Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sister Maria-Hedwig of the Flagellation of Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Ried (1892 – 1897)

She was also a sweet flower of the Passion, this good Sister Maria-Hedwig who, in the humble condition of a converse, merited the heavenly favours during her life and at her death.

She was born at Wirgen, parish of Brixen, in the Tyrol. While still a child, she gave the signs of a tender piety. And also while still a child, she was as if vowed to the cross. Often, indeed, epileptic attacks would throw her to the ground, and the terrible illness left her as though dead before the eyes of her grieving parents. So her pious mother consecrated her little Elise to the Blessed Virgin, made her touch a picture of Mary three times, and had this picture hung on the privileged altar of Our Lady of the Snows. The attacks ceased completely, and thus the child became very devoted to the most holy Mother of God at a very early age.

Her character was sweet and obliging, so her six brothers and sisters happily benefited from it. Elise submitted to them all and did not neglect any occasion to render them service, as a consequence of becoming spiritually enriched. Later on, she entered service in the hospital in Innsbruck, and it was there that she met the Redemptorist Fathers and expressed her desire to them to enter a convent. In the example of her elder sister, she chose the Order of the Redemptoristines and entered the Convent of Saint Anne at Ried (Upper Austria) on 8th September 1892, on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.

And so on this wonderful day, as the Chronicle says, she had a new spiritual birth and was admitted to the cradle of religious life. It was with tears of joy and gratitude that she saw her elder sister again, who had taken the veil the preceding year. She cast herself at the feet of the Child Jesus, understanding in advance the words of the Saviour: “unless you be like little children…” and immediately exercised herself, by the practice of humility and obedience, in intimate life with Jesus and Mary. During the ten months of testing in the Postulancy, she climbed, as we may say, the steps of the Temple under the guidance of Mary, and then entered the sanctuary of the Novitiate. She took the veil on 28th September 1893, with the name of Sister Maria-Hedwig of the Flagellation of Jesus.

From then on she gave a good example of all the virtues. For her, work and suffering were the joys of her heart. She set her eyes on only Jesus and Mary and made herself a crown of virtues for the day of her wedding with her beloved Saviour. This much desired day arrived on 28thOctober 1894. Even though she had been greatly elevated by grace, she looked upon herself as the least in the house and made herself the servant of all the Sisters. However, she always remained recollected, absorbed in God, speaking but little, but always courteous and full of kindness. At the end of her Novitiate, the flowers were entrusted to her. She took a very special care of them, without thinking, however, that the divine Gardener would soon come to gather her soul as a flower agreeable to His eyes. Strong and robust as she was, one day she was carrying a heavy burden of flower pots. Suddenly she lost her footing and fell down many of the steps to the green-house. The terrible blow she received soon caused her to start spitting blood, and then pneumonia was diagnosed. This trial was a great one for the community. It was even more so for Sister Hedwig who, having been accepted without a dowry, had promised to make up for this lack of the goods of this world by her devotion and services. But this faithful soul remembered the great law of the will of God, and she generously accepted the cross that her name in religion reminded her of every day. With Mary she had entered, with Mary she had climbed the steps of the Temple, and with Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, she ascended Mount Calvary.

“Her illness made rapid progress. Sister Maria-Hedwig wanted no exceptions for herself and even asked for the soup of the poor. Her true food was doing the will of God, and she never ceased speaking of it. After receiving Extreme Unction, she gave a great witness of her gratitude to God and begged all the Sisters to thank Him with her. At one o’clock in the morning, she was seen to be full of joy and as if transfigured. She opened her arms and cried out: “Ah, here’s Jesus!” And when Mother Superior asked her what she had seen, she replied: “Oh, I am not worthy of such favours. I’m only a poor sinner.” And then she added: “O my Jesus, I love You! What happiness to be able to sacrifice myself!” She continued on like this, with her face all aflame, and did her acts of love and humility until the hour of her death. At the supreme moment she asked for the blessed candle, and radiant with joy, she then expired peacefully. This was on 24th September 1897, at two o’clock in the morning.

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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