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

Newsletter No. 63 April 1st, 2014

Dear Friends,

Happy Easter to all of you! May God give you an ever-greater appreciation of what He has done for us in sending His Son to tell us about Himself and His Kingdom and then to raise Him from the dead for our salvation. The more we ponder this, the more we rejoice in God’s goodness. Yes, he is Infinite Love!

The Work of Infinite Love as a movement in the Church goes on. The Sisters of the Institute of Bethany of the Sacred Heart had a general chapter at their headquarters in Vische, Italy, from October 14th to October 26th of last year. For the first time the general chapter elected a non-Italian to be Mother General. Her name is Sister (now Mother) Anna Maria Cóceres from Argentina, the home country of Pope Francis. She was born on March 30, 1941, in Corrientes, the capitol of the province of Corrientes, about 500 miles north of Buenas Aires, and made her First Profession with the Bethany Sisters on January 1, 1987. She speaks Italian well. The Bethany Sisters have a house in Argentina. Its address is: Betania del Sagrado Corazón, Belgrano 579, 5105 VILLA ALLENDE (Cordoba), Argentina. It was in this house that the new Mother General became a member of the Bethany Sisters.

Our appeal for donations to continue the Newsletter, made in our last issue, did not go unheeded. Nearly $500 was donated for that purpose, which should keep us going for some years, God willing. To all who gave, thank you very much! May God bless you, and may Mother Louise Margaret pray for you!

Our new pope, Pope Francis, has a great devotion to St. Joseph. Just recently he decreed that the name of St. Joseph be mentioned in all four of the major Eucharistic Prayers of our Latin Rite Church. Mother Louise Margaret also had devotion to St. Joseph, as we see from the following passage:

“Glory, honor, and benediction to blessed Joseph! His power in heaven is boundless; his tender love for men is inexhaustible. Never has anyone asked anything in vain from the glorious spouse of the Virgin.

“All seemed lost but one cry to Mary and Joseph, and all is saved!

“As Jesus was submissive to them when He was on earth, so is He also in heaven; let us go to Joseph with confidence and let us publish everywhere the glory and power and love of the glorious and merciful spouse of the Virgin Mary”
(“Intimate Notes,” August 16, 1890).

Let us call on him as the Church prepares for the next Bishops’ Synod, which will deal with religious life. He is certainly a model for all those who have made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Let us return now to Mother Louise Margaret’s autobiography:

“I got up, knelt down and I was going to answer that I did not remember anything at all, when our Mistress, forestalling this answer, said: ‘But Sr. Margaret will not be able to tell us that she does not remember her prayer, for she took it up again after the office, just a short time ago!’ What could I do? Not answer at all? But, besides that being a lack of respect for our Mistress, I had seen my poor companion Maria sent out of the novitiate for a whole day for not having answered a question put to her. Nevertheless, our Mistress, seeing me keep silence and thinking that it perhaps was out of shyness, encouraged me maternally: ‘Let’s see, what was the point you took?’

“My Lord, something had to be done to get out of this impasse! Without thinking much about what I was going to do, I played my part. Picking up on the first sentence of the Scriptures that came to mind, I improvised on the spot a mediation of three points. When I had finished, the Mistress said to me: ‘That was the point of the meditation, but there are still the affections.’ I was on a roll: I improvised a colloquy, too, and the appropriate affections, I joined to them some practical resolutions, then a spiritual bouquet, and having said everything, I shut up. Our good Mistress seemed visibly pleased with my good will and my little meditation. She encouraged me to keep practicing mental prayer and I returned to my seat very content to have been extricated so happily.

“My contentment, however, did not last long. The class was not yet over and I felt remorse flood my conscience. I had lacked in straightforwardness, in sincerity. I had lied! I had acted with duplicity! My soul was penetrated with sorrow at the thought that I had offended God. It seemed to me that I had never in my life committed such a big sin. I would have liked to have been able to cast myself immediately at the feet of our Novice Mistress and confess everything, but I did not dare to do so. Our relationship was still so ceremonious and so cold regarding the things of the soul!

“Fortunately, the next day was confession day. I admitted everything I had done to good Fr. Toupin. He told me that I would have done better not to reply, to say that I did not remember anymore, or to get out of the situation by a few respectful but vague words. For the rest, he told me that I was not at all obliged to reveal the secrets of my soul in public, that this pertained to the interior forum and that, as no one had the right to demand this of me, I did not have any obligation to reveal them. He ended by giving me absolution and telling me to see to it that this sort of thing not happen again.

“But how could I prevent our Mistress from repeating this ordeal? Wishing, however, to avoid at all costs the possibility of lying again, I resolved to do something that would inflict a painful martyrdom on my soul for more than eighteen months. In order to be able at all times to answer questions put to me on this subject, I decided to dedicate the majority of my time of mental prayer every day to an exercise of methodical meditation on some point that I would be able to remember and towards which I would be indifferent enough to talk about it in front of everyone. The fear of offending God gave me the courage to embrace this exercise and to pursue it consistently for the whole time of my initial probation and the whole year of my white novitiate. As I said, however, Jesus was always attracting me to a simpler way and during all this time my soul had to stay in a state of resistance towards the Divine Master, which made me suffer atrociously.

“From time to time I would try timidly to tell Our Mistress that at prayer time I would like just simply to hold conversation with Our Lord and that the continual use of the method indicated sometimes put me in a spirit of constraint. ‘No, no,’ was the answer, ‘this method is excellent. It is necessary to follow it faithfully.’ I would submit and continue on my way. This did not happen, as I grasped later on, without a special permission of Our Lord. This constraint of soul was a good penance for me. The intellectual labor to which I forced myself did me good. It helped to empty my mind of the remembrance of profane things that had occupied it until then. It developed in my spirit a certain facility in applying myself to the study of divine things. Through the struggle and effort, it caused the holy thoughts that too often remain on the surface of my soul to enter into it. Likewise I have retained real gratitude toward our dear Mistress, today our Mother, for the good she did me, perhaps without knowing it or, at least, without being able at that time to foresee the immense good that I was going to draw from it. It was not until my profession retreat that our Mother Fr. Mathilde, recognizing a genuine attraction for God, allowed me to follow it in prayer.

“It did not take me long after my entrance into the novitiate to discover a certain mystery, a certain inhibition weighing on the spirit of our Mother F. Mathilde, our Novice Mistress and on certain Sisters, notably among the older ones. At first I did not understand the cause, but then the classes of instruction in the novitiate and the casual remarks made in Community opened my eyes. The Holy See had shortly before promulgated a decree touching on various points of religious life. This act, so full of wisdom, which did not in any way damage our Institute, nevertheless produced a strange impression.

“Although at that time I was only a small candidate incapable of making a judgment, I was nevertheless not able to keep my spirit from finding the conduct of the Superiors quite strange on this occasion, and above all not very smart. People kept saying that the decree did not in any way refer to the Visitation: that it was impossible to attain and, with that, they made an enormous affair of it and showed a singular fright. It seemed that the Holy Father, in withdrawing the Superiors’ absolute authority in the matter of reception of the Sacraments, had at the same time withdrawn all authority.

“Doubtlessly, these new decisions could produce a deplorable impression on certain weak and little enlightened spirits, but isn’t it always necessary to bow before the decisions of Holy Church and, even if they should go so far as to completely overturn an institute, still would it not be better that one institute perish and the sovereign authority of the Church be respected? There was at that time and there would remain for a long time a resistance on this point in the spirit of the Superiors that was far from speaking well of them.

“If one had seen the Superiors bow humbly before the decisions of the Church and, without sorrow and without resistance give up this authority, certainly abusive, to grant or refuse the reception of Holy Communion, one would have been edified and touched and, far from withdrawing confidence, one would have continued freely and without inhibition to deal with them filially and with open heart. As for me, the decrees themselves left me totally indifferent. I believed that nothing was more reasonable and more necessary than to leave to the confessor the concern of giving or refusing Holy Communion to souls, and I was easily convinced in my own heart that our Holy Founder, so sensible and so enlightened, would not have judged otherwise.

“I also believed that the counsel (not the order) given by our Holy Founders to filially open one’s heart to one’s Superiors was good: that it had been supremely profitable to my soul and to my progress, and that it was an act as much of wisdom as of humility to follow it, provided that the Superiors were humble, prudent and wise. But I admit that the attitude of the Superiors on this occasion made a painful impression on me and before this spirit of resistance to the Church and the all too feminine littleness of spirit that I discovered there, I considered for an instant within myself whether I would remain or leave the monastery.

“I could not ask counsel of anyone. I noticed a kind of muted struggle between Fr.Toupin and our Mother. The Rev. Fr. Gabriel, our extraordinary confessor, condemned the attitude of the Superiors on this point, but I was not able to see him at the moment when the question of my leaving presented itself to my spirit. I turned to Jesus my divine Master and prayed to him to enlighten me. I did not for all the world want to remain in a house where obedience to the Church was not absolutely total, and yet I was here, suffering in the depths of my soul and awaiting a light. It came. My divine Master made me see, not by words but by a profound and very clear sentiment that his will was that I was here and that I should remain here to suffer here. So I remained.

“Shortly afterwards the time of my five-day retreat arrived. Ordinarily this retreat takes place in the time between entrance into the novitiate and Investiture. It was at the end of May that I began the retreat. I made it with a grave and serious spirit. What I had glimpsed of religious life in the last five months made me consider it even more than before as a life of sacrifice. I had perhaps met with less bodily sufferings than I had expected, but I had also discovered there many more moral sufferings than I had imagined. Father must have the notebook of my five-day retreat at hand, so I shall not write more about it.

“I shall say only that the Will of God appeared very clear to me. He truly wanted me in this religious life full of sacrifices and, although I felt very weak, I resolved to go ahead, counting solely on his grace and his merciful love. My lax nature nevertheless had to make an energetic effort to embrace thus in advance this succession of sacrifices and sufferings that I had glimpsed ahead of me. Some weeks later our infinitely good Savior, who never leaves unrequited an effort toward him, was going to pour into my soul an immense joy.”

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Vergil Heier, C.M.M.

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