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

Newsletter No. 79 June 16th, 2021

Dear Friends,

Greetings! It’s been nearly two years since my last Work of Infinite Love newsletter. I shall pick up where I left off in the second to last newsletter, published in February 2019, where I promised to translate into English “A Ho Il Sole nell’Anima” [I Have the Sun in My Soul] a biography of Mother Louise Margaret de la Touche by Paolo Redi (pseudonym), which the Sisters in Vische had given to me. Here is the first installment from that biography. P.S. The funds for the newsletter are low. Donations for postage costs are needed.


The biography of a nun would seem to be reserved to a specific group of readers interested in the spiritual life, especially if it deals with a sister who is a “mystic,” i.e. the recipient of other-world messages, as was Mother Louise Margaret Claret de la Touche. She was a French Visitation nun who emigrated to Italy with her community because of the repressive laws of Combes and died at Vische in the province of Turin and the diocese of Ivrea in 1915.

The pen of Paolo Redi - I indicate the pseudonym used by the author - has transformed that biography into a work of psychology and history. In fact, while he summarizes the biographical facts and hardly mentions the mystical experiences, he expatiates, on the other hand, on the description of the humanity of the protagonist, on her temperament, on the experiences of her youth, and on the historical and sociological background of the France of her time.

From here he draws his material for showing not only the expedients and the perseverance of the protagonist to realize her mission of maternity towards priests - a “priest mother” Redi calls her - leaning on the men whom Providence had her meet, from the Jesuit Charrier to the bishop Right Reverend Filipello, who guided her ... and were guided by her - but likewise for helping us to understand how this French woman, so fond of her France and so suspicious of Italy regarding the political situation, came to consider Bishop Filipello as her father and “her diocese of Ivrea” as her second fatherland.

And thus this woman, so brilliant with men and with the consciousness of her physical being, became the seducer with the heart, pointing - as then was common in France - to the Heart of Jesus as expression and synthesis of infinite Love, which is God.

Her youthful vow of virginity exalts purity as the equilibrium between the physical and the spiritual and she lives a “manly femininity” at the service of a “priest mother,” that shapes her whole message and apostolate.

And she proclaims and lives the synthesis of the masculine and the feminine, beyond the conflict of her time and the confusion of our times, as harmony and collaboration: priests announce Christ and women bring him into the world.

It is the kind of book that you read at one setting and we ought to be grateful to Paolo Redi, who helps us thus to know, appreciate and love a woman, a sister and such a singular mystic as Louise Margaret Claret de la Touche.

The Church will weigh, the author concludes, whether she should be proposed as a model of sanctity; we, however, are happy to have met her thus and to receive a message that helps us to live fully our existence as human persons and Christians.

Luigi Bettazzi
Bishop (of Ivrea - retired)

Chapter 1

Wine and chocolate

Margaret Claret de la Touche was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 15 March 1868.

It was a burning disappointment especially for her mother, who turned it into a sickness: Mrs. Mary Louise Cousin Claret was in fact expecting a boy and had decided that nature and grace ought to give her one. The birth of this second daughter was for her an unbearable mistake.

Mr. Ferdinand Claret, a solid son of Brittany, took it with more equilibrium. He, too, was certainly hoping for a male heir. For that purpose he had set out even to recover at the registrars office his full surname. His father had shortened it out of prudence during the time of the French Revolution. He was not just a simple Claret, but a Claret de la Touche. Perhaps this did not make much difference, but it did make for a good story and gave prestige.

Margaret - a splendid child, robust and not at all with the paleness typical of the French upper middle class of that time - even from her birth set at naught the expectations of her family.

Her mother had difficulty recovering. Her feminine pride, exalted by a very faithful love of her husband, had been brutally wounded by the unforeseeable creativity of nature and Providence.

Born in Paris in 1838, Mary Louise Cousin belonged to a well-to-do family of the upper middle class of Troyes in Champagne and had acquired the mentality and lifestyle of that social class in which rules and convenience have the same value.

A brilliant and refined woman, whose fascination consisted of a combination of style and moral purity.

Mr. Claret de la Touche was a distinguished and reflective individual. He was born in Vannes in 1827, where his family reunited after the forced dispersion to which they were constrained during the revolutionary disturbances. As a youth he had thought of becoming a priest, but a series of circumstances had prevented it.

Margaret recounts in her autobiography the story of the love of her parents:
“When my father saw her, he did not know how to resist the fascination of that simple and open nature, whose fresh innocence had not yet been at all dimmed by contact with the world. My mother, who until then had refused every proposal, felt from the very beginning attracted to my father. He was gifted with a pleasing and very distinctive aspect and a superior intellect. His attractive conversation, joined to a noble dignity and an exquisite affability, betrayed, under a serious appearance, a very ardent heart. He possessed, all in all, what was necessary to attract her affection.”

There is art in this mode of recounting a love story.

Margaret was received by a sister, Matilda, who was born six years before her. At Saint-Germain-en-Laye they lived in a “cute apartment” which the new arrival filled with her boisterous vitality and her smile. The delicate constitution of the mother made it inadvisable to have her nurse her and Margaret was entrusted to a wet nurse, who boarded in the house.

After several months the poor woman did not succeed in satisfying the robust appetite of the baby. In order not to lose her job, during the night she had her suck “bread soaked in wine and chocolate, with which she smeared the end of her wooden needle case without even taking the precaution to remove the needles.”

The baby grew visibly thinner and the doctor did not know why. It was the mom who found out when entering the baby’s room unexpectedly one night, too late for medical science to attempt a recovery.

The faith came to the assistance of the desperation of the parents. Mom “dedicated me to the Blessed Virgin and promised to have me wear her colors until the age of seven.” The baby recovered, although her constitution was irremediably damaged.

Art and Pain

In 1869 the family moved to Angoulême, where Mr. Claret de la Touche, inspector of direct taxes, had been sent for service.

The following year France is at war. Paris is besieged by the German troops and it is in Paris that Mr. Claret has deposited at the Bank of France his whole patrimony. It is impossible to get to the bank deposits. In order to live silverware and souvenirs are sold. The war brings poverty to the home. And pain. An uncle of Margaret - the older brother of her father - is wounded and made prisoner. His firstborn son, seventeen years old, enlists and fights with great courage but is lost in action. Although only two years old, the child absorbs the atmosphere of anxiety and preoccupation that establishes itself in the house and fixes memories and persons in her memory.

Her health is always precarious. She goes from bronchitis to bronchitis and the doctors try to cure her but often make mistakes. Margaret once again is at the door of death and her mother obtains once again the grace of healing from our Lady. Once again vivacious and perky, she makes faces at the doctor.

“In 1872 my father was named inspector at Versailles. My mother, very happy to present the newest daughter to her relatives, took me to Provins to the home of my grandmother, for whom I then began to have a very great affection.”

To Versailles Louis Adolphe Thiers, president of the Republic, had transferred the two chambers and the president’s office. Margaret plays in the park of the mansion and comes in contact with the art, as she visits the rooms used as a museum. The historical and mythological subjects fascinate her, but above all it is the expressive technique that arouses her curiosity.

Later she writes about this experience: “I sought the beautiful; I admired the grace of the forms, the splendor of colors, the surprising imitation of nature. That breath of life that seemed to pass into that lifeless marble and color those canvasses enraptured me. I remained long hours to contemplate those masterpieces.”

Her artistic temperament will express itself in a series of paintings, which reveals a good technique but show a certain mannerism of the time.

She was seven years old when her father died. Margaret gradually became conscious of her condition as orphan. The mother, after the first weeks of distress, tried to react to the misfortune. She went out with the older daughter to go for long walks.

Little Margaret was left in the custody of a governess and began to notice the change caused by the death of the father, who used to cuddle her and even allowed her to rummage in the drawers of his desk of which he was very protective and would take her in his arms and call her “my pretty one,” small and tiny as the frequent sicknesses had made her.

He could not stand to hear her cry, crazy for those blond curls of hers and for the family that life had given him and in which he immersed himself happily at the end of each day.

A great and very sweet figure, which Margaret kept in her memory and soul; for all her life she will reserve particular attention and affection for the masculine figure, amazed herself to find herself more in harmony with men than with women. We shall have occasion to see how she will develop this figure, harmonizing it with her extraordinary idea of woman.

The widow Mary Louise Cousin shows rather quickly her intention to go on to a new wedding: young, beautiful, and much seen in aristocratic circles, she wished to start a new home, recommence the interrupted project of her life as woman and wife.

Margaret does not say anything, but this intention of her mother causes her suffering: “It was still not a year from the death of my father when my mother showed that she wanted to pass on to a new wedding. She was within her rights, undoubtedly: she was still young, she wanted to have a counselor and support, she wanted to build a new home. I loved my mother too much to judge her reasons and I never allowed myself to say or even show anything of the sentiments that agitated my heart in that situation.

“In my childish egoism I would have found it completely normal that mom, remaining faithful to the remembrance of my father, dedicated herself solely to her daughters. My little heart of eight years, which perhaps dreamed already of eternal loves, had in this situation its first disappointment. Painful disappointment.

I suffered deeply in my heart, all the more because I did not wish to reveal to anyone my pain; I would have feared that in the end my mother would come to know of it and, in turn, would be pained.

I therefore closed up my suffering in the depths of my heart and, as I was always cheerful, smiling and affectionate, no one noticed. About thirty years have passed since then and my mother still does not know about the bitter delusion of my eight years.” (To be continued).

Yours sincerely in Jesus and Mary,

Rev. Vergil Heier, C.M.M.
For the Work of Infinite Love

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