Sunday, 13 January 2013

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 VII. The royal way of the cross.

This is what St. Thomas a Kempis calls the way of suffering: “In the cross is our salvation,” he said, “in it is our life… in it is the crown of the virtues, in it is perfection and sanctity.”

These words Mother Marie Cherubine put faithfully into practice when she found herself afflicted with the cross we have spoken of. But what a model of patience and resignation did the community of Velp then find it had! Never did a single word of complaint ever pass her lips, not even when her illness made her suffer most cruelly.

At Velp itself and in the other Redemptoristine houses fervent prayers were addressed to God for the complete recovery of their beloved Mother, and to the joy of all the Sisters, these prayers were heard.

However, her triennium was coming to its end, and according to the Rule, the Mother had to be deposed, unless the Bishop would grant the necessary dispensation for the renewal of the choice made beforehand. This dispensation was willingly granted, and Mother Marie Cherubine was unanimously re-elected.

This was because everyone loved her as a veritable Mother, and everyone was convinced of the devotion and excellent qualities of this Superior.

The cure we have spoken about and which so rejoiced the community, unfortunately was only a passing one. In 1871, the illness reappeared, this time in a more alarming way. The doctor diagnosed cataracts on her eyes. He thought that an operation was necessary, and recommended it be done by a distinguished specialist, Professor Mooren of Dusseldorf. Permission from the ecclesiastical authority was granted, and the good Mother left the enclosure and set off for Dusseldorf in the company of Sister Marie-Therese, who had distinguished herself several times as a good infirmarian, and very experienced in nursing the sick. No doubt it cost the two religious dearly to leave their dear cells, but obedience demanded the sacrifice. It was enough to make them bear it cheerfully.

However, an unexpected obstacle awaited our travellers at Dusseldorf. Mr. Mooren found that the cataracts were not sufficiently developed and that he would have to delay the operation for at least another year. And so they had to return to Velp. They arrived there the following day.

A year of trials and sufferings opened up before Mother Marie Cherubine. Her sight got worse and diminished more and more, to the point where she became almost blind and was no longer in a state to carry out her habitual tasks.

Nonetheless, as always, she was a model of patience and loving submission to the will of God. The chronicle of the house says: “This time was a time of privations of every kind for our good Mother, and a time of many little sacrifices to offer every day to her divine Spouse. But she knew how to hide all this from her Sisters so well that they were never able to notice in her the least change of humour or the least impatience.” Although she was scarcely able to do them any more, the nonetheless wished to follow the regular exercises, both in choir with the Breviary, and in the refectory and recreation room.

Finally the cataracts grew to maturity, and the operation could be attempted. The Archbishop gave his benevolent dispensation of enclosure, and once again they left for Dusseldorf.

Always full of devotion to her Superior, Sister Marie-Therese accompanied her as in the previous year. In view of her perfect knowledge of the German language, the blind Mother was able to confide herself to her in all respects.

The two travellers left their convent on 1st July 1872. The ardent prayers of her daughters accompanied the good Mother, and worked a holy violence against heaven to obtain a prompt and perfect cure. Professor Mooren welcomed them most charitably. A carriage was waiting for them at the railway station and brought them to the convent of the Sisters of the Cross, where they found Mr. Mooren.

He immediately examined her eyes and found them in the state he wanted them, and promised to come the next day to do the operation.

To the great satisfaction of everyone, the operation was successful, and Sister Marie-Therese, full of joy, was able to announce the good news to her fellow Sisters at Velp. What a consolation for the community! The religious went immediately to witness their gratitude to Our Lord Jesus Christ in His sacrament of love, and also before the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. They also informed the other communities who, since they had taken part in the trial, now merited participating in the common joy.

Soon a letter arrived from Sister Marie-Therese, describing to them with what courage, patience and admirable abandonment Mother Marie Cherubine had endured the operation, and how at Dusseldorf, everyone had been edified by her piety, her pleasant manner and her complete resignation to the will of God, to such a degree that everyone held her in special esteem. Professor Mooren and his assistants also held her in veneration and rejoiced in the success of the operation, which they attributed to the numerous and fervent prayers that her dear daughters had addressed to Heaven for their good Mother.

The Sisters of the Holy Cross also did whatever was possible, by their assiduous care, to hasten the recovery of their patient, and loved to spend a few moments in her company to be edified. They found a real satisfaction in listening to the edifying words and encouragements of Mother Marie Cherubine.

At Velp, everything was joy and gratitude towards God. They felt the absence of the mother of their family, and they longed for her return. The letters from Sister Marie-Therese, announcing the continuation of the happy results of the operation, gave them to understand that their return would take place in time for the feast of Saint Alphonsus on 2nd August.

Such indeed was the plan of the two travellers, but Mr. Mooren judged it necessary for the patient to rest a few more days under his supervision, in order to decide what spectacles she would need, and thus prevent her from having to make a third trip. This news greatly disappointed the Sisters at Velp who were impatiently awaiting their good Mother.

However, the illness, against all expectations, followed so favourable a course that on 3rd August, the day after the feast of Saint Alphonsus, the travellers were allowed to return. So on this day, in the afternoon, they arrived at Velp. In their transports of the most cordial joy, all the Sisters hastened to congratulate their good Mother, whom they now discovered in the midst of them completely cured. It is in no way astonishing that days of rejoicing followed. Each one in particular wanted to see their good Superior in order to congratulate her. Everyone took the most precise care to make sure that the light was not too bright, and for this purpose great curtains were hung at all the windows of the house.

To the great satisfaction of the Sisters, a complete cure was confirmed, and Mother Marie Cherubine was able to continue her ordinary occupations.

This is how God made His faithful servant follow the royal way of the cross, and this is how she came out victorious from the combat, endowed with merits for eternity, and with God’s blessing for herself and for those who had lavished their care upon her.

Thus in the life of Mother Marie Cherubine there were some rather dark days, but there were also some serene days that served to inspire her with the great courage she needed to advance along the way of perfection.

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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