Sunday, 5 June 2011

Mother Mary-Aloyse of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, O.SS.R. Superior of the Monastery of Bruges [2] (Brugge) 1822-1889

Chapter IV.
The Different Responsibilities Exercised by Sister Mary-Aloyse.
A spiritual director and the work of a soul.

Contemplative Orders are not Orders of dreamers, and those who would discredit them would be most astonished to see them doing different tasks and fulfilling different responsibilities that require great activity. A community of forty nuns requires to be well directed spiritually, and well regulated temporally. Both souls and bodies have their own needs, for which due provision must be made. Mother Superior, Mother Vicar, Mistress of Educands, Mistress of Novices, Sister Housekeeper, Sister Admonisher, Sister Dressmaker, Sister Sacristan, and many others. Oh, how many degrees there are in the peaceful hierarchy that we call the organisation of a convent!

Sister Mary-Aloyse very early drew the attention of her Superiors. Her talents, her virtues and her aptitudes promptly signalled her as capable of fulfilling the most difficult tasks.

She began with the modest task of sacristan. Father Paul Reyners, her director, would have liked her to join the Council as soon as she left the Noviciate. But the Rule opposed this, and the good Sister, when she discovered this, declared besides that she thought this was all a joke. Because she was capable in whatever she did, she taught the various tasks to the young Sisters. She had learned to paint. She made use of her talents to paint pious images. She made lace for the sacristy. She made reliquaries. This last work was so dear to her that she reserved it to herself, even when she became the Superior, and only her last illness was able to make her abandon it.

In 1853, she was entrusted with the important task of Mistress of Novices, which she exercised for the space of seventeen years. We shall speak of it later. To this task, in 1858, she added that of Mother Vicar, and from then on she became, we may say, the right arm of her worthy Superior, Mother Mary-Philomena, who for a long time had appreciated her virtues. She soon realised the wisdom of her advice, and never wished to make any important decision without consulting her. At the time of the foundation of Louvain, Sister Mary-Aloyse gave her already-suffering Superior the most devoted support, accompanying her on all her journeys, taking all the steps necessary to assure the foundation, and organising everything. Once all the preparations were complete, she left Bruges with the first Sisters, only returning when the ceremony of erecting the enclosure had brought the matter to its end. She still continued to give assistance from afar by her letters to the members of the new foundation. She also accompanied Mother Mary-Philomena on her last journey to Velp (1858). In a word, until the very day (12th January 1879) when she was elected as the Superior of Bruges, Sister Mary-Aloyse never ceased to render the greatest services in all the tasks that were entrusted to her. In these tasks, most exceptionally, she always performed in a manner pleasing to God and satisfactory to everyone involved.

This is perhaps the place to dispel certain misunderstandings on the subject of the spiritual direction of a soul, in placing before the eyes of our readers some letters addressed to Sister Mary-Aloyse by Father Theodore Kockerols, Redemptorist. We will see that this good Father’s direction contained nothing original or ambitious. It was as clear as light, as simple as a fine day, and it spoke at one and the same time to the soul of this good Sister and the soul of her director. We will give these letters regardless of dates, because they are unknown to us, including the year.

Antwerp, 25th....
“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
“Our Lady will give you better counsel than I can give you, but since it has been such a long time since I last talked to you, I think that you will hear me all the more willingly. Besides, if my advice does not agree with that of Our Lady, reject it out-of-hand (mine, of course, as you are simple enough not to understand me). Arm yourself with a holy anger against your own self, and be admirably sweet towards everyone. Be deaf to the voice of your own nature, and lend an attentive ear to every word that Our Lord will speak inside you.

“Be blind to the imperfections of the Sisters who are not entrusted to your care, and have eagle eyes to discover your own shortcomings. Do not listen to the devil, who will discourage you, but to the Lord who inspires confidence. Have more fear of the shadow of a voluntary fault than thousands of temptations, whatever they are.

“Above all else, love prayer, knowing that it is the beginning, the middle and the end of the spiritual life, for it is prayer which purifies the soul of its miseries, which gives it the strength to practise virtue, which detaches it from creatures and brings it to joy in the Lord.

“I wish you even greater graces, and tomorrow I shall pray for you to receive them to your heart’s desires.

“Wishing you everything in Jesus Christ,
“Theodore Kockerols.”

“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
“I recommend to you 1) your own conversion, 2) the conversion of the Reverend Mother, 1 and 3) my own conversion. Three great works of mercy.

“Take care to look into every corner, not of the Reverend Mother’s conscience, nor of my own, but of your own, - and be without mercy for the bears, the leopards and the bad subjects that you will find there. May our good Jesus expel them, striking them with His whip, and may He place a cherubim with a flaming sword at the entry, to prevent them from ever returning.

“Milk and honey run from the rocks,” it says in the Holy Scriptures. - When this becomes true for you, then my poor soul will leap for joy. But for as long as it does not please the Lord for this to be so, I will say with all the power of my soul: Patience, my daughter, patience! Jesus is so adorable and so good that if we have the happiness to find Him and contemplate Him for a single second after a hundred thousand years of seeking Him, then we ought to consider ourselves happy, ineffably happy. Jesus, good Jesus, show us just a little glimpse of Your beauty, and we shall be so faithful to You!

“Pray for the poor soul of him who wishes you to be entirely for Jesus Christ through His holy Mother.”

Here now are the thoughts inspired in Father Theodore by the Feast of St. Luis de Gonzaga, Sister Mary-Aloyse’s patron saint.

Brussels, 20th June.
“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
“If St. Luis de Gonzaga will obtain for you tomorrow the grace which I will be asking for you, then you will have good reason to be happy, like a bird in Paradise. And this grace? I shall have trouble in expressing myself so that you can understand me properly. In any case, it is not deliverance from either your bodily or spiritual miseries, - certainly not that! After some days of thinking particularly about you, I came to feel that misery is your fate, your second nature. So I do not wish for your misery to be taken away from you. God wants it, so take note. But I would dearly wish for you to be as docile as a child in God’s hands - and may you let yourself be annihilated when He intends it and as He intends it. Oh, how much I would like to see you unflinching under God’s hand, even when His hand is armed with the sharp sword of sorrows and humiliation! How much I would like to see you reduced to an atom of dust, but crying out forever and always in a loud voice, “Thank you, my God, thank you! I shall love You increasingly, the more You make me suffer more and more.”

“I can see that I am a little bit cruel in my wishes. I shall stop here, for I am almost at the point of wishing you to be nothing, and more than nothing in the superlative. But truly, you may believe me, I also wish very ardently for you to be great, very great, because you are totally in God.

“In your misery, pray for my misery.
“A happy Feast, Sister Mary-Aloyse, from your Father in Jesus Christ.”

The following letter is neither less well thought out or less well written than the preceding ones. It also reveals the good Sister’s tendency to worry too much in her desire for perfection and the religious virtues.

“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
I thank you for the goodness you have shown me in giving me the news about the Reverend Mother’s health. For the love of our little Jesus, do not let her depart, even though she wants it so much.

“In your letter you ask me when your heart will change. Truly, I thought you had more spirit. But it is changing every day, because every day it is becoming more unendurable to you. Is it not a sign that we are advancing in perfection, when we detest our imperfections and sigh for the moment when there are no more in our souls? In your opinion, apparently, this moment is too long in coming. But the Lord, who knows you better than you know yourself, knows very well that you would send yourself to your destruction if He let this long-desired moment come too soon. You sigh after humility, and I know that your sighs are sincere. So have patience, and let the Lord be responsible for teaching you humility. If He does not do so, what will happen? We often laugh about the little humiliations in the cloister - at the very least they just scratch the skin. But God’s sting us deeply and hurt greatly. I shall pray that this operation will not be too long, and that you will be able to endure it in all patience.”

“Your servant in Jesus Christ.”

A last missive from the good Father Theodore will worthily crown these admirable letters. Of all of them, this is perhaps the most instructive.

Brussels, 30th May 1862.
“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
“In the name of the Reverend Mother, you ask for a death-blow to the activity of your own nature, and certainly, if it depended on me, I would not fail to give it to you. But, but, it is difficult enough to kill an eel by hitting it with a stick. And it is even more difficult to calm down with a whip a heart that is too ardent and in too much of a hurry. Because He wishes to preserve us from every fault and every imperfection, Our Lord Jesus Christ has said, Vigilate - “Be watchful!” ... This advice is perfect for protecting ourselves against all sorts of temptations and weaknesses. But according to the opinion of all the Saints, it is the only indispensable and efficacious advice against the rushing of the heart. At every instant of the day, in a large community, - and a fortiori - “even more strongly”, in the pleasant task of Mistress of Novices, our hearts are exposed to a thousand little enthusiasms, a thousand and one agitations which often reach us this way , especially when we wish to raise everything to the peak of perfection in everything that surrounds us. So she who does not exercise a continual vigilance against all the movements of her heart, to repress them as soon as they depart from the strict rules of meekness and charity, will be like a reed exposed to all the winds, and who is never for a single instant in a perfect calm. Vigilance, - see the whip here. - And the less elegant stick? A generous violence and continual efforts, without listening to the demands of our own self-esteem.

“I perceive that I am dealing with this matter almost seriously, like a doctor. Forgive me and do what I tell you, and you will be a living reliquary You need a great mirror, but I am sure that the Reverend Mother will be happy to buy one for you.

“As for the other miseries that you tell me are so horrible, I am sorry for you, I could almost say that I have pity for you, but I will not say even one “Hail Mary” to deliver you from them. I have the deep conviction that this is a work of God whose final aim is to purify your heart, to make you capable of a closer union with Him. What a strange manner, you tell me, to purify a heart! - In fact it is strange, but you can be sure that it is a good one, because God is using it - God, who is so jealous of the purity of heart of His Spouses. Patience, - that is the whip. - Abandon yourself without a whimper to the will of God, for this is the stick which will knock out your self-esteem, which does not know how to resign itself to this apparent ugliness.

“Now you know what you must do to attract the Holy Spirit and the fullness of His gifts into your heart. So banish every trouble and agitation, and you will feel His presence in the midst of this perfect silencing of your passions. Abandon yourself to the divine will, and thank this divine will for all the distressing things which have happened to you. The fire which seems to come out from all this apparent unpleasantness will purify you. What more is needed to make your heart pure and of good will, and fit to enter into God?

“Pray for the poor soul of your servant in Jesus Christ.”

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

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP