Our Lady of Grace Monastery, 23715 Ann Arbor Trail, Dearborn Heights, MI 48127

Newsletter No. 61 May 20th, 2013

Dear Friends,

Greetings and Easter Season Blessings! I am mailing this newsletter to you early so that I can send along the enclosed announcement of my Golden Jubilee of Priesthood. Those of you who live nearby are welcome to attend the celebrations.

The last three pages of this Newsletter are again from the autobiography of Mother Louise Margaret Claret de la Touche, written at the request of her spiritual director Fr. Alfred Charrier, S.J. Before we go there, however, I would like to share with you some lines on the love of priests for Jesus Christ, taken from Mother Louise Margaret’s book “The Sacred Heart and the Priesthood.” They throw light on the Church’s rationale of celibacy for priests.

“The love of the priest for Jesus should be different from the love of other men for Him and singularly more ardent, for, ‘He who has received more, loves more’ (Lk 8:42-47). Now, the graces and particular gifts which enrich the soul and heart of the priest are in such great number that he who has received them and possesses them is not even conscious of all he has received, and even when he is aware that he has received much, he cannot know all the profuseness of grace which Infinite Love has lavished on him. It will be one of the enjoyments of the priest in heaven to see and know all that Love has done for him, and how privileged he has been among other men.

“There is only one creature who has loved, and who loves Jesus as the priest should love Him; there is only one heart which can serve as a model to him for this love; it is the heart of the Most Holy Virgin. The love of the priest for Jesus should be in everything like the love of Mary for her divine Son.

“Like Mary, the priest, elevated to a very high degree by a grace of preference, nevertheless remains an inferior creature, in submission to the divine Master. Like her, he touches on nothingness by his nature, and on intimacy with the divinity by a privilege of love. Like her, he should be more enlightened on the truth of his own misery and wretchedness, more influenced by divine radiations of Infinite Love. Like her, he receives from the omnipotence of the Holy Ghost the power to produce the Word Incarnate in the world: the Mother produces Him in the truth of His visible flesh; the priest in the truth of his Eucharistic Flesh.

“The love of Mary for Jesus is a love of a privileged creature. The love of the priest for Jesus, his adorable Master, should be altogether similar. Mary had for Jesus not only the love of a privileged creature and of a loving mother; she had, in addition, she has always for her adorable Son the love of a virgin. Such should also be the love of the priest for Jesus; a pure love, a love free from entanglement, faithful and confiding” (“Fourth Part, Sublime Reflections on Infinite Love and the Priesthood, Xll The Blessed Virgin and the Priest” pp 196ff).

Let us go now to the continuation of the autobiography of Mother Louise Margaret:

“Without direction, without any occupation except little manual jobs or some paintings, passing most of the day in a little somber and sad cell that did not look out onto anything but several roofs, fearing always to make a mistake, of being where I should not be, knowing that my poor mother, broken by sorrow, without courage to answer my letters or to come see me, I could have let myself go into discouragement if Jesus, the Divine Guide, who had led and sustained me in my ways until then, had not continued to help me with his grace and surrounded me with his goodness. In spite of the cold fog that enveloped me, I perceived a very sweet radiance deep within my soul. I sensed that I had done the will of God. But that which was especially a very powerful lever to lift my soul and to keep it from falling into despondency was the thought, always present to my spirit, that I had to suffer in union with Jesus in order to obtain the grace of conversion for my brother-in-law.

“A vast field of sufferings and renouncements opened up before me at first, and my lax nature would doubtlessly have failed in generosity to embrace them without the help of this great thought. In fact, hordes of mortifications presented themselves. I was not at all accustomed to living without heat in winter and, even though I was sometimes permitted to come work in the novitiate, which the furnace heated a little, I still had to remain most of the time in our[1] cold cell. In the evening, when I had to go to bed, I was so cold that I passed nearly a half hour shivering, in spite of the hot-water bottle that had charitably been given to me. In the refectory nothing resembled what I had eaten up until then. The varnished floor, soaked with grease and overheated, and our small bowls gave a particular taste to all the dishes that made me sick to my stomach. But all this seemed little to me, and the ardent desire that I had to save souls and especially that of Irenaeus[2] caused me to add still other small sufferings to those that I met with.

“I soon had made the discovery in my cell of a moveable plank covering the base of the window embrasure transformed into a wardrobe. In the evening I took it and slipped it into my bed underneath the sheet. I slept, in spite of the hardness of this new kind of mattress, but I could not make any movement because the plank was barely as wide as my back and quite short. I had never washed my face or hands in cold water in the winter. I could have used the water of my water bottle in the morning, but I did not want to do so, and soon I had very big chilblain sores on my hands, which made work very painful. I even got one on the tip of my nose, so that afterwards in the novitiate and before, when the ground had to be kissed quite often, every time my poor nose touched the floor, the pain was so acute that tears came to my eyes.

“I was happy with all this, yes, really happy! And Jesus, to help and encourage me, began to let me sense sometimes at prayer intimate sweetnesses that I had never experienced until then. Sometimes when I was beginning my mediation, the point that I had prepared would disappear from my spirit. A very sweet sentiment of fullness and repose would fill my spirit. Something divine would envelop me and I would feel my heart filled with an ardent desire to love God and to suffer for souls.

“Toward the middle of January they gave me hope of entering the novitiate, which I greatly desired. Nevertheless, at this announcement I felt a small movement of fear. I glimpsed so much suffering! It was nature that took fright, but the will held firm and, in spite of a touch of sadness and coldness that tried to grip my heart, I did not let up on my preparations and I made my own first coif and my own postulant’s shoulder cape.

“On January 17th I was received in Chapter for my first examination and I began my novitiate under the direction of my Sister M. E., today our Mother. It was the religious life that opened before me, with its rules, its observances, its obedience. Strengthened by grace, I undertook it with resolution and with joy. Right away it pleased Our Lord to grant me a grace which I did not perceive then, but which I recognized later on. I don’t know how to express it except by saying that I became a little child again. It seemed to me that I had forgotten everything. The timidity, the awkwardness of my early childhood replaced the assurance and, I might say, even the aplomb of my years in the world. What I had known until then I either forgot or could not make use of.

“I realized my ignorance in everything and I had to re-learn everything. I saw very sincerely that I was inferior to all my companions and that, really, whatever was given to me to do, I did very badly. Others told me so and I had no difficulty in believing it, since I noticed it myself. If it was a matter of doing a reading, I managed very badly. My poor tortured chest refused to cooperate and then I was afraid to read as I had learned in the world and this paralyzed me. If there was work to do, I found myself in the presence of clothes to be mended, and I had never done mending in my life. When a good, aged Sister would give me her sweater and ask me to redo a stitch, I was obliged to admit that I did not understand what she wanted, that I had never knitted, and that, if someone insisted and I began to do it, I would redo the stitching backward every time.

“The novitiate at that time was numerous and full of fervor. There were six young professed there: Srs. Louise-Alphonsine, Françoise-Pauline, Claire-Isabelle, Jeanne-Charlotte, Louise-Hèléne and Marie Mechtilde; two novices: Srs. Marg.-Agnés and Thèrése-Amèlie; one extern novice, Sr. M. Geneviève and two postulants: Miss V., who became Sr. M. Clotilde, and the good Maria, today Sr. M. Germaine. These last two were indeed my companions. The professed, especially Sr. M. Mechtilde, received me affectionately. The novices and the postulant maintained a great reserve. It took two years to break the ice with them. Later, when they were entirely of one heart with me, they admitted that they were on their guard against this young lady de La Touche, who came from God knows where.

“From the day of my entrance into the novitiate, I was handed the book of our rules, constitutions and directories, and I soon had read there that no voluntary mortification was to be undertaken without permission. Was it therefore necessary to speak to our Mistress about the plank that I put in my bed? But if I talked with her, this good Mistress would think me so delicate that she would not permit it anymore. Could one, then, speak of such things? Was it necessary, therefore, not to do it anymore?

“A little perplexed, I resolved to submit the case to Fr. Toupin. This venerable priest had received me with great kindness at my arrival. Fr. Raymond, his friend, had recommended me to him and I had really found in him a support on the day of testing, a guide during the two long months of my waiting, a father full of firmness and goodness. I submitted the case to him and he told me immediately that it was necessary to tell our Mistress. This cost me a lot. I answered him that, it being almost certain that she would not permit me, it was useless to tell her that I would not do it anymore. But he wanted to accustom me from the start to religious obedience and to overcome my repugnancies. He ordered me to go that very evening to our Mistress and tell her what I had done. I submitted.

“At four o’clock in the evening I went looking for our Mistress. I would indeed have liked not to find her; so much was it costing me to tell her. Nevertheless I looked for her conscientiously, found her and told her everything. She did not permit me to continue and she even refused me the discipline[3] that I had asked her to give me. I bowed quite simply to her will, but I did regret the small rope discipline that I had made for myself during the last year of my life in the world and that I had thrown in the fire the day I entered, convinced that in the monastery I would find a better one. This reminds me of an incident connected with this discipline that will amuse Father.[4]

“First of all, I had never thought that the permission of one’s confessor was needed to do penances, and I had never asked anything of Fr. Raymond in this regard. Urged, on the one hand, to suffer for the conversion of Ireneaus and, on the other, thinking that there was no better way to combat my temptations than by joining penance to prayer, I had made myself a discipline according to the little information I had of this instrument by looking at a picture in which St. Aloysius Gonzaga was shown with one in his hand. Once the discipline was made, there was the matter of hiding it from the vigilant eyes of my dear mother. This was not easy.

“Finally I found a secure hiding place. By this time no one wore crinoline petticoats anymore, but fashion at that time had replaced this disagreeable contraption with a small bag filled with horsehair and steel rods in skirts. One fine evening I removed part of the horsehair that completed my fit and opened up a small interior, perfectly hidden pocket and, because of this invention, my discipline and good Mother F. Mathilde’s letters always escaped the eyes of my mother.” (To be continued, God willing)

Yours in Christ,

P.S. From June 13 to July 18 I shall
be in Rome for a renewal course.

Rev. Vergil Heier, C.M.M.

[1] In accordance with her vow of poverty, Mother uses the plural form “our” for her cell.

[2] Her brother-in-law.

[3] A kind of whip or scourge

[4] Fr. Alfred Charrier, S.J., her spiritual director

To sign up for this Newsletter please write to;Fr Vergil Heier
Lady of Grace Monastery,
23715 Ann Arbor Trail,
Dearborn Heights,
MI 48127
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