Newsletter No. 51 April 1st 2010

Dear Friends,

It is already Easter Week as I write this letter. The members of our religious community (Mariannhill Missionaries), including myself, were so busy hearing confessions during Lent that I did not find time to write. Most of the parishes in the area had penance services with individual confession, in addition to the regular times of confession. Some of them had more than one service. They were unusually well attended. The number of people surprised even the pastors. They called on us to help with the individual confessions. The Holy Spirit is still at work in His Church. He is renewing it through his priests, just as Mother Louise Margaret predicted.

The Sisters of Bethany of the Sacred Heart in La Ceja (Ant), Colombia, sent me a copy of the announcement of the International Congress of the Work of Infinite Love that they are distributing. It is very attractive. It is about postcard size and in color, with a small picture of the Sacred Heart painted by Mother Louise Margaret on the front, together with the time and place of the Congress, and contacts for buying tickets. On the back the names of special guests invited to the Congress are listed. The first is the president of the Work of Infinite Love, His Excellency Arrigo Miglio, Bishop of Ivrea, Italy. The second is His Excellency Ricardo Tobón Restrepo, Bishop of the Diocese of Sonsón Rionegro, where the Congress will be held. The third group of special guests will be the members of the various branches of the Work of Infinite Love: the members of the Priest’s Union, the Sisters of Bethany of the Sacred Heart, the Friends of Bethany, and the Missionaries of Infinite Love.

The theme of the Congress is: “The Identity and the Relevance of the Work of Infinite Love.” It will begin on Friday, July 23rd, and end on Sunday, July 25th, 2010. It will be held at the Ciudadela de Jesús in La Ceja, Colombia. Fr. Sandro Bonetti, a Swiss priest of the Movement, will be the keynote speaker. The group from Europe will leave for Colombia on July 20th and return on July 29th. They will use the extra days to acquaint themselves with this deeply religious country, which has turned out to be a soil ready for, and open to, the spirituality of the Work. Please pray for the success of the Congress, and the safety of the travelers.

Let us now continue with the autobiography of Mother Louise Margaret:

“My family, especially that of my father, would certainly have applauded an alliance of that sort. His nobility, his well-to-do position, his superior intelligence, his perfect refinement and, what counted even more, his solidly Christian principles and his exemplary virtue united to make of Mr. de la L. an excellent partner, as they are accustomed to call it in the world. But all that did not make any difference to me. I was for God and I did not want to be for anyone but Him!

“My stepfather, on his part, now made known his wish that our family would strengthen its ties by a new union, one between his son and me. Hermand was approaching twenty-four. After getting his degree in law at Grenoble and passing the bar, he had entered the career of my father and been appointed inspector in O. My stepfather did not talk to me about his plans and perhaps he did not say anything to his son either, for he did not want to influence us. But he did discuss it with my mother, who told me sometimes. Moreover, it was not for me to push for such an alliance. She did not like her stepson very much. Nevertheless, if I had wanted it, she would have allowed it. She did not, in fact, have anything serious against Hermand.

“For my part, I liked this brother with whom I had played as a small child. I saw many good qualities in him. We never had a disagreement between us. We ceded to one another effortlessly and I can say that there was more real union and maybe even frank affection between us than between my sister and me. After we had grown up, a certain nuance of respect and deference entered into our affectionate relationship, which added still another point of agreement. Really I never saw in him anything but a brother and I loved him as such. As for him, I don’t know what he thought. Sometimes he did seem to hold me in his arms a little more than fraternally. One time, instead of kissing me on the cheek as usual, he had even wanted to bring his lips to mine, but I turned away so energetically that I avoided the contact.

“I grasped well that this alliance, by bringing together so many separate interests, would end with one stroke the troubles and little dissentions that had arisen in the family over the last ten years. Although without any heartfelt inclination, out of a desire for peace and unity I would have been able to enter into the views of my stepfather. But I belonged to God and I did not want to belong to anyone but Him!

“My mother used to point out to me the good qualities of Mr. Arthuis. ‘He is so good,’ she would say, ‘he would love you so much! You would be so happy!’ Doubtlessly I did love him, this faithful friend, who had been living within our inner circle of friends for seven years. In the other advantages that my mother praised, I had quickly found some defects, but regarding him it grieved me to pass him off as an imperfect person. I began by answering my dear mother that he was too old. ‘Too old! A man is not old at thirty-two years. On the contrary, that’s the best age,’ she answered. Seeing that I was making no headway from this angle, I tried something else. One day when my mother was again insisting, I, alluding to the smallpox that Mr. A. had contracted in Tunisia, which had left traces on his face, I said: ‘He has pockmarks on his face. I don’t want a husband with pockmarks on his face!’ At this retort, my mother really got angry. ‘Look at these girls!’ she said. ‘Because of a question of vanity they compromise their future and lose their happiness. I would not have believed you to be so unreasonable. But Mr. Arthuis is still very good. He is not at all disfigured. This is a real stupidity!’ I was laughing up my sleeve at my dear mother’s reprimand, for indeed I would not have been so unreasonable as to let myself be influenced by such a reason. I deeply appreciated our friend. It would have been sweet to give some joy to this heart so humble, so devoted, so faithful, but I belonged to God! I did not want to belong to anyone but Him! No consideration ought to hinder my responding to the divine call.

“The weeks and days passed and on March 15th I was twenty-one years old. The moment to make my plans known had finally arrived. I was absolutely determined to do so, but I was suffering at the thought of the troubles, the storms and the battles that my declaration would stir up. Before speaking, before entering on the new road that I sensed would be painful enough, I wanted to draw in prayer the strength and the holy energy which I would need to follow this way without faltering. It was just ten years since I had made my First Communion. I wanted to immerse myself again in the remembrances of that blessed day. That year, 1889, Passion Sunday, the day on which First Communions were always celebrated in the cathedral of Valence, fell on April 7th. Three days before, I began a kind of small interior retreat. I made a little meditation in the morning from my dear “Manresa,” the only book of that type that I had at that time. In the afternoon from time to time I brought my thoughts back to God and around 5:00, accompanied by the good Miss Plantier to whom I had made known my plans, I went to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, during which, opening my heart before God and showing him my needs, I begged him to help me and give me courage.

“On the day of First Communion I followed all the ceremonies. I went to receive Our Lord after the white troupe of small first communicants. I attended Confirmation, and later on in the day also the renewal of vows and the consecration to Mary. I thus relived the holy emotions of my first meeting with the divine Master and, throwing into Infinite Mercy those ten years filled with so much unfaithfulness, miseries and sins, I reconnected to those days of innocence and peace after too long a time. On that day new graces were given to me. I felt stronger. I looked the coming battles in the face without terror. I resolved to take the first opportunity to tell my family about my vocation, respectfully ask the consent of my mother and, if she should refuse, to use the freedom that my age gave me to leave the world and give myself totally to God.

“Eight days later, Palm Sunday afternoon, my mother and I were sitting by the fire in her bedroom. My stepfather was writing in the back of the room. My sister was taking a walk with the maid. Since the preceding week I had been watching for the right moment to speak. Finding everything so favorable, I wanted to take advantage of it but, thinking of the tears of my mother, I lost courage. An unspeakable torture seared my heart! I talked of things in general, without paying attention, waiting ardently, but also with fear, for some word to bring the conversation on to favorable ground. With my hand hidden in the pocket of my little apron I held my rosary as if I were holding a friendly hand, to give me courage. Soon my mother, who found the Sunday rest long, got up and left the room, saying that she was going to the kitchen to check her cupboards while her cook was not around.

“In seeing my mother leave I reproached myself for my cowardice. I promised myself that I would talk as soon as she came back, and to oblige myself to do so, I said to my stepfather, ‘I have something to tell mama, but I don’t dare do so because I am afraid to cause her pain.’ ‘What is it?’ he asked me, as he continued to write. ‘I want to tell her of the resolution I have made to become a religious.’ ‘A religious?’ he broke out laughing, but with a bizarre laugh that sounded false, ‘You a religious? That’s a joke, I take it!’ I did not answer. This laugh, this joking that went so against my disposition at the moment, annoyed me. It was like a whiplash that steeled my courage. I got up, left the room, crossed the small dining room, and went into the kitchen. My mother was standing in front of an open cupboard and was inspecting the shelves visually. ‘Dear mother,’ I said to her, ‘Come here. I would like to speak with you.’ My voice must have shown emotion. My mother seemed struck by it. She turned abruptly. She looked into my eyes and took my two hands in hers. ‘What do you want?’ she said, disturbed. ‘What’s the matter?’ ‘Mom,’ I said sweetly, with my heart pounding in my breast, ‘I would like to talk to you about the resolution I have made to enter the convent and to ask your consent to do so.’ I had hardly finished these words when my mother took me in her arms and broke into tears. Then there were sobs and hugs that broke my heart. Oh how painful it is to make your mother cry! God gave me the courage to remain firm and to hold on with all the force of my will. After a moment my mother cried out amid her sobs, ‘I cannot oppose the will of God, I cannot refuse my consent!’

“How good those words sounded to me! Never had I heard my mother speak of the will of God, and it was just at the moment when that divine will was breaking her heart that she acknowledged it, submitted to it and adored it. What strength for me! I certainly did not doubt about the will of God, but to hear my mother herself, despite all the opposition of her nature and her heart, confess that my call to the religious life was from God, to see her distinguish this divine trait in my vocation from the first moment that I made mention of it, to feel her so convinced from that moment on that she could not imagine the possibility of refusing her consent; what a consolation it was for my heart at this painful moment, wasn’t it? The remembrance of this first word of my mother would later be for me a help, a support, a light in the days of darkness and violent temptations. A little later she added: ‘No, I cannot refuse my permission, but I need a postponement. I want a two-year postponement.’ Two more years! That was long! But could I refuse her? So I agreed to her request. Then, still crying and holding me in her arms, she asked me what order I wanted to enter, all the while pleading with me not to choose a cloistered one. I answered that I had not decided anything so far, and that I needed to think and consult about it. I said I hoped that she would not keep me from changing confessors. ‘Oh,’ she answered, ‘you are free now. Do whatever you like.’ I gently slipped her arm under mine and we began the return to her bedroom. On entering, she left me and went toward my stepfather. I retired to the back of the room and several shreds of their conversation reached me. ‘I suppose you did not give your consent,’ he said. ‘I could not refuse,’ my mother answered” (to be continued).

Yours sincerely in Christ,

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Lady of Grace Monastery,
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Dearborn Heights,
MI 48127
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