Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Foundation of Soignies (Belgium)

We are very happy to give you some details about the foundation of our dear Community which has only been in existence for twenty six years, and which has so far sent only three of its members to heaven, our Mother Foundress in 1875, and two Choir Sisters.

It was on 28th September 1878 that a little swarm of Redemptoristines left Malines to come and establish themselves here at Soignies. The beginnings of this new foundation were very modest – a little house and resources of every kind, but even more modest. Our privations were great, but it was with a very real joy that we embraced them, out of love of our divine Redeemer who came down to earth and lived here so poor for love of us. When our first house became far too cramped, we had to dream of building. The money we needed was certainly not in our coffers; but in the heart of our revered Mother Marie Lidwine of the Blessed Sacrament we had an inexhaustible source of confidence in the divine Providence, and Our Lord never failed her. We have some delightful tales to tell on this subject; but they are too private to be revealed to the public. Five years after the arrival of the first Redemptoristines at Soignies, on 25th August 1883, the little Community, already flourishing, took final possession of the convent raised by divine Providence at a place in the town called “La Cafeniere.” As soon as it was possible, the enclosure was established and the Rule followed on all points. Yet the construction was far from being finished. At that time we had only what was indispensable in terms of accommodation, but, in time, everything was completed. However, there was some pain in the depths of all our hearts. The Master of this dwelling, Jesus, had only a little room to Himself temporarily converted into a chapel. Building a church, however modest it might be, cost so much! But has our good God not said: “Ask and you shall receive?” We prayed and we received. The Lord aroused generous hearts, and, on 2nd August 1900, we were able to proceed to the blessing of a pretty little Gothic chapel which was dedicated to the Sacred Heart, and under its patronage we also placed the convent, and under the same patronage we are living a very happy life.

What can we tell you about our three dear deceased? Our worthy Foundress and Mother, Sister Marie-Lidwine, was a soul who was very agreeable to our good God. She was devoured with zeal for the glory of her divine Spouse and for the sanctification of the souls which had been entrusted to her, and whom she wished at all costs to make into living copies of Jesus. She was a soul of prayer, devoted to the point of heroism, strong, courageous and never recoiling from any pain. God alone knows if she was ever lacking in any crosses, contradictions and humiliations in the foundation of our dear Monastery! To crown a life so well filled, our good Jesus made her a present of a number of very painful illnesses, which gave us the occasion more than once to admire her patience and her abandonment to the good pleasure of God.

The two other Sisters who left us to go before God were two good religious, two good Sisters, who lives were very simple, but who in no way sought to be noticed except for an exact observance of our holy Rules, and who desired only to please God.

Some favours of Providence.

So we are going to begin by asking your pardon for our silence, and then, with the most entire simplicity, we shall tell you that we are rather disconcerted in how we can satisfy your desire to have some interesting little stories about the goodness of Saint Joseph or Saint Anthony towards us.

Yes, certainly, Saint Joseph and Saint Anthony have helped us a great deal, and God alone knows how many ardent and urgent prayers we have sent up to Him through their intercession, but, to be frank, we cannot affirm that divine Providence has actually anticipated our desires. It has never failed us, but in its plans full of wisdom, it has wanted our prayers to be humble and persevering. Here is an example. During the construction of our Convent, when the work was already far advanced, the builder feared that our funds had run dry, and wanted to have a small advance payment before he would continue. In our coffers, in reality, there was absolutely nothing, but we made sure we did not tell him! We urged him to be patient, telling him that we were waiting for a sum of money which, unfortunately, was slow in coming. We were awaiting a sum, in fact, but it was entirely “from divine Providence!”, and right from the beginning of the enterprise we had been asking Saint Joseph to put in a request for us with our good God’s bank, but it never arrived! One day, tired of waiting, the builder was no longer willing to continue building! With a faith that was more ardent and entreating than ever, we began a new novena of prayers. On the sixth day, without any request on our part, a gentleman sent us a thousand francs, and the next day, a priest of our acquaintance, when he went to visit a family, these people spoke about us and our building, and gave him a small envelope for our Reverend Mother. What did it contain? Two thousand francs! This was Saint Joseph’s reply. A little later on he had more compassion upon us. Poverty, however, remained the greatest master of our Monastery, and our hands never ceased to be stretched out towards Saint Joseph. We lacked everything … except debts. At some distance from our convent, a good Christian, as pious as he was charitable, was spending his leisure time in reading the life of our Father, Saint Alphonsus. He came across the name “Redemptoristines”, and remembered he had heard people speaking about a new foundation of these Sisters at Soignies, and listening only to the inspiration in his heart, he thought that they were perhaps in need and sent them … a thousand francs… All he asked in return was a certain number of prayers for his intentions. For a long time there was great adversity in our little family. How many times did we cry out to our good God: “Lord, save us, we are perishing!” Jesus seemed to be sleeping. Saint Joseph went to gently wake Him up and always, always, we were saved. And also our gratitude towards this charitable Protector has no limits. Every month, the 19th is solemnized by special devotions, and it is rare if Saint Joseph does not show himself satisfied by gratifying us with one or another little temporal or even spiritual favour. Since our glorious Brother Gerard has received the honours of the altars, he also sees us very often at his feet, and our confident simplicity pleases him. Whenever we ask him for one or another useful thing, which is necessary for our maintenance or the nourishment of the Community, he quickly hurries to grant it to us. Sometimes he makes us wait a little to test our faith. Some time ago out in the fields one of us lost the little gold ring that we wear on our finger and which we receive on the day of our profession. Our dear Sister was very distressed about it and ran to tell her pain to Saint Anthony and Saint Gerard. We all searched for it, but in vain! The whole winter, with its snow, rain and frosts passed over the fields. In Spring another Sister was walking on the grass, while still praying to the good saints, and then she felt something a bit hard under her feet. It was the ring, intact! Our good Jesus of Prague is also greatly honoured in our dear Community, which has already felt the sweet effects of His omnipotence in many circumstances; and also, in His honour, and out of gratitude, we are preparing ourselves for a novena of special prayers to be celebrated on the 25th of each month, and His graceful statue occupies a place of honour in our oratory.

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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