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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