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

Newsletter No. 62 December 1st, 2013

Dear Friends,

Here we are near the end of the year again. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Here is a passage from Mother Louise Margaret’s book, “The Sacred Heart and the Priesthood” (TAN Books and Publishers 1979), which brings out how fitting it is that the Work she founded is called, “The Work of Infinite Love.” Fr. Maximilian Taroni, O.F.M., cited the passage in the Work’s Italian language periodical, “Betania, Ut Sint Unum” (10030 Vische-Torino, May-June 2013, pp 17f).

“God is love! He loves from eternity to eternity! God loves! That is what He occupies Himself with in the sovereign possession of His Being and in the serene peace of His immortal glory. He loves! That is His life, His action, His pleasure, His divine food and His ineffably sweet repose. He loves! He wishes to love, He must continue to love. His love is Himself, and if He ceased to love, He would suddenly cease to be God.

“God is Love! He gives love without reckoning. He pours it out with inexhaustible abundance on the entire creation. Nothing escapes from this divine deluge which strives to engulf everything.

“God loves! But He wishes to be loved: love has need of a return. If, in the very bosom of the Divinity, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit give such a perfect return that They love each other with the same Love which is their essence, so Infinite Love wishes to find outside of Itself a reciprocity, doubtless relative and proportioned to the weakness of the created being, but nevertheless real.

“God pours out torrents of love upon the creature; in his turn, the creature should love. But God has formed creatures of a higher order. God has given man not only that principle of love which He has given to inferior creatures, and by which he was already bound instinctively to tend towards God, and to submit himself to Him, but He has given him much more. Nevertheless, few men love God as He wishes to be loved” (“The Sacred Heart and the Priesthood,” pp 173-177)!

The funds for publishing and mailing this newsletter are running low. I have $326.84 on hand for this purpose. It now costs $67.92 to print and mail one issue. It comes so high because nearly half of the newsletters that I send by mail (24 out of 57) are overseas or to Canada. In the latest postal rate hike, a letter to Canada costs the same as overseas ($1.10). If the postal rates remain the same, I still have enough funds to pay for three more newsletters after this one, that is, enough for the three letters of 2014 (April 1, August 1 and December 1). If any of you have a few dollars to spare, please think about sending them here, so we can finish publishing Mother Louise Margaret’s Autobiography. Thank you! Now let us continue with her Autobiography:

“Since my bedroom was quite near to hers [i.e., to my mother’s], I was always afraid that she would notice an unusual sound, so I did not dare to make use of my discipline more than very rarely. I thought I could use it in Paray le Monial and had carefully taken it along but, in spite of my intention to write ahead to reserve two bedrooms, the number of pilgrims obliged us, Miss Plantier and me, to share the same room, and so I had to abandon my dear penitential project! The renouncement did me more good and the good Master, who Himself was leading me, was arranging everything with His divine prudence.

“Shortly after my entrance to the Novitiate something surprised me painfully. There was at that time a certain undercurrent not very sympathetic to Venerable Father Toupin and I was struck by the freedom with which people expressed these feelings. I had been raised to respect the priest. Never did I hear anyone in my family speak flippantly about a member of the clergy. When the noise of one of those painful scandals that cause Holy Church to weep reached us, we never talked about it amongst ourselves and we tried to throw a veil over these human failures. When our servants allowed themselves to laugh at the rustic ways of the good country Curé or to criticize in any way the sacred personage of a priest, my mother would reprimand them so forcefully and order them so strongly to keep quiet that it would not happen a second time. My surprise to find in the house of God a different attitude was extreme and I was profoundly saddened. I was the last one of all. I could not think of reacting against this state of affairs. I had to limit myself to closing up in the most complete silence. My companions probably noticed that I did not enter into this general movement. A little later, after I had made my profession, I began to show by my cool and serious attitude that I did not approve a way of acting like that. I prayed a lot for this and, in the end, I had the consolation to see a new spirit form in the community.

“I had imagined that good Mother F.M. had related the contents of my letters to the Mistress of Novices. Thinking therefore that she knew everything about me that was necessary, I did not take the trouble to tell her again about my vocation and my past life. But it was not at all that way. Good Mother had kept everything secret and our Mistress was waiting that I tell her something about myself in order that, as our Constitutions tell us, “She may know better how to lead and to train me.” This misunderstanding resulted, at the beginning, in a bit of coolness in my relationship with my Mistress, who, while being very good, very attentive to my health, did not open her heart to me, nor did she encourage that expansiveness of which my ardent and too long repressed soul was in need. After several weeks, however, the matter was resolved. I told our Mistress everything I had written to Mother. She appeared satisfied with my simplicity, but my soul still had to suffer a long time from this lack of expansion.

“Our Mistress had the habit of bringing the novices and the postulants together every Sunday for a half hour of catechism. My companions told me about this and I rejoiced at the thought of finally being able to get some instruction in the truths of religion, of which I was still very ignorant. When, then, Sunday came and the hour for catechism rang, I came to place my stool next to those of the other postulants. But our Mistress, picking me out from the others, said to me: ‘What do you want, Sister Margaret?’ ‘Sister,’ I replied, ‘They told me it was catechism and I come to listen.’ ‘No, Sister, go pray in choir.’ I obeyed, thinking this was meant for my mortification and that it was only for one time. The following Sunday, when the time for catechism arrived, I respectfully approached our Mistress and asked whether she was willing to let me attend. ‘No, no, Sister,’ was the reply, ‘I prefer that you go to choir.’ I left, my heart heavy, and kneeling down before the Bl. Sacrament, I said to the Good Master: ‘They don’t want to teach me anything here; but, my good Master, You instruct me!’ He did so, this adorable Friend of souls, at first by simple illuminations and secret touches, then later by his divine voice and such penetrating and luminous interior lights with which he deigned to favor his unworthy and miserable servant. Thinking that perhaps our Mistress believed me well instructed in religion and that it was because of this that she had not admitted me to catechism, I believed it my duty to tell her how ignorant I was; how little I was trained in this point, since I had not had more than four months of catechetical instruction in my life. This did not get her to change her mind and I was never admitted to the Sunday classes. Jesus really did want to be my only Master!

“At this time I did an act of simplicity and obedience that did not succeed at all and about which my Sisters still tease me. Ever since the great stress on my lungs that I had in the Jura Mountains, my voice had changed. The emotions of departure and the change in life increased this disposition after my entrance into the monastery and the emphysema-like state of my lungs, which hindered regular breathing, made every voice effort extremely painful for me. As soon as I was in the novitiate they sent me to Office. For the first few days I just listened. Then one evening at matins I tried to sing the psalms. The Novitiate assistant told me the next morning that it hadn’t gone badly, but that I had to start higher. ‘When you will be a novice,’ she told me, ‘you will say the verse; you always have to say it a little higher. To get used to that, do not be afraid to raise your voice. Resolutely take a higher tone.’ At matins the next time, wishing to obey punctually, I started without hesitation just a note higher than the choir. I could not but find this discord strange, but because I had been told to do so and, in addition, none of my neighbors were signaling to me to come down, I continued, not without great effort on my part, to sing this whole office exactly one tone higher than our Sisters. It was all the harder for me because, not being a musician, the tone of the other choir members kept pulling me down and that wore me out very much; but whenever necessary, I valiantly pushed on all the way to the last ‘Oremus.’ All the Sisters, however, on hearing me, thought that I was entirely tone-deaf, and were convinced that I hadn’t noticed the discord. The following day our Mistress, to whom all the Sisters had related my matins and who did not know about the order given to me by the assistant of the Novitiate, told me bluntly to keep silence at the office. This was a permission of God and an attention of Providence, for, in truth, the chanting of the office at that time would have ended in ruining my chest. But this was also a great sacrifice for me. From that moment on it was resolved to receive me in the rank of Associate Sisters, that is, dispensed from the office. And I would have had so much pleasure in singing the praises of God! I felt so drawn to the divine poetry of the psalms, the hymns, and the canticles that it is still a real suffering to me to see myself deprived of them. In the world my health had often caused me painful bodily sufferings, but nevertheless I was never prevented from following my worldly life and never did I have to suffer morally because of the great fragility of my temperament. In the monastery it would be different and I found here an ample source of sufferings and renunciations. It was one of the biggest pains of my first years of religious life to see myself unable to take part in community works like the others; to hang out the wash, to sweep the floors, and do so many other small jobs which ordinarily fall to the novices and young professed. With self-love mixing in, it was a real soul suffering for me, when I volunteered for an occasion of rendering a service, to hear the same sentence again and again: ‘Oh, not you, Sister!’ This ‘not you, Sister’ cut me to the heart and it was only by serious reasoning, done at the feet of the Good Master, and the help of grace that I came to accept this inferiority of weakness and this abjection of sickness. It needed an unrelenting work on myself and the meditation of Jesus suffering and humiliated to arrive at conquering my self-love on this point, and at loving this state so humiliating in the eyes of creatures but so precious in Jesus’ eyes. To this suffering, which would remain so keen in me for several years, another was joined of which the following ordeal was the beginning.

“On the day of my entrance into the retreat a book of meditations was given to me and our Mistress had taught me a method of praying well. I had tried my best to use it, but Jesus, the very gentle Master, had let my soul feel His attractions and often at the beginning of prayer the point that I had prepared disappeared from my spirit and I remained there, in a completely simple view of His mysteries and His love, mixed with discussions and familiar dialogues with Him. One day, perhaps two months after I entered the Novitiate, right at the beginning of our instruction the Mistress said: ‘Sr. Candidate Margaret will give us an account of her prayer today.’ Totally surprised, I remained motionless for a moment, not knowing what I was going to do. Precisely on that very morning I had left my point of prayer to converse with O.L. in that sweet familiarity to which He was attracting me. I had talked to him of my past, of my temptations, of my miseries. I had adored his Mercy.... All that I would have gladly told our Mistress privately, but to speak of my affairs before all the novitiate in front of these twelve sisters, whom I in fact did not know at all; that I did not care in any way to do.” (To be continued.)

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Vergil Heier, C.M.M.
English-language Representative
Work of Infinite Love

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