Flowers of the Redemptoristine Institute (Biographies and Remembrances) by P.F. Dumortier, Redemptorist

The intergral text (as posted in individual necrologies on this blog) of the translation of 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.


Flowers of the






CASTERMAN Establishment
booksellers - publishers

Imprimi potest
Muscronii, 30 junii 1910,
D. CASTELAIN, Super. Provinc. Paris.

Tornaci, die 6 Juliis 1910

V. CANTINEAU, CAN. Census. Lib.


To Saint Clement HOFBAUER,


Homage of profound veneration
and filial love. 






Rome, 18th May 1910


I have only been able to cast a cursory glance over your book “Flowers of the Redemptoristine Institute”; but what I have seen in the first four hundred pages that you sent me is enough for me to judge the merit and the opportuneness of your labours.  The biographies which you present to the readers are very interesting.  They will be read with great fruit, not just by the Redemptoristines, but also by all those desirous of consecrating themselves to the service of God in this Institute.  And as you have chosen your “Flowers” from the whole garden formed by this religious Order, every nationality can admire its own heroines, and learn to imitate their virtues.

I may also add that all those persons consecrated to God, and even the pious souls who live in the world, will find in your biographies a substantial food for their piety, and a powerful encouragement to enter and advance on the way of salvation and Christian perfection.

May your book call forth numerous vocations to religious life, in an age when Hell is straining more than ever to oppose and make difficult the exercise of the evangelical counsels!

In wishing your work the success that it merits, I bless you and remain in Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Your most devoted and affectionate colleague,

Sup. Gen. and Rect. Maj.




Bischenberg (Alsace), 1st. June 1910.


After reading your little book: The first Redemptoristines, I encouraged you to continue these sorts of publications, having been persuaded that you would find still many more beautiful flowers to gather from the flower-bed planted by St. Alphonsus and his successors.

The pages that you have had the kindness to send me prove that this new work: Flowers of the Redemptoristine Institute, is on the point of appearing.  I am very happy to find in it the names of several religious that I knew personally.  There is nothing I can think of that adds more charm to the solitude that I have chosen for myself at Bischenberg.  I give thanks to the Lord for having inspired me with the idea of giving you this advice, and I pray to Him to preserve for a long time to come this historian of the most pure glories of our religious family.

You were right to dedicate your book to our holy Founder, and to the two most illustrious propagators of his Institute.  Many of the saints whose lives you narrate were directed by either by St. Clement-Mary Hofbauer or by the Venerable Father Passerat; they were all nourished by the solid doctrine of our Holy Doctor.

I bless you, my dear and reverend Father, and I remain, in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Your very devoted and affectionate colleague,

M . RAUS, C. SS. R.


This volume consists of various biographies which we have compiled, a certain number of others furnished by Monastery Chronicles, and also different Notices about recent foundations.  Unlike its predecessor, The First Redemptoristines [1],   it does not describe dramatic situations or narrate supernatural events: but like it and more than it, it brings before our eyes the most edifying and instructive spectacle of generous souls who have come forth from every class of society and given themselves to God without reserve.

It sets forth the fierce battles for a vocation, the modest and solid virtues practised within the cloister, an admirable faithfulness to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit; but it also demonstrates what an inestimable advantage is furnished to the Redemptoristines by that ever-solid doctrine of St. Alphonsus, their Founder.

May the reading of these pages encourage new vocations, inspire an ever-greater esteem for the contemplative life by the good things found herein, and make readers appreciate the rightful value of the ardent prayers continually poured forth to God  for the salvation of souls.
F. Dumortier, C. SS. R.


of the





Chapter I. 
Miss Fabri in the world. - Her vocation at the Redemptoristine Institute (1822-1844)

The Reverend Mother Mary-Aloyse of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the world Miss Isabelle-Fulvie-Albertine Fabri, was born on 22nd October 1822 at Sény, a village situated in the county of Nandrin in Condroye, in the Province of Liège.  Her father was Mr. Arsène-Henri-Joseph Fabri; her mother was Marie-Agnès-Joséphine de Longrée.  They dwelt in the countryside for a great part of the year and spent the winter months at Liège.  Until 1830, Mr. Fabri was a member of the States-General.

Fulvie was the youngest of six children, four boys and two girls.  She was the family favourite, and, as she said later on, even somewhat spoiled by her mother, who by nature was rather strict and severe.  From her childhood, she was favoured by extraordinary graces, which through her humility however, she would never explain clearly.  When little children came and asked her for alms, she would first make them recite the “Our Father”; but as she herself did not know it in Walloon, she would call the girl from the poultry yard and get her to tell her if they knew it properly.  Her parents were very pious, but also very demanding in matters of religion.  When their daughters had been to Mass, they had to spend the whole day in recollection and were not allowed to look at themselves in a mirror.

Fulvie received her education in the paternal home and never left it before she entered religion.  From the time they were first capable, she and her sister took care of the sacristy in the village church.  Dressing the statue of the Virgin Most Holy, looking after the sacred ornaments, and tending the lamp of the Holy Sacrament were all her favourite occupations.  On Sundays, she would go to the church at daybreak to take communion, would let herself be locked in to dialogue alone with her God, while the village priest would go off and celebrate holy Mass in the neighbouring hamlet.

While she was still very young, she felt herself called to religious life.  Her brother was preparing to join the Redemptorist Fathers, and had received the Life of St. Alphonsus as a gift from them.  Fulvie found it, read it, and fixed her choice irrevocably.  She would be a Redemptoristine, and go, if it was necessary to receive this happiness, even to Vienna, the cradle of the Order beyond the Alps.  How great was her  joy, then, when she learnt that Mother Mary-Alphonsus of the Will of God had come to found the convent of Bruges, aided in this great enterprise by the Most Reverend Father Passerat!

Mr. Fabri, although a good and fervent Catholic, was strongly opposed to his daughter’s vocation.  He was advanced in age, and Bruges was so far from Liège!  How could he make such a long journey?  On the other hand, Mons. Van Bommel had just founded the Daughters of the Cross at Liège.  With Mr. Fabri’s permission, he did everything possible to persuade the pious young girl to enter this Order, which was devoted to teaching and works of mercy, “And one day”, he said, “you’ll be the Superior there.”  Mother Mary-Aloyse said later on, “It was precisely this which prevented me from entering.”

To test her vocation, her father, who greatly loved his social life and spent all his evenings playing cards when he was in town, required her to accompany him to his meetings.  She went along to satisfy him, but did everything possible not to be pleasing to the world.  In spite of her outgoing character she even went as far as maintaining an almost complete silence.  Her confessor, the Rev. Father Manvuisse, required her to dress plainly.  Her mother, however, soon realised this and would inspect her closely to make sure that everything was in order.  But then, at the very moment she was to enter her carriage, the young girl, pretending that she had forgotten something, would go back up to her room and hurriedly pick up dark gloves, a linen kerchief, or something else of this kind.  As for going to a ball, she never knew it.

When Father Manvuisse left Liège, Miss Fulvie came under the direction of the Rev. Father Dechamps.  This holy religious, later a Cardinal, helped her greatly to overcome the obstacles that the affections of her parents placed in he  way.  This can be seen from the following letters:


    “My daughter in Jesus Christ,

“Yes, come on Thursday or Friday.  When you are sad and confused, you should open your heart and seek advice.  While you are waiting, offer up your sorrows to Jesus Christ.  It is the money marked with the sign of the cross.  It is this which leads to heaven, and which alone pays for the great treasure that you desire.  The most holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary is for you.  Do not let yourself be worried.

“If your dear father promises to say “Yes” after mother, it is because he counts, no doubt, on having his own way.  However, speak about it to your dear mother.  There is no reason to say nothing to her about it.  I am not annoyed that your father wants to speak to me on his own.  Then he will be even more convinced that I am speaking with full certainty.

“As you already have a rule of life, I shall limit myself to giving you some advice.

“You must make a particular examination of your confidence in God.  Confidence in troubles, - confidence among temptations, - confidence in persistently finding obstacles to achieving your good desires.

“Be keen to do the will of God in the multitude of little things and He will do your will.  If He is slow to do it, it is so that it will be even more worthy of Him.

“I promise you I will adhere closely to this divine will.  So as to judge you properly, I have to come to know you not just exteriorly, but interiorly too.  Those who do not know everything can give you advice in good faith which runs contrary to the internal attraction to which your reason and Faith are responding.  But I have no fear in saying that, if they do not recognise a genuine vocation in your desire, motivated and sustained for more than four years for the Community which the spirit of St. Alphonsus inspires, then they are deceiving themselves.  Your exterior dispositions accord well with this Institute.  It is very fervent, - and God has given you an affection for its holy Founder and the grace to enjoy its spirit. - It is enough for me to tell you this in writing, so that you can show it to whoever is entitled to see it, in case of need.  But you must overcome the obstacles with patience and meekness.”

The second letter expresses the same thought more deeply, and replies to another objection.


     “My daughter in Christ,

“You should not be afraid of being examined by the Vicar-General  [2] about the matter of your vocation.  No doubt God permits that sometimes one person says one thing and another person another.  But it is also important for us to discern His will and feel the interior action of His grace, when it is manifested by the way of obedience.  We must never lose sight of the fact that a vocation is a matter of interior grace, and that this can only be discerned by those who know you profoundly.

“I hope that the Vicar-General will share my opinion.  We could say, I am sure, that Redemptorists would naturally be in favour of the convent of which St. Alphonsus is the Father. - But it would be a mistake to assume this. - As for those persons who turned to me on matters of vocation, I have sent only one on to Bruges, and many others elsewhere: to the Ladies of Christian Instruction, to the Sisters of Our Lady, to the Daughters of the Cross, to the Carmelites, the Poor Clares, the Daughters of St. Joseph, etc., and I have sent an even greater number back to their families.  My colleagues have all done the same.

“If I have told you that you would do best to go to Bruges, it is because your dispositions and the character of that Institute have convinced me.  If you go there you will still have your pains and your crosses, but so does everyone else.  What matters is how you bear your own cross.    “In Jesus and Mary,

V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

Miss Fabri had revealed her temptations and apprehensions to her director.  He wrote back to her:

23rd September 1843.

“Your last letter would have been very pleasing to God, because you say openly what is happening in your soul.  Yes, it is always good to say it, even when it is past, and so much past that it would be hard to believe that you were ever disturbed by these sorts of fears or thoughts.  Now that you have admitted it, may God give you His graces not to give in to all these apprehensions that have the power to crucify us.

“You are not at the end of your troubles.  “He who loves his father, mother, brothers and sisters more than Me is not worthy of Me.”  But, my Saviour, surely You don’t ask everyone to make this sacrifice? - No, only those whom I love with a predilective love.  Are you upset about being loved like this?  This divine favour costs a great deal, so, as Madame Louise says, “Do not think about what it costs, but about what it is worth.”  Then you will also have the inestimable happiness of no longer depending on your imagination and your own ideas, and you will always be able to say: “Now I only do what pleases Jesus Christ.”  This is the freedom given to the children of God.

“Fine sermons and fine services are good, especially for those who travel through the world dazzled by their own vanity, and who need to find God somewhere where their natural lives have not been absolutely crucified, but only directed towards a legitimate end.  When you have left the world, you need this sort of help.  And then God comes in solitude and silence.  And when He hides Himself, you seek after Him, asking Him, “Even though You hide Your face from me until my death, I shall not leave You.”  Life is short and is not intended for pleasure, but for trouble and work.  “A little longer and You shall see Me”, says Our Lord.

“Confidence and patience, patience and confidence, and a prayer for

     “Your most devoted servant in Jesus Christ,

“V. Dechamps.”

Another time he wrote to her, “You will be a nun for sure, unless God takes you for His great convent where He Himself vests you in glory.  I criticise you only for your lack of abandonment, confidence and hope.  When you are unable to meditate, pick up your rosary beads and say acts of hope like you say the “Hail Marys”: “My God, I hope for heaven and the way that brings me there, through the infinite merits of Jesus Christ and prayers of the Most Sacred Heart of Mary.”  Hope, Hope, and the assurance of God’s protection.  Do not believe your own dark thoughts.  Our good God always loves you intensely.  We must hold firm to what He has promised.“Please remember me to all your dear and worthy family.”

Things turned out as Father Dechamps had predicted, but “the great war of the vocation”, as he called it, could not be avoided, and it was at the price of some fierce battles that Miss Fabri finally won her father’s half-consent.  She was then 21 years old.  On 1st January 1844, her eldest brother arrived unexpectedly in Liège to take her to Bruges.  She had to make her preparations for her departure in some haste.  That evening she went to kiss her brother, the lawyer, good-bye and the following morning at 6 o’clock she bid her parents a final farewell.  On her way she paid a last visit to one of her maternal uncles, and towards evening she arrived at Bruges.  Following the custom of those days, she made a visit to the Bishop of Bruges, Mons. Boussen, to present herself.  He asked her if she had obtained the consent of her parents.  “Half, Your Lordship” replied her brother.  “Oh well,” said the Bishop, “when that’s all you can have, you have to be satisfied with it.”  A short while later and Miss Fabri was knocking on the door of the Redemptoristine Monastery.


[1] vol. in-18, Desclée.
[2]  This Monastery was founded in 1844.  All the details of this foundation can be read in the book called: Une Rédemptoristine. - Mère Marie-Alphonse de la Volonté de Dieu, fondatrice des premiers monastères des Rédemptoristines en-deçà des Alpes. - Souvenirs publiés par le P. Nimal, rédemptoriste. (A Redemptoristine. - Mother Mary-Alphonsus of the Will of God, the foundress of the first Redemptoristine Monasteries beyond the Alps. - Memorials published by Father Nimal, Redemptorist. (1 vol., Liège, Dessain, Paris, Ve Magnin).
We cannot mention this venerable nun without paying tribute here to her blessed memory.  It was her, in fact, as Cardinal Dechamps has said, whom God made use of to make the Redemptoristine Institute known beyond the Alps.  She was born at Lorient in 1793, she moved to Vienna in 1820, and in 1830 went to St. Agatha of the Goths to find the Redemptoristine Rule.  She received the habit of her Institute at Rome from the hands of Cardinal Odescalchi, built the Monastery of Vienna and founded the Monastery of Bruges in 1841.  She died at Malines in an odour of sanctity on 29th March 1869.  She was a faithful disciple of the Venerable Father Joseph Passerat, and communicated to her daughters the esteem which this great servant of God professed for St. Alphonsus’ wonderful books.
[3] Father Jacquemotte, the Vicar-General of Liège, and family friend.

Chapter II.

The Educand. - The Novice (1844-1846).

The house which welcomed the new arrival was no more than a provisional convent, occupied for the last two and a half years by the Redemptoristines, but in a state of dilapidation which they had scarcely been able to remedy. As Mother Mary-Aloyse was to write later on, “It was no more than an old house which let the cold and the wind enter through ill-fitting windows. Everything was freezing, even beside the fire, and the Sisters had nothing which could guarantee them against the worst of the weather.” But the Postulant, avid for sufferings and sacrifices, resolutely embraced this new life. Was she not happy to prove right from the beginning her love for Him who had called her there? The convent was small and cramped. It was but the little house, as it was to be called later on. The Monastery was under construction elsewhere, and this building work was absorbing all their resources. So poverty made its rigours felt, and the necessities were often lacking. But the Postulant never said a word to her family which could have led them to suspect anything. And she who was so used to the fresh country air, could only go and walk in the courtyard for ten minutes or so at midday. She slept at ground floor level in a paved room, in common with the other Educands. In brief, her privations were numerous.

The Postulant also quickly came to know temptations. Father Dechamps had predicted it, and in a letter dated 15th January 1844 from Liège, he wrote to her:

“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
“In war as in war, but you are quite astonished to be a soldier, aren’t you? The greatest enemy is he who throws dust in your eyes and who blurs your sight, the Father of Lies. What matters is go and tell your dear Superiors straight away all the stories he has put in your head. For example, the thought has been given to you with an evil intention that your parents will perhaps be left alone, that you will not be able to cope with this kind of life, etc. You see how wicked he is. He attacks you through fear, through tenderness and even through scruples, and then he make you afraid to ask any of those who are visible Providence to you what you ought to ask. - Courage! Find your weapons! Even to taking up a brush! - I used to know a religious, Father Villani [4] who received some very great graces through a brush .. when polishing his shoes. He didn’t exactly tell me, but I saw it and guessed it. I saw what happened. Sometimes he would polish some of his colleagues shoes, thinking all the time of the words of St. John the Baptist, 'I am not worthy, etc.'

“I am not surprised to hear that you are content with your pains. Jesus Christ is in the citadel when your enemies make a din in all the rest of the place. It is certainly consoling for you to take the place, so clearly and so providentially, of this good nun [5] who is already with St. Alphonsus, where she can show you to her Father, so that He may draw you to Himself.

“'But the virtues?' you will say. Patience, for they are bought little by little. But where do you begin? With simple observance. 'Think of me,' Our Lord said to St. Catherine of Siena, 'and I will think of you.' So leave Him to look after you.

“Everything is quite calm at home...
“As for the news-vendors, I hear nothing from here. Who knows if they are talking about you at Liège? A bit here and there, and then they’re off to the ball, the show, etc. The world is nothing.

“I pray to Saint Alénie [6] to make you love the dear little martyrdom of religious life more and more.”

This consoling letter was followed some time later by a missive from Father Manvuisse, our Postulant’s first director. What could be more interesting than to be present at her first steps in religious life, sustained by exhortations of these valiant servants of God!

Tournai, 20th.
“You have given me great pleasure by your letter, my dear child. I have been awaiting this missive for a long time! Actually, I congratulate you not so much for the triumph that you have obtained over all the difficulties that have faced you in your entry into religion, but regarding your other successes, no less important, that your letter proves, and these are the dispositions that you have. How happy I am that the first difficulties have now been overcome, and that you are facing the others quite cheerfully! Yes, no doubt convent life is a little different from that of the world and the spirit of the one is quite opposed to that of the other! A similar difference with the customs! Certainly your father would shout out aloud for joy if he knew that his daughter was subjected to the little trials of the refectory and so many others... But in actual fact, is there anything so dreadful about it, even for your self-esteem? When you have once committed yourself bravely, then the die is cast. Then you always experience a certain advantage, although it costs less, because you never become quite as proud again as you were before you abased yourself. Certainly the holy founders of Orders thought out things well.

“You are afraid in advance, my dear child, of the communications which you are to make to your future Mistress of Novices. Believe me, sufficient to each day is the evil thereof. When the time comes to open your heart, you will ask for strength and courage for it, and God will grant it to you. He gives everything you require to fulfil the duties that He imposes. Do not alarm yourself in advance. Didn’t you also have to change directors when you were in the world?

“And then, my daughter, try to keep up a brave face before your father when he comes to see you! Show yourself firm and do not speak of these trifling little humiliations or privations which you have to suffer in the convent. It is not worthwhile. Certainly the people of the world have many other things to gossip about!

“So then, courage, courage! Let us not recoil before various trials and even certain sacrifices. God sees and counts up everything, so as to reward you for everything.

“Farewell, my dear child. I bless you with all my soul.”
“Manvuisse, C. SS. R.”

Thus encouraged, Sister Mary-Aloyse set herself bravely to the task. If her energetic soul was at its ease from the first moments when she was in the midst of her privations, she was no less so in declaring war against her natural inclinations. A tendency to worry stemming from a certain eagerness for perfection and sanctity, perhaps a slight tendency to sarcasm, a liveliness which stemmed from her energetic temperament and which never admitted half-measures, were, we believe, the object of her struggles. But she was not lacking in courage. Based on her humble defiance of her own self, it was to work miracles.

Moreover, in this respect she found a solid support in the person of Mother Mary-Philomena of the Divine Providence, her Mistress of Educands. This excellent religious, a model of affability and fervour, brought along in her footsteps all those of whom she had charge. What better way to make her known than by citing the letter addressed by her later on to one of her subordinates?

“Dear Sister M.., you have asked me for some lines of consolation. Here is my reply. Before all else, dear child, I wish you to have courage. Even before the invention of the railways, St. Teresa said that with courage we could go at a hundred miles per hour. So courage is therefore the electric telegraph of the spiritual life. And why go on foot or in a stage-coach, when there is the railway or the telegraph at your disposal? I see that you still retain a trace of your long-time infirmity Discouragement. The Prince of Darkness tries to profit from it. Send him packing. Besides, you should never be discouraged or surprised when you see you are still imperfect. We do not become saints in a day, and God is pleased to leave us a feeble and vulnerable side so that we may constantly be humble and feel the enormous need that we have of Him! In your temptations, never think of the temptation, but of Jesus Christ and Mary, and in general, when your spirit wishes to dream and reflect and examine things, keep your eyes fixed cheerfully on the adorable image of Jesus Christ who is in you, [7] and his holy Mother who is beside you. You will find in them what you should dream about for all eternity.”

As it turned out, the good Mother Mary-Philomena never allowed either the educands or the novices placed under her direction time to dream. She led them sweetly, but firmly to the practice of solid virtues. One of her former subjects depicts this wonderfully: “Always pleasant and smiling to everyone, you could not meet up with her (if you were feeling out of sorts) without seeing your pain vanish. When you looked at her, because of her amiability, everything disappeared and changed for the better, as if an angel had suddenly appeared and chased all the demons away. She made the souls of her children pass through the thorns of great trials, according to the special needs of each one of them. She sometimes said to me, right at the beginning, “Don’t be one of those religious who need to be handled with kid gloves.”

Sister Mary-Aloyse was never one of these last. Her ideal, when she entered the Order, had been to consecrate herself entirely to Jesus Christ through the immolation of her own will, tastes and inclinations. She pursued it unswervingly, in spite of temptations and dislikes of every sort. “My God,” she writes about this time, “I wish to repair the past. What You ask of me is more than recollection, modesty, maintaining my religion, saying less mundane things in recreation, less concern with my own well-being, more affability and evenness of temper towards my Sisters; no longer permitting myself to be sarcastic, and no longer seeking to draw attention to myself.” So much for the correction of her faults. Now let us hear what she says about her own personal sanctity. “Oh my God, let me hide myself in You. I wish to suffer and be despised for You. Oh Jesus. Beginning from today, let me be converted seriously. No more sins, my God, for I have already offended You too much. Mary, my Mother, help me to imitate St. Luis de Gonzaga. To inspire myself to observance, I often think that Jesus Christ wanted to suffer and be tormented for love of me. Come, my soul, courage! In a short time to come, we must merit heaven. Let us suffer cheerfully for God. A suffering discovered is one pearl less in your crown. Long live Jesus! I wish to suffer and overcome myself. The more pain, the more merit!”

The pious educande took the habit on 6th January 1845. She received the name of Sister Mary-Aloyse of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her companion, Miss Mary Peters of Boxmeer (Holland), received the name of Sister Mary Scholastica of the Precious Blood. Mons. Corselis, the Vicar-General, officiated, and Rev. Father Paul Reyners gave a short address. Her mother and sister attended the ceremony. Her father came on his own later to pay her a visit. On the advice of Father Dechamps, Sister Mary-Aloyse of the Immaculate Heart of Mary had written him a sort “of letter of honourable satisfaction to paternal authority.” As she wrote in it of her pious director, her father, who was a Christian but too exclusively human “had good reason to believe” in his opposition. And she added, “it is not the contradictions which come from naughty children which is a great cross, but those that come from good ones. It was certainly to give you an occasion to practise patience, resignation and fidelity that God permitted so good a Christian to adhere to so false a point of view.” But everything ended in peace. Mr. Fabri finally understood that he had no more to dispute with God over his child, and so she was able, with joy in her heart and in concert with Sister Mary-Scholastica, to make her religious profession on 23rd January 1846. It was Mons. Boussen, the Bishop of Bruges (Brugge), who conducted the ceremony and Mons. Jacquemotte who made the usual speech. He highlighted the advantages, the obligations, and the rewards of the new life to which the two novices had been forever consecrated.


[4] Canon Villain, from the Diocese of Tournai, entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer on 18th July 1835. He died at Saint-Trond in an odour of sanctity on 30th January 1838. He took the name of Father Villani in memory of the famous Father of this name, who was one of St. Alphonsus’ first companions.
[5] Sister Mary-Aloyse, who died on 23rd December 1843.
[6] St. Alénie, martyr in the Forest of Brabant (7th Century). Her relics are in the main altar of the church of the Redemptorist Fathers at Liège. When these relics were moved into the Fathers’ church, Father Dechamps published a little brochure to make this Saint more widely known.
[7] Christum habere per fidem in cordibus vestris. - St. Paul (To have Christ through faith in your hearts.)

Chapter III.
The Monastery of Bruges. - Father Passerat and his Conferences (1846-1850).

Let us now get to know a little bit about this Monastery of Bruges (Brugge) where the life of Mother Mary-Aloyse was spent. There are many things about it which will attract our interest.

The foundress was Mother Mary-Alphonsus of the Will of God, who came from Austria with her devoted friend, Sister Mary-Gabrielle of the Most Holy Trinity. When she arrived at Bruges, six choir Postulants and three converse entered. On 23rd March 1843, seven choir sisters made their profession before Monsignor Boussen, the Bishop of Brussels. Trials were not lacking. The house was only provisional, but everyone’s courage was marvellously sustained. Encouraged by frequent letters from the Venerable Father Passerat, Mother Mary-Alphonsus marched bravely at the head of all her sisters, and gave an example of the finest virtues in every respect. Her holy director gives us testimony of it: “Bruges,” he wrote, “will be the flower of the Order, above all in virtues, as I am learning from different sources.” He was invited to come to Bruges. He replied: “Have no doubt that I will do everything that depends on me to come and see you; but, my God, I am certainly not the Messiah, either for you or for your dear educands.” And besides, if the good Father’s words were not kind enough, his lessons were no less worthy of study, as we find witnessed in this letter dated from the end of January 1844, and which our Sister Mary-Aloyse was doubtless familiar with:

“Since you are such good soil, which knows how to make each crop bear fruit, may I be permitted to teach you how to lead the life of Methuselah, even here below.

“How is this to be done? - Be most observant of your holy Rules and Constitutions, and suffer the martyrdom of community life with courage and in a spirit of love; through this you will preserve your Order in its proper fervour until the end of the world.”

Father Passerat was then most concerned to recommend them to flee every deliberate venial sin like death, and concluded with these words. “And so, dear Sisters, fear your little aversions and affections, your slowness to rise in the morning from your beds and be ready for community tasks at the first sound of the bell. Fear this excessive care for your health, your little impatiences, your faults against exterior silence, and especially interior silence, your judgements, no matter how evident may seem the faults that you see; fear all those holy nuances which we know how to give the evil that our hearts desire. Fear, fear... fear as a mortal sin every deliberate venial sin. No deliberate faults at all... none at all, not one. I urgently demand this grace from Jesus Christ through the most holy Heart of Mary for you and for me.” [8]

A year later and Father Passerat came to Bruges in person. The new Redemptoristine convent was finished, and only the chapel remained to be completed. Nonetheless they wished to transfer the community to it new abode. It was on 23rd June 1845, on the stroke of four o’clock in the morning and to the chant of the Benedictus, that the Sisters took possession of their Monastery. The Redemptoristines still remember that admirable scene. The Most Reverend Father Passerat carried the Blessed Sacrament, Mother Mary-Alphonsus and the nuns accompanied her bearing lighted candles. The procession made its way through the cloisters, and finally the holy sacrifice was offered for the first time in the little sanctuary. “The feast lasted three days,” said the Annalist. On 25th June, Mons. Corselis, the Vicar-General, came to bless the Monastery. The following day, His Grace, Mons. Boussen, our Bishop, established the enclosure with great solemnity. The construction of the church was only completed in 1847. On that occasion, the bells were blessed by His Lordship, who himself deigned to open our little church for public worship.”

However, the Revolution of 1848 burst upon them at this time. The Redemptorists fled Vienna and took refuge in America, but four Redemptoristine Sisters came to ask for refuge with their Sisters of Bruges. [9] As for the Most Reverend Father Passerat, he established himself in this town near the Monastery of the nuns. For two years (from 13th September 1848 to 3rd September 1850) he dispensed to them the treasures of his wisdom and his direction.

The advice which he gave Sister Mary-Aloyse is a good indication of the kind of spiritual life inculcated by this Servant of God. It is edifying to see the care with which he attributes everything to Jesus Christ.

“Love Jesus Christ with all your heart,” he tells her, “and retain your affection for His Passion, base all your meditations on it, and aspire to the first place in heaven through your love for Jesus Christ.

“When you suffer and you are prevented from every mortification, remember that in suffering you are praying, you are fasting, and you are fulfilling your whole Rule. This is indeed your mortification. Do not listen to your own nature, which always tells you to descend from the cross. It is a false traitor, and you must not listen to it. Think often of Jesus Christ as you think in the world of a person you love, but think even more of Him who merits it more than any person in the world.

“In your life, unite everything to Jesus Christ. If you suffer, think first of all of Him, and then take the consolation that He gives you. Begin everything in Jesus Christ, and finish everything in Jesus Christ.

“What you must ask of God first of all is courage.

“What is the interior life? It is the life of faith, hope and charity.

“In your meditations, do not think too much; this is how you will obtain the most grace for yourself and others. Love, and do acts of love and gratitude. Do not go so much by the letter of what you read, but let yourself be moved by your affections.

“Be always happy and content. Never reason with the devil, and quickly chase away every sad and troublesome thought. Do not afflict yourself in your temptations.

“Desire to suffer for Jesus Christ. When you suffer interiorly or exteriorly, offer yourself to Jesus Christ to suffer so even until the Day of Judgement if this is His holy will. Unite everything to Jesus Christ: your thoughts, your words, your work, your prayers, your sufferings, and everything.”

This wise and firm direction bore its fruits. Mother Mary-Aloyse was always distinguished by her close union with Jesus and Mary, by the great care which she showed in her actions, by her attention to sanctifying her least sufferings. This fervent professed thus drew great profit from the lessons of her Noviciate. In her conduct towards her neighbour she was always seen to be full of candour and frankness in regard to her Superiors, and most circumspect in regard to her Sisters, and charitable towards them by never judging them, nor criticising them, nor inquiring into their conduct.

Is it not due to this that that we may now apply the promises that she made later to one of her novices:

“In following these counsels, you will be truly happy, as you will enjoy the peace and joy of a good conscience; and when you see the day when you will have to render your account to Our Lord, you will see it arrive without fear and even with joy, as you will be able to say, “Lord Jesus, it is for You that I have lived, have struggled, and have triumphed over myself. It is for You that I wish to die, so as to reunite myself with You forever.” Then you will not regret having reined in your tongue, tamed your character, put a brake on your spirit, and contradicted your heart, because you understand that anything which is not God is nothing.

“May Jesus be all for you. Tell all your troubles to this good and adorable Saviour, and to Mary, his good Mother and your own. They have such compassionate hearts. They will understand you, encourage you, help you and strengthen you.

“Go on ahead before God, remembering that after your death, your good or your bad examples will alone survive you, and do not worry about the conduct of others. For in examining and judging other, you will forget your own shortcomings and fall into pride.”


[8] Souvenirs (Memorials), published by Father Nimal, Redemptorist, 1 vol., p. 128, Liège, Dessain - Paris, Magnin.
[9] These were: in 1848, Sister M. Cherubim who became the Superior at Velp in 1858; - in 1849, Sister Mary-Baptist. She died eight months later, attended by Father Passerat; - in 1850, Sister Mary Fidelis, the granddaughter of Countess Welsersheimb. She left Bruges in 1852 to go to the foundation of Ried. - A converse sister, Sister Alphonsa, had accompanied Sister M. Fidelis to Bruges. Several months later, on 17th January 1851, she went to Galoppe where several Redemptoristines had gathered, waiting for the convent at Marienthal to be finished.

Chapter IV.
The Different Responsibilities Exercised by Sister Mary-Aloyse.
A spiritual director and the work of a soul.

Contemplative Orders are not Orders of dreamers, and those who would discredit them would be most astonished to see them doing different tasks and fulfilling different responsibilities that require great activity. A community of forty nuns requires to be well directed spiritually, and well regulated temporally. Both souls and bodies have their own needs, for which due provision must be made. Mother Superior, Mother Vicar, Mistress of Educands, Mistress of Novices, Sister Housekeeper, Sister Admonisher, Sister Dressmaker, Sister Sacristan, and many others. Oh, how many degrees there are in the peaceful hierarchy that we call the organisation of a convent!

Sister Mary-Aloyse very early drew the attention of her Superiors. Her talents, her virtues and her aptitudes promptly signalled her as capable of fulfilling the most difficult tasks.

She began with the modest task of sacristan. Father Paul Reyners, her director, would have liked her to join the Council as soon as she left the Noviciate. But the Rule opposed this, and the good Sister, when she discovered this, declared besides that she thought this was all a joke. Because she was capable in whatever she did, she taught the various tasks to the young Sisters. She had learned to paint. She made use of her talents to paint pious images. She made lace for the sacristy. She made reliquaries. This last work was so dear to her that she reserved it to herself, even when she became the Superior, and only her last illness was able to make her abandon it.

In 1853, she was entrusted with the important task of Mistress of Novices, which she exercised for the space of seventeen years. We shall speak of it later. To this task, in 1858, she added that of Mother Vicar, and from then on she became, we may say, the right arm of her worthy Superior, Mother Mary-Philomena, who for a long time had appreciated her virtues. She soon realised the wisdom of her advice, and never wished to make any important decision without consulting her. At the time of the foundation of Louvain, Sister Mary-Aloyse gave her already-suffering Superior the most devoted support, accompanying her on all her journeys, taking all the steps necessary to assure the foundation, and organising everything. Once all the preparations were complete, she left Bruges with the first Sisters, only returning when the ceremony of erecting the enclosure had brought the matter to its end. She still continued to give assistance from afar by her letters to the members of the new foundation. She also accompanied Mother Mary-Philomena on her last journey to Velp (1858). In a word, until the very day (12th January 1879) when she was elected as the Superior of Bruges, Sister Mary-Aloyse never ceased to render the greatest services in all the tasks that were entrusted to her. In these tasks, most exceptionally, she always performed in a manner pleasing to God and satisfactory to everyone involved.

This is perhaps the place to dispel certain misunderstandings on the subject of the spiritual direction of a soul, in placing before the eyes of our readers some letters addressed to Sister Mary-Aloyse by Father Theodore Kockerols, Redemptorist. We will see that this good Father’s direction contained nothing original or ambitious. It was as clear as light, as simple as a fine day, and it spoke at one and the same time to the soul of this good Sister and the soul of her director. We will give these letters regardless of dates, because they are unknown to us, including the year.

Antwerp, 25th
“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
“Our Lady will give you better counsel than I can give you, but since it has been such a long time since I last talked to you, I think that you will hear me all the more willingly. Besides, if my advice does not agree with that of Our Lady, reject it out-of-hand (mine, of course, as you are simple enough not to understand me). Arm yourself with a holy anger against your own self, and be admirably sweet towards everyone. Be deaf to the voice of your own nature, and lend an attentive ear to every word that Our Lord will speak inside you.

“Be blind to the imperfections of the Sisters who are not entrusted to your care, and have eagle eyes to discover your own shortcomings. Do not listen to the devil, who will discourage you, but to the Lord who inspires confidence. Have more fear of the shadow of a voluntary fault than thousands of temptations, whatever they are.

“Above all else, love prayer, knowing that it is the beginning, the middle and the end of the spiritual life, for it is prayer which purifies the soul of its miseries, which gives it the strength to practise virtue, which detaches it from creatures and brings it to joy in the Lord.

“I wish you even greater graces, and tomorrow I shall pray for you to receive them to your heart’s desires.
“Wishing you everything in Jesus Christ,
“Theodore Kockerols.”

“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
“I recommend to you 1) your own conversion, 2) the conversion of the Reverend Mother, 1 and 3) my own conversion. Three great works of mercy.

“Take care to look into every corner, not of the Reverend Mother’s conscience, nor of my own, but of your own, - and be without mercy for the bears, the leopards and the bad subjects that you will find there. May our good Jesus expel them, striking them with His whip, and may He place a cherubim with a flaming sword at the entry, to prevent them from ever returning.

“Milk and honey run from the rocks,” it says in the Holy Scriptures. - When this becomes true for you, then my poor soul will leap for joy. But for as long as it does not please the Lord for this to be so, I will say with all the power of my soul: Patience, my daughter, patience! Jesus is so adorable and so good that if we have the happiness to find Him and contemplate Him for a single second after a hundred thousand years of seeking Him, then we ought to consider ourselves happy, ineffably happy. Jesus, good Jesus, show us just a little glimpse of Your beauty, and we shall be so faithful to You!

“Pray for the poor soul of him who wishes you to be entirely for Jesus Christ through His holy Mother.”

Here now are the thoughts inspired in Father Theodore by the Feast of St. Luis de Gonzaga, Sister Mary-Aloyse’s patron saint.

Brussels, 20th June.
“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
“If St. Luis de Gonzaga will obtain for you tomorrow the grace which I will be asking for you, then you will have good reason to be happy, like a bird in Paradise. And this grace? I shall have trouble in expressing myself so that you can understand me properly. In any case, it is not deliverance from either your bodily or spiritual miseries, - certainly not that! After some days of thinking particularly about you, I came to feel that misery is your fate, your second nature. So I do not wish for your misery to be taken away from you. God wants it, so take note. But I would dearly wish for you to be as docile as a child in God’s hands - and may you let yourself be annihilated when He intends it and as He intends it. Oh, how much I would like to see you unflinching under God’s hand, even when His hand is armed with the sharp sword of sorrows and humiliation! How much I would like to see you reduced to an atom of dust, but crying out forever and always in a loud voice, “Thank you, my God, thank you! I shall love You increasingly, the more You make me suffer more and more.”

“I can see that I am a little bit cruel in my wishes. I shall stop here, for I am almost at the point of wishing you to be nothing, and more than nothing in the superlative. But truly, you may believe me, I also wish very ardently for you to be great, very great, because you are totally in God.
“In your misery, pray for my misery.
“A happy Feast, Sister Mary-Aloyse, from your Father in Jesus Christ.”

The following letter is neither less well thought out or less well written than the preceding ones. It also reveals the good Sister’s tendency to worry too much in her desire for perfection and the religious virtues.

“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
I thank you for the goodness you have shown me in giving me the news about the Reverend Mother’s health. For the love of our little Jesus, do not let her depart, even though she wants it so much.

“In your letter you ask me when your heart will change. Truly, I thought you had more spirit. But it is changing every day, because every day it is becoming more unendurable to you. Is it not a sign that we are advancing in perfection, when we detest our imperfections and sigh for the moment when there are no more in our souls? In your opinion, apparently, this moment is too long in coming. But the Lord, who knows you better than you know yourself, knows very well that you would send yourself to your destruction if He let this long-desired moment come too soon. You sigh after humility, and I know that your sighs are sincere. So have patience, and let the Lord be responsible for teaching you humility. If He does not do so, what will happen? We often laugh about the little humiliations in the cloister - at the very least they just scratch the skin. But God’s sting us deeply and hurt greatly. I shall pray that this operation will not be too long, and that you will be able to endure it in all patience.”
“Your servant in Jesus Christ.”

A last missive from the good Father Theodore will worthily crown these admirable letters. Of all of them, this is perhaps the most instructive.

Brussels, 30th May 1862.
“My daughter in Jesus Christ,
“In the name of the Reverend Mother, you ask for a death-blow to the activity of your own nature, and certainly, if it depended on me, I would not fail to give it to you. But, but, it is difficult enough to kill an eel by hitting it with a stick. And it is even more difficult to calm down with a whip a heart that is too ardent and in too much of a hurry. Because He wishes to preserve us from every fault and every imperfection, Our Lord Jesus Christ has said, Vigilate - “Be watchful!” ... This advice is perfect for protecting ourselves against all sorts of temptations and weaknesses. But according to the opinion of all the Saints, it is the only indispensable and efficacious advice against the rushing of the heart. At every instant of the day, in a large community, - and a fortiori - “even more strongly”, in the pleasant task of Mistress of Novices, our hearts are exposed to a thousand little enthusiasms, a thousand and one agitations which often reach us this way , especially when we wish to raise everything to the peak of perfection in everything that surrounds us. So she who does not exercise a continual vigilance against all the movements of her heart, to repress them as soon as they depart from the strict rules of meekness and charity, will be like a reed exposed to all the winds, and who is never for a single instant in a perfect calm. Vigilance, - see the whip here. - And the less elegant stick? A generous violence and continual efforts, without listening to the demands of our own self-esteem.

“I perceive that I am dealing with this matter almost seriously, like a doctor. Forgive me and do what I tell you, and you will be a living reliquary You need a great mirror, but I am sure that the Reverend Mother will be happy to buy one for you.

“As for the other miseries that you tell me are so horrible, I am sorry for you, I could almost say that I have pity for you, but I will not say even one “Hail Mary” to deliver you from them. I have the deep conviction that this is a work of God whose final aim is to purify your heart, to make you capable of a closer union with Him. What a strange manner, you tell me, to purify a heart! - In fact it is strange, but you can be sure that it is a good one, because God is using it - God, who is so jealous of the purity of heart of His Spouses. Patience, - that is the whip. - Abandon yourself without a whimper to the will of God, for this is the stick which will knock out your self-esteem, which does not know how to resign itself to this apparent ugliness.

“Now you know what you must do to attract the Holy Spirit and the fullness of His gifts into your heart. So banish every trouble and agitation, and you will feel His presence in the midst of this perfect silencing of your passions. Abandon yourself to the divine will, and thank this divine will for all the distressing things which have happened to you. The fire which seems to come out from all this apparent unpleasantness will purify you. What more is needed to make your heart pure and of good will, and fit to enter into God?
“Pray for the poor soul of your servant in Jesus Christ.”

Chapter V.
Mother Mary-Aloyse is named Directress of the Noviciate (1852-1870).

The letter which we are about to cite was addressed to Mother Mary-Aloyse, Mistress of Novices: this responsibility was in fact entrusted to our modest heroine in 1852, and she exercised it until 1870.

Formed as she was in the school of Mother Mary-Philomena, and abundantly nourished on the instructions of the Rev. Father Passerat, Sister Mary-Aloyse also received from God the precious qualities which disposed her to government. Her practical sense was rare, her judgement excellent, and her knowledge of the spiritual ways permitted her to guide others along the path of perfection. The sweet teachings of St. Alphonsus also served her as a rule, and in the school of this great master, she had learnt to require nothing that was beyond the powers or the abilities of her disciples, but what she always firmly required was for everyone to avoid deliberate faults with the greatest care, to do penance for those which they had committed, and to apply themselves diligently to fulfil all the obligations imposed on them by the Rule. Effort, a care for detail, unhurried actions, these indispensable elements in tendency to perfection, were also the subject of her recommendations, but she wanted everything to be inspired, sustained and brought to a good end through the love of Jesus Christ. So she gave a soul to this body of sometimes meticulous practices which are called spiritual warfare, and a sure pledge of success to efforts that the lack of love condemns too often to powerlessness.

Let us hear her former novices themselves speak to us of some events in their noviciate.

“On the first Friday of each month,” one of them writes, “Sister Mary-Aloyse required her novices to put down in writing the accusation they proposed to make against themselves, so as to rectify it if possible. One day, when a novice brought her piece of paper to her, she noticed her mistress crossing out a sentence in which she accused herself of having wrongly judged her Superior, and of having said several words expressing criticism. So she permitted herself to ask her the reason for this, expressing her regret to her and the desire she had for repairing and expiating her fault. Sister Mary-Aloyse said to her, “This fault is so displeasing to Our Lord’s Heart that a novice must never commit it. Make Him a sincere promise that never again will you cause Him this pain, as whoever despises her Superiors wounds Him right to the Heart.” She imposed a small penance on the novice, who corrected herself, through the fear of causing pain to Jesus Christ Himself.”

“A novice experienced an antipathy towards a Sister whose manners upset her, and some of whose practices toward her were hurtful to her. It was the custom to beg for soup in the refectory. The novice found this penance agreeable, we might even say amusing, but she never managed to bring herself to do it, because the young Sisters had to give way to the older ones. Finally she succeeded one day in taking hold of the blessed dish that she had coveted for so long, and got ready most happily to go round the refectory on her knees to beg for her bread, when Sister N took the soup-plate out of her hands to do the penance in her place. - This trial was too much for the novice. She went and complained to the Mistress, not being able to suppress some disagreeable reflections about the Sister who had supplanted her. When she had finished venting her spleen, the Mother Mistress said to her: “My dear Sister, far too often you have noticed this and that in this fervent religious. Believe me, if you do not take care, you will nourish an antipathy inside you which will be a source of many imperfections for you. If you want to stop this right at the beginning, this is what you must do: every time when , for one cause or another, you feel a sense of discontentment against this good Sister, find an occasion to render her a service, or go up to her in recreation to say something nice to her.” The novice followed this advice and found it good, and applied it for the rest of her life to every Sister whom she did not like, and thanks to the good advice of her devoted Mistress, she managed, by repeated acts, to be able sometimes to quite set aside the dislikes she felt for the Sisters who beforehand seemed so disagreeable to her.

“A novice (it is the same Sister talking), a novice was often criticised for the attachment she had to her own will. On one of the monthly retreats, she wished to give her Mistress a surprise. She sent her a rosary case made of coconut wood, and told her, “Mother, this detachment is small, it is true, but it has cost me a great deal.” Sister Mary-Aloyse took the little box and opened it as they talked. The novice had put a little note inside it bearing the words: “My will.” The Mistress showed herself very satisfied, but added, “My Sister, do not forget this gift which you have just given me, and from time to time let me make use of it.”

Let us listen to some other accounts. Their style is quite different, but they are quite marvellous in letting us glimpse inside the noviciate of Bruges in 1861-62.

“The Reverend Mother Mary-Aloyse made us take our noviciate seriously, and ever since I have always blessed and thanked our good God, although, at the time, I found her very severe.

“In recreation, this Mother maintained the most frank cheerfulness. There were several of us French girls and two of them above all would often start talking, because, as they said, they would do anything to liven up the others. But one day, the Mother Mistress said to me, half seriously and half as a joke, “My dear Sister, I believe that if you were to spend a recreation without talking, you would do yourself a great deal of harm.” After this I replied bravely that I would try to do it from the next day on. The Mother Mistress gave a wry smile and agreed. The next day, while continually looking at Mother and the other Sisters, I kept a firm silence, as if was quite easy for me. So then she set herself to get me to talk, offering me whatever would tempt me the most, such as pictures, etc., but to my great satisfaction, the bell sounded before I could say anything. Then there was general laughter.

“Another time, while we were walking in the garden during recreation (it was in the month of November), we happened to walk near an apple-tree. I got very excited at the idea of the fruit that it would bear in the following year, but as our Mother had a better knowledge in practice of the virtues than of arboriculture, she had some doubts about my competence and said to me, “Oh well, Sister, mark the fruit buds with a bit of thread and then we will see the proof of your knowledge.”

“The following year, to my great satisfaction, the tree produced many fine buds, but then withered up entirely and died. I was most disappointed. Then my Mistress ordered me to water my apple-tree every day, which I did even among the snow and ice of a most severe winter. In Spring, divine Providence declared itself in my favour, and my apple-tree produced fine apples. It was given my name (Mary Augustine) in remembrance, and when I was sent on to the foundation of Velp, I still received fruit from my resuscitated apple-tree. It was my Mistress who brought them to me with great joy, and I ate them with great pleasure.”

These citations show Sister Mary-Aloyse as a Mistress who was concerned to advance all her charges in perfection. One of her letters will demonstrate this.

“Dear little Sister,” she wrote to one of her novices, “your good letter has pleased me greatly. Never let yourself be discouraged. Jesus is with you, and when you have worked with courage to prepare a place for Him, He will come to dwell in your heart. He is there already, but He will come in a more intimate manner, and just one of these moments will make you completely forget, or rather, bless all the days of struggling. So courage then! Everything will be well, I can assure you on behalf of Jesus, if you never cease struggling and above all, if you never let yourself be discouraged. I am very happy that you see yourself as ugly. It is a grace. Reply to it by redoubling your confidence in Him who loves you so much and who will make you beautiful, if you offer Him your hand by humbling yourself in confidence. Recollection will also come. Patience, patience. Nothing is done in one day, but you must not let a single day go by without working. You love our good God more than you believe. Bless Him for everything. It is for your own good! Good-by for now, but I shall be looking forward to seeing you again. I pray to Mary to bless you.
“Sister Mary-Aloyse.”

Velp, 24th September 1860...
Let the novices speak again.
Sister Mary Clementine, [11] from the convent of Dublin, pays tribute to the great virtues of Mother Mary Philomena, and adds:

“Regarding the good Mother Mary-Aloyse, Dear Mother, I can only say that as Mistress of Novices and as Superior, she was always an enlightened directress to me and a tender Mother, who preached equally by example and by word, and knew how to make us love our holy Rules and the practice of the religious virtues. In a word, in these two Mothers I have always venerated the archetype of true and worthy Redemptoristine Superiors.”

Sister Mary-Lidwine of the Holy Spirit [12] particularly praises the vigilance and energy of her former Mistress of Novices:

“Both of them, Mother Mary-Philomena and her were most zealous in making souls advance towards perfection and forming solid virtues in their nuns. The Mother Vicar, Sister Mary-Aloyse, was my Mistress of Novices for two years. She greatly edified me through her energy, courage and power of soul by which she made her novices advance, with her eyes and her ears always open to correct the faults which she saw in them.”

Mother Mary Gertrude, the Superior of Clapham (London), was only under the direction of Mother Mary-Aloyse for a few months. “From the first day that I knew her,” she says, “I had the greatest veneration for her. Her recollected exterior reminded me of her angelic Patron, and her air of recollection as she went through the Monastery was wonderful to see. When she was my Mistress of Novices, she was the perfect model of a religious, and through her words, which breathed the spirit of our Father Saint Alphonsus, she taught us never to recoil before any sacrifice when it touched on the good of the Order. She often told me. “You must remember that our good God wants you to be a saint. This is why you must suffer, and struggle, and love beyond all measure Him who has loved us so much.”

“To some of them she could seem severe, but this severity was due to her love of the holy Rule and our Father Saint Alphonsus. I have always heard it said that she was as simple as a little child towards her Superiors. My memory and my heart will forever retain the memory of her spirit of prayer, her fervent love for observance, and her angelic modesty. In a word, it is impossible for me to describe in their entirety the virtues that we venerate in our holy Mother Mistress, and I still love to talk to our young Sisters about her great qualities and her instructions, to encourage them to walk in the footsteps of those who have gone before us.”

Sister Mary-Magdalen of Jesus, a Redemptoristine of Dublin, renders this moving tribute to her former Mother Mistress.

“Obedience asks me to do something which I feel entirely incapable of, although I have an inexpressible desire to open my heart full of gratitude towards my former Mother Mistress, the Reverend Mother Mary-Aloyse. I was a novice under her orders for more than two years, and during this time, I venerated her like a saint, and this sentiment still remains with me and is still the same as it has been for almost forty eight years. For myself, I believe that she was the most perfect soul that I have ever known. As Mistress, she was strict, as a Mother she was full of tenderness, devotion and sacrifice. Her example was a stimulus to excite our fervour. When speaking of the little observances she would tell us, “What our Father Saint Alphonsus has prescribed for us is not too small for me to practise.” I will never forget her holy words and instructions. Dear Reverend Mother, you will excuse my initiative and my bad French. I hope you will understand me, but my affection for my beloved Mother will never change. I hope that in her heavenly home she will think of her former novice and pray for her. As my own turn is coming, I greatly hope for her prayers to obtain mercy for me from our good God, and a happy death, when it is His holy will.”

From Dublin, too, the following letter comes to us, with its own special charm:

“Your dear aunt [13] being from Liège, I was most curious to get to know her, and I observed her well.

“The Reverend Sister Mary-Aloyse has always been regarded as a holy religious. She had a very serious exterior, and she was very severe with herself, but indulgent towards others. She was a model of regular observance, and showed a great love of poverty and silence. She was also very mortified, but her dearest virtue was that of obedience. The Reverend Sister Mary-Aloyse had a remarkable love for this virtue. She would have liked to change everything into obedience.

“When she became our Mother Mistress of Novices, she seemed a little cold and distant, and we were somewhat afraid of her. In our case, that was just as well. She was very maternal. When we were suffering, she would spare nothing to comfort us.

“In recreation, she was very jolly. Sometimes we spoke in the Liège dialect, but she knew it better than me, and this amused her immensely. Sometimes I would say, “Come now, Mother Mistress, now I can tell you all my secrets in public, because none of the novices can understand a word.”

The good Mother was most eager to inspire us with a love of our vocation and the religious virtues. Later on, I learnt from one of my companions that she had become very affable, very loveable, and our dear Sister Mary-Clementine confirmed it to me. This is another tribute to her virtue, and I am persuaded that this was a fruit of her beloved obedience.

“Through humility she would never let us render her any service, and when we looked for an occasion, she tried to avoid us every time, always saying, “I am my own servant.”

“So, dear Reverend Mother, look what my poor pen has produced. I do not doubt that God and His angels knows all this even better than us, but heaven will reveal it all to us.”

Let us now add another letter to all of these. It is dated September 1905 like the preceding ones. The venerable signatory of it died two months after writing it. [14] What a wonderful sense of gratitude and filial affection is found in it!

“Dear Reverend Mother,
“It is not simply a pleasure, it is a duty for me to say some words about the virtues of our Mother Mary-Aloyse, who was my Mother Mistress in the Educandate and the Noviciate.

“This dear Mother was strict about everything concerning holy observance, and remarkably hard on herself, but she also showed a very maternal goodness towards those who addressed themselves to her. I have had this experience myself. Being naturally timid, I did not dare approach her, but as soon as I had overcome that childish fear, I found a mother’s heart in her, full of the spirit of our Father Saint Alphonsus, and seeking by all means that his spirit suggested to her, to inculcate into our young hearts the divine virtues that our divine Saviour had practised during His life, such as humility, simplicity, abnegation of self, and above everything else, holy poverty. This last virtue she practised herself with great perfection during her whole religious life, so that we could say that it was her favourite virtue.

“She recommended novices to always have a great respect for their religious costume, by keeping it clean and tidy.

“Although this good Mother was occupied all day with the task she was responsible for, when she arrived at recreation, she was always jolly like a young novice.

“May our good Jesus bless her soul in a special manner for having guided me and taught me to walk in the blessed way of holy religious life”

“Sister Maria-Angelica of the Most Holy Sacrament, Religious of the Most Holy Redeemer.”


[11] Died at Clapham (London) on 19th March 1907.
[12] Sent from Bruges to the foundation at Louvain in 1875.
[13] This letter is addressed, like its predecessors, to the Reverend Mother Superior of the Redemptoristines of Bruges, the niece of Mother Mary-Aloyse.
[14] She died at Dublin on 19th November following.

Chapter VI.
The Apostolate of a Redemptoristine.

Perhaps readers would like to rest for a while from the long journey they have just made through the noviciate. Mother Mary-Aloyse is about to appear to us in the guise of a very peaceful and very fruitful apostolate. We would like to speak about her apostolate of prayer.

Father Dechamps wrote some very interesting letters to her on this subject.

Saint Joseph (Brussels), vigil of Saint Nicholas.
“5th December 1853.
“My dear daughter in Jesus-Christ,
­“I have not yet told you how happy I was to receive your letters, which have followed me around. It was only upon my return to Rome that a big bundle of them overwhelmed me. I am leaving tomorrow for Coblenz, where I shall leave them in the certainty of never being able to take them up again. But we must pray for other points which will be dealt with at Coblenz. Do not see egoism in this! This Father scarcely ever writes, and when he does write three lines, it is to ask you for prayers! Yes, but not for him alone. So, my dear daughter, truly pray and ask for prayers, please.

“I have just learnt that the Reverend Mother has been, and perhaps still is, suffering greatly. So tell her that she has my memento and memorare, and as her great family is praying for her, everything will end well.
“Your busy Father,
“V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

From Villa Caserta (Rome) where this Father went during the month of April for the Chapter General, and which he was about to leave, he wrote these few lines to Mother Mary-Aloyse, whose mother had just died:

“Yes, my daughter, I have learnt your sad news. She has arrived and is rejoicing more than ever in your vocation. If she has need of it, you will open the door of heaven sooner to her. I join myself to your prayers.

“If the Reverend Mother has no time to do it, I turn to you to pass on to Brussels my news and my requests. So goodbye and say many prayers to the Holy Family, the Archangel Raphael and our good Angels for our journey.
“Your devoted servant in Jesus Christ,
“V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

The Redemptoristines of Bruges sometimes asked to hear Father Dechamps. His sweet and powerful eloquence was well known to them. But how could he promise anything in the midst of work-load he spoke about!

Tournai, 6th November 1855.
“My dearest daughter,
“It is truly impossible for me to be able to promise anything. I hope to be free for the 22nd, the day of the great Saint Cecile. If I am free, I will come.

“I cannot say any more, because of an extraordinary complication of labours of all sorts. Your Father has become a missionary once more, without ceasing to be a Rector and man of the Court. [15] This has produced a singular mixture. If you do not pray very greatly and very constantly for him, he risks it all getting too much for him.

“I shall see you soon, I hope. Persevere in saying some good prayers to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, both you and all of you and the Reverend Mother, for
“Your most devoted Father in Jesus Christ,
“V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

The following letter testifies also to the need for prayers, which this apostolic man felt so keenly.

Brussels, Feast of Saint Joseph, 1856.
“My dear daughter in Jesus Christ,
“You have said that your old Father has become deaf, and this is why he is dumb. Not so. It is because no matter how old he is, he must run ever faster. He has just come back from one of his journeys. Will he ever get to Bruges without a miracle? It is because he has been entrusted with watering a dry and sandy soil, and as for Bruges, they are evergreen pastures, because it is Jesus Himself who waters them. You say that I am taking refuge in rhetoric to escape the difficulty. No, I am speaking the truth. But I pray to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Alphonsus to always make the dew of heaven fall ever more abundantly upon you all.

“When will I ever see my children at Bruges? The essential thing is to meet again in heaven. Remember always that those who battle on the plain are more exposed than those who pray in the sanctuary, and be always the good sister and good child of
“Your devoted old Father,
“V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

Always with the aim of obtaining prayers, the eloquent preacher, the illustrious author, kept his spiritual daughter up-to-date with his publications and struggles.

Saint Joseph (Brussels), 2nd January 1857.
“I am very happy that you are all thinking, you, the Reverend Mother, and all of you, of recommending me to the all-powerful little Lamb of God. Please continue to do it, and tell Him to grant each one of us what Mary is asking Him for us this year, and also whatever else He is pleased to give us.

“So you still have some family crosses! I am sure you will already have told them that it is a grace to die young, and it is a great grace most often.

“I have as my virtue of the year “Devotion to the Incarnation and Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ”, and I have now been given almost as penance, the task of writing a book which will deal with these great subjects. So now may I ask you for prayers for this and for another commissioned popular work which will bring within common reach the truths most often attacked today.

“Alas, I have even less free time, and I must work, I’m afraid, like a soldier who is smiting hip and thigh. So pray much and constantly for my poor spirit, my poor soul and my poor head. Yes, I am counting on you.

“I have Saint Francis Xavier for my Patron. He is an apostolic soldier, but if only I had a grain of his courage and confidence and love of the Cross!”

Here is yet another apostolic letter:

Wednesday of Easter 1857.
“My dear daughter and sister in J. M. J. A.,
“A Happy Easter too, a happy Resurrection. That of the soul is the unfailing seed of that of the body.

“Yes, you are right. I have a great war and enough painful combats to wage against the devil and his angels. [16] I have never more greatly felt the need of being helped by our Moses. I finished Lent with a migraine on Easter Day. And because I preached on humility, courage and patience, our good God would have said, “Look at our speaker at work.”

“You will never really know how much you have consoled me by telling me that you are all praying for me. I would most urgently ask you to be kind enough to continue on. As for communion, I believe that if you want to make it with great fervour, you must remain united to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was an act of this Heart (Bossuet says) which gave Jesus Christ to the world, the Fiat of the Incarnation, and it is also this Heart which gives us to Jesus Christ and teaches us to love Him. Let us hide within Mary’s heart, so that She may hide us in the Heart of Jesus.

“I believe, like the apostles after their conversion, in the good news of women who have followed and still follow Jesus Christ. So let us not suspect lack of belief. I trust in your promises.

“My regards and blessings to everyone, especially the Reverend Mother.
“Your most devoted servant in J. M. J. A.,
“V. Dechamps, C. SS. R.”

Let us finish with this letter, where the heart and spirit of Father Dechamps are revealed in such a touching manner:

21st December 1857.“You know that there are two sorts of sermons. Those which Jesus Christ brings about, and those which He makes Himself in silence and prayer. It is there that He tells you what to do or not do to obtain more love for the Lamb of the Manger, the Cross or the Tabernacle. Look at Him through these three veils, and you will see His light shine through as much as it can and wishes to shine in this world. 'Happy are those who thirst, for..., etc.' If you obtain this thirst for me, I will willingly wait until I get to heaven for what will quench it perfectly.

“So Brother Gerard is doing things in Bruges. This is all good news.. It reminds me of the times when I wrote smaller books which perhaps were not worth much, given this. Since Brother Gerard loves you all so much, perhaps you will all pray to him for his old Father in Liège. Tell him that I have contributed to making him known a little, and he should remember this when we remember him in heaven. [17]

“Thank you for your good wishes. May our little Jesus reward you. I count on your fidelity to your good promises.
“Your old Father in Liège.”

These continual requests for prayers attest, we think, to the apostolic zeal of the Redemptoristines at Bruges and to Mother Mary-Aloyse in particular. And so the brilliant and hard-working career of him who was one day to become Cardinal Dechamps was sustained and brought to fruition by the prayers of the cloister.


[15] Father Dechamps was then the preacher at Court to the King of the Belgians.
[16] Perhaps he is referring to the polemics aroused by the booklet: “The Murmur of the Parlours”, provoked by the courageous preaching of Father Dechamps.
[17] Father Dechamps in fact wrote a learned preface to the French edition of the Life of the Ven. Brother Gerard Majella by Father Tannoia. - Tournai, Casterman. St. Gerard was canonised on 11th December 1904.

Chapter VII.
Mother Mary-Aloyse encourages a Vocation.

Mother Mary-Aloyse, in the important responsibilities which she exercised, acquired some most useful experience. She made use of it to give the most wise counsels, on occasions, to people of the world. In 1872, one of her nieces, Miss Mathilda Fabri, announced a great news to her. She felt herself called to the religious life and burned to join her pious aunt in the cloister. But her father claimed custody over her youth, and her brothers also had need of her care, so how could she get out of such pressing duties! So from then on, how could she maintain the sacred fire in a life spent in the midst of the world? Mother Mary-Aloyse went to her aid with all her power. Her letters to her niece allow us to reveal her in another light. To the advice which she gave her to show her family the most tender attachment, she joined the advice of a superior prudence, so necessary to safeguard a vocation.

What could be more judicious than her first recommendations? “The more I have prayed,” she writes, “the more it seems to me that God primarily wants you to apply yourself to your interior life, to this union of heart and will with Jesus Christ, who ever holds you in a peaceful and loving dependency. A ruling is no doubt necessary, but the main point must always be one of preferring the will of God to your own exercises, and to sacrifice them generously when He asks you to. I cannot praise you too much for your desire to conform yourself exteriorly to others, and to supplement in your heart and your will for what you cannot do.”

Making an appeal to her own memories, she forewarned her niece against a danger.
“Although I would not wish to advise you to miss out on your sleep, on the contrary, I find that you often sleep too little. Believe me in my experience. I made the same error in the world, and I have had time to repent of it.” Then she laid out for her a little rule of life.

“I would be much happier,” she added, “dear Mathilda, to see you communicate more often, if your confessor will allow it, and if you can do it without anyone finding fault with it. Here, the educands communicate three time a week, the novices four times, without counting the Feasts, and the professed, six times. Try to be at least a novice. I am sure that at Enailles you will have the same sacrifices to make as I had at Sény, because we do not like to be displayed before all the world. So make many, many spiritual communions.” She finishes by telling her about some of Saint Alphonsus’ works.

“I advise you to procure the little treatise Of Mental Prayer and Retreats, and Of the Manner of Conversing Continually with God, by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori. For your meditations, I believe that you will find it very useful to make use of Reflections and Affections on the Passion and Meditations for the Feasts. All these works are by Saint Alphonsus and printed by Casterman (translated by Father Dujardin). These are some little works which will greatly aid you in meditating with confidence, and which are very consoling.” [18]

In another letter, Mother Mary Aloyse initiates her niece into certain practices of religious life, but adapted to her present condition:
“Since you are so fond of doing what we do, dear sister, it is also appropriate for you to have a Patron saint, a practice and a special prayer for the year - we receive it on New Year’s Day. - Your Patron will be Saint Alphonsus, your practice, patience: patience with yourself when you do not make enough progress; patience with others, for even when we live with the angels, we still need patience. And your prayer will be to ask God often for peace, charity and the accomplishment of the duties of religion to always be a distinctive mark of your family. And for this you will say a “Hail Mary” every day.

She again recommended devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. “Try to love Our Lord more in the Blessed Sacrament, and when you are at home, turn from time to time towards the church to greet Him and adore Him and often make spiritual communions. This will do you so much good, especially in moments of pain, when you feel the need to love or be loved! So continue to turn towards the only adorable and desirable good.

“Well, courage, my good child. Jesus loves you very much, you can be sure. Place a high value on the happiness of being the bride of Jesus Christ. Continue to sacrifice yourself in taking care of your father and brothers. For the moment this is certainly the will of God. Make every effort to maintain charity in the family, and Jesus will bless you and love you.” [19]

“Reading your letters, I feel that your are tormenting yourself too much for your faults. Of course we should not love them, but we must live with ourselves and think that our ugliness, borne humbly and in confidence, will not make us disagreeable to our good God, who is so good. As Saint Francis de Sales said, “we must love abjection in order to correct imperfection.”

“I shall place you especially in the Heart of Jesus at seven o’clock in the morning, which is the hour of our holy communion and the Mass, and I shall pray to the Holy Virgin to always be your good Mother.” [20]

The following letter is no less instructive:
“I have prayed so much for you during Christmas night: I asked during the midnight Mass for the Child Jesus to soon open the door of His dear Bethlehem to you, so that we can dwell in it with Him.

“While we are waiting for this wonderful day, dear child, try to become more and more a fervent lover of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. This above all is the mark of a Redemptoristine. Do not be content with an ordinary faith, confidence and love, but instead you must establish between yourself and Jesus in the Tabernacle a current of holy affections going from His Heart to your own and from your heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. - We learn so many things at the foot of the Tabernacle! There is everything in a consecrated host, so may it be all your treasure, dear Mathilda, your book, your consoler, your confident and your everything. This is one of my most sincere wishes for my good child, whom I desire so much to see all red. Let us hope for it and ask it from the Child Jesus.”

We shall never grow tired of listening to this pious aunt. Here is her judicious advice. “I have to smile, my good little sister, reading these words in your letter: “Everything is going well, but I am so changeable!” Do not forget that your emotions are always changeable. You know that chapter of the Imitation where it is said that we are sometimes sad and sometimes joyful. And we shall be the same until we arrive there, where nothing ever changes. - So this is not a fault, but a misery of our poor nature, which we have to bear with patience. We will never lack crosses or sufferings for as long as we love our good Saviour. He made His daily bread from them, and this must be ours as well.

And she adds, “Try to spend Advent well. It is a time of joy and a time of wishes. The Office is so beautiful! It is a continual sigh calling out to Jesus Christ. If you do not have the Divine Office in French and Latin, I advise you to procure one as complete as possible, and to make use of it sometimes for your meditations. The Advent anthems and the Masses are all so beautiful, and they put us so much into the spirit of the Holy Church! And there is also another advantage, which is that since the Office is drawn almost entirely from Holy Scripture, we are meditating on the words of the Holy Spirit, which always have a particular grace. However, I ask you not to do this without the permission of the Father, who knows you better than I do.”

The letter finishes with come wise recommendations:
“And also try, my good Mathilda, not to go so much against your father. It is better to sacrifice a half-hour of prayers on your knees and pray some other way than to bring down upon yourself some orders or restrictions that you find hard to bear. I have been through that and I know what it means. Once it went as far as wanting to forbid me to confess to the Priest, but I became angry, I wept, I made an uproar so much that they had to leave me alone. It is also true that I made them a terrible threat: If you force me to this, then I will leave even sooner. Then they gave up. But you cannot, must not threaten this. The hour has not come, you can be sure. So be prudent, and see the will of God in the sacrifices He is asking of you.”

In another letter, this good Mother speaks at length on her concern to make family life seem pleasant. Could there ever be anything more judicious, more just, or more like Saint Francis de Sales, if we may so put it, than the following lines?

“You can be sure, my dear child, that our good Saviour will hold you to account for all that you do for Him in sacrificing yourself for the souls of your father and brothers. So try, my good friend, to treat them with the greatest love, and give them a little family pleasure by your well-chosen company, and when there are such gatherings, believe me, do not walk out of them again as you have done. I am sure that your father would have been most upset, and although he may not have said anything to you, he would have spoken about it to others. I heard something about it in Summer through aunt Mathilda, who spoke up for you, however. She also told me that you do not need to go to excess. I have told you this often - be prudent and learn how to make a sacrifice so you do not bring down upon yourself a positive ban on following your exercises. They complain that you are neglecting the housework, that your brothers are always having to rely continually on the servants, since you are never there, that your father is sad and worrying, etc., etc. I know, and I understand that it is very difficult to satisfy everyone, but, my good friend, have you not thought that you will have less graces in praying a little more in your own room and in cutting back somewhat on the time you give to the church, since this is the main complaint?”

She then describes a little rule to her and adds, “So do you not realise that in the convent you will also have to make some of these sacrifices? You often have to learn how to leave God for God, and do His will by leaving the choir when you would be so happy to stay there. So, my dear friend, courage. Fulfil your mission with generosity.”

However, her dear niece went to Lourdes to recommend her vocation to the Immaculate Virgin. “Ah!” she wrote to her from Bruges, “so my little sister is emancipating herself, but in a good manner. I am very happy for you. There you are at the source of graces, so place yourself firmly in the heart of this good Mother. I shall recommend your great desire together with you.”

However, the blessed hour is approaching. We are in July 1878, and in three months the young lady who so generously sacrificed herself for her family, is now about to take flight for the cloister. Her good aunt wants to help her make the right sacrifice now of those to whom up till now she was so devoted to:

“Do not doubt,” she writes to her, “that Jesus and Mary are themselves taking care of those whom you are leaving for their love. The more your sacrifice is generous and full of love, the more abundantly their graces will fall upon your family. So give Jesus and Mary whatever it costs you, often and in advance. After holy communion, offer Our Lord everything you love, Léon, Joseph, Sidonie and all the others, by saying, “My Jesus, I give them to you. Help me to make my sacrifice well so that it will be most agreeable to you. I give you all of them. Make me love you more now that I am leaving them for You. Implore Jesus and Mary for the sentiments that inspired them at Calvary, when you say farewell. Offer this for the soul of your dear Father, [21] and you will see that Our Lord will help you. Tell Him truly that you wish to be a faithful and generous spouse. Then, have confidence. It will cost you, for it will not mean much without it. And soon you will be back at Enailles. You will no longer have the Father [22] to strengthen you, but keep up your prayers. I will send you a copy there of a letter that Mons Dechamps wrote me when I was at Sény. It will please you and do you good.”

From this point on, the correspondence ceases, as the young lady said a last good-bye to the world. She entered the Redemptoristine convent at Bruges.
[18] April 1872.
[19] January 1873.
[20] December 1873.
[21] Mr. Victor Fabri, who died in the month of June.
[22] Father Fiévez.

Chapter VIII.
Mother Mary-Aloyse is named Superior of the Community of Bruges. Her charity towards the Redemptoristines of Italy. The correspondence with the Most Rev. Father Mauron. His Lordship’s visit to the Monastery of Bruges.

The death of Mother Mary Philomena, (13th December 1878) was a very serious blow to the community of Bruges, but Providence never fails to put a balm on such wounds. Mother Mary-Aloyse was chosen to replace her much venerated predecessor, and the whole community had but one heart and soul in transferring to the newly-elect all the affection that they had shown to their late Superior.

As soon as she was appointed, the Reverend Mother Mary-Aloyse, as a true daughter of Saint Alphonsus, wrote to inform the Most Rev. Father Mauron, Rector Major of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. She received the following reply from him:

Villa Caserta, Rome, this 19th February 1879.
My Reverend Mother. - I have received your letter of 6th February, which brought me the happy news that you have been elected by an unanimous vote to succeed Reverend Mother Mary-Philomena, of happy memory, as Superior. She governed your Monastery so well for so many years. God has clearly manifested His will, so He will not fail to assist you with His graces and lights.

“In the name of Saint Alphonsus, I give you my blessing in your position as Superior, with confidence that a good spirit and observance will be preserved and grow more and more, under your direction, at this holy Monastery.”

Mother Mary-Aloyse had already sent some monetary help to the Redemptoristine convent of Saint Agatha. The Most Rev. Father Mauron thanked her in these terms:

“I sent your letter on to the Mother Superior of Saint Agatha, together with an Italian translation, and added 25 francs from yourself, which I had surplus to the 200 you sent me at Christmas. Attached is the letter from the Superior of Saint Agatha, in which she tells you of the death of one of her nuns. This poor Monastery is in danger of being suppressed sooner or later, because the law here states that when there are no more than six professed nuns, the Government has the right to send them away; and it is now twenty years since they were forbidden to admit other nuns.

We hope that Saint Alphonsus will not permit this; but if this convent ever comes to be sold by the Government, we will have to do everything possible to save it from the hands of whatever individual wants to buy it. I have already spoken about this to the Bishop of Saint Agatha.
“I bless you and also all the Sisters of the Community, and I am in Our Lord Jesus Christ
“Your devoted servant.
“Nic. Mauron, C. SS. R.” [23]

This letter was not the only one which the Most Reverend Father Mauron wrote to the new Superior. A man of proverbial wisdom, he was overjoyed to find in Mother Mary-Aloyse the qualities of discretion, charity and apostolic zeal which accorded so well with his own temperament. Some of his letters shed a profound light on the generosity of the good Mother. We shall cite some extracts from them.

On 6th July 1880 (the year of the expulsion of the religious Orders from France), the Most Rev. Father Mauron wrote:

“I am happy to be able to grant you Father Kockerols as your extraordinary confessor, according to your request, in spite of his nomination to the office of Provincial

“I have been brought to satisfy your wishes because of the great good that he has done in your Monastery, and also to enjoy the spiritual advantages that you have promised me in this case. In fact I have great confidence in the prayers of your good community, and I am counting on them, not solely during the promised novena, but during the whole year.

“Pray a great deal also for our Fathers and your fellow Sisters in France who are the butt of persecution. Recommend them greatly to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and our holy Father Saint Alphonsus. The evil is so great and universal that God must intervene and make it end. I await this divine intervention with confidence.”

On 4th January 1882, on the very eve of the heart attack which almost brought him to the love of his children, the Most Rev. Father Mauron dictated the following letter.
“I would like to thank you, you and your excellent community for the New Year good wishes that you have sent me, and above all for the prayers and holy communions that you have applied to me and wish to apply to me as well in the future. I feel more than ever the need to be sustained by your good prayers, as my age is advancing with my infirmities, my powers are diminishing from day to day, and in contrast, my work-load is increasing all the time.”

Next he promises them the help of his prayers, and then he adds, “I also want to thank you with all my heart for the 200 francs which you were kind enough to send me for the poor Redemptoristines in Italy. It is me they turn to for their refuge in all their distress, and it is you who are their great providence. I am continuing to gradually distribute to them the sum of money which you sent me for them above all. These good Sisters are very grateful to you. They beg me every time to express their gratitude to you and assure you of their prayers.

“I bless our good God for the excellent result of the mission at Bruges which our Fathers have just given. Monsignor the Bishop, [24] whom I went to see during his trip to Rome and who immediately visited me in return, is full of praises for our Fathers. He also spoke to me about your Monastery in the most favourable terms.”

Next he encouraged her to entrust herself entirely to God regarding her responsibilities as Superior, which had just been conferred on her again, and gave her advance news concerning a future history of the first Redemptoristines. [25]

A year later, on 4th January 1883, Father Mauron wrote, “Tomorrow, it will be a year since our good God came to visit me. In the first days of my illness, I never thought I would ever see this anniversary. I believed on the contrary that my end had arrived. Our good God wanted it to be otherwise, and this grace, I am deeply convinced, I owe uniquely to the fervent and incessant prayers, and the sacrifices which were made for me in your Order, as well as in our own Congregation. Your excellent community had a large part in this work of charity and devotion towards me, and I would like to express my deepest gratitude.”

The venerable correspondent adds, “I had the happiness a few weeks ago of having a very private audience with the Holy Father (His Holiness, Leo XIII). His Holiness welcomed me with extreme benevolence. He brought me into his apartments, with my crosier in my hand, and invited me to sit down beside him. The Holy Father gave me an order not to fall ill, and I am trying my best to obey him. Finally he asked me to transmit his blessing to all the children of Saint Alphonsus scattered across the face of the earth.”

The same letter informs us that the community of Bruges had now reached 42 sisters.

Finally a letter dated 22nd February 1884 attests to the generosity of Mother Mary-Aloyse and her Community and becomes quite an eulogy:
“I have just received your good letter of 18th instant, in which you tell me you are sending some monetary help to your fellow Sisters in Italy, and also to the Villa Caserta. I received this sum the day before a letter from the Very Rev. Father Kockerols. According to your intention, my Reverend Mother, I shall be sure to distribute the 4000 francs intended for the Sisters of Italy, according to the circumstances and needs of their Monasteries. I shall certainly recommend them to pray for your Monastery of Bruges, which is so generous towards them, and in particular for good Sister Mary-Joseph and her family. I am persuaded that they will do this with the greatest fervour.

“As for the sum of 2000 francs, which you have been kind enough to give as a gift to myself, I thank you for it most sincerely, my Reverend Mother. It is a real act of providence for us, which will allow us to push a little ahead with the costly constructions which have been imposed on us by the municipality of Rome.

“I would equally like to express my deepest gratitude for the considerable help that you have organised from our Province in Belgium, both on this occasion and on many others. Your assistance, as the Most Rev. Provincial has told me, have been mainly used for the establishment of the Students’ House at Beauplateau and for the support of a certain number of young men. And thus, my Reverend Mother, you will have a large part in the fruits of salvation which the present and future Belgian missionaries are producing and will produce in souls. May our good God reward you a hundred-fold, in this world and in the next, for your generous assistance!

“As for me, I pray every day for your fervent Monastery, so that it may always remain as it is now, a nursery of souls agreeable to God and His true saints, occupied totally in loving their divine Spouse and conquering souls for Him from the depths of their cells. To this effect I bless Your Reverence and all your good community and in particular your good Sister Mary-Joseph.

We can see how happy Father Mauron was to say “thank you,” but the moment was not far away when he was able to come in person to the community of Bruges to give them his blessing.

This favour was accorded to the pious Monastery in 1884. The Most Rev. Father Mauron, now frail, but eager to visit the Provinces of Belgium and Holland, and the French Communities taking refuge in these countries, left Rome at the end of July of that year. He braved the fatigues of this long journey to go and reassure the anxieties of his children in person. So many reasons brought him to pay a visit to the Redemptoristines of Bruges, that he gave them a special place in his itinerary, and on 24th August these good religious received the happy news that in a couple of days, His Lordship would be amongst them.

“We hastened,” says the narrator of this memorable visit, “We hastened to put the final touches to our preparations for his reception, which were begun a long time beforehand. The cloisters were decorated with coloured paper-chains, artificial flowers and natural shrubs. A great statue of the Most Holy Virgin was placed near the staircase, as if to invite Mary to preside over our feast. Various banners, graciously disposed, expressed our filial love for our most Reverend Father and our welcome to him. In the main chamber of the community, tastefully decorated, the statue of Saint Alphonsus could be seen in his pontifical habits and at his feet the Saint’s pectoral cross enclosed in a reliquary.

“Finally the 26th August arrived. At about 2.30 p.m. in the afternoon, the community assembled in the main parlour. Half an hour later, which seemed like eternity, the joyful sound of the church bell ringing three times announced the arrival of our Father to us, and some minutes later, as we knelt at his feet, we received his holy blessing with an inexpressible emotion.

“After dinner, the Most Rev. Father Mauron visited the Monastery. At the given signal, we formed two rows in the cloister. The door of the enclosure opened and His Lordship walked through, with his companion on the journey, Rev. Father John Kannengiesser. When he arrived at the main room of the community, this Reverend Father stopped before the statue of Our Father Saint Alphonsus. “Here’s Father!” he exclaimed with a charming simplicity. Then he picked up the Saint’s pectoral cross, touched his forehead with it and kissed it tenderly. When His Lordship was seated, we sang some verses for the occasion, which seemed to please him greatly. Then the Reverend Father spoke to us about our holy vocation, the origins of our Order, the first Mothers, and especially Mother Mary-Colomba, whom Saint Alphonsus held in great esteem. It was to her that Our Lord revealed that all those who die in the Institute will be saved, and consequently, His Lordship added, all Redemptoristines and all Redemptorists faithful to their vocation, for, at this time, the Congregation and the Order were spoken of under the single name of Institute of the Holy Redeemer. The Most Reverend Father spoke to us also about the present state of our different Monasteries. We listened to him, charmed by his goodness, simplicity and joy, and astonished by his prodigious memory. When he got up to visit the convent, some of our Sisters who were suffering from deafness or some other infirmity, knelt down before him with a touching confidence to receive his blessing. This recalled the Gospel scenes, and if our dear sick sisters had been the object of a visible miracle, could we not have doubted that the blessing of a saint, received with such a lively faith, would obtain a special grace for them to bear away their illnesses with love?”

The Most Rev. Father Mauron then visited the Monastery. “Each Sister,” says the narrator, “urged him to visit their cells and give them his blessing. This good Father accepted our wishes and had some simple words for each one of them, such as the Saints say, and which penetrated their souls with their sweet unction. The simplicity of our cells pleased him. 'There is nothing surplus,” he exclaimed, “so you may be completely at peace.' This was a witness which made religious poverty even more dear to us. His Lordship also blessed the Educands and the Novices. He addressed a few words to the Novices on the virtues which are proper to them. In the library, our Reverend Mother told him, as she pointed out the shelves containing the works of Saint Alphonsus, 'This is the well from which our souls draw the most.' - To which the Most Rev. Father replied, 'You are right. Those who read these books and put them into practice will certainly become saints.'

“In the Choir of the Holy Family, the crib attracted His Lordship’s attention. 'It’s charming!' he said, and did not stop looking at it. Next, turning towards us, he said very kindly, 'Be the asses in the stable, not to cry out or stamp your feet, but to warm the Infant Jesus.' Then the Reverend Father finished visiting the convent.

“The following day, we had the happiness of assisting at His Lordship’s Mass. He offered the holy sacrifice at the altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. In the morning he had long discussions with the Reverend Mother about the interests of the Community. In the afternoon, the Reverend Father entered the enclosure, accompanied by the Most Rev. Provincial John Kockerols (who had arrived the previous night at Brussels from his voyage to Canada) and Rev. Father Kannengeisser. While visiting us, he gave each one of us a printed leaflet containing some maxims by Saint Alphonsus, and a relic of his coffin, the precious souvenirs of a saint, given by another saint, and which we shall preserve with a double veneration.

“However, time was passing. Before leaving us, His Lordship finally said the following words to us, 'My dear Sisters, I shall meet you again, not on earth, but in heaven. We shall all meet again there if we live and die faithful to our vocation. While we are waiting, let us do here below what we shall do up there one day. Let us accomplish the holy will of God on earth. This accomplishment will cost our own nature, but in heaven, it will procure for us an uncontaminated and unending joy.'

On the 28th, the Feast of Saint Augustine, all the Sisters communicated for the intention of the Father General, then they all went to the parlour to receive his blessing for the last time.

This visit, it was clear, left them all deeply filled with gratitude towards God and their good Superior, who had obtained this benefit for them. For Mother Mary-Aloyse, these were days of great consolation. The Most Reverend Father Mauron had scarcely arrived at Wittem when he wished to thank her, and he did it in terms worthy of a successor of Saint Alphonsus.

“The Most Reverend Father, “wrote Father Kannengeisser, “ has taken away from his visit to your Monastery the most happy memory. He is delighted above all to have satisfied himself that the spirit of prayer reigns there. And this is Saint Alphonsus’ very own spirit. The more it is developed in your Monastery, the more abundantly graces will descend from heaven, not simply upon you, but also upon the poor sinners whose advocates Saint Alphonsus has constituted you to be.”

On 1st January 1885, the Most Reverend Father Mauron gave Mother Mary-Aloyse some news about his trip, and added:

“A short while after my return to Rome, I had the honour of a long audience with the Holy Father. His Holiness was informed about my journey, and asked me if I had been to see your Monastery of Bruges, which he remembered very clearly. [26] The Holy Father is very satisfied with it and has asked me to pass on to Your Reverence and to all your fellow Sisters his apostolic blessing.”


[23] Our readers will be pleased to read the letter from the Superior of Saint Agatha. What could be more touching than this exchange of charity on the one hand, and gratitude on the other?
Monastery of Saint Agatha of the Goths,
“This 16th February 1877
“My dear Sister in Jesus Christ and Reverend Mother Superior,
“We have received the most wonderful consolation in receiving the beautiful picture of your good and holy Mother, the late Mother Mary-Philomena. She seems very much alive, as we hope that she is in reality now in heaven for all eternity. I thank you most cordially for this beautiful gift.
“Jesus wishes to purify all His Spouses left on earth, by calling to Himself first one, and then another of them. May His holy will always be accomplished! We too have lost one of our Sisters, our good Sister Mary-Jeannette of the Heart of Jesus, aged 75 years. After only seven days of an illness, whose sufferings she endured with great patience, she died on 29th January in the most perfect peace.
“She was very devoted to Saint Alphonsus and had a limitless charity towards the poor, and was happy to fast from time to time so as to send her whole portion to the Tourière as alms for her dear poor. I pray you to make the Suffrages prescribed by the Rule for the repose of her soul.
“Also please pray for us too, as the death of each nun fills us with sadness, at the thought that this house founded by Saint Alphonsus will soon cease to exist. Pray to our good God to put an end to these great tribulations, so that we may have the consolation of leaving others here after us to praise and love the Lord.
“Today we received 25 francs from our Most Reverend Father General, a gift of your charity to the poor daughters of Saint Alphonsus, your Sisters who are totally devoted to Jesus Christ. Together with all my Sisters I thank you a thousand times, and I ask Saint Alphonsus to reward you as you desire and deserve, as it is he who knew our needs and inspired you to help us.
“Dear and beloved Mother Superior, I rejoice greatly in your fervour; let us love Jesus greatly upon this earth, so that we may love Him much more in eternity. Let us love each other with the love of the divine Spouse, and let us remain united in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in whom we hug and kiss you all.
“Your most affectionate Sister in Jesus Christ,
“Sister Mary Crucified of the Holy Nails.!
[24] Mgr Faict, Bishop of Bruges.
[25] This history appeared a few years later under the title of: Les premières Rédemptoristines (The First Redemptoristines), by Father F. Dumortier. It was the Monastery of Bruges which paid for it to be printed.
[26] The Holy Father, when he was Nuncio at Brussels, made the journey to Bruges to assist in the procession of the Holy Blood. On this occasion he paid a visit to the Redemptoristines. The Monastery Chronicles record this visit thus.
“On 9th May 1844, Mons. Boussen, the Bishop of Brussels, accompanied by Mons. Pecci, the Papal Nuncio, and Mons the Bishop of Ghent, attended for our benefit, after which they paid a visit to our Reverend Mother Sister Mary-Alphonse of the will of God, and asked to see the whole Community. Monsignor the Nuncio showed a great deal of interest in our worthy Foundation and had informed himself with great pleasure about the convents of our Order in Italy. These respectable personages then presented themselves at our new convent, which they visited in detail, examining especially the foundations and walls of our future church. Rev. Father Paul Reyners provided answers to all their questions."

Chapter IX.
The Superior. - Her religious virtues.

Mother Mary-Aloyse brought a very serious preparation to the exercise of her new responsibility: a profound piety, a knowledge of affairs, a perfect devotion and a well-tested virtue.

On this last point, it is of benefit to listen to one of the Sisters who knew her best. “The spirit of sacrifice,” says Sister Mary-Anne-Thérèse of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “was, in my humble opinion, the distinctive character of her soul. Abnegation and forgetfulness of self became in her like a second nature. These two virtues were often the subject of her exhortations to novices while she was their mistress, and the community when she became their Superior.

“Her faith was lively and efficacious. She did not want her Daughters to have a faith which was no more than just a simple sentiment. When one of them said to her one day following a high Mass, “Oh how much I love the chant of that beautiful verse Et homo factus est!”, the Reverend Mother replied to her, “Are you then making an act of living faith in the mystery of the Incarnation?” - This faith showed itself in her maintaining herself in choir, in her piety when she was chanting the Divine Office, and in her zeal for the observances of the least of the rubrics. It was manifested above all in her devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament. During her retreats, she loved to remain before Jesus, veiled in the Eucharist. One day when speaking of the hermitages which are often mentioned in the lives of the first Carmelites, she exclaimed, “They have their hermitages, but we have the Tabernacle!” One day a religious was tempted by discouragement. She said to her, “Why don’t you just go up to Our Lord exposed in the Oratory and ask Him if He could ever abandon you, when He let Himself be taken captive for love of us.”

“She was very sensitive to the outrages offered to the Divine Host of the Tabernacle. If she learned that a sacrilege had been committed, even if it was in a distant country, she would immediately celebrate a Mass in reparation to the injury done to the Most Holy Sacrament.

“Following the example of Saint Alphonsus, she loved to go during the afternoon rest-time and pick some violets, which she then placed straight away on the altar in the Oratory.

“The Redemptorist Fathers of Tournai kept seven lighted lamps before the Holy Sacrament. When our Mother learned of it, she wanted to imitate them, and supported by many benefactors, she did not delay in realising her project. The seven lamps in the sanctuary are therefore a permanent witness to her devotion to the Eucharist.

“As a true daughter of Saint Alphonsus, the Reverend Mother Mary-Aloyse had a special devotion to the Passion of the Saviour. When she became Superior, she had a very beautiful bas-relief placed in the Oratory, representing the agony of Our Lord in the Garden of Olives. She had a great stone sculpture made for the convent garden, representing Jesus bearing His cross. She also increased the number of crucifixes placed in the corridors of the Monastery. She also sought to elevate our hearts and spirits more and more towards our divine Redeemer. To excite us to make reparation for the blasphemies which so cruelly wound the Heart of Jesus, she had some pictures of His Holy Face placed in the church and in various parts of the convent. Every week a lamp would shine before them from Thursday afternoon to Friday evening.

“Our venerated Superior also witnessed her faith by her devotion to the holy relics, the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) and holy water. She had a remarkable ability for making reliquaries. How great was her joy, then, when she had custody, for a period of time, of Saint Alphonsus’ pectoral cross! She allowed it to be venerated, not just by her Daughters, but also by all the Redemptorists who visited Bruges.”

Her Hope. - She expressed herself entirely in this prayer that she composed on the basis of the advice given to her by the Ven. Father Passerat, and which this great Servant of God annotated with his own hand.

“My God, I firmly believe that You are all-powerful, infinitely good and faithful to Your promises. You have said that You will refuse nothing of what is asked of You in the name of Jesus Christ. You are able to make me a saint: I ask it in the name of Jesus Christ and through His merits. I would like You to accord me this grace. You cannot fail in Your promise. I also wish You to grant me the ability to correspond faithfully to the lights, inspirations and graces that You will accord me (I have no doubt of this) so that I may become a saint, a great saint, a true bride of Jesus Christ, a fervent Redemptoristine who has all power over Your heart, to obtain everything I am requesting for Your glory. Finally, I wish to love You absolutely with all my heart and also be greatly loved by You. I wish to become so agreeable to Your eyes that I can console Your heart from the outrages that it receives every day.” - The Venerable Father Passerat wrote the following lines in his own handwriting, after this prayer. “From Your goodness and greatness I have an even more heightened idea of how I, earthworm and poor sinner that I am, can dare say to You, I want this grace, without You being offended by it, but are rather honoured by it, oh great God. Tell me: who am I and who are You!”

“The Reverend Mother’s hope had, moreover, passed through the crucible of tribulation. For a rather long time, at the beginning of her religious life, she was assailed by scruples and interior pains. Her obedience to her director (who was then Father Paul Reyners) saved her. From that time on she had a very maternal compassion for souls afflicted in that way. It so happened that one day, a young religious often tormented by her fear of having failed at poverty, went to see her. She accused herself of some trifling wastefulness in her manual work, and added, “In the world, I would never have stolen, but in the convent I often commit little acts of theft.” The good Mother explained things to her and calmed her down. But some days later, meeting up with the same Sister and finding her probably still a little bit worried, she said to her pleasantly, “What have you stolen today?” The little joke completed what reasoning had begun. The temptation disappeared and never returned.

“Finally we would like to indicate the Reverend Mother’s confidence in the divine Providence. Some days before her last illness, she went for a walk in the garden with the community. Seeing the trees being violently shaken by the wind, she said to us, “This is a good example of life. At certain moments everything is agitated in us and around us, and we think that all is lost, but at the moment willed by God, everything calms down and falls back into order. Never lose sight of this Providence which governs us.”

“This confidence attracted great graces to her. Often, when the occasion to do a fairly considerable good work was offered to her charity and zeal, she would receive unexpected help which she had asked for only from our Heavenly Father. We can be sure, without fear of being wrong, that this virtue was perfected even more in our Mother when she passed under the direction of the Rev. Father John Kockerols, in 1874. This eminent religious, this Father of our community, said one day that he could not be even ten minutes in prayer without feeling dominated by the thought of God’s Providence.”

Her love for God. - This love was very noticeable in the Reverend Mother Mary-Aloyse. All her works and her holy life were based on her faith. The will of God was the mover of all her actions, and was also her consolation in her sufferings.

“Just remember”, she said in her final days to a converse Sister, “just remember that holiness does not consist of a communion or a way of the cross, but in fulfilling the will of God. The most holy works harm our souls if they are done outside the will of God. You will understand this later on. I shall ask our good God and Saint Alphonsus to enlighten you about it, and when I am in heaven, I shall ask it even more urgently because of the love I have for your perfection. I shall bear you in my heart to Paradise.”

To this tender love for God, our good Mother added piety to the Saints. She professed a particular devotion to the Most Holy Virgin. Above all she loved to invoke the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. This last point is quite remarkable. The Mother of Sorrows is always particularly dear to those who most greatly love Our Lord and pray for the salvation of souls.

Saint Joseph, the saint with the kind and tranquil heart, “the father of cordial love”, was dear to her also. She loved to invoke him in all the spiritual and temporal needs of the community. Her devotion to this good Saint was candid and simple. Around the neck of a little statue of the holy Patriarch she hung a letter one day in which she expressed her difficulties and desires to him in entire confidence.

The heart of this true daughter of Saint Alphonsus beat strongly for this great Saint. She loved him as her Father and holy Founder. She loved and propagated his works, which are so pious and so clear. She inculcated his teachings in her daughters. Above all she loved to preach to them her own zeal for the salvation of souls, and it was with a profound joy that she saw the Rev. Father Bloete give an entirely apostolic character to the solemn Octave of Saint Alphonsus, preached every year in the Monastery chapel. What joy she had when she learnt that many sinners were converted during these days of salvation, and how much she loved to reward in her own way the Fathers who preached the exercises there! She would obtain for them the relaxation of being able to go and spend a day by the sea at Ostend to recover their strength. (Great progress has been made since then, and even Bruges has become a seaport!). And so a certain proverb soon became true, “It is through the Mother of Bruges that we go to the North Sea.” *

The good Mother honoured Saint Gerard and blessed Father Hofbauer with a tender devotion. These great servants of God recalled so many memories and blessings to her! And another remarkable thing! Among Saint Alphonsus’ first companions, she especially venerated Father Alexander de Meo, of whom the holy Doctor said that his wisdom gave an idea of God’s wisdom.

She often recalled the venerable Father J. Passerat in her conversations. His great virtues and his admirable teachings often furnished her with material for pious dialogues, but what she also loved in him were his social virtues and his good education which added so greatly to his true piety.

Every Order has its devotions and its prayers, and its chosen customs. Mother Mary-Aloyse loved those of her own Order. Speaking just now of just prayers, she wished to preserve them intact and facilitate their usage. To this end she assembled in a little volume all the exercises of piety which are in use in the Redemptoristine Institute. She published them in 1887, on the occasion of the first centenary of the death of Saint Alphonsus, under the title of Manuel de prières à l’usage des Religieuses du T. S. Rédempteur (Manual of Prayers used by the Religious of the Most Holy Redeemer). Mons. Faict, the Bishop of Bruges, approved them as “excellent”, the Most Rev. Father Mauron declared them to be “very well done” and the Most Rev. Father Kockerols, in a prefacing letter addressed to the Reverend Mothers Superior of the Redemptoristines at Bruges, Malines, Louvain and Soignies, demonstrated clearly their incontestable utility.

We have already admired in our good Mother her love for the poor. She loved them tenderly and sought to help them in every way. And so she was happy to see her daughters, on her feast day and offer for them some manual work or surprises intended to help the poor. And also, with the same intention, she also set up a little clothing room to which she sometimes had recourse, in winter for example, in favour of her own daughters.

Poverty and obedience, these two principal virtues of religious life, also shone out with a supreme brightness in the life of Mother Mary-Aloyse. “She loved poverty, as the Rule said, even more than worldly people love their wealth, and she had the ambition of being poor in everything. What she had for her own use was marked with the coin of poverty, which is a detail rather rare among people who are very generous to others. However, this generosity had its limits. “During her forty-six years of religious life,” says a well-informed witness, “she refused herself the satisfaction of sending the least picture to her family, and if, on the approach of death, she gave her own folk some poor little prints, it was only on the insistence of her religious niece, and after having obtained permission from the Most Rev. Father Kockerols, the extraordinary confessor of the community.

Her obedience was no less edifying. Once elected Superior, she followed the advice of the Most Rev. Father Kockerols about her personal conduct with a perfect submission, and this man, so wise and so reserved in his judgements, paid a resounding tribute to this humble obedience.

Her humility was genuine. Her attraction for a life hidden in God never deterred her from courageously fulfilling her duties, but in carrying out her obligations to her best ability, she paid no regard or indulgence to herself. She never let her family know about the responsibilities she had in the convent, and if they learnt one day that she had become the Superior, it was through her niece, already a Redemptoristine at that moment. Never at any time did she boast of her position to grant herself privileges or exemptions. It cost her extremely dear, she avowed one day in private, to preside over the Chapter of faults. She would then go and pray for her Sisters and abase herself before God for her own faults.

There was no lack of people who asked her for her blessing, in the parlour for example. She would get out of it all good-naturedly, “May Jesus and Mary bless each one of us!” she would reply, and that was all. This was a little touch worthy of the Little flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi. In July 1886, the Reverend Mother Mary-Anne-Joseph, the Superior of the Redemptoristines at Malines, came to Bruges with her Mother Vicar (Sister Mary-Marguerite, still living) with the purpose of discussing some points relative to the Institute with Mother Mary-Aloyse. She was received at the door of the cloister by this dear Mother, accompanied by her counsellors. The good Mother from Malines could not wait to prostrate herself at the feet of Mother Mary-Aloyse, but she in her turn went down on her knees, and the benediction turned into a fraternal accolade. Then the good Mother led her dear visitors into the recreation room, where the community welcomed them with the chant of the Ecce quam bonum (Behold how good).

Such were the sweet virtues which were practised at the Monastery of Bruges. Under the influence of such examples, all hearts opened to confidence and to the love of Jesus and Mary, and the practice of the most difficult virtues were despoiled of their harshness to give way to the love of our divine Redeemer and His most holy Mother.

* There is an untranslatable pun in French here. Mère (Mother) sounds exactly the same as Mer (Sea): “It is through the Mère (Mother) of Bruges that we go to the Mer (sea) of the North.”

Chapter X.
The Superior. - Her Government, her Charity, her Patience.
Her last Illness, her last Teachings.

Mother Mary-Aloyse never governed her Monastery according to her own views, but in conformity with the spirit of Saint Alphonsus. The prescriptions of the Rule laid down by the holy Doctor, the teachings enclosed in his books, the instructions left behind by his best disciples, all dictated the manner in which she should act. And so she liked to remind her daughters of the solid exhortations addressed to the Community in 1842-1843 by Fathers Joseph and Paul Reyners, and most especially by the Venerable Father Joseph Passerat during the two years that he spent at Bruges (1848-1850). The numerous notes taken down by her or by the Sisters made this work easier for her, and this was how she was able to maintain this traditional spirit of regular observance in her Monastery, and the apostolic zeal of which we have already spoken.

She also liked to inculcate the practice of the twelve principal virtues, a practice that was special to her Institute. She even composed a very useful little work concerning these twelve virtues, using the teachings of the Ven. Father Passerat. The love of Our Lord is its soul, and she shows perfectly how religious who work in this way for their perfection can give a wonderful aid to the work of the missionaries.

A religious who knew her well has left us some very instructive details on the venerable Superior’s manner of action. “She would most willingly speak of the little habitual mortifications. They win the heart of God.” she said. She also said, “N (she quoted her secular name) should obey Sister Mary N (her name in religion).” In other words, nature should obey grace.

“While severe on herself, she would not allow her Sisters to lack necessities.

“When conversing with people, she was very spiritual and private, giving her opinions according to the advice she had received from the Venerable Father Passerat and other fervent Redemptorists.

“She was truly a mother to the sick and ill. She worried on their behalf during the night, always seeking to procure them some comfort. In the morning, for example, when she went to see them, she would say, “I was thinking last night about something that would help you. I have sent someone out to buy it... Try it.”

“One of the Sisters who was sick wanted to have exactly the same food as the rest of the community. The Reverend Mother did not wish to contradict her, but one day she said to her, “I would so much like to look after the Child Jesus, but He doesn’t want me to.” - “The Child Jesus would like it a lot,” replied the invalid. “The Child Jesus is you, my good Sister!” and the sick nun accepted her care. The Reverend Mother’s face immediately lit up with joy, and she ran off to find the infirmarian and the dispenser, telling them, “She has accepted our care.” And she would immediately lavish her maternal care on her.

Her charity towards her neighbour was also full of thoughtfulness. Towards her religious family she would show herself to be the most tender of mothers. Towards her family who were left in the world, she was always full of kindness and attention. Her sister-in-law died at the age of forty six, leaving seven children of whom two were under age. She wrote the most affectionate letters to her brother to support him in this terrible trial, and gave him her best advice for the education of his children. Her brother died in his turn, and she had as it were a presentiment of it. During his last visit, he was in very good health, but after he departed, she went to see Mother Mary-Philomena and told her. “I shall never see Victor again.” Six weeks afterwards, he died of a stroke. After his death, Mother Mary-Aloyse let slip to her Superior, “I saw his soul in Purgatory.”

Her charity towards the Congregation was affirmed chiefly in her generosity towards the house at Beauplateau, which was the house of study for the Belgian Province. Nothing much mattered to her from the time she decided to support this foundation, which she quite rightly regarded as a nursery for missionaries and apostles. The Most Rev. Father Kockerols wrote to her one day about it. “You have lost your vocation. Your royal generosity seems to indicate that you have a vocation as queen. I prefer, however, to see you as the poor little daughter of Saint Alphonsus on earth, and queen in heaven.”

It is time to speak about her patience in illnesses. Ingenious at hiding her sufferings, she never appeared so jolly as in the moments when some illness troubled her. Two years before her death she felt the first symptoms of the illness which was to carry her off. She only spoke about it when the pain had become insupportable. Then she went down to the ground floor, into the room where she usually stayed. Every day she took holy communion, and every day everyone could admire her heroic patience. She never said a word about her sufferings, or she only spoke of them through obedience. She was always attentive to her neighbour’s needs, and worried unceasingly about her Sisters, and listened to them one by one in spite of her own fatigue, giving them her best advice. This is how her last teachings were recorded, from 17th October to 12th December 1889. We shall cite a part of them here. Better than anything we have said, they typify and show the spirit which inspired this fervent religious. We shall group them under certain headings to give them maximum impact.

I. The Love of Jesus Christ. - The cross.1. “Love our good Jesus. He is always adorable, even when He comes with the Cross, even when it hurts. Always do His will. Do not ask for sufferings, but accept those He sends you. We are not sure of having grace for those we ask for, but we certainly are for those He gives us. For in them there is nothing of ourselves.”

2. The apostolic virtue of suffering. - If we are truly on the Cross, then we are with Our Lord, so we have nothing to complain of. Everything for You, my God, for the salvation of souls, and there are still so many of them to save; for the conversion of sinners, the deliverance and relief of souls in Purgatory, for the Community, the Congregation, my family, and the holy Church. My God, whatever You want, for as long as You want it, my God, help me, rescue me, and give me Your patience.”

The suffering and Passion of Jesus Christ. - Night and day, she followed Our Lord in His Passion and joined herself to the sorrows of the most holy Virgin. She said, “We must accept our sufferings without consolation, but with love. It is so good to just simply look at Our Lord on the cross, and rest our own souls in His! Just remain at the foot of the Cross and rest in the heart of Our Lord. Look at Him with the eyes of the soul, without saying anything. Get into the habit of it, and you will see, whenever you are ill, how useful it will be to you.

It is better to have ten crosses than just one alone.

“How good it is to be at the foot of the Cross, so that the Precious Blood of Our Lord may fall upon us, wash us and drench us! Ordinarily, after holy communion, I draw from the wounds of Our Lord. Today I said, “My God, I do not know how much to take, so let You Yourself give me what I should have. Perhaps I do not take enough from Your wounds, or perhaps I take what I shouldn’t have. Plunge me into Your precious blood.” And then she added, “This is where I should be.”

“We should always act with a view to pleasing Our Lord. You will find in Him the strength necessary to do your duties and sanctify yourselves.

“Forget about yourselves by thinking of Jesus Christ. He is the one true good. All the rest is folly and vanity.

“It is good to suffer for Jesus Christ.

“Our souls are very beautiful, but Our Lord makes them far more beautiful still through the graces He grants us. How great His mercy is! Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo (I shall sing of the mercies of the Lord in eternity).

“Give Our Lord nothing by halves. Be generous, and He will be the same with you.”

II. Will of God.
“Heaven on earth is when you do the will of God.

“You do not need just submission, but conformity with the will of God. Learn to understand the difference.”

III. Sufferings.
It is a great grace to suffer. Sufferings are of an incalculable and inestimable value. Our good God has created a very great miracle by giving me the patience to be cured by them.

The doctor wanted to give her a sedative to relieve her pain, but she said, “You want to take away my treasure.”

After passing a night without suffering, she said, “I have passed the night like an animal, just sleeping and drinking.” It was only a little drop of milk!

“Poor Mother!” someone once said to her. She replied, “It’s better to say “Happy Mother” because I have nothing to complain of.

“Sufferings are worth more than consolations, for there are no illusions possible in them. Crosses are graces.

IV. Love of God.
She often said, “Ask our good God to let me love Him perfectly before I die.”

“Refuse nothing to God. Give Him immediately what He asks of you. Then He will also give you what you ask of Him. He is making me wait before He gives me His wonderful Paradise, and that is to punish me for making Him wait when He asked me for a small sacrifice or some small act.

“When she was seized by a choking fit, she said, “My God, I’m choking. Let me choke with love.”

At every new suffering, she said, “Thank you, my God, thank you. Give me patience. For as long as You want, my God. Fiat! Fiat! (Let it be. Let it be!).

“When you have the occasion to make a little sacrifice, an act which costs you, say, “For You, my God!” Then, do not think of it again, as our nature easily slips in our acts without our knowing it, and makes us lose the merit from what we have just done. So say with Saint Paul, “I know whom I have entrusted my treasure to, so it will not be taken from me.”

“I have always spoken to our good God and the most holy Virgin as a child to her father and mother. I have asked them to help me with everything, to solve a problem, do a job, and other things of this kind. I have always been looked after.

V. Obedience. - Poverty. - Detachment.

“Obedience to your confessor and confidence in him are a source of peace.

“Put obedience above everything” she said on the eve of her death. Seek after God, and you will find Him, if you put something else before Him, you will never find Him.”

She loved poverty and she greatly loved the poor. When she noticed them putting the milk she was taking into the ice-box one day, she asked them to give the poor the money for the ice and said:

“Our Lord would like it, and I too would be happier than if I had iced milk to drink.”

One day she said to her niece, a religious in the Monastery, “The Venerable Father Passerat used to say, “When we do not think of the person we loved and have now lost, but rather of our good God, this sacrifice is so agreeable to Him that He brings this person straight to Paradise. I did this for my own father, and he was looked after. Try to do this for me.”

VI. Jesus and Mary.

“Love Jesus and Mary. This is everything.

“A blessing by the Most Holy Sacrament is so very precious! Never miss out on one voluntarily, or a Mass. - Go to Mass for me, I beg you.

“What a happiness it is for us to be able to communicate so often. Ask this evening not to lose any of the graces that God will grant you tomorrow.

“How good God is to me! It is two months now since I was able to swallow a piece of bread, but I have no trouble with the sacred Host. I can take nothing except what comes from God and (indicating the water from Lourdes) from the most holy Virgin.”

To satisfy her devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament, she greatly loved to hear them singing the Adoro te (Devoutly I adore thee, hidden Deity). One day when they sang it in the community room, which was right next to her own, she could not keep herself from weeping, and cried out during the last verse, Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio, (Oh Jesus, Thou whom veiled I now behold) “Ah, Lord, You are too good to me. I am not worthy.” And she told her nurse, “Tell the Sisters that I am praying to Our Lord to grant them the same number of graces as the delights I had during this wonderful song.”

“Oh how nice it is to die when we have often said to the Holy Virgin during our lifetime, “Pray for us at the hour of our death.”

VII. Christian death.Sursum corda! (Lift up your hearts!). “Do everything for our good God. At death, this is all that remains. All the rest is lost.

* *

“Death does not separate us, but makes us arrive at our end. One before, the other after.

* *

“When we seek only for God during our lives, He shows Himself to us at our death.

* *

“At death, everything disappears. All that remains is confidence in God and in the merits of Jesus Christ.

* *

She often liked to repeat either one verse from the Psalms or another. Sometimes she also sang the Adoro te, especially the last verse, or the Magnificat or the Laudate (Praise Him), and would say, “This is how I keep myself going. When you’ve done it all your life, you do it easily when you’re dying.”

* *

She clasped the little crucifix that she always held in her hand closely to her heart, and looked at it affectionately and said, “Oh, how true it is what Saint Alphonsus used to say to his own crucifix, “When all the others abandon me at the hour of death, You alone will remain with me, my Lord.” In fact, everyone else is powerless to help me, but my Jesus, who alone remains with me, gives me strength, help and consolation.” When she said this, she lovingly kissed the image of her Saviour.

To a Sister who was having trouble making the sacrifice of her Superior, she said one day:

“Always have God before your eyes, do everything for God alone, and, at the hour of your death, you will find God alone, whom you have sought. Attach yourself only to God, only to Jesus, and think only of loving Him, knowing Him and imitating Him. The imitation of Jesus Christ includes all the duties of a good Redemptoristine. In your pains, think of the pains of Our Lord. When you have certain desires to overcome, tell yourself, “Jesus did not have this. All He sought was humiliation.” And at the hour of death, what is all this anyway? Everything disappears.”

VIII. The Redemptoristine.
During their good Mother’s illness, the Redemptoristines of Bruges did not wish to lose their custom of asking her every evening for her blessing. The pious invalid would address some words of edification to them. We are citing some of them to complete the moral portrait of this true Redemptoristine.

“Always have recourse to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” she told them one day. “Go to Him. You must ask Him for everything through the Heart of Mary, as it is through the Heart of Mary that we will obtain everything.

“Ask God Himself to teach you the art of loving Him. How did He love? Look at Jesus crucified. He gives everything, sacrifices Himself and forgets Himself.”

On 8th December, she made up this beautiful prayer, “Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you. Preserve them all in your love and in the love of Jesus Christ. They are all your children. May Mary Immaculate bless you and preserve you all pure, and may this fine day end for me in heaven!”

As a faithful disciple of Saint Alphonsus, she could not fail to speak of her blessed Father. She did this on several occasions, and in a remarkable fashion:

“Remain always,” she said one day to her daughters, “remain always faithful to the teachings of our Fathers and the doctrine of Saint Alphonsus. This is our own way to perfection. If you go by another, you will never arrive there.”

“I believe,” she said one day, “I believe that God is granting me so many graces at my death because I have always loved Saint Alphonsus and his works.”

She also said, “Avoid devotions which are not founded on the teachings of Saint Alphonsus.”

“I am dying as a submissive and grateful daughter of the Most Reverend Father General, the representative of Saint Alphonsus.” We saw in the letters that the Most Reverend Father Mauron addressed to her how truly devoted she was to the works of the holy Doctor.

She also reminded her daughters of the end that they must unceasingly have before their eyes:

“Always bring everything back to the salvation of souls. This is our vocation.” And when she had received the last sacraments, she indicated, for the last time, this sublime end of approaching in a compelling manner the silence of Calvary and the silence of the life of a Redemptoristine:

“Live completely tranquil at the foot of the Cross. The great work of Redemption works in a profound silence. Jesus communicates with his heavenly Father without saying a word. Nobody notices what is happening, not a single word is heard aloud, and yet the Redemption is accomplished, and souls are ransomed and saved. Mary, at the foot of the Cross, keeps the same silence. She unites herself to the sentiments and intentions of Jesus, and this is all. Do the same. Ask what Jesus Christ asks. Offer what He offers. Desire what He desires. Enter, in other words, into His Heart, and contribute by the sacrifice of yourselves to the salvation of the world.”

Chapter XI.
The death of Mother Mary Aloyse – The Tribute paid to her Memory.

The teachings which we cited in the preceding chapter were not all known by the community. However, the Sisters greatly desired to make their last farewells to their good Mother and receive her last recommendations. The Most Rev. Father Kockerols, who was consulted in this regard, shared the same thoughts and let the invalid know that she owed her daughters this supreme satisfaction.

So on 5th December, the community assembled in Mother Mary-Aloyse’s room. And when she saw them all thus around her bed of sorrows, she could not restrain her tears.

“Pardon me,” she said forthwith, “if you see me weeping like this, my dear Sisters. It is because of the love I bear you.”

Making an effort to control herself, she continued, “Yes, it is the love that I bear you which brings me to address a few more words of farewell to you.

“Be saints, all of you, and great saints. To do this, you only have to be faithful to all the duties of your vocation, and you will be so forever if you quite forget about your own selves. Forget your own selves so as to occupy yourselves only with the glory and interests of Jesus.

“Be great in your spirit, in your heart, in your requests. When you suffer, do not be forever thinking of your pains. Try to forget them and imagine the sufferings of Our Lord instead, and then you will see that your own are nothing in comparison. Sometimes it is a little disagreeable remark which wounds us, perhaps a look, a little ambition, a little susceptibility, a tiny trifle. Forget it. It is not right to let such things turn you away from Our Lord Jesus Christ by making you worry about yourselves. Instead of wasting your time being upset, just say, “I am going to sacrifice it so as to give souls to Jesus Christ.” They are only minor pinpricks. If they make you suffer, say, “All the better, I am going to offer this up to Our Lord.” In appearance, they are nothing, they are petty trifles, but in the eyes of God, they mean a lot, they are very great. And believe me, you will be greatly rewarded at the time of death. You have to have experience of it to be able to understand it. When you spend your whole life trying to forget about yourself for the sake of Jesus Christ, at the time of your death, this good Saviour lifts a corner of the veil which still hides Him, and what delights He gives to the soul, when He lets her glimpse His marvellous beauty!”

The Reverend Mother interrupted herself for a moment to give free course to her tears. Then she continued, “Ah, my dear Sisters, I have always loved you more than you have ever been able to understand, and if sometimes I have brought sorrow to your hearts, it has only been, believe me, for love of your souls, for the sake of your great good, and to attach you to Jesus Christ alone.

“Yes, seek for just Jesus alone, and be great in your thoughts. When you go into His presence, do not go there always thinking of yourselves, or speaking about yourselves. Do not go there to ask for a long list of little things, but think of Our Lord, of His interests, for the salvation of souls. Do not go there so much to recite a whole quantity of litanies and prayers, but rather to ask for some real virtues so as to win souls for God. You will then obtain much more, and that will weigh very differently in the balance. Be great in your affections, love Our Lord well, the most holy Virgin, and Saint Alphonsus. Be always closely united to your Superiors through respect, affection and confidence, and remain just as strongly united among yourselves. Love the Congregation a great deal. Have great love for the poor. So suffer generously for Jesus Christ in both your great and small trials. Forget your own selves in order to think only of Him and of souls.”

The Reverend Mother insisted on this capital point of religious life. “My sufferings are very great,” she added, “I suffer a great deal, but I look at Jesus, I think of His Passion, His sufferings, and I force myself not to think of my own, so that I consider only His. Do not forget, my dear Sisters, that we ourselves are not the aim of our vocation: it is God and souls.” - “You will do this, won’t you?” she said, turning to those who were listening to her. “Promise me that you will forget your own selves in order to become Saints?” They all replied in a single voice, “Yes, good Mother, we promise you.” - “Oh well,” replied the invalid, “now I am tranquil and consoled. I shall never forget you and I shall bring all of you in my heart to Paradise. If you are very faithful, we shall be reunited there one day and sing together like Saint Thérèse.” - And the good Mother, gathering her strength, sang out loud: Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo (I shall sing the mercies of the Lord in eternity). - “I love all of you and I shall take you all with me to Paradise.”

The moving dialogue continued. Turning now to the novices and the educands, she told them, “And the novices? And the educands? Do they also promise me? Will they also be faithful?” They all replied straight away, “Yes, Reverend Mother!” - Then she said, “My children, understand the happiness of religious life. It is immense. It has, no doubt, its pains and sufferings, but God rewards us for it greatly at our death, and the sufferings of the world are also great. Be on your guard for anyone amongst you who wishes to leave, because I shall come back to retain her.” - And making allusion to their habits, she added smiling, “I would like to see all these dark little heads become white.”

Then that was all. The good Mother wanted to give her daughters a last blessing. She did it using an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which she then kissed devotedly. Then the Sisters left her, bringing from that touching scene an ineffaceable memory.

However, her last days were approaching rapidly. The Most Reverend Father Kockerols, the Reverend Mother’s director, did not fail to assist her in her last moments. A short note from him has been preserved, which breathes the joyous confidence he had in the final combat: “Please tell the Reverend Mother that I have not forgotten her for a moment before God, that I bless her most cordially, that we are all praying fervently for Jesus and Mary to support her right to the end in this great and wonderful combat, that her guardian angel, if he could perspire, would sweat great drops in the effort to record her merits, that she must hold firm to obedience and patience, and that her name is written in the Book of Life. So let her be reassured. Let her keep her presence of spirit, and I shall be there to help her soul fly away to the third heaven.”

No more than Father Olivaint, the Most Rev. Father Kockerols too did not admit that one died reluctantly. A death peacefully and joyfully accepted was in fact the nature of the death of Mother Mary-Aloyse. The zealous director had prepared her for her last journey. On 17th October he administered her the last Sacraments. Some weeks passed by, with the invalid lingering constantly between life and death. Finally on 11th December, the Rev. Father Kockerols was called urgently. He arrived with enough time to address some kind words to the dying Mother and encourage her one last time. This was a supreme consolation for her. Some instants afterwards, her agony began. It was neither long nor painful. On 12th December, at 10.45 in the morning, this good Superior peacefully rendered her soul to God. A heavenly calm immediately spread over her face, and then everyone could approach her, not merely without fear, but also with an interior joy, on her funeral bed where she rested.

The funeral notice was composed by the Most Rev. Father Kockerols. We have decided to give in full:

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Alphonsus
Pray for the repose of the soul
of the Very Reverend
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
in the world Miss
Isabelle-Fulvie-Albertine Fabri,
Superior for eleven years of the Monastery
of the Most Holy Redeemer at Bruges,
born at Sény on 22nd October 1822, deceased
piously at
Bruges on 12th December 1889, in the 46th year
of her
religious life and the 44th of her holy profession.

She was full of faith and the Holy Spirit. Acts V. 6.

Jesus Christ is my life, and death to me is a gain, Phil. 1. 21.

I shall willingly give everything I have and I shall even give my own self for your souls, “ Cor. XII, 15.

Until the moment of her death, this Mother, who was more admirable than we can say, and worthy to live eternally in the memory of the good, encouraged her children with a great wisdom and firmness, allying a male courage to the tenderness of a woman. 2 Mach. VII, 20, 21.

Do not forget the teachings of your Mother. Prov. I. 8.

Let the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved everywhere. (100 days indulg.).

Blessed be the holy, immaculate and most pure Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. (300 days indulg.)

R. I. P.

The universal sorrow and regrets that this sweet death provoked were the best commentary on this pious notice, but of all the tributes of veneration that were paid to the deceased, the most important we think was the funeral eulogy given by the Most Reverend Father Kockerols to the assembled Sisters. We reproduce it the same way it was received by a religious in the Monastery. These praises, given by a man who ordinarily was so reticent, are a singular testimony to the virtue of she who merited to receive them.

The Funeral Eulogy of Our Good and Holy Mother Mary-Aloyse.
By the Most Reverend Father Kockerols,
Provincial of the Province of Belgium.

My dear Sisters,
This week you are attending a very great and moving spectacle! Death has made its appearance in your Monastery and has taken from you your venerated Superior. The appearance of death is always a silent sermon. It reminds us that we are only dust and ashes, that everything passes away in this world, and that nothing is great except holiness. It teaches us the nothingness of everything, so it is a great teaching for us. The author of the Imitation says, “If you have ever seen someone die, remember that you will pass along the same way.”

But, my dear Sisters, the death of a holy soul, such as your venerated Mother was, contains a very special teaching for us. Divine Providence has willed that she was for you in some way a preparation for a retreat. I think that, after having assisted your Mother for so long with all the devotion of which I am capable, I cannot let these circumstances pass without telling you something about this dear soul.

Yes, my dear Sisters, you are indeed convinced that you have lost a treasure, a veritable treasure beyond all treasures. God, who gave this privileged soul the mission of governing you and working day and night for your sanctification, had prepared her for this mission. He had ornamented her spirit and her heart with all the gifts of nature and of grace. Everything was great in your Mother: her heart and her spirit, her charity and her intelligence. In her there was nothing small or petty. She was a superior woman, and with what a great heart and character! We can quite justly compare her to Saint Thérèse. Endowed with an upright and enlightened spirit, with a superior intelligence and a sure judgement, she had a heart which could truly say with the Apostle, St. Paul, “I will very willingly give everything I have and I will even give my own self for your souls.” A heart in which were allied the power of a man and the tenderness of a woman, as in the Mother of the Maccabees. No, I am not afraid to compare her to this mother who is more admirable than words can say. She can be compared to the strong woman of the Bible, of whom it is said, “Where shall we go to find her? We must go to the extremities of the earth.” Your good Mother, my dear Sisters, possessed the firmness without which the responsibility of Superior is harmful to her who exercises it and to those on whom it is exercised. Her guiding principle, in all her actions, was to act firmly and sweetly, - Fortiter et suaviter, - God having given her everything which could inspire respect, esteem and affection. To these gifts of nature, God added all the gifts of grace. My dear Sisters, I who have received the secrets of her heart, I am the only one, perhaps, who can tell you with how great a profusion and magnificence of them God had ornamented her beautiful soul. Yes, since her earliest childhood, God pursued her so as to make her a veritable saint. He watched over her, surrounded her with very special graces, and gave her a very admirable purity of heart, an instinctive horror of sin, a fear of even the shadow of evil, and a tender love towards her God, towards Our Lord Jesus Christ, towards the Holy Church! She herself, as humble as she was, avowed to me on her death-bed, that God had heaped His graces upon her during her whole life, and this is why she said she feared nothing at this supreme moment. Rather, she paid tribute to Him in her gratitude for so many graces received, suffering with joy for love of Him. Ah, my dear Sisters, in eternity you will see the progress that your venerated Mother made constantly in virtue, the point of perfection she attained and the numerous sanctifying and hidden graces she received.

As Superior, she was a veritable model. Her virtue shone forth above all in charity and devotion to the community. There is no-one among you who cannot testify that night and day she sacrificed herself or thought of you, forgetting her own self. And above all, what charity and affection she had for the sick!... What a concern to take care of them! She could truly say with the Apostle Paul, “Who is there among you who has suffered as I myself have suffered?” Her charity went as far as excess, as far as prodigality.

What rendered her so great in the eyes of God and in the eyes of man was her forgetfulness of self, for even in the midst of her most cruel sufferings, she was still always concerned for others. My dear Sisters, it is this forgetfulness of self which is the distinctive character of sanctity. Charity is only genuine when it is accompanied with this sublime forgetfulness of self. Who can say that she did not arrive at the supreme degree of character typical of a true religious, to this spirit of sacrifice, abnegation and devotion to one’s neighbour? But this forgetfulness of self naturally produced humility. I myself can testify to the horror she had of all pridefulness, and her humility was the distinctive sign of her love for God. And didn’t God want her to be exempt from all feelings of pride, because of this perfect abnegation which she possessed!

And patience! How much did she shine out with this in her last illness? My dear Sisters, do not think that this virtue grew all by itself in her, or all at once. You have to practise a very great patience when you are well so that you are not impatient when you are ill. But, in regard to her patience, we have never seen her like. Look at the two months when she was nailed to her bed of suffering, and what suffering! I know something about it, since God ordered me to become aware of it. She told me, “I am enduring unheard-of suffering, incredible suffering (that was her expression), impossible to bear without the special assistance of God.” And yet we all saw how that poor soul remained calm and serene. It was simply because, for all her religious life, she secretly practised patience and mortification, in submission to the will of God.

Not only this, but during her life she had personal troubles, as under that rather rough bark was hidden a great heart which felt things keenly. She keenly felt the cross of her responsibilities and the pains which one or the other of you laid on her at times. She suffered from your faults. The least relaxation or lack of fervour had a great repercussion on her soul. She feared it in almost an excessive manner, and all her efforts were designed to maintain fervour. You know very well that this maternal concern extended to other houses of the Order and she suffered greatly when she learned of anything which was to the least detriment, either to fervour, or to the Rule. And so she exercised a great influence over the other Monasteries.

This concern also extended to the whole Congregation. Some hours before her death, she also told me that she had never made any distinction between the Congregation and you, and she offered herself to God to endure His cruel sufferings for all eternity, if such was His good pleasure, for you and the Congregation. Already in the arms of death, she then exclaimed, Fiat, fiat, fiat voluntas Dei! (Let the will of God be done, be done, be done!), and never ceased to say that she was ready to give everything and even give her own self for souls. She loved the souls of poor sinners and all the souls ransomed at the price of the Blood of Jesus Christ.

And so, my dear Sisters, here are the examples given to you by your good Mother! You should all imitate her. And first of all she who will be elected to replace her and all those who have responsibility in the Community. Above all they should practice this forgetfulness of self, of which she has given such beautiful examples. This will be to their own personal profit. Sanctity does not consist of retiring into a corner and being occupied simply with yourself. It consists in sacrificing yourself for the salvation of others, just as your good Mother has taught you.

Do not desire any other place than what you have been assigned. Do not forget your Mother’s last words, her last farewells. Think of God, be all for God, occupy yourselves with nothing else but God, souls, and above all, abandoned souls, deprived of all spiritual succour in the world. If you have some responsibility in the Community, do not grumble if it displeases you, but accept it for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls. Your venerated Mother is a true model for Superiors and myself alike. I am trying to profit from it. As I have said to my colleagues, the wonderful examples I witnessed in the course of my visits to this holy invalid have done me more good than a retreat. May they not be lost on my poor soul! These examples should also be repeated in all your religious lives. But first of all, we should be intimately convinced that we can do nothing without humility, us Redemptorists and Redemptoristines above all. We must take as the basis of our own perfection that beautiful virtue of humility and simplicity. Your good Mother was so penetrated by it that she said at the end of her life, “After my death, I hope that no-one will try to pass me off as a saint, but will preach instead all my defects and faults, so that prayers will be said for my poor soul.” What an example of humility! Also remember how much she loved the Rule and practised it in every way as Saint Alphonsus would have wished. And how anxious she was to see it done also in all the other houses of the Order! She had an almost child-like obedience. And here now is a little secret which I think I can now reveal to you. She had made a vow to obey her director in everything, and in her last hour, I was able to assure her that she had never failed in any way at all to fulfil this vow which she had made for the love of God.

And how much she loved poverty. She deprived herself of everything, making simplicity reign in the house, and she unceasingly recommended it in practice.

What shall I say about her spirit of mortification? How many times have I not had to stop her! When she was already in the arms of death, she still wanted to do some small mortifications and suffer some privations. So on this point, be good imitators of your Mother, my dear Sisters. She had a supreme horror of exceptions, and she was very austere with herself, while at the same time being indulgent towards others. So let us imitate her as much as we can, so if we had to die some years ahead of time, our good God would be most happy to send some other vocations to reward our love.

And imitate your holy Mother’s recollection too. Even the most distracting occupations did not tear her away from her God. She knew that genuine piety consists of pleasing God in everything, and so her soul was in a continual union with Him. From where did she draw her virtue, her patience and her submission to the divine will? In her love for Jesus Christ she was truly able to say with Saint Paul, “My life is Jesus Christ, and death to me is a gain.” She loved the Blessed Sacrament so much! How much she longed every day, especially during her last illness, to receive it during Holy Communion! And she drew these fine virtues from meditating on the Passion of Our Lord and Mary’s sorrows. So sometimes it seems that Jesus lifted a corner of the veil for her with which He hides His divinity. She avowed to me, at the end of her life, that the graces she had received were so powerful and so strong that she was devoured by the desire to see God face to face. And it is certain that without these extraordinary graces, she would never have been able to speak of God and eternity the way that she did. For me it was a consolation to hear her words.

Yes, my dear Sisters, you have lost a real treasure! Alas, my dear Sisters, you will never see her again in choir, where she sang and recited the praises of the Lord so often and with such fervour. You will never see her again in the long corridors where she edified you by her recollected air. You will never see your dear Mother again in the refectory, which has witnessed so many mortifications. You will never see her again in that room where she so often consoled and encouraged you. You will never see her again in the recreation room where she was so good at uniting to the gravity required by her responsibilities the joy and the saintly happiness of the children of Saint Alphonsus. You will never see her again, your dear Mother, here in the corner of the Conference room where she listened with so much attention, eagerness and love to the words of God. Today you have brought her on your shoulders to the door of the enclosure, and I have had the consolation of accompanying her to her last resting-place. No, you will never see her here again, but with your eyes of faith, you will see her in heaven among all the Redemptoristine saints who have proceeded her, and among them I am certain she will shine like a bright star for all eternity. Go to her now just as you used to go to see her in her cell, tell her all your needs, and she will obtain all the spiritual graces for you that you require. She has suffered so much for you, and she promised not to forget you! Oh, my dear Sisters, do not forget your Mother’s teachings, nor the fine examples she has left you. She can say to you like the Apostle, “Imitate me as I have imitated Christ.” So let us all say, “I wish to remember unceasingly the good examples which our venerated Mother has left us, and try to imitate them. Oh, if only our own death will be the same as hers!” And so it will be, my dear Sisters, if we are good at doing what she has done, and if we are good imitators of Our Lord, for then we will see Him face to face with her in that beautiful Paradise where we shall sing of His mercies in all eternity.
Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo.
I shall sing of the mercies of the Lord in eternity.

Mother Marie-Philomena of the Divine Providence O.SS.R.
Superior of the Monastery of Bruges 1811-1878

This biography is due to the pen of the Rev. Mother Marie-Aloyse of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whose Life we have just read.

Chapter I. Her childhood.

Her entry into the Monastery.

This much-beloved Mother, who was truly providential for the community of Bruges, was born in Ath on 29th June 1811, and at her holy baptism she received the names of Rosalia Dieudonné [God-given] Benoîte Joseph. She was the second child of Mr. Joseph Ignatius of Savoy and Mrs. Rosalia Joseph Nève, his wife.

Heaven was lavish with its gifts for this lovely child, who was perfectly endowed on the side of nature, and soon became the object of all the predilections of her dear parents – they neglected nothing to develop the precious seeds she brought with her when she was born through the medium of a first-rate education.

She was scarcely nine years of age when she lost her father, and a great reversal of fortune followed this premature loss. Rosette (this is what they called her at home) already understood the misfortunes of her family; but her great soul and her generous heart were sensitive only to the sorrows of her beloved mother, whom she tried to console, support and sustain by her love and her tenderness, so it was not without much keenly-felt pain that she departed from her to go to Lille to finish her education. In the boarding house in which she was placed, she cultivated all the talents which were to adorn her young person. She became a perfect musician. This talent was always dear to her, because she was able to employ it to the glory of God in chanting His praises, and in playing the organ to accompany the Divine Office.

Her happy character and her good qualities soon made her sought after by a number of parties. Rosette, who did not yet understand God’s designs upon her, decided to accept the hand of a young man who was as pious and good as she was. This marriage was greatly desired by both families; however a secret foreboding told the young lady that it would never happen. In fact, at the moment when the wedding day had just been decided, her fiancé was attacked by a violent fever which carried him off in just a few days. This unexpected death caused her a terrible sorrow and detached her from the world, and when new setbacks assailed her family, she wanted to use her talents in order to console her mother. Madam the Countess of Malet welcomed her with joy to supervise the education of her only daughter. “Come to me”, she wrote, “because you will be a sister and a friend to me, and more the mother of my daughter than her governess.” Rosette soon gained the heart and trust of this virtuous lady, who loved her tenderly. In her home she was able to enjoy all the comforts which could have attached her to a soft and tranquil life, but God soon gave her to feel that He wanted her completely to Himself. Moreover, she had one of those dreams which God sometimes employs to manifest His designs to souls. Saint Philomena appeared to her calling her to her side, and it seemed to her that she was then enjoying all the joys of heaven. After that day, the world inspired in her nothing more than disgust, and she aspired with all her soul to the blessings of the religious life.

But great difficulties lay in the way of her pious design. The tenderness of her mother, who counted on her to console and support her in her old age; her attachment to her family; the affections of the pious Countess, to whom she owed so much gratitude; and finally, her health, which was extremely delicate: all this caused her a great deal of heart-searching, but grace rendered her victorious.

Our holy Institute was being founded in Belgium, and she was one of the first to be admitted into it; but, to conform herself to a desire expressed by the Rev. Mother Marie-Alphonse, she delayed her entry by several months, so as to perfect her talents as an organist. She accepted this sacrifice with a cheerful heart for the good of the community, and finally, on 18th December 1841, she entered the Monastery, provisionally established in the street of Puits-aux-Oies.

The winter was a most rigorous one, and to the cold there was also added everything that poverty could add by way of privations and sufferings in this beginning of the foundation. But nothing daunted her great courage; she had come in order to dedicate herself to a crucified Spouse; and she burned with the desire to follow in His footsteps and share in His sorrows. The Superiors soon became aware of the great treasure that the good Providence had sent them, and they made haste to ask for the necessary dispensations so that she could join the first six postulants and be able to receive the holy habit with them. On 25th February 1842, she took the veil and with it, the name of Sister Marie-Philomena of the Divine Providence. She spent the year of her novitiate with an exemplary fervour, and applied herself to practising the holy Rules with a perfect exactitude. So the day on which she was able to pronounce her vows was a most keenly desired one.

On 23rd March 1843, the first seven novices were to offer their sacrifice with all the joy of their souls, but a most sorrowful event came to sadden this wonderful day. Sister Marie Anne Joseph of the Precious Blood, who had begun her retreat in full health, became so gravely ill that she had to receive the last sacraments on 22nd March, and at the same time she pronounced her vows on her death-bed. Our dear Sister Marie-Philomena, on this occasion, gave proof of her great charity and her devotion by spending the whole time of her retreat at the bedside of her pious companion, who from time to time told her, her eyes moist with tears of gratitude: “Poor Sister, how you devote yourself to me! But when I am in heaven, I will make it up to you by praying for you.” On 23rd March, everyone left the choir chanting the Te Deum which ends the ceremony of profession, and the newly professed went to stand by the bedside of their dying Sister, who looked at them once again as if to bid them a last farewell. The Angelus rang, and the poor soul spoke the words Ecce ancilla Domini [Behold the handmaid of the Lord], then her head tilted gently to one side and she gave up her beautiful soul to God.

Chapter II. The offices she exercised.
– She is named Superior. – Her virtues.

Our dear Sister Marie-Philomena spent another year in the novitiate, and when she finished it, she was made Mistress of Educandes. She devoted herself completely to the young souls that Heaven entrusted to her, and in spite of her numerous occupations, she formed them most carefully in religious life. Her examples, moreover, made an even greater impression than her words, and everyone admired her exactitude, her regularity, and her great courage in bearing all the privations imposed on her by poverty. The provisional convent was nothing more in fact than an old house that let the wind and the cold in through badly-fitting windows. Everyone froze beside the fire, and the Sisters had nothing that could guarantee them against the inclemency of the weather. The food was very meagre and little suited to a health like hers. But she was happy to suffer and encouraged her educandes to bear the same privations as joyfully as she did. She often worked far into the night, sometimes to bring order into the affairs of the house and examine the accounts for the new building, and sometimes to prepare the music necessary fort the chanting of the sacred office or the flowers destined to adorn the holy altar. In spite of all this, she was the first one in choir in the morning for the canonical Hours.

On 23rd June 1845, the community moved to its new Monastery. Sister Marie-Philomena was then put in charge of the novitiate, which she directed until 11th August 1851, when she became the Vicar. Her zeal for observance had always been great, but now it redoubled. The Superior, because of her health, was not able to take part in the community acts, so our dear Mother Vicar seemed to multiply herself to preside at all of them, without harm to her occupations, and when Mons. Malou, seeing the community so numerous, expressed his desire for a foundation to be made at Brussels, our dear Mother, through her rare prudence, successfully sustained and defended the interests of the house of Bruges, without harm, however, to the first swarm which was to go forth from this blessed bee-hive. The unanimous voices of the Sisters, as well as the wishes of their Bishop, then called upon her to assume the burden of the Superiority. It was an even more heavy one at this moment, considering that with the financial concerns, the building of the convent, and the difficulties of a new foundation, it had never been possible to establish regular observance in all its vigour. It therefore required a rare prudence to set aside ancient customs dear to feeble souls and to moderate too great an ardour in some of the others. This is what our good Mother did. She soon managed to gain all hearts, and the holy Rule being observed with cheerfulness and fidelity, there soon reigned with it joy, fraternal union, silence, the love of mortification and prayer.

Mother Marie Philomena occupied herself actively in regulating the affairs of the Monastery, paid the debts, and by establishing order and economy everywhere, and practising holy poverty exactly, she attracted to that dear house all the divine, spiritual and temporal blessings.

It was at the price of prayers prolonged well into the night and great mortifications, that this good Mother thus obtained from Heaven everything which could contribute to the good fortune of her daughters. Always the first to give them their example, she also procured for them all their spiritual helps, which would assist them in travelling in the footsteps of our good Saviour, and she could in reality say with the Apostle: “Imitate me as I myself imitate Jesus Christ.”

Numerous vocations permitted her to found, in 1858, a house at Velp, in Holland. She led five Choir Sisters and two converse there, and after establishing the enclosure there, she returned to Bruges. In the following year, she conducted a new swarm to Ireland to begin a house in Dublin, and it was also at the cost of much suffering, great efforts and numerous sacrifices that she established this new foundation. Upon returning to Bruges, she continued to govern her community, making it continually progress in fervour and love of regularity, sparing nothing of whatever could contribute to the good of her daughters, and giving a good example in everything.

Her wisdom, her prudence and her gentle firmness gained hearts so securely for her that at each triennium, she received the votes unanimously, and she thus found herself obliged to remain in charge for the space of twenty four years, in other words, until her death. They were years full of fervour, suffering and merits for her, and good fortune and prosperity for the community.

The good God had already sent new vocations to replace those Sisters who left us for the foundations at Velp and Dublin, when a favourable occasion presented itself to establish a foundation at Louvain. Mons. Dechamps, then Archbishop of Malines, who knew and esteemed our dear Mother, joyfully granted her the necessary permissions. However, this foundation cost her a great deal of effort, as her health was already greatly altered. She conducted ten Sisters there on 25th July 1874. The good God paid her in the money with which He rewards his dearest friends – numerous crosses began to add brilliant pearls to her crown.

The living faith of our dear Mother made her see the hand of God directing every event. She was never heard to murmur or complain about whatever was causing her pain. “It is the good God who wishes it so,” she would say, “and we have to submit and wish for it also.” She had to support some great crosses – some very undiscerning people made false reports about her that brought her great humiliations and harsh reproaches from her superiors. She remained calm, persuaded that God would make the truth appear, and in fact, this is what happened, as the calumnies by which people wished to blacken her only served to increase the esteem which she already enjoyed among her superior authorities, and beginning with this moment, she was accorded an unlimited confidence, which she never abused. Some people to whom she had done some good manifested a profound ingratitude to her. Her good heart suffered greatly from it, but her living faith still let her discover the designs of God in it. She said, “The Lord has wished to purify whatever would have been too much of nature. – I would never have believed I would be paid like this for what I have done for N. and for N… It makes me suffer, but I thank Our Lord, for it is from Him that I await my recompense.”

Sometimes, however, the wounding of her heart bled more strongly. One day, when she appeared to be lost in thought, she was asked why she was so sad. She said, “I have examined myself and I am trying to work out if I have done anything to merit the reproaches and behaviour of such a person, but I can find nothing. And I wish her so much good! Yes, this detaches me from everything! How foolish we are if we do not act for God alone! If I had not done such and such a thing for Him, I would have had nothing.”

Her confidence in God always sustained her in the painful circumstances that she had to endure. From her childhood, through the misfortunes of her family and later on when she found herself at the head of her community, where almost everyone had to be formed, our dear Mother put all her trust in God. She rested on divine Providence, and her hope was not in vain. Under her wise direction, the community became a model of fervour, and the Lord poured out the most abundant blessings upon it.

Her love for God was also shown in her works; for never, in all her long religious career, did her fervour ever slacken. It was this love that inspired such ardour in her for the observance of the holy Rules and for the advancement of the souls that Jesus Christ had entrusted to her. She found her delights before the sacred tabernacle, but when her duties called her, it was her love of God that led her to leave God for God’s sake. It was the same love which caused her to love silence and solitude, which brought her to sacrifice herself and devote herself to her daughters, and impose very harsh penances upon herself for their sake. She even shortened her days by doing pious excesses of them, which she carefully kept hidden. The admission she let slip one day left her quite confused. “My God,” she said, “why did I say that? I didn’t want anyone to know about it.”

Our dear Mother was a model of charity towards her neighbour. She could not endure anyone going short. “You make me sad,” she would say, “when you wound charity; and this makes me tremble, because in afflicting the Heart of Jesus, you deprive the community of heavenly blessings.” Her joy, on the other hand, burst forth when she saw unity and charity reign. “Oh, how good this makes me feel!” she would say, “The good God will be pleased with us.” Her good heart never refused a service that she could render, and she suffered when this service was impossible for her. She was always ready to console her Sisters and help them, and she received them courteously and took care of them in their illness. So we had recourse to her with a filial confidence in our spiritual and bodily necessities, and we always found in her what we were looking for. We would always see her deprive herself, unknown to anyone and to comfort a tempted soul, of a warm and light garment that she considered was necessary for her.

She greatly loved the Divine Office, and she recited it and chanted it with such ardour and joy that she inspired the same in the Sisters, and she could not endure anyone being negligent in this holy exercise. She would say, “Just remember, we are now doing what we will be doing in all eternity.” We could see her hasten to arrive there among the first. “I assure you,” she would say, “that my greatest penance is not being able to be present in choir, and if I become feeble and incapable of assisting at the holy office, it would need God’s help for me to resign myself to it, as I do not know how I would make this great sacrifice.”

Her love for poverty made her fear everything that could damage this virtue, which had to be so dear to a daughter of Saint Alphonsus. She had nothing superfluous for her own use and she was happy when the good God permitted her to be forgotten. She complained only of the too great care that was taken of her. She never asked for anything; however, her always delicate health made her very sensitive to the changing of the seasons and to fatigue. Very often she would leave the table, having scarcely touched what was served up to her, as the feebleness of her stomach could bear scarcely any food.

In a word, this true daughter of Saint Alphonsus loved everything that our holy Founder himself loved. Her favourite devotions were devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Childhood and the Passion of our good Saviour; and these great mysteries were the continual object of her meditations. She had the same love for the Blessed Virgin as a child has for her mother; and she made a vow to recite the rosary daily, and she never omitted this pious exercise. She prayed a great deal for sinners. The souls in purgatory also excited her compassion. She applied to them all the indulgences that she could gain for them.

This is how our good Mother rapidly advanced in perfection, and her divine Spouse, who was pleased to see her thus united to Himself, also wished, towards the end of her life, to send her a very harsh cross, to complete her purification. She accepted it with great love and a perfect generosity.

Chapter III. Letters by Rev. Father Mauron to Mother Marie-Philomena.
The beautiful pages that we have just read will be happily completed by some extracts from the letters addressed to Mother Marie-Philomena by Rev. Father Mauron, the Rector Major of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. In them we will see how this good Mother was profoundly esteemed by the holy priest whom we have mentioned.

“Very Reverend Mother,” he wrote to her on 13th January 1863, “I have been touched by the prayers that you never cease to offer for me, and in particular the communion that your community offered me on my feast day. I thank you also, in a special manner, for the beautiful Infant Jesus that you have had the great kindness to send me. It was passed on to me by Mr. de Splentere last Saturday, on the eve of the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. On the day of my feast, I had it with me in recreation. It is useless for me to tell you that everyone admired this beautiful piece of work, both the little Child, so adorable and so gracious, and the cradle so finely worked. To give it honour, the Community spent the recreation chanting some beautiful canticles in its presence. So you can see from this, my Reverend Mother, how much your present gave us pleasure.

“But in return, what can I offer you? – Since the adorable little Child Jesus is so much loved in your community, I would not be able to wish you anything more precious that the full, perfect and constant possession of this divine Saviour. For there is nothing more beautiful on this earth than a religious community in which Jesus Christ lives with His spirit of simplicity, humility and ardent charity, in which you both think, live and breathe only for Jesus Christ; a community in which, finally, Jesus is the centre, the link, the soul and the life! – May the Immaculate Virgin Mary and blessed Father, Saint Alphonsus, whom you love and venerate so much, grant you, in all its fullness, the spirit of Jesus Christ! For as you know, loving Our Lord fully and making Him known to others was the insatiable desire of the heart of Saint Alphonsus, and such must therefore also be the first preoccupation of each one of his children.

“This is why I am happy to know that you never cease to address fervent prayers to Our Lord for the good success of the missions and works of the Congregation. So continue to storm our divine Saviour. Through your prayers you will rejoice the heart of God and the heart of Saint Alphonsus, and you will contribute in an efficacious manner to the salvation of souls.”

On 15th January 1866, the Rev. Father Mauron wrote:
“I have been especially touched by the recommendation made to these two saintly ladies [2] who have gone to receive their reward in heaven, to pray from up there for me and for the whole Congregation. The number of his children in heaven continues to grow, and there also the number of intercessors with Our Lord in favour of the family of Saint Alphonsus. All of this is very consoling, especially since I have received from the mouth of Mons the Bishop of Bruges the confirmation of what I have already learnt from elsewhere, that regular observance and a good spirit continue to flourish in your Monastery.”

Regarding an image of the Ven. Father Hofbauer [3],
Father Mauron adds:
“I have offered up my prayers that one day we will also be able to introduce the cause of some holy Redemptoristine, and the best means of arriving at such a desirable result is for you to become adept in the precious counsels that Saint Alphonsus left us as his testament to the religious of his Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. These forty four counsels truly contain all the essence of the religious perfection of a true Redemptoristine, and in practising them faithfully, a daughter of Saint Alphonsus will certainly merit being venerated one day on the altars.”

Another time, he enlivens his zeal: “I am persuaded”, he wrote on 2nd January 1867, “that you should pray as much as possible for the needs of the holy Church and for its venerable chief on earth, Our Holy Father Pius IX. It is a duty for all the children of the holy Church in the sad times that it is passing through, but most especially for all those who, in their religious life, draw must often at the fountain of graces of which it is the repository.”

Rev. Father Mauron recommends to her the same interests the following year, and he brings her up to date with an important matter. “You would perhaps have learnt,” he tells her, “that the Holy See has favourably received our request to see Saint Alphonsus solemnly placed among the number of the Doctors of the Holy Church. The cause has been officially introduced and is progressing favourably. I recommend it to your prayers, as well as that of the beatification of the Ven. Father Clement Hofbauer.”

In this year of 1868, death claimed four victims in the Monastery of Bruges. [4] Father Mauron consoles the good Superior in these touching lines: “During the night of Christmas that you have had the good fortune to spend at the foot of the Manger, I am sure that the divine Child will have happily received all your supplications. You can be even more sure of seeing them heard than you can believe that four of your good companions have had the good fortune of spending this feast in Paradise, and, on this occasion, they will certainly not have forgotten you. Continue, my Reverend Mother, to recommend to Our Lord and to our dear Lady of Perpetual Succour the present and forthcoming needs of the Congregation. Certainly the future is a sombre one, and God alone knows if some of the trials with which Providence has just struck our flourishing houses in Spain is not reserved here for us too.”

On 23rd June 1874, Father Mauron stretched out his hands to Mother Marie-Philomena on behalf of the Redemptoristines of Vibonati, in the Diocese of Policastro (Kingdom of Naples), deprived of their property by the Italian government. Three weeks later he wrote back:

“I have recently received your good letter of 1st July, enclosing two banknotes of 100 francs each, which your charity offers as alms for your poor fellow Sisters of Vibonati, so worthy in every respect of commiseration. I sent this money on to them straight away, and the Superior, Sister Maria Raphael, has just let me know she has received it, never ceasing in her thanksgiving in her own name and in the name of her forty Sisters, for this providential assistance. She begs me to be kind enough to express all their gratitude to you in their name, and to assure you that they will return it to you in fervent prayers for their benefactors.

“I was very happy,” he adds, “to learn that the business of your foundation at Louvain is progressing so favourably and I hope that, there like Bruges, a good spirit will reign, and the spirit of prayer and the interior life that Saint Alphonsus has inculcated so much into his Daughters. I am truly consoled, and Saint Alphonsus in heaven rejoices to see them so numerous in Belgium.”

Mother Marie-Philomena had expressed the desire that the history would be written of the first times of the Institute of the Redemptoristines. Rev. Father Mauron gave a very consoling reply. He brought her up to date with everything he had already done to bring this project to fruition one day, and ended his letter in the following manner: “I am busying myself with your history with all the more interest, as I know the fidelity and fervour with which the Redemptoristines serve and love God.” It was a beautiful eulogy for the Sisters of Bruges, but it also extended to all their fellow Sisters. So before her death, this good Mother knew that one of her most cherished desires would one day be fulfilled.


[2] Sisters Marie-Cécile of the Child Jesus and Marie-Alphonse of the Immaculate Conception.
[3] Beatified.
[4] They were: Sister Marie-Dominique of the Mother of God, Sister Marie-Ildephonse of the Holy Spirit, Sister Aloyse of Jesus and Mary, and Sister Marie-Paul of the Child Jesus.

Chapter IV. Death of Mother Marie-Philomena.
Homage rendered to her memory

We continue with Mother Marie-Aloyse’s account:

“Our good Mother,” she says, “for some time had been having a presentiment of her approaching death. During that summer she said one day: “I believe my death is near, as I always feared that moment my whole life long, but now I desire it so much! My fears have gone, and I am thirsting to go and see the good Jesus! Oh, yes,” she continued, putting her hands together and looking up to heaven, “I want to see Him so much. I might not say much about it, but I love my good Jesus so much. Yes, I love Him with my whole heart.”

Mother Marie-Philomena’s health had already altered considerably. Our Mother was in a lot of pain and was suffering greatly. On the day of the Immaculate Conception (1878), she took communion and assisted at the holy mass and then retired to her room. Shortly afterwards she began vomiting. The doctor arrived about four o’clock in the afternoon and saw nothing serious in her state. But he had scarcely left when she started having a stroke. The doctor was recalled and ordered the last sacraments to be administered to the patient without delay. We had only enough time to transport our dear Mother to the infirmary, and the Rev. Canon Minne, our ordinary confessor, gave her Extreme Unction. The dear soul had lost her ability to speak, and we did not even know if she still retained consciousness. But what consoled us and edified us was hearing her murmuring the Ave Maria continually. She did this all night long, without stopping for a moment, and then we saw the proof of the words of our venerated Father Passerat that she loved to repeat to us: “If you contract the holy habit of always praying, you will do it even at the hour of your death, even without knowing it.” Her consciousness came back to her bit by bit, and our good Mother asked for the Very Rev. Father Kockerols, our extraordinary confessor, to be called urgently. He soon arrived, and she was very consoled by his presence. She made her confession and received Holy Communion. It was a touching spectacle to see this good Mother still trying to recite some part of her office. She never complained, nor asked for any comfort, and when she was asked if she felt all right, her reply was always: “Yes, I’m all right.” – or “I’m very well.” She said several times that she pardoned with all her heart all those who had caused her grief during her life, and her calm was so great that it could have been said that she was already enjoying heaven. – “You are suffering a great deal, my good Mother”, the Very Rev. Father Kockerols said to her. “Our Lord is sending you some very great sorrows.” - “Yes,” she replied, “but also some very great consolations.”

She assured the community that she would not forget them in heaven, recommended them several times to the Very Rev. Father Kockerols, and thanked him with a touching effusion for everything he had done for her. The Reverend Father, moved to tears, thanked her in his turn for what she had done for the Congregation. He assured her of everyone’s prayers, adding that, from now on, they would be interceding for her in all the houses in Belgium.

“Our dear Mother also had the consolation of receiving the benediction of Mons. Faict, the Bishop of Bruges, who esteemed her greatly, and who himself made haste to come to her to be informed of her condition as soon as he learnt of the painful blow we had received. On Thursday 12th December, in the evening, the Reverend Father Kockerols came once more to confess her, and then the Sisters went to receive her last blessing. The good Mother continually recited the Ave Maria, holding her Rosary in her hands, and from time to time making an effort to put it round her neck. Someone did this for her and she became calm. The dear soul was sinking visibly. At about eleven o’clock, the Rev. Father Kockerols recited the prayers of the dying, and on Friday 13th December 1878, at one o’clock in the morning, Mother Marie-Philomena peacefully rendered her beautiful soul into the hands of Him for whom she had worked so hard and suffered so much.

“The grief of the Community could not be described. We lost in her the best of Superiors, the most tender of Mothers, the friend and confident of us all. Each one of us hastened to pay our debt of gratitude to her by praying for her, and by promising to follow her counsels and examples.

“Mons. the Bishop wished to honour her funeral by his presence, to show the great esteem he had for our much beloved Mother. The family of the dear departed attended also, and, a remarkable thing, all the officers then in service in Bruges wished to pay our mother a tribute that no nun had ever received, so they all came to her funeral, wishing to demonstrate to M. the General of Savoy, the august brother of the deceased, that they too knew how to appreciate the virtues of the beloved sister whom he was mourning.”

To this touching biography that we have just read, we add some pious tributes emanating from men and women who knew Mother Marie-Philomena well.

In the first place we mention the funeral notice composed by the Very Rev. Father Kockerols:
J. M. J. A.

Do not forget the teachings of your Mother (Prov. 1:8).

She was a true daughter of Saint Alphonsus. She drummed into us unceasingly through her words and her examples the true spirit of our holy Founder:

The spirit of faith, which makes us live a supernatural and divine life here below.

The spirit of prayer, which maintains our souls in continual communication with God.

The spirit of humility and simplicity, the distinctive characteristic of our holy Founder and his true disciples.

The spirit of sacrifice and abnegation, which produces forgetfulness of self and the most entire devotion to the interests of Jesus.

The spirit of love, ardent love for Our Lord; a tender love for Mary; a love full of zeal for the Church and souls, especially for the most abandoned souls.

The spirit of submission in everything to the divine will. It will make us repeat on every occasion the sacred words that our venerated Superior and much beloved Mother repeated so often during her life and at her death:
Fiat voluntas tua!
May Thy will be done!

A letter by Rev. Father Inghels, dated 3rd January 1879, and addressed to Mother Marie-Aloyse, renders in its turn, in expressive terms, a beautiful homage to the virtues of the deceased:

“We have placed our vows for the new year for our good Sisters of Bruges into the Manger of the Child Jesus. May the Convent in Saint Catherine Street always remain what it has been so far, a joyous vestibule of Paradise! You are there, happy spouses of Jesus Christ, unceasingly praising your well-beloved Saviour, counting no longer for anything from the world that you have left, rejoicing already in the charity that brings you something of the ineffable bliss that awaits you. From time to time, the Angel of deliverance comes to say: “Come, Bride of Christ!” And then, for the happy elect, Paradise opens, and she enters into the eternal beatitude, and receives the crown that the Lord has prepared for her. Oh, undoubtedly, my dear Sister, for those who must still wait in the vestibule, the separation is painful, but what a great consolation to be able to say to yourself: ‘She is happy, and we, sometime later, will go to rejoin her!’

“You can say this, my good Sister, every time your divine Spouse invites a member of your happy community, but can you now not add that your good Mother Marie-Philomena has had the good fortune to be invited? Oh, how beautiful must her crown be! Has she not served the divine Providence as a docile instrument to form the sanctity of a huge number of souls? Do you not owe to her the fervour that reigns amongst you? Did she not bear her name well, and was she not truly a most adorable Providence for each one of you? And not content to take care of you, what did she not do for those whom Providence has brought into the vestibule? Ah, if the grilles of your convent could only speak! What acts of charity practised by Mother Philomena would be revealed! How fitting it was to choose as the text on her mortuary card the words of Saint Augustine: “Pious towards God, affectionate and tender towards her own, benevolent towards all those who approached her”, and the word of Ecclesiastes: “She loved God and mankind and her memory is a blessed one.”

“This is so true of our good Mother Marie-Philomena. After such a life, it is not astonishing that her end was so beautiful.”

Let us now listen to some pious Redemptoristines who knew their venerated Mother well:

“Our dear Mother Marie-Philomena,” said one of them, “always appeared to me as a holy Superior whose power and meekness made her government just like what our Father Saint Alphonsus describes about the perfect Superior. She had a great devotion to the Divine Office, which she accompanied with so much devotion. She was always ready to console her daughters, and even the least of them had recourse to her with confidence.”

Another one writes: “I remember our good Reverend Mother as always sweet and smiling. You could never spend time with her (even if you were burdened or were not feeling well) without feeling yourself changed. Whatever it was regarding her, everything disappeared and changed in front of her kindliness, as if an angel suddenly appearing chased away all the demons. She helped the souls of her children pass through the thorns of great trials without being torn by them. She sometimes told me at the beginning: “Do not be one of those religious who must be handled with gloves on.”

Finally, a third witness to the virtues of this good Mother gives us a portrait drawn of the deceased in the following lines:

“As for our much beloved Mother Marie-Philomena, who received me into the community of Bruges, what I particularly admired in her, from the very first day I had the pleasure of meeting her, was a supernatural quality of soul which was never shaken even in the midst of the greatest pains and difficulties. One day when I expressed my admiration to her on the subject of her imperturbable patience, she replied: “My dear child, if the good God wants something or permits it, why would we wish otherwise?”

The charm that grace gave to her energy attracted all hearts to her so she could bring them to God. I have in my hands some lines written by this venerated Mother. Here is a copy of them, in case they can be of use.

“You have asked me, my dear little Sister M., for some lines of consolation: here is my reply. Before all, dear child, I wish you to have courage. Even well before the invention of the railway, Saint Teresa said that with courage you could go a hundred leagues an hour. Courage is therefore the electric telegraph of the spiritual life. And why go on foot or by a postal van when we have the railway or the telegraph at our disposition?

“I see that you still have a trace left of your ancient infirmity: discouragement. Mister Darkness is trying to make use of it, so send him packing. For the rest, we must never be discouraged or dismayed when we see ourselves still imperfect. We cannot become a saint in one day, and God is pleased to leave us a feeble and vulnerable side so that we can constantly be humbled and feel the enormous need that we have of Him. In your temptations, never think of the temptation, but of Jesus Christ and Mary; and in general, when your spirit wishes to dream, reflect and consider, fasten your glance with good humour on the adorable figure of Jesus Christ who is in you, and His holy Mother who is beside you. There you will find what you should dream of for all eternity.”

Sister Marie-Paul of the Child Jesus O.SS.R., of the Monastery of Bruges (1849-1868)

The characteristic devotion of this good Sister was her devotion to Saint Alphonsus.

Josephine-Jeanne de Mortier was born in Brussels of very Christian parents, on 8th June 1846. She shared the lessons that tutors gave her brothers and sisters at her home. Her bright, lively and affectionate character made her beloved by all those who knew her. Her piety developed with her age, and as she had only good examples before her eyes, this good child never knew evil. – She devoted herself with a great deal of zeal to propagating the Work of the Holy Childhood, and spared neither pain nor efforts for her dear little Chinese (this is what she loved to call them). She also occupied herself with a great deal of charity in teaching the catechism each Sunday to the little children of the poor, and her patience found much opportunity for exercise.

The divine Saviour, who cherished this pure and innocent soul, and destined her to bear the crown of Virgins eternally, hastened to withdraw her into His sanctuary in order to win this crown that she was to receive while still young.

Since her childhood, Josephine had been under the direction of the Redemptorist Fathers. She loved nothing but Saint Alphonsus, she said, so she soon thought to become his daughter and went to present herself to the Monastery of the Redemptoristines of Bruges in the month of June 1866. The Reverend Mother Marie-Philomena of the Divine Providence recognized the precious qualities of her postulant very quickly and received her as a present from Saint Alphonsus himself. She made her entry on 15th August 1866. She immediately bore herself with fervour in all the exercises of the religious life. She would go to choir with a very special joy, and she so much loved chanting the office that when the state of her health deprived her of this blessing, this sacrifice drew many tears from her. Her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was such as to make her find the moments that she was able to spend at the foot of the holy Tabernacle much too short. Her love for prayer made her employ this holy exercise all the time that she could give to it. She prepared for it carefully and made great progress in it.

She was very bright, but out side the times of recreation, she greatly loved silence, because she felt the good it does to the soul who seeks to be united to her God. Her charity made her ingenious in helping others. She did it with such a good heart that you could see her jump for joy when a work was entrusted to her. – Her heart was completely devoted to her Superiors. She had entire confidence in them. She loved them and obeyed them like a docile and affectionate child. A word on their part was sufficient to tranquillise her in her pains.

Josephine, when her educandate had finished, received the holy habit on 20th August 1867, and at the same time the name of Sister Marie-Paul of the Child Jesus. She passed the time of her novitiate with great fervour and made her holy vows on 20th August 1868. After a year, her health had greatly altered. From an illness that she had suffered a feebleness remained that degenerated into consumption. The dear little Sister, always courageous, finally, on 20th September, had to descend to the infirmary. The illness made rapid progress, and she was soon reduced to not being able to walk alone, so great was her weakness.

However she preserved her pleasant character, and was pleased with everything and never offered a complaint about her sufferings or the privations that resulted from her illness. She said: “I accept that I need all my courage so as not to lose patience; but I look at the good Jesus on the cross and then I feel strong and happy to suffer.” – She keenly felt the blessing of dying in religion: “I understand it even better now than on the day of my Profession,” she said, “and I renew my holy vows at least fifty times a day. Oh, what a blessing to die in the convent, where everything speaks to me of God, and where I can still take communion so often!”

One single thing hurt her. It was leaving her good Superior, Mother Marie-Philomena. Whenever she thought of it her tears would flow, but the thought of seeing her again one day in heaven dried them up very quickly. A word from the Reverend Mother made her forget all her sufferings. She loved to speak with her of heaven and the blessing of chanting the praises of the Lord there. Sister Marie Paul would then rally and exclaim: “If I love music so much here below, what will happen then in Paradise?” But this moment delayed too long for the vivacity of her desires – she found the time very long, and she had to make acts of resignation to await the moment indicated by the divine will. – One day she wanted to see the novices, her companions, say goodbye to them, and give a picture to each one of them as a souvenir. She promised to pray for them in Paradise and made them promise her to pray a great deal for her after her death.

On the day of the Immaculate Conception 1868, she asked for the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to be made in the infirmary just as it was being made in public that same day. The dear child offered herself to the divine Heart as a victim of expiation. She offered her life for poor sinners, for the needs of the Church, and to obtain graces for the community. On the eve of her death, she asked if the blessed candle was in the infirmary, because she felt the moment approaching. On 10th December she received Holy Communion once more and passed the morning quite peacefully. About twelve thirty, the confessor gave her the last absolution. She was perfectly conscious and smiled when she saw the Sisters praying round her bedside. She looked confidently at the picture of the Blessed Virgin and in this way, without a moment of agitation, without even a sigh, she peacefully rendered her soul to God.

* * Monastery of Malines * *

Mother Marie Anne-Joseph of Jesus O.SS.R., Superior of the Monastery of Malines [1] (1834-1895)

In the world : Baroness Amélie Marie Hyacinth

Coming from a family more worthy of commendation still by its faith and by its virtue than by its nobility, Mother Marie-Anne-Joseph of Jesus understood very early on the vanity and the nothingness of things that pass away, and her great heart made her despise all the advantages that her birth and spirit could procure her in the world, so as to don the humble habit of a postulant of the Most Holy Redeemer in our provisional convent of Brussels.

She made her entry there on January 23, 1857, at the age of 33. A small incident showed her energy, and the self-control she already had over herself. While giving the kiss of peace to the Sisters, her veil caught fire from the candle one of them was holding. Immediately, without being moved in any way at all, she unfastened it, threw it on the ground, trampled on it, and continued to peacefully give everyone the kiss of peace. A singular or providential particularity had signalled her admission. A young person, who had some desire to enter to the convent, had come to ask a novena for the purpose of knowing her vocation. The Reverend Mother Marie-Alphonse of the Will of God, while indicating this intention in her prayers, made a mistake and instead of saying: “For Miss Mathilde”, she announced: “For Miss Amélie.” At recreation, the Sisters hastened to tell the Reverend Mother: “My Mother, are we going to have an Amélie, a new companion? You prayed for her.” The Reverend Mother replied: “Did I say Amélie?” – “Yes, my Mother! Oh! We are going to have an Amélie!” A remarkable thing! Only a few days went by, and then there was an announcement that Madam the Baroness Van der Straeten had come to present her daughter, who was anxious to enter the small Redemptoristine community… Oh what joy and thanksgiving for this new reception! Two more vocations had come to strengthen the newborn foundation, transferred from Brussels in Malines October 6, 1858 indeed.[2]

When her educandate and novitiate were finished, Sister Marie-Anne-Joseph of Jesus made her profession at Malines, between the hands of M. Bosmans, the Dean and Archpriest of the metropolis of Saint-Rombaut, who made the usual speech. It took place on March 2, 1859. The ceremony was held with great solemnity: it was the first profession since the transfer of the community to Malines. The pious Sister distinguished herself, during her novitiate, by her love of prayer and her sincere charity; and so she had given rise to the most beautiful expectations.

* * * * *

These expectations were not disappointed. After the second year of her novitiate, granted by the Rule to perfect herself in the exercise of the virtues, Sister Marie-Anne-Joseph was employed in helping with the housekeeping. It was an office of abnegation that she fulfilled with docility and the goodwill of a true child of Saint Alphonsus. She was then successively called to the tasks of Sacristine, Tourière, Infirmarian, Linen-maid, etc., and she exercised them all with the same goodwill and the same devotion, applying herself to vanquishing herself in the small things and refusing nothing to God.

Humility was the principal object of the prayers and efforts of our good Sister ; but in this she saw the most supreme means of arriving at God's love that she was seeking above all else. And so she entered into a long and hard struggle with her own self-esteem, happy or at least resigned to be humiliated and contradicted. Her character was inclined somewhat to the spirit of contradiction. She triumphed over it while profiting from all occasions for showing herself as cordial and considerate towards her neighbours.

A friend of mortification and penance, she rightly considered habitual contrition as a source of precious favours, and drew profit from the little sufferings that presented themselves. She imposed certain privations on herself and was attached to imitating her divine Saviour, while loving the poor, humbling and painful side of religious life. What was she in her own eyes? Simply nothing and she meditated gladly, like the Saints, on her own lowliness, knowing full well that we never mortify ourselves unless we have learnt to hate ourselves first.

As with blessed Father Saint Alphonsus, she made all her perfection consist in perfect conformity with God's will. “I understand,” she wrote one day, “that indifference is indeed the corner-stone of purity of intention. It desires only to know what You desire, O my God, in order to accomplish it. It is therefore myself that I am seeking when I want You to want something rather than something else. How much seeking I have had to arrive here, O my good Jesus! I ask pardon from You for it, and by this love that made You suffer so much to merit for me the grace to be all Yours, grant me, I implore you, so great a love for you that I shall forget myself in order to think of nothing more than You and Your interests.” So she made every effort to fulfil the beautiful words of the Apostle: “I live, but it is no longer I that lives, it is Christ who lives in me.”, words that Saint Alphonse understood as perfect conformity with God's will.

The filial piety of Mother Marie-Anne-Joseph towards Saint Alphonsus, and the high esteem that she had for his holiness and teachings, led her to find in his writings a substantial food, free from all pretension and full of the wisdom of the Saints. To use the words of Father Monsabré, “She did not like writers who speak of the things of God in too far-fetched and precious a style that invites ridicule, if it does not fall into it. She preferred the tender effusions of the pious authors who do not make our minds spin, and do not torment the dictionary to make their hearts speak.”[3]

As a worthy daughter of Saint Alphonse, she had a quite special devotion to the Holy Childhood, the Passion of Our Lord and the Blessed Sacrament. Her confidence in the Blessed Virgin and her love for her was that of a child towards her Mother. Her devotion to Saint Joseph, her Patron, was also very solid. She especially liked this admirable conformity to God's will in the holy Patriarch that characterized him. Finally she tenderly loved the Holy Angels, her guardian angel in particular, and she prayed to him to remind her constantly of her good resolutions.

* * * * *

All the many graces, lights and good sentiments that filled her soul were exactly the right qualities for her to perfectly fulfil first the task of Mistress of Educandes, then that of Mistress of the Novices, that were confided to her. Understanding how important these function were, she applied herself to examining the dispositions of her young plants, in order to be sure if they were destined to bear fruit conforming to the spirit of our Institute. And this is especially why she did not spare either her cares or her prayers, forgetting her own self in order to help, fortify, encourage and console as required, the souls entrusted to her solicitude.

She was elected Vicar on June 10, 1878 in place of Sister Marie-Véronique, who was leaving to help found the house at Grenoble, and then named as Superior in 1879. She was named again in 1886, and also for the next two triennia, with an Indult being granted by Rome to this effect.

Reverend Mother Marie-Anne-Joseph of Jesus governed with wisdom, prudence and charity: her solicitude extended to all; she responded to the needs of the Sisters, and showed herself especially eager to procure them every relief when they were seriously ill, and devoted herself entirely to the good spiritual and temporal government of her community.

Zealous for the cult of the Blessed Sacrament, she got the Archdiocese to permit the holy Ciborium, from Holy Thursday until Holy Saturday after the office of Matins, to remain, no longer in the exterior sacristy, but in choir, in a tabernacle placed on a little altar, devoutly decorated. It is also to this good Mother's that we owe the beautiful arrangement of the treasury of the relics that surmount and surround this small altar. Her heart was as if flooded with joy on the day when the great and numerous bones of these good Saints were brought from the Convent of Saint-Trond and offered as a present by one our Fathers. Her piety, at the sight of these relics, lit up her face, and her words expressed her great gratitude for so precious a gift.

The Sisters who had resort to her maternal solicitude were sure of finding her full of the insights, advice, wise counsels and encouragement which they needed ; her virtues had acquired a general esteem for her, and persons from outside themselves were able to appreciate her great qualities and her generous charity.

Deposed from her task in 1894, then named Vicar, Mother Marie-Anne-Joseph was henceforth a living example to her Sisters of the most exact and edifying obedience. Nevertheless, she was not long in receiving her reward for her works.

Towards the end of February 1895, she had a cold that degenerated into bronchitis, and then pneumonia, and reduced her suddenly to the verge of death. On March 6, at eight o'clock in the evening, she devoutly received the last sacraments. Immediately after this imposing ceremony, she said gravely: “I have received many holy things in a short time: all the rest is nothing.” And as the Sister infirmarian told her: « Look, it is the influenza which is making you suffer”, she replied: “It is not the influenza, it is God who wants it.” They offered to call the Rev. Jesuit Father, her brother, to her; but she refused this consolation and offered it in sacrifice to God.

The night of 9th to 10th March was a painful one. In the afternoon, the good Mother was confessed for the last time, received the apostolic benediction and urgently asked to receive communion. This blessing was procured for her; a few moments had hardly passed when she peacefully rendered her soul to God. The memory of her wonderful examples will not perish in the hearts of those that knew her, and they will remember the words which she took as her motto: “I believe that God loves me with an infinite love: I believe that Mary loves me with a very tender love, a Mother’s love; I abandon myself to their love, and I want to love them as much as I can on earth so as to love them even more in the eternity.”


[1] About the foundation of this Monastery, consult the work by P. Nimal mentioned above. – It took place in 1858.
[2] The reception took place on 10th February 1858.
[3] P. Monsabré. Drops of truth, p. 52. (1 vol. Lethielleux).
May we permit ourselves in this regard to mention here some appreciations borrowed from the correspondence of Saint Alphonsus concerning several of his ascetic works. On the subject of the Glories of Mary, the holy Doctor wrote to Remondini : “It is the book I spent the most time working on and maybe the one that had the most success.”
Regarding the numerous opuscules such as the Novenas to the Sacred Heart, the Holy Spirit, to Saint Michael, Christmas, Reflections and affections on the Passion of Our Lord, etc., Saint Alphonsus wrote: “They are short, but had a lot of work done on them and are full of things; and to compose these small works, I read the hundreds of books from which I took the best.”
The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ has thus been judged by its author: “This little work is perhaps more devout and useful than all the others.” The Pious Reflections on different subjects of spirituality “were composed expressly for the souls that wish to be entirely in God.”
Finally, “The true Spouse of Jesus Christ” or “The nun sanctified”, as Saint Alphonsus also called it, is “of all his books of spirituality the most beautiful, the most worked on; it is so to speak, the epitome of everything that the other authors have written on the sanctification of nuns.” See Correspondence, T., IV, P. 112. –IV, P. 68. –IV, P. 347. –II, 480. –IV. 133.

Sister Marie-Aloyse of the Crucifix O.SS.R., of the Monastery of Malines
(1857 – 1884)

It is a beautiful and gracious history [1] of this young girl of the great world. Vowed since her birth to Saint Louis Gonzaga by her devout mother, Marie de Courtebourne grew up in innocence. She knew of the world only to appreciate its vanity. She opened her entire soul to the sweet influences of piety, and finished by embracing the religious life.

Are we to follow her in the different stages of her short existence? No. We shall see our humble heroine neither in Ghent where she was born, nor in Oostacker, [2], nor in Rome, nor in Assisi, nor even at Malines where she became Redemptoristine nun. We shall content ourselves to some degree by drawing the moral portrait of this beautiful soul, while borrowing from her the traits under which she was painted unbeknown to her.

I. –In the World.
One day Marie de Courtebourne opened a publication used by her father. Her pious mother arrived in the meantime. Fearing that her daughter's eyes would fall on dangerous pages, she took it away from her forcibly. – “O my mother,” the young girl said later while remembering this circumstance, “what a service you rendered me by forbidding me to read anything without your permission!” – “Yes, the scene in that room,” replied her mother; “I remember it now. I was too stern, my child.” – “It was the only time you spoke to me severely,” replied Marie, “and you were right a thousand times. I never forgot the way you looked at me. It impressed me even more than your words. You appeared so angry that I thought: “Such reading must be very dangerous for me, since mother seems so alarmed”, and every time since then that I have been tempted to read something, I remember what you told me, and it prevented me from succumbing. I never disobeyed your prohibition.”

The pious child read “The Imitation of Jesus Christ” assiduously. She also had a tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin. “I love the Virgin Mary very much,” she told her cousin, Marguerite of Limbourg, one day. She is a tender mother to me, and I love to call myself her child. But imagine how unhappy I am. I have tried in vain, but I do not have the same devotion to my guardian angel, as my aunt Matilda had.”[3]

In her quality as an older sister, she initiated her young friend into the practices of the spiritual life. One day, she taught her to make a private examination, and she was very sincerely humbled in scarcely knowing how to succeed in it herself. “As for me,” she said, “I have a great deal of trouble in doing it, so I never manage to correct myself of my defects, and I always have my dominant defect warring against me.” –“You?” replied her little cousin. “But what defect do you have then? I don't know of any dominant defect in you.” – “I have too much human respect,” replied Marie. – “It would not have come to anyone’s mind,” says her historian, “to assign this defect to her, so much did her oneness with the Church excluded any preoccupation of this kind! She prayed with a childlike simplicity, speaking to Our Lord at all hours of the day and night, and confiding to Him with a supreme abandonment all her joys, troubles and desires. Her prayers were both naive and fervent. It was the ingenuous language of a heart that goes in all confidence to Jesus.”

Even when very young, Marie de Courtebourne loved the poor. One morning, her father gave her a beautiful new shiny coin as a reward. The child looked at it and had everybody admire it. In the evening, a poor man came by. Marie ran back hurriedly into the castle. “Where are you running to, Marie?” her grandmother asked her. –“To find my new coin to give it to this poor man!” And she wanted to put it herself into the poor man’s hands.

A little later, she felt an irresistible attraction for the religious life. “If I enter the convent”, she wrote to her director one day, “It would not be to live a tranquil life. I have already seen enough religious houses to know that all the human miseries are found there. Characters are more or less soured by the common life, the austerities, the monotony of the places and the occupations. I do not want to delude myself. There they will treat me like a useless piece of furniture, a burden on the community. I will be tormented and harassed by the confessors, who will want to make me advance in perfection, and the demon will not let me alone. Even the good God will hide from me very often and He will send me trials, or rather His caresses of love.

“I would like my life to be a continual sacrifice, a continual act of love. I would like to have no more liberty, to obey blindly, and give myself to the good God as much as we can give ourselves here below. I would do anything for this.”

But her father? And the wonderful husband that would be offered to her? – She replied: “I am just as astonished as you at my idea and this stubbornness in wanting to shut myself within four walls in, bringing pain to my family, and having everyone against me, when I am so feeble and timid. Humanly speaking, it would be better to lead happy life, see the world, and contract the wonderful marriage that my father spoke to me about at Assisi, with one of the best suitors in France. I replied to my dear father that I was still very young and that we would think about it later. In the depths of my heart, I told myself that the good Jesus would call me to Himself, either in heaven, or in the convent.”

She marvellously understood the price of religious obedience: “The whole life of Our Lord,” she wrote, “was but a succession of afflictions and privations. I would not really have had the moral strength to enjoy my liberty all my life. The good Jesus was obedient unto death, and to death on the cross! In the world, perfect obedience is impossible, even less to be renowned for it. You cannot always run after your confessor, nor live in hermit, especially in my position.”

Finally, her attraction to the life of privations became irresistible: “My desire for the religious life,” she wrote to her director, “is always increasing. It is costing me to live in abundance, while poor Jesus suffered so much. I would like to be hidden, and forgotten, and have no more liberty. But above all I want to do the will of God.” – “My attraction,” she added, “is for the Order of the Redemptoristines, founded by Saint Alphonsus of Liguori. I very much like its spirit of abnegation and detachment. – No, my Father, I am leaving everything or rather nothing, in order to find everything. Even if I was the daughter of a king and had a million dollars to spend every day, I would not hesitate, with the grace of God, to become a religious.”

II. –In the Cloister.
Such admirable sentiments were to lead Marie de Courtebourne to the port she desired. She entered it in 1878. Of the convent of the Redemptoristines of Malines she wrote after fifteen days: “I did not believe that my happiness would be so great. You would not recognize me. I am usually sleepy and shy, but now I am extraordinarily lively, my sight alone makes even the most serious Sisters laugh and I prattle on like a little magpie. Everyone is very good to me. I am the youngest of all. I have no trouble following the community exercises. You would think I have always been doing them!

“I am so happy to sleep on straw!” she wrote another day. “In the world, I had too soft a bed, and I cried with frustration at seeing myself so mollycoddles, while the good Jesus had so much to suffer.” “She asked,” said her historian, “to continue the mortifications that she did at home: to choose the dishes that most repelled her, depriving herself of seasonings, and using other little industries dear to Christian penance. She added: “I have suffered enough from living in abundance, having everything I could wish for, and resembling the poor and suffering Jesus so little. I always wanted to be poor and suffer to give pleasure to the good God.”

She told the Mistress of Educandes one day: “I did not know that you could love the good Jesus so much. I have not yet told you how I learned this. I was about sixteen years old. One day when I had just received communion, I believed I heard a voice immediately afterwards telling me: “Love me.” – I was afraid and I did not dare to say anything. At the following communion, I heard the same words again. Then I was really afraid, and I said: “If it is You speaking to me, O my good Jesus, tell me what I must do to love You. I am so lowly! I know nothing. – Then I understood that the good Jesus would Himself teach me to love Him, and that love consists in suffering.”

In the convent, she had no human respect. “In recreation,” one of her companions tells us, “And at table when she was permitted to speak to us, she often told the Sister beside her: “Let us speak of Jesus. Tell me something about Jesus. Let both of us really, really love Jesus, because everything consists of love, in loving only Jesus.”

She had a little old crucifix made of copper that she kept carefully before her, on her table, or that she carried with her. How many times she was surprised kissing it! And she would say: “You don’t need to have beautiful Christ's to love Our Lord. In this manner at least you can always have one with you.”

Her humility was sincere. “I am very arrogant,” she told her Mistress during her first days. “When you know me better, you will see how much self-esteem I have. However, here I am reassured, because I think you will always warn me when I don't act well. I don't dare count on myself. I have so much arrogance!”

On June 5, 1879 the vesting ceremony filled the pious young girl with joy. She was happy to receive the name of Sister Marie-Aloyse of the Crucifix, which united her favourite devotions so well and reminded her constantly of her poor and crucified Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the angelic Saint Louis of Gonzaga to which her mother had dedicated her since her birth.

One of the most agreeable features of religious life and one of the most recommended by the masters of spiritual life, is simplicity. Sister Marie-Aloyse of the Crucifix was of this character. “She read but little” says her historian, “and only the simplest books, especially those of Saint Alphonsus, attracted her preferences. She told us more than once, that one of the motives that had made her choose the Order of the Redemptoristines was the simplicity that distinguished the spirit of the holy founder. During her days of retirement, it was sufficient for her, outside the prescribed readings, to have her crucifix close to her, and to look at it and converse with “her good Jesus,” as she said piously. This expression was familiar to her, and she repeated it with such an accent of sincerity and fervour, that these words alone revealed all her soul. Yet it was not only the name of Jesus that she liked to savour; communion had for this naive soul its ineffable delights. Through the Eucharist she experienced those mysterious attractions known by in which Our Lord maintains the precious grace of infancy. When the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, she could not do her hour of adoration without pouring out abundant tears, and it was a profound edification for her young companions, when they happened to surprise her in this state that recalled the touching piety of her aunt Mathilde.”

Her love for work was no less remarkable. Sister Marie-Aloyse forgot what she once was, what she could have been, and took the apron and the broom, and indistinguishable in the ranks of the other beginners, red with pain and beaming with joy, washed, swept, dusted, polished furniture, and stopped only when the task was finished. If there was linen to mend, she asks that her part of this work be what was least pleasant, the coarse and worn-out stockings, the aprons made of grey canvas, and she said merrily: “I had so much pleasure in mending this old stocking!”

On June 10, 1880, the fervent Novice was admitted to religious profession. She then wrote the following lines to her grandmother, the Marchioness de Courtebourne:

“It would be impossible for me to express to you exactly the happiness, peace and sweetness I felt after pronouncing my holy vows. You would have said that I was in heaven. I also felt my good parents blessing me from the highest heaven, and were rejoicing in my happiness. How short the time seemed to me! I am going to have a provision of the love of God and patience for all my life, during the first beautiful days of marriage, the honeymoon, as we say in the world, in order to well prepare myself for everything that the divine Spouse will ask of me later on.”

The good Sister Marie-Aloyse had something of a presentiment of the troubles that were going to pour down on her, and the trials that she had to pass through. While she is waiting, let us listen to her once more. She had embraced the common life of the Professed Sisters and she was given a task. “On the first days,” she wrote, “I was a little out of my element, but now I have learned what to do. I have been nominated as assistant housekeeper, under the orders of the good Sister who takes care of the provisions, the housekeeping and work to distribute to the Converse Sisters. It amuses me a lot to trot around in a white apron and to prepare what is necessary for the Sisters. You would be pleased, I am sure, to see me in my new task.”

What most pleased Sister Marie-Aloyse in the functions that were entrusted to her, was not so much the novelty and the picturesque nature of the costume, but rather the opportunity to spread around her the charity overflowing from her heart. Her happiness lay in giving pleasure to others while sacrificing herself. With the gentleness that only charity can inspire, she knew how to render service, give comfort and console, while accommodating herself to all characters and differences in education. When the appointed housekeeper was indisposed, the young Sister was obliged to provide for everyone by herself, and in the exercise of her functions, she distinguished herself her tact, her judgment, and her spirit of poverty.

We shall not speak here of the interior trials of Sister Marie-Aloyse of the Crucifix: we refer the reader to the beautiful book by Abbé Laplace. Nevertheless we shall quote one of her letters before we finish. She was suffering from a chest illness that would not diminish. Novenas followed novenas, and brought only an increase of suffering. However the patient was always cheerful, resigned and happy. She wrote to her maid-servant, with whom she had remained in correspondence.

“I can take several steps with the help of a charitable arm. But I don't have the time to be bored, my dear Pélagie. I am occupied very peacefully, and I tell you to amuse you, that I have become an artist in mending stockings. My whole pleasure is in mending big holes. I pray, I read, I write and the days pass very quickly. Also I often have a few hearty laughs, as in the convent we are never sad. On the contrary, the service of the good Jesus cheers up our hearts, which are, if not always joyful, at least are always calm and tranquil. If I told you that I am the happiest creature in the world, even without being able to walk, you would not believe me, and yet it is the truth. True happiness consists in fulfilling the will of God. So long as He is happy, what does the rest matter?

It was with this holy joy that Sister Marie-Aloyse bore her painful illness. How many interesting details could we still mention! But we must limit ourselves. 25th August 1884 was the day of her supreme sacrifice. The fervent nun received the last sacraments with the most tender piety. Then she collapsed, but without losing anything of her presence of mind, or the lucidity of her intelligence. “Now I understand everything,” she repeated, “I understand everything!” When the Reverend Mother approached her bed with the Infirmarian, she asked her if she recognized them. “There is only God,” she replied. They were her last words. It had been her motto all her life..”
[1] See the charming biography called A Vocation. – Marie de Courtebourne, by Abbé Laplace, the Superior of the Institute of Saint Peter at Bourg (1 vol. in-18, Lecoffre, Paris ;) Vandenbroeck, Brussels; Vitte and Perrusel, Lyon.
[2] t was in the castle of Oostacker that the famous Derudder was a servant. His miraculous cure has been very well recounted by Father Bertrin in his beautiful book : Lourdes, Apparitions and Cures.
[3] Miss Matilda (Mathilde) de Nédonchel, deceased at Rome in an odour of sanctity on 27th June 1867, at the age of 24. Her Life was written by Abbé Laplace. (1 vol. in-8°. – Casterman, at Tournai).

Sister Marie-Clementine of the Holy-Family O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Malines (1827 - 1903)

Miss Flavie-Catherine Pétronille Rovoys was born at Antwerp on 27th March of profoundly Christian parents. She entered the convent on 24th September 1865, received the habit of the order on 10th October 1866 and made her profession on 13th November 1867.

“Our Sister,” says the Monastery Chronicle, “used her early youth to help her mother. Two of her younger Sisters had already preceded her into religion and when her mother fell sick, she took care of the business until she died. She practiced beautiful acts of charity in regard to the country people who came to her for provisions. Deeply understanding the duties of filial love, she procured the last help and supreme consolations of the church for her mother, and thanks to her devotion, one of her uncles was equally provided with these supreme passports to eternity.

“In the course of her novitiate, Sister Marie-Clementine obtained through a novena to the Venerable Father Passerat, the cure of pains in her knee that could have prevented her from being admitted to profession. [1] Her aptitudes for cutting and sewing led to her being named robe-maker, a task that she fulfilled with zeal and a great spirit of poverty. In her last years, she helped again as best she could, in spite of her infirmities. She was quite original, and her rejoinders in recreation, sometimes provoked general hilarity. Two months before her death, feeling her strength declining, she asked not to be named again in the distribution of tasks; however, until her last days, she was always seen in Holy Mass and Holy Communion.

“One the day of the immaculate Conception, 8th December 1903, she asked of her own accord for the last sacraments. They were administered to her in the afternoon by the community confessor. In the evening, seeing that Extreme-Unction had only fortified her spiritually, she said: “Everything is accomplished, now I can die.” But God only came to take her the following morning. Shortly after the community Mass, the Sister infirmarian, noticing the change in her features, warned the Sisters, who assembled beside her bed to help her with their prayers. The chaplain made the recommendation of her soul: some moments afterwards, at about 8:30, and with no agony, our good Sister fell asleep peacefully in the Lord.

[1] It is not the only cure that the Redemptoristines obtained by the intercession of the Ven. Father Passerat. From 1858, and only a few days after the death of the venerable Patriarch, there took place in Bruges a very astonishing cure. We borrow the account of it from the opuscule called: God's great servant, the Most Rev. Father Joseph Passerat, of the Community of the Most Holy Redeemer. – A biographic note, by Father Girouille, of the same Community. Montreuil-sur-mer, Notre-Dame-des-prés press.
In the monastery of the Redemptoristines of Bruges, there was a young postulant, Annette Berwaerts, later Sister Marie-Cécile of the Child Jesus, who was seized by an illness that began to inspire serious concerns. “It was,” the chronicles of the convent say, “A sort of erysipelas with blisters that covered both her legs.” The wounds discharged an abundant suppuration and appeared so inflamed that the physician feared gangrene. On 31st October the monastery learned of the great news of the vigil (the death of the Rev. Father Passerat). Immediately the poor patient and her infirmarian felt the inspiration to offer a novena for the holy religious. But their confidence was too lively and too eager to wait nine days for the intervention they so much desired. They decided to recite nine times, on the same day, on different occasions, five Paternosters, five Ave Marias, and five Gloria Patris.
Through a sentiment of filial piety as charming as it was naive, they had to add a De Profundis, in case that the dear departed still had need of it. It was under this expeditious form that the novena began and finished on 31st October. The two nuns added this urgent invocation to their prayers: “Father Passerat, if you are in heaven, you must obtain this grace for us.” The following morning, when the infirmarian went to examine the wounds, a cry of joy escaped her lips. There was no more trace of the malign humour that, even that evening, was flowing like a spring. Her flesh was as clean as before her illness, and her recovery was beyond doubt and complete.
Two days after this event, Father Passerat’s funeral ceremony took place.)

Sister Marie-Cécile of the Blessed Sacrament, O.SS.R. of the Monastery Malines (1836 – 1898)

Our dear Sister, in the world Miss Cornélie-Marie-Joséphine Peyrot, belonged to a very honourable family in Antwerp. Her mother was allied very closely to Mons. Corneille Van Bommel, the bishop of Liege, from where the name of Cornélie comes, that she gave to her daughter.

Sister Marie-Cécile entered the monastery on 2nd July 1863 and received the habit the following year. Endowed with a beautiful character, and cheerful and charitable, her manner pleased and produced a good impression. As she had a heart of gold, full of goodness, kindness and compassion, as soon as she saw or suspected some pain, she immediately tried to ease it.

In this good Sister no self-seeking was seen. Although she possessed a superior talent as a musician, with a remarkably fine voice, she did not wish to shine in the world, but faithful to the voice of grace, she came to consecrate herself to God in our Monastery, where, following the example of her Patron, Saint Cécile, she employed her magnificent talent to sing God's praises. Singing was little developed amongst us at this time because of a dearth of voices, so she was happy later on when new vocations brought her some reinforcements. She had hardly revived the spirits of the new and existing singers than it pleasing God to come and suddenly take our dear Sister and assure us her efficacious assistance in heaven.

Nothing forewarned us that her death was so close. Just before Holy Week in the year 1898, a general unwellness seized our good Sister. On Palm Sunday she came once more to sing the Hosanna filio David with us, and on Holy Thursday, she accompanied the great Mass. Pain accompanied by fever seized her the following day, and on Easter Tuesday she suddenly died. The rupture of an aneurism, said the doctors, put an end to her life. Having contributed greatly, for the space of thirty-five years, to the beauty of the Divine Office, she went to sing the eternal Alleluia in heaven..)

* * Monastery of Louvain * *

Sister Marie-Marguerite of the Holy Family, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Louvain (1851 - 1882)

Louise-Marie-Thérèse Van Velthoven, the daughter of Mr. Pierre Van Velthoven and Mrs. Marie-Thérèse Van Gelmeten, was born at Antwerp on 1st January 1851. Her parents, as good Christians, made sure their three children were given an excellent education. Louise, the youngest, attended the class of the Sisters of Notre-Dame from her tenderest years. Later, at the time of her First Communion, she became a boarder with the Ladies of Christian Instruction. Endowed with a cheerful spirit, she enlivened her companions there by her impishness and her love of play. A leaning towards vanity and coquetry was always noticed in her. After leaving the boarding-school, far from decreasing, these little faults increased, to the point that she delivered herself to petulance, when her vain desires were not immediately satisfied. Having a proud character, she studied her least movements and her every step, in order to attract attention, esteem and affection…

At about the age of 25 she was sought after in marriage, but at the time of signing the contract, the parties could not agree, and the project of union lapsed, which led young Louise to think seriously… She put herself under the direction of a Reverend Redemptorist Father, who reignited her taste for piety and made her appreciate the blessing of virginity. Grace, at the same time, touched her heart, and, open to its attraction, she resolved to consecrate herself to the Spouse of Virgins. She made rapid progress in virtue, asked to be admitted to the Redemptoristine Sisters of Louvain [1], and made her entry there on 1st May 1877. From the very next day, her passions that had appeared to be asleep, woke up strong and vigorous, and caused her violent struggles. She understood that a fierce struggle had opened up for her, but she determined, with God's grace, to vanquish or die. In truth, we may say that, from this moment until her death, our dear Sister valiantly fought the obstacles and temptations that the enemy of good suggested to her. Wishing to make up for lost time and prove her love for Jesus Christ, she applied all her strengths to recollection and the practice of all the virtues. In a word, her life was a perpetual constraint.

The first year of testing being finished, she was admitted on the unanimity of the voices, to put on the livery of the Most Holy Redeemer on 1st April 1878, and changed her name from Louise to that of Sister M. Marguerite of the Holy Family. She spent the year of her Novitiate with the same fervour and was admitted to holy Profession on 23rd April 1879…

Our dear Sister was distinguished by her great devotion to the august Trinity of the earth and dedicated herself to them as their little servant. Her heart was an oratory where, as in the interior of Nazareth, she lived under the eyes of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, making it her happiness to often prepare them pleasant surprises, by the practice of different acts of the virtues, and by the victories that she won over herself. When she finished her Novitiate, she entered the Community. Her primitive fervour was preserved intact, and she applied herself to the practice of the hidden virtues, opportunities for which frequently appear in the common life.

When for one or another reason, she could not attend recreation, she did not enquire about what had happened, finding in this act of abnegation a flower to offer the dear Child Jesus. She confessed to her least faults in the refectory, and asked pardon of it with a touching humility.

Our Lord was satisfied of the good will of our dear Sister and seemed to want to help her expiate her former vanities, so He sent her an illness that was both painful and humiliating for her. All the glands in her head, neck and throat swelled up so enormously, that it was both a painful and frightening spectacle to see… Resigned to God's holy will and courageous in supporting her infirmity, her patience never failed. She was scrupulously obedient and submitted to the least desires of her Superior, as well as to the doctor’s least prescriptions. In spite of everything, all the remedies were useless, her illness kept getting worse and she understood, from the swelling of her legs and her lack of blood circulation, that her pilgrimage on this earth of exile was coming to its end. Nevertheless, our dear Sister continued to be amongst us, and attend the common acts, until 22nd November, the feast of Saint Cécile. From then on she kept to her room. On 5th December, the physician warned us that it was time to administer the Sacraments to her. She received them with joy and fervour, calling with all her soul for the hour when she would be able to go to be united forever with her divine Spouse. And this is what made her say continually: “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” On 7th December, after the greetings, Reverend Father Verhaege, of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, and Director of the Community, visited our dear invalid. He gave her the Holy Communion, and also the apostolic blessing.

Until ten o’clock in the evening, our dear Reverend Mother, the Mother Vicar and the Sisters infirmarian remained praying with her, after which our good Sister Marie-Marguerite asked them to retire, in order to take some rest, adding that as soon the time was right, she would have them called…

She spent the whole night in prayer and at about five o’clock in the morning, she sent for the Reverend Mother. When she entered the room, she said to her: “My Mother, the agony is beginning, soon you won't have your Grietje any more!” Indeed, the symptoms of her approaching end were appearing. The Community was assembled and the prayers of the Agonizing were recited… The dear dying Sister, who enjoyed her presence of mind until the last moment, joined in and responded with a clear and distinct voice, and, casting her eyes around her bedside, she gave an amiable smile in all Sisters as a sign of farewell, thanked them again for the good care she had received, and assured them that she would not forget them when she was in Heaven… The prayers continued. From time to time she interrupted us, making one or another remark, like this: “The entire earth has disappeared for me, only my God remains for me! ...” Some minutes later she added: “Now I can hear nothing, but I am united to everything that the Reverend Mother says.” Finally, some moments before her death, she said in a weak voice, but still intelligible: “Long live Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!!!” They were her last words. We added “Long live Mary, Mary, Mary!!!” And at six o'clock, the Virgin without stain, whose Church was celebrating the Immaculate Conception (on 8th December 1882) came to find her child to present her to her divine Son. It was the anniversary of her consecration as the child of Mary…

Straight after her death, the excessive swelling of her face that made her hardly recognizable at the end of her life suddenly disappeared, and our dear Sister regained her natural freshness. The legal physician, who came to verify her death, witnessed his surprise that the fourth finger of her right hand, where she had so faithfully worn her ring as a sign of her alliance with Our Lord, had remained flexible, and made us aware that it was a very unusual circumstance… Her calm and radiant air, during the two days that she was laid out, attracted us constantly to her, and so it was with a great deal of distress that we brought ourselves to close the coffin… We retired saying to each other: “May my soul die the death of the just.”

[1] This Monastery was founded in 1874.

Sister Marie-Bernard of Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Louvain (1872 – 1899)

Dear Sister Marie-Bernard of Jesus, in the world Miss Odile-Marie-Alphonsine Séren, was born of devout and honourable parents in Profondeville, a charming little village of Between-Sambre-and-Meuse, not far from the city of Namur, on 9th May 1872. She lost her mother at the age of four. Her worthy father confided her with her younger sister and her two brothers to the devoted care of her aunts and an old and faithful domestic servant. When his little Odile made her First Communion, he sent her to board with the Sisters of Saint Mary in Namur, where she spent several years. Once her education had finished, she went back to the paternal home, good and serious no doubt but not extraordinarily pious. Her clothes and worldly entertainment gave her some pleasure, but for fear of having a religious vocation she avoided paying a visit to her former Mistresses. This was however what God had reserved for her in His infinite mercy and to attain His goal. He made use of an apparently petty incident. As lady and mistress of the house, since she was the family's eldest daughter and because her father had abandoned the care of the house to her, Miss Odile could act as she wished and dispose of everything as she saw fit. But in December 1893 it was her whim to celebrate the feast of Christmas as joyously as possible, which she justly regarded as the greatest solemnity of the year. Consequently, she undertook the organization of a magnificent dinner that she wanted to offer her relatives and acquaintances. Once the great preparations were finished, she sent her invitations to everyone expecting a great success. A terrible disappointment awaited her. Influenza, an illness that was everywhere at this time, all of a sudden ravaged the district of Namur and mainly affected Miss Odile’s guests, evidently by the providential permission of God Almighty, who holds the elements and events at the service of His intentions. Jealous of this soul, whose whole and absolute possession He coveted, He decreed that this misfortune that He had brought about so opportunely, would be the generating principle of the choice of life that He wanted her to make. Since they were all more or less confined to bed due to this epidemic, her relatives and friends were forced to send apologies and decline the invitation. Great was the young lady’s disappointment at seeing her beautiful project suddenly founder, and she started thinking about the fragility of the pleasures here below, was disgusted by the world and resolved to leave it forever. The Lord, who was watching over her, immediately sent her help for her weakness and her inexperience in the ways of the Spirit, by sending two good and valiant Religious Redemptorists to Profondeville to give a mission there in the month of January 1894.

The eloquent sermons of the missionaries achieved what grace had begun in this soul and finally determined her to embrace the religious state. She opened herself up to the Reverend Father * * *, who, after having put her somewhat to the test, encouraged and approved her resolution. It only remained for her to know what Order she had to enter… she turned with confidence to glorious Saint Joseph whom she greatly loved and who soon saved her from distress, because on 19th March, his feast-day, he revealed to her internally that God wanted her in the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer. Once she heard the divine call and had it confirmed by a wise director, the dear child hesitated no more, but went to her father to inform him of her desires and ask him for his consent, which, we may say, to the praise of this respectable and truly Christian man, was granted to her very easily. Full of gratitude towards Heaven, she made it her duty to present herself to the Redemptoristines of Louvain, who made her very welcome, accepted her with joy, and fixed her entry for the following 31st May, the feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. When this beautiful day arose, the excited young lady, tearing herself from the arms of her father, her sister and her beloved brother, generously sacrificed all expectations of this world. She bade an eternal farewell to the world which had charmed her for an instant and entered the enclosure of our monastery with a firm step, under the very eyes of her tearful relatives, to enrol herself under the banner of Jesus our Saviour. Feeling herself in her true home, from the very first hour she tasted how kind the Lord is to those who abandon everything for love of Him. Sister Marie-Bernard was one of these great and noble souls who, once in God, never withdraw and never look back. And so she sighed ardently for the blessed day when she could bind herself forever to the service of the King of kings, by taking the holy vows of Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Perpetual Enclosure. She prepared herself with great devotion, by applying herself to becoming an exemplary Novice, irreproachable in all regards. Once the time of probation had passed, she had the signal grace of seeing her wishes fulfilled. On 11th June 1896, the minister of the Lord united her irrevocably to the Spouse of Virgins, after she had sworn fidelity to Him by holy Profession. This date, blessed before all others for our dear Sister, was never erased from her memory, because no one could ever say how much she loved to think and to speak of it. In the words of her first confessor in religion, Sister Marie-Bernard was indeed born to be a Redemptoristine and daughter of Saint Alphonsus, whom she cherished as her father and founder. She applied herself especially to resembling him by her tender and filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Born in the month of May and consecrated to the Madonna, she took pleasure in glorying in it and talking about it to her Sisters. She prepared herself for it by fervent novenas for each one of her feasts and readily seized every opportunity to prove her love for the Queen of Heaven. It was at her request that she was given the beautiful name of Marie-Bernard of Jesus upon taking the habit, because it had already been made illustrious by little Bernadette, the visionary of Lourdes, the privileged child of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, but especially because it was the name of one of the greatest servants of the august Mother of God, the glorious Saint Bernard.

Before entering in religion, our dear Sister had wanted to visit one of Mary's most famous sanctuaries, the grotto of Lourdes. She had brought back the most wonderful impressions of it, and she was never happy until Our Lady of Lourdes was made the subject of conversations at recreation during her Novitiate. It was a happy coincidence, as all the Novices had seen like her, the visit of predilection and the little valley sanctified by apparitions of the Virgin without stain. Thanks no doubt to the protection of her heavenly Mother, who loves those who love her according to the words that the Holy Church puts on their lips, Sister Marie-Bernard was honoured to wear the name and habit of the Redemptoristines while progressing each day in the practice of the virtues. She distinguished herself especially by a simple and solid piety, by her exactitude, her regularity, her modesty and her humility. Calm and peaceable, she appeared not to notice what could try her patience as she focussed on the holy relationship she maintained with Jesus present in her heart; because she was an interior and singularly recollected soul, who scrupulously observed all the little pious customs proper to our holy Order.

The liturgical ceremonies and the sacred chants delighted her although she was not naturally enthusiastic. The Divine Office was all her delight and prayer her consolation. A particularly believing soul, a soul of duty, she fulfilled all her obligations conscientiously. No matter what the difficulties, she never consented, at any cost, to the omission of the least observance, unless her Superiors commanded her otherwise. A lover of holy poverty, she edified her Sisters by her detachment from the things of this world, diverting her eyes from the ephemeral goods of the earth to place all her affections in the Lord who alone was sufficient for her. While still a Novice, she disencumbered herself of anything which she could rigorously do without, placing no importance on the small objects which young religious sometimes hold dear. Always content with whatever she was given, she never allowed herself to complain. At most, some devout pictures excited her desire, especially those representing the Blessed Virgin and the holy Child Jesus, whom she loved with a childlike love. Being one day at the table of her Mother Mistress who was copying the chapter of a book called: “Poor Jesus and poor I” the dear Sister repeated these words with an unspeakable satisfaction, adding: “Yes, indeed I can say that in all truth.”

They thought she had a presentiment of a premature death, because nothing could ever captivate her soul during her religious life. Her precocious wisdom made her long for the imperishable goods of the other life that she made every effort to acquire by multiplying her acts of virtues and mortification. She singularly loved the hidden life, estimating herself happy to be able to practice it and imitate the Saint Family, especially the divine Workman of Nazareth. This is why she had great devotion to Saint Joseph, the patron of contemplative souls. A faithful observer of silence, she spoke only from necessity and always in a low and soft voice. Extremely serious and reserved, she had a religious bearing, always trying to efface herself and to avoid people’s eyes. Thus her Novitiate passed in the sustained exercise of the monastic virtues. In community our dear Sister never declined from her first fervour, and her good dispositions always remained.

In August 1897, she was named Assistant Housekeeper and she acquitted herself of her new functions to general satisfaction. She made herself liked by the Converse Sisters through her goodness, meekness, affability, and readiness to help them when she/it had the leisure. She did so with calmness, without delay and without undue haste. She was so charitable and devoted that she sacrificed her recreations and even her rest to oblige the Community that she sincerely loved. She would pleasantly say at mealtimes, “I am going to accomplish the precept of the divine Master, by giving food to those who are hungry and drink to those who are thirsty.” Being obliged, because of her employment, to dine at the second table, if it happened that the kitchen was short of meat, or something else, our good Sister deprived herself spontaneously of her portion and if she had been served, she passed her plate on to one of her Sisters. Many times she was seen coming in from the garden soaked through, when torrential rain had surprised her while she was gathering fruit or vegetables.

Nonetheless, she did not complain: her zeal and her courage made her quite compliant and helpful when it was a matter of the interests of her dear Sisters, whom she helped with good grace as frequently as she could. So we may say that she spent herself generously in the service of the Monastery. And in the evening, after a rough day, when she could have a moment of recreation, she happily profited from this by asking after her Sisters and exchanging a pleasant word with them. Although she had a character that was melancholy rather than jovial, like all children who never knew a Mother's caresses, she knew how to laugh and have fun with her Sisters, if need be play little tricks on them and lend herself amiably to their innocent jokes. The next day she would get back with renewed ardour to her laborious work. But soon, alas, her strength betrayed her and she was no longer in any state to fulfil the requirements of her tasks.

Suffering from a stubborn and troubling cough, she declined from day to day. Her complexion, her features, her gait, all in her seemed to display the secret devastations of the pitiless illness that was to carry her away. Yet the dear Sister suspected nothing, and so as not to frighten her too much by condemning her to idleness, the Reverend Mother entrusted the refectory to her, and it was there that she exhausted the rest of her powers. She kept going as long as she could remain standing. Endowed with much moral energy, she wished, in spite of her extreme weakness, to still attend all the conventual exercises, and force herself until the end to do penance in the refectory according to the Rule.

Seeing that our dear Sister was sinking rapidly, the Reverend Mother managed, under some good pretext, to confine her to the infirmary. First of all she refused to accept the gravity of her state. She often had beautiful dreams for the following year. But her illness worsened from day to day and she finally understood that she had consumption and death was rapidly approaching. They made use of this to suggest Extreme-Unction to her, which she accepted with joy. She received this Sacrament and the Holy Eucharist with all the fervour of her soul, after asking pardon for all her faults from the Community, with a calmness and a humility that edified us. From this moment on, far from still wanting to be cured, our dear patient called for death with all her heart so as to go and enjoy her Jesus. She spoke only now of heaven and asked for someone to sing her some canticles. As it was the month of March, she began some prayers in honour of Saint Joseph, so as to obtain from him the grace of dying on the day of his feast. The good Saint seemed first to grant it, because in the evening of 19th March there was a crisis of a more alarming character than the others. The Community was convened to recite the prayers of the agonising. The Reverend Mother sent for the Rev. Father de Kerchove, our confessor, who arrived in all haste. After addressing a few pious words to her, he leaned over her bed and said to her: “Do you not know, Sister Marie-Bernard, that I would like to be in your place!” “I will not change places with you,” she answered, as she still had all her presence of mind, “as I have worked far too hard to get here.” This reflection made the whole Community laugh. “So you will pray a lot for us up there, especially for your Sisters,” continued the Rev. Father Confessor. “My Sisters? I love them! They are Angels of charity,” she said with a very expressive gesture. Her dry lips betrayed the thirst that tortured them, so they offered her something to drink. “No, no,” she said, “Jesus on the Cross also endured thirst,” and then she murmured softly: “Good Jesus, come and find your poor child.” Feeling life returning, she told us sadly: “I have missed this train and I will have to wait for the next one.” The Reverend Mother then advised her to abandon herself to the divine good pleasure, which she immediately did. Wednesday 22nd March 1899, on the feast of Our Lady of Foggia, who is particularly honoured in our Community, she fell asleep peacefully in the Lord at about 7 o’clock in the morning, after a short agony, in the midst of the prayers and tears of her Sisters whom she had edified during the five years she spent in the midst of them. The funeral of our good Sister Marie-Bernard took place on 25th March, on the feast of Mary's Annunciation, who herself wished to close the casket of her much-beloved child, just as she had opened her cradle on 9th May 1872 on the feast of the Ascension of Our Lord.

Sister Marie-Gertrude of Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Louvain (1858 – 1888)

Sister Marie-Gertrude was born in Malmédy (Prussian Rhineland) on 14th April 1858. At the age of four she lost her father. Left alone, her mother chose a pious young person to educate her four small daughters. Emma, the third in the family, was of a weak and delicate complexion and showed a happy disposition towards piety. At the time of her first Communion a sudden illness put her life in danger and she prepared herself to make the sacrifice of her life, “quite happy,” she said, “to be going to see God.” But the hour had not yet come. Emma's health recovered and she made her first Communion with great devotion.

At the age of eighteen, Emma was sent to the Ladies of the Sacred Heart at Jette to finish her education there. Deprived of all the little indulgences of which she had been the object, and in view of the sickly and languid state of her childhood years, Emma could not endure the discipline of the Boarding school and stayed there only three months. Her mother then addressed herself to Miss * * *, the director of a house of education in Brussels, and begged her to be kind enough to receive her daughter as a boarder. Emma was admitted there and found in Miss M * * *, the sister of the Director, a second mother, who was pleased to form her in piety. Docile to her opinions, Emma began to be disgusted by the world and touched by grace, and so she conceived the project of entering the convent.

It was with these happy dispositions that the young lady went back to her family in Liége, where her mother had been staying for two years. Following the advice of her worthy mistress, Emma then chose a Redemptorist Father for her confessor. Divine Providence let her find a sure and illumined guide in Father * * *. Under the wise direction of this holy religious, she exercised herself in the practice of the virtues and made new progress in piety, in spite of the opposition and the semi-persecution that her mother forced her to undergo. Mrs. * * *, although a good Christian, was very opposed to a religious vocation and dreaded it for her daughter. Her fears sometimes made her a little difficult, but Emma patiently bore all her observations. After her return to Liége, she was received into the Community of the Holy Virgin and a little later, into the Third Order of Saint Francis. In concert with her younger sister Fanny who shared her tastes, Emma used pious ruses to deliver herself to her exercises of piety without the knowledge of her family. A love of prayer brought the two girls to transform all places where they found themselves into an oratory; they sometimes locked themselves into a cupboard to recite their rosaries, did their meditation in a carriage or on the railway, and when they were forced to go to the theatre, they withdrew to the bottom of the stall to pray there. When Emma and Fanny went on vacation to Malmédy, the rev. vicar, who knew of their love for Jesus in the Host, wishing to procure them the happiness of receiving communion frequently without attracting attention, had recourse to a little stratagem to call them to the church. When there was no one there, he would place a flowering plant at the window of the presbytery. Every morning the two sisters took a look. When they saw the happy sign, they hastened to go to the church to receive their beloved Lord.

Emma spent five years to Liége, always internally nourishing the desire to consecrate herself to God without being able to do so. With grace pressing her more urgently, she resolved to delay no longer in responding to the call of the Lord and asked her spiritual father to indicate the Order to her in which she could serve the divine Master with the most perfection. The Rev. Father * * * told her about the Redemptoristines. Emma would have liked to present herself to them immediately, but her wise director ordered her to wait one more year. This decision greatly afflicted the dear child and her grief increased even more when, some time later, Mrs. * * * announced to her that she had decided to go and live in Cologne where her two eldest girls had lived since their marriage. For poor Emma it was a real catastrophe, because being far from her director made her fear the extinction of her pious projects. But the apostle has said: “Diligentibus Deum omnia cooperantur in bonum.” – (Everything contributes to the good of those who love God). It was in a foreign country that Emma was to find the zealous guide who would help her defeat all obstacles by his advice. Fanny continued to share the same ideas, so the two sisters, on the opinion of their common director, began a novena in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On the ninth day they made a request in writing which they placed in their mother's apartment. Eight days passed in an inexpressible anxiety for the two sisters. Mrs. * * * kept her silence, but during this time she consulted her brother who arrived from Malmédy. Emma and Fanny were called in and Mr. * * * informed them of their mother's consent. He said that Emma could enter religion immediately, but that Fanny had to wait six months.

The two girls had previously written to the Superior of the Redemptoristines of Louvain, and could not to present themselves without first sending them their portrait, so they hastened therefore to communicate the happy news to them.

On 19th February 1884, Emma entered the monastery of Louvain with the most fervent dispositions. From the very first day, her great spirit of poverty was noticed, when she gave up possession of the small objects she had brought, and handed them over to the Mistress of Educandes, not wanting, she said, to have more objects for her usage that the Professed Nuns.

However, as frequently happens, after some months of religion, the nature wished to rebel against grace, and Emma's childish character reappeared. She always appreciated the grace of her vocation and showed herself faithful to it, but her weakness of character and her penchant to natural affections were an obstacle to her perfection. However this was an opportunity for merit to her, because she worked to overcome her little faults. Admitted to the vesting on 19th February 1885, Emma received the name of Sister Marie-Gertrude of Jesus. A short time later, the young Novice was seized by an obstinate cough and a chest illness declared itself at the same time as an infection of her larynx. Her state began to worsen and the Reverend Mother warned Mr. * * * who asked for a consultation. It took place on 15th September, and from then on two physicians came together each week to visit the patient.

Towards the end of December, the Reverend Mother wished to procure to the dear Novice, whose death appeared imminent, the consolation of dying as the Bride of Jesus, and asked Mons the archbishop for permission to let her make her holy vows under condition, which His Eminence granted. On Sunday 4th January 1885 after asking for pardon, Sister Marie-Gertrude pronounced her holy vows in presence of the Community and received Extreme-Unction. Her happiness in being united to Jesus by closer ties seemed to have rallied her forces and her state improved, but it was for a short time. Soon the illness took its course and they had to abandon any hope of preserving her longer. The hour of the reward was about to sound for their dear Sister. She had suffered patiently and had never prayed to obtain her cure, preferring to abandon herself to God's good pleasure. Renouncing human consolations and out of respect for the Enclosure for which she had just taken her vows, she heroically refused to see her mother, who, by a parent's intervention, had obtained from Mons the archbishop permission to enter the Monastery to embrace her daughter one last time.

On the 20th, at about nine o’clock in the evening, the dear Novice called the Sister Infirmarian and told her in a feeble voice: “I believe I am going to die.” Indeed the agony was beginning. She then asked the Sister Infirmarian to thank all people who had helped her on her behalf, and to send a last farewell to her dear mother. At about eleven o’clock, the Community assembled at the bedside of the dying Novice, who preserved a perfect calmness to the end, joining in the pious aspirations that were suggested to her. She had distinguished herself during her short religious life by her obedience and her fidelity to the least observances. Shortly after midnight, on 21st January 1886, Sister Marie-Gertrude expired, and her innocent and pure soul went to be united to the choir of Virgins, to repeat with the lovable Saint Agnes, whose feast was beginning: “I am already contemplating what I desired, and I am already in possession of what I hoped for. I am united in Heaven to Jesus Christ whom I loved on earth with all my affection.”
(Monastery Chronicles)

* * Monastery of Dublin * *

Mother Mary Jean of the Cross, O.SS.R. Foundress of the Monastery of Dublin (1826 – 1902)


She enters the convent of the Redemptoristines at Bruges

She was indeed a charming child, this little Julie Verhelst who, in 1830, when she was scarcely four years old, was brought to the church on Christmas day at the very moment when the great bell announced the midnight Mass. She knelt down on the pavement, as if totally penetrated already by the grandeur of the mystery that was being celebrated, and prayed fervently. A little later, endowed as she was with a rare intelligence, an admirable uprightness of heart, and a profound piety, she watched so well over her two young brothers and her four sisters that when she was present, they did not dare permit themselves the smallest lie or the least evasion. It was indeed one of the characteristic features of her life. Her soul was always as pure as crystal, and the truth shone forth in all her actions.

Julie Verhelst was born in Courtrai in 1826, of well respected and perfect Christian parents. Through her agreeable nature, her charming pleasantries, and the happy company in her of the rarest qualities of mind and spirit, she was soon the delight of her parents and family. But the Spouse of Virgins was very soon to reserve this chosen soul for Himself. From her first communion in 1837, the sweet child felt a keen attraction to the religious life. The excellent education she received confirmed her in this thought; and when Father Paul Reyners, Redemptorist, made her aware, in the course of a retreat, of the existence of the Order of the Redemptoristines, she felt God calling her to be one of the daughters of Saint Alphonsus. The religious who was then governing the Redemptoristine Convent of Bruges was called Sister Marie-Alphonse of the Will of God. It was she who welcomed the young lady’s first overtures. And she in turn was greatly impressed by this interview. “I believed I was in the presence of Saint Teresa”, she told her mother, “so struck was I by the greatness of her soul and the profound faith with which she spoke of the greatness of the religious vocation.” Mother Marie-Alphonse promised the postulant she would receive her as soon as the will of God became manifest and certain obstacles overcome. Providence did not delay in opening the way.

On 2nd July of the year 1845, on the feast of the Visitation of the Most Holy Virgin, Julie-Marie-Josephine Verhelst, in company of four other young ladies of good family, trampled with their feet on the greatness of the world with its deceptive charms, and took this first step in one day becoming the brides of Christ, their only love. This was at the monastery of Bruges. After greeting them, the Venerable Fr. Joseph Passerat spoke to them in detail; then he led the postulants to the door of the enclosure, took it upon himself to knock on it for them, and when Mother Marie-Alphonse had made the customary demands, he introduced them into the monastery to the chant of In exitu Israel de Aegypto [On the exit of Israel from Egypt].

The ceremony for the taking of the habit took place for the five candidates one year later, that is, on 22nd July 1846: all of them had given brilliant proof of their virtue, but she who was later to be called Sister Mary-Jean of the Cross stood out from all the others by her blind obedience, her spirit of sacrifice, and a piety so full of grace and unction that one could not help feeling attracted to her. The Bishop of Bruges was the celebrant, and after a special sermon given by Fr. Joseph Reyners, he blessed the white veils and the holy habit, and presented them to the novices by saying: “May the Passion of Our Lord Christ be stamped on your heart and in all your senses.”

The generous Novice then saw the path of the actual novitiate open up before her. Under the guidance of Mother Marie-Philomène, she made new and rapid progress in the practice of solid virtue. The Rule of the Redemptoristines requires them to imitate the virtues of the Most Holy Redeemer, reproduce His hidden life in Nazareth as much as possible in themselves, and participate by their prayers and their sacrifices in His apostolic life, for the great work of the salvation of the souls.

As humble as she was courageous, Sister Mary-Jean of the Cross did not place any limits to her ardour. Accustomed to doing nothing by halves, she continued to follow the royal path of complete devotion to her heavenly Spouse, and she always had a horror of the narrow calculations of a shared life, and a heart that is not all for God. “Virtue”, said Saint Mary-Magdalen of Pazzi, “has nothing feminine but the name, and taken in the sense of religious perfection, this word means heroism and complete immolation of self to be united to the divine model, Jesus crucified.”

This is indeed what our Novice had understood, so she was amply rewarded when, on 15th October 1847, she was permitted to pronounce the holy vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and perpetual enclosure.

* * * * *

The obedience of the newly professed soon had occasion to be tested.

One day she went to ask Mother Marie-Alphonse for a book of spiritual reading, and received this reply from her Superior: “Certainly, but before I do so, you must learn the first eight chapters of Spiritual Combat by heart, and recite them to me”. Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross bowed her head, learned the eight chapters by heart, recited them, and then received a book of readings.

A more important occasion presented itself: it was about the tasks to be done. As Saint Alphonsus says, it is often something that causes the greatest problems to Superiors, because they do not always find obedient souls. The young professed did not seek anything and did not refuse anything, and when she was named assistant-bursar and portress, she fulfilled these functions with tact and a remarkable ability. The converse Sisters greatly liked and respected Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross, and they gave her all their confidence. This good Mother in fact regulated their different tasks so that they would all help each other with a quite fraternal charity. She herself would procure for each one of them what was necessary for her task, gladly took upon herself the writing of their letters, gave them their spiritual readings, and marvellously possessed the precious talent of restoring their spirits by one of those words that go straight to the heart. And so none of them ever recoiled before works most painful to nature, and their hearts rose effortlessly to God to offer Him lovingly the tribute of their obedience.

After one responsibility came another. The task of Housekeeper later on called forth the qualities of the Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross and that of Mistress of Novices showed she had a rare dexterity in the government of souls. “All the good of a convent”, said Saint Alphonsus, “depends on the education of the Novices, who eventually will have to govern it”. The good examples of the devout Mistress, her impartiality and her constancy in firmly instilling knowledge and observance of the Rule promptly won her the confidence and affection of her daughters. For in fact they were so, as their Mistress showed herself a vigilant and tender mother in regard to them, forming them little by little to solid virtue, and endeavouring to dilate and rejoice their hearts and make the yoke of the Lord seem sweet and soft to them. Thus the Monastery of Bruges had the happiness of possessing a number of fervid souls, delicious fruits, worthy of the tree that had born them.

The foundation of the Convent of Brussels-Malines took place in 1855. It was from Bruges, to the number of fourteen, that came the Redemptoristines who established it. Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross had no part in it; but in 1858, when it was proposed to open a new monastery at Velp, in Holland, it was she who was assigned to prepare it. Assisted by two converse Sisters, she set to work with her usual activity, and only a few weeks were sufficient for her to put the house in state to receive the Superior and the four Sisters designated for the foundation. When they arrived, they found the cells all ready, the chapel well prepared, the kitchen in order and the cellar itself abounding with provisions, but the Sister Procurator’s purse no longer contained even a cent, so much had she wanted to do everything well!

But there was now a new foundation that would require the care of Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross. This time, it is as Superior that she will appear to us. The tasks exercised by her up till now were all to prepare her for a more difficult and meritorious life still.

* * * * *

It was to Dublin, the capital of the island of the Saints, that the good Mother would be going to found a monastery of Rédemptoristines there. God wanted Ireland, this country so devoted to the Most Holy Redeemer and to His Most Holy Mother, to have its own Virgins consecrated to none other than the imitation of these two admirable models.

Recommended to Cardinal Cullen by the illustrious Mons. Malou, Bishop of Bruges, Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross departed from Bruges under the guidance of Reverend Mother Marie-Philomène, her Superior, with four Sisters intended to be the core of the nascent community. On 25th March 1859, on the feast of the Annunciation, the new arrivals were solemnly installed in their provisional home. Cardinal Archbishop, the Most Rev. Fr. de Held, Provincial of the Belgian Redemptorists, the Rev. Fr. de Buggenoms, Rector of Limerick, numerous priests and all the notabilities of Dublin, enhanced the ceremony by their presence. An eloquent sermon by Father de Buggenoms reviewed the merits of the contemplative life, and showed the happy fruits that it produces in the Church.

It was a great joy for the Sisters to see their number soon increasing. Fine vocations were declared straight away, including that of the eldest daughter of Mr. O'Brien. Her family was one of the most illustrious and revered in Ireland: it recalled the heroic times when the Catholics of this country had, at the cost of a thousand sacrifices, defended their faith and their priests against the most atrocious persecutions. Several others, in whose the veins the blood of the martyrs also flowed, joined themselves to her, and Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross soon understood that Heaven was for it, in the midst of the unavoidable contradictions that it had to undergo. Did she not know indeed, that in the cross is life, salvation, and resurrection? Saint Joseph, to whom she prayed with ardour, had he not sent her some unexpected help? Finally, in the very house where she lived, a good servant of God had once predicted that some cloistered nuns, dressed in red and blue, would come there to live one day.

These divine favours encouraged the Mother Superior, and thanks to her example and thanks to her exhortations, the new Monastery was soon established on the basis of the most perfect regularity. With her firm but gentle authority, she captivated all hearts, and knew, by a thousand means that only virtue knows, how to prepare them for the most generous sacrifices. Her attention to giving pleasure had the secrets and resources that a mother's heart alone can imagine. If a sister was sick, she did not leave her side and the physician could not give an order whose execution she did not supervise. If the illness was prolonged, she would ensure that the patient was not deprived of Holy Communion, and finally, when the death came to take away one of her daughters, she did not abandon her! Her faith and love followed the soul unto eternity, and she assured her of prompt and numerous suffrages.

The tender solicitude of Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross was given without distinction to all her Sisters. She sometimes even appeared to give a certain preference to the converse Sisters, placed great value on their work, praised their devotion, and most of all, never permitted them to be deprived of their spiritual exercises. “God”, she said, “must be served with great fidelity to everything that the Rule prescribes for the Converse as well as for the choir Sisters.” Thus she conformed herself to the recommendation so often made by Saint Alphonsus and so she maintained in her community the spirit of fervour, of mutual charity, and of the common imitation of the virtues of the Most Holy Redeemer.

The love of prayer and love of the Church soon became the soul of the new Monastery. It was the result of the example and exhortations of the good Superior. As a worthy daughter of the Doctor of prayer, she gave to this holy exercise every moment which she was able to find, and there was the secret of her power over God's heart and her influence over the hearts of those she governed. But her prayer was never a selfish prayer, either for herself, or for her daughters. Without forgetting the interests of their souls, these daughters learnt from their pious Mother to pray a great deal for the Church. With what care, for example, did they dedicate the prayers and good works of every day of the week to a completely apostolic intention! With what ardour did Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross remind them of these sublime intentions!

Let us permit ourselves to mention them here, as they show us what prayer is in contemplative monasteries, and the beauty of this life consecrated entirely to the good of others.

“On Sundays, all prayers, communions, penances and works will be offered for the Sovereign Pontiff, the exaltation of the holy Church, the Sacred College of Cardinals, all Prelates, the diocesan bishop, and all Christian Princes.

“On Mondays, for all sinners, heretics, Jews and pagans, so that they may attain the light of the true faith.

“On Tuesdays, for all Orders of religious men and women, so that the Lord may give them the spirit of their vocation.

“On Wednesdays, for all evangelical workers and for all fathers and mothers of a family.

“On Thursdays, for the four states of souls: for those who are in purgatory, for the innocents, for the agonising; for the children who are to be born, while asking for them to receive the grace of holy Baptism.

“On Fridays, for the perfection of our own community, and for the growth of the spirit of the Order and all its subjects.

“On Saturdays, for all the relatives of the Sisters, for our spiritual and temporal benefactors, and for all those who are devoted to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The Monastery and the
Church of the Redemptoristines of Dublin.
Virtues of the good Mother

Twelve years had passed since the entry of the Redemptoristines in Dublin, and they still occupied only a provisional home. In 1871, the moment seemed to have come for Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross to build a definitive Monastery. For this purpose, the Most Rev. Fr. Nicolas Mauron, Rector Major of the Community of the Most Holy Redeemer, wrote to her on 1st January 1872: “I am most happy to bless the enterprise to which, after so many years of waiting, you believe you can now put your hand. You have done well to be patient during so long a time; because, in this kind of business, urgency does not attract God's blessings. For the same reason, you have also done well not to bind yourself too early to begin a foundation in England, especially in a locality that would seem not very desirable. It is important for you to establish yourself well in Dublin, and consolidate yourself well there before beginning any new foundation, of which it would be prudent to dream only when you in fact have a superfluity of good subjects. I would like to hope that this delay according to God's spirit will not be an obstacle to the vocation of the lady you have mentioned to me. A well-established Monastery is worth two which are suffering from the lack of personnel, and which almost always means the decline of observance and the loss of its spirit.”

These beautiful words encouraged the good Superior. The Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin, Mons. Cullen, approved the choice of land, the plan of the monastery and the chapel, drawn up by a famous architect, Mr. Ashlin, and on 18th July 1893, he solemnly laid the first stone of the new convent. A gracious detail: the builder had had the measurements taken of the land that the new monastery and the church would occupy, and the Sisters had pegged them out with long sticks painted white, on each of which they had written an invocation from the Litanies of the Most Holy Virgin. The Most Rev. Fr. Coffin, Provincial of the Redemptorists of England, and Fathers. Bridgett and Harbisons were present, as well as a numerous clergy and a considerable crowd. Once the first stone had been laid, Father Bridgett gave a magnificent speech about the role of the contemplative Orders in the world.

Thanks to the builder’s activity, constantly stimulated by the zeal of the Mother Superior, the work was rapidly brought to a good end. On 30th June 1875, at five o'clock in the morning, the Redemptoristines left their temporary home and went there in procession, led by two eminent members of the clergy, to take possession of their new Monastery. The holy Mass was celebrated, the nuns received communion, and until 2nd July, the convent was open to the crowd avid to visit it. On that day, the Cardinal established the enclosure, and the Sisters, to their greatest joy, withdrew forever into their pious solitude. With what gratitude their hearts now turned towards her who had prepared them a retreat so well adapted to their life of prayer! With what rejoicing they began the Divine Office henceforth in this chapel, a real jewel of art, where their prayers were to attract upon Ireland and the world most abundant favours!

The church merits us spending some moments upon it, for it cost so much work for Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross! She elicited the grants of so many generous souls! She received the visit of so many pious souls, so many hearts that suffered and so many artists anxious to contemplate a masterpiece!

It is dedicated to Saint Alphonsus, and the long street that leads to the Monastery has received the name of Saint Alphonsus Road. The church is indeed worthy of the holy Doctor by its rich ornamentation and the piety that it inspires, for devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament, the Most Holy Virgin, Saint Joseph, the holy Doctor and Saint Gerard Majella seem to have established their home there. The main altar is richly sculptured in white marble; on the front, the Last Supper is engraved in bas-relief and decorated with precious marble. The whole of it is the homage of a pious person totally devoted to Saint Alphonsus.

Around the sanctuary, great pictures represent the holy Doctor preaching to the shepherds and the highlanders of Scala; the Bishop of Saint-Agatha praying before the Blessed Sacrament; and Saint Alphonsus rapt in ecstasy before the picture of the Most Holy Virgin. Above the high altar, Saint Alphonsus is represented glorious in Heaven: he is praying to the Divine Redeemer and pointing with his finger to the Most Holy Virgin who is in an attitude of supplication. At the bottom of the picture, an angel is holding the Rules of the Institute of the Most Holy Redeemer in his hands.

In front of the nuns’ grille, a beautiful painting attracts attention: it is Saint Alphonsus giving the Rule to the Redemptoristine Nuns. The life of the divine Saviour is carved in bas-relief right around the church and below it are the stations of the Way of the Cross. On the window arcades are busts of the twelve apostles, in medallions; then, back to back on columns of marble, the wooden statues of Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Teresa, Saint Francis de Sales and the Irish Saint Bridget, sculptured and ornamented in Munich.

Above the tabernacle rises a dome supported by four columns of red marble: two angels on their knees adore the Blessed Sacrament exposed. The door of the tabernacle is surmounted by a cross decorated with precious stones; inside the door, on a silver plaque, the Sacred Heart of Our Lord is engraved, and it is surrounded with as much hearts as the community possesses members.

A beautiful altar dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is also the offering of a pious soul. The white marble of which it is made, the mosaics with which it is decorated, the ex-votos of gold and silver that surround it, offer an enchanting vision. Finally the altar of Saint Joseph, also in white marble, completes this beautiful whole.

This is but a feeble and incomplete description: however, it will suffice, we hope, to give an idea of the zeal deployed by Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross, for the beauty of the house of the Lord.

Now let us speak of virtues of the good Superior.

* * * * *

Benefactors are not to be forgotten in a religious Order, and so Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross carefully cultivated this beautiful virtue of gratitude which is so pleasing to both God and men. She prayed and had others pray for all the people who had contributed by their offerings to the building of the monastery and the church, and to its embellishment. The generous O'Brien family was in the first rank and then a noble lady, Mrs. Ainsworth, who was to enter the Monastery later as a nun. Let us speak now of this Sister Mary-Anne Liguori of Jesus Crucified, to whom we shall later dedicate a special note. She entered the Monastery of Dublin, and for five years, gave the example of the most beautiful virtues there. She had the happiness of being attended at her death by her worthy Superior, whose most maternal zeal for the sick and the agonizing we have already praised. Let us listen to Mrs. Ainsworth’s historian on this point. “The maternal love and the assiduous care of the good Superior”, he says, “redoubled when one of her daughters was about to die. She would then install herself in a little room next to the infirmary so as to be close to the dear departing. In spite of her sorrow, in spite of her fatigue, she knew how to remain strong and admirable in this supreme moment. When Sister Mary-Anne Liguori had arrived at her last moments, Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross spoke these sublime words to her: “Finally, my dear Sister, the happy moment has come, and Jesus Himself is coming to find you. The Most Holy Virgin, Saint Joseph and Saint Alphonsus are going to present you to Him. Take your Crucifix that you have loved so much, take your Rosary: these are your passports to eternity.” Then she herself put the blessed candle into the hands of the dying Sister and recited the prayers of the agonising in a gentle and firm voice.”

“A Prioress”, wrote Saint Alphonsus, “must also be a Prioress in love, which means the first in loving God; and this is the ruling that I am giving you.” [1]

Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross was indeed the first to love God while observing her Rule. The beauty of God's house doubtless concerned her to the highest degree, and no one could say what vigilance she exercised so that all was worthy there of the divine Host in the tabernacle and so that the Divine Office would be recited there with piety; but the beauty of the interior house, that is to say the kingdom of God's love in her and in her daughters excited her solicitude even more still. Her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was exquisite: once she was at the foot of the tabernacle, we may say that no one knew how to draw her away from it. On Holy Thursday, it was with fiery words that she reminded her Sisters of the institution of the Blessed Eucharist; on Good Friday, the Way of the Cross inspired from her the accents of the most tender love towards the divine Master crucified for love of us; in a word, by her words, by her examples and by the good order she established, she preached always and everywhere of this divine love which is sufficient for all and which is perfection itself. And so she spread a delightful peace around herself, and the most tender charity united all hearts to her. The Most Rev. Fr. Mauron congratulated her about it one day in these terms: “I rejoice that all the Sisters are very fervent and united to each other by the spirit of charity; and in a word, occupied in their Monastery by rendering the spiritual edifice ever more perfect by their sanctification, and by knowing and appropriating the spirit of Saint Alphonsus more and more.”

Love of the poor was also a distinctive feature of the worthy Superior. She always took keenly to heart the interests of the poor Irish people, greatly admiring their faith, their respect in God's house, and their patience in their hard privations, and so in winter she distributed many clothes to the poor wretches who implored her charity; and her daughters continued after her this noble exercise in generosity towards Christ's suffering members.

An admirable thing! The worries and the expenses of all kind that the building of her convent imposed on her did not stop her from helping the Redemptoristines of Italy, robbed by the Italian government. The Most Rev. Fr. Mauron congratulated her more than once on this. He wrote to her one day: “I have just received the small sum you are sending to your poor Sisters in Vibonati. Knowing that you have to cope with your building expenses at the moment, I would not have dared to ask or hope for generosity on your part. When I will make known to your Sisters in Vibonati the position in which you find yourself, they will be even more grateful to you because of it.” Another day, he also told her: “I shall send the sum in question to the Superior of Saint-Agatha without delay. It is a great act of charity that you have shown towards this community: it is most pleasing to God and to Saint Alphonsus, and they will certainly bless it. It was thanks to this Monastery, founded and maintained by Saint Alphonsus with so much solicitude, that the Order of the Redemptoristines crossed the mountains and was propagated as far as Dublin. Scala was its cradle, and Saint-Agatha the propagator.”

We have already said how much Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross inspired the love of the Church in her community. Love of the Pope was inseparable from it, and so devotion to the Pope (to use Father Faber’s expression) was fully alive in the monastery. Pius IX, for his part, deigned one day to reply to her in a charming manner. This was in 1867 and the victory of Mentana had just rewarded the bravery of the pontifical warriors. No doubt the good Superior had sent the Sovereign Pontiff the expression of the filial devotion of her community; because the Most Rev. Fr. Mauron wrote to her on the 17th December: “Yesterday I had the honour of being admitted an audience with His Holiness. I then told him, for his consolation, how the Redemptoristines had been praying with fervour and constancy for his sacred person and for the Church, and I asked him for an abundant and special blessing for your community. His Holiness was most happy to oblige. Finally, following your request, I presented him with the enclosed portrait, while asking it to write down some words on it. Immediately, with this very paternal grace that characterizes him, the Holy Father wrote on the back of the picture: Die 16 decemb. 1867. Quocumque tendit Jesus, virgines sequuntur, that is to say: Everywhere Jesus goes, the virgins follow Him. – I do not doubt that these beautiful words that the Holy Father addresses to you directly, will be a fertile topic of meditations for you. Perhaps it will not be indifferent to you to know that the Holy Father looked attentively at the photograph and told me that he thought it was a good one.” [2]

Great was the joy of the community of Dublin when it had the honour of receiving the visit of some delegate of the Holy See. This is how in 1875, on the occasion of the centenary of O'Connell, when Cardinal Franchi was sent by Pius IX to represent him at the splendid feasts celebrating this occasion, it was an indescribable happiness for the community to see this eminent Cardinal coming to speak with a very paternal goodness about the troubles of the Church and the beloved Pontiff. He recommended all the Sisters to pray with ardour for these sacred interests and show themselves, in this as in all the rest, the true daughters of Saint Alphonsus. Then, blessing them as he departed, His Eminence congratulated the Superior for having raised to the glory of God so beautiful a church, and gave her a magnificent cross in memory of his visit.

[1] Letters of St. Alphonsus, Vol. I, p. 421
[2] Le Révérendissime Père Nicolas Mauron, chapitre XX

The Last Trials – The Last Years

The spiritual edifice and the material edifice were therefore raised up, and God's eyes dwelt upon them with pleasure. But the Lord has said: “Your ways are not My ways, your thoughts are not My thoughts.” To perfect the courageous soul that had brought so great a work to such a good end, God sent her the cross. “For great souls”, it has been justly said, “Tabor is Calvary”. Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross had her Calvary: her resignation to the will of God and her lively faith made a Tabor of it.

It is indeed a very mysterious thing, this suffering given as a reward for good actions and we cannot assign a better reason for it than the will of God. God wants all His elect to resemble the divine model, Jesus crucified in some way; for His elect of predilection, He wants this resemblance to be more striking. Named Assistant after having been Superior for long years, Mother Mary-Jean showed herself as submissive a daughter as she had been devoted as a Mother; but this change was of small account beside her interior pains and desolations. An illuminated director then wrote to this Mother in terms that we wish to quote: “Jesus is calling you to follow Him in the way strewn with thorns that He walked while on earth when His life was a continual cross. Have confidence: the Master will sustain you. Oh! how consoling it is to think that every test is a mark of love on the part of God, that He has weighed it before imposing the burden of it upon us, and that graces, strength and help are always granted to us in the measure of the sacrifice! Nature may tremble, and you may perhaps say like Jesus in the Garden of the Olives: Father, may this chalice pass far from me! but love must very quickly make you add with your Heart submitted to Our Lord: Not my will, my God, but yours! –Then, when tribulation has purified your soul, it will be free and happy and sing the hymn of its deliverance. May these thoughts of faith sustain you!”

Never were opinions given more opportunely. They were received with gratitude and observed submissively. And then, when some unexpected circumstances determined Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross to leave Ireland, she left (1894) with the same submissiveness to the will of God that she had had in 1845, at the time of her entry into the Order. In fact, a precious friendship asked her to found a new monastery of Redemptoristines in France: the good Mother believed she had to accept. So we can understand with what sadness of heart she departed from the dear monastery of Dublin to which she had given the best part of her life; but if the sacrifice was great, the devotion to God's glory was greater still. Mother Mary-Jean was going to live for a while in the Redemptoristine Convent of Saint-Amand-Les-Eaux, where Mother Marie-Joseph of the Child Jesus was the Superior. It was this worthy nun who had formed the project of which we have spoken, and her great heart thus wished to propagate her Order in this same France that one day was to exile her. Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross responded to her desire, and put all her activity into procuring the realization of it. But God did not permit the success of this attempt. The event proved clearly that Providence itself conducts all affairs. The new foundation was to be only a new prey prepared for the greed of the revolutionary treasury, and it was to sink into the abyss with so many others in the wonderful times that we had to live through. The good Superior of Saint-Amand had the sorrow of seeing her own convent sold at public auction, and be obliged to go into exile with her daughters as a stranger on earth; but God, by a just return, granted her to die on the hospitable soil of Belgium where she had, long years before, begun her religious life; and her supreme consolation was to have assured the future of her daughters. As for Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross, she retired in 1895 to this dear monastery of Velp, whose furnishing she had prepared so well in 1858; and there, in company of beloved Sisters who surrounded her with their affection and respect, with a good Irish converse Sister beside her, who had come into exile with her, she spent her last years in peace and holiness.

Before her death, God reserved her a touching consolation. Called to Tournai in 1893 by the ecclesiastical tribunal collecting information regarding the life and reputation for holiness of the Most Rev. Fr. Joseph Passerat (today Venerable), she made as deep an impression on the judges by the superiority of her spirit, her character and her virtues, as by the importance of her deposition. It was the Ven. Fr. Passerat, it may be remembered, who in 1845 had opened the doors of the Monastery of Bruges to her. It was probably very pleasant for the Reverend Mother to tell everything she knew about the life and virtues of this Servant of God, and she also testified that she herself had felt the effect of his intercession with God. One day she was nearly choked by a big piece of fishbone, so she rubbed her throat with a picture of Fr. Passerat and the bone immediately detached itself, and she was able to remove it.

June 15, 1902 saw the end of the beautiful life whose sketch we have just drawn. For seven years, by her fervour, this good Mother had edified the dear monastery that had offered her such cordial hospitality. Her death was sweet and peaceful. After receiving the last sacraments, for one last time she remembered that dear convent of Dublin that she had loved so much. Her eyes thanked the good Superior of Velp, the Sisters that surrounded her and good Sister Aloysia her inseparable companion and then she returned her beautiful soul to God. She was 77 years of age. Her funeral ceremony was both touching and splendid. Several members of the family of the venerable deceased made it their duty to accompany her mortal remains right to her tomb, and it was in the midst of the general emotion that the body of Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross was confided to the earth.

The Redemptoristine convents, notably those of Dublin and Clapham (London) mixed their regrets with their tributes. The Monastery of Dublin wished to dedicate a very special memorial to their pious foundress. They erected a monument to her in the Sisters’ cemetery, and a beautiful inscription, engraved on white marble, recalls her good work there forever.

Let us not finish these pages without saying some words about the high esteem that some very distinguished personages had for Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross. His Eminence Cardinal Cullen looked upon her as a person who was both pious and intelligent, and ensured that the Holy See confirmed her for many years in her position as Superior. – Cardinal MacCabe, his successor in the seat of Dublin, had the same esteem for her and professed the same admiration for her good character. The Venerable successor of these two Prelates paid an outstanding tribute to this good Mother when he said of her: “Look at her soul. No matter what side you turn it, you will always see it as clear a diamond.”

The Most Rev. Fr. Mauron, the Superior General of the Community of the Most Holy Redeemer, helped Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross with his advice. You could fill a great volume with his correspondence with this servant of God. –The Rev. Fr. Coffin, the Redemptorist who died as the Bishop of Southwark, Rev. Fr. Bridgett and Rev. Fr. Harbison all shared the same sentiments. And finally there were also men of the world who paid homage to her perfect understanding of even temporal matters. The notary Rouch said one day: “Madame the Superior is the equal of everyone by her intelligence, knowledge and prudence and it is with a consummate wisdom that she manages the temporal affairs of her community.”

The Most Rev. Fr. Raus, the Redemptorist Superior General, had the opportunity, in 1904, of visiting the monastery and church of the Sisters of Dublin. After examining everything in detail, he did not hesitate to say these beautiful words: “I already had the highest esteem for Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross; now I esteem her even more."

Sister Mary-Seraphim of the Blessed Sacrament, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Dublin (1835 -1905)

I. First attractions to the religious life

Sister Mary-Seraphim of the Blessed Sacrament was born at Villarney on 6th February 1835. She was the second daughter of Mr. John Thomas Dewitt and Dame. Alice O’Connell, the niece of the great O’Connell who is so well known under the name of the Liberator of Ireland.

Miss Alice Mary O’Connell Dewitt was the standard-bearer for the Daughters of St. Alphonsus in Ireland.

In 1853, the Reverend Redemptorist Fathers were established in their little convent at Bank Place, Limerick. It was there that our future Sister learnt to appreciate the spiritual life by nourishing her ardent soul with the instructions of the good religious Fathers. She often told us that, early in the morning, she would escape from the paternal home in order to be one of the first to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament under the roof of the Sons of St. Alphonsus, and also to pour out her fears and hopes at the feet of the Saviour, as she felt herself attracted to giving herself totally to God and becoming the Spouse of Jesus Christ.

Having heard them speak one day of an Order entirely consecrated to prayer, she conceived the great desire to enter it, and when she learned that these religious were the Daughters of Saint Alphonsus, her desire became all the more ardent. But many difficulties presented themselves. Alice had not yet attained the age of twenty-one, and her only sister was also resolved to embrace the religious life. Both of them had doubts about leaving their father, knowing how much this double sacrifice would cost him. They had already lost their mother some years previously.

On the 2nd of the month of August 1854, a friend of their father’s was preaching in the little church of St. Alphonsus. It was the Reverend Doctor Whelan, the Bishop of Bombay (India). The two sisters decided to ask His Lordship to make their father aware of their intimate desire. He promised to do so. As a religious himself (as he was from the Carmelite Order), he took an even greater interest in their position; and as he had been invited to dinner with the family the next day, the occasion appeared to have presented itself.

The result of the meeting was not in favour of the two sisters. What a disappointment it was when their father declared that he wished to test their vocation further. He promised the oldest that if she persevered in her resolution for another year, he would place no obstacle to her departure. As for Alice, he believed she was still too young to decide her vocation.

This refusal brought dismay to our future Sister, and her delicate health succumbed to it. Her father was so frightened by it and so greatly feared that death would bear his daughter away that he promised her that he himself would conduct her to the sanctuary of her choice, as soon as she recovered her strength. In October 1855, this good Christian, this good father, a new Abraham, brought his two daughters to Belgium. The one entered the convent of the Sisters of Notre Dame at Namur, and the other entered the convent of the Redemptoristines at Bruges as an Educande. Alice was thus the first Daughter of Saint Patrick who enrolled under the banner of Saint Alphonsus.

II. The Entry of Sister Mary-Seraphim into the Order of the Redemptoristines

The spirit of sacrifice which inspired our dear Educande was revealed when she entered the Monastery.

As she did not understand a word of French (she was the first educande who spoke English) she was not able to hold a conversation either with her mistress or even with her confessor without having continual recourse to a dictionary. And she was not able to make herself understood except with difficulty. The change of climate and food also made her suffer greatly, but all of this could not shake her. A visit to the Blessed Sacrament gave her the necessary strength. Jesus, however, Jesus Himself, knowing her generosity, hid from her the sweetness of His presence, but the faith of the courageous applicant did not weaken, and she would often exclaim: “O truly holy Sacrament, in You we truly have everything! Ego autem in Domino gaudebo, et exsultabo in Deo Jesu meo! [But I shall rejoice in the Lord, and I shall exult in Jesus my God!].

This joy, this happiness of heart in its sacrifice was always the character of her piety. Fifty years later, when she was asked one day if she would be happy if the Lord was to suddenly call her to Himself, she replied: “My Beloved is always with me, and I am always with Him.” These words were no more than the echo of her long life, and they were true, from her first days in religious life until her last breath. This was the first aspiration of the day when she prostrated herself before God to adore Him and consecrate all her being to Him.

On 7th January 1857, Mons Malou, the Bishop of Bruges, gave her the holy habit of the Redemptoristines and the name of Sister Mary-Seraphim of the Blessed Sacrament. During her novitiate, she was distinguished by her fervour, her generosity, and above all her obedience. On one occasion, she was told to take a remedy that she imagined was poison. She took it nonetheless, following the example of Saint Alfonso Rodriguez, and told herself like this great saint: “It is good to die in an act of holy obedience.”

On 25th January 1858, her ardent desire to become the Bride of Jesus Crucified was satisfied. The following year the Irish foundation was decided upon and our dear Sister Mary-Seraphim was one of the Sisters chosen to accompany our venerable foundress, the Reverend Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross. In all the trials and difficulties of this foundation, she showed herself as truly devoted, for she had learnt that true contemplation subjugates the senses as well as the search for self. At the ceremony of installation (25th March 1859) many members of the family of the great O’Connell was present, including his sister, Mrs. Moynihan, the grandmother of sister Mary-Seraphim, and her two daughters, Mrs. Fitzsimmon and Mrs. French. Thirty years earlier, the Liberator had, by his claims, as if laid the first stone of the edifice of the religious Orders in Ireland. Providence seemed to be rewarding him by ensuring that one of his little nieces was part of this community in Dublin that he doubtless looked at with love from the highest heaven.

Sister Mary-Seraphim was always a model of religious virtue. Her fervour never slackened, and her constant piety was never separate from her ardent love of regular observance. “Do not fear”, said Father Bridgett somewhere in an address for a religious profession, “that a long familiarity with God will make you love God less than you do now. Certainly it is not so. The knowledge that you have of the graces and perfections of your divine Spouse is very imperfect compared to what you are destined to have. If, in the world where you are occupied by cares, and by alluring pleasures or at least distracting ones, the divine attractions that Jesus has revealed to you are nonetheless powerful enough to show you how those pleasures are vain and insipid, and they have communicated to you a love capable of breaking down all the obstacles of flesh and blood – then we shall not have to wait until penance and prayer have purified more and more the eyes of your soul! Does not Jesus let His delights be revealed to the soul who seeks Him?"

III. Sister Mary-Seraphim’s spirit of faith

Our dear Sister’s spirit of faith kept her elevated towards the region of her divine Spouse. She loved the Divine Office and showed great ardour in reciting it. A short time before her death, she begged the Mistress of Novices to strongly recommend them to put all their voices into it: “I understand nothing”, she said, “except that is a sublime privilege to recite it, and we should spare nothing in order to recite it as it should be.” She was always the first in choir for Matins, even under the weight of her seventy years. She so much loved to be there before the others, that the young Sisters sometimes used a little stratagem to get her to anticipate herself.

Our venerated Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross often told us: “I have had a bas-relief carved and put behind the altar, showing the twenty four oldest Sisters prostrate before the throne of the Lamb. [1]  It is to remind you of the spirit of adoration with which you should recite the Office, and especially Matins.” Sister Mary-Seraphim took this observation strongly to heart: before reciting the Psalms, she would make a profound reverence and had an original little manner of also lifting up her breviary and raising her eyes to heaven.

In the last week of her life she was named hebdomadary for the last time, which caused her a noticeable pleasure. She often repeated the words of Macbeth: “If I must die, I shall die under the yoke.” Feast days and days of recreation were days of prayer for her, and she often went to choir and spoke frequently of the happiness of living under the same roof as the Blessed Sacrament.

Her spirit of faith was also shown in her relationship with her Superiors. Be they young or old, every word they said was considered by Sister Mary-Seraphim as the word of God, and their least desire was fulfilled on the spot. “I do not consider the person in my Superior”, she often said, “All I see in her is the representative of God.” And so she was always joyful and did everything according to her will, since she had no other will than the will of God.

Our dear Sister professed a tender love for our good Mother of Perpetual Succour. “I obtain everything”, she said, “by writing a little letter to the Queen of Heaven.” And when a Sister mentioned to her about being in pain or having some anxiety, she would reply: “It will all come out well, for I shall write a few words to my good Mother.” And everything did come out well.

How can we pass over in silence her filial love for our Father, Saint Alphonsus and the profound interest she took in the Congregation? The work of the missions made her move heaven and earth to gather a rich harvest and gain souls for God. Speaking to the Mistress of Novices, she asked her if she was pleased with her daughters, and added: “Be sure to tell them that they are not here only for themselves, but that they must pray and work for the salvation of souls. May they indeed give everything to Our Lord!” How happy she was to learn that they were profoundly attached to their vocation! “Blessed be God! Blessed be God!” she would then say fervently.

IV. Her confidence in God and her charity towards her neighbour

Sister Mary-Seraphim took an extreme pleasure in reading the works of our Father, Saint Alphonsus, and from them she drew a great love for the virtues that he recommends there so well, and in particular a tender confidence in God. The spirit of prayer penetrated her, and in all her difficulties or trials, in all her spiritual or temporal necessities, she would have recourse to her God with the confidence of a child: “One thought always consoles me”, she would say, “and that is that Our Lord is with us. He is always there.”

She gives us the most beautiful examples of humility, obedience and charity. Always sweet, always cheerful, how happy she showed herself when she was able to render some humble service to her neighbour! Obedience alone could make her lay down the broom for sweeping, and we may say that she never left hold of it until the end of her life. Even when she was losing her strength and eyesight, she never abandoned her charitable occupation, but she would call a young Sister to make sure that she had not left any dust behind. Because she was interested in everything, she would turn with a very good grace to help the Sisters in charge and showed great gratitude for the least services. She was very sensitive and easily moved to sympathy, and so she would say: “I feel everything and always”, and then she would add: “But I am placing myself above everything.” They begged her to slow down a little, but she replied: “We never know how far we can go. I want to go right to the end.”

When she was on her bed of sorrow in the last days of her life, she made this reply to a converse Sister who asked her for some advice: “Devote yourself to the community, and you will have a happy death.”

Her love of prayer and for her neighbour suggested to her that she should pray often and gain indulgences for the souls in Purgatory. She would most carefully collect the funeral notices of relatives, friends and benefactors. On each anniversary, they would reappear on her table at exactly the right time.

All the virtues of Sister Mary-Seraphim were inspired by her love of God. He was the soul of her thoughts and actions, and she recommended this above all to the Novices, during the few years when she had their direction. All her instructions tended to make them love God alone, and this was the supreme end that she unceasingly proposed for their efforts. It was a truly worthy preoccupation for a true daughter of Saint Alphonsus, the holy Doctor who had so well taught the ways of this love.

V. Last sacrifice and death of Sister Mary-Seraphim

One sacrifice remained for our good Sister to make, and she dreaded it. It was that of her love of reading. We know how useful a taste for good reading is for the spiritual life. During the last year of her life, Sister Mary-Seraphim had to renounce the advantage that she drew from it. Our Lord indeed sent her as her last cross this loss of her eyesight which made reading impossible. She endured it patiently and without complaint, put aside her cherished books, and although she was no longer permitted to recite the Divine Office, she always wished to be present in choir to hear it. But the days never seemed long to her. Rosaries succeeded rosaries, fatigue never made itself felt, and our good Sister could say with a smile: “I would never have believed that I could so easily give up books.”

Our Lord, satisfied with her sacrifice, gave her back her eyesight. However, Sister Mary-Seraphim’s health deteriorated. Yet the doctor saw nothing to be worried about, when suddenly, on 14th June 1905, he found our good Sister in serious danger. She was sent immediately to the infirmary, and the next day she received Extreme Unction and the Holy Viaticum. Her ardent piety found an indescribable consolation in it. On the 21st, her confessor, finding her close to her end, gave her a plenary indulgence. That night was a bad one, as a painful suffocation afflicted our good Sister, who suffered it all with an angelic patience, and repeated with no less fervour the pious aspirations that our Reverend Mother suggested to her. The following day was the feast of the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord was most willing to respond to the desires of His servant, and at ten o’clock, she had the happiness of receiving Him for the last time, on this feast that she had always loved so much. Our Reverend Mother and our dear Sisters continued to pray beside her bed, while the dear invalid said to her Superior: “I would not like to deprive my Sisters of the happiness of adoring the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the chapel.” They suggested this beautiful aspiration to her: “O divine Sacrament, we adore You; make us love You more and more.” “Yes”, she replied, “yes, more and more.”

At 1:30 a.m., Sister Mary-Seraphim repeated these aspirations with our Mother: “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.” “Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation.” These were her last words, and she rendered her beautiful soul to God in peace and holiness. This was on 22nd June 1905. Our good Sister was in her 71st year and had been 48 years in profession.

The Ven. Fr. Passerat said that a professed religious must always remain a novice in her abnegation of will and judgement, with the simplicity of a child, and at this price he promised her constant peace, Paradise on earth and Heaven without Purgatory. Sister Mary-Seraphim practised this recommendation. God, we hope, will have rewarded her for it.
(Monastery Chronicles)

[1] In imitation of the twenty four elders mentioned in the Apocalypse.

Sister Mary-Mechtilde of the Blessed Sacrament, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Dublin (1826 – 1866)

Our dear Sister Mary-Mechtilde of the Blessed Sacrament, in the world Josephine Duvivier, was born at Tournai on 11th April 1826. She entered the Convent of the Redemptoristines at Bruges, made her profession there in 1850 and was sent to Ireland in 1859 with a number of Sisters for the foundation of the Monastery of our Order.

She soon became noticed for her solid virtues. Very sensible, and always very pleasant to those who had business with her, she found in her sweet and quiet character a help to exercise great control of herself, especially in disagreeable circumstances. Our dear Sister was very prudent and always acted with discretion. In the different charges that she exercised, she never said anything that was not strictly necessary. The Sisters were few in number at the beginning of the foundation, and our Reverend Mother gave her three tasks to perform. She did them with so much order, tranquillity and exactitude that it might be said that she had nothing to do.

The spirit of order was something innate in Sister Mary-Mechtilde, for when she was a child, she would refuse to eat if the bread was not cut right, and so every work that left her hands had to be perfect. A model of regular observance, her numerous occupations did not prevent her from always being one of the first at the common acts. Faithful in little things, she was so in the great ones, and in the course of a very hard trial that she bore heroically, she did not offer a single complaint, or made the least remark on the manner of what had been done to her. In a previous circumstance, equally painful, she kept the same silence and preserved the same calm. A Sister saw her with tears in her eyes, writing something. “What are you writing?” she asked her, knowing a little of what was going on. Sister Mary-Mechtilde replied: “Not much, but it says a lot.” They learnt a short while later that she had written these two words: “God alone!”

Our beloved Sister was remarkably humble, and set no great value on herself. It was especially in the course of her final illness that this spirit of abnegation showed forth. In 1865, a chill seized her and gave her a cough that never left her and degenerated into consumption. Nonetheless she followed the community exercises and seemed happy with everything. She never complained and never had the desire for any consolation. Reverend Mother said to her sometimes: “You are suffering greatly, my Sister.” “Oh no,” she would reply straight away. Her whole anxiety was not to cause trouble. As space was at a premium amongst us, we had no infirmary, and God permitted that there was no one ill up till then in the house. Sister Mary-Mechtilde was the first. So our dear invalid had to be content with the community room, which also served for other uses and as the recreation room. She took refuge in a small corner. It is useless to say that, because of our indigence, she had more than one mortification to endure, but she never complained. “I’m quite well here” she would reply if anyone showed her compassion on this subject.

However, her state suddenly grew worse. Our Reverend Mother set aside a parlour for use as an infirmary, and Sister Mary-Mechtilde was transported there. The doctor declared that there was no more hope, and Reverend Mother announced to our dear Sister the danger that she was facing, and the advantage she would have in receiving the last sacraments. Sister Mary-Mechtilde replied calmly: “We enter religion in order to die well. I want only the will of God. I desire to see God.” She asked to be confessed, and received the Holy Viaticum and Extreme Unction with a touching piety, following exactly all the prayers that the Community recited. A slight improvement was produced. Our confessor visited the dear invalid a few more times, and was greatly edified by the peace she enjoyed. “She has made her confession as she does every Wednesday”, he said one day to the Reverend Mother, “she has a well-regulated conscience.”

The moment of her last struggle was approaching. The demon came to tempt our good Sister, who took up her cross and struck the table with an extraordinary energy. Reverend Mother arrived, and seeing her so animated, she asked her the reason. “The demon has come to tempt me”, she replied, and looking up at the ceiling, she said: “Look, there’s two of them.” The Superior threw holy water at them and they disappeared.

Her perfect calm permitted her to recall the least prescriptions of the Rule. When Reverend Mother entered the infirmary, the invalid made an effort to get up, and when she was told to remain lying down, she would reply: “Why not a little bit of respect?”

On the eve of her death, Reverend Mother had a dream about her subject. She seemed to see a basket filled with precious stones, on which were written these words: “solid virtues”; and she distinctly heard a voice saying: “Throw plenty of holy water.”

Finally the supreme moment arrived. Our beloved Sister entered her agony. She tenderly embraced the cross, which she pressed to her heart, and held her rosary in her hands. While Reverend Mother and the Sisters were reciting the prayers of the agonizing, our dear invalid followed all the prayers devoutly and with a plain presence of spirit, and constantly repeated the holy names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. When our Mother suggested to her the most beautiful acts of offering her life, three great tears rolled from her eyes. “My God”, the good Superior then said, “I offer You the last tears of Sister Mary-Mechtilde.” She then cast a last look at Reverend Mother as if to thank her, and as she pronounced the holy Name of Jesus, she peacefully rendered her soul to God. This was on 12th April 1866.

Our dear Sister had been able to say her own Consummatum est in all truth, because, before her death, she had even made the sacrifice of being interred in the common cemetery, as the Community did not as yet possess its own land. So we follow the humble convoy with an affectionate regard in the sweet hope of meeting her again one day to eternally sing the mercies of the Lord.

After her death, the deceased assumed a touching air of sweetness and majesty which filled everyone with admiration. It could have been said that a ray of heavenly glory had already touched her face, and without a doubt, she had already heard the ineffable call of her divine Spouse: Veni de Libano, Sponsa mea, veni, coronaberis [Come from Lebanon, my Bride, and you shall be crowned]..
(Monastery Chronicles)

Sister Mary-Alphonsus of Jesus, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Dublin (1837-1893)

It was on 25th March 1859 that the first Redemptoristine foundation was inaugurated at Dublin. Called by their state to relive the hidden life of Jesus at Nazareth, and in all the mysteries of His love, they came to God for the salvation of souls, upon this land of Ireland so fertile in noble devotions.

Among the faithful who crammed that day into their little chapel there was a young person who belonged to an excellent family in Dublin. She was called Anna O’Brien. She was the eldest daughter of Mr. O’Brien, a judge, and Marguerite Segrave, and was born on 13th June 1837. Her uncle, Mr. O’Farrell of Granite Hall, willingly opened his house to the Redemptorist Fathers when their apostolic work called them to Dublin. When it was a matter of founding a convent of Redemptoristines, the family took a great interest in this foundation, and the Rev. Fr. De Buggenoms himself stayed at Granite Hall until the last arrangements were finalized, and the Sisters were installed in a regular Monastery.

Miss Anna then felt an attraction for the religious life, with which she had previously been imbued, now awakening in her. Yet it was not without much combat that she followed God’s call. The world was smiling upon her, and her father belonged to the best society and occupied one of the highest positions of government. Was she not the eldest daughter, and the idol of her father, her mother and her grandmother? The young lady responded to all this affection and willingly turned her eyes to a smiling future.

The arrival of the Redemptoristines was to change her disposition. The eyes of Jesus made poor for love of us were fixed on her, and on the spot she asked Father de Buggenoms, her director, to present her as an Educande to Mother Mary-Jean of the Cross. At the ceremony on 25th March, which we have mentioned before, she was there, and when on 30th March, before the establishment of the enclosure, persons of the world were permitted one last time to visit the convent, she was there too, but no one could have suspected what she intended. However, her decision was made. When the Superior presented her to an old converse Sister as well able to become a Redemptoristine, the good religious drew the Superior apart and said to her: “Oh, Reverend Mother, please do not receive this elegant young lady into the extreme poverty we live in, for our house is so little in order!” “But”, says the Annalist of the convent, “little did they know about the heroic soul of Miss O’Brien.” To the eyes of the divine Redeemer she had replied: “Your light has shone upon me, and I shall rest in Your shadow.” And it was indeed the cross that she came to seek. It was with all her heart that she was to say goodbye to a comfortable life in order to embrace a life made up of abnegation and obedience.

* * * * *

On 8th April 1859, Anna O’Brien entered the convent as an Educande. She was then 22 years of age. She was offered a chance to postpone this date somewhat and go beforehand to visit Rome and receive the blessing of the sovereign Pontiff, but she made the sacrifice of this journey that she had desired for so long. Her mother thus offered her cherished daughter to God, but she did not give way to her in generosity. The Annalist says: “It was very edifying to see our dear Educande brave the difficulties of the little foundation with such good heart, embracing poverty so joyfully, and accepting and seeking her part in the common labours so eagerly. Her friends would have been astonished to see her take her very frugal repast from an old door placed on a barrel in a cold and damp cellar, while waiting for the refectory to be finished. However, poverty was always the favourite virtue of our dear Sister. She observed it in all its rigour, and her love of the common life was extreme. The enemy of every exception, she never wanted special food, not even when she was attacked by the cancer that caused her death and which she bore with an heroic courage.

On 19th March of the following year, on the feast of Saint Joseph, she received the holy red habit with the name of Sister Mary-Alphonsus of Jesus. “I feel very unworthy”, she wrote several days previously, “of the great favour that God has destined for me. I am going to receive the religious habit in order to repel forever any dealings with the world, and put on the habit of the Most Holy Redeemer in order to be betrothed to Jesus, who one day, I hope, will be my divine Spouse. Becoming a novice according to the spirit of our Father, Saint Alphonsus, is my sole desire and my dearest hope. In a few hours this hope will be realised, but what purpose will it serve if, in receiving the holy habit, I am not interiorly changed, if I am not inflamed with the divine love, an ardent charity and a tender compassion for the sufferings of my crucified Saviour? What shall I do if I am not filled with zeal for the conversion of the sinners for whom He poured out His blood to the very last drop on Calvary? It is on this sacred mountain that I must find my model, as the habit will only make me a novice of the Most Holy Redeemer to the proportion of the desire I have to imitate Him in His sufferings and His love.”

A year later, on 8th April 1861 (the feast of the Annunciation fell on Holy Monday and had been postponed to this day) our dear Sister Mary-Alphonsus of Jesus pronounced her holy vows with all the joy of her soul. She was just as she loved to say, “the first child of Saint Alphonsus in Ireland”, and she had, moreover, a tender and filial devotion for her Blessed Father, carefully studied his works and the least details of his life, and tried her best to imitate him, especially in perfect conformity to the will of God. She also attributed her happiness to the Blessed Virgin, whom she called “her tender Mother”, and to the good Saint Joseph, the patron of the interior life.

Then came the time to carry out the tasks that obedience entrusted to her. She was named Sacristan and fulfilled her office with the greatest care. Charged then with directing the Educandes and the Novices, she inspired in them a great esteem for their vocation, a great love for observance and the common life, and also inspired in them a horror for every singularity. She loved to repeat to them and have them write down this maxim several times: “We change, but God never changes.” She also said: “A Redemptoristine must try her best to travel by her love and the spirit of sacrifice along the rough paths that her divine Spouse followed and which lead her to the mountain of immolation.”

* * * * *

These rough paths of sacrifice and immolation, Sister Mary-Alphonsus of Jesus followed for twenty years without ever complaining.

Attacked by cancer in her stomach, she always tried to hide her sufferings, and never spoke of them except to her Superiors. However, they were very great, as the doctor who attended her confirmed. There was scarcely a night that brought her a few hours of rest, and she would usually spend them sitting in a little armchair. And then, she would remain in darkness, refusing even a small lamp through the spirit of poverty. In spite of this, the morning would find her applying herself to all her spiritual exercises. She always had the spirit of duty to a superior degree, and this spirit was also inspired by the spirit of love, and so she wanted only Jesus crucified to know the intensity of her sufferings.

On 16th April 1893, on the feast of the Holy Sepulchre, a redoubling of her sufferings suddenly gave alarm to the community. Sister Mary-Alphonsus struggled to get in line with the Sisters to be confessed. Her Superior, seeing her so eager, had her return to her cell, and Rev. Fr. Moore came to hear her confession. “The following morning,” says the Monastery Annalist, “we learned with the greatest sorrow that our dear invalid had spent a night in agony. The doctor was called in all haste and declared that her heart had succumbed to the violence of her pain, to which she replied with great resignation: ‘May God be blessed!’ and he ordered the last sacraments to be administered to her.”

The Reverend Mother Superior had Mons. Fitzpatrick called to hear the confession of the poor invalid before midday and he promised to return at one o’clock with the holy oils, but her illness got worse so quickly that they had to run to the Archbishop’s house, which was next to the convent. Doctor Magrath arrived immediately, and our dear Sister recognized him. Mons. Fitzpatrick followed, bearing the Blessed Sacrament and the holy oils. He had just enough time to give her communion and anoint her. Some moments afterwards, the beautiful soul of our dear Sister took its flight towards the eternal vision of God.

Although greatly afflicted by this loss, the community nonetheless saw in this sudden end a tender affection of divine Providence, which wished to spare our dear Sister the pangs of conscience that she had suffered from all her life. Her death was calm, peaceful and perfectly resigned to the will of God. After receiving the last sacraments, she told her Superior in her own manner: “I have made a great act.” Then she gave all those who surrounded her a last glance of farewell, affection and gratitude, raised her eyes towards Heaven and said: “My God, I render my soul into Your hands.” These were her last words.

The Annalist pays a last tribute to her Sister in these emotive terms: “Sister Mary-Alphonsus of Jesus, the eldest daughter of Judge O’Brien, was the first stone of this foundation and a precious gift of God in these beginnings. To her, to her dear family, and to their superabundant generosity we owe the profoundest gratitude. May the memory of the noble sacrifice she made of everything that could have made her happy in the world, her ardent love for her vocation, her heroic patience in suffering, and all her virtues, be engraved profoundly in the spirits of her afflicted Sisters, and may they be encouraged to imitate her examples in order to share one day in her reward!”

Sister Mary-Anne Liguori of Jesus Crucified, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Dublin (1819 -1882)

1. Her life in the world.

If nobility of blood in itself does not confer any advantage over virtue, however it gives it a singular lustre when it is united to it. And so divine grace shines forth marvellously in those holy souls who make the human greatness that falls to them serve the glory of God.

Sophie Hanmer was born on 22nd July 1819 in Hanmer, Flintshire, in north Wales.[1] Her father, the local Protestant minister, was the son of Sir Thomas Hanmer Bart. Her mother was one of the daughters of Sir Thomas Whichcote Bart, of Aswarby Hall, Lincolnshire. Although the misfortune of the times had dragged them into Protestantism, they nonetheless still preserved a deep esteem for the Catholic religion. Mr. Hanmer was even a great admirer of the Rev. Father. Newman. He saw him for the first time at Oxford in 1839 and was struck by the sanctity of his person. Some days later, he obtained his sermons; but, by a strange contradiction, he who so admired the religion of his forebears, did not want to embrace it and died in heresy.

Young Sophie was therefore brought up in the bosom of Protestantism. At the age of ten, her parents sent her to a house of education in Chester where she was thoroughly versed in literary studies. Her natural talents developed marvellously, and she was admired for her healthy judgment, firm spirit, an elevated reasoning, and an extensive knowledge for her age, and with it, she had a naturally sweet, compassionate and magnanimous character.

When her education had finished, she spent several years in the paternal home and made her entry in the world. At the age of twenty-one, she received from the hands of her parents a husband in the person of Mr. J. L. Ainsworth of Bankside, Oldham. God blessed this marriage by granting them five children, two sons and three daughters.

At about that time (1849), Mrs. Ainsworth’s eldest brother converted to Catholicism: it was for her a painful event, and she believed that her brother, thus separated from his whole family, was lost for ever. She scarcely suspected that he was to become the instrument of her own conversion. Yet, Mr. Hanmer had acted only with discernment. Since he was thirteen, the thought that the Catholic, apostolic and Roman religion, was the only true one, had constantly pursued him. The Protestant environment in which he lived, scarcely permitted him to settle his doubts; but one day, having entered a church during the holy Mass, he heard a sermon that touched him deeply. The priest was commenting on the gospel of the day, the parable of the good Shepherd. He admirably described the union that closely connects the faithful to the Pope, the divinely appointed successor of Saint Peter and Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and showed how this perfect unity was the sign of the true Church. Mr. Hanmer was floored: his decision was made; he put himself in contact with the venerable priest whose words had been for him as so many burning arrows, and on 15th December 1849, he solemnly abjured Protestantism. From this day on (these are his own words), the prayer of his heart was, and would always be, expressed in these beautiful words by the glorious martyr, Richard Thirkill, who died for the faith in 1583:

“O merciful Father who has created me,
Oh most sweet Son who has ransomed me,
Oh Holy Spirit who has sanctified me,
Oh Blessed Trinity, three persons and a single God,
Keep me, defend me, govern me in the unity of the Catholic and apostolic Church,
So that I may merit to live and to die within it,
And may to finally be able to enjoy the glory of your divine Majesty:
I ask this through Christ Our Lord.”

This abjuration, as we have said, caused great grief to Mrs. Ainsworth; it also awakened in her a lively remorse. The uprightness and elevation of her spirit had indeed for a long time now been suggesting doubts to her about the truth of Protestantism; but a secret pride prevented her from answering God's secret call. “I am not astonished”, she wrote to her brother, “that many people are captivated by the beauty and ornamentation of the Catholic churches, and their beautiful books of prayers also far surpass those that we have in our Church. However, there are many points that stop me. However, this does not mean that I do not pray less sincerely every day and ask God every day to enlighten me; as I have never told you how much these thoughts preoccupy me. Today, now that this question has been placed so firmly before me, I am in a greater quandary than ever. If, in fact, you are in the truth, I am in error; and vice-versa. I must therefore look to where the truth is. I will not fail to pray that the unity that exists in the Catholic Church may give you peace, this unity that, unfortunately, we do not possess in our own.”

The interior struggle that agitated Mrs. Ainsworth had its outcome. Her brother went to pay her a visit during the summer, and the conversation turned to the fundamental question of the true Church. All of a sudden, the sky was full of clouds, and a terrible storm burst forth: the noise of the thunder lasted a long time, and made a striking impression on Mrs. Ainsworth. She felt that God's great voice was addressing a supreme call to her. When the weather became calmer, and when the rays of the sun, penetrating the room, seemed to make them forget what had happened, the mistress of the house got up. She leaned towards her brother and spoke into his ear: “I can delay no longer, I want to go and see Dr Newman tomorrow: be good enough to accompany me.”

How did this first meeting go? We do not know. What we do know, is that in the space of a few interviews, the famous convert made the truth of the Catholic Church shine in Mrs. Ainsworth’s eyes: he dissipated her doubts, solved her difficulties, and had the consolation of seeing this upright soul surrender to the teachings of the faith with the greatest submissiveness. Of her own initiative and in the full liberty of her heart, she humbly asked to make her abjuration. The ceremony took place on 14th June 1850 in London, in the small church of the Oratorians. Father Newman was happy to introduce into the true Church someone who followed his example and “had not rebelled against the light.” As for the new convert, she felt an inexpressible joy and tasted a peace which she had never had any idea of. Henceforth, from being a simple neophyte, she was to become an apostle.

* * * * *

On the advice of Rev. Father Newman, Mrs. Ainsworth then got in touch with Rev. Father Lans, the Superior of a community of Redemptorist Fathers that had just settled in Hanley Castle in Wales, close to Malvern Wells. The proximity of this castle, the reputation for holiness which the Reverend Father enjoyed and the numerous conversions of which he had been the instrument, more than justified Father Newman’s choice. Events soon proved that Father Lans was indeed the man that the new convert needed to sustain and encourage her in the difficulties that she was about to encounter.

He first of all advised her to have all her children baptized, with their own consent, and afterwards have them instructed sufficiently in Catholic doctrine. He said: “It is best not to delay; as for Mr. Ainsworth, he would not be more displeased with one event than the other.” Mr. Ainsworth indeed, though Protestant in fact, nevertheless venerated the Catholic Church. Being quite addicted to hunting, for which he professed a real passion, he was scarcely moved by the conversion of his pious wife. Moreover, he showed her more than affection and respect: she inspired a veritable veneration in him, by her great qualities, her patience and her goodness. We may say more, he was proud of her and gave way to her will, provided that she left him free to pursue the hunt madly across fields and forests, and invite his numerous friends to his table.

Mrs. Ainsworth blindly followed the advice given to her by Father Lans. She instructed her children carefully, and at their own request, she brought them in her carriage to the convent chapel. There the good Father Superior received them, confessed Sophie, the eldest, for the first time; and when all of them had knelt down at the foot of the altar, Sophie, in her own name, and in the name of her brothers and sisters, read the formula of abjuration and profession of faith in a firm and distinct voice. “This done”, wrote Mrs. Ainsworth later to her brother, “I brought them to the baptismal fonts. Little Blanche was the first: her joy was great when the lighted candle was put in her hand. Then Jesse came up: I was afraid that he was going to cry, but he did not do so. Then came Sophie and Catherine.[2] Once baptism was conferred, they all went to kneel down before the altar, holding their candles in their right hands, while they all sang the Litanies of the Blessed Virgin Mary together, and Father Lans recited the prescribed prayers. Then Sophie received absolution, and everything was finished.”

The good mother then tells us of the happy refreshments that were served to the children in the monastery, the congratulations the Fathers and Brothers rushed to offer them; and then she adds: “What thanksgiving we must return to God, my dear brother, for such blessings! More than ever I count on your prayers to thank God. You would have been astonished, as I myself was, to hear the children choose their names. They chose them themselves. Sophie, through her affection for me,[3] took the name of Catherine. Catherine begged me to permit her to be called Mary, which surprised me, as I had not spoken about names; I asked her for the reason for her choice, and she answered me very humbly: “because of the Virgin Mary”. Little Blanche turned openly to Father Lans and told him: “My name must be Mary too.” Jesse took the name of Alphonsus. Indeed, holy Baptism has brought them an astonishing surplus of supernatural joy, because they are all in jubilation. Little Catherine came twice to ask me: “But, mamma, is it true that we are now all Catholics?” Oh, what joy I feel now, what a burden of anxieties my heart is relieved of, when I think that these dear children are now all children of the holy Roman Church! But what an outburst I must expect when their father learns of everything that has happened! However, since I have followed Father Lans’ advice in everything, God's blessing will sustain me, I hope.”

Father Newman, aware of this great event, gave his full approval to Father Lans’ decision. As he had predicted, Mr. Ainsworth made no objection. As for the children, they answered with a surprising assurance to the objections that were sometimes put to them. “What would you do”, Mr. Ainsworth said one day to little Catherine, if mamma became Protestant again? – “Oh, me, I would never become one again”, replied the child; and if mamma were to do so, I would immediately go and tell the priest.”

However, the Lord was about to ask Mrs. Ainsworth for a great sacrifice. Rev. Father Lans, her director, was named Master of Novices at Bishop-Eton, Liverpool.[4] “I would not know how to say”, she wrote, “how pained I am at this departure: if it was not for the fact that Our Lord is everything to me in this world, and that I can always go to the chapel and find consolation from Him in my trials, I would once again be like a stranger on earth. But the cross wishes to be my inseparable companion. Yes, we are losing a saint. It is impossible to express the influence he exercised here on people in general; everyone misses him. As for myself, it was a sweet consolation for me to attend the instruction that Father gave Sophie for her first communion: she was able to make it before his departure. He has left me some spiritual books that will do me good, and told me that I had to have more faith and Christian feeling, because I have been regenerated by the grace of my Baptism, nourished by the Eucharist, and become like a tree deeply rooted in God, living from the divine, and strong in the strength even of the Lord. Not that suffering must no longer make us suffer the test that tries us; but the peace of the Lord, “which surpasses all understanding”, is stronger than all our tender emotions here below: it must always remain in our hearts, and our spirits in Jesus Christ Our Lord. It is now up to me to practise the teachings of a saint in a good manner.”

Mrs. Ainsworth indeed practised them generously. A chapel adjoining her country home soon became an active centre of Catholic propaganda. His Lordship the Bishop attached one of the Jesuit Fathers of the College of Saint Benno[5] there as chaplain, so all Catholics in the district could thus attend Mass there every Sunday and on feast days, as the governesses, except for one alone, and the family servants had become fervent Catholics. It was therefore a fine spectacle attending the offices of the Church in this chapel, in the midst of the chants and holy canticles. A little later on, at the family's new residence, in Denbigh, Mrs. Ainsworth founded another Catholic mission, where the working poor of the factories could receive the spiritual help. Finally her generosity made her deposit an important sum into the Bishop's hands for a new mission that she hoped to found in the parish of Whitchurch near to the place of her birth.

This admirable generosity, joined to a profoundly Christian life, inclined God's heart to granting Mrs. Ainsworth the grace that was so dear to her heart, the conversion of her husband. Mr. Ainsworth, as we have said, was not hostile to Catholicism: the relationship he developed with Rev. Father Lans, and then the Jesuit Fathers as Chaplains, made him gradually lose the disdain that he ordinarily displayed for religious matters; but what indisputably determined him more than anything else to embrace the Catholic faith was the spectacle of the virtues of his admirable wife. Her patience towards him, her invincible sweetness, the care she surrounded him with during his illnesses, her attention to giving him pleasure and pandering to his tastes, made him love her piety so true and her devotion so constant. The interviews he had with the Fathers also made him take an interest in their missions, and he admired the good that he could see happening around him. The charming spectacle of his pious children softened his heart as well.

A remarkable thing! Mr. Ainsworth had always professed a great veneration for the Blessed Virgin, in spite of the prejudices with which he was filled. A providential circumstance suddenly came to give a characteristic shape to this form of devotion. Following events we know nothing about, an important property that returned a considerable income to Mr. and Mrs. Ainsworth was taken from them. The loss was great. Mr. Ainsworth was frightened, and of his own will and without being influenced by anyone, he made a vow to give the necessary land to build a beautiful chapel in honour of the Blessed Virgin, if the property was returned to him. Several years later, he recovered it. Faithful to his promise, he donated the promised land in 1868, together with a considerable sum that was enough to build a great chapel in honour of Our Lady and Saint Patrick. It was completed in 1873.

From this day on, Mrs. Ainsworth was happy to note a great change in her husband's disposition. An illness whose germ he had been carrying for some time, suddenly made rapid progress; but his soul opened up to the divine light to the measure that his body weakened. His long reflections, the discussions he had concerning the Catholic faith, and finally and especially God's grace that he solicited, and that was solicited for him by ardent prayers, brought the great result, a full and entire conversion. The priest came to receive his abjuration, heard his confession, and received him into the bosom of the Catholic Church. The joy of the new convert was immense: he himself announced to his physician that he had become a Catholic, and that he would die in the bosom of the Roman Church. In the short time he still had to live, he became admired for his spirit of prayer, his resignation, and his gratitude to his pious wife, to whom he recognized himself indebted for his happiness and joy in seeing himself united to his dear children in the bonds of unity. He died peacefully on 28th March 1871, while pronouncing the holy names of Jesus and Mary. His funeral was celebrated in the chapel recently built on his land at Oldham.

II. Her entry in the Institute of the Redemptoristines.

While Rev. Father Lans was living at Hanley Castle, he made Mrs. Ainsworth aware of the Redemptoristine Order. Since that time, the noble lady conceived the liveliest desire to see a convent of these religious established near her residence; but another attraction, that dated from before this, took a strong hold of her heart.

We have said that she wanted to found a Catholic mission close to the place of her birth. The parish of Hanmer had seen Lady Warner born among Mrs. Ainsworth’s ancestors. It was her native land; it was also the castle where Miss Trevor Hanmer was born, who, while still very young, had married Count Warner. After several years of marriage, the two of them became Catholics; and a short time later, both of them, by mutual consent, separated: the count in order to enter the Company of Jesus; the countess, to enter the Poor Clares, where she led a very holy life. She died in an odour of sanctity in their convent at Gravelines [6] in 1670. Mrs. Ainsworth liked to remember this, and the thought of leaving the world one day had gradually taken hold of her spirit. Providence, whose ways are marvellous, prepared the success of her plans.

The Redemptoristines, called by her to Saint-Asaph, did not find the site suitable, and were established instead in Dublin (1859), under the guidance of Reverend Mother Marie-Jeanne de la Croix. Mrs. Ainsworth helped them with her generous donations and formed a close friendship with the worthy Superior. She contributed a great deal, by her largesse, to decorating the beautiful church of Saint-Alphonsus; and when Mr. Ainsworth died and the children were suitably established, the servant of God resolved to dedicate herself to God in the new monastery.

This project had to be carefully examined, and it was. Rev. Father Lans and the Very Rev. Fr. Coffin, then the Provincial of the English Redemptorists, approved it. Rev. Mother Marie-Jeanne de la Croix welcomed her request favourably and Mrs. Ainsworth’s children accepted their beloved mother’s decision with a great rending of heart, but with faith. Do we need to say it? It was not without a struggle that this great design was able to be realised: the tender love of her family, her attachment to prosperous and fertile works of charity, the regrets of so many poor people that she would have to leave, the oppositions and contradictions of a certain kind of world, all shook the resolution of Mrs. Ainsworth for a moment. But it was only a passing shock: a serious retreat overcame these natural affections, and on Good Friday, 1872, at three o'clock in the afternoon, the servant of God made an entire consecration of herself to Jesus Christ.

On 22nd September 1872, the monastery of Dublin was witness to a touching spectacle. At the door of the enclosure, a noble Lady, on her knees, humbly asked the Superior to be admitted to the Order as a postulant. The Superior took her by the hand, embraced her, and all the Sisters then gave her the kiss of peace. She was then led to the choir, to the chant of In Israel exitu de Aegypto. The Superior then put her under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph and Saint Alphonsus. When the ceremony had finished, the new postulant cordially thanked the Superior and the Sisters for having admitted her among them. Her emotion was profound, and her heart was carried back to Ruth telling Naomi: “I shall go with you everywhere you dwell; your people shall be my people, your God shall be my God: the earth where you die will see me die.”

She soon put on the humble costume of an Educande. “They tell me”, she wrote to her brother and her children, “They tell me that this costume makes me appear quite a lot younger. Not having a mirror, I cannot see myself. But you cannot believe how happy I am to be delivered of dressing for the world: it reminds me so vividly of painful memories! I am rejuvenated, it is true; because here I find everything I wanted so ardently for many long years, and I cannot express my happiness. One of my great joys is in being admitted to the recitation of the Divine Office: I always had a particular attraction to those beautiful prayers of the Church by which God is worthily praised.”

“How good God is in regard to me!” she added. “I sometimes fall into the most profound astonishment when I think of the thousand ways by which He has led me to accomplish His holy will. My soul is in the most complete joy and peace, and the religious exercises that are practised here are the delight of my soul. Everything here contributes to the sublime goal for which Saint Alphonsus instituted the Order of the Redemptoristines.”

The taking of the habit took place on 16th May 1873. Mons. Power, the Bishop of Newfoundland, was the celebrant and gave the homily. Sister then received the name of Sister Mary-Anne Liguori of Jesus Crucified. With what fervour did she then undertake her noviciate! A nun who knew her very well wrote in this regard: “Silence, solitude and union with God were the elements in all these nuns which led to the life of angels in mortal bodies. Everyone followed the example of the great Apostle, abounding with joy when opportunities presented themselves for enduring the inconveniences of poverty or sufferings, and thus acquiring a new feature of conformity with their divine Spouse. They also knew that the heavenly Father loves only Jesus, or those in whom He finds His image.”

A painful test came to strike her some time afterwards: “In October 1873”, Reverend Mother Marie-Jeanne de la Croix tells us, “our dear Sister Mary-Anne de Liguori had to leave the convent and go back home to Wales to finish off some family business. Her letters were always signed exiled novice, and expressed her burning desire to be able to go back to her dear Convent.” It was during this “exile” that her eldest son, who had come back from the Colonies, fell sick and died on 23rd January 1875. His death was a very pious one, and he had the consolation of being attended by his Mother.

After putting the family's business in order, in 1875 Sister Mary-Anne Liguori, hastened to return to Dublin. How much had it cost her to have to be absent like this! She found her dear community in its new residence, and delivered herself more than ever to the practice of the holy virtues. Finally, on 25th September 1876, she had joy of taking her vows. Here it is how she announced her happiness to Rev. Father Lans, her director.

2nd October 1876

“My Reverend and dear Father in Jesus Christ.
Let us bless the Lord together for His mercies are infinite!
I cannot longer allow you to remain without a few lines of affectionate gratitude, for you have been the instrument under God of bringing me to the happiness which I now enjoy and for which I was so long ungrateful. You have, I know, had a description of the beautiful ceremony of the 25th September, for dear Rev. Mother told me she had it written to you. I will not repeat it, though it is in itself so beautiful and touching that each repetition seems new.

Almighty God was very good to me during my Retreat, enabling me to prepare well for my holy Profession. I rejoiced in being able to offer Him a sacrifice (a holocaust) and never did I feel so rich as when I became His poor spouse.

It would have gladdened you could you have seen the affection with which dear Rev. Mother and all my dear Sisters received me as one of themselves, and indeed I was only too royally welcomed whilst the three days' feast lasted. Dear Rev. Mother made my Crown herself, with her own exquisite taste. Oh, may I never tarnish its lustre! When next I wear it, I shall have returned to Him Who has done such wonders for me! Rev. Father Leo was also much affected by the ceremony, and I was much pleased that in your absence he could be present. He had helped me graciously during my Retreat, and I owe him much gratitude for it.

I hope that our dearest Lord will help me to fulfil my resolution to live in future only to love and try to please Him, and faithfully to keep our holy rules. Your prayers will help me, and you know I cannot forget you in mine…”

To her dear eldest daughter Sophie, who had entered the Order of the Sisters of Notre Dame,[7] she wrote on 28th September:

My dearest daughter Sophie,
You are waiting for me, I know, to I write to you on the subject of the ceremony of my holy profession. It was indeed beautiful, according to our ritual; but as for the impression it made on my soul, it is impossible to me to give you any idea of it. For a person such as I, to be dedicated to God as a holocaust, what a favour! When I was prostrated under the mortuary sheet, I offered my God my sacrifice, with all the joy of my heart. I prayed especially for you, my child of predilection, for you and for all of you. As a nun yourself, you will understand better than anyone what I felt when I donned the scapular decorated with the picture of the Sacred Heart, and when Monsignor put the sacred ring on my finger and said: “Desponso te Jesu Christo Filio Summi Patris qui te illoesam custodiat. Accipe ergo annulum fidei, signaculum Spiritus Sancti, ut sponsa Dei voceris, et si ei fideliter servieris, in perpetuum coroneris.”

She describes the rest of the ceremony and finishes in these terms: “What an inestimable grace I have just received! Certainly, the angels, the archangels, and the holy souls who have left us here below, were rejoicing in heaven on this beautiful day and would have witnessed their gratitude to the Most High for the signal favours I have received. As for dear Reverend Mother and in the Sisters, they have showed me in every way how happy they were to see me become one of them from now on.”

III. Her holy death.

Good Sister Mary-Anne Liguori of Jesus Crucified was not to spend long years in religion. After so much work and trouble, and so many good works sown in the world like precious seeds, she thought to gather in the harvest in the cloister; but the eternal harvest was prepared for her without her knowing it.

Five years passed by in the fervour of a love long time tried, in this earthly Jerusalem where she found Jesus crucified, her God and her all. Prayer and sacrifice, the two wings of religious life, carried her effortlessly towards God, and the practice of the holy virtues made her live, “for herself no more, but for God, dead for her on the cross.” Those words spoke for her and for this church, to the beauty of which she had so extensively contributed, and this blessed cloister where she spent such happy days, and this company of her Sisters who seemed to her to be the company of the Angels, and these flowers that she had been assigned to cultivate in order to decorate the altar and honour the Sacrament of love! One day spent in this house of the Lord seemed to her as one day in Paradise; but her great soul sighed after the beauties of heaven no less because of it.

God came suddenly, by an unexpected illness, to announce to her the end of her exile. On 15th February 1882, the servant of God received a letter from her daughter Sophie that caused her great joy. This worthy religious had just been named to a position of confidence in the house of her Order situated close to London. Sister de Liguori replied by assuring her daughter of her prayers so she would always be the support of her holy and dear Superior. On 17th March, God sent her another consolation. It was on the feast of Saint Patrick, the Patron of Ireland. On this day the Irish Sisters have a special recreation and in happy simplicity they all wear a little bouquet of shamrock that recalls faith in the Holy Trinity, the way Saint Patrick used to preach it. One more time good Sister de Liguori admired their ingenious and charming spirit that resulted in naive couplets composed in her honour. On 27th March when she woke up she had a sharp pain in her heart: the physician was called immediately, and said she had pulmonary angina, usually a sudden illness, and declared her state to be serious. We can judge the sorrow in the community. At the request of the patient, Father Leo arrived and administered the last sacraments to her. She received them with great fervour and confidence. Her children, warned by telegram, replied that they wished at all costs to obtain permission from Cardinal Cullen to see their venerated mother one last time in this world, but she would not consent to it. “Tell them that I thank them for their affection: they know how tenderly I love them; but I made a vow of enclosure. I offer God this sacrifice: may they offer theirs too, and witness their attachment to me by respecting my last wishes.”

Reverend Mother Marie-Jeanne de la Croix installed herself in a room adjoining the infirmary. She lavished her cares and consolations on the patient. As a witness to her devotion and perfect confidence in God, she heard the sweet aspirations to God that the patient constantly whispered. On the Saturday, at about one o’clock in the morning, a change could be seen on Sister Mary-Anne’s features. She cast a peaceful look upon her worthy Superior, and when she told her: “Courage, this is the day of our Mother of heaven, she is coming soon to bring you there,” she looked once more at her with an extraordinary air of contentment and raised her eyes to heaven. The Superior, seeing the last moment approaching, overcame her grief and calmly told her in these beautiful words: “My very dear daughter, the happy moment has arrived. Lift your soul toward God. The Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph and our Father Saint Alphonsus, are going to present you to Jesus Christ, your celestial Spouse. Here is the cross of your holy profession that you have loved so much, here is the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin: these are your passports to eternity.” The Sister infirmarian then lit the blessed candle and before the assembled community, the Superior began the Recommendation of her soul. The dear patient cast a last look at the Sisters as if to thank them, and at the invocation: “Holy Angels of God, come before her,” her beautiful soul, quite aflame with the fire of the divine love, flew up like a dove to the eternal ark to repose there forever in the heart of her beloved Saviour. It was on 1st April 1882, at four o'clock in the morning.

* * * * *

To finish this notice, we now give two testimonies in favour of the worthy Sister de Liguori. The first is a letter written the day the following her death by a Redemptoristine of Dublin to the deceased's eldest daughter.

Monastery of the Most Holy Redeemer
Dublin, 2nd April 1882.

My dear Sister Frances-Xaveria,[8]
You will have received the telegram yesterday announcing to you the worst, or rather the best, about your dearest Mother; for if you saw her as she now lies in our Choir, like a Queen, the real Spouse of Jesus, even you, though loving her so much, would not bring her back to this weary world.

Our dear Reverend Mother [9] desires me to say you are constantly in her thoughts, you, the dearly-beloved child of so holy a Mother. She would have written to you yesterday, but you will easily understand how many essential things which would admit of no delay fell upon her, more especially as we were to have accompanied our dear departed to her last resting place tomorrow; but, for the convenience of your brother Jesse, the funeral has been deferred until Tuesday, after the High Mass has been sung at 7 o’clock. From that hour until about ten you will be with us in spirit. I am sure no one more loved, or more deeply regretted, was ever laid to rest in a Convent grave.

You will, of course, have heard from Sister Marie Pia what amazement and grief we were all thrown into hearing so suddenly from the doctor of the alarming state of your dear Mother, who seemed, and felt, on Monday as well as ever. From Wednesday till Saturday morning very little change took place, while we were always hoping for a rally. On Friday night, at about a quarter before twelve, at her special request, our dear Reverend Mother left her, to take a little repose in a room quite near to the infirmary. From eleven to twelve your dear Mother made a “Holy Hour.” At twelve she asked the time, and commenced preparing for Holy Communion, which she was to have received at 6 o’clock. Her aspirations were most beautiful, and so unceasing, that one of the Sisters who stood all night by her side, told her that her sufferings were a most efficacious prayer, and that she was exhausting herself. However, she continued as if unable to stop.

At. 1:30 her breathing seemed a little weaker. A Sister said "I must go for Reverend Mother." She answered, “Oh no, she must rest a little.” However, just at that moment, Reverend Mother felt as if there was a change, and sent to enquire how she was. The Sister returned after a little, and said her eyes seemed changed, growing a little dim. In a moment Reverend Mother was with her. When the door opened, dear Sister Mary Anne Liguori gave her a sweet smile of recognition; and Reverend Mother, who, though broken-hearted, is always strong in supreme moments, said to her (seeing that her agony was about to begin), “At last, Sister Mary Anne Liguori, the happy moment has come, and Jesus is taking you to Himself. The Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph with St. Alphonsus will offer you to Him. Take your Crucifix, which you have always loved so well, and your Rosary. These are your passports for Eternity.”

Having placed them and the blessed candle in her hands, each of which she showed she was quite conscious of, the Prayers for the Departing were said, to all of which she answered with a voice growing gradually weaker, or rather with a movement of the lips.

When Reverend Mother came to the words inviting the Holy Angels to meet her, she smiled most sweetly but sadly. That smile still remains on her countenance, sweeter than ever in death.

Reverend Mother then said to her, that as St. Joseph’s month was past, he would not come for her, but that he had asked Our Lady to do so on that Saturday, the Octave of the Annunciation; and, placing a large Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel over our own blue one, reminded her that our dear Mother had promised to take all her clients to Heaven on that day. Your holy Mother said, “Yes, yes,” to this, and likewise to many other consoling words spoken to her. She never lost consciousness for one single moment; but, in prayer, and surrounded by the Sisters, in perfect peace, without a struggle or an effort, she breathed her last; but you saw that a sword had pierced her poor heart – (it was at a quarter before 4 o’clock) – leaving her memory in benediction, and to us all the perfect model of a holy death, after having given us the brightest example during the past seven years that we have had her amongst us.

Our dear Reverend Mother and all the Sisters are in the deepest grief. We consider her as a treasure God has lent and withdrawn; and though we find it hard, we must say as she did, oh! so often in her suffering, “May our dear Lord be blessed!” She never once complained, although her poor heart was giving her intense pain. One Sister, who venerates her as a saint, who was always by her side, and who is now disconsolate, feeling her press her hand, asked, “did she want for anything?” “Nothing, nothing,” she said, “only my God, His love and His grace, I want nothing more.” This was about four hours before she left us. Over and over again she thanked our Lord for having called her to the Holy Catholic Church, and chosen her for His spouse, and said she had “no wish, no desire”: - that “God had been too good to her,” and that “she was perfectly happy.”

During the four short days of her illness, she was constantly making the sign of the Cross. Reverend Mother was afraid she was troubled, and told her so. She smiled and said, “Oh no, I’ve no trouble, but it was my love for the Sign of the Cross which made me a Catholic.”

I am afraid this letter will seem, and indeed it is, most incoherent, but you must attribute this only to my own grief, which prevents my writing a very collected letter. Your dear Mother has been really snatched away from us, and it seems we cannot realize it.

And now, my dearest Sister, with what words can I comfort you for the loss of such a tender, holy Mother? I have so often heard her speak with a certain pride and the greatest affection of “Sophy” that I seem quite to know you, and can well imagine in what grief you must be. But then, dear Sister, when you raise your heart to Heaven, you must be consoled at the bright, bright crown which our Lord has prepared for her there.

After having been a holy mother and widow, she has added to these the aureole of a perfect Religious; - the word is not too strong; - and she looks radiant with happiness lying here on a throne of flowers with the wreath of roses she received the moment she made her vows, which she kept so faithfully: in her hands her crucifix of Profession, her Rosary, and a branch of lilies, to which our Reverend Mother added this morning a branch of Palm, which she took off her own during the Procession, - symbol of the Eternal Hosannas we are sure she has already commenced; though, of course, we shall never cease to pray for her. Crowds of people came to see her, and leave saying, “she must be a saint.” Two Sisters recite those Psalms, which she so much loved, before her dear remains. To look at her calm, sweet face is, for each of us, the greatest consolation. We should like never to leave her. Our great consolation is, that we know how perfectly happy she was with us. She told me a few days before she became ill, that “she never had one single unhappy moment in Religion.” Indeed, her own happy, bright face told us this. Dear Reverend Mother says that you must not have any fears as to her having over-exerted herself in any way. She had, of course, many dispensations and every care; no fasting, no obligatory abstinence, but everything she could do in observance of the Rule was to herself a real pleasure. She was always begging to be allowed more and more of our religious observances. But you will hear much more of all this later on. Pray excuse this scribble, dear Sister. I hope these little details may console you in your grief; but you may be proud in your sorrow of having had such a Mother.
Believe me, in Jesus and Mary,
Affectionately yours,
Sister Mary Liguori of the Immaculate Conception.

The second witness is a short letter from Cardinal Newman to the brother of Sister Mary Anne de Liguori. She had continued to write to the Cardinal every now and then, and he had always shown a keen interest in her, looking upon her as his spiritual daughter. When he learned of her death, he sent his kind condolences to Mr. Hanmer in a letter from which this passage is taken.

Birmingham, 17th April 1882.

My dear Hanmer,
I take a lively part to your great loss. This morning I celebrated the holy Mass for the soul of your dear sister, and it is so that I could announce it to you that I delayed in answering you. I received her news directly a few years ago, and I rejoice to learn that she enjoyed so great a happiness at the end of her career.

In casting a retrospective glace over her life, you only have topics of consolation and hope, and now she has finished it with joy! Your sorrow will wear out shortly, and you will retain only gratitude to God and sweet memories of your sister.

Yours most sincerely,

JOHN H. (Cardinal) Newman.


[1] The elements of this biography have been borrowed from the English work called: Memoirs and Letters of Mrs. Ainsworth, by M. Hanmer, her brother. (1 vol.)
[2] The oldest of the children, Johnny was then boarding with a Protestant minister. Some weeks later, an indisposition reunited him with the paternal home, and he then had the happiness of being received into the holy Church.
[3] Mrs. Ainsworth had a special devotion for Saint Catherine of Genoa.
[4] He died there on 31st March 1886.
[5] A holy Welsh bishop.
[6]The Petits Bollandistes (Vol. XV), gives the following notice about this holy religious.
27th January. – The Venerable Claire of Jesus, a religious in the English Convent of Poor Clares at Gravelines (Nord). Born in England of a Protestant family in the castle of Hanmer (Wales), she was obliged to withdraw to France with her parents during the grave political events that led to the fall and murder of King Charles 1. The family of the Lord of Hanmer settled at Paris in a Catholic house. The examples of piety and virtue with which she was then surrounded made so great an impression on the heart of the young Claire, that she manifested the desire to return to the Catholic faith of her fathers. In the meantime, her father returned to England and gave her in marriage to Baronet John Warner, who was a professed Anglican. Constantly pursued by the thought of returning to the bosom of the Church, Lady Warner finally made her abjuration (1664) and she had the consolation of prompting her husband to imitate her example. Even more: the two spouses soon separated by common consent and went to Flanders, John Warner to enter the Jesuits as a novice, and his wife to embrace the Rule of the English Poor Clares at Gravelines. It was in this house that she died piously in her thirty third year (1670).
A more extended notice about this holy religious can be read in the work by Mr. Raymond de Bertrand called: Histoire du couvent des Pauvres Clarisses anglais de Gravelines [History of the English Convent of the Poor Clares at Gravelines] (1 Vol., Dunkirk, 1857).
[7] Founded by Blessed Mother Julie Billiart.
[8] Miss Sophie Ainsworth, a Sister of Notre-Dame.
[9] Reverend Mother Marie-Jeanne de la Croix.

* * Monastery of Velp * *

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

1. Her life in the world.

Mother Marie-Cherubine was born on 4th June 1812 at Tirlemont, a town of 8000 souls, situated in Belgian East Brabant, of an honourable and Christian family of the name of Platton. At her baptism she received the name of Celestine. Of the seven children, two boys and five girls, of which the family was composed, she was the third; but it was she who was to become the joy and crown of her parents.

Her mother and father’s great preoccupation was to give their children a perfectly Christian education, and to procure for them an honourable position in society. To this end, they confided Celestine to an instructress of the same town (Miss Angelique) who had a boarding school with twelve girl students. This mistress gave her pupils an excellent education. She taught them not just the different notions that were suited to their condition, but also and above all, the practice of the Christian virtues and religious duties. Her pupils attended all the offices of the Church, and all the processions in the parish, wearing special and modest costumes. They never appeared in public without being veiled.

From her early childhood, Celestine Platton was distinguished among her companions by the meekness and gentleness of her character. She was the glory of her mistress, the consolation of her parents, and served as a model to her brothers and sisters. Her charitable attentiveness made her considered by everyone as a real treasure; and when she was able to spend a few hours in the paternal home, everyone was happy to enjoy the presence of the good and always popular Celestine.

It was thus that she passed her earliest years in acquiring the knowledge which is required to be the ornament of a young lady, and be formed in the practice of all the Christian virtues. After terminating her classes advantageously, she returned to her family, at the age of about eighteen. There she continued her pious exercises and helped her parents in the cares of the household.

Faithful to the good habits contracted in the boarding school, she never appeared in public without being modestly veiled; and, one day when her sister reproached her for it, she replied to her forcefully: “If this inconveniences you, then leave me alone at home.”

Later on, when she felt the desire to leave the world, she approached the holy Table every day.

After she left the boarding school, she often went to see her two older married sisters, and a niece who lived in the countryside near Tirlemont. It was a pleasure for her to render them the most humble services. She was always welcome everywhere. However her family were not to enjoy her presence for much longer.

Already, in the boarding school, God had spoken to her heart, and had suggested her saying farewell to the world and giving herself to Him entirely and undivided. She was then twenty years of age; and always, but now more than ever, the same voice was pressing her to embrace the religious life. This is why, after having prayed much and reflected long upon it, she determined resolutely to finally leave the world and enter a community. But where she should she present herself? There were many communities of women in Tirlemont and the surrounding district; but she felt no attraction for their mode of life. Her choice was thus delayed until a very providential occasion arrived to fix it.

In 1844, two Dutch Redemptorist Fathers, Bernard and Michiels, came to preach a mission at Tirlemont. Their most apostolic words found an echo in hearts. Miss Celestine Platton followed the exercises of the mission ardently. “Oh!” she said to herself, “if only there were also some nuns just as devoted to the salvation of poor sinners, then I would join them straight away!” This wish was to be satisfied sooner than Celestine dared to hope.

Upon Mr. Platton’s invitation, the two missionaries paid him a visit, during which talk turned to Miss Celestine’s wishes. The Fathers made her aware of the Institute of the Redemptoristines which, in its aim, responded perfectly to her views. This Congregation had only recently – in 1841 – been established in Belgium, at Bruges. After some discussion, they came to the conclusion that Miss Platton would go and present herself to the community at Bruges.

But what difficulties did she not have to surmount in order to realise her pious desire! We have now arrived at the year 1844. Celestine, born in 1812, was now thirty two. Can we then be astonished that the Mother Superior of Bruges found her too old to enter their community? However, while refusing her admission, she advised her to go to Vienna (Austria) where she would find another convent of the same Congregation, and she assured her that she would be well received. She even gave her, to this effect, a letter of recommendation.

The young lady was not terrified by the prospect of so long a journey into a foreign country whose language she did not know. However, it was only on 5th October 1845 that she took leave of her dear parents, who only reluctantly and with abundant tears saw their beloved Celestine leave them with scarcely any hope of their seeing her again. Their only consolation was to know that God was asking this sacrifice of them. Their Christian sentiments led them to submit themselves to His holy will.

Celestine Platton thus left and arrived safely at Vienna. She made her entry into religion on 15th October 1845.


[1] La vertu cachée. Notice sur la Révérende Mère Marie-Chérubine du Saint Esprit, fondatrice du couvent des Rédemptoristines de Velp près Grave, par le R. P. L. Hagen C.SS.R. (1883) [The hidden virtue. The life of the Reverend Mother Marie-Cherubine, foundress of the convent of the Redemptoristines of Velp, near Grave, by Rev. Fatehr L. Hagen C.SS.R. (1883) – Translated into French from Dutch by Rev. Father Duhamel, C.SS.R.

Chapter II. In a foreign land.

The time of trial began for Celestine from the moment she entered the convent. There she was in a foreign land, far from the paternal home and everyone who was linked to her by ties of blood. People there could only understand her with a great deal of difficulty, and there was hardly a religious who understood French. Everything was strange to her – the regulation of the house, the people, the kinds of food, and the language. It was a whole new world that opened before her. In spite of this, her courage, her strength of soul, her confidence in God and in this adorable Providence which had always directed her, did not abandon her, but on the contrary, helped her to overcome all the difficulties.

Following the prescriptions of the Institute, she had to begin her religious life in the “Educandate”, in order to receive the first notions concerning the foundations of the spiritual edifice she had to construct. The Educandate is the preparation for the Novitiate. The difficulties she had to surmount can only be conjectured by the several details we can give in a few words. Her mistress knew only a little French, and Celestine scarcely knew any German, so if there was anything that she had to ask or say, she had to have recourse to her dictionary each time. However, she found a charitable father and wise counsellor in the Very Rev. Father Passerat, who had also come to Vienna, and from time to time gave a conference to the community. One day, right at the beginning of Miss Platton’s educandate, in an informal discussion, she naively said that a great difficulty for her came from the difference that existed between Austrian and Belgian food. At Tirlemont, for example, as she said, she had been accustomed to eating slices of bread and butter, while at Vienna this custom did not exist among the Sisters. Good Father Passerat was able to resolve this difficulty very quickly. On the evening of that same day, Celestine saw, to her great astonishment, placed in front of her alone, slices of bread and butter.

In the midst of these little crosses, one thing consoled her and gave her strength and courage to the point where she declared she was blessed even in her trials. This consolation she found right where her heavenly Spouse deigned to dwell hidden in His mystery of love, that is to say, with Jesus Christ in the Tabernacle, and also with Her who, from the highest heaven, watched over her like a mother over her child, took the place of her mother on earth, and surrounded her with her maternal care. This was her good and tender mother Mary.

In one of the cloisters of the Monastery there was a beautiful image of the Blessed Virgin holding the infant Jesus on her lap. The Sisters called it the Mother of the House. It was there especially that Celestine went to pour out her heart, and it was there that her Mother consoled her. It was there that she repaired her strength and drew courage and consolation to accomplish the will of the Lord and remain faithful to Him. She felt herself truly happy in this new life that she had embraced, in spite of all the difficulties that she had to overcome every day. This is what she expresses clearly in a letter to her parents that she sent them during her Educandate. “I have learnt with joy,” she told them, “that my sister Irma also wishes to become a Redemptoristine, but that she knows German well, and that she will soon come here to our Convent of Vienna.” Sometime later, Irma made her entry into the house at Bruges, and late she went on to Velp, where Celestine had become the Superior, and she is still there today. (1883).

However, her time in the Educandate was coming to an end, and the day came when Celestine was to begin her Novitiate and receive the Redemptoristine habit. And indeed she did receive it, from the hands of the coadjutor Bishop of Vienna, Mons. Matthias Pollitzer, on 29th October 1846. Following the custom of the Congregation, she received her name in religion at the same time – it was that of Sister Marie-Cherubine of the Holy Spirit.

Filled with a holy ardour, she then began her Novitiate, and soon found her greatest delight in all the exercises of the contemplative life and mental prayer. And so she proceeded rapidly along the way of perfection. The Mistress of Novices did not tire of praising her when she spoke of the virtues of Sister Marie-Cherubine. In a letter to the Mother Superior of Bruges, Marie-Philomene, she expressed herself pretty much in these terms: “Sister Marie-Cherubine lives a life totally hidden in God.” These few words give us evidence that Celestine had given herself entirely to God, for whom she had left everything that she held dear in the world, and that she was entirely penetrated by the spirit of the Congregation. And indeed this spirit requires the Sisters to consecrate themselves to the hidden life and the life of sacrifice of which our divine Saviour gave a signal example for thirty years.

After a year of regular exercises, Sister Marie-Cherubine was admitted to the profession of her holy vows on 6th November 1847. On this occasion she received the blue scapular and the mantle of the same colour, with the black veil, the crown of roses and the gold ring, the sign of the Spouses of the Most Holy Redeemer.

Sister Marie-Cherubine had therefore attained her aim, and the object of her desires. The end had crowned the work; the reward had followed the pains and sacrifices. With her whole heart she was now able to say with the Spouse in the Canticles: “I have found Him whom my heart loves, I have Him, I possess Him. I shall never leave Him again.” (1 Ct. III, 4).

The newly Professed was now part of the community of Vienna. All the Sisters held her in great esteem. They were all disposed in her favour, because of her sweet and affable manner, her piety and her placidness of soul. Happy in her vocation, she was full of gratitude towards God for this inestimable grace, for the wise conduct of her paternal Providence who had directed her, by marvellous ways, towards the end she desired so much. It seemed that she would now spend her days in the Mother House of Vienna in peace and affectionate rapport with God in prayer and good works done for the salvation and conversion of poor sinners. But this peaceful happiness was not to last long. A very heavy trial was about to engulf her. Happily, she was solid in virtue and the habit of recognizing in every event the will of God and His wise Providence, and so she could abandon herself to this divine Providence in the midst of the critical circumstances in which she was soon to find herself.

Chapter III. Expulsion.

The year 1848 was to go down in the history of Europe. In February, revolution broke out in Paris. King Louis-Philippe had to flee in all haste, and some days later, the other thrones of Europe were also shaken. Austria was not spared. The city of Vienna especially was the scene of plunder and cruel persecution. For several days, the lives of the best citizens were exposed to the greatest danger. Priests and religious were exposed to the most brutal and ignoble pursuit.

To obtain an idea of the situation in the capital, it will be interesting to hear the accounts given by the newspapers and eye witnesses.

“In Vienna, the revolutionary mob set to work at the beginning of March. One morning, on 13th of this month, the rioters invaded the convent of the Redemptorist Fathers and ransacked it. The priests were forced to leave their house, put off their religious habit and put on lay clothes, and hide in the houses of some of their devoted friends. The Redemptoristines equally had to take shelter in some nearby houses.

“The weakness of the government had let everything take its course, and submitted without saying a word to the first demands of the revolutionaries. Calm was re-established for a moment in the city. It was concluded that the peril had been averted, so the Fathers and Sisters believed, in spite of the wise advice of their friends, that it was now possible to remain in their convents. This was on 30th March.

“But now on 6th April, in the morning, a troop of armed men made up of students and national guards invaded the Redemptorist convent, and roused up the furious crowd to believe that the priests did not deserve to remain any longer in Vienna. Some carriages were brought along and the Fathers were forced to get into them, and without being able to bring any of their things with them, they were driven outside the city. Rev. Father Passerat, their worthy Superior, an old man of 76, was so upset by this ignoble treatment that he lost his strength and fell when getting out of the carriage. These barbarians left him in the middle of the open country without paying the least attention to him.

“When the assault on the Redemptorist house had come to an end, the rioters now cried: ‘It’s the turn of the Sisters in Rennweg Street.’ And so their house was attacked on the evening of the same day, 6th April. At that moment, a large number of pious persons were in the chapel to attend benediction. The savage crowd which that morning had invaded the Fathers’ convent now invaded the nuns’ chapel. The chaplain was already at the altar, but these scoundrels would not permit him to begin the ceremony.

“The good Sisters were terrified and fled into their garden. The rabble had scarcely entered the convent when they gave free rein to their sacrilegious rage. Their impiety even went so far as to wrench a crucifix from the wall and trample it underfoot. They had carriages brought up and conducted the Sisters out of the city.

“A young revolutionary came up to one of these carriages, and noticing four religious in it, he spat at them as a sign of his profound contempt.

“Once outside the city, the Sisters were made to get out and they were left to go where they would. And so, as night fell, there were now thirty poor women, most of them very aged, who had been chased out of their house and forced to seek shelter in the darkness with whoever took compassion on them.

“Some of the Sisters, however, when the revolutionaries arrived, had found refuge with a neighbour, Mr. Goham, a tanner by profession, whose house adjoined the Monastery garden. This generous man declared that he would never permit, even at the risk of his fortune and his life, anyone to do the least harm to these good people who had taken refuge with him. However, the following morning, the rumours had spread, and the dregs of the people assembled in front of his house and demanded he handed over the poor nuns under pain of seeing his house attacked and destroyed. The brave tanner found the means to get these poor religious out under good guard, and then, opening his doors to the bandits, he convinced them that there were none of these persons so disgracefully persecuted within his house.”

But, in the midst of all these critical events, what had happened to Sister Marie-Cherubine?

When the news came that the revolutionaries were on the point of attacking the convent of the nuns, those who were not of Austrian origin were, upon the advice of Father Passerat, sent back to their homes. A faithful friend, Father Trogher, gave them every help they needed for their journey, and in all haste he conducted six of them out of the capital. This was on 7th April in the morning.

The travellers made their way to Aix-la-Chapelle and there they found refuge with the Sisters of Saint Elizabeth. They were made welcome there with the most affectionate and hospitable charity. They assigned them a part of their own convent, where the refugees could carry out their regular exercises.

As for Sister Marie-Cherubine, she was not of their number. To escape the rioters, she had hurriedly put on the clothes of a woman of the lowest condition, and wore an old and threadbare shawl, which gave her the appearance of a vagabond. While she was finding her way out, she came to a church, which she entered for a few moments. There, in order not to attract attention, she sat down in a corner behind a pillar, but she was noticed nonetheless by the sacristan, who began to suspect that she was in fact an expert thief. He kept on his guard and kept watch over her in consequence.

The poor Sister thus had the happy chance of leaving Vienna. She then made her way to Keulen, where she arrived on Friday, 10th April. There, she was welcomed charitably by Baron de Lago, the brother-in-law of her former Mistress of Novices, Sister Maria Victoria, who had also taken refuge with him. The two religious thus had the consolation of spending a few days together with the charitable Baron, and enjoying his benevolent hospitality.

As soon as Sister Marie-Cherubine learnt that six of her fellow Sisters were at Aix-la-Chapelle, she hastened to rejoin them. She arrived there on 15th April. But soon, on 19th of the same month, she had to leave them to go to Tirlemont in Belgium and spend some days there in the bosom of her family. It is impossible to express the joy that they all experienced in seeing her again after so long a separation, and after many days of severe trials.

However, the fervent religious longed for the blessed moment when she would be able to recommence her life in the cloister. This was why, on 20th April, the very next day, she took leave of her good parents and friends, and went on to her fellow Sisters in Bruges, who were awaiting her arrival.

But what had become of the Sisters in Aix-la-Chapelle? We can once again admire the ways of the divine Providence. For six months these good religious remained with the Sisters of Saint Elisabeth. The Mother Superior of Vienna came to join them and Sister Maria Victoria, and fixed their residence in the same house, while waiting for better times. The Redemptorist Fathers occupied a convent at Wittem in Dutch Limburg, which was about 12 kilometres from Aix-la-Chapelle, and this was part of a hamlet near the town of Galoppe. They busied themselves in procuring a residence nearby for the Redemptoristine Sisters, to the effect that the 13th October saw the first Redemptoristine Convent established at Galoppe in Holland, between Maestricht and Aix-la-Chapelle.

Other Sisters came there from Austria, where religious affairs were not improving. This is why, in view of the cramped conditions in this house in Galoppe, it was judged urgent to build a new and bigger convent, and this took place at Partij, a little hamlet not far from the Fathers in Wittem. This Monastery was situated on the road between Wybre and Malines, and called Marienthal (Valley of Mary), and it was occupied by the Redemptoristines on 26th June 1851. – The convent of the Vienna Sisters was not restored to them until 1853.

So this is how the storm of persecution, in the hands of God, became the means of extending the Institute of the spiritual daughters of Saint Alphonsus even more widely. And this is how their enemies, who believed they had exterminated them forever, were the co-operators in their establishment in Holland.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Chapter VIII. A Jubilee.
Last years of Mother Marie Cherubine – Her virtues

Mother Marie Cherubine, thanks to her devotion, her abilities, her tact in the direction of souls and her pleasant manner, was thus venerated and cherished by her Sisters and the people who surrounded her - in a word, by her daughters and all those who knew her. So it is not astonishing that she was re-elected several times on the unanimity of the voices as the Superior of the community.

This is how she always remained at the head of this community that she herself had brought from Bruges, and to which she had consecrated all her cares, her life, her strength and her talents. And so she was venerated and cherished as a mother, in the full sense of the term. Everyone experienced the effects of her maternal charity and solicitude. No Sister was an exception, and this is why everyone, absolutely everyone, loved her with all the tenderness a child has for its mother. They were able to show this to her especially clearly in a solemn circumstance. Let us borrow the account of the good mother’s Jubilee from the Monastery Chronicle.

“20th July 1883. We in the community will never forget this memorable date, and it will always be happily remembered. It was the 25th anniversary of the foundation of this convent, and also the 25th anniversary of the Superiority of the Reverend Mother Cherubine, our foundress. Through the medium of Father Nicholas Mauron, the Superior General of the Redemptorist Fathers, His Holiness Leo XIII granted a plenary indulgence to every faithful who took Holy Communion in our chapel and prayed for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff, otherwise, 300 days of indulgence, on each day of the octave, for those who came to pray in our chapel.

“Through the efforts of Rev. Father Justin, Capuchin, who for twelve years had been the Sisters’ confessor, the chapel was decorated tastefully by means of draperies, standards and placards on which sentences were written, etc.

“The Reverend Mother prepared herself for the solemnity by a retreat of several days, and the religious had the opportunity to prepare and decorate the convent the best way possible. As a witness to the esteem they had for the Jubilarian, some precious gifts were offered for the chapel and the house.

“At 8 o’clock, there was a solemn Mass with three priests. The sermon was given by Rev. Father Athanase, Capuchin. Twenty-five years beforehand, His Reverence had assisted at the foundation of the Monastery. The preacher reminded his listeners about everything that had been done concerning the establishment, with the grace of God, during these long years, and through the devoted care of good Mother Marie Cherubine.

“After the Mass, the Reverend Mother, accompanied by the founding Sisters, five Choir Sisters and two converse, was conducted solemnly to the recreation room, to the chant of the Benedictus. Everything there was decorated magnificently. The Sisters were welcomed there with many chants and compliments. This day was truly a day of thanksgiving and joy for us, and will remain forever engraved upon our memories. Our Mother also received the signs of their cordial participation in the feast from her family and her acquaintances from outside. On this occasion, the good Mother also received a letter from the hand of Cardinal Deschamps, and many letters of congratulation came from elsewhere, including from the other convents of the Congregation established in Holland and in other places.”

The thoughts running through Mother Marie Cherubine’s mind in these circumstances are well described in this extract from a letter addressed by her to one of her former spiritual daughters, and now (1883) the Superior of another community of the same Congregation.

“Here,” she told her, “everything at this moment is topsy-turvy. It is a mysterious time when I must remain in my cell. The double jubilee, that of the foundation and that (alas!) of the Superior, requires it, they tell me. I beg you, my good Mother, intervene here in my favour, and show me your filial affection in imploring for me the great mercy of the best of Fathers. Pray also that in future, all the moments of my life will be consecrated to this one thing that alone is important: my sanctification. I also await from your community a prayer for myself and for this dear house…”

So therefore this double jubilee was a magnificent and memorable feast. It could not have been otherwise, and the bonds that united the children to this excellent Superior and this charitable Mother, became even closer.

Mother Marie Cherubine, in spite of her age, continued to watch zealously over the exact observance of the Rule, and herself to progress in the way of perfection. Being everything to everyone and leading all her subordinates to God, this was her only purpose and the motive behind all her works and all her sacrifices. “None of the Sisters who were under her wise direction,” one of her daughters tells us, “could ever forget the tenderness with which she elevated our hearts to God, and the affectionate zeal with which she knew how to encourage those who were afflicted with sufferings, not just spiritual, but also corporal. Then she would lift up their courage with her thoughts of faith and generosity. She was careful to direct them all following God’s wishes and the character of each one of them in particular. She granted her daughters everything she could in order to help them in the practice of virtue and make them correspond to their vocation. As a true disciple of Saint Alphonsus, she also wanted a continual prayer to be in the hearts and on the lips of everyone who was under her direction.”

Prayer - this is a characteristic of the spiritual life. All the time she could dispose of, she consecrated to prayer. This was the life of her soul, and no pretext was capable of making her neglect this holy exercise.

To her esteem of prayer she joined her love of the word of God, Holy Scripture, which for her was always an abundant spring, where she would go to quench the thirst of her soul. It mattered little to her by whose mouth it was communicated to her. Sometimes it happened that the community was not too satisfied by one or another preacher. As for her, she was always content. It was always enough for her to hear God spoken of. Just the name of God offered her a subject sufficient for meditation.

Her life was also a life of mortification. Even when she had reached an advanced age and was bent over because of her sufferings and her fatigue, she could be heard every evening beating her poor old body with blows of the discipline. Feeble as she was, she could no longer eat the common food, and yet even on this point she would try to mortify herself. If one of the Sisters should bring her some special food, which her filial love had led her to prepare with a great deal of care, the good Superior, to mortify herself, would put it adroitly to one side, and when the Sisters were assembled in the chapel to recite the Office, she would call one of the converse Sisters and give it to her, convinced that this food would be more useful to her than to herself.

The religious who looked after her in her last illness has told us something that proves her truly maternal love for her children. Sometimes her fever was so severe that she fell into a delirium. One evening when she was being devoured by an ardent fever, she imagined that the bell was calling the Sisters to the Office in choir. She immediately got up and tried to get dressed: “It is time to go to Office,” she cried. “I must be there, let me go.” The Sister infirmarian did not know how to calm her, when the thought came to her to tell her: “My Mother, oh, be good enough to listen to me for a moment. I have a pain which is tormenting me greatly.” At that moment, to the great astonishment of the Sister, the good Mother recovered her habitual tenderness and asked her in a tone of profound compassion what was troubling her. Then, as if she had recovered her senses, she spoke to her with so much tenderness and told her such consoling words that the memory of them has never been effaced from the Sister’s memory. So great was her charity for her daughters and for her neighbour!

As her feebleness always kept on increasing with the number of her years, she more than once expressed the desire to see herself discharged of the burden of her Superiority. We have found one of her letters on this point that she addressed to the Superior of another community.

“Pray,” she told her, “pray for me and for our dear Community, as I hope that in the month of October 1882, I shall be discharged from my burden. I have borne it for a very long time for the love of the will of God. This is why I often tell my former Sisters that they should choose the Mother Vicar as their Superior. There is much to recommend her. She is prudent and intelligent. But she is opposed, on the pretext of the feebleness of her health. I do not dare to speak to her any more about it myself. The thought of it alone would make her ill. So let us pray together for this affair to have a happy outcome.”

Mother Marie Cherubine was nonetheless elected once again. She had to submit to the will of the community, which was happy to be under her wise and prudent direction. So she accepted the burden of the Superiority again that God had imposed on her, as she sought in everything and above everything, His divine will. And she carried this yoke that was so heavy for her in submission until her death, that is to say, for the space of twenty nine years.

Beginning in 1884, the good Mother’s health became feeble in a remarkable manner, and they had to make her take the necessary rest. But it was so painful for her not to be able to follow the community acts that she was in a hurry to get back to them. In this way too she was a model of strict observance to the holy Rule.

One day, as a result of her advanced age, (she was seventy years old), she had the misfortune of falling down while she was climbing the stairs, and she dislocated her shoulder. Not a single complaint came from her lips, nothing betrayed her internal suffering, and nothing could make her lose her calm and her habitual meekness. This was fresh proof of her high degree of perfection and her complete abandonment to the holy will of God.

Little by little her strength diminished to the point where, at the beginning of the year 1887, she gave the early signs that her end was more or less near. Mother Marie Cherubine was then about seventy five. The time had come for her to receive the rewards of her pains, cares and virtues.

But God wanted to purify her soul even further in the crucible of suffering. Having thus found the treasure of the pure gold of charity, she could now be united more intimately with Him for whom she alone had searched while on earth, and to whom for so many long years she had consecrated her heart and her whole life. Nothing now attached her to the world, and with the royal Chanter she could say: “As the thirsty hart sighs after the spring of living water, so my heart desires You, O my God.” (Ps. 41:2).

For a few more months yet, Mother Cherubine would have to endure great sufferings, and for a few more months yet, her daughters were able to contemplate the admirable examples of their worthy and much-beloved Superior, and then they became the witnesses of this death of which Holy Scripture speaks when it says that it is precious in the eyes of the Lord.

Chapter IX
The last illness and precious death
of Mother Marie Cherubine

The month of April 1887 was coming to an end, when the community was unexpectedly thrown into great trouble. The feebleness of their good Mother had grown to the point that her doctor considered it necessary to have the last sacraments administered to her. Let us now listen to the chronicle of the House:

“The holy ceremony took place in the morning, after the recitation of the Little Hours of the Breviary. The religious were extremely sad. The Reverend Mother was very calm, and her spirit serene. She followed the sacred rite with the greatest piety, joining in all the prayers, and considered us with a look full of benevolence.

“However, the illness took a turn for the better, and on 27th April, the good Mother was out of danger, even though she was still suffering. She had cancer of the stomach, and as far as food was concerned, she could scarcely take anything other than a liquid, and even then with a great deal of difficulty. But her virtue was nothing short of admirable. She was always happy, never letting the least complaint escape her, and she was continually occupied in prayer or meditation. When someone asked her: “My Mother, are you suffering?” she would reply: “Oh, nothing in comparison with what our good Jesus suffered.” Sometimes she manifested her desire to suffer a great deal to please God and to obtain the salvation of immortal souls.

“Fervent prayers were addressed to heaven, and it seemed that God still wished to leave us our good Mother for a while for our happiness and joy. And in fact, we saw our dear invalid at choir during the months of June and July. She took communion and heard Mass with us. Soon her strength permitted her to give us some pious conferences on the strict observance of the Rule, and especially on her preferred subject – charity and mutual support, and on the love of prayer.

“She also exhorted us to always seek our support and strength in God, and ask from Him the courage to bear our daily pains and crosses of every day, with profit for heaven.

“She even attended the recitation of the Divine Office, as she still had her voice and a great zeal for the good order of the choir.

“On 2nd October, the feast of the Holy Angels, the day when the community celebrated Reverend Mother Marie Cherubine’s feast day, the dear invalid still had the strength to come to the recreation room to receive the Sisters’ good wishes.

“One month later, on 6th November, they celebrated the 40th anniversary of her religious profession. The good Mother was still able to talk with her daughters, and ardently spoke of the great happiness of belonging to God, and excited a zeal in them that burned more and more for the service of their heavenly Spouse. It was noticed, however, that her strength was waning. The illness had undermined her constitution and the end was not too far away. So we prepared ourselves to make the sacrifice of our much-beloved Mother, if this was the will of God, as in fact it would be a great sacrifice for us.

“During those same days a very young Sister fell seriously ill, to the point where they had to administer the last sacraments to her. Sister Marie-Julie (this was her name) keenly desired to see her cherished Mother one more time, and she in her turn, although she herself was very ill, could not refuse to console her daughter. So she went to see her and console her by her encouraging words.

“For our good Mother the death of this good little Sister on 21st November was a very painful blow. After this day, all she did was decline, and on 5th December, she received the last sacraments for a second time. The dear invalid was, as always, an admirable model of patience and resignation to the will of God. For each Sister who visited her, she still had some words of encouragement. The 19th December was a day of great suffering and much pain. The doctor and the Sisters did everything they could to calm her down. If sometimes the patient seemed to be out of her mind, her spirit however remained clear and penetrating, and right up to her last moment she showed by signs that she understood everything that was said to her.

“The community confessor, a Reverend Capuchin Father from Velp, came frequently to see the patient. He recited the prayers of the agonising with the Sisters. Sometimes the good Mother would herself make the sign of the cross, and they could hear her saying little ejaculatory prayers in a feeble voice, such as: “My Lord and my God!” or utter acts of charity or abandonment to the divine will.

“Thus the 19th and 20th December passed. In those days, the extraordinary confessor of the House came to visit the dying Mother. He was most edified to see the beautiful and peaceful disposition of the good Mother in her last days.

“On the following day, 21st December, the feast of St. Thomas the apostle, she received Holy communion. This day was to be the last in her life here below. Soon she would receive the crown of the eternal happiness for which she had sacrificed everything else on this earth.

“In the evening, at about 10.15 p.m., her attendant noticed that the end was approaching. For the last time, all the spiritual daughters of Mother Marie Cherubine came and knelt down before her to assist her with their prayers in this last moment, which was so important and solemn. The confessor was also present to give her a last absolution.

“While everyone was entreating the Father of Mercy to welcome her into His eternal home, at about 10.45 p.m., the good Mother Marie Cherubine peacefully rendered her beautiful soul to her Creator. Immediately her features took on an expression of sweet serenity which told all the persons present that the dear Mother was already enjoying the contemplation of the divine Majesty.

“This was truly a case for applying the words of Holy Scripture: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord!”

This is how Mother Marie Cherubine went to receive from the hand of God the reward that she had merited because of everything she had done and suffered for Him. As He said Himself: “Whoever leaves her house, her father and mother, brothers and sisters in My name, will receive a hundredfold in the eternal life.”

For twenty nine years, the community of Velp had found in her a Mother full of charity, so it was in no way astonishing that she was wept by all her Sisters and that the love of her daughters followed her to the tomb.

When her body had been reclothed in the red robe, the blue scapular and the mantle of the same colour, the bier was brought into the lower choir. There, the Sisters took turns to come and pray day and night, right up to the moment of the funeral. These days were thus days of prayer for the repose of the soul of the good Mother. And also, adds the chronicles of the community, the Sisters, from their prayers, were able to draw the consolation and strength they needed to make the generous sacrifice that God required from them.

The 24th December 1887 was the day of the funeral. After the chanting of the Libera, the priest celebrating, followed by two acolytes, entered the enclosure to conduct the body to its last resting place. It was carried there by eight of the older Choir Sisters, while the other Sisters followed, chanting the Psalm Miserere.

At the cemetery, when the ordinary ceremonies were completed, her desolate daughters said their farewell to their Mother whom they could never forget, while they waited for the moment when they would be with her again in the beautiful homeland, where she herself would not forget her dear children at Velp.

The following inscription was engraved later on her tomb:

In the pious memory
of our Very Reverend Mother
foundress, and, for twenty nine years,
the Superior of this convent,
deceased on 21st December 1887,
at the age of 75 years.
Everything to everyone, she did not live for herself,
But for God and the Sisters
confided to her care.
May she rest in peace!

And indeed she had been everything to everyone, to gain them all for Jesus Christ.

Like a true Mother, she knew how to direct her house with a skilful hand and showed herself in everything as an excellent Superior. By her gentle direction and her pleasant manner, she gained the affection and esteem of all the Sisters and enjoyed their entire confidence, as one of their directors attests. A Reverend Capuchin Father who for a long time had the spiritual direction of the Convent of Velp has also left us this witness in her favour: “Mother Marie Cherubine has always appeared to me as an excellent religious, a prudent Superior, and remarkable by her wise direction and her great charity, and thus she was loved and esteemed by all her Sisters. I have never heard the least complaint, or detected the least discontent in regard to her. Everyone, on the contrary, sings her praises.”

To finish with, let us take note of a letter addressed to the Sisters of Velp by a priest who later became the Bishop of Surinam – Mons. Wulfingh, who had known Mother Marie Cherubine and appreciated her virtues:

“My Reverend Sisters,
“Your good Mother has thus left you for heaven! Our good God has finally called her to Himself, and she, who during her life, knew only the most perfect obedience and the most generous accomplishment of the will of the Sovereign Master, has responded immediately to the voice that called her. It is assuredly a great loss, that of a Mother who, for so many years, was devoted to the good of the community in general and the wellbeing of each Sister in particular. But it is no less certain that those who truly wish to be saints, have a precious death in the eyes of the Lord: “Pretiosa in conspectu Domini mors sanctorum ejus” [Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints]. This is very much the case of the dear departed. Her death is for her only the beginning of the true life.

“Indeed, your Mother is dead, but she continues to live amongst you. Her spirit of charity, by which she was truly everything to everyone; her spirit of regular discipline, which made her a model to imitate even by the most fervent; her spirit of generosity, which brought her to sacrifice herself for everyone in general and for each one in particular, and this spirit that excited you to walk in her footsteps along the path she pioneered. She herself goes ahead of you to encourage you to follow her, and to always consider her examples as a precious treasure.

“She is dead, your good Mother, but she lives on in you, or rather, she has begun to live more than ever in you. Was her life on earth anything else than a life of continual and fervent prayer which obtained everything from the good God? Now she is with this God whom she loved so much during her life. She contemplates Him in His glory, and from there she can see the needs of her great family in Velp in this valley of tears. She can see what is necessary for each one of her children to sanctify and save them, and she is praying unceasingly for all of you in order to obtain a superabundance of graces for each one of you.

“She is dead, your good Mother, but nonetheless she does not cease speaking to your heart and telling you: “Love one another, that your life may be a supernatural one, a life entirely consecrated to God, and remain always “cor unum et anima una” – one single heart and one single spirit, as I myself have given you the example by my words and especially by my actions.

“But is this good Mother really with God at this moment? And is she now already enjoying the happiness of the elect? Who can tell, my dear Sisters. Only God knows. We only know on the one hand that nothing can enter heaven which is not perfectly pure in the eyes of the Lord, and on the other hand, that those who have had charge of others will undoubtedly receive a greater and richer reward than others, but also that they will have to render a more rigorous account.

“In consequence, pray for your good Mother, my dear Sisters, pray well for her. Do not forget her for an instant, as you know how good she was! Pray, so that if she is not yet in heaven, the good God will open it to her soon, and give her the imperishable crown of Paradise.

“As for yourselves, my dear Sisters, show the whole world that you are the daughters of a holy Mother. Imitate the virtues of which she has given you the example, and thus she will live again in each one of you…”

From this we can get an idea of the general esteem which the dear deceased enjoyed.

To sum up: Mother Marie Cherubine was a model of religious perfection for her spiritual daughters, and quite rightly, one of her Sisters, who knew her perfectly in her final years, has said of her: “She will always be a venerated Mother for the Community of Velp, and a sure patron with God for her family.”

I should like to end this short notice with the words of the pious Thomas a Kempis, in the Life by one of his fellow brothers: Pauca dicere charitas expostulat, ne margarita in agro dominico diutius lateat, sed pro aedificatione plurimorum ad lucem veniat: - “Charity demands that a precious pearl should not remain long buried in the fields of the Lord, but should come to the light for the edification of a great number.”

May this be so, and then the author’s wishes will be fulfilled!

Sister Marie-Marguerite of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, O.SS.R. Of the Monastery of Velp
(1821 – 1883)

In the world : Caroline-Marguerite-Elisabeth
Van Rijckevorsel

It was under the protection of our father, Saint Alphonsus, that is to say, on the anniversary day of his blessed death, that our future Redemptoristine came into the world. Miss Caroline Marguerite Elisabeth Van Rijckevorsel was born at Rotterdam on 1st August 1821. Her father, Baron James-Joseph Van Rijckevorsel, and her mother, Mrs. Henriette Petronilla Van Oosthuisen, were good and fervent Catholics, who prided themselves on practising their religion in a Protestant country. Their union was richly blessed by the birth of seven sons and little Caroline. Their mother was snatched away rather quickly by death, but Baron Van Rijckevorsel had had a daughter from his first marriage who was like a second mother to her brothers and sister. And also, our good Sister Marie-Marguerite told us later on what grief she had and how much she wept when a servant girl told her one day that Miss Louise was not her real sister. Their affections prevailed, however, and when, later on, Louise had married Mr. Gustave Dommers van Polderveld, and Caroline had become the humble Sister Marie-Marguerite of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, their friendship always remained both strong and affectionate.

Young Caroline had her education at the Sacred Heart of Jette, and upon her return to the paternal home, she saw herself surrounded by the affection of all her brothers. She said later on: “They all came to consult me.” This affection for their little sister never decreased, and for her part, she was always keenly interested in the welfare of her brothers. But young Caroline had heard the call of the Lord, and stimulated perhaps by the example of her brother John Rijckevorsel, who became a Redemptorist, she directed her choice towards the convent of the Redemptoristines founded recently at Bruges by the Reverend Mother Marie-Alphonsus of the Will of God.

Baron Van Rijckevorsel was too good a Catholic to oppose the pious desire of his cherished daughter. At the age of 21, she entered the Convent of Bruges on 10th April 1842. Her dowry, which was considerable, came at the right time to support this newly established house. After an exemplary educandate and novitiate, she received the holy habit of the Order on 26th July 1843, and was called Sister Marie-Marguerite of the Sacred heart of Jesus. Her profession took place on 12th August 1844. She made herself very useful in a community which was being formed. She was pleased to tell us that, on leaving the novitiate, she was employed as an aide in the sacristy. The Sister who was in charge had such a great love of poverty that she ended up by wanting the impossible. So one day she expected her aide to patch up a tin bucket which was used to hold the holy water and in which the salt had worn holes in the bottom. The young Sister accepted the task (I think that it was a test, she told us); but how was she to repair all the holes? She did the best she could, but she could not do it as well as the Sister Sacristan wanted.

In 1858, when the foundation at Velp was decided, Baron Van Rijckevorsel asked Mons the Archbishop Zwijsen to send his daughter there. The Reverend Mother Marie-Philomene, the Superior at Bruges, acquiesced to the wishes of the Prelate and Baron Van Rijckevorsel. The little house in the country popularly known as “Bronkhorst Castle” was bought in his name. His great fortune had been employed at Bruges in the construction of the church and the convent. On 19th June 1858, young Sister Marie-Marguerite left with the Sisters for the new foundation, where she was to fulfil the task of Vicar. After sixteen years of absence, she was once again on the road to her own country, so generously sacrificed to obey the call of the divine Redeemer.

This nascent community was to give her the occasion to disclose many virtues, the love she had for her holy vocation and the devotion of which she was capable. If, at Bruges, a Sister, without wishing it perhaps, had made her exercise holy poverty, here, in this nascent foundation, the practice of it was a daily event. But the Sister never made any remark complaining of it. On the contrary, enjoying good health, she was content with everything and knew how to enliven with a good word the meagre festive meals of the poor community.

The dear Mother Vicar had an active and courageous character and was the soul of everything. As the only Dutch woman in the monastery, she was a special help to her Superior in the affairs of outside and with correspondence. They did not even possess the holy Rule in Dutch. The dear Mother Vicar set herself to the work and made the desired translation, and so they could then have it read out in the refectory, and at the prescribed times for the converse Sisters, who did not understand all the readings in French. Inside the monastery, she was the organist and it was her duty to support the recitation of the Divine Office.

When it was a matter of giving the holy habit to the first novice, it was Mother Vicar again who was given the task of making the costume. However, I believe she went to ask for help from her companions, but as none of them had been employed at this task at Bruges, she had to try to do it by herself. And Mother Vicar succeeded, so she was named as the first Vestiarian. This was a good occasion for her to practise holy poverty for herself, and she went on doing so the rest of her life, as all the clothes that this dear Mother wore were poor and patched.

Charged with supervision of the garden, she knew how to make herself loved and respected by the good workmen. Once it happened after the change of offices, when she was no longer the Vicar, she begged her companion to tell the gardener not to go on giving her the title. This good man, who understood nothing of the religious formalities, replied in a rather discontented tone: “When things are going well, why change them?” He did his best, but all too often habit got the upper hand.

Named Housekeeper, she had once again to be busy with service persons. She could then be seen accompanying the workmen with her bell in her hand, bringing a ladder or other tools, in order to spare them the trouble of having to find them, and to prevent the Sisters having to meet them. She was truly Sister Martha through her devotion. At different times, the water levels were very high at Velp, and the convent would then experience great damage. The cellars would be submerged and all the provisions had to be brought out of them. Our good Sister Marie-Marguerite was always there directing the removals, and either by day or by night, she would bring help wherever it was necessary. Inspired by a great devotion for Saint Joseph, as Housekeeper, she entrusted her poor work-box to him (it was a former glove-box). On the inside a beautiful picture of the holy Patriarch was glued. On 19th March, the day of his feast was always celebrated in the Robing Room, which also served as her cell (this was at the beginning of the foundation). After Compline, which was said at three o’clock, we went past there on our way to choir. The door of the Robing Room was open and anyone could enter. Our dear Sister had improvised a decoration for her privileged Saint. The little wooden statue was surrounded with flowers and lights, the vases were of cardboard, bobbins served as candlesticks, and also, and this made this meeting place more dear to us still, the ends of little candles or tapers which served to light up the feast, were ordinarily (with the permission of the Reverend Mother Superior), adroitly taken by the good Sister from the Sacristan. She, at this time, was her former first Sacristan Mistress from Bruges, known for her extreme parsimony. You could not easily obtain even a candle end from her, but Sister Marie-Marguerite knew how to help herself without her noticing. When everyone was gathered in the Robing Room, they then began to pray to the good Saint Joseph, and this heavenly provider, for his part, made sure that, in spite of their great poverty, there was no lack of anything necessary.

The good God brought some pleasant surprises to the courageous and fervent Sister Marie-Marguerite from her noble family. Right at the beginning, when the Sisters arrived at Velp, Mrs. Louise Dommers came to see her dear Caroline and brought her some beautiful camellia plants. These plants were old acquaintances, and she received them with joy. She had nursed these plants after her return from the boarding school, and when she left for the convent, Louise had been put in charge, and now, by a delicate attention, they had come back to their former mistress, and for a long time to come the beautiful flowers were the ornaments of our little chapel.

Later on, Baron Van Rijckevorsel made a present to the community of a beautiful white chasuble, and a beautiful antependium (altar frontal) for the altar, matched to the chasuble. One day Rev. Father John came to say the Holy Mass, and the family attended. The pious Baron considered it an honour to be the servant of his son, the priest, and it was a great consolation for our dear Sister Marie-Marguerite. A short time later, the revered old man went to heaven to receive the reward of his good works.

One year (it was in 1863) Rev. Father John, who had been doing all he could to help the community, wrote to his sister: “At about Christmas, you will have a visit from one of our greatest benefactors. He wants to come to Velp, but he wants you to receive him in all simplicity.” Good news, but somewhat embarrassing, as they always wanted to have something to offer visitors arriving unexpectedly. A visit to Velp in the middle of winter, with nothing done in advance, would not be very pleasant. Out of prudence, Reverend Mother warned the Sister Housekeeper so that she would not be taken unawares. While they were waiting, the imagination of the Sisters, and especially that of our dear Sister Marie-Marguerite, had full play, and in more than one recreation, it was the subject of a very heated conversation. Every time the bell rang at some unexpected hour, it was a warning to their curiosity held in suspense.

Finally, on 27th December, during the evening recreation, the bell rang at the turn. A little box had just arrived. The Reverend Mother had it brought into the community room and they were able to open it. All the Sisters were there waiting, and finally their curiosity was satisfied… But what a surprise! They saw a charming Child Jesus appear (from Munich) lying on straw. The joy of all the Sisters was not to be described. The Converse Sisters were called, and in the blink of an eye, everyone was kneeling around the divine little Redeemer, who was indeed the great Benefactor promised. We gratefully remembered the promise made by Rev. Father John and the delicacy with which he accompanied his beautiful gift. The pretty statue is still well preserved and it decorates the convent chapel.

With the separation from Bruges (in temporal matters) decided by Monsignor in 1865, the community was reduced to its own resources, always insufficient to provide for the needs of its members. But Providence looked after them, and the family of Sister Marie-Marguerite came to our aid by providing coal and provisions. This goodness of her family filled the good Sister with courage and inspired her fervour in the service of the good Master and her devotion to her dear community.

On the feast of Saint Nicholas, which is very popular and general in Holland, one of her sisters-in-law always sent her a box filled with cakes. Her whole pleasure was in being able to send the box on with a little surprise for her little nephews and nieces. With what joy and gratitude did she receive the little objects that the Sisters, with the permission of Reverend Mother, offered her on this occasion! It could be said that she was receiving real treasures, and so our good Reverend Mother made sure that the box was well supplied, and that all these dear people had good reason to praise good Saint Nicholas of Velp.

The 12th August 1869 was also a good day for our dear Sister. She celebrated the jubilee of her twenty five years of profession. Her brothers and her sister made it their duty to come and congratulate their Caroline and share in her happiness. She received many lovely presents for the chapel, and the day was a true family feast for everyone. This was the last time that she saw her family reunited, for soon death took away the eldest of her brothers, Baron Pierre Van Rijckevorsel.

Sister Marie-Marguerite loved and valued her holy vocation. Faithful to regular observance, in spite of her numerous occupations of every kind, she was always present at the Divine Office in choir and at the community acts. Her piety was inspired by a lively faith. She had very little time available for her private devotions, and so, whenever she had a moment of leisure, for example, in the five minutes before the Office or when she was the auditrix, she could be seen holding her little manual, a souvenir from her boarding school, and reciting one or another little office of the Sacred Heart or the Immaculate Conception. After her death, they found a very devout picture of the Sacred Heart in this little book, together with one of Saint Joseph with little Jesus. She was always one of the Sisters who, on carnival days, spent the night of Holy Thursday in prayer, or on other occasions when the Superior gave her special permission.

As she was brought up at Jette, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was dear to her, and her joy was great when they decided that our future chapel would be consecrated to her. She displayed all her zeal in contributing to the costs of the building. As permission had been given to place some pictures to this effect, she set herself to paint some pictures and have them placed by her acquaintances and her family. Great was her joy when the chapel was built and Mons. Godschalk, the Bishop of Bois-le-Duc, came to bless the bells. One of these bells was given by Mr. Auguste Van Rijckevorsel and Madame Dowager of Thomas Van Rijckevorsel, born Baroness Van Landschode. Her brother and sister-in-law were her Godfather and Godmother. Her devotion to the Blessed Virgin was that of all the children of Saint Alphonsus. She loved this good Mother with a filial love. From her brother, Mr. Cornil Van Rijckevorsel, she received a beautiful Calvary with the Mother of sorrows, and this was placed on the altar in the first little chapel. At her jubilee, she was given a lovely Immaculate Virgin and another Calvary group.

In the midst of these multiple occupations, our good Sister Marie-Marguerite needed a little rest of the spirit, and besides, recreation was a common act. One day, the Reverend Capuchin Fathers ordered some of our work for their sacristy – some chasubles and antependiums, which had to be made of tapestry in part. Great was the joy of our good Sister – it was providential! She wished to help with the embroidery. For a long time she had had to say farewell to these works that she had loved so much formerly. And now she could be seen at work, even during recreation (where we are allowed to be busy with some kind of manual work), but counting the points and having recreation did not go together, and our good Sister Marie-Marguerite was obliged to undo the little bit that she had been able to do in recreation, during the time of silence. This amused us, but our innocent humour did not disconcert her.

She was hard on herself and did not spare herself in anything, but if, with her good health, she could struggle against fatigue, she was nonetheless charitable towards the sick. Sometimes, in recreation, she told us laughing: “Father would say, ‘My children have no nerves.’” However, on occasions, it was easy to see that she had not been deprived of them, but her strong nature and manly virtue were able to overcome them.

Later on, when the community was beginning to be formed, she was always ready to exercise the young Sisters in the chanting of the Divine Office or help the young organists in their difficulties. Once it happened that one of them, finding herself at the organ, was stumped by a difficult passage. She wanted to have recourse to her charitable mistress, but where to find her? The summoning of the Sisters by the bell was not yet organised… Finally, she saw Sister Marie-Marguerite in the garden busy digging, in her full gardener’s costume, big boots, and big grey apron. As soon as the young Sister begged her to come and help her, she laughed and left her laborious work and came and sat down at the organ.

Another Sister, made Housekeeper, often had recourse to her experience, and Sister Marie-Marguerite always helped her with the same charity in her difficulties, and with a word of encouragement to revive her confidence in good Saint Joseph and have abandonment to the divine Providence.

Very often, when Reverend Mother Marie-Cherubine was preoccupied with the future of the nascent community, and “built castles in Spain” as a diversion away from some rather discouraging thoughts about the slow prosperity of the convent, our good Sister Marie-Marguerite told her: “I don’t think I’ll die before the chapel is built!” It was a dream, it seems, the realisation of which would probably not be seen soon.

But, in 1879 and 1880, in a most providential way, the chapel was built. Did our good Sister recall her prediction? I do not know, but at about this same time, her health declined. At first she resisted the illness. Having in fact never been ill before, she did not know how to care for herself or let others care for her. One day, she gave great concerns to the Sister Infirmarian. This Sister had given her a bottle and told her she had to take a spoonful according to the doctor’s prescription, but Sister Marie-Marguerite had the thought that if she drank it too quickly, it would not last very long – it would be far too quick. As she thought, so she did. Later on, the Infirmarian came up to her and recommended to her patient to be exact in taking her medicine. “Oh, it’s finished,” replied the Sister, “here’s the empty bottle.” One can imagine the shock and anxiety of good Sister Marie-Therese. The invalid did not move. The Infirmarian prayed and the good God permitted that this great imprudence did not lead to a harmful outcome, but the Infirmarian now knew who she was dealing with and took appropriate measures in consequence. The dear invalid was wasting away before her eyes, but was still trying to keep going, especially to the community acts. Her swollen feet would not longer fit into her shoes, so Reverend Mother bought a pair of slippers for her. One day she arrived at recreation arm in arm with a Sister who was leading her, walking with heavy steps and telling everyone who wanted to hear her: “Our Mother has given me a pair of slippers.” She still wanted to amuse the Sisters.

At the jubilee feast of the foundation of the convent and the twenty fifth anniversary of the Superiority of Reverend Mother Marie-Cherubine, on 19th July 1883, our dear Sister Marie-Marguerite, already very ill, went to the refectory again, but could only drink a glass of water. Her stomach, eaten away by cancer, was refusing all nourishment and she was suffering from hunger. At table she sat down in her place in order to participate in the common joy, but on different occasions she was obliged to leave the room. Shortly afterwards she was forced to keep to her cell, and as the cold weather came early, they got her to accept a heated room. At the beginning of the month of October, she had a severe crisis that terrified the Infirmarians, and the last sacraments were administered to her. However, her illness settled down and the community began its great retreat. In the first few days, the Very Reverend Father G. Wulfingh came to confess the invalids. At the request of the Infirmarian he also went to Sister Marie-Marguerite. She had a long conversation with the good Father, who was to come back the next day and bring her Holy Communion. The Sister charged with the care of the sick came at about 8:30 and said a few words to her about communion the next day. Sister Marie-Marguerite seemed comfortable and said to her: “I am going to sleep now.” The Sister went to the other end of the room to recite her Office. Shortly afterwards, she could hear that the dear invalid was breathing quite heavily. She went up to her. A great change had in fact happened in her state. The Infirmarians came running. They hastened to get the Reverend Father who was still praying in the chapel. When the Touriere came to tell him that Sister Marie-Marguerite was dying, he could not believe her. “But she was speaking so well to me just this afternoon,” he said. Then he went to see the dear invalid and could only give her a final absolution, and then recite the De Profundis. The good Jesus had come to find his faithful and fervent Spouse. This was on 18th October 1883, at about nine o’clock in the evening.

[1] From the Monastery Chronicles.

* * Monastery of Vienna * *

Mother Maria-Benedicta of the Holy Trinity, O.SS.R.
Superior of the Monastery of Vienna(1791 - 1852)

Born Maria Rizy

Sister Maria-Benedicta Rizy was born in Vienna on 13th October 1791, and received the name of Maria at baptism. Her father was a lawyer and occupied an honourable rank in Viennese society. For two years, the young lady’s confessor was the Rev. Father Clement-Maria Hofbauer, now canonised. After his death, she entrusted the direction of her soul to Father Madlener, a man of great virtue, and finally, when her confessor had to change his residence, she chose as her spiritual guide the Venerable Father Passerat, the successor of the Rev. Father Clement-Maria Hofbauer, as Vicar General of the Redemptorists beyond the Alps.

It is not astonishing that under so holy a direction, the young Maria led a most exemplary life in the world. For a period of time she was the governess of the two daughters of Count Gilleis. The Countess and her two daughters, one of whom embraced the religious state, have retained a grateful memory of her. She herself, on 23rd December 1824, entered the little establishment founded by the Ven. Father Passerat and called Saint Mary of the Refuge, which was the origin of the first Redemptoristine monastery beyond the Alps. The Superior of that establishment was then a French woman called Eugenie Dijon, later Mother Marie-Alphonse of the Will of God. Maria Rizy had reached the age of thirty three. She was the fourth of the first Redemptoristines in Austria.

Her knowledge and talents were extraordinary. She spoke German, French, Italian, Latin and English fluently. Painting, drawing and music, both vocal and instrumental, were all familiar to her. She even excelled in musical composition and poetry. She was perfectly instructed in all the feminine works and in all the branches of teaching. Estate management, the management of livestock, gardening, culinary art, and even medicine and jurisprudence all fell within the circle of her learning. All these gifts the young Maria consecrated exclusively and forever to the glory of God and the good of her Order.

Something even more astonishing was that these gifts of the spirit in no way harmed the qualities of her heart. On the contrary, she was so sensitive to the ills of others that she experienced an almost irresistible attraction to helping her neighbour. Thus she would say quite rightly that God had given her, according to her own expression, a hospitable heart.

In the autumn of 1830, the two Mothers Eugenie Dijon and Antonia, Countess of Welsersheimb, went to St. Agatha of the Goths and were comprehensively instructed, in this Redemptoristine monastery, in all the practices of their Order, and they resided there until 8th February 1832. During their absence, and even after their return, Maria Rizy exercised the functions of Superior with great prudence and charity. It was she who took the first steps to introduce the Order of the Redemptoristines to Vienna. It was she who established the enclosure, and it was under her auspices that the first solemnity of the taking of the habit took place, on 25th January 1831. On that day she received the name of Maria-Benedicta of the Most Holy Trinity. As we know, the two absent Sisters received their habits in Rome itself from the hands of Cardinal Odescalchi. She herself made her profession on 30th January 1832, and on the following 25th February, when their first canonical election took place, she was named as Superior.

Then especially, it was a very hard task. In fact, everything had to be started and learnt: the choir office, the ecclesiastical chant, the observance of the Rules and Constitutions, the Ceremonial and the community customs. To these were added a multitude of material and financial difficulties. However, Mother Maria-Benedicta triumphed over everything and displayed an extraordinary skill, an admirable activity, and a confidence in God that nothing could shake.

She exercised this prodigious activity in spite of great infirmities, and what was even more precious, with a great calm and self-possession. She therefore succeeded in introducing a very exact observance, without, however, making herself odious or disagreeable to anyone. Her benevolence and affable manners helped her to win the sympathies of even those many people who, until then, had placed little esteem on religious in general and the Redemptoristines in particular.

We understand that after all this vocations began to multiply around her, coming from Austria, Saxony, Poland, Bavaria and Tyrol and even the Rhineland. Many of them even came from the ranks of the nobility. Mother Maria-Benedicta was thus able to attempt a new foundation in the little town of Stein, in the Diocese of Saint Hippolyte. She went there on 7th October 1839, bringing five religious choir Sisters and two converse with her. Several educandes soon joined her. This town of Stein was dear to the foundress, as she had spent a great part of her youth there and hoped to be very useful to it through the prayers of her Sisters. The revolution of 1848 was to dash all her hopes and suppressed this house just as it destroyed the one in the capital.

* * * * *

Mother Maria-Benedicta then withdrew with some of her Sisters to Eggenberg. The Princess of Lowenstein provided for her subsistence, and the Redemptorist Fathers lent them the help of their spiritual direction. Her hope of being reunited with her Sisters in another monastery was to be disappointed. She submitted in this too, to the will of God, and not long afterwards, saw in the aggravation of her infirmities, the heralding of her approaching end. On one occasion, during the night, she had to call the converse Sister who was taking care of her, and became the object of the special attention of Providence. Indeed, the converse, who herself was ill, was at that moment suffering an attack of nerves. “My God!” she cried out aloud. “You can see what my good Superior is suffering! She has made so many sacrifices for you, so give me the strength to come to her aid. If this is done, then I consent to suffer anew.” Her prayer was heard. She immediately recovered her strength, rendered the service required of her, and then fell prey again to her illness.

On 17th May 1852, Mother Maria-Benedicta received the last sacraments. She humbly asked pardon of the Sisters who had run to her from all sides. As if to reward her for her life of sacrifices, the divine Redeemer filled her at that moment with His heavenly consolations, and on the following day she went to sleep peacefully in the Lord. She was then in the 61st year of her age.

* * * * *

As a worthy daughter of Saint Alphonsus, Mother Maria-Benedicta was always inspired by a lively faith and a great spirit of prayer. The Divine Office was dear to her, and she would recite it fervently for the intentions of the Church. Like all the souls enraptured by the beauties of our holy faith, she would enthusiastically recite the Apostolic Symbol, and the touching mysteries of Religion filled her with the sweetest affections. Her delicate conscience made her avoid the least faults, but her filial confidence in God made her love Him as a Father. Finally, her extraordinary talents left her always humble and distrustful of herself, and in the example of her blessed Father, she showed herself always sweet and resigned in suffering, charitable towards her neighbour, and severe and mortified to herself. She most surely was one of the principal columns of the Redemptoristine Institute, and her intercession in heaven will continue to affirm it, propagate it, and make it work zealously for the salvation of souls..


[1] On the foundation of this monastery, see the work by Father Nimal, already quoted.

Sister Marie-Cecile of the Precious Blood, O.SS.R. of the
Monastery of Vienna (1821 – 1849)

Born Jeanne Koch

Sister Marie-Cecile of the Precious Blood was born at Innsbruck (Tyrol) on 24th June 1821, of parents of an ordinary station in life. Brought up piously by her mother, little Jeanne, from the moment of her first communion, felt herself so strongly attracted to the religious life that even then she made a vow of perpetual chastity. Her love of prayer was already extraordinary. At the age of twelve, she entered the Third Order of Saint Francis, and as her confessor recognized the signs of a vocation to the contemplative life in her, she learned to play the organ, so that she might be admitted one day into a monastery, in spite of lacking a sufficient dowry. But at just that very time, the Convent of the Redemptoristines in Vienna was looking for an educande who understood music. So Jeanne succeeded, with the help of her other qualities, in being admitted. She was then seventeen years of age.

Pious indeed though she may have been, she did not cease to severely test the patience of the Mother Mistress through the impetuosity and noisy vivacity of her character. But her good will, aided by the grace of God, triumphed over this defect, and ten months after her entry into the monastery, Jeanne was as though transformed! During her novitiate she was seen to make astonishing progress in virtue. Her love of prayer became a grace of high contemplation, and she received extraordinary favours from heaven. Her devotion to the Holy Child Jesus made her in her turn resemble an innocent child. Her candour and the purity of her soul were reflected in her features and in her eyes. Almost every year, the approach of Christmas saw her become completely ill, so much did she long for this touching feast! Her heart would beat violently, thinking of the coming of the Saviour of mankind, and she even went so far as to start spitting blood, so great was her emotion. But once the feast actually arrived she recovered her former health. She displayed the same ardour for the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. She was often seen remaining motionless for hours on end before the holy Tabernacle, and whenever she took Communion, she was transported so far out of herself that for several hours she was quite unable to take any food.

Sister Marie-Celeste’s virtues were the best guarantee of the heavenly origin of these favours. Her love of regular observance was admirable. Her humility made her give preference to performing the most distasteful tasks, in spite of the opposition of her character, which was by nature somewhat proud. Insatiable for mortification, she persuaded her confessor to intercede with her Superior to give her a little more liberty to appease her thirst for penance. She had been encouraged in it, she said, by Jesus Christ Himself. And yet her obedience was the greatest of her other virtues.

The novices had the custom, on 25th of the month, to write a letter to the Holy Child Jesus in which they expressed their desires. Sister Marie-Cecile continued this custom after her profession, but she would always give her letter to her Superior to read and approve. One day when she had just accomplished this act, she met a Sister who asked her why she had so joyful an air. She replied: “It is because I have just read out to my Superior my letter to the Holy Child Jesus, but next month, I will bring it to you.” And in fact, the following month, this Sister had become the Superior. In addition to this it was noted that Sister Marie-Cecile knew many things that she could not have known naturally, and she often even knew of the thoughts and dispositions of others.

* * * * *

Sister Marie-Cecile had received the holy habit on 20th August 1839. She had to wait until 20th August 1842 to make her profession, since the laws of Austria required this delay. And so the close union that she contracted with the divine Redeemer caused her to make new progress in perfection. For their part, her Superiors thought of making a more direct use of her talents. The Mistress of Novices asked her for spiritual exercises for the times of Advent and Lent. The young professed acquitted herself of this task with success. Charged with care of the educandes, she succeeded marvellously in forming them well. A Sister, greatly troubled in both her body and soul, was confided to her care, and she healed her in both respects. However, these different tasks and the macerations she inflicted on herself, adversely altered her health. She became so feeble that, to play the organ, she had need of a support to sustain her. She often lost sleep, but her infirmities in no way altered the vivacity of her spirit and the joy of her heart. If they pitied her over her insomnia, she would reply: “I was not alone.”

The Revolution of 1848 was the last and supreme trial for the poor Sister. Driven from her convent, she had to take refuge in a private house, and then painfully find her way to Innsbruck, her native town, and ask for shelter from her married sister who, poor herself, could not, in spite of her excellent heart, give her all the help necessary. Sister Marie-Cecile, ill, bed-ridden, consumptive, often subject to spitting up blood, also saw herself separated from her Superior and her Sisters in religion. But this pain, for her the most bitter one, was the triumph of her love for her divine Spouse. Her resignation was heroic, and the Sisters of Mercy in Innsbruck, who gave her shelter in their monastery, admired in her the patience and charity of a saint. She died only slowly, but the joy of soon contemplating Him whom she loved so much shone out on her face. When she had received the last sacraments, Father Ladinski, a Redemptorist, had her renew her vows of religion by pronouncing the consecrating formula with her. But he deliberately put the vow of obedience in the last place. When he arrived at the word Obedience, he stopped and said to the dying woman: “Sister Marie-Cecile, you have always loved obedience, so practise it now in this supreme moment: die now through obedience and the love of Our Lord.” At the same instant, she inclined her head and rendered her soul to God. This was on 30th March 1849, on the feast of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin.

The virginal body of Sister Marie-Cecile, clad in her Redemptoristine habit, was then laid out in the monastery parlour. An incredible number of the faithful from all classes of society hurried to these precious remains and venerated the humble bride of Jesus crucified. Her funeral was more solemn than that of a princess. The divine Saviour glorified in this world she who had vowed all her love to Him.

Mother Marie-Madeleine of the Blessed Sacrament, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Vienna (1805 – 1871)

In the world : Rosalie Handschky

Mother Marie-Madeleine of the Blessed Sacrament was born in Vienna in 1805, as the only child of very well-off parents. Losing her mother very early on, she received from her father, who loved her tenderly, an education in keeping with her rank and fortune. She learnt several languages, acquired an expert knowledge of the musical art, and enriched her spirit with a broad range of knowledge. As for manual work, it seems that she had little acquaintance with it. Her father could not bear her to be parted from him, and he took her with him to the Chancellor’s office, where he was a government lawyer, and sometimes gave her a part in his work. She accompanied him everywhere – to the theatre, on visits, on innumerable pleasure trips, and horse-riding, in which she showed a great deal of dexterity. This kind of life gave her a certain virility of character which served her marvellously.

Her piety, which at first was quite ordinary, soon grew through the visits she made, in the company of her governess, to the church of the Redemptorist Fathers. From then on she began to receive the sacraments more frequently, but without her father knowing. For her confessor she chose the Venerable Father Passerat. Under the direction of this great Servant of God, the desire for the religious life soon took hold of her heart. The visits she made to the Redemptoristines in the capital only served to inflame this desire, and she resolved to enter their Institute after the death of her father. This death happened in 1830, during an epidemic of cholera that claimed many victims in Vienna.

Now the young lady found herself suddenly free, and in possession of great wealth, at an age and in a position where everything smiled upon her. But with a greatness of soul which is most uncommon, she despised the money, made abundant donations, and after having put her affairs in order, she entered the Redemptoristine Convent on 5th May 1852, in spite of the great astonishment that her resolution caused to those around her, and the malicious insinuations that accompanied her. She took her contempt of the world so far that when her cook obtained her admission to the monastery at the same time as herself, but in the quality of a converse, she kneeled beside her at the door of the enclosure and resolutely asked to be admitted in the same capacity. They did not give way to these desires, and it was as a choir Sister that she was received into the Institute.

No one was astonished that the beginnings of her religious life were very painful for a young lady accustomed to all the comforts of life. They admired even more in her a courage that was more than manly, and truly heroic, in overcoming herself on every occasion. Moreover, she had expected all this. Firmly resolved to overcome herself, she took as her motto: “God alone.” Thus she succeeded in accommodating herself to all the ages and all the characters with which she had to deal. She never spoke of what she had seen in the world, and never wished to pass herself off as a person of substance above the ordinary.

* * * * *

On 21st January 1833, the novice received the habit with the name of Marie-Madeleine of the Blessed Sacrament. On 23rd January of the following year, she consecrated herself irrevocably to Jesus Christ. She spent five years in the practice of the religious virtues and in the humility of the hidden life, but in 1839 she was elected as the Superior. In this charge she displayed a great zeal for regular observance, and especially for the pious recitation of the Divine Office. What her conscience dictated to her she carried out without human respect, but at the same time she demonstrated a truly maternal goodness to all her Sisters. Re-elected after an interval of three years, she remained in charge until 1847, and had the sorrow of seeing her community violently dissolved by the Revolution of 1848. This trial did not diminish her courage. After spending some time with some of her companions at the Sisters of Saint Elizabeth in Aix-la-Chapelle, she went on to Holland, where other Redemptoristines had found a refuge close to the Redemptorist convent at Wittem. First of all she went to live in the provisional house called the “house of Jonas”, situated at Galoppe, and it was there that it was noticed for the first time that she played the piano with a remarkable ability. Then, when the convent of Marienthal was built, she entered it on 26th June 1851 with the other Sisters. But, from the month of October of the following year, she left it to go and govern the Monastery of Ried in Austria, which the young Emperor Franz-Joseph had just re-established.

A trial even harder than the others now awaited the courageous Superior. Hardly had she been installed than she was struck down by smallpox, which attacked her brain, and when the housekeeper, Sister Marie-Xaveria, succumbed under the onslaught of this illness, Mother Marie-Madeleine suddenly lost her spirit. In this terrible conjuncture, heaven was stormed with prayers. At Marienthal, a vow was made to recite the Memorare of the Sacred Heart of Jesus every day in choir. This divine Heart had pity on the poor invalid. She then recovered and had to leave for Vienna, where she was named Superior. This was in 1853.

This only served to change one cross with another, but the intrepid Mother truly sought just God alone. The Monastery of Vienna had by now been re-established. Nevertheless, poverty exercised its rigours with a bitterness hard to bear for the maternal heart of Mother Marie-Madeleine. Everything was lacking inside, and hearts outside seemed closed to pity. Although assisted by the Sisters of Marienthal, the community in Vienna carried its cross, and we may say very quickly that it carried it with courage, with their eyes fixed on their worthy Superior, whose greatness of soul and profound humility never appeared more clearly.

However, under the weight of so many trials, Mother Marie-Madeleine’s soul ripened for heaven. At the end of the year 1870, the good Mother was struck down by a pericardial hydropsy. Patience and continual prayer were all that she could oppose to this terrible illness. On 2nd January 1871, she expired without agony, surrounded by her desolate Sisters.

Her funeral was, we may say, the reward granted here below by Heaven to one who had had so little esteem for the favour of the world. It caused an extraordinary sensation. The crowd of people was incredible. The whole world wished to see “the Saint” as they called her, whose mortal remains shone with a superhuman beauty. The service was on the grand scale. The church was filled to bursting point and decorated as for one of the great days. All those in attendance, in the ranks of whom the numerous priests had pride of place, prayed with great fervour. This was how the divine Redeemer now honoured on earth the one who had left everything for love of Him, and who, through her renunciation and her sufferings, showed herself as the faithful imitator of His virtues.

Mother Marie-Aloysia of the Blessed Sacrament, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Vienna (1822 – 1889)

Born Eleonore Donat

Mother Marie-Aloysia was born on 4th September 1822 at Georgswald in Bohemia of parents favoured by property and fortune, but esteemed especially because of their virtues. Her father had so lively a faith that one day he was cured miraculously of a dangerous illness by the single invocation of the name of Jesus.

Young Eleonore had a very lively and outgoing spirit, which attracted many reprimands to her from the part of her mother, whose character was rather inclined to severity. After two years in boarding school spent with the Cistercian Sisters of Marienstern in Saxony, she lived piously in the paternal home, until the marriage of her sister caused her attention to become fixed upon the choice of a state of life. She prayed a great deal to the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin, and spent long hours in the chapel of the Capuchins of Rumburg. Finally, after about eighteen days of prayer and reflection, she woke up one morning quite decided to preserve her virginity. “I dreamed during the night,” she said, “that I entered our parish church to ask for God’s light there. But then on the threshold I saw two great open letters. One of them had written in beautiful characters: “Do not marry!” and on the other: “But rather become an anchorite.” So I do not wish to have an earthly husband,” she added.

Soon afterwards she decided for the religious life, but in a convent where the primitive Rule was still in vigour. This resolution was strengthened by reading the beautiful work of St. Alphonsus called “The true Spouse of Jesus Christ.” Then once more on the occasion of the marriage of another of her sisters, for the first time in her life she heard mention of the name of the “Redemptoristine Sisters,” in reference to an incident that a newspaper in Vienna reported about them. “There is where I must go,” she said resolutely, and soon she had more complete information about the Order that finally decided her vocation. Her father accompanied her to Vienna and put her into the hands of the Superior, saying: “I am bringing you my child, who has never caused me any pain.” This was on 10th October 1846. Eleonore’s extreme love for her father was the great temptation for her at the beginning of her religious life. She emerged victorious from it and received the habit on 16th November 1847, with the name of Sister Marie-Aloysia of the Blessed Sacrament. On the same day, the Venerable Father Joseph Passerat, the Vicar-General of the Redemptorists, came to visit the convent and when he saw Sister Marie-Aloysia, he said: “She who is now the last will one day be the first in the community.” It was prophetic.

* * * *

Five months of her novitiate passed under the wise conduct of Mother Marie-Victoria, born the Countess of Welsersheimb, one of the first Redemptoristines beyond the Alps. In the month of April 1848, the Revolution broke out and obliged the Sisters to abandon their holy retreat at night. It was in this grave conjuncture that the novice, Marie-Aloysia gave proof of her solid virtue. Disguised in secular clothes, she first of all found refuge with the sister of her Mistress Marie-Victoria, Madam the Baroness of Lago. Fear of being discovered, made more real by the continual pursuits carried out against “the Liguorians” was the reason why she went to stay with a friend of her father, until he brought her to her paternal home. Amongst all these vicissitudes, Sister Marie-Aloysia, in spite of her profound sadness, maintained an admirable calmness and meekness. In the domestic home, she put the Redemptoristine habit back on and continued her life as a novice in the best way possible, without refusing to do manual jobs around the house. She then devoted herself especially to the illness of her youngest sister Marie, who died at the age of fifteen. For eighteen weeks she lavished upon her night and day the care that her state required.

In order to receive Holy Communion more often, she did not hesitate to often make a long journey, in the early morning, through the snow and darkness, and went to the Capuchin church in Rumburg, where they were less miserly than elsewhere in the distribution of this sacred bread. However, she longed for her little cell “which was,” she said, “so near to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.” Her wishes were finally heard. Following the circumstances already known to the reader, the Redemptoristine Monastery of Marienthal had just been inaugurated on 26th June 1851, on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As soon as she learnt of this happy event, Sister Marie-Aloysia hastened to tear herself away from the love of her relatives and went there, brought once more by her father, and took refuge in the new asylum. On 22nd April 1852, she was united forever to her divine Redeemer by the vows of religion.

So we can see how her trial only succeeded in increasing her fervour. Her love for observance and the interior life, and her devotion to the sacred mysteries, shone out with even greater brilliance, at the same time that her zeal for the Divine Office and her abilities at the different tasks in the monastery. For many years she was Mistress of Educandes and then Mistress of Novices. In the exercise of these two charges, she demonstrated a truly maternal goodness to her daughters, but yet using a holy rigour in forming them in solid virtues and the observance of the Rules. She instructed them besides more by her examples than her words, and thus was able to gain the affection and confidence of them all. “She was an accomplished religious” said a contemporary. In 1868 she was chosen to replace the Reverend Mother Marie-Gabrielle in the charge of Superior. And it was then that she had a little chapel erected in honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, whose cult was beginning to be propagated. She also renovated the mortuary chapel of the convent. When her triennium had expired she was elected Vicar and distinguished herself then as much by her love for the hidden life as she had done by her great qualities of zealous Superior.

* * * * *

Who would have thought that Mother Marie-Aloysia had once again to leave her dear convent? However, this happened in 1871. The Convent of Vienna had just lost its Superior, Mother Marie-Madeleine, who as she lay dying, advised asking for the Mother Vicar of Marienthal to succeed her. After long hesitations, Marienthal finally decided to make the sacrifice demanded of them. Mother Marie-Aloysia submitted herself humbly to the will of God. Accompanied by the Very Rev. Father Heilig, the Superior of the German Redemptorists, she left for Cologne. Her spirit of recollection and sacrifice made her renounce seeing the magnificent cathedral in this city and the beautiful countryside along the Rhine. In Vienna, she was received with a jubilation that contrasted singularly with the painful trials that were about to be her lot.

In fact, the Monastery was in such a deplorable state in matters material and financial that they feared they would have to abandon it. Soon the good Mother was seized by a throat infection so painful that it made her unfit for service in the choir, already depleted by the small number of her subjects and the bad health of others. She recovered from this illness after ten months, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, to whom she vowed a special cult. To remedy the lack of vocations, she solemnly consecrated the community, and particularly the educandate, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Heaven’s first response was a new illness that nailed the Superior onto a bed of sorrows for the space of fifteen months, while three other Sisters also fell very dangerously ill.

In these terrible trials, the Superior showed a profound humility, a perfect resignation to the will of God, and a confidence truly magnanimous in His mercy. In spite of obstacles that appeared to be insurmountable, they maintained the service of the choir as well as they could. This faithfulness was rewarded in a touching manner. All the Sisters attested that on Sundays especially and on feast days, an unknown voice resonated with theirs in the chant for Terce and Vespers, and the miracle lasted until the number of religious was increased. This was like a signal of deliverance. The worthy Superior and her courageous daughters sought their support in prayer. They held processions and introduced a Holy Hour in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These prayers were heard. Mother recovered against all hope, vocations multiplied, and benefactors opened their hearts and hands to meet the needs of the Monastery.

Mother Marie-Aloysia held the position of Superior from 1871 to 1877. Then, after three years as Vicar, she was re-elected Superior and remained so until her blessed death, which arrived in 1889. It was her religious virtues, whose example she gave constantly, that caused her to be so long the head of her Sisters. They admired her love of poverty, and that spirit of perfect obedience which made her say one day to a religious: “My Sister, we must not permit ourselves even thoughts contrary to those of the Superior, as these thoughts will make us lose the merit of obedience.”

Her recollection was continuous, and she practised it everywhere, even in the garden, where the modesty of her eyes was admirable. So she was so filled with the spirit of God that a special grace accompanied her words. One day, a visiting priest had her called to the parlour and asked her for a word of consolation and encouragement. Mother Marie-Aloysia was astonished and replied timidly: “My Reverend Father, God is so good! Yes, He is extremely good!” The priest replied: “This is enough for me, my Reverend Mother”, and he left completely consoled.

As Superior, she always demonstrated a very maternal goodness and solicitude to her daughters. The sick especially were the object of her scrupulous attention. Even though she was ill herself and overloaded with occupations, she visited them often.

After the Immaculate Virgin and Saint Joseph, she especially honoured Saint Alphonsus. The spiritual works of the holy Doctor were her preferred books, and she frequently recommended reading them to her daughters. Finally, the souls in Purgatory found in her a tender and devoted friend.

Such were the principal features of the life and virtues of the good Mother Marie-Aloysia. During her last years, the heavenly Spouse announced His approach several times by illnesses and infirmities. On 8th September, on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, she took Holy Communion in choir with her Sisters for the last time. Soon afterwards, she had to go to bed and receive the last sacraments. Finally, on the night of 20th September 1889, she went to sleep peacefully in the Lord, at the age of 67 and 16 days, in the 36th year of her religious profession.

Sister Marie-Anne-Joseph, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Vienna (1828 - 1893)

How Sister Marie-Anne-Joseph pruned the vine and what resulted from it.

Elisabeth Kretzl was born at Bomilskrut, in Lower Austria, on 4th November 1828. Her parents were poor, but very pious. While she was still young she lost her father and a short time afterwards, her poor mother’s house was destroyed by fire, which was a great trial for the whole family. Elisabeth, the youngest of five children, then said to her mother: “Dear mother, I am going to Vienna to earn something, and I will send you what I can.”

After Elisabeth had served some time in Vienna, Jesus deigned to cast a glance upon her. One day when she was visiting the churches in this capital, she went with her companions into Saint Mary of the Riverbank, the church of the Redemptorist Fathers. The door to the sacristy was open. Elisabeth stopped there for a moment and looked at the priests who were reclothing the sacred ornaments. But at this very moment, the venerable Father Passerat, kneeling on a prayer-stool, with his head in his hands, was praying ardently. Through his fingers he noticed Elisabeth and cried out to her: “Eh, young lady, come here!” She did not understand him very well, and looked at the Father with great embarrassment. Her companions said to her in their peasant language: “He’s calling you. Go and talk to him.” She went up to him and the Father asked her: “Do you know how to prune vines?” When she replied in the affirmative, Father Passerat told her: “Go to the religious of Renweg and tell them that Father Passerat has said: “Take her, you can make something of her.” So she went there, without thinking that she was going to a convent. When she arrived in the Redemptoristines’ parlour, she repeated what Father Passerat had told her. At the words “you can make something of her” the Sisters started laughing. So they accepted the young lady on trial as a postulant door-keeper, and soon she rendered some very great services to the community.

These things happened in the year 1847. The following year, on 6th April, the Revolution broke out, and savage bands of revolutionaries broke into the convent. The religious had to flee in all haste to save their lives. It was in these days especially that Elisabeth showed her admirable devotion. Mr. Ignace Duxmer, one of the most devout servants of the community, was charged with remaining in the monastery, safeguarding what remained and preventing new misfortunes. On the first day he and Elisabeth could only weep and groan, because the scoundrels had smashed everything with their sabres, even the most beautiful pictures. Thanks be to God, on the next day, with the aid of some devout persons, they managed to save many objects, but this was not without courting great dangers.

However, the Sisters had founded the Convent of Ried, and Father Breslmeier was the community confessor. Mr. Duxmer told this venerable priest how faithful and devout Elisabeth had shown herself, and persuaded him that she would be an excellent door-keeper. So he called her, and as soon as she was able to leave service in Vienna, she came to the convent. This was in the month of October 1852. The smallpox epidemic that was raging then allowed her to make use of the knowledge she had acquired in a hospital in the service of the sick, and she took care of the sisters with the greatest devotion. In order to reward her, on 9th June 1853 she was received as a postulant converse. On 5th July 1855 she was given the religious habit, with the white veil and the name of Sister Anne of the Immaculate Conception. Elisabeth’s joy was immense.

* * * *

“You can make something of her.” Father Passerat’s words did not pass out of the good Sister’s memory, but she thought of them only in order to generously fulfil her duties as a converse Sister. Others thought of them too, but for another purpose. This Sister, who was so capable, so devout, and who had already rendered the Congregation some important services, also had a very beautiful voice. One very respected Sister, Sister Marie-Michelle, as she lay dying expressed the desire for Sister Anne to be elevated to the rank of Choir Sister. They agreed, and on 13th May 1857, the good Elisabeth made her profession.

Why was her name changed to Sister Marie-Anne-Joseph? It was no doubt because of her great devotion to the holy Patriarch. As soon as they began telling her about Saint Joseph, she became filled with enthusiasm, her eyes shining with happiness, and she never stopped in the praises she addressed to her great Patron. “I am convinced,” she said one day, “that Saint Joseph is in heaven in body and soul, because, on earth, he bore the Son of God in his arms, and He gave him the name of Father.” The books that spoke of Saint Joseph were her favourite books. Every day she honoured this great Saint and prepared herself for his feasts with a fervent novena, and in order to celebrate the 19th March properly, she disposed herself by the pious practice of the seven Wednesdays, so well explained by Saint Alphonsus. In brief, in all her difficulties, she would have recourse to Saint Joseph and advised others to do the same.

After her profession, says the convent chronicle, Sister Marie-Anne- Joseph felt herself at the peak of her happiness, as she had obtained what she had desired so much, and her heart overflowed with gratitude towards God and the monastery too. She successively fulfilled different tasks with great zeal. She sang and chanted psalms in choir with the greatest joy and showed herself no less ardent for meditation on holy things. It so happened one day that the venerable Father Breslmeier was struck down by a grave illness, and soon his life was in danger. When Sister Marie-Anne-Joseph learnt of it, she set herself to prayer with all the fervour of her soul: “My God,” she said, “preserve this holy priest for us, who has already done the convent so much good, and who is still working so much for Your glory. Are we then so rich in good priests? Oh, take me, my God, me, a poor useless religious, take me in place of this holy man.”

God accepted His servant’s offer. Father Breslmeier recovered and was able to go back to fulfilling all his functions, but Sister Marie-Anne-Joseph fell gravely ill. She said: “The good God has deigned to accept my sacrifice, and, in His infinite mercy, He has made me expiate my sins in this world.” The entire year that she had to spend in the infirmary was in fact like a year in Purgatory. In her last month especially, her sufferings became intolerable. She who had been so good and so devoted to the sick, now became incapable of making any movement. She became completely hydropic, having a horribly swollen and apparently gangrenous foot, and she was reduced, in her last days, to wringing her hands with pain, in the embrace of this terrible illness. In spite of everything, her patience did not abandon her. The prayers, especially the indulgenced prayers, to which she was accustomed to saying throughout her life, again found a place on her lips at the approach of death. As necessary, she asked her attendant to help her in this sweet business with God. Finally, on 6th August 1893, surrounded by all her Sisters in religion, fortified by the last sacraments and the exhortations of the holy Father Breslmeier, Sister Anne-Marie-Joseph rendered her soul to God with a smile.

The heavenly Vigneron had also pruned His vine.

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Flowers of the Redemptoristine Institute

Next: The Monastery of Marienthal

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.

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