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

Newsletter No. 71 January 4th, 2017

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year to all of you! Because this newsletter is a whole month late, I am able to greet you in this way. During this new year of 2017 may you all feel the presence of that God of Infinite Love that Mother Louise Margaret wrote so well of.

Here is the first part of an article about Mother Louise Margaret written by Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins and first published as: “The Venerable Louise-Marguerite Claret de la Touche”, Missio Immaculata International, Vol. 12, Noº 6, (November/December, 2016) 15-18. Msgr. Calkins has been so kind as to allow us to reprint it for our newsletter.

“1. The Special Call to Holiness of the Clergy

Perhaps it is a rather well kept secret both to priests, religious and to the lay faithful that over the course of centuries the Lord, through the voice of chosen souls, has been calling the priests of his Church to conversion and holiness of life. Indeed, it is true that this is a call to all as the fifth chapter of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the single most important document emanating from the Second Vatican Council, very clearly points out. The call to conversion and holiness is obviously a call addressed to everyone, not just to priests and religious. At the same time, however, because of their mediatorial role, because they represent the Lord Jesus to their people and the Church to the world, priests must be held to a very high degree of holiness. There is a saying often identified with the holy Curé of Ars:

If the priest is a saint, his people will be holy;

If the priest is holy, but not yet a saint, his people will be good;

If he is good, his people will be lukewarm,

and if he is lukewarm, his parishioners will be bad.

And if the priest himself is bad, his people will go to hell.

Surely, the holy Curé, Saint John-Marie Vianney (1786-1859), incarnated this dictum even if he didn’t say it explicitly. This call to priestly holiness has been sounded by any number of great saints. One thinks, for example, of Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), who devoted a large section of her Dialogue and many letters to priests on this subject. What has been noted by many observers is that from at least about the middle of the nineteenth century the Lord has been raising up chosen souls to speak or write about the urgency of the call for the sanctification of the clergy. Almost none of these figures had any contact with one another, but each from his or her own unique perspective presented this call to those who would listen or inculcated within their own circles the imperative of praying, sacrificing and even giving themselves as victims for the sanctification of priests. In the case of those who are saints, blessed or venerable we have the Church’s guarantee that their writings contain nothing that is contrary to the teaching of the Church” (To be continued.)

Continuation of Mother Louise Margaret’s autobiography: “Frequent and sometimes very violent sicknesses and extreme weakness would keep me united continually to Jesus crucified. Then why did this adorable Master cure me? He knows why. What is certain is that in curing me he gave me the facility to talk and instruct, and the facility to apply myself to work; something a frequent feeling of suffocation prevented. I thanked God for this grace and promised myself to acknowledge it by a greater fidelity.

“Nevertheless the end of the term of our Mother Françoise Mathilde was approaching and the cross pressed more heavily on my soul. I had the interior certainty that Sister M. Aloysia would be elected and the thought of falling into her hands again caused me intense fear. At the end of April I caught bronchitis and I had to go to the infirmary. The Good Master permitted that I be deprived of his comforting visits for three weeks. I did not dare to show the desire I had to receive Jesus, for this desire for Communion, just by being expressed, ordinarily brought upon me refusals and humiliations and I was not very courageous.

“The infirmarian at that time was never urged to favor her sick people with this good. No one thought of giving me that help. During those three weeks I suffered a genuine agony of soul. God alone knew about this secret. At the end of that time I was able to get up and leave my room and I went to confession.

“When I told Fr. Toupin that it was twenty days since I approached the sacraments he was greatly surprised. During this time the First Communion retreat was preached by Rev. Father Persien and Father Chaplain, who knew I was sick, was convinced that I had gone to confession to Father and that I had also received Holy Communion from him. Because of scrupulousness he did not at all dare to ask to see me and, believing me sufficiently cared for, he waited for my recovery. From that moment on this good priest watched over me like a father. When he noticed that I was not at Mass for two or three days he asked the sacristan why I was absent and, when I went to confession, if he himself had not given me Communion during the week, he asked me whether I had gone at the first Mass.

“On Ascension Day Our Lord gave us Sister M. Aloysia as Mother. I bowed under the cross and to Fr. Toupin who asked me several days later how I felt about this development I simply replied: ‘Father, I am resolved to treat our new Mother as if nothing had happened between us. I will be as confident, as filial, and as open with her as with our Mother F. Mathilde.’ Jesus’ grace helped me in this and I don’t believe anyone of the community could have suspected then the suffering that gripped my soul. Moreover everything went well for the first months. Our Mother, all occupied with the cares and obligations of her new job, left the Sisters of the Novitiate to their Mistress and she showed herself good and affable to everyone.

“During my retreat of [1893] I felt drawn very particularly toward holy abandonment. I was interiorly urged to throw myself into God, to abandon myself into his divine arms without reserve. It seemed to me that Our Lord was asking me to make this particular act and the thought of making a vow of abandonment to Jesus often came to mind. I had spoken of it several times with our Mother F. Mathilde and our Mistress. They had not said, ‘No,’ and had told me to consult with Rev. Father Gabriel our extraordinary confessor. I would have preferred to speak with Fr. Toupin who knew me better, but I obeyed, and Fr. Gabriel to whom I had only rarely spoken did not judge it opportune. I therefore waited.

“After the election of our Mother Aloysia I once again more strongly felt urged to throw myself into abandonment. I talked with her again of my desire and this time she told me to open myself to Fr. Toupin about it and to take his advice. Fr. Chaplain, who knew me through and through and had noticed long ago this movement of my soul toward abandonment, who moreover foresaw the difficulties I was going to find myself in and, grasping the need I was going to have of a particular aid, received my desire favorably, but first he wanted to examine very well the dispositions of my soul.

“He ordered me to read the treatise on abandonment by Msgr. Gay, to meditate on it attentively and to give him an account of the sentiments that this reading would suggest to me. I did so and after several weeks of examination Fr. Toupin allowed me to the make the vow of abandonment that Our Lord asked of me. I only made it temporarily and renewed it on all the great feast days. Our Mother and our Mistress also allowed it. It was the 2nd of August 1895 that I pronounced the vow that would place me more particularly in the hands of Jesus to be the plaything of his good pleasure and the miserable instrument of his designs of love.

“When I went on retreat in September I understood that I had responded well to the desire of Our Lord in making this vow. A peace, an unaccustomed repose, filled my soul in spite of the suffering that persisted. Jesus made me feel divinely the sweetness of his presence and I came out of the Holy Exercises prepared to suffer with love and with joy all that it would please the good Master to send me.

“The following October 17th I began to feel some illnesses, which I did not realize at first. Nevertheless, they increased and on the 25th our Mistress, seeing me suffocating very much and hearing me cough painfully, ordered me to go to bed. I was at that time living in the 1st cell of the second dormitory. Dear cell! Jesus would soon come to visit it in his Sacrament of love! In the evening after supper Sr. Infirmarian came to see me. I had a burning fever and I was choking.

“As she rushed to give me some care I was suddenly seized by a fearful suffocation. Blood had suddenly filled my lungs; I was totally without air. Thus gasping for air on my bed I had the same anguish as a poor drowning man who struggles desperately in the water that is suffocating him. Until the end of my life I shall remember what I suffered then.

“I could not speak anymore, but the clearness of my spirit was total. I understood that death was there very close and before this sudden apparition, in the face of this eternity that rose up before me, I had an instant of unspeakable terror. This was only a flash of lightning. The majesty of God was frightening me, but I turned my heart towards Mary my merciful Mother, toward St. Joseph, the help and support of the dying, and confidence returned to my soul. I made an energetic effort and I murmured, ‘The priest! I’m going to die!’

“A few moments later Fr Toupin entered. Sitting on my bed, bent forward, clinging with both hands to my mattress, without breath, without voice, I could not go to confession. Fr. Chaplain leaned toward me and I said to him weakly, ‘Father, you know everything, everything. I ask pardon of Our Lord.’ Oh, how happy I was then for always having told Fr. Toupin everything, of having made my general confession to him, of feeling myself well known! He encouraged me with a few words, gave me Holy Absolution and, seeing me so sick, he told me he was going to give me Holy Viaticum immediately. The danger was so great that he did not even wait until the end of matins. He passed through the parlors with the Bl. Sacrament and arrived at our cell accompanied only by Our Mother, our Mistress, and some nurses. The suffocation had lessened a bit in intensity and I could go back to bed.

“Fr. Chaplain approached my bed and gave me an exhortation that I still remember about the ten virgins, which he had read the same morning for the feast of our Blessed Sister. I asked pardon and renewed my vows according to the short form. As Fr. Toupin left the room, the doctor entered. I was absorbed in my thanksgiving. I let him do and say as he wished. He had diagnosed a complete pulmonary congestion and, although the danger was momentarily somewhat removed, it still existed. A second bout of suffocation like the one I had just had could kill me. I abandoned myself confidently to the Heart of Jesus whom I possessed within me and I awaited in peace the will of the Lord.

“On the next day, when very serious complications had arisen, the physician telegraphed my brother-in-law, who arrived immediately. After the consultation, as the two left our cell, they said: ‘She has five sicknesses at the same time and all so serious that any one of them would be enough to bring her to the grave.’ They did not have much hope. In fact, the lungs, the bronchial tubes, the heart, the liver and the kidneys were so seriously affected that there really was no reason to expect a recovery.

“I was suffering very much. Over and above the natural pains of so many diseases and a burning fever, the treatments that they gave me put me into a real purgatory. Burning hot applications repeated uninterruptedly on all parts of my body tore me up all over and gave me the means to unite myself lovingly to Jesus scourged and crucified. But maybe what made me suffer most was an intense cold, not exterior but interior, that froze me. I felt the cold of death that was invading all my members and nothing succeeded in warming me up” (to be continued, God willing).

Yours sincerely in Jesus and Mary,

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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