities and advantages relieved by a noble frankness and modest gravity, and it will be understood why others were attracted to her and sought her conversation. And so, for ten years she fulfilled the duties of mistress at the boarding-school and all her pupils were indebted to her for solid instruction and a true piety.

This is how things were when in 1850, there arrived at Munich the Princess of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, born the Princess of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg. In the course of a visit to the boarding-school for noble ladies, she was struck by the rare qualities of the young mistress, and suggested she might like to enter the Court in the quality of a lady of honour. Bertha accepted. “In the measure,” says the historian, “that these two souls opened themselves to knowing each other mutually, there could be seen growing in them a reciprocal esteem and affection. Both of them had given themselves generously to the practice of the Christian virtues and encouraged each other mutually in works of charity.”

When the good Princess became a widow for the second time, she entered the Order of the Visitandines. But Providence opened a new way up to Bertha and introduced her as a governess in the house of Prince Charles-Antoine of Hohenzollern and his spouse Josephine, Grand Duchess of Baden. This Princess had, of her own accord, abjured Protestantism in order to enter the bosom of the Church. Among her six children, which she had reared with the greatest of care, there were two daughters, Stephanie and Mary, the first of whom was born in 1837 and the second in 1845. She believed she was not able to find a better governess for these two children than Baroness d’Axter, for whom she had conceived the highest esteem. So she begged her to be good enough to take upon herself their education. Bertha accepted with gratitude and went straight away to Dusseldorf, where the Prince and the Princess of Hohenzollern had their residence.

In this new position, the talent and virtue of the pious governess soon shone in the brightest light. In the midst of the brilliant life of high society, and in spite of her daily contacts with Protestants, she was able not only to preserve her faith intact, but even give an example of a true and sincere piety. Princess Josephine treated Bertha as a member of the family, and the young Stephanie, with whom she was especially occupied, showed her the most tender affection.

During their stay at Dusseldorf, Princess Stephanie and her governess would both leave in the early morning to go to the church of St. Andrew and assist in the sacrifice of the Mass. Refusing every place of honour, they would go and kneel down in a little chapel dedicated to St. Louis de Gonzaga and pray there with fervour. In the walks they took in town or in the countryside, they would ordinarily visit the sanctuaries that they encountered. Often they would also direct their steps towards establishments of education, or asylums for aged and sick women, or they even went to console the poor and infirm in their cottages. The needy greatly loved receiving these sorts of visits, because they were sure to receive a rich gift of money accompanied by words of consolation.

However, the idea of renouncing the world and embracing religious life occupied the spirit of the pious governess. As the time approached when the education of Princess Stephanie would come to an end, Bertha called with all her heart on the action of Providence. It happened when the young Princess married don Pedro V, the King of Portugal. This was in 1858. We shall not describe here the complex journey by which the governess’ vocation took her to the Order of the Redemptoristines. We shall instead show the affection which the new Queen of Portugal showed her, and so we shall quote the letter written by her to the new religious. The reader will find there a noble witness of gratitude rendered to the virtues of the servant of God.

Cintra, 1st August 1858.
“My dear and good Bertha,
“I shall continue to call you by this name so dear to my heart until the day when you make your oblation to God in the Institute which you have embraced, and in which you find the means to tend towards the end where we all hope to arrive if we walk unceasingly in the paths that God has traced out for us.

“These paths, although different, however, have this in common that very often they are steep, and that they all lead to the same end. This thought must console us and inspire us in the moments when sadness or despondency wish to take hold of us. It will serve to help us to bear our cross and find it less heavy, and find it even sweet and light.

“Since our separation, dear Bertha, our eyes have seen things of every kind. One thing is common to both of us, and it is that we have seen our desires come about, but not however without having experienced a moment of bitterness at the memory of what we have had to abandon. I avow frankly that I have already had homesickness many time, and have experienced an extreme desire to see my parents, my friends, and my place of birth. What weighs upon me especially, is the thought that I am bound forever to another family and another country, but it must indeed be so, and I render thanks to God for having arranged things in this fashion. For the rest, I must indeed offer up to the Lord these little disagreeable things in the midst of the happiness He has allowed me to enjoy, as my dear Pedro is truly my delight. He is so full of goodness towards me, and I have already spoken to him more than once of my good and dear Bertha.

“I have not been slow in experiencing that it is not so easy nor so agreeable a task to bear a crown in a country where there is so much to do, and where it is so difficult to act according to one's conscience and convictions, and where it is necessary to proceed with great caution so as not to harm the good cause, and often wait for a long time, and dissimulate when one is contradicted.

“Sometimes one loses courage. Ah, my good Bertha, we encounter as many miseries here as everywhere else! God alone can remedy them and I beg you not to forget the Church of Portugal in your prayers. Recommend it equally to the prayers of your pious Superior and the prayers of your holy community. How many times do I enthusiastically recall the beautiful and magnificent solemnities celebrated in the churches of Germany! Here I do not find the sober character and profound sentiments of the German people. Happily, my dear Pedro, who has a noble and generous heart, compensates me amply in return.

“My new family is good and charming.

“My dear Bertha, I think so often of you. I also think of our visits to the churches, our walks and our conversations of yesteryear. They are wonderful memories for me. Since that time I have had more than one experience. I have already learnt to understand life a little in its grave and serious side, and I can see that the greatest happiness of the years of our youth and virtue, is not to know many things that are the torment of this life. It is with the greatest happiness that I recall the happy years that we lived together in my father’s house – years, alas, that have passed so quickly!

“I have spoken enough about what concerns me, so let us speak now of you, dear Bertha. I have learnt (not from Dusseldorf, as it seems that there is no news of you there), I have learnt that you seem sad and despondent, and this troubles me. [2]

“Write to me as soon as you can, my dear Bertha, I beg you, and write to me in detail. You can count on my discretion. Do not forget that you are dealing with a heart that loves you and knows how to understand you. Also, you can be well persuaded that many persons cherish you and are devoted to you. I hope that my request will not seem indiscreet to you, as I do it in the name of the friendship that I bear you.

“Farewell, my dear Bertha. Please recommend me to the Reverend Mother Superior.
I embrace you cordially."
Stephanie.

II. Her entry into religion. – The virtues of the cloister.


We have said nothing about how the vocation of Baroness d’Axter was confirmed, nor by what mysterious ways God led her to the right end A powerful attraction to the cloister had been inspiring the pious governess for a long time with the desire to leave the world. She opened herself to her director, who dissuaded her from entering a contemplative Order. When a fortuitous circumstance having obliged her to address herself to another confessor, he happened to speak of the Redemptoristine Nuns. This name attracted the Baroness’ attention, who gathered all the information necessary, and then sought admission into the Convent of Marienthal. But how many obstacles rose up before her! The education of Princess Stephanie had not yet been completely achieved; that of Princess Marie seemed in its turn to require the care of her governess and the attachments to high society of the court, the extraordinary esteem given to our heroine – did not all this serve to delay her?

The engagement of Princess Stephanie to don Pedro, the King of Portugal, seemed to resolve the situation; but because of cholera, the marriage had to be postponed for six months. And what heart-ache this caused the Baroness! It required all the skill of the Princess Mother, all the influence she who was one day to be the Empress Augusta, to persuade her to spend a further six months in the world. Meanwhile, she made the acquaintance of her future fellow Sisters, and the Superiors could only applaud her courage and her constancy. Finally, on 10th May 1858, she entered the Convent of Marienthal, never to leave it again.

A remarkable thing! On the very same day, the priest who earlier had told the new postulant about the Order of the Redemptoristines, himself now entered the novitiate of the Redemptorist Fathers of Hamicolt, near Munster. This was on the feast of Our Lady of Mercy.

On the following 25th November, the chapel of the Sisters of Marienthal put on its festive finery. On the altar, around the tabernacle, was woven a crown of roses, and these roses had previously served as an ornament to Bertha’s clothes. As the Princess Mother of Hohenzollern could not attend the ceremony, she sent her son Antoine to take her place. She wrote to the Superior the day before: “It is with sincere regrets that I see myself obliged to excuse myself from coming to Convent of Marienthal for the Miss d’Axter’s ceremony of taking the habit. I would have been very happy to be able to be a witness to her happiness. My prayers will be united with your own on this solemn day, and I keenly regret not being able to tell her myself how much I rejoice in seeing her arrive at the fulfilment of her desires, enjoying the happiness and peace to which her soul aspires.”

The ceremony was a very touching one. Because of the great resemblance of her character and vocation to that of Saint Rosalie, they replaced the name of Bertha with that of this great Saint, and the new novice from then on was called Sister Marie-Rosalie of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Her year in the novitiate was marked by several trials. Our good Sister’s zeal for penance brought her a severe illness from which she nearly died. She also had the sorrow of learning of the unexpected death of Princess Stephanie, Queen of Portugal, whom she loved so much. But she was consoled when she learned the circumstances of her death. On 16th July, when the Holy Viaticum was brought to the dying Queen, she replied with a lively faith and a great calm to the priest’s prayers. All the people surrounding her dissolved in tears. After remaining absorbed in prayer for a long time, she said to her man of confidence (?): “Oh well, if I must die, tell my parents that I love them, that I am thinking of my brothers and my sister, and all those who are dear to me, and I am resigned to the will of God.” As she said these words, she lifted her eyes up to heaven. Then she continued: “And also tell my parents that the King has made me truly happy, and that I recommend him to them. And now, my dear friend, receive my thanks again for the services you have rendered me.” At ten o’clock in the evening, Extreme Unction was ministered to her, and she followed all the prayers with attention. The Empress of Brazil placed a crucifix in her hands, and from time to time, when her breathing became more laboured, the Queen would put this crucifix to her lips, kiss it and say: “Jesus, Mary!” After eleven hours she went into agony, but she still had enough consciousness to reply to her confessor and the Empress. The King had already said his farewell to her, and overcome with grief, he was obliged to leave her. At one o’clock in the morning, on 17th July 1859, the Queen breathed her last.

Sister Marie-Rosalie had still other trials to bear. Spiritual aridities came to take away her heavenly consolations, and to make matters worse, she keenly felt the repugnance of her nature for a humble, mortified and penitent life. Add to this the fact that her ardour for mortification had to be moderated, which was a new source of abnegation. But her courage and her faith made her overcome all the difficulties, so much so that the famous Father Bernard, preaching the retreat in the Convent of Marienthal in 1859, gave this remarkable testimony to the novice’s virtue: “In general, I do not have much confidence in those persons who after living in high society, suddenly enter a rather severe Order, as ordinarily they do not persevere. But it is quite otherwise with Sister Marie-Rosalie. She has all the qualities you could wish for becoming a perfect Redemptoristine, and if she continues in this way, you need not be afraid of electing her as Superior, and she will bring honour to the convent.”

The premature death of our pious Sister did not allow us to see Father Bernard’s views come to pass, but it is of value at least to justify them with some details concerning the virtues of this servant of God.

First of all, humility seems to have rightly attracted her attention.

“For the pure love of God,” she wrote, “I am careful to make sure that no attention dictated by self-love or the desire to please finds its way into my actions.

“I am careful not to say a single word that expresses vainglory.

“I shall listen to others. I shall not defend my own way of seeing things. I shall be silent when I have a desire to speak.

“I shall do all I can to pass myself as ignorant and incapable, in place of flattering my self-love.

“In my relationship with others, I shall endure every disagreeable word with humility and joy, and I shall accept it in a spirit of penance as some small reparation for too great a confidence and for the eulogies and flattery that I have been the object of during my whole life.”

This was the programme that Sister Marie-Rosalie carried out. Let us listen to her historian. “Because of her excellent character and her pleasant manner, everyone loved her company, and nobody was embarrassed by her. Through her desire to advance in perfection, she humbly accepted all the corrections and remonstrances that were offered her either by her Superiors, or her inferiors, religious who were still young. She knew how to hide her talents and make them serve solely for the glory of God and the advantage of her neighbour. She never once spoke of the high rank that some members of her family occupied in society, and when, from time to time, she received a visit from some illustrious personage to the convent, she thought that it was not even worth the trouble of telling the community of these marks of distinction. She would have preferred to live unknown and forgotten. She greatly respected the converse Sisters and sometimes said: “I would give a lot to be in their place, provided that I could keep my breviary, as it would cost me a great deal if I had to make a sacrifice of it.”

This sincere humility was accompanied by a great spirit of mortification. She experienced an attraction for penance that one had no right to expect in a person who had lived in high society, in the midst of the eases and conveniences of life. So they very often had to forbid her to do mortifications which were clearly too much for her powers. But her spirit of sacrifice found a way to immolate even her tastes on this point. She was the author of these good resolutions:

Spirit of sacrifice: For my sins and those of the world, I shall continue the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The convent is like a funeral vault. Each cell is a tomb in which the religious offers herself to her heavenly Spouse like a living victim, and this offering is her joy and happiness. Each tear that drops at the foot of the cross, and every sigh that comes from her heart are counted. Every victory that we win over our passions and inclinations, all the daily pains that are found in religious life, and which we offer up to Our Lord, are so many new and magnificent pearls that will adorn our crowns in our heavenly abode.”

Such were her sentiments and her acts.

During her last illness, she received various candies and select delicacies from both the royal Hohenzollern family and some of the benefactors of the convent that were intended to fortify her. But she hardly touched them or not at all and preferred the community diet. She sometimes said in jest: “My stomach has become too rustic. I can no longer accept fine food.”

III. The virtues of the cloister. – Death in the cloister.


In consecrating herself entirely to God, Sister Marie-Rosalie intended to imitate Jesus Christ, her divine Redeemer, by the resolute offering of herself and the practice of the religious virtues. She also wished to draw from the Heart of her Saviour the graces necessary for this great enterprise, and she wrote these touching words at the head of her resolutions: “Resolutions taken at the feet of my crucified Saviour, in whose Heart I place them so that it may pour down upon me the grace and the courage necessary to observe them.” We have already quoted some of these resolutions, and now we quote the last one, so worthy of her devotion to the Blessed Virgin: “Mary is, after Jesus, my All and my Hope.”

Unreserved meditation on the truths of the faith was the basis of her interior life, and among these truths, the life of Our Lord was for her the object of a special and constant study. She did not limit herself to meditation, but she also loved to discuss, especially during her recreations, this subject so dear to her heart, and speak to her divine Master. She would say, quite rightly, that she often derived as much fruit from such discussions as from meditation itself. If she was tormented by interior pains, she would go into the chapel to open up her heart before the Blessed Sacrament, or else she would take the crucifix into her cell and speak to Jesus Christ her Saviour as if He was visibly present.

Meditation on the goodness of God towards her was familiar to her. Amongst the other benefits, she regarded her religious vocation as an evident proof of the divine mercy shown to her, and once she had been consecrated to Jesus Christ by the holy vows of religion, she hoped fervently that her divine Spouse would finish the work He had begun in her. A remarkable thing! She never had any temptation against her perseverance. One day (it was during her last illness) someone told her that a Father had remarked in a spiritual conference that in general no one was exempt from temptations against their vocation. “In that case”, she replied, “these temptations should hasten to come to me, otherwise, I shall die without having experienced them.”

She had a special talent for encouraging her Sisters, when she saw one of them sad or despondent. When anyone spoke with her about the account that we must render for God’s gifts and graces, she manifested her unwavering confidence and said, with a profound sentiment of conviction: “I cannot be persuaded that the good God would be so severe.” She spoke endlessly to her divine Spouse with the tone of the greatest familiarity. The beauties of nature revealed Him again to her heart. “O heaven, beautiful heaven!” she would often cry out when contemplating the magnificence of creation.

This marvellous confidence was founded upon a holy hatred of herself and an ardent love for God. She often recited this beautiful prayer:

“Myself, a poor and miserable nothing, I declare in the presence of my God that I wish to submit and sacrifice myself so as to do in everything His holy will, and seek nothing else, in all my actions, than His glory and His love. I vow and devote to Him all my being and all the moments of my life. Forever I shall belong to my beloved Jesus. I am His servant, His slave and His creature. Because He is everything to me, I am His unworthy bride, Sister Marie-Rosalie, dead to the world. Everything in God and nothing in me! Everything for God and nothing for me! A single heart, a single love, a single God!”

Inspired by such sentiments of love towards her Saviour, the pious Sister necessarily made rapid progress in perfection. There were many witnesses to the violence she did to herself to be rid of her imperfections, and to exercise herself continually in the so-called little virtues, which would certainly have cost her much effort.

For a person who had lived in high society, the virtue of poverty must have been more difficult for her to practise than the others. However, Sister Marie-Rosalie had so much love for it that she always sought out in preference what was the most poor. At table (and the Sisters noticed this) she would choose the morsels left over from the preceding meal, and the least appetising. In her last illness, when she was convinced that there was no longer any hope of a cure, she said: “Don’t let the doctor come again. This good man is in a dilemma because of me, because he can no longer cure me, and I too am also in a dilemma because of him.” But this was no more than a pretext not to cause expense to the house. In her last letter to the Princess of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, she said amongst other things that she considered herself happy to be able to sleep and die upon straw. In fact she had been insistently begging the Superior not to oblige her to make use of a mattress.

Her obedience to her Superiors was perfect, and she found this virtue easier to practise in the convent that at Court. She observed the Rules of the Institute with the greatest exactitude, especially in what concerned the common exercises. In her illnesses, she suffered more from not being able to keep up with the community than from her bodily pains.

As for the duty of fraternal charity, the Servant of God fulfilled it with a very special fervour. Her happy character, said Father Van Krugten, lent itself admirably to the common and social life. Considerate, helpful, and full of friendliness, she seemed but to live for others, and considered herself happy when she could do them good. She was one of those souls who knew how to subjugate hearts with an irresistible power and sacrifice herself for others. She loved all her fellow Sisters with the fullness of her heart, and in return she was loved by all. When she had some task to fulfil among the converse Sisters, she experienced a true pleasure in seeing them happy and content and she had for them all the charity of a mother for her children. When she was still in the world, she found herself frequently in contact with Protestants. She even had contacts with personages of so-called reformed religion, but these were relationships of pure civility and which did not cause any peril to her faith. The error and blindness in which these unfortunates found themselves afflicted her profoundly, so she did not cease to offer God her prayers and penance for their conversion.

A heroic patience crowned all these virtues. During the year 1860, following a cold snap, Sister Marie-Rosalie developed a violent cough that did not leave her. She was diagnosed with bronchitis. During the summer of 1862, the cough redoubled in intensity, especially at night. In October she also developed an internal inflammation which became incurable because the invalid’s body was unceasingly agitated by the violence of her cough. This complication caused her great pain, and the Servant of God understood that she did not have long to live. She asked the doctor if she was in danger of death, and when he in his turn, asked her if she desired to go to heaven, she replied: “Oh yes, and also to Purgatory, if this is the will of God.” When the doctor warned her that the end of her life was not far away, she expressed her gratitude for his care and trouble to him in such moving terms that the good doctor was astonished and extremely edified. Then she told her parents and the royal family of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen about her illness.

Her last farewells to her Sisters were imbued with the most lively faith. She told them how happy she was to die in religion, and warmly thanked each one of them for all the good that she had received from them. The thought of death did not terrify her at all. She discussed it with the Sisters in the calmest tone, and spoke of her funeral as if she was talking about someone else. During her long hours of suffering, her soul was lifted up to heaven and drew power and courage from it. One day, an infirmarian wished to close the window so that the invalid would not be inconvenienced by too much rough weather. Sister Marie-Rosalie told her quietly: “Oh, let me go on seeing beautiful heaven!”

On 9th January 1863, Extreme Unction was administered to her. She received it with great fervour. In the midst of her sorrows, she looked at the image of Jesus crucified and the Mother of Sorrows, and drew a sweet consolation from them. She also had a great devotion to Saint Joseph, and wanted to die on 19th March, the day of his feast. The Saviour, however, disposed otherwise. On the third Sunday after Easter, 26th April, the feast of the Patronage of Saint Joseph, at the request of the invalid, a little altar was put in her cell in honour of this great Saint. Her pains soon increased in a frightening manner. On Wednesday morning, they asked her if she wished to receive communion, and she made an affirmative sign in reply. After a few minutes of waiting, she then received holy communion and made a sign that she had been able to consume the sacred Host. Her hands crossed over her breast seemed to press her beloved Saviour against her heart one last time. Soon she entered into agony, and while the confessor and the Sisters were reciting the prayers of the agonising, Sister Marie-Rosalie peacefully rendered her soul up to God. This was on Thursday, 30th April 1863, on the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena.

Thus died this faithful servant of God, after having exchanged the splendours of the world for the obscurity of the cloister. Her religious life had been a short one, but marked by heroic virtues. Everyone’s hearts were united in praising her holy works and in proclaiming as blessed she who, in the example of Saint Agnes, had seen, loved and cherished with all her heart Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, the Saviour of mankind..

Footnotes

[1] Rev. Father Van Krugten, Redemptorist.
[2] Following her change of regime, and especially because of the summer heat, Sister Marie-Rosalie was indisposed for some time. Also, her Superiors took it upon themselves to moderate her desires for mortification and her aversion to exceptions. It was for this reason that Princess-mother Josephine urged her by letter to look after her health. Queen Stephanie was informed of it, and from this comes the allusion to her momentary despondency.

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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