Sunday, 30 December 2012

Mother Marie-Cherubine, O.SS.R. Foundress of the Monastery of Velp (1812 – 1887)

Foundress of the Convent of the Redemptoristines of Velp, near Grave, founded in 1858

Chapter VI. The zealous Superior.

Sister Marie-Cherubine, in view of the little esteem she had of her own person, had in no way dreamed of becoming the Superior of the new foundation, but it was soon evident that the choice was a most happy one.

The reader will remember that, at the time of her profession, Sister Marie-Cherubine had received this addition to her name: “of the Holy Spirit”. More than ever now she had need of the lights of the Holy Spirit, so more than ever she addressed herself to this divine consoler to implore His help, and she unceasingly had recourse to this “Father of the poor, distributor of the heavenly gifts.” This is what she said one day in a meeting she had with one of her daughters. “We must often invoke the Holy Spirit with confidence,” she said, “and thus we shall always obtain light and strength in one manner or another.” Full of confidence in this powerful protector, Mother Marie-Cherubine had accepted the task that obedience had imposed on her. It was most especially during the beginning of her superiority that she had need of this confidence and this entire abandonment to the dispositions of the divine Providence, for, as in every new foundation, she often had to overcome great difficulties. “The poverty of the convent,” said one of the foundresses, “was, in the beginning, very pressing, and we lacked even the most necessary things, but Mother Marie Cherubine was always full of abandonment to the will of God. Calm and resigned, she sought her strength and consolation in prayer.”

She had the greatest zeal for the observance of the Rule, as far as it was then possible. She herself gave the example of it, and so all her daughters competed ardently in the accomplishment of their duties, inspired as they were even more by the good example of their Mother than by her words.

Early in the morning, when the community awoke, she was the first in the oratory, making the Way of the Cross, and during the day, one could be sure to find her in the chapel during her free moments. This spirit of prayer appeared most clearly in her zeal for the Divine Office. She would recite her breviary with great piety and great attention, she knew most of it by heart, and later on, when she had become almost blind, she could still lend her assistance when it was needed. During the novenas and octaves on the great feasts, she was completely plunged in the contemplation of the mysteries which were the objects of them. “Even the strongest of our Sisters,” one of her daughters avowed frankly, “could not pray in as continuous and devoted a manner as our Reverend Mother did.” The importance that she placed on prayer she showed one day on the occasion of her patronymic feast. She knew that the Sisters were preparing a surprise for her, and like a good Mother, she let them do it. “I will agree to everything, my children,” she told them, “provided that you do not neglect a single prayer because of it.”

Another proof that the spirit of prayer ruled in the little community of Velp is this passage from a letter from the Mother Superior of Bruges. “It is always with delight,” she said in it, “that I receive news of your house of Velp, as I believe, and I rejoice in it, that it is a sanctuary of piety, where you love and console our good Saviour.”

Mother Marie-Cherubine was also in the habit of conversing familiarly with God, and her heart was entirely consecrated to her Creator. One of her spiritual daughters, who had become the Superior of another community, one day received the following letter from her: “My dear and good Sister, so it has been given to me to engage a few moments with my best and former daughter, in whom I always take the most lively interest… I have not forgotten the beautiful and consoling feast of Pentecost that I spent with you. When praying for all of us, I also prayed for you, that the love of God may remain fixed in our hearts and that the divine Paraclete may be the only one to find entry into our souls, as He alone can lead us to Jesus, and make us know His love and the whole price of His grace. May He also make us always progress in love and piety towards the Blessed Sacrament, where He keeps and protects us here at Velp as much as at S. – A..!

“We know that it is Him alone who attracts us, and makes every sacrifice easy for us. May His Sacred Heart be the place of our reunion. Let us love one another mutually with a pure and sincere love, and let us help one another to live truly united in Him.

“What a joy it is for me to learn that M… is receiving good vocations! Generally speaking we can say that, in spite of the malice of the times, there are still many good souls. The good God is so merciful and so kind that the virtue and piety of a few souls make Him forget the wickedness of a thousand others. However, this does not exempt us from doing everything we possibly can to prevent evil. For you, as for us, I ask God for good and solid vocations. Last Saturday a good and talented young lady from Amsterdam made her entry here. She is 22. Thanks be to God, she has a good voice and a strong chest. I think she will be an excellent acquisition for us, as she seems disposed to everything…

“Here everything is going well. The garden looks very pretty. We have a good gardener. She knows neither pain nor weariness when it comes to procuring beautiful flowers for the Blessed Sacrament.

“I must leave you now, by good and dear Sister. The clock is calling us to Vespers. My sincerest greetings to all your good fellow Sisters.

“Ever in God, Jesus and Mary.
“I am in their love
“Your devoted Sister in Jesus Christ.
“Sister Marie-Cherubine of the Holy Spirit.”

Prayer ordinarily goes hand in hand with mortification, in such a way that it can be said: Those who pray well mortify themselves well. Mother Marie Cherubine was also a model on this point. Severe upon herself, she was not content with interior mortification, but also practised exterior or corporal mortification. She observed the feasts of the Church and those of the Rule with the greatest exactitude. Inspired by a great ardour for her own sanctification, she knew how to communicate this ardour to the hearts of her subordinates. She maintained the spirit of mutual charity which makes community life so agreeable. Like a true mother, she watched over the domestics of the house in order to ensure their well-being. Everyone who knew her and had any kind of dealings with her gave testimony of her that she was everything to everyone in order to gain them all for Jesus Christ. All the Sisters, without exception, felt happy under her wise and prudent direction, as she governed less by orders and constraints than by the heart. Always full of charity towards everyone, she knew, in the greatest adversities, how to preserve her natural good humour and remain always sweet and calm.

In the early days of the foundation, many things of prime necessity were lacking, and Mother Marie Cherubine could not always give her children the things they needed. Like a true mother, she wept more over them than over her own personal needs.

One day they found her weeping in the garden, weeping in secret before God because of the extreme necessity in which she found herself. Some of the Sister noticed her, and seeing that she was weeping, they asked her the cause of her sadness. “Oh!” she replied, “it is so painful for me not to be able to give my daughters what they need any more!”

Another time, they were woken up too early in the morning by the bell. Mother Marie Cherubine was the first to notice it, when she was already dressed. She immediately ran to all the Sisters to tell them that they still had one more hour of rest before them. As for herself, she went into the Oratory to spend that hour in prayer there,

She never departed from this manner of acting in all simplicity with her subordinates. It so happened, that through surprise or negligence, one or another piece of crockery was broken. The good Mother evidently did not give any evidence of satisfaction, which can be easily understood given the penury of the house. But then one day, Mother appeared in the kitchen, and in some sort of calamity she herself broke a brand new plate! The whole community was attracted by the noise and came running in all haste, excited by the novelty of the event, and realised with a scarcely restrained joy that it was Mother herself who had broken a plate! Then they all began laughing with all their hearts, and Mother herself was not the last one to do so.

It was always a sweet and agreeable task for her to spread her favours around her. But on the other hand, it cost her a great deal to have to be occupied by obligation with things disagreeable to corrupt nature, for example, having to hold a Chapter of faults. Then she had to do such violence to her good heart and her humility that the night beforehand she would not be able to sleep. The more she was convinced that no one had more need than her of being humbled, the more she regarded herself as the least and most imperfect of all the Sisters of the house!

She was a mother full of charity towards all without exception, and especially for the converse Sisters. She always had some very maternal things to say to them. And she could often be seen coming to their aid in their work, helping them to peel the potatoes, wash and prepare the vegetables, etc. “She considered herself as good for nothing.” This is the testimony given of her by a Sister who is still alive and has already been quoted in this notice.

This charity for her neighbour first of all embraced her spiritual daughters. But she also showed it in her conduct towards strangers who came to the house. She willingly entered into conversations with them, because she always had a few words of consolation to give them. However, she always regretted the time that she had to spend in the parlour.

Her pleasant and considerate manner of acting often helped her to gain the hearts of her postulants, and encouraged their parents to willingly make the sacrifice of a child, who, they said, would find such a good Mother in the convent. And when the postulants had decided to enter, she knew how to encourage them and strengthen them in their resolve in such a winning manner that they willingly made every sacrifice to hasten their arrival in the monastery. One day she wrote to a postulant: “Hasten to come to the abode of peace. You no longer have anything to do with the world. Jesus Christ is calling you.”

So it is in no way astonishing that so good and charitable a Mother was loved and venerated by her daughters, or that they lived happy and in peace under her gentle authority, and that the number of vocations gradually increased. And the buildings also had to be extended and various other changes made.

Let us not think, however, that there was any lack of crosses, or that everything prospered in the community. We shall soon see that God wished once again to open the royal road of suffering to Mother Marie Cherubine, and that she was thus to prepare her heavenly crown, as it is by all sorts of tribulations that we must enter into the Kingdom of God.

The means which God wished to make use of to test and purify His faithful servant was an eye infection that He sent her in 1865.

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 December 2012

Mother Marie-Cherubine, O.SS.R. Foundress of the Monastery of Velp (1812 – 1887)

Foundress of the Convent of the Redemptoristines of Velp, near Grave, founded in 1858

Chapter V. The new foundation.

After the Revolution of 1848 most of the countries of Europe did not cease to find themselves in a situation of uncertainty and trouble. Liberal governments, while proclaiming themselves to be the defenders of liberty for all, granted this liberty to all the sects but refused it to the Catholic religion, which they tried to oppress in every fashion.

This was the case in Belgium. There they bore down especially upon religious Congregations, which they said deceitfully, were working against the progress of civilisation and did no more than spread ignorance and “bigotry” everywhere.

The result for the religious was difficult and perilous times against which they had to defend themselves. And then in 1857 the Belgian parliament passed a “law against religious”, which was soon reduced in practice to Brussels, Antwerp and a few other places.

The Redemptoristines of Bruges feared with good reason that they would be troubled in their situation which had hitherto been peaceful, and Mons. Malou, the Bishop of Bruges, believed he had to warn them himself of the danger they were running. Filled with a paternal solicitude, it advised them to seek a place abroad where they could live at least temporarily. The good Sisters cast their eyes upon England or Ireland, but they could not then hope to find a convenient establishment in those countries.

But good Providence would once again show its predilection for the spiritual daughters of Saint Alphonsus.

At an hour’s distance from the town of Grave in Holland, there was a village of 600 inhabitants called Velp. It was a solitary place and far from the noise of the world. Dotted in the midst of the fields, the cottages and houses of the countryside could be seen. Everywhere a pleasant and peaceful calm reigned. So it was in no way astonishing that the sons of St. Francis, in the 17th century, founded a monastery in this blessed spot that still exists today.

In 1858 there was also a little manor house there which bore the name of “Bronkhorst”. The building had a considerable garden, it was all surrounded by a stretch of water, and it occupied an area of about two hectares. A distinguished Prelate, Mons. de la Geneste, a protonotary of Pius IX, was the owner. The Mother-Superior of Bruges, Marie-Philomene, learnt that this property was for sale. The circumstances in which she knew of it deserve to be reported.

In the Belgian Province of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, there was a Dutch Father of the name of Van der Meulen, the brother in law of the burgomaster of the commune of Velp. However, Mons. de la Geneste had confided the care of this property to him, and at this moment, the month of October 1857, this Redemptorist Father was back in his native country. He paid a visit to his brother in law and learnt from him that the manor of Bronkhorst was for sale.

As quickly as he could, he made Mother Marie-Philomene aware of all this, while obtaining from the burgomaster his promise to conclude the purchase from Mons. de la Geneste. But he also had to obtain permission from the Archbishop of Utrecht, Mons. Zwysen, to establish the Congregation of the Redemptoristines in his diocese.

On the advice of Mons. Malou, Mother Marie Philomene wrote to Mons. Zwysen to beg him to be good enough to consent to the new foundation. His permission, full of benevolence, was transmitted to her several months later. A short while later, the sale was concluded, and the necessary work could begin. The burgomaster took direction of it and work began straight away to turn the little manor house into a suitable convent.

Mons Malou expressed the desire for the Superior of Bruges and one of her Sisters to go themselves to Velp to supervise both the work and order things well, and the two religious were received by the burgomaster with the greatest benevolence.

On 19th – 22nd April they decided the places for the grille in the parlour, the choir, the cloister, etc., and hastened on the completion of the work to such a degree that it was hoped that the new foundation would be completely ready by the month of July.

Mother Marie Philomene was then able to inform Mons. Zwysen that she hoped to see the house put in order for the octave of the feast of the patron saint of the Congregation, that of the Most Holy Redeemer (3rd Sunday of July), in order to place under the protection of the divine Saviour the work undertaken for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. His Lordship announced his satisfaction and then, at Bruges, they were able to begin getting ready for the departure of the founding Sisters.

Mons. Malou had decided that the choice of these Sisters would be made by the Superior and her counsel. In the community, they were asking who would be the Superior of the new foundation. On this subject no one had less concern about it than Sister Marie-Cherubine, the whole time the establishment of Velp was going forward.

Finally the moment came to make the choice of the founding Sisters. On 8th July 1858, the Community assembled to hear the nominations… After the opening prayers and some preliminary remarks, Mother Marie-Philomene then pronounced the names of the foundresses. “The Superior,” she said, “would be Sister Marie-Cherubine of the Holy Spirit.” Scarcely had she heard these words than she looked around her quite astonished, as if she was looking for the Sister designated, and forgot to fall upon her knees as a sign of submission, which is what was done in such circumstances. So the Sisters sitting beside her then had to tell her: “It’s you, my Sister, so go down on your knees!” This is how little the good Sister thought that she would be charged with this task, so honourable, but so important and onerous!

The Mother Superior noticed her confusion and began to encourage her by assuring her that, if she accepted her charge through obedience and with confidence, God would support her. Her companions would also assist her by their devotion.

Her companions and fellow Sisters were:

Sister Marie-Marguerite of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Miss Caroline Marguerite Elisabeth Van Rijckervorsel, of Rotterdam) as Sister Vicar.
Sister Marie-Anne-Josepha (Miss Caroline Dupont, of Liege).
Sister Marie-Eulalia of Jesus (Miss Marie Jougen, of Mons).
Sister Marie-Felicity of the Blessed Sacrament (Miss Wilhelmina Lefevre, the daughter of Mr. Lefevre, a professor at the University of Ghent).

Next two converse Sisters:

Sister Angela of the Holy Family (Miss Mathilda Ansieur, of Zwerssele, West Flanders).
Sister Julie de Volder, a converse educande Sister, of Hooglede, (West Flanders).

These were the foundresses of the new Monastery of Velp.

The 19th July was then designated as the day for the religious to depart. Mother Marie-Philomene herself led the little colony, which arrived at its destination on the 20th of the same month. The Dean of Velp, A. Pulzers, blessed the chapel, the house and the garden. The Holy Mass was celebrated for the first time in the new convent on the 22nd. The a great solemn Mass was sung by the Dean, whose assistants were the Redemptorist Father Van der Meulen and the Father Guardian of the Capuchin Fathers, Father Athanase. On the 26th, the enclosure was solemnly established, and the following day, Mother Marie-Cherubine and her assistant Sisters were invested with their functions by Mother Marie-Philomene.

When everything had been done, Mother Marie-Philomene returned to Bruges, on 29th July. Straight after her departure, the Sisters made their submission to the new Superior, and the community of Velp was thus constituted like all the other communities of Redemptoristines. A new career then opened up for Mother Marie-Cherubine.

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 December 2012

Mother Marie-Cherubine, O.SS.R. Foundress of the Monastery of Velp (1812 – 1887)

Foundress of the Convent of the Redemptoristines of Velp, near Grave, founded in 1858

Chapter IV. Re-entry into the house of the Lord.

We have seen that Miss Celestine Platton had asked for her admission into the community of the Redemptoristines of Bruges in 1844. Some Redemptoristines had in fact come from Vienna in 1841, having as their Mother Superior Marie-Alphonse of the Will of God. She had received her religious habit at Saint Agatha of the Goths, the very place where Saint Alphonsus had formerly shown himself as a model bishop.

When this worthy religious learnt that the Revolution had chased all the children of Saint Alphonsus from the capital of Austria, she wished to receive into her own community all the Sisters of Rennweg Street, but the prudence of Monsignor the Bishop of Bruges permitted her to take only three of them.

As Sister Marie-Cherubine saw herself coming back to her own country following the persecution in Vienna, she believed that, in these sad circumstances, she would do well to ask to be attached to the Community of Bruges, where she already had one of her own sisters, Marie-Claire of the Holy Sacrament. So she humbly begged her Superior at Aix-la-Chapelle to permit her to withdraw into the convent of the Redemptoristines at Bruges, even if it was in the quality of a converse Sister.

This last proposition was not accepted, but it is an evident proof not only of Marie-Cherubine’s love for the cloistered life, but also of her profound humility. The community of Bruges was happy to receive her as a Choir Sister, as Marie-Cherubine would be an excellent acquisition for their house. She arrived there on 20th April, Holy Thursday in the year 1848, towards midday.

The welcome given to her was one of great warmth. She had been so severely tested, she had suffered so much, and now she was coming to find a refuge with her fellow Sisters! Scarcely had the Sister at the door set eyes upon her than she ran to the bell to announce her arrival. All the religious, clad in their blue mantles, with a candle in their hands, went solemnly to the door of the enclosure to give their welcome to Sister Marie-Cherubine. They all greeted her and embraced her cordially, and after the sincerest congratulations, they led her to the choir chanting the beautiful canticle: “Ecce quam bonum”. How beautiful it is, how agreeable it is for Sisters to dwell together in the house of the Lord and be there but one heart and one soul! (Ps. 132:1). Then the Reverend Mother Superior herself showed her the cell that had been set aside for her.

After leaving Vienna, Marie-Cherubine had not been able to wear her religious habit, because it would have attracted too much attention, but now she could put off her secular costume in order to once more put on the habit of the spiritual daughters of Saint Alphonsus. From now on she could live in community as before, follow all the regular exercises, and in a word, be a religious in all the significance of the term. What happiness, after such painful struggles, and after such cruel persecutions! A new horizon was opening before her, the sombre revolution had disappeared and heaven had become serene again. With courage and fervour she once more began her life as a true daughter of Saint Alphonsus. The events had given her an experience of things and had attached her with all her heart and all her soul to her beautiful and dear vocation. And then, after a few days of rest, she ardently applied herself to the community exercises, and all the religious who knew her have testified that she was a model of obedience, humility and loving kindness to all her fellow Sisters.

One of them, now very aged but still in this world, who saw her close up, declares “that she was the first in observance of the holy Rules and inspired by a special fervour in the recitation of the Divine Office, which she would never have omitted for no matter what reason, because she found her whole happiness in being able to be close to her heavenly Spouse.”

However, trials of a new kind would soon fall upon Sister Marie-Cherubine. This time the crosses came to her from the part of her Superiors. It was found good, the notes that were written about her tell us, to test her virtue. For this reason, it was made their task to humble and reprimand her at every chapter of faults. They even made her begin her Educandate and her Novitiate all over again, even though she had already made her profession. “But,” says the Sister whose witness we have reported above, “she accepted everything with the best grace in the world, as no sacrifice was too much, provided that she could remain in her vocation.” So with the most profound humility she once more did all the exercises of the Educandes and Novices, always placing herself as the least of all, and by her exemplary conduct she was an example to her Sisters, to the point that often, and even now, she was the object of their conversations.

This trial, we cannot doubt, was placed upon her to augment her merits and make them more agreeable to the Heart of Our Lord, who united Himself even more intimately with His creature the more she was humbled. Marie-Cherubine thus came out of the combat even greater and more truly glorious than the conqueror who is glorified by his triumph over his enemies, as the greatest victory that we can win is surely the one we win over ourselves.

These humiliations elevated Sister Marie-Cherubine in the eyes of God, and they also increased the esteem that her fellow Sisters had conceived for her. The same Sister says: “All of them esteemed and cherished her. Her Superiors held her in particular esteem, and indeed, some years later, in 1858, they imposed upon her the honourable, but also very heavy task of founding a new Monastery in Holland and being its Superior.”

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