Thursday, 28 May 2015
Sister Saint-Pierre and the work of reparation : a brief history by the Very Rev. P. Janvier ... Translated by Miss Mary Hoffman Chapter 7. Her Virtues.
IT is time to speak a few words of the virtues of our dear revered Sister. We shall only mention those which were the most characteristic. Above all, she possessed charity in an eminent degree; the glory of God and the conversion and salvation of sinners were the sole objects of her thoughts and the motive of all her actions. The loss of souls made so vivid an impression upon her that she could not repress her sorrow. More than once she was heard weeping and sobbing. Her tender and solid piety also inspired her with a great zeal to relieve the souls in purgatory, especially those that were the most forlorn.
Her heart expanded with love for our Lord; she honored his Sacred Humanity in all its mysteries, but those of his Birth and Hidden Life had for her inexpressible charms. Her devotion to the Divine Infancy and to the Holy Family was manifest on all occasions. Being Portress, it was a source of joy to her to open the door to carpenters, whose occupation reminded her of the labors of the childhood of Jesus and St. Joseph, One day a wagon drawn by an ass entered the courtyard of the monastery. Approaching the animal, the good Sister began to tenderly stroke it in remembrance of the service rendered Jesus and Mary by the humble beast in their flight into Egypt. At Christmas-time she testified her joy and piety in various ways; she contemplated with a radiant countenance the statue of the Infant Jesus in the Crib, took it in her arms, lighted tapers before it, and sang for the Divine J3abe her sweetest songs of praise ; sometimes, even, like David before the Ark, she began to dance, inviting her companions in the Novitiate to do the same. The Mother-Prioress expressed astonishment and warned her against dissipation. " Oh ! no, Reverend Mother," she answered. "I do it to honor the Infant Jesus, and to make amends for all the guilty dances that offend him."
Her affections were also directed to Jesus in the Eucharist. In the choir, before the Blessed Sacrament, the expression of her face, her manner, her looks, made it seem that, piercing the Eucharistic veil, she really saw Jesus on the altar. Quitting the sanctuary, she left there her heart; and in whatever part of the house she happened to be, she turned towards it, transported with joy when she could catch a glimpse of the altar. She had attained to a rare degree of humility. She sincerely believed herself the least in the community, the
most miserable, an unworthy sinner, and reproached herself for the slightest imperfections as if they were grave faults. One day a Sister found her weeping and asked the cause. Sister Saint-Pierre reminded her of a fault she had committed the day previous in her presence. The Sister assured her she had not noticed it, it was so very trifling. " Nevertheless," she answered, " God may have been offended, and that is the cause of my tears." Self-complacency found no place in her mind. She ingenuously avowed it. Once ; when she was still a novice, the Mother-Prioress during recreation asked her to sing for a newly-arrived postulant the canticle, "Blessed be God, I am his spouse." She did so with so sweet a voice and so lively an accent of piety that her young companion was delighted. When she had finished the Mother-Prioress said aloud: " Eh, well, my Sister Saint-Pierre, how many thoughts of vanity had you whilst singing ? " Lowering her eyes, she modestly answered: " If I have had any I have banished them."
Her obedience was prompt, implicit, and perfect. She complied in the simplicity of a child with all that was required, stimulated thereto by the example of the Child Jesus at Nazareth. The words of the Gospel, " He was submissive to them" were ever on her lips. She rendered a blind obedience not only to her superiors, but to the Sisters upon whom she was dependent, and, in fact, to all, regarding them as her mistresses and making it a duty to acquiesce in their wishes, just like a child who has no will but that of its guardians. Thus she was able in her last sickness to say in all truth and candor: " It is my consolation in death that I have always been obedient."
Her recollection was so profound that merely to see her was sufficient to raise one's thoughts to God. She seemed unconscious of what was going on around her, so much so that even after her Profession she was ignorant of the various places assigned the different nuns in the choir and refectory. One of the nuns, whose cell was so situated that she had an opportunity of seeing her when she thought herself unseen by human eye, assures us that during the time she occupied this cell, which was for several years, she never saw her raise her eyes from her work but to cast them on the little statue of the Infant Jesus which she always kept near her.
After any supernatural communications she would appear pale, trembling, and bathed in tears; especially was this the case when they revealed the woes impending over France. Then her tears flowed, yet calmly and silently. She would then appear so absorbed in recollection that it was difficult to draw her therefrom; and this would last for hours, though without hindrance to the performance of her duties. Her union with God was intimate and continual; she never lost sight of him, and, according to her expression, her soul, closely united to our Lord, was " happily bound at his feet." But this life, apparently so heavenly and sweet, was not exempt from interior trials and sufferings. The Mother-Prioress was convinced that these were so great that, whilst serving to purify her soul, they shortened her days in this world.
She also possessed in an eminent degree that sweet liberty of spirit which distinguishes a true Carmelite. She knew perfectly well how to blend with the practice of the most exalted virtues the charms of charity, and even gayety. One day a friend brought to the convent as a present a piece of cake. Sister Saint-Pierre, then Portress, was very much fatigued. On receiving the cake she immediately carried it to the Mother-Prioress, and, presenting it to her, said
with her usual simplicity: " "What a providence—the ass of the Infant Jesus is hungry !" , The good Mother smiled, and gave a piece of the cake to her little Portress, who, giving thanks to God, gaily partook of it.
During recreations she spoke but little, always preferring to listen; nevertheless she was cheerful and amiable, expressing herself to the point and taking part in all that was said, though it was often necessary for her to make extremely violent efforts to break off her interior converse with God. Her companions loved to be near her, because they always found it to their spiritual benefit. Her reserve was especially noticeable in matters pertaining to charity; she excused every one, palliated their defects, and this with tact and cordiality.
During her last illness, having passed a night of extreme suffering, she said to a nun who was from the same part of the country as herself: "You remember that in Brittany our little excursions ended with a feast, each person furnishing his or her share, one paying for the cream, another for the sugar. The good Jesus last night assigned to me the furnishing of the sugar by making me suffer very much."
When, in 1848, she fell sick, it was at the time of the government elections, and the Carmelites had had more than one alarm. One day the Mother-Prioress said half-jestingly: " Since you cannot pray any more, you will be the spiritual drum, and whenever you hear the National Guard beat the call to arms, do you call the holy angels to our assistance " She accepted her new mission, and the next day presented the Reverend Mother with a little drum, upon which was inscribed the Holy Name of God and that of each of the choirs of holy angels. Unable to make vocal prayers, she would take the little drum on her bed, and, striking it with her fingers, thus call the heavenly militia to their aid. The world may laugh at this trait of childish piety, but those not of the world will see in it the admirable simplicity of a soul transformed by the science of the Crib and the virtue of obedience. This drum, after the death of the Sister, was sent to a friend of Carmel as a plaything to amuse his little boy. But in his family it was richly encased under a glass globe and is preserved as a precious relic.
Until the last our dear Sister cherished a special devotion to the Divine Infant Jesus and the cares which at that period of his life he received from his august Mother. She was richly rewarded by the ineffable communications graciously vouchsafed to her concerning the Divine Maternity, whence she drew greater and still greater confidence for the triumph of the Church and the salvation of France.