Sunday, 10 July 2011

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

Chapter VII.
Mother Mary-Aloyse encourages a Vocation.

Mother Mary-Aloyse, in the important responsibilities which she exercised, acquired some most useful experience. She made use of it to give the most wise counsels, on occasions, to people of the world. In 1872, one of her nieces, Miss Mathilda Fabri, announced a great news to her. She felt herself called to the religious life and burned to join her pious aunt in the cloister. But her father claimed custody over her youth, and her brothers also had need of her care, so how could she get out of such pressing duties! So from then on, how could she maintain the sacred fire in a life spent in the midst of the world? Mother Mary-Aloyse went to her aid with all her power. Her letters to her niece allow us to reveal her in another light. To the advice which she gave her to show her family the most tender attachment, she joined the advice of a superior prudence, so necessary to safeguard a vocation.

What could be more judicious than her first recommendations? “The more I have prayed,” she writes, “the more it seems to me that God primarily wants you to apply yourself to your interior life, to this union of heart and will with Jesus Christ, who ever holds you in a peaceful and loving dependency. A ruling is no doubt necessary, but the main point must always be one of preferring the will of God to your own exercises, and to sacrifice them generously when He asks you to. I cannot praise you too much for your desire to conform yourself exteriorly to others, and to supplement in your heart and your will for what you cannot do.”

Making an appeal to her own memories, she forewarned her niece against a danger.
“Although I would not wish to advise you to miss out on your sleep, on the contrary, I find that you often sleep too little. Believe me in my experience. I made the same error in the world, and I have had time to repent of it.” Then she laid out for her a little rule of life.

“I would be much happier,” she added, “dear Mathilda, to see you communicate more often, if your confessor will allow it, and if you can do it without anyone finding fault with it. Here, the educands communicate three time a week, the novices four times, without counting the Feasts, and the professed, six times. Try to be at least a novice. I am sure that at Enailles you will have the same sacrifices to make as I had at Sény, because we do not like to be displayed before all the world. So make many, many spiritual communions.” She finishes by telling her about some of Saint Alphonsus’ works.

“I advise you to procure the little treatise Of Mental Prayer and Retreats, and Of the Manner of Conversing Continually with God, by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori. For your meditations, I believe that you will find it very useful to make use of Reflections and Affections on the Passion and Meditations for the Feasts. All these works are by Saint Alphonsus and printed by Casterman (translated by Father Dujardin). These are some little works which will greatly aid you in meditating with confidence, and which are very consoling.” [18]

In another letter, Mother Mary Aloyse initiates her niece into certain practices of religious life, but adapted to her present condition:
“Since you are so fond of doing what we do, dear sister, it is also appropriate for you to have a Patron saint, a practice and a special prayer for the year - we receive it on New Year’s Day. - Your Patron will be Saint Alphonsus, your practice, patience: patience with yourself when you do not make enough progress; patience with others, for even when we live with the angels, we still need patience. And your prayer will be to ask God often for peace, charity and the accomplishment of the duties of religion to always be a distinctive mark of your family. And for this you will say a “Hail Mary” every day.

She again recommended devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. “Try to love Our Lord more in the Blessed Sacrament, and when you are at home, turn from time to time towards the church to greet Him and adore Him and often make spiritual communions. This will do you so much good, especially in moments of pain, when you feel the need to love or be loved! So continue to turn towards the only adorable and desirable good.

“Well, courage, my good child. Jesus loves you very much, you can be sure. Place a high value on the happiness of being the bride of Jesus Christ. Continue to sacrifice yourself in taking care of your father and brothers. For the moment this is certainly the will of God. Make every effort to maintain charity in the family, and Jesus will bless you and love you.” [19]

“Reading your letters, I feel that your are tormenting yourself too much for your faults. Of course we should not love them, but we must live with ourselves and think that our ugliness, borne humbly and in confidence, will not make us disagreeable to our good God, who is so good. As Saint Francis de Sales said, “we must love abjection in order to correct imperfection.”

“I shall place you especially in the Heart of Jesus at seven o’clock in the morning, which is the hour of our holy communion and the Mass, and I shall pray to the Holy Virgin to always be your good Mother.” [20]

The following letter is no less instructive:
“I have prayed so much for you during Christmas night: I asked during the midnight Mass for the Child Jesus to soon open the door of His dear Bethlehem to you, so that we can dwell in it with Him.

“While we are waiting for this wonderful day, dear child, try to become more and more a fervent lover of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. This above all is the mark of a Redemptoristine. Do not be content with an ordinary faith, confidence and love, but instead you must establish between yourself and Jesus in the Tabernacle a current of holy affections going from His Heart to your own and from your heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. - We learn so many things at the foot of the Tabernacle! There is everything in a consecrated host, so may it be all your treasure, dear Mathilda, your book, your consoler, your confident and your everything. This is one of my most sincere wishes for my good child, whom I desire so much to see all red. Let us hope for it and ask it from the Child Jesus.”

We shall never grow tired of listening to this pious aunt. Here is her judicious advice. “I have to smile, my good little sister, reading these words in your letter: “Everything is going well, but I am so changeable!” Do not forget that your emotions are always changeable. You know that chapter of the Imitation where it is said that we are sometimes sad and sometimes joyful. And we shall be the same until we arrive there, where nothing ever changes. - So this is not a fault, but a misery of our poor nature, which we have to bear with patience. We will never lack crosses or sufferings for as long as we love our good Saviour. He made His daily bread from them, and this must be ours as well.

And she adds, “Try to spend Advent well. It is a time of joy and a time of wishes. The Office is so beautiful! It is a continual sigh calling out to Jesus Christ. If you do not have the Divine Office in French and Latin, I advise you to procure one as complete as possible, and to make use of it sometimes for your meditations. The Advent anthems and the Masses are all so beautiful, and they put us so much into the spirit of the Holy Church! And there is also another advantage, which is that since the Office is drawn almost entirely from Holy Scripture, we are meditating on the words of the Holy Spirit, which always have a particular grace. However, I ask you not to do this without the permission of the Father, who knows you better than I do.”

The letter finishes with come wise recommendations:
“And also try, my good Mathilda, not to go so much against your father. It is better to sacrifice a half-hour of prayers on your knees and pray some other way than to bring down upon yourself some orders or restrictions that you find hard to bear. I have been through that and I know what it means. Once it went as far as wanting to forbid me to confess to the Priest, but I became angry, I wept, I made an uproar so much that they had to leave me alone. It is also true that I made them a terrible threat: If you force me to this, then I will leave even sooner. Then they gave up. But you cannot, must not threaten this. The hour has not come, you can be sure. So be prudent, and see the will of God in the sacrifices He is asking of you.”

In another letter, this good Mother speaks at length on her concern to make family life seem pleasant. Could there ever be anything more judicious, more just, or more like Saint Francis de Sales, if we may so put it, than the following lines?

“You can be sure, my dear child, that our good Saviour will hold you to account for all that you do for Him in sacrificing yourself for the souls of your father and brothers. So try, my good friend, to treat them with the greatest love, and give them a little family pleasure by your well-chosen company, and when there are such gatherings, believe me, do not walk out of them again as you have done. I am sure that your father would have been most upset, and although he may not have said anything to you, he would have spoken about it to others. I heard something about it in Summer through aunt Mathilda, who spoke up for you, however. She also told me that you do not need to go to excess. I have told you this often - be prudent and learn how to make a sacrifice so you do not bring down upon yourself a positive ban on following your exercises. They complain that you are neglecting the housework, that your brothers are always having to rely continually on the servants, since you are never there, that your father is sad and worrying, etc., etc. I know, and I understand that it is very difficult to satisfy everyone, but, my good friend, have you not thought that you will have less graces in praying a little more in your own room and in cutting back somewhat on the time you give to the church, since this is the main complaint?”

She then describes a little rule to her and adds, “So do you not realise that in the convent you will also have to make some of these sacrifices? You often have to learn how to leave God for God, and do His will by leaving the choir when you would be so happy to stay there. So, my dear friend, courage. Fulfil your mission with generosity.”

However, her dear niece went to Lourdes to recommend her vocation to the Immaculate Virgin. “Ah!” she wrote to her from Bruges, “so my little sister is emancipating herself, but in a good manner. I am very happy for you. There you are at the source of graces, so place yourself firmly in the heart of this good Mother. I shall recommend your great desire together with you.”

However, the blessed hour is approaching. We are in July 1878, and in three months the young lady who so generously sacrificed herself for her family, is now about to take flight for the cloister. Her good aunt wants to help her make the right sacrifice now of those to whom up till now she was so devoted to:

“Do not doubt,” she writes to her, “that Jesus and Mary are themselves taking care of those whom you are leaving for their love. The more your sacrifice is generous and full of love, the more abundantly their graces will fall upon your family. So give Jesus and Mary whatever it costs you, often and in advance. After holy communion, offer Our Lord everything you love, Léon, Joseph, Sidonie and all the others, by saying, “My Jesus, I give them to you. Help me to make my sacrifice well so that it will be most agreeable to you. I give you all of them. Make me love you more now that I am leaving them for You. Implore Jesus and Mary for the sentiments that inspired them at Calvary, when you say farewell. Offer this for the soul of your dear Father, [21] and you will see that Our Lord will help you. Tell Him truly that you wish to be a faithful and generous spouse. Then, have confidence. It will cost you, for it will not mean much without it. And soon you will be back at Enailles. You will no longer have the Father [22] to strengthen you, but keep up your prayers. I will send you a copy there of a letter that Mons Dechamps wrote me when I was at Sény. It will please you and do you good.”

From this point on, the correspondence ceases, as the young lady said a last good-bye to the world. She entered the Redemptoristine convent at Bruges.

[18] April 1872.
[19] January 1873.
[20] December 1873.
[21] Mr. Victor Fabri, who died in the month of June.
[22] Father Fiévez.

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, 8 July 2011

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

Chapter VI.
The Apostolate of a Redemptoristine.

Perhaps readers would like to rest for a while from the long journey they have just made through the noviciate. Mother Mary-Aloyse is about to appear to us in the guise of a very peaceful and very fruitful apostolate. We would like to speak about her apostolate of prayer.

Father Dechamps wrote some very interesting letters to her on this subject.

Saint Joseph (Brussels), vigil of Saint Nicholas.
“5th December 1853.
“My dear daughter in Jesus-Christ,
­“I have not yet told you how happy I was to receive your letters, which have followed me around. It was only upon my return to Rome that a big bundle of them overwhelmed me. I am leaving tomorrow for Coblenz, where I shall leave them in the certainty of never being able to take them up again. But we must pray for other points which will be dealt with at Coblenz. Do not see egoism in this! This Father scarcely ever writes, and when he does write three lines, it is to ask you for prayers! Yes, but not for him alone. So, my dear daughter, truly pray and ask for prayers, please.

“I have just learnt that the Reverend Mother has been, and perhaps still is, suffering greatly. So tell her that she has my memento and memorare, and as her great family is praying for her, everything will end well.
“Your busy Father,
“V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

From Villa Caserta (Rome) where this Father went during the month of April for the Chapter General, and which he was about to leave, he wrote these few lines to Mother Mary-Aloyse, whose mother had just died:

“Yes, my daughter, I have learnt your sad news. She has arrived and is rejoicing more than ever in your vocation. If she has need of it, you will open the door of heaven sooner to her. I join myself to your prayers.

“If the Reverend Mother has no time to do it, I turn to you to pass on to Brussels my news and my requests. So goodbye and say many prayers to the Holy Family, the Archangel Raphael and our good Angels for our journey.
“Your devoted servant in Jesus Christ,
“V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

The Redemptoristines of Bruges sometimes asked to hear Father Dechamps. His sweet and powerful eloquence was well known to them. But how could he promise anything in the midst of work-load he spoke about!

Tournai, 6th November 1855.
“My dearest daughter,
“It is truly impossible for me to be able to promise anything. I hope to be free for the 22nd, the day of the great Saint Cecile. If I am free, I will come.

“I cannot say any more, because of an extraordinary complication of labours of all sorts. Your Father has become a missionary once more, without ceasing to be a Rector and man of the Court. [15] This has produced a singular mixture. If you do not pray very greatly and very constantly for him, he risks it all getting too much for him.

“I shall see you soon, I hope. Persevere in saying some good prayers to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, both you and all of you and the Reverend Mother, for
“Your most devoted Father in Jesus Christ,
“V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

The following letter testifies also to the need for prayers, which this apostolic man felt so keenly.

Brussels, Feast of Saint Joseph, 1856.
“My dear daughter in Jesus Christ,
“You have said that your old Father has become deaf, and this is why he is dumb. Not so. It is because no matter how old he is, he must run ever faster. He has just come back from one of his journeys. Will he ever get to Bruges without a miracle? It is because he has been entrusted with watering a dry and sandy soil, and as for Bruges, they are evergreen pastures, because it is Jesus Himself who waters them. You say that I am taking refuge in rhetoric to escape the difficulty. No, I am speaking the truth. But I pray to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Alphonsus to always make the dew of heaven fall ever more abundantly upon you all.

“When will I ever see my children at Bruges? The essential thing is to meet again in heaven. Remember always that those who battle on the plain are more exposed than those who pray in the sanctuary, and be always the good sister and good child of
“Your devoted old Father,
“V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

Always with the aim of obtaining prayers, the eloquent preacher, the illustrious author, kept his spiritual daughter up-to-date with his publications and struggles.

Saint Joseph (Brussels), 2nd January 1857.
“I am very happy that you are all thinking, you, the Reverend Mother, and all of you, of recommending me to the all-powerful little Lamb of God. Please continue to do it, and tell Him to grant each one of us what Mary is asking Him for us this year, and also whatever else He is pleased to give us.

“So you still have some family crosses! I am sure you will already have told them that it is a grace to die young, and it is a great grace most often.

“I have as my virtue of the year “Devotion to the Incarnation and Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ”, and I have now been given almost as penance, the task of writing a book which will deal with these great subjects. So now may I ask you for prayers for this and for another commissioned popular work which will bring within common reach the truths most often attacked today.

“Alas, I have even less free time, and I must work, I’m afraid, like a soldier who is smiting hip and thigh. So pray much and constantly for my poor spirit, my poor soul and my poor head. Yes, I am counting on you.

“I have Saint Francis Xavier for my Patron. He is an apostolic soldier, but if only I had a grain of his courage and confidence and love of the Cross!”

Here is yet another apostolic letter:

Wednesday of Easter 1857.
“My dear daughter and sister in J. M. J. A.,
“A Happy Easter too, a happy Resurrection. That of the soul is the unfailing seed of that of the body.

“Yes, you are right. I have a great war and enough painful combats to wage against the devil and his angels. [16] I have never more greatly felt the need of being helped by our Moses. I finished Lent with a migraine on Easter Day. And because I preached on humility, courage and patience, our good God would have said, “Look at our speaker at work.”

“You will never really know how much you have consoled me by telling me that you are all praying for me. I would most urgently ask you to be kind enough to continue on. As for communion, I believe that if you want to make it with great fervour, you must remain united to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was an act of this Heart (Bossuet says) which gave Jesus Christ to the world, the Fiat of the Incarnation, and it is also this Heart which gives us to Jesus Christ and teaches us to love Him. Let us hide within Mary’s heart, so that She may hide us in the Heart of Jesus.

“I believe, like the apostles after their conversion, in the good news of women who have followed and still follow Jesus Christ. So let us not suspect lack of belief. I trust in your promises.

“My regards and blessings to everyone, especially the Reverend Mother.
“Your most devoted servant in J. M. J. A.,
“V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

Let us finish with this letter, where the heart and spirit of Father Dechamps are revealed in such a touching manner:

21st December 1857.
“You know that there are two sorts of sermons. Those which Jesus Christ brings about, and those which He makes Himself in silence and prayer. It is there that He tells you what to do or not do to obtain more love for the Lamb of the Manger, the Cross or the Tabernacle. Look at Him through these three veils, and you will see His light shine through as much as it can and wishes to shine in this world. 'Happy are those who thirst, for..., etc.' If you obtain this thirst for me, I will willingly wait until I get to heaven for what will quench it perfectly.

“So Brother Gerard is doing things in Bruges. This is all good news.. It reminds me of the times when I wrote smaller books which perhaps were not worth much, given this. Since Brother Gerard loves you all so much, perhaps you will all pray to him for his old Father in Liège. Tell him that I have contributed to making him known a little, and he should remember this when we remember him in heaven. [17]

“Thank you for your good wishes. May our little Jesus reward you. I count on your fidelity to your good promises.
“Your old Father in Liège.”

These continual requests for prayers attest, we think, to the apostolic zeal of the Redemptoristines at Bruges and to Mother Mary-Aloyse in particular. And so the brilliant and hard-working career of him who was one day to become Cardinal Dechamps was sustained and brought to fruition by the prayers of the cloister.


[15] Father Dechamps was then the preacher at Court to the King of the Belgians.
[16] Perhaps he is referring to the polemics aroused by the booklet: “The Murmur of the Parlours”, provoked by the courageous preaching of Father Dechamps.
[17] Father Dechamps in fact wrote a learned preface to the French edition of the Life of the Ven. Brother Gerard Majella by Father Tannoia. - Tournai, Casterman. St. Gerard was canonised on 11th December 1904.

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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