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

Newsletter No. May, 2022

Dear Friends,

Here is another installment of the biography of Mother Louise Margaret de la Touch,“I Have the Sun in My Heart,” by Paolo Redi. I have tried to translate into English this biography of Mother Louise Margaret, but the further I advance in the work the harder it becomes. My Italian is not very good, so I don’t catch all the nuances in the text, nor even the meaning of some sentences.

All this means that I will not be sending you any more installments of the biography. There is a biography of Mother Louise Margaret already in English from Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Rockford, Illinois 61105:“The Life and Work of Mother Louise Margaret,” 236pp. I have a few copies, which I will be happy to share with anyone who is interested.

Now the installment of“I Have the Sun in My Soul:”.

To know how these things go cannot be a sin if the majority of adults, besides knowing them, practice them and live in peace with themselves and with God. Evidently the sexuality-hating culture of her time does not convince her, even if it forces her to pose some questions.

She knows, however, that as a woman she can become a mother and she thinks of motherhood as an extraordinary and very worthwhile project. She will give it, as we shall have occasion to relate, a very original interpretation.

A tight rope walking and very vivacious girl, Margaret is also nonconformist in clothing: “During the winter of 1883 I had several times recited monologues in costume. My mother had enjoyed very much seeing me in masculine clothes; indeed one time the good Fr. Collet, passing through Valence, came to have tea with us, saw me dressed in this way, was pleased with it, pressed me father-like to his heart and told me that he would be pleased to have me as an ‘altar boy.’

“My body felt at ease in this clothing; thus when it came time to go into the country, my mother took me to a men’s clothing store and bought me a complete outfit: then in other stores everything necessary for such clothing was procured. Arriving in the Arbods, I left my girl’s clothing and put on my new outfit.

“The parish priest did not seem very pleased, he said it did not fit me. I jokingly answered that I was not at all vain. But he did not dare to forbid me this eccentricity, maybe out of fear of offending my family; he limited himself to forbidding me to enter his church dressed that way. I obeyed him. I suffered a little when, crossing the country during our walks, I saw my sister and my mother go into the church to adore the Blessed Sacrament, while I was forced by the prohibition of the parish priest to remain outdoors.”

A delightful picture of how the social conventions worked and how a young person amused herself in trying to change them. Significant in our case is Margaret’s refusal of any feminine coquettishness to strengthen a women’s project different from the current models. She loves to dress up but she does not use make-up, an ironic contradiction that makes her incomprehensible in the eyes of others and allows her to work on the internal construction of her personality.

Curiously, the nun and the contemplative in her will never cancel out the dancer and the actress. Although accusing herself of having been frivolous and dissipated in her youth, she knows she preserved “purity,” which is the happy equilibrium between the bodily and the spirit, besides being an expression of moral cleanness. Margaret is a woman totally upright, solid in her compact fragility. This allows her to face pain, physical or spiritual, as an opportunity. Pain traces the boundaries of the body that we are, it gives us the extent of our limits. Above all it places before us a radical choice: to defend ourselves against it in whatever way possible, or to face it and go beyond it to realize the promise that we are. Margaret chose the second alternative.

Religious Education.

“Religion at home was like this. My step-father was a Christian. I never saw a member of the family miss Sunday Mass or abstinence on Friday without a real sickness; all went to the sacraments four times a year with great seriousness to fulfill a duty. My mother reminded us from time to time that one was to make an act of contrition, as much as possible, before falling asleep and to say a Hail Mary in the morning. She frequently had the holy sacrifice of the Mass celebrated for my father and our relatives. But for us God was nothing but a just Master whom it was necessary to serve rigorously and to respect for his greatness and power and to leave in the infinite heights of His heaven in the midst of the angels and saints.”

It was a formal religion, demanding on the moral level (ought to), but little attached to life, with that isolated God in His heaven who reigned over everything and everyone. It was a religion of authority and the truth, of dogma and power, but certainly not a religion of the heart.

To little Margaret very few prayers are taught. They prefer that she commit to memory poems and literary pieces. At ten and a half she attends catechism classes to prepare for First Communion, which she receives in March 1879 “without fervor of heart.”

First confession is a little masterpiece of equilibrium between the child and the penitential tradition of the time. She has a hard time remembering the “sins” she committed, as little inclined as she is by nature to turn in upon herself.

She notes accurately on a sheet of paper those that come to mind, uncertain whether to accuse herself of having discovered that babies are not born under the cabbages. She solves the problem with this ingenious thought: “I accuse myself of having sought to know and of having come to know something that ordinarily it is thought inopportune to tell children.”

Red tape on red tape, little Margaret, who certainly does not suffer from scruples, is little inclined to give up her own opinions to respect expediencies that she does not understand. Such as that one, today more than ever incomprehensible to us, that requires that one remove one’s gloves when one goes to confession. Margaret forgets and only after confession is over does she realize that she has broken the norm. There is the panic of her mother, the seeking out of the priest confessor who has to go back into the confessional to resolve this odd breaking of a strange rule of conduct. And the good man reassures her: no, the confession does not need to be repeated, but one should remove one’s gloves when one goes to confession.

A few weeks after her First Communion, as we have already said, she makes her vow of virginity.

She comes in contact for some time with the Sisters of the Most Bl. Sacrament of Valence. Together with her sister she was boarded with them to avoid the risk of contagion: Herman had returned from school with typhus. They were treated by the superior as favorites and almost as aspirants. A pleasant experience, thanks to which Margaret breathes for the first time the air of religious life.

As an adolescent she begins to notice that typical uneasiness caused by the uncertainty about the future and by the sensation of emptiness that the ordinariness of daily life produces. There is the inevitable flight into reverie. As far as Margaret is concerned, she observes that she had tried to fill that emptiness - caused according to her by the absence of a profound relationship with God - by cultivating diverse interests, taking for herself various satisfactions and above all by caring for the intellect and the heart. Always a lover of nature, she knows how to enjoy the countryside and she is enthralled at the sight of the world: her vacations are a continual discovery and excitement.

She begins to prefer solitude and when she succeeds in isolating herself, she cultivates dreams of the future. “The desire for maternity, natural to the feminine heart, was awakened in me; I dreamed of starting a Christian family, of myself raising numerous children, of reviving those traditions of faith, honor and respect that had been the greatness of France in the past.”

It is the triad of the middle-class tradition to which she refers: God, fatherland and family. Margaret is an intelligent but tenacious conservative from this point of view. She will become a “revolutionary” for love.

With typical adolescent contradiction she cultivates in the secret of her heart the thought of religious life. If she mentions such a hypothesis, they make fun of her: with that elegance and with that taste for good furniture - she was very demanding in terms of furnishings - the nun in her certainly had to wait a long time.

But she shows a certain interior split: she reads every type of “more or less immoral” romance and witnesses the effusions of her stepfather with her mother, but when she thinks of referring to herself what she reads and what she sees, she senses that they are things that are not for her.

She prays but does not know how to pray. “I did not feel any taste for vocal prayer; it was much if I recited one or two decades of the rosary in a day. In the morning I practically never said prayers (....) On Sundays at Mass I read almost without attention the prayers of the book. As for mental prayer, I did not have any idea. All my prayer then consisted in manifesting from time to time my needs to God and when I left church I went to put small alms in the various alms boxes, always with the same intention.”

At eighteen scarlet fever brings her to the brink of death, to such a point that her mother several times suggests that she go to confession. The possibility of death does not scare her and she makes a simple, ordinary confession to the pastor. “The thought of finding myself in the presence of God did not scare me at all,” she writes, showing us a curious aspect of her religious temperament characterized by a surprising independence in dealing with God: respectful of even the formal indications of the Church, but in the end it is she who decides how to behave.

To help her in this sickness a little sister of Romans, Sister Domenica, young and impressionable, is called. Between the two “girls” there develops a spontaneous relationship of friendship, consisting of jokes and readings together. It is a very good occasion for Margaret to get to know something more of religious life: she confided her secret plan to Sister Domenica, she questioned her about her experience and asked advice and directions.

The good sister nurse gladly accepts this role as spiritual confidante and, with simplicity, encourages her to entertain that dream.

Her sacramental life seems more than anything else to respect the formalities typical of the time: confession and communion are exceptional events, done certainly with seriousness as duties of a good Christian, but not entering into daily life. Certainly it is not a false religiosity: the education received above all from her mother had its normative solidity.

It was clear what one should do and what one should not do. The problem of the personal relationship with God remained, which never became direct because mediated by a valid devotional practice, but was an end in itself.

Margaret describes thus her own uneasiness: “I never had read books of piety, not even ‘The Imitation of Christ,’ except some chapters that had been given to me as a sacramental penance, and my spirit, spoiled by frivolous reading, did not know how to taste the marvels of that divine book. Now I felt the attraction to God, now to the world, and its joys conquered me (...): something higher attracted me and I renewed my vow of chastity, asking of God help, light, strength, and one of those powerful graces that detach the soul from the earth and throw it into God. I understood that a help from outside was necessary for me. I prayed to God to send me a priest, someone who could talk to me in his name and guide me to him.”

She asks her mother for permission to change confessors - a request that says volumes about the educative relationships and religiosity of the time - but receives a negative answer. According to the mother the family confessor is very well suited for this: he is “very good, very modest, very reserved, very accommodating.” Curious reasons of Mrs. Maria Louise Cousin, who governs her home with magisterial dexterity, whether in economic questions or religious questions: that family confessor seems so much like a “butler of the spirit” whom she has at her disposal because he does his work well.

Margaret has to conclude that in questions of religion her mother was “totally intractable.” But not even the idea to claim her own autonomy crosses her mind: to obey her mother is an undisputed duty, to the point that to obey God she will wait to become legally an adult. The conflict with her mother about her religious vocation will be very hard for her.

Yours sincerely in Jesus and Mary,

Rev. Vergil Heier, C.M.M.

To contact Fr. Vergil, please write to;Fr. Vergil Heier
Lady of Grace Monastery,
23715 Ann Arbor Trail,
Dearborn Heights,
MI 48127



Comments or questions  

Spam prevention code

Please enter this spam prevention code here below:

Copyright© InfiniteLove.ie

tumblr visitor

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional   Valid CSS!