Sunday, 12 January 2014

Precious Deaths Before God of the Monastery of Sambeek (1882-1905)

“All our deceased Sisters,” says the Monastery Chronicle, “have had a sweet and tranquil death”.

When Sister Dominique, a converse, was on the point of dying, you would have said she was going to a feast. She firmly hoped to enter heaven without passing through purgatory, ‘as,’ she said, ‘Saint Alphonsus has said that those who accept death with a perfect resignation to the will of God go straight to heaven. And this is what I am doing.’ An hour before her death, when no one thought that the hour of her departure was so close, and the confessor even wanted to defer the last sacraments until the following day, she told a Sister who offered her something to drink: ‘This is not the time to drink – I am going to heaven.’ She received the last sacraments in full consciousness and died on 3rd February 1896 at four o’clock in the afternoon.

But no death has been as consoling or as moving as that of Sister Marie-Innocentia, who died on 26th May 1905. The Sisters who witnessed it will never forget it.

She had been born in Amsterdam of thoroughly Catholic parents. Her family name was Ten Winkel. Her brother entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, and her sister the regular Third Order of Saint Francis. She entered at the age of nineteen as an innocent and happy child. It is true that she did not have much in the way of talents, but on the other hand she was full of humility and candour. In the novitiate she became deaf, following a chill. For her it was a very heavy cross, both in relation to conversations and community tasks as well as in relation to lectures and conferences. When she was made gardener, she broke her arm, which had to be reset twice, which caused her the most atrocious pain, but she did not offer the least complaint. During her last years she suffered continual internal pain, the cause of which the doctors themselves were unable to discover. Her cheerful and lively nature suffered somewhat, but she rarely let anything show. Finally she was attacked by a pneumonia which did not seem to be serious at first, but which suddenly took such an alarming turn that they had to administer the last sacraments to our good Sister. She was terrified at first and said, “Must I appear before God so soon?” Then she began to accuse herself of her faults and imperfections. For some time she was unconscious, but then she came to at midnight and continued her dialogues with God until the hour of her death, which arrived at 2.30 on the night of 25 – 26 May. With her eyes closed, she kept talking aloud with her heavenly Spouse, and expired, we may say, producing the most beautiful acts of humility, confidence, love, desire to see God, and resignation to his good pleasure. She called on the Most Holy Virgin whom she had always honoured faithfully under the title of Perpetual Succour. She spoke to Saint Joseph whom she had always invoked for a good death, and she entrusted herself to their protection. She expected purgatory, but she submitted herself to them to be entirely purified. She said all this so innocently and in so touching a manner that the Sisters who were attending her were moved to the depths of their souls.

So we can see how Sister Marie-Innocentia was so occupied with God during her life, and so full of love for Him. Her effusive piety at this supreme hour was the echo of her years passed in the service of her heavenly Spouse. She spent twenty-two years in religious life, and was forty-two years old. The day after her death, her confessor said, “I am convinced she is already in heaven.”

“We count”, the Chronicle concludes, “we count on having her as our mediatrix in Paradise, charged with obtaining for all the Redemptoristine Nuns the grace of perseverance.”

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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