IN the Carmelite convent Perrine gratefully felt she was in her proper place. The fire of divine love filled her soul. From the first her companions recognized in her a solid judgment united with a cheerful, equable disposition; she was reserved and very discreet; she shunned all self-seeking and singularity; her modesty, mortification, and obedience were most exemplary. The candor and tranquillity of her face mirrored the innocence and serenity of her soul. A sweet simplicity characterized this elevated nature, as may be judged by the following trait.
On the day of her arrival, during the hour of recreation, she was invited to sing. Without waiting to be urged, she at once began to sing a canticle which, she says, "I had sung in advance while awaiting the fortunate day of my entrance into Carmel; it commences with these words: ' Blessed be God, I am in a refuge.' . . . They were composed of some fifteen stanzas, and I sang them in so joyous a manner that no one thought of interrupting me." The new-comer did not seem disposed to leave one stanza unsung, when suddenly the Mother-Prioress, at first absent, came in. Finding one singing and the others attentively listening, she judged it a fitting opportunity for giving the new postulant her first trial. " Indeed, you have been in a hurry," said she to the latter, "to show off your little talent!" An embarrassing silence followed, which was broken only when the Mother-Prioress turned to the singer and said : " Let us see if you know any more." "Oh! yes, Reverend Mother," she answered; "I have kept the best for you." And without betraying the least annoyance or ill-nature, she began anew. They knew then that the little girl from Brittany, by virtue and temperament, was not one ready to take offence or be easily depressed; that she possessed the cheerfulness which St. Teresa held as one of the proofs of a vocation to Carmel.
Her first interior attraction was a tender devotion to the Divine Infancy of Jesus. " I looked on myself," she says, " as a little servant of the Holy Family, and consecrated myself to them in that capacity." She mentions having still another ambition, which, with a charming candor, she thus explains: " The Reverend Mothers were making their annual retreat, and during that time the postulants and novices took their recreation in the novitiate. One evening during recreation, when we were all collected before a picture of the Holy Family, I proposed to make a little Bethlehem for the Holy Family, each of us to especially consecrate ourselves to serve it in the capacity of that beast of burden which should fall to her lot; for instance, one would represent the ass, another the ox, and so on. The proposal was unanimously adopted.'' The lots were drawn, and, to her great satisfaction, she was chosen to represent the ass of the Infant Jesus. " Thus," she says, "I was his ass in prayer, striving to warm him by my love; and his little servant in my actions, imagining myself in the house of Nazareth, and performing as if for the Holy Family all the daily duties of my state of life."
She was inspired to honor the Infant Jesus each day of the month by meditating, one after another, 'on the different mysteries of this period of his life. Thus the thoughts of the Divine Child followed her in all her actions, and rendered every occupation easy and agreeable.
On the 8th of June, 1841, she made her profession. To the names which she had borne since her novitiate, and which placed her under the protection of the Queen of Angels and the Chief of the Apostles, her devotion for the Holy Family suggested an additional title. Henceforth Perrine Elnere will be known as Sister Marie de Saint-Pierre of the Holy Family.
The Prioress of the Carmelites of Tours at this time was Mother Marie of the Incarnation, a religious as eminent fa' her prudence as for her exalted virtues. She at once employed the newly-professed in different manual labors, and afterwards gave her the office of portress. This office, so contrary to her natural inclinations, was the means Providence used to elevate her to the highest degree of perfection. The pious Sister dreaded its duties, fearing she would not be able to unite with them the spirit of recollection which was so dear to her. Respectfully she made known to the Reverend Mother-Prioress her distaste and fears; notwithstanding which the Mother-Prioress retained her in this employment, and she kept it all her life. This disposition was providential; for thus the humble daughter of the cloister in the performance of her duties frequently found herself in relation with pious secular persons who later on were not slow to aid her in her Work of the Reparation.
This mission, for which, during the four years she had been in the convent, grace was secretly preparing her, was to be conferred on her by our Lord himself. It was the 26th of August, 1843, the day after the Feast of Saint Louis, King of France; in the evening the Sister was meditating at the foot of the cross, when the Saviour said to her:
"I have heard your sighs; I have seen the desire you have to glorify me. My Name is everywhere blasphemed; even the children blaspheme! This frightful sin more deeply than all others wounds my Divine Heart, by blasphemy the sinner scorns me to my face, openly attacks me, annihilates my Redemption, and pronounces his own condemnation and judgment. Blasphemy is an impoisoned arrow which wounds my Heart continually. 1 will give you a Golden Arrow, that with the delicious wounds of love you may heal the wounds of malice which sinners give me" And lie dictated to her the following formula:
"May the most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible, and most ineffable Name of God be praised, blessed, loved, adored, and glorified in heaven, on earth, and in hell, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen."
Such was the Golden Arrow that the Lord gave to his servant, assuring her that every time she repeated this formula of praise she would wound his Heart with a wound of love. "Be watchful of this favor," said he to her; "I shall ask of you an account of it." At that moment it seemed she beheld issuing from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, wounded by this arrow, torrents of graces for the conversion of sinners, which inspired her .with confidence to say: " My Lord, dost thou then give me charge of blasphemers ?" She did not fail to make known all this to the Mother-Prioress, who, being as prudent as she was experienced, wished to prove and assure herself it was not an illusion. She consulted pious and learned ecclesiastics, and closely watched the conduct of the Sister. Far from encouraging her in this extraordinary way, she endeavored to turn her from it. She even forbade her to recite certain prayers which had been recommended. But several incidents which she could not but look upon as miraculous—among them her own cure, obtained by the prayers of the Sister in accordance with the order of our Lord, and in the manner he himself willed—decided her to relax her severity towards her and to permit her at least to say the prayers of Separation.
Our Lord continued to reiterate his orders to his servant. The poor Sister would sometimes exclaim: " Ah! if the Divine Master could suffer bitterness, he would be sorrowful unto death on beholding men, instead of making up for their insufficiency by uniting themselves to him and thus glorifying our Heavenly Father, continually blaspheming his holy Name and united with Lucifer and his reprobates. How satisfied, on the contrary, he would feel to see at least a few faithful and grateful children joined to him to love and bless the Name of that Father whom he so tenderly loves!"
This view of the question brought her to make a heroic act of entire abandonment. "I feel myself," she says, "interiorly urged to make to God the sacrifice of my whole being and all the merits which I can acquire." But she submissively awaited the consent of her Prioress.
On the festival of St. John of the Cross, one of the patrons of Carmel, our Lord made his spouse hear these momentous words: " Till now I have only shown you in part the designs of my Heart, but today I wish to show you them in their entirety. The earth is covered with crimes. The violation of the first three Commandments of God has irritated my Father y the holy Name of God blasphemed, and the holy day of the Lord profaned, fill the measure of iniquities. These sins have mounted to the throne of God and provoked his wrath, which will soon burst forth if his justice is not appeased. At no time have these crimes ascended so high. I desire, with an ardent desire, that there be formed an association, well approved and organized, to honor the Name of my Father" Here the object of the Work of Reparation is clearly indicated: it is to repair the violation of the first three precepts of the Decalogue, which include all crimes that have a special character of hostility against God and the profanation of the Lord's day.
Amazed and confused, the humble .daughter of Carmel hesitated. But our Lord said to her: " Take good care; for if, wanting in simplicity, you put obstacles to my designs, you will be responsible for the salvation of many souls; if, on the contrary, you are faithful, they will embellish your crown." In conclusion lie said: " And to whom should I address myself, if not to a Carmelite, whose very vocation enjoins on her the duty of unceasingly glorifying my Name?"
Thirteen days after, on the eve of the Immaculate Conception (7th of December), the Blessed Saviour returned to the same subject, and this time the culpable nation is named. He made the Sister see how greatly he was incensed against France on account of her blasphemies. " He has declared to me," she says, " that he cannot longer dwell in this France, which, like a viper, tears the bowels of his mercy. He still patiently bears the contempt shown himself, but the outrages committed against his Eternal Father provoke his wrath. France has sucked unto blood the paps of his mercy; this is why justice will now take the place of mercy, and his wrath burst forth with greater fury for having been longer delayed. Filled with terror, I tremblingly said: ' My Lord, permit me to ask if this Reparation which thou desirest be made, wilt thou yet pardon France ?' He answered me: ' I will pardon her once more; but, mark well, once. As this crime of blasphemy extends over the whole kingdom, and as it is public, so also must the Reparation be public and extend to all her cities. Woe to those who will not make this Reparation!'"
What Frenchman's heart could hear unmoved warnings so severe, so solemn ? The reproach, alas! is but too well merited, for the crime is evident and incontestable. Everywhere among us do we hear incessantly uttered with impunity that blasphemy designated by our Lord to his servant as a frightful sin. France is pronounced the most guilty of all nations, because she is the most highly favored by Heaven, the most loved of Christ, and the eldest daughter of the Church. Having become in Europe the principal centre of the spirit of revolution by the practical atheism she professes in her laws and government, she exerts in regard to blasphemy a kind of universal proselytism, as baneful to individuals as it is to society. Is it astonishing, then, that she is especially threatened with the strokes of Divine Justice? After receiving this communication Sister Marie de Saint-Pierre, as we learn from one of the other Carmelites, came from the choir in a state difficult to describe. She was deathly pale and bathed in tears; her countenance, usually so cheerful, bore an impress of suffering which it long retained. She appeared as if crushed, annihilated beneath the weight of divine wrath.
In the midst of her anguish a great consolation was vouchsafed her. She learned that the Sovereign Pontiff, Gregory XVI., had, by a brief dated August 8, 1843, permitted the establishment of pious Confraternities for the Extirpation of Blasphemy. "I no longer doubted," she says, "that the work entrusted to me came from God. What particularly struck me and awakened my admiration was the following happy coincidence in this manifestation of Divine Providence: On the 8th of August the Sovereign Pontiff issued Ms brief at Rome, and on the 26th of the same month, and in the same year, the day after the festival of Saint Louis, our Lord revealed to an obscure little Carmelite this great Work in Reparation for blasphemy with which he wished to enrich France as a means of salvation, to snatch her from the hands of his offended and irritated justice."