Any wishing to make a hard copy of this text be advised that in its present format it is 69 A4 pages.
LIFE OF SISTER MARY ST. PETER, CARMELITE OF TOURS
There must be many books which prospective Postulants are advised to read and I suspect that the first four chapters the book on the life of Sister Mary St. Peter will fit into the category.
Note: Throughout the book Sister Mary of St Peter mentions Jesus conversing with her and revealing Himself to her. Later on in the book Sister Mary explains the manner in which she received these revelations. These events happened even before she was accepted into the Carmel. (Throughout the text where I make a comment it will commence with my initials MHB.)
SISTER MARY’S EARLY LIFE
Sister Mary was baptised on the 4th October 1816 (the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi and the date of the death of Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Avila). At her baptism she was placed under the patronage of St Peter. and St. Francis and was given the name Perrine (the female derivative of Peter).
Under obedience of Mother Prioress of the Carmelite Monastery of Tours she submitted to writing the story of her life though she did so with great repugnance. We can assume that the Mother Prioress recognised special virtues in the Postulant which needed to be recorded. So the following are from Sister Mary’s writings.
As a young child she was disagreeable and obstinate and was punished by her mother when she failed to behave in church. At the age of six she made her first confession but continued to be an awkward child. She was jealous of her sister so much so that her parents had to separate them and send the sister away for some time! Perrine writes that she was disagreeable and filled with pride and self-love. But things were stirring in her heart and soul. When she was six years old she became determined to fight her pride and to accept the authority of her parents.
At that time she became aware of the love of the ever Blessed Virgin Mary and she prayed fervently to her. She began to love prayer and enjoyed Mass and other religious services. She began to fear even the slightest appearance of sin to the extent that on several occasions her sister would find her crying. When asked the cause she replied, “I am weeping over my sins”.
At the age of ten and a half she made her First Holy Communion and Confirmation. In those days Holy Communion was only received occasionally but Perrine’s confessor, recognising the change which this sacrament had made in her, gave permission for her to receive more frequently. She became attracted to appeal to the ever Blessed Virgin Mary for her protection and whenever anything repugnant to her inclinations occurred she offered it to God saying “My God, I offer Thee this in expiation of my sins”.
She was sent to catechism classes which she enjoyed and this led to her conduct in church becoming exemplary. On seeing this, a lady said to Perrine’s mother “Madam, your little girl conducts herself in church like a person of forty years of age”. Such comments only helped to increase Perrine’s pride and self love! She commenced the devotion of the Stations of the Cross. She would kiss the ground at each station hence when she arrived home her face would be covered with dust. She suggests that Jesus permitted this to draw humiliation upon herself.
The catechism class held a fete-day and three girls were chosen to recite a piece. Perrine was one of them. Two of the girls were to discuss the pleasures of the world whereas Perrine’s dialogue was to point out their vanity and nothingness. Towards the end of the piece the dialogue for one of the girls was to tell Perrine that she would become a Carmelite! At that time Perrine hadn’t thought of such a vocation. But it proved to be right, the other two girls marrying and remaining in the world.
About this time she was attacked by scruples. Preparing for Confession appeared to be something impossible because she became lost in lengthy examinations and never believed herself to be sufficiently prepared. Her confessor did all in his power to console her but being so young and not having had previous experience on scruples she did not make him sufficiently acquainted with the nature of her sufferings. In retrospect she now sees that the Heavenly Father was giving her these trials to purify her soul. The devil, seeing his prey was escaping, made a last effort to gain an entrance into her soul.
At the age of twelve she was greatly afflicted by the death of her mother who she greatly loved. She reminded herself that St. Teresa also lost her mother at that same age. Perrine consoled herself by asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to become a mother to her. She was certain that her prayer had been heard. She always experienced, in a special manner, the effects of Mary’s maternal protection.
The scruples continued but were brought to an end when a pious young companion had the charity to speak of it to Perrine’s confessor who was the same as hers. She writes; “On the day I entered the confessional after her, but feeling that I was not sufficiently prepared, I arose to retire. What was my astonishment when I heard my confessor open the door and order me to return immediately, and commence my confession without delay. I excused myself saying that I had not finished my examination of conscience, and that I felt no contrition for my sins: but he would not listen to my reasoning. I submitted to obedience, made my confession and received absolution: my confessor then said to me: ‘My child be assured that this confession has been one of the best of your life’. He then expressly forbade me to recite my prayers over and over again; and he gave me a rule to follow respecting the scruples which tormented me. Our Blessed Lord granted me the grace to submit to the counsel of my confessor, the devil was overcome and all my worries vanished like smoke, and a holy peace returned to my weary heart”.
Following the death of her mother the task of bring up the family fell to her father who was a locksmith by trade. He was left with twelve children and suffered many privations in bringing them up even more so as one by one they died eventually leaving him with only Perrine and a son. Perrine’s education was extremely limited with only two years regular attendance at school. Knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic was all that was considered necessary for persons in her sphere of life.
Two paternal aunts kept a dressmaking establishment and to them little Perrine was confined. Perrine tells us that her aunts ‘placed her in a corner where she worked as if she were in a little cell, separated from the other young persons employed there’. Whilst working she held intimate conversations with the Divine Lord which so enkindled her soul that the fire of divine love made her feel transported from this earth.
One of her aunts was the directress of the Congregation of our Blessed Lady which Perrine was allowed to join. She writes that after her period of probation she was received as a member and the day of consecration was very special. The ceremony reminded her of her First Holy Communion.
About this time came a period of aridity. She mentioned this to her confessor but he did not seem sympathetic to her concern telling her that by degrees her spiritual life would eventually return to normal. In mental suffering Perrine turned to a new confessor but things didn’t improve and she started to give herself to the foolish vanities of the world. Finally her conscience being troubled she had recourse to Mary, her tender mother to whom she had consecrated herself.
On the feast of the Purification she prepared herself by a novena and the chains which were binding her were broken and her heart was entirely changed. Some invisible power told her to return to her previous confessor. She was received as did the father of the Prodigal son. An eight day retreat in a religious house led to torrents of tears and a promise of future fidelity to God.
The retreat was a turning point. She knew that Mary had heard her prayers and felt the desire to abandon the world and become a religious. She was afraid to mention it to her confessor (probably due to feeling unworthy). One day when her sufferings were extreme, she hastened to an altar of her cherished Mother and told her of her fears and anxieties (then a happening which can only have come from God). A priest, the one who had instructed her in the dialogue with the two girls, was entering his confessional and seemed to make a sign for her to confess to him. She had never previously spoken to him about her thoughts and was astonished when she heard him say: ‘You want to be a religious my child. Am I not right?’ Delighted with having so unexpectedly found a consoler she spoke to him very frankly. This led to her having the courage to return to her usual confessor and broach the subject of her vocation.
He told her that her sentiments were in accord with his. But there was another wall to climb before she could progress.
Her usual confessor was threatened with loss of sight and had to go to Paris for treatment. She was handed over to a priest who never sent aspirants to religion until they had given ample proof that once entered the convent they would never return to the world again. For five years this new spiritual director laboured incessantly at the inward wall of Perrine’s pride and self-love.
MHB. My belief is that the next part of Sister Mary’s book is so important that it almost warrants an entire talk in itself. Therefore, to hopefully convey all that Perrine had to experience, I will quote extensively from the book:
‘ [Perrine’s new confessor] was a man of great enlightenment in the ways of grace, and was gifted with peculiar tact in the discernment of religious vocations; he was so widely known that mothers dreaded to see their daughters going to consult him. This skilful director was l’abbe Panager who, at the time of his death was the pastor of Etienne at Rennes. We have his opinion of our young Perrine, too significant in its brevity to be passed unnoticed:’
“I have only known her from the time she chose me as her director and this simply because she wished to become a religious. Her motive prompted me to receive her kindly, and I immediately undertook to aid her. I always found her very exact and very docile under my direction. I lent her books, and from time to time gave her some particular advice. She edified me very much, and I decided to propose her as a candidate to the Carmelites”
Perrine accordingly presented herself to this man of God, informing him of her desire to become a Carmelite. He received her with great charity and encouraged her to persevere in her holy purpose, but was not willing to accept the responsibility of becoming her director without mature refection. His counsel produced such an effect on our little aspirant that after the return of her previous confessor she entreated l’abbe Panager to continue her direction, but he still insisted on having more time for consideration. Finally he said to her: “My child, I will undertake your direction for the honour and glory of God and for the salvation of your soul”.
“These words,” said the sister, “inspired me with great confidence in this holy man’s direction. His first wish was to fathom the depths of my soul, and for this purpose he directed me to give him a written account of the manner in which Our Lord had conducted me in the past and also desired to be informed of my present disposition. I wrote a small notice of these matters and remitted it to him; then he bade me make a rule of life. After some time I requested him to interest himself in reference to my admission to the convent. ‘Ah! my child’ said he, ‘your passions have been only wounded, they must be immolated’. I had such an ardent desire of becoming a Carmelite that I would have passed through fire and water were it necessary, to accomplish my object’ bearing this end in view, he commenced with renewed fervour to labour at my perfection”.
The counsels and exhortations of her confessor made a great impression on her mind, and she “took great care not to forget them”. We quote from sister’s own narrative: “His first care was to caution me against the foolish weakness but too common to devotees. ‘My child’ said he, ‘do not go about consulting different directors. If you wish me to be really your spiritual father, you must be really my child: simple then, as a child; it is here you must avow your failings, your doubts and temptations, but make no such disclosures elsewhere for it would avail you nothing. Never speak of your confessor, nor of the penances imposed on you; go straight to God in the spirit of faith; make no uneasy researches in your soul for these are but fuel for Purgatory. Study to know yourself and to know God; the more you know Him, the more you will love Him; be always cheerful and gay; be not like those sad and pensive beings who seem to bear the yoke of the Lord as if it were a heavy burden. Oh! My child, what a beautiful path the Lord has chosen for you! Consider the reward that awaits you if you prove faithful! Prepare yourself for the greatest designs God has in view over you”.
“Such are a glimpse of the wise counsels which I received from this good father. By the grace of God they became fruitful in my soul. These spiritual aids fortified me, and strengthened my desire of embracing the religious life. But when I expressed my earnest wish to leave the world, he would calmly reply: ‘My child, the habit does not make the nun’. I saw by this answer that I had still to labour at my perfection. I prayed continuously to the Blessed Virgin and to St. Joseph and performed little pilgrimages in his honour. On Wednesdays, I ate nothing but dry bread for my breakfast. On Saturdays I did the same in honour of Our Blessed Lady. I had a great devotion to the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph were constantly in my mind, ‘Most Holy Family!’ I would say to them, ‘if I had the happiness of living when you were on this earth I would most surely have gone in quest of you, in whatsoever place you were to be found, that I might have had the honour of serving you as your little domestic’”.
“My director lent me the life of St Theresa. When I read the promise which Our Lord made her at the foundation of her first convent, St Joseph of Avila, that He would dwell therein, the Holy Virgin and St Joseph, guarding the doors, one on either side, oh! how excessive was my joy! I no longer doubted that I would solicit an entrance to Carmel, the abode of the holy Family. I tormented my confessor from that moment, begging him to interest himself on my behalf: but to try me still longer, he gave me evasive answer, such as these: ‘I shall see: - God’s time has not yet come’. Once he said to me: ‘Do you suppose, my child, that I would suffer you to enter a convent hastily, before your vocation has been well tried, and leave it directly as do so many young persons? No, my child, when I send you, you will be well prepared.’”
The words of her confessor were a disappointment to Perrine but she was not disheartened. Divine Providence came to her aid in the form of a poor family who came to live in the area. Their poverty was such that as Christmas approached their home had the appearance of the Stable at Bethlehem. There were three in the family, mother who was blind, father who was a labourer and a five year old son. Perrine did not have the financial means to assist them but she prayed to the Holy Family for help and was gifted with the eloquence to plead their cause amongst her acquaintances and “nothing was ever refused me”. Perrine instructed the family in their religious duties, persuaded them to go to confession and was able to restore peace whenever family arguments occurred.
At this time her Spiritual Director permitted her to make a vow of chastity and to practice the virtues of mortification and humility. She practiced mortification of the eyes: whenever anything pleasant or agreeable was presented she would turn her head away. When she was at the point of saying something witty, she would remain silent. She made a particular examination with a view to overcoming her passion – pride. Our Lord beholding this faithful soul was pleased to reward her. She experienced extraordinary grace in her soul especially at the time of receiving Holy Communion. Her director had told her to inform him of all that passed in her soul. When she told him of this special grace he replied ‘My child, does not your soul belong to God? Then, permit this Divine Master to do as He will in his own house’.
Perrine writes: “As we can do nothing of ourselves, it was necessary that the Divine Master Himself should provide in my soul for suffering and humiliation, in order to destroy my pride completely, for it was a great obstacle to my perfect union with Him. I prayed most fervently to obtain the love of humiliations, and informed my director. ‘Reverend father’, said I, ‘do not heed the cries of nature, but immolate my pride’. He was slow to act and waited also on this occasion to see, no doubt, if my desire were only the offspring of a passing fervour so common among young persons. At length he said: ‘My child, I am convinced that Our Lord wills you to attain perfection by some other than an ordinary way. Go, then before the Most Adorable Sacrament, and consider before God what you can do to humble yourself. From that hour commenced what she playfully termed, her ‘journey through the path of humiliations’ which were never wanting; for each time she went to see her director, he purposely tried to mortify her as much as possible. One day, for example he brusquely showed her the door. Another time, Sunday, she was seen walking through the streets carrying an old tattered umbrella notwithstanding that the sun was shining very brilliantly; and this for no other purpose than to attract public attention and ridicule. On another occasion, she took to the dressmaker a parcel containing material for a dress. She had scarcely unfolded the wrapping paper, when a general burst of laughter and merriment at her expense ensued; for nothing more absurd or ridiculous could have been selected for a dress”. She would say at times to her confessor “Ah! father, how much it costs me to act thus”. “My child”, he would reply, if it costs you to be humiliated, believe me, it costs me as much to be obliged to humiliate you, but have courage.
“Previous to her entering the novitiate of Carmel, Perrine, retained in the world by her confessor, was destined by Divine Providence to fill the office of a little directress among her young companions. She writes; “I continued to work with my pious aunts, who employed many young girls in their service. These latter, observing that by the grace of God, I practiced virtue, and that I always looked cheerful and happy as my director had commanded, placed great confidence in me, and frequently consulted me in their little embarrassments of conscience and on their practices of piety. I taught them the method of mental prayer, and assisted them to advance in virtue: miserable sinner that I was. One of these young persons made such a rapid progress in virtue, that she very soon surpassed her little directress and entered the religious life before Perrine did’.
Up to now Perrine had not told her father of her desire for the religious life. When she did so he was filled with alarm for he did not wish to employ a servant. Help came fropm HHelp came from her father’s confessor who had a great respect for him as a pillar of the church and not only advised him to remarry but found a suitable companion, an excellent woman, who was welcomed into the home and Perrine’s father was happy.
Perrine writes: “I thought that I had at last reached the end of my sufferings when one of my aunts decided to go to Mans to assist at the benediction of a new Carmelite monastery. She told me I might accompany her. Perrine’s confessor consented to the visit and gave me a letter for the mother prioress. He told me that I could enter the monastery of Mans if she was willing to receive me. We arrived on the eve of the ceremony where we were most kindly received; the next day I assisted at the benediction of a new refectory and a new cemetery”.
“The cloister being thrown open for the occasion we visited the interior of the convent. I entered the community room and there beheld those dear sisters, many of whom were from my own native province; nothing could have given me more
pleasure than this visit. In the afternoon I had the honour of speaking privately to the very reverend mother prioress to whom I presented my confessor’s letter. I expressed my great desire of becoming a Carmelite. She told me that she had received positive order from his Lordship the Bishop to admit no more subjects as the house was then too small, every cell being occupied.
Perrine was saddened by this turn of events but was encouraged by mother prioress’s words that Perrine was a suitable candidate for acceptance. The monastery at New Orleans was mentioned as a possible alternative. Perrine mentioned this to her confessor but he was evasive: ‘We shall see to that’ or ‘God’s time has not yet come’ were his comments.
Now Perrine writes about a turning point in her quest: “One day I went to a chapel dedicated to St. Martin. Being his feast day his relics were exposed for the veneration of the faithful; I kissed them with great devotion, and also received holy communion in honour of the great saint of whom, at the time I knew nothing; not even in what part of France he had exercised his holy ministry; but that was of little consequence to me then, overwhelmed as I was with grief and desolation. I addressed to him this simple and fervent prayer: ‘O Holy Saint Martin, look down upon me in my sorrow. I desire to consecrate myself to God, but there is no one to take any interest in me or plead my cause. O holy Saint. I feel convinced that if you were now on this earth your heart would be touched by my distress and you would aid me to obtain the object of all my desires’. I implored him to receive me in his diocese if there were any religious in it. St Martin heard my prayer, for I am confident that it was through his intercession that I became a Carmelite at Tours. I had neither the desire nor asked my confessor to enter the house of Tours, for I did not know there was a Carmelite monastery in the city until I had been received there”.
In the meantime Our Lord was preparing her for the life of sacrifice which she was about to embrace, and for this end had already bestowed upon her supernatural graces of the highest order.
“One day after Holy Communion,” she said, “I had a vision: Our Lord concentrated all the powers of my soul in his Divine Heart, and I seemed to behold therein a number of persons bound together by a golden chain, each, seemingly, bearing a cross. These were, without doubt, religious souls, for I recognized among the number, one of my friends who had embraced the religious life. It seemed that I, too, was enchained with them and I besought Our Lord to give me also a cross. He led me to understand that I must submit to his divine will for the present and await with resignation the accomplishment of his designs over me………”But,” said He, ‘when you shall have entered religion, I shall give you another cross to carry’. This promise remained so engraved on my mind, that falling sick after I had entered Carmel as a postulant, I thought to myself: ‘Perhaps this is the cross which Our Lord promised me’. But poor simpleton that I was! this was but a straw to carry in comparison to the cross which my good Master had in reserve for me after my profession. I am now convinced that the ‘Work of Reparation’ with which the Lord charged me later, was the cross then predicted, for I found it in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was from that fountain of divine love that he spoke to me for the first time of this work which was to cost me so many sighs and tears.”
“……… Our Lord showed me a cross, telling me it was on this he crucified his spouses. I think I must have been frightened, for soon after he added these words: ‘be consoled my daughter; you will not be inhumanly crucified as I was, the nails shall pierce through my flesh before touching yours’. Doubtless, He wished by these words to assure me that He being the first to experience all the tortures and ignominies of the cross, the faithful disciplines who followed in his footsteps would now find all its bitterness changed to delight”.
For some time Our Lord inspired her with a certain kind of prayer which she describes as “delightful”, but He soon gave her to understand that this inspiration would be withdrawn: and, in fact, shortly after, she fell into state of aridity. “Our Lord”. She said “caused me to pass from Thabor to Calvary, according to His own good pleasure and the necessities of my soul; but as I was now more enlightened in the ways of God than during the period of my spiritual infancy, I passed through these interior trials without any detriment to my soul”.
One grace which she esteemed far above all these extraordinary favours, was that of being able to alleviate the necessities of the sick. “The Lord”, she writes, “endowed me with a love for giving alms; I had a small private fund which my dear father allowed me to dispose of as I thought proper. I would sometimes make a little offering to Our Lord, and then again to his holy Mother, in the persons of the poor and afflicted. A young woman came to dwell in our neighbourhood, who soon after her marriage had fallen ill of a long and painful malady which proved fatal: the charitable mission of preparing her for death fell to my lot. I placed a picture of the Blessed Virgin near her bed, that this good mother might come to assist her in her last moments. I was then quite young and had seldom confronted death. The poor, afflicted creature whom I encouraged by consoling words, desired that I should remain always at her side. She sent for me one night to inquire if she were soon going to die: I replied that in all probability Our Lord would soon call her to him. I do not remember distinctly but I think it was the same night that she was suddenly seized with terror at the sight of something invisible to us; it was the Angel of Darkness who had come to tempt her in this last moment. She suddenly screamed out: “Look at the large black cat at the foot of my bed!”- For my part I perceived nothing – I sprinkled the bed with holy water. “I see it again!” she exclaimed; we made a second aspersion and the Evil One was put to flight. We continued praying for this poor creature. Who expired before our eyes. She had received the last sacraments with the most edifying submission to the holy will of God and died very happily”.
“It so happened, that after her death, I and one of my friends, were the only ones to prepare her for burial. I had the greatest repugnance to touch the dead, but as no one could be found to render this service to the poor deceased, I was obliged to do it myself”.
“The hour of my entry in to the religious life was approaching. I besought all the saints to intercede for me, and had recourse to the assistance of our holy mother St Theresa. At home we had a picture of this saint, and when I was at table my eyes were always fixed on this portrait, so much so, that I was often more occupied in contemplating the picture than in eating my dinner. My father who was fully then aware of my intention of becoming a Carmelite, often conversed with me on this subject. On one occasion, during dinner, he made me laugh heartily at his anxieties concerning my future at the convent. He had, no doubt, heard of some of the foolish notions entertained by people of the world regarding the austerities practised by the Carmelites; he said, with great concern, “If the sheets are nailed to the four corners of the bed, how will you ever get into a bed?” “Oh!” I said , “that is the least of my anxieties”.
“I was not content merely with praying to our Holy Mother St. Theresa, I read her life and made a list of her confessors, and of the holy persons who had assisted her in establishing the reform. I arranged them in a litany without examining whether they had been canonized or not. St. John of the Cross was the first on the list; and I added the names of the saints to whom I had a special devotion, hoping that with the aid of these powerful advocates the doors of Carmel might at length be opened to me”.
Another trial was still in reserve for her. Her director fell ill, and was unable to hear her confession. Observing that she made no progress towards attainment of her object she made a last effort to interest on her behalf the Blessed Virgin.
“I was inspired,” she said , “to undertake a pilgrimage in honour of Notre Dame de la Peiniere from whom I had already obtained many favours. This chapel was in the parish of St. Didier, six leagues from Rennes. As I was well acquainted with its zealous pastor and had also a friend residing there, I easily obtained permission to perform my pilgrimage. Full of confidence I set out with the intention of asking our Blessed Lady for the recovery of my confessor as a visible proof of my vocation; praying to her at the same time to sever the many chains which held me captive in the world. ‘Ah’, said I, ‘I am like a bird in a cage. I cannot find the smallest opening from which to make my escape’. There was a good priest travelling in the same car with me, with whom I conversed on the journey. I spoke to him of the Blessed Virgin and observing that it pleased him, I related many little incidents in her honour. This conversation afforded me much pleasure for I loved to honour and glorify the Blessed Virgin as much as I could. At length we arrived at St. Didier, and I directed my steps toward the church. There I offered my devotions, and Our Lord condescended to speak to me concerning my vocation”.
“To render what I am about to narrate more explicit, I must state that one of my reasons for fearing I would not be received by the Carmelites was, that my father was poor and could not give me more than six hundred francs on my entrance. I had asked assistance of a rich priest of my acquaintance, but he only expressed his regret at his inability to aid me in consequence of having recently met with considerable losses. Perhaps I was wanting in confidence in the Providence of God. The communication which I had received from Our Lord, and to which I have previously hinted, filled me with consolation. He showed me a cross saying: ‘Is not a vocation of higher worth than gold?’ Thus giving me to understand that in His infinite mercy He granted me the first grace, He could as easily provide the second, which was of minor importance. He then said: ‘Pray to my mother, and you shall obtain your request’”.
Full of faith and hope Perrine continued her pilgrimage. The miraculous statue of Notre Dame de la Peiniere was in a very spacious chapel, which had been built a quarter of a league from the parish church. She cheerfully gave her little offering towards the completion of the chapel, and performed her visits for nine consecutive days, reciting the first part of the rosary going to the church, the second part in the chapel at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, and the third on her return.
“Oh! how fervently I implored my Blessed Mother to take an interest in my vocation! What sweetness and consolation I tasted whilst at the feet of the consoler of the afflicted! She did not remain deaf to my entreaties, for I received from her divine Son the most wonderful graces during my novena. For the honour of the most Holy Virgin, I sincerely regret not having preserved a written account of all those graces. I remember, however, that Our Lord commanded that I should be permitted to follow His will without more delay. I made an exact statement of all that had passed in my soul, and carried this important letter to the Blessed Virgin, begging her to bless it and to touch the heart of him to whom I should remit it. ‘O my good Mother’, I said with childlike simplicity, ‘I do not wish to spend this winter in sewing, I only desire to be occupied in praising your divine Son, and I therefore remit into your hands my scissors, needles, thimble etc.’” This saying , she deposited the contents of her work-basket at the feet of the Blessed Virgin.
On her return to Rennes she found her director in better health and presented him her letter, which produced a great impression on him. However, he tried to conceal it, but the effects were soon apparent, for he set to work in earnest to obtain her admission among the Carmelites; yet in seeming opposition to her wishes, he proposed to her to enter among the religious Hospitaliers of Rennes. “I feel no attraction to them”, said she, “yet I should prefer to enter among that Hospitaliers rather than remain in the world. How embarrassing! I knew of no other Carmelite convent than that of Mans and there I could not be received. I did not know that there was a convent at Tours or at Morlaix. I went to my little oratory and said to St. Theresa and to St. John of the Cross, of whom I had a picture; ‘Alas! You do not want to receive me then among your sisters!’”
Eight days had elapsed since my return from my pilgrimage and as I have said, the last time I saw my director he seemed quite decided to send me to the Hospitaliers. I was in painful anxiety, for I had such a desire to dwell in the desert of Carmel! The spirit of retirement, silence and prayer, had such an attraction for me, and in the order of the Hospitaliers I would be obliged to take care of the sick, and what was more repugnant, to prepare for burial the bodies of the dead, of which I stood in mortal terror. Our Lord, in His goodness relieved me of this embarrassment. He had promised to hear me through the intercession of His Blessed Mother, and kept His word. The ninth day after my pilgrimage he revealed himself to me after Holy Communion, and with infinite condescension said the following words: ‘My child, I love you too much to permit you should any longer be a prey to these perplexities! You shall not be a Hospitaliere. This is only a trial to which you are being subjected. Even now matters are being arranged for your reception. You will be a Carmelite.’ This last sentence was repeated several times: ‘You will be a Carmelite; ’and I think Our Lord added ‘a Carmelite of Tours’. But I knew nothing of Tours, not even that the Carmelites had been established there. I feared this was but an illusion, for I felt persuaded that my director thought no more of sending me to Carmel. What shall I do, I said to myself! I must write down this communication and take it to my confessor as was my custom; but I was not particularly desirous of presenting this note: Oh! the infinite goodness of God! What was my astonishment when my confessor said to me: ‘My child, you have been received among the Carmelites of Tours’. What delightful news! What happiness I enjoyed that day! What grateful thanksgiving I offered to Our Blessed Lord and to His most Holy Mother for having so promptly heard the supplications and entreaties which I had addressed to them during my pilgrimage!”
The letter which I had placed at the feet of Our Lady de la Peiniere and afterwards remitted to my director had been the principal instrument in the accomplishment of the long cherished wish of my heart. My confessor had written to the mother prioress of Tours applying for my admission. This good charitable mother immediately replied that she would receive me with pleasure. But how was all this accomplished? Why had Our Lord made known so manifestly that it was His divine will that I should enter at Tours, sixty leagues from my native place, whilst there were Carmelites at Nantes and at Morlaix much nearer home? I asked my confessor if he had held any communication with the Carmelites at Tours. He informed me that once, when passing through Tours, he had had the idea of visiting the Carmelites but that he had not gone and consequently was not acquainted with them. The mother prioress had still less to do in bringing about this result, for she was greatly astonished that a priest of whom she knew little more than his name would apply to her for the admission of a postulant. What then was the solution of this mystery? Ah! I see it all. St Martin had not forgotten the prayers I offered in his chapel on the day of his feast, when I confided to him my sorrows and besought him to procure my entrance to one of the houses of his diocese”.
Here again is another remarkable circumstance connected with this affair: “The reverend mother prioress of Tours had fixed the time of my entrance to be on the feast of All Saints of Carmel so that I left my home on the 11th November the very feast day of St Martin, who evidently wished to prove that it was he who was my liberator”.
“There remained still another question to be solved, my entrance-fee. My father gave me what he could afford and a young lady named Mary with whom my director had made me practice the virtue of mortification, as a preparation for her entrance to a religious congregation, promised to contribute the balance. Thereby the Blessed Virgin with a generosity equal to her power compensated me for the alms I had offered for the construction of her new chapel”.
Before leaving for Tours in advance of what Perrine called ‘her nuptials’ the many relatives of the future Carmelite gathered around her for the last time. Each felt the natural regret of parting, but all united in praying for her perseverance, for they beheld therein the happiness for Perrine and a blessing for themselves. Their wishes were fulfilled far beyond their most confident expectations.
“For myself I most ardently desired the approach of the day of my departure. We were awaiting the arrival of a religious sister, travelling in the direction of Tours, to whose care I was to be confided; but as she did not make an appearance, and as I was burning with the desire to set out, my father decided to leave his business for some days that he might present me himself to the Lord. I bade adieu to my home and friends with much joy, although I loved them very tenderly, yet, I had such a longing to go and serve the Holy Family at Carmel that my natural feelings of sorrow at such a separation were easily stifled. I went also to bid adieu to him who had directed me in my vocation. He vouched for my perseverance. But fearing that the way in which the Lord would conduct me might not be in harmony with the community life, he said: ’My child, endeavour to follow the common way; when a religious is conducted in an extraordinary manner she is obliged to demand an extraordinary confessor, which is not always convenient in a community’. Then as if in a spirit of prophecy, he added: ‘Do quickly that which you have to do; hasten to sanctify yourself for your course will not be long.’ After some other counsels he gave me his blessing and I departed”.
THE CARMELITE MONASTERY OF TOURS
Accompanied by her father Perrine left Rennes and travelled to Tours arriving there on the 13th November 1839. She was then 23 years old. Less than eight years later she would be called to her eternal reward. The prophecy of her confessor would be fulfilled.
Arriving at 5.00p.m. in the evening she had no curiosity to visit the city. “That”, she said,, “is of little importance to me. Having left the coach my father conducted me to the Carmelites, gave me his benediction and said with great emotion while embracing me for the last time: ‘The will of God alone, my child, gives me courage to make this sacrifice’. Poor father! May God reward him! Very soon the doors were thrown open and my father remitted me to the care of this new family who presented themselves to receive me”.
“If at that moment I offered to God the sacrifice of a fond father, he gave in return a most excellent mother, who was to render me inestimable service. This was the Reverend Mother Mary of the Incarnation, prioress and at the same time mistress of novices. When in the world, Our Lord one day gave me to understand that the mother whom he destined for me would have a special grace to conduct me in His ways; and, in fact the promise was verified as soon as our reverend mother understood my interior dispositions. This knowledge came to her by degrees, and according as God judged it proper for His glory and the salvation of my soul”.
“After I had embraced my new sisters, the reverend mother conducted me to the altar of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, my heavenly mother, to thank her for my admission into the holy house of Carmel, and to place myself under her special protection. The hour of recreation drew nigh: I was invited to sing and I did not wait to be importuned, for I had sung the same hymn many times while awaiting the happy day of my entrance into Carmel. It was as follows:
Oh! Blessed be God! I’ve found that peace
For which I’ve sighed so long;
For Him my love shall never cease,
He’ll ever be my song.
“There were fifteen stanzas which I sang with such cheerfulness that no-one thought of interrupting me.”
The new postulant seemed inclined to continue, when suddenly the reverend mother prioress, who had been absent, entered the room. Finding one disposed to sing, the others to listen and all apparently enjoying themselves, she considered is all a splendid occasion to test the postulant. “Well”, said she, “you have been in a hurry to display your little talent”. A dead silence ensued. After a few seconds, the mother prioress turning towards the little singer said: “See if you can entertain us with something better!” “Oh! revered mother”, replied she, “I have sung you the very best thing I know”. Such was her simple reply. “This frank gaiety”, said she,“ was already a proof of my vocation for Carmel; for our holy mother, St. Theresa, would not allow sad or melancholy subject to remain among her daughters”.
“The next day I attended Divine Office during which I had a very ridiculous temptation, and the only one I ever had against my vocation. I shall relate it: Observing the officiant, the chantress, the chorists and other sisters go to the middle of the choir, make a genuflection, say something in Latin, then return for others to take their place, - I was alarmed at the number and variety of these ceremonies. I thought I would never have the intelligence enough to know how to do so many things, nor to perceive when my turn would come to do likewise. I concluded that perhaps it would be much more expedient for me to take my little bundle and return to Rennes. But how could I get home! I had only forty francs in my purse; surely that would not meet the expenses of so long a journey. I had forgotten that I had given even that to the good mother prioress. However I consoled myself by saying: have patience and we shall see what will happen”.
“Then I was conducted to the confessional: - further dismay. I perceived a small slab of iron painted white, pierced with little round holes, and placed in the wall according to the Carmelite custom. They told me that I should speak through this grating to the confessor: - Patience again my soul and we shall soon see how all these things will terminate!”
“From the chapel I was taken to the novitiate. There I found statues of the Jesus and. the Holy Family the cherished objects my affection. From this moment the Holy Family, for whom I had quitted the world and entered Carmel where I knew they were specially honoured, smoothed away all my difficulties and I found all things easy and agreeable. I was so much at home that it already seemed several years since my arrival. Then I understood by my own experience that there is vocation, not only for an order, but also vocation for a particular House of that order, as I had no attraction for any other convent; on the contrary, from the moment I entered that of Tours I felt that is where God wished me to be”.
The next several pages of the book tell the history of the monastery of Tours with St Martin, St Theresa and St Philip de Neri gaining mention. The trials of the French revolution are described when the sisters were driven from their monastery. Those trials lasted from 1789 till 1798 though it was not until 1822 that they were able to return to their old convent. They found much of it in a sad state of repair. So it was only seventeen years after their return that Sister Mary of St. Peter was admitted.
The Prioress, Mother Mary of the Incarnation, gave to the entire community an impulse as energetic as it was salutary. It was under the direction of this worthy Superior, that our little Perrine was immediately placed. For such a school the young postulant was already well prepared by her worthy and able director, to mount by rapid strides to the highest summit of religious perfection. Let us hasten to return to her narrative, in which she herself will relate her first experiences in cloistered life.
The life of a Carmelite, according to St. Theresa, should be one of special devotedness to the glory of God and service of the Church by prayer and penance. The illustrious Reformer repeated continually to her spiritual children; “My daughters, we have not come to Carmel to repose or to enjoy ourselves, but to labour, to suffer and to save souls”.
From the moment of her arrival, our little postulant felt that she should be thoroughly imbued with this spirit. “Then God of mercy”, she said, “manifested the designs He had in view in calling me to the religious state; designs well suited to give me an exalted idea of the sublime vocation I had embraced. The object of all the previous communications with which Our Lord had hitherto favoured me was the sanctification of my own soul. I had laboured exclusively for myself, as I was only charged with the care of my own perfection. But when God called me to Carmel, where I was to devote myself solely to his glory, the necessities of the Church and the salvation of souls, he deigned to teach me the nature of the devotedness, the spirit of sacrifice and the zeal for the salvation of others, sublime virtues of which, as yet, I knew nothing. On this subject I received the following communication, which I have always regarded as the foundation-stone of the ‘Work of Reparation’: for before speaking to me openly of this great work, Our Lord waited until I had obtained my superior’s consent to make the act of perfect abandonment which he required of me. This communication remains engraved on my heart, but as I did not make a written account of it, I can only narrate from memory what transpired”.
“One day, after I had received Holy Communion, Our Lord, accompanied by an angel, condescended to manifest himself to my soul. He showed to me the multitudes that were daily falling into hell, and then expressed His wish that I should offer myself without reserve to His good pleasure; moreover, that I should abandon to Him all the merits I might acquire in my new career, for the accomplishment of His designs. He promised me that He would take care of my interests, that He would cause me to participate in all His merits, and would Himself, be the director of my soul. The angel (elsewhere she states that it was the archangel Raphael), urged me to consent to this generous proposal. It seemed to me that the celestial spirit envied my happiness, for being purely spiritual He could neither suffer nor merit. He assured me that if I consented to Our Lord’s request, the angels would surround my death-bed and defend me against the assaults of the devil”.
“How I longed to make his act then and there! I was almost on the point of offering the sacrifice to the Lord; but either because my Divine Master had advised me differently, or that I was afraid to stray from the path of obedience, I did not comply with His wish, thinking that I ought to have permission of our reverend superioress. To obtain this I briefly transcribed the communication and presented it to her, as I had been accustomed to do with my confessor. Our good Mother, not aware of the manner in which Our Lord conducted me, did not give much credit to what her little postulant related, but she wisely said: ‘My child, this abandonment which you desire to make, is no ordinary act, therefore, as I have yet no authority over you I cannot counsel you, and for much greater reason, cannot permit you to make it’. As I had a very great love for obedience, I submitted respectfully to the opinion of the reverend mother; yet her decision grieved me. I returned to Our Lord and said. ‘Behold my sweet Saviour, obedience prevents me from complying with thy demand; but thou dost behold the inmost recesses of my heart and therefore, knowest that I have offered thee all that I can give’. Our Lord, for the moment, seemed satisfied with my good will; nevertheless, he inspired me several times to reiterate the same demand. It was only after I had obtained the permission of my superiors that He fully communicated to me the ‘Work of Reparation’. Our prudent mother, perceiving from this that I received extraordinary favours, took steps to ascertain the nature of the spirit which conducted me; she forbade me to pay any attention to these supernatural operations. Then I no longer heard any interior words, and Our Lord seemed to submit Himself with me, in some manner, to holy obedience”.
The next several pages of the book tell the story of the Mother Prioress and the trials and tribulations which she had to endure in joining Carmel and especially during the French Revolution. She had been elected prioress in 1834.
To discover the spirit by which Perrine was influenced, the reverend mother adopted the method pursued by her former confessor, and directed her to give a written account of all that concerned her celestial communications. Whenever her spiritual daughter presented herself with her paper, the Mother would take it quietly, lay it aside and continue her occupation, intimating thereby that she would attend to it when time permitted, after she had disposed of other matters.
Perrine’s story continues: “I longed to be clothed with the habit of the Carmelites and beseeched reverend mother to grant this favour, despite my great unworthiness. Accordingly I received the holy habit on the 21st May 1840. On that memorable day I consecrated myself anew to the Holy Family. After this consecration (the words of which are on pages 87 and 88 of the book) I regarded myself as the little domestic of the Holy Family, and in all my occupations I had the intentions of serving them at Nazareth. I had but one more ambition, that of being the little donkey of the infant Jesus. The opportunity came one evening when the reverend mothers were on their retreat. During this time the postulants and novices took their recreation in the novitiate. We were all assembled before a picture of the Holy Family. I proposed to my companions to make a sheepfold for the Holy Family in such a manner that each of us would be consecrated to them according to the office, or title drawn by lot; the proposition was unanimously accepted. It was decided that one of us would be the donkey of the Infant Jesus, another the ox, another the sheep, and so on. The convention was held, the ballots prepared, and to my great joy, I was chosen by Providence to be the ‘Donkey of the Infant Jesus’. I inquired into the characteristics of the donkey, for I wanted to avoid its defects. A postulant who possessed one in the world gave me all the necessary information. I discovered that the donkey is stubborn, he is idle, he will walk only in byways, but I have resolved to correct these defects. I will keep the Infant Jesus warm, carry him on all his journeys; and in a word, to render to the Holy Family all the little services in my power”.
“I was enchanted with my new title and wanted the approval of our reverend mother. She was much amused with our simplicity but when I asked if she would be willing to give up her little donkey entirely to the Infant Jesus she replied: ‘No, my child; tell Him that I can only lend her, I cannot yet give her up entirely’. So I was able to offer myself as a loaned donkey, through the hands of Mary and Joseph. This little act of simplicity was, I believe, very pleasing to the Divine Infant, for he began to direct me anew in his ways; this was in fulfilment of a promise he had made after my entrance into Carmel. The Divine Infant inspired me to honour him each day of the month by a special devotion”.
Here are some extracts:
On the 15th of the month, she celebrated the Espousals of the Holy Virgin
with St Joseph.
On the 25th, she celebrated the birth of the Divine infant.
On the 29th, in his presentation in the temple.
On the 30th, his flight into Egypt.
“But”, said she, “Satan, pride itself, was jealous when he saw me honour the humiliation of the ‘Word Incarnate’. One day, when I had performed an action which undoubtedly, was very displeasing to him, he endeavoured to be revenged as follows: That night, after retiring, and just as I was falling asleep, I felt on my head something like a great, ugly beast which seemed to be trying to smother me: immediately I had the understanding that it was the devil, he was pressing on my head. I cried out to the Blessed Virgin to come to my rescue. On hearing this sacred name he took to flight, I then offered a prayer of thanksgiving. This took place during the grand silence: though I did not really see the devil, yet from the extraordinary sensation experienced in my soul, I understood that Satan undoubtedly wanted to smother the donkey of the Divine Infant, but the Blessed Virgin came to her assistance”. This devotion of Sister Mary St. Peter to the Holy Infant was cherished to her last breath.
To maintain herself always in contemplation of the Divine Infant she ornamented two little statues, one of which she called her ‘little king’, and the other, her ‘poor king’ both appropriately decorated to represent the character which her ingenious devotion gave to each one. She carried one or the other with her constantly.
Sister Mary’s novitiate was fast drawing to a close. The mere thought of the happy day on which our fervent and generous novice would consecrate herself to God by the sacred vows of religion caused her to exult with impatient joy. She hastened to manifest her eagerness to be admitted to her holy profession and frequently entreated her superior to grant her this favour.
“At last”, said the sister, “she ceded to my pressing solicitations. Despite my unworthiness the community had the charity to admit me to my profession and I celebrated my spiritual nuptials with Jesus. L’Abbe Panager, cure of St. Etienne, who had been my former director, came to preach at the ceremony. He took for his text ‘All nations shall call me Blessed’. He pictured the beauty of the state I had embraced, repeating continually, ‘Blessed art thou!’ How true! Was I not blessed! My vocation irrevocably decided and all my desires accomplished! I was supremely happy.”
Our humble novice passes lightly over this important circumstance. We can supply some interesting particulars of the period which elapsed between the time of her admission by the community and the day of the solemn ceremony; these facts have been taken from the annals of the monastery. The interval of several weeks was passed by Sister St. Peter in fervent and careful preparation for the all-important day. She made a retreat of ten days with so much fervour and recollection that she has not once raised her eyes so absorbed was she in God. The day on which she pronounced her vows, the mother prioress on leaving the room in which Sister St Peter had been congratulated by the community, perceived another novice very sad and pensive; turning towards the newly professed the Mother said: ‘Peter, go and console John!’ Sister St. Peter ran to embrace her companion promising her that her turn would come. In fact the latter was professed a few months later, despite the many forebodings to the contrary. In embracing Sister St. Peter it seemed to her that she had approached an angel. Sister Mary St. Peter’s profession took place on the 8th June 1841.
After her profession her title was ‘Sister Mary St Peter of the Holy Family’. She continues “Being thus entirely consecrated to Jesus as his little domestic, I was soon inspired by him to guard his flock in the pasture of his diving infancy; and I arranged the plan of a little exercise in honour of the twelve years of his life; which I called the twelve tribes of Israel”. The following are a brief extract:
“In honour of the first years, I offered him, through the Blessed Virgin
and St Joseph, our Holy Father the Pope, and all the hierarchy of the
church militant, under the protection of Sts. Peter and Paul.
The sixth year. For infidel nations under the protection of the nine
choirs of angels.
The tenth year, for all obdurate sinners under the protection of
the holy Confessors.
Finally the twelfth year, for the souls of the Just, under the protection
of our holy Mother St. Theresa, and all the holy Virgins.”
Such is what she termed the “Sheepfold of the Infant Jesus”. “My adorable Saviour”, she said, “soon assumed such power over me that I could truly say he had become the director and master of my soul”.
The activity of her mind attracted her to the perpetual contemplation of the mysteries of the life of Our Lord. Taking for the starting-point the Holy Infancy of Jesus, she passed successively over the scenes of his hidden life, his painful life and his glorious life; from his Incarnation to his triumphant Ascension. She distributed the hours of the day in such manner, that each recalled to her-mind some particular circumstance in the life of Our Lord to whom she united herself by faith and loving contemplation. She had such an attraction for this exercise that she performed without any apparent effort, what to others, might seem tedious and complicated. We can form some conception of this from a report she drew up for the mother prioress. The following are a few extracts from that report:
“At eight o’clock in the evening I offer myself to the most holy Virgin and
St. Joseph as their little domestic.
During the second nocturne I adore Jesus’ birth in the stable at
At each of the nine psalms I unite myself to the nine choirs of angels.
I Adore Jesus with the Magi as God, King and Man – this is my mental
occupation during matins.
Having retired to my cell I am occupied until eleven with the sheepfold
and the sheep of the Holy Infant.
In the morning as soon as I arise I adore the Eternal Father.
Meditation being finished I go with the Holy family to Nazareth and
we depart for Egypt.
After the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the hour for work arrives. I
contemplate Our Lord during his hidden and laborious life.
At two o’clock vespers commence, then I adore Jesus’ triumphant
entry into Jerusalem.
At the five o’clock time for meditation I adore Jesus crucified”.
And so on throughout the day. There is never one moment when Sister St. Peter allows herself to rest from perpetual adoration at the same time as carrying out whatever normal duties were necessary. The mother prioress to whom these details were related in confidence kept a constant watch over Sister Mary St. Peter and became convinced that she was actuated by the impulse of divine grace. Nevertheless, to assure herself of the spirit which animated her, she spared her no humiliation but mortified her on all occasions, and at every instant opposed her wishes; in a word, she endeavoured to make her pursue a more ordinary course.
“I made every effort to obey”, said the pious religious, “but to no purpose; for I would soon find myself in the same path. Our mother permitted me to speak to a holy priest, well enlightened in the interior life. She said ‘My child, explain to him how you make your meditation and in what manner you are conducted by God’. I availed myself of this occasion with thankfulness and laid bare my interior to this good priest. Having thoroughly examined me, he said: ‘My child continue your course without fear, let God conduct you as he wills, for you have established the foundation of your spiritual life on a solid basis – mortification. Tell your reverend mother that I am satisfied; I will speak to her myself also’. After this, our prudent mother permitted me to abandon myself fully to the spirit of God; but she wisely counselled me to be faithful to grace and not to remain inactive after the cessation of the divine operations in my soul. As I had no employment to distract my mind from the presence of God the entire day was passed in uninterrupted prayer, if I can thus express myself. My work was no hindrance to my continual union with Our Lord. Having thus no opportunity to practise virtue, I had not much merit; but our reverend mother who continually watched over the spiritual advancement of my soul, soon gave me an office most fruitful in distractions, that of portress. My love of silence and prayer found no sympathy with my new office, but I regarded the command of mother as an order from Heaven, and joyfully submitted thinking that day, the feast of the Incarnation, the Infant Jesus had given me an evident proof that he had chosen me to be his little domestic, and that he would employ me in this office to perform all the errands of the house. I then renewed the consecration of myself to the Divine Infant”.
The office of portress has its moments of fatigue and besides this fatigue incidental to this employment, general business and preoccupation are the particular lot of those appointed portress. This is exactly what the mother prioress had in view in appointing Sister Mary St. Peter, foreseeing that it would effectually cross the good sister in her habits of prayer and recollection; and indeed it was a perpetual source of penance and self-renunciation; she practised all the austerities prescribed by the rules, even adding others voluntarily; yet always maintaining herself within the limits of discretion. Her entire life, both interiorly and exteriorly, was in reality one of continued mortification, severing her completely from all the pleasures of the senses.
She has asked for a statue of the Infant Jesus and in a short time received it. She relates: “I now had the Holy Infant with me in the parlour and I was supremely happy. I offered him all my little labours and demanded souls in recompense. At times during the day he visited my soul with a powerful impulse of his grace. I would leave my work for a brief moment when I felt his approach that I might hearken to him the more attentively; but thinking that I should have permission I asked our reverend mother. As she never neglected any opportunity of exercising my virtue she forbade me to notice these interior operations. ‘I only permit you, when your mind is disturbed, to pause an instant to recollect yourself’. With the grace of God, I followed minutely her wise counsels”.
God communicated himself freely to this generous professed. She felt more and more urged to make the act of entire abandonment which she had been inspired after her admission to Carmel; but her Superiors always refused to grant the permission However in the year 1843 she unexpectedly had an occasion to renew the demand. The Carmelites were obliged to quit their old monastery and search for a site to build anew. Sister St Mary explains: “For some time our house had been an obstacle to the various improvements planned by the city; moreover, our neighbour’s new buildings overlooked our premises which resulted in serious inconveniences. Unforeseen circumstances hastened the time of the dreaded change. The plans of the city officials were about to be put into execution. After much research our Superiors were directed to a suitable place where we could build our new home. It was situated in a tranquil and solitary part of the city, near the archbishopric. We soon made the purchase depending on the treasury of our Heavenly Father, for we had not even half the capital necessary for such an undertaking”
Mother prioress full of anxiety at the financial problem besought the prayers of Sister Mary who said to the mother prioress; “Reverend mother, when a man wants some money and has none he sells his donkey; if you will sell me to the infant Jesus, I am sure He will give you some money to build the house” Mother laughed heartily!. ‘Well my child’ said she, ‘say to the Infant Jesus that if I were rich I would give you to him, but as I am very poor I am obliged to sell you; ask him then to purchase you’. This reply have me great pleasure; I addressed myself to the Holy Infant and imparted to him the commission to our revered mother: I besought him as a favour to purchase me that I might then be at his disposal”.
“One night while I was praying fervently to the Holy Infant I believe I saw him in the interior of my soul and he gave me to understand these words: “Tell your mother prioress that if she writes to such a person she will assist to build the house! Oh! what good news! Behold already I had proof that the Holy Infant wished to purchase his little donkey. I went to our good mother to give her the message of Our Lord. The person in question lived 180 leagues (over 500 miles) from Tours; I was slightly acquainted with her, but our Rev. Mother had never heard of her. However, she wished to ascertain the truth of this communication and wrote to the lady without giving any of these particulars. The reply was slow in coming and I began to fear a little; but the Divine Infant again assured me. At last, a letter came from the lady, in which was enclosed an order for five hundred francs. That was the first donation our mother prioress received; it was a guarantee of what our Divine Saviour would do in the future. My heart was filled with joy at the arrival of the letter and I said five hundred ‘Laudates’ to the Holy Infant in thanksgiving. I asked Rev. Mother if that sum were not more than sufficient to buy a donkey and if she yet consented to deliver me to the Divine Infant who has sent her this amount But she still wished to try my patience and to discover the spirit which moved me; she explained that she required more money for the construction of the house of Our Lord before granting the desired consent”. Sister Mary redoubled her fervour as much for the glory of Him who had claimed her as for the assistance of her mother prioress whom she saw in such pressing necessity.
One day during her prayer she found herself as if in the middle of a building. “Our Lord gave me to understand that it was a great and meritorious thing to erect a dwelling for him; He said that our Mother would have many difficulties to encounter in her undertaking but that he would furnish the ‘stones’. (The’ stones’ were later understood as the prayers she had to furnish in reparation for the blasphemies and outrages committed against the glory of the Holy Name). He also directed me to tell Mother not to be troubled; that if the monastery were constructed according to the rule of St. Theresa he would pay all, for she would receive assistance from many sources. ‘But’ added he, ‘if the house be not built according to this rule, pay for it as best you can’”.
Sister Mary found this commission embarrassing but she overcame her repugnance in order to accomplish the will of Our Lord. “When I communicated what he had given me to understand she told me that she had not been able to rest the night previous in consequence of the uneasiness caused by the plan proposed by the architect which was not at all in accordance with the usual mode of building. Mother Prioress procured another plan in perfect conformity with the customs of St. Theresa; Our Lord was satisfied and was ready to fulfil his promise”.
“A doubt presented itself, whether it was really Our Lord who spoke to me but he gave me this assurance: ‘It is I, Jesus, present in the most Blessed Sacrament. There are several ways in which I communicate myself to souls. Do you not perceive how tranquil and how united you are to me now; whilst for the past few days you were as agitated as the sea during a storm?”
“I offered my will to the Father and then, as if to test me, I was plagued in an ocean of bitterness and desolation. I was lost in darkness and tormented by temptations. I had a great longing for a book to solace me and I asked one from our Rev. Mother. Despite her usual kindness she refused saying; ‘My daughter, it is not sufficient to sacrifice one thing only to God all must be immolated to him’. On another occasion when suffering still more keenly I desired to speak to her of my mental distress; but God inspired her to act in concert with Him to make we walk in the path of death to self; she, always so full of compassion, would not permit me this time to relive my weary heart but forbade me speak even to my confessor before a fortnight. With the grace of God I submitted with a good will to this trial”.
Finally Sister Mary felt urged to have recourse to her holy mother St Teresa in whose honour she commenced a novena: the nine days had not passed ere her sufferings had altogether disappeared. The Lord now resumed with his servant the course of his extraordinary communications which had been totally interrupted for more than two years. But it was necessary that she should return to the ‘House of her Father’, that is to say to the Heart of Jesus, where as gold in the furnace her soul would be purified by the fire of suffering and love. The devotion of the Holy Face emanates from that of the Sacred Heart. The one is the complement of the other. In the order of the designs of the Divine Master his faithful disciple was to be conducted to the intimate recesses of his most amiable Heart before being initiated in the mystery of Reparation by means of His distressing and painful face”.
Note: In this respect the book contains a comment for pious reflection from The Rev. L. P. Gros a distinguished member of the Society of Jesus. He says: ‘The heart is the symbol of love – the face of the living mirror of the heart. The face reveals what the heart contains, namely, love, sorrow with the other sentiments of the soul. For this reason the Church does not regard with a favourable eye the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus if the heart is isolated from the face; it is the face which authorises us to say: ‘behold such a one! When I have before me the face and heart of Jesus I have before me Jesus entire, his soul and its sentiments. We return to Sister Mary’s story.
THE GOLDEN DAGGER (This title will be explained in a few moments).
Four years had scarcely elapsed since the little seamstress had bid adieu to the world to enter among the Carmelites of Tours. Clothed with the holy habit and after two years professed she generously followed the interior attraction of grace. She experienced alternate hours of consolation and desolation. The hour is fast approaching in which the objects of these various movements of grace will be made manifest to her. Her Divine Spouse will reveal that which is most offensive to him and which in consequence provokes his just indignation. Then after having made known the urgent necessity of reparation he suggests to her a formula of prayer to console his Sacred Heart. In short the year will not have passed until, to the great consternation of Sister Mary, he himself will have designated by name the guilty nation which has drawn upon itself the vengeance of the Almighty.
On the 26th August 1843, the day after the celebration of the feast of St Louis, there was a violent storm. “Never”, said Sister Mary, “have I realised the justice of an irritated God as at that moment. The terrible rolling of the thunder and the gleaming of the lightning seemed to be the menacing threats of the Most High”.
During her evening prayer the Almighty unfolded his Heart to her and addressed her thus: ‘My Name is everywhere blasphemed, even little children blaspheme it’. The Almighty made Sister Mary understand that the dreadful sin of blasphemy was a poisoned dagger which pierces and wounds his Divine Heart. He told her that he would give her a’ golden dagger’ with which to heal the wounds caused by sin.
“The following is the prayer which Our Lord dictated to me”, said she, “he offered it to me for the reparation of blasphemy against his Holy Name,
The Golden Dagger Prayer.
May the most holy, the most Sacred, the most adorable, the most unknown and the most inexpressible Name of God be adored, praised, blessed, and glorified, in heaven on earth and in hell, by all creatures formed by his sacred hand, and by the loving Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the most Blessed Sacrament of the altar. Amen.
Sister Mary was astonished when Our Lord said ‘and in hell’ but he gave her to understand that his justice was there glorified. He did not mean the only the place where the wicked are punished but also purgatory where he is loved and glorified by the suffering souls. To this explanation may be added that St Paul, in one of his epistles made use of the expression ‘At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend in heaven, on earth and in hell’.(Philippians 2:10).
Sister Mary continues: Our Lord having given me this ‘golden dagger’ added: ‘Beware how you appreciate this favour, for I shall demand an account of it’. At that moment I seemed to behold flowing from the Sacred Heart of Jesus torrents of grace for the conversion of sinners, which gave me confidence to ask: ‘My Lord, do you then hold me responsible for blasphemers?’ – This question shall have its answer later.
She made an immediate note of this important communication and delivered it to the mother prioress who did not seem to attach much importance to it. But after Sister Mary had left she carefully perused it and for the first time began to suspect the gravity of the communications which her spiritual daughter was receiving and she foresaw the responsibility which would devolve both on her and on the community.
Sister Mary continues; “One day when speaking to Rev. Mother I told her that when at prayer I found myself entirely occupied in repairing the outrages committed against God by blasphemers. She reprimanded me severely and forbade me to continue; ordering me to apply my mind to meditate simply on my last end. With a grieved heart I retired from my superior but did my best to follow the method of meditation indicated by mother prioress. When she told me that I had fulfilled her desires my soul became tranquil. One day Our Lord made me understand that it was more necessary for me to obey my superiors”.
Now she commenced to carry the cross which Our Lord had promised her even before she came to Carmel. She was never to be released from that cross it would stay with her until her last sigh. “When Our Lord communicated anything to me”, says she, “I dared not speak of it to our good mother, but I took note of it and left the writing in her office, very glad when she was not there. I was all in a tremble before the Blessed Sacrament holding in my hand a little letter which I presented to Our Lord before going to remit it”.
“At length however Our Lord sent me great consolation. I was one day kneeling before Rev. Mother, speaking to her of the sufferings occasioned by the work with which I was charged; our good mother said; ‘What can I say to you child? Nothing at all, you must bring forth this work by your own sufferings’. As she was speaking there fell from the book which she held a little leaflet on which was printed a prayer to the most Holy Name of God followed by an appeal to the French nation ‘to appease the anger of God irritated by blasphemy’. This had a striking resemblance to the communications which I had received. Our Rev. Mother was astonished. She said ‘Well, sister, if I did not know you I would think you were a sorceress’. She had never seen this paper before and no-one in the house knew anything about it. The book it was in had not been taken from the library for twenty years. I was in an ecstasy of joy nor could I disabuse myself of the idea that Heaven had commenced to speak in my favour”.
The leaflet had been written and published in 1819 by L’Abbe Soyer who was vicar general of Poitiers and who later became a bishop. It stated openly that blasphemy drew down the anger of God on France. The mother prioress sought further information on the subject and wrote to L’Abbe Soyer for an explanation. The prelate replied that he published the ‘Appeal’ at the request of a Carmelite sister at Poitiers named Sister Adelaide with whom the Lord had held the most intimate communications; “That admirable Carmelite”, he said, “was the most mortified, the most humble, and the most saintly soul I have ever met”. Sister Adelaide died on the 31st July 1843 twenty-six days after Sister Mary St Peter was inspired to demand the work of Reparation for blasphemy; as though God had awaited the death of one prophet before raising another.
Another remarkable coincidence happened on the same day. A pious gentleman, Monsieur Dupont, had distributed a prayer in honour of the Holy Name of God to obtain, through the intercession of St Louis King of France, the dispersion of the enemies of that Divine Name. By accident the prayer had not been given to the Carmelite house. Monsieur Dupont’s prayer contained the words ‘May thy Name be known and blessed’ which has similarities to words in the ‘Golden Dagger’ – ‘May the holy Name of God be forever praised and blessed’.
These events had the effect of causing the superiors of Sister Mary St. Peter to relax somewhat their severity towards her.
MHB. Monsieur Dupont was an admirer of Carmelites and a tireless worker for the Church. His name frequently appears in the book right up to, and after, the death of Sister Mary St. Peter.
Sister Mary continues: “I was permitted to occupy myself with the work of God according to the inspirations given me. My good Master gave me to understand that they were most agreeable to him. Mother prioress returned to me the Golden Dagger prayer of reparation at which there came a new source of trouble for me when Our Lord told me to request that leaflets be printed. This made our prudent Mother more determined to try me to ascertain if it were truly God who guided me. One day she told me that I seemed like Peter Michel. This man was a visionary, who had deceived multitudes by his false revelations; he had come to see our Rev. Mother but she discovered the impostor at the first glance. I knew not what to think on beholding myself placed on a par with this individual. Our Lord reassured me however by the words: ‘as long as you continue humble and obedient; rest assured that you are under no illusion’.
“Shortly after these events had taken place our Rev. Mother became very ill. Though she had often crossed me both for the good of my soul and to be convinced that it was God who was guiding me, yet I loved her very tenderly. Our Lord made me understand that if the Community were to make a Novena to the Holy Name of God he would lavish graces upon the community”.
“I communicated my mission to our Rev. Mother whose sufferings were most violent, who consented to the Novena being prayed. My Heavenly Spouse restored mother prioress to health and she was soon able to fulfil her important duties”.
The mother prioress in her continued search for the truth of Sister Mary’s revelations put her in touch with two priests both of whom were known for their reticence at relishing anything spiritually extraordinary. To start with they paid very little attention to the spiritual communications of Sister Mary. One of them laughed openly when conversing with her and the mother prioress. The other being of a suspicious nature caused him to suspect the influence of the devil. But by degrees they both recognised the action of God in this pure and humble soul.
Now we get an answer to the type of vision which Sister Mary experienced:-
‘As regards the interviews which took place on this subject she invariably declared that these communications were not visions neither were they apparitions. The truths shown her were not exhibited under an external form nor did she physically hear what she was commissioned to relate. All took place in the superior part of her soul’.
But she had to accept God’s rebuke when she asked him to repeat something he had said to her. He made her realise that it was not in her power to hear his interior voice when she called him. She heard his words: “My daughter you have offended me more than all the other sisters because you have set an obstacle to my designs over your soul. There are two reasons why I chose you to make manifest my designs: first because you are the most unworthy; second because you have offered yourself to me for the accomplishment of my designs. Be humble and simple; make known your imperfections and your defects; for this acknowledgment will redound to my glory”.
The rest of the chapter in the book on Reparation explains how God continued to convince Sister Mary of ‘his burning desire for the prayer of reparation to be printed and distributed’. “He commanded that the community should defray the expense of the printing in order to bestow his choicest blessings and return a hundred-fold”.
Mother Prioress was not impressed and “showed Sister Mary the enormity of her pride is asking to have the prayer printed and circulated, there being so many other beautiful prayers composed by the Holy Fathers”.
To add to her trials Jesus asked for a Society to be formed to honour the Name of God the Father. Sister Mary experienced the greatest repugnance in having to convey this information to mother prioress, but is given further revelations when Jesus tells her that it is France to which his anger is manifested. At these words Sister Mary was so terrified that she cried out: “My Lord and my God! permit me to ask you if this reparation which you demand will pardon France? He replied “I shall pardon her but only once more; as this sin of blasphemy is publicly committed everywhere in the kingdom of France the reparation must be made in every village and in every hamlet.” This chapter in the book details the appalling blasphemies to which God the Father is subjected throughout the nation.
In heaven France is being watched over by St Michael and especially St. Louis the greatest and wisest of her kings. This heavenly assistance provided Sister Mary comfort for her afflicted soul. She learnt there was established in Rome an association in reparation for blasphemy. “What was my admiration and my gratitude when I beheld on a printed leaflet a clause to the following effect – that by a brief the Sovereign Pontiff permitted the establishment of pious confraternities! What good tidings! I no longer doubted that the work with which I had been entrusted was the work of God. What filled me with the most admiration was this remarkable coincidence: that on the 8th August 1843 the Sovereign Pontiff issued the brief and on the 26th. of the same month and same year Our Lord had manifested to a poor, miserable little Carmelite in France this great work of Reparation for Blasphemy”.
Sister Mary St. Peter felt strongly urged to make a perfect oblation of herself to God for the accomplishment of his designs. Prevented by her superiors from offering this act, the good sister in all simplicity of soul, thought she could comply with the urgent demands of her Divine Master by a little surreptitious means which in humility she relates to us. “It was the Feast of the Annunciation and in union with another sister who had the same attraction to the Holy Infant Jesus I wrote an act of consecration to the act of total abandonment which Our Lord seemed to demand. I was unable to do this without permission but I was afraid to ask for it as I dreaded a refusal. So I did not seek the needed permission myself but induced the other sister to ask Rev. Mother for both, hoping thus to make in secret the long desired act of oblation to Jesus. The permission was granted. I was overjoyed thinking that I had a last gained my object. But the Holy Child is not a lover of fraud: he received my act as a’ simple consecration’. Therefore he directed me to obtain the authorization of my superiors that I might offer this act of abandonment with their full consent. I went and accused myself of the fault I had committed and repeated to our reverend mother what our Divine Lord had given me to understand. She consulted out worthy ecclesiastical superior and I obtained their mutual consent”. (This favour was not granted immediately. To try her for the circumstances narrated she was made to wait nine months before the permission was obtained).
Before giving details of this event the pious sister makes an observation. She says: “There is something singularly strange in this express desire of our Divine Lord that I should offer him an entire abandonment of myself for the accomplishment of his designs. Is he not the Sovereign Master of all creatures? Is he not free to do with them as he pleases? To make use of their persons, their very lives, in the manner he wills? It is strange to think that he insisted upon having the full consent of my superiors before taking complete possession of my soul. But it was for this reason that they themselves were to have a large share in the work which my Divine Master proposed to erect on such a questionable foundation. I was nothing in their hands but a useless instrument which they were to employ in the work of God; and as they were to experience many contradictions on account of this work he, in a manner of speaking, respected their free-will”.
On Christmas 1843 Sister Mary made her ‘Perfect Abandonment to the most Holy Child Jesus’, according to the full extent of his desires, for the accomplishment of his designs and for the glory of the holy Name of God’.
To make things more difficult for Sister Mary, Our Lord asked her to solicit her superiors to have the prayer of Reparation printed and promulgated. But when she presented this supplication to Rev. Mother she was severely chided for her presumption and that she was self-willed and obstinate in thinking of the work of Reparation.
Sister Mary’s humility was never in doubt and now it was brought to the fore because sisters in the Community, who were unaware where the Prayer of Reparation had originated, talked about it enthusiastically. One sister said: “Really, you can obtain from God all that you desire by making this novena of Reparation”.
Sister Mary continues: “Our worthy and charitable superiors, who were seriously examining the action of God in my soul, commanded me to give them an account of my interior, in order to ascertain if it were truly God who led me. The following is what I wrote in obedience to their request”.
“Reverend and very honoured mother; with the assistance of the Infant Jesus and my good angel, I will now set about accomplishing your command, and state in writing the manner in which I make my mental prayer. It is difficult but obedience and the grace of God will render all things easy. By this time reverend mother you are accustomed to my poor language; what you particularly desire are not well-turned phrases but a simple statement of my interior disposition at the present moment”.
“Firstly, I have no merit in my mental prayer, for it is a second nature and a gift which despite my unworthiness I received from God from my childhood. As a preparation for this exercise I try not to lose sight of the presence of God and during the day I keep him company in the interior of my soul. Having left to my Divine Saviour the care of my parents and of all that relates to myself personally, I think of him alone considering myself as the little servant of the Holy Family. Consequently, in all that I do during the day in my office as a portress, I act as if I were the little servant of the holy house in Nazareth. I imagine that a servant has three duties to fulfil: to accompany his master wherever he goes, to execute his orders and to guard his flocks in their proper pastures; in a word, to work solely in the interests of his master and according to his will. This is what I try to do, with the grace of God. My interior occupation is to accompany Our Lord through the mysteries of his life, to unite myself to him, and to offer him my homage. When I execute his orders, I think of these words of the Gospel :’And he was subject to them’. Every time the bell summons me to duty, I offer myself in sacrifice to the Eternal Father on the altar of the Sacred Hear of Jesus, begging him to unite me to his Divine Son, that it might be Jesus alone that acts in me. When I have no preoccupying duty to perform I entertain myself with him, I take his sheep to graze in his pastures, by this I mean in his sacred mysteries, the merits of which constitute the food and the nourishment of our souls. I pray for the pastors of the Church, for the conversion of sinners and I try to keep my mind from all absorbing thoughts. I unite all my actions to those of my Divine Saviour. Thus, exterior occupations very rarely disturb my soul, they only cause it to desire more ardently the repose and tranquillity of mental prayer; and when the time appointed for this exercise draws near oh! then Our Lord compensates me for all the little sacrifices of the day.”
“I commence my meditation by an examination of conscience. After which I humble myself at the feet of Jesus for all my infidelities to him, beseeching him to pardon me and to purify my soul. Then I entertain myself quite naturally and simply with my amiable Saviour, as would a child. Once, O Lord gave me the following method of prayer:
Prepare your soul by recollection;
Purify it my contrition;
Then fill it with God”.
“As it is perfectly useless to continue pouring water into a case
which is once filled; so is it as useless to crowd the soul with
reflections when one alone is sufficient to fill it”.
“Sometimes I am interiorly urged to make my mental prayer in union with Our Lord offering himself to the Father for his glory and the salvation of souls. Then I perceive myself entirely recollected in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where I find ample food for reflection. Beholding that I am entirely divested of self and clothed with the Lord Jesus I can approach his Divine Father with more facility and being enriched with his sacred merits I do not fear to demand extraordinary graces for our Holy Mother the Church and for the salvation of souls. Frequently I follow this method of prayer which is wholly supernatural, all the powers of my soul being merely united in the Sacred Heart of Jesus; at these times Our Lord acts in me and I in him; distractions are very rare because my imagination is transfixed, captive there. But when I am thus with him and he wills to communicate something new concerning the Work of Reparation, a second operation takes place in my soul! I feel that I am incapable of longer acting, for is seems as if my mind were entirely annihilated to cede place to that of Jesus; it is then that my soul is capable of distinguishing his intimae conversation. The more perfect is this annihilation of all the faculties, so much the more happy is my soul, absorbed as it is in God”.
“In this state the soul finds herself in him without knowing how she has entered therein; the attraction of grace predominates, seizing and possessing all her powers, elevating her above herself and absorbing her entirely in God! Oh! what delicious moments! I experience this perfect contemplation but rarely, for I am totally unworthy of such extraordinary graces. I make my customary mental prayer in the Sacred Heart of Jesus; there he teaches me his will, reveals his desires of labouring for the glory of his Father and for the salvation of souls; this is my most pleasing occupation. It is impossible for me to meditate for any length of time together, firstly because I have not the strength and again because this attraction coming from the Heart of Jesus draws my soul toward him and I find myself captivated, confined in his divine sanctuary, like a little child in the womb of its mother. Then my will and all the affections of my heart perform all and my poor mind finds itself relieved of all labour. It is Our Lord himself who has called me to this degree of mental prayer. At the beginning I dared not follow this attraction for fear of not doing right by abandoning the ordinary method; but Our Lord, wishing that I should follow his method, placed before my mind this comparison: - If a king invited me to his table; would it not be absurd to take my dinner with me, instead of partaking of the ‘food’ set before me on the prince’s table to which I have been invited? Having consulted others on this point, I was told not to fear following the method inspired by the Holy Ghost, that this was the best way of meditating; of which I have made the happy experience finding the ‘food’ of the Sacred Heart of Jesus much more exquisite than those which I could possibly prepare myself”.
“The signal for the termination of this delicious repast is sometimes given before I have had the time to offer sufficient thanks to my benefactor. Then I briefly express my gratitude, and take the resolution not to lose sight of him who has had the charity to treat me so magnificently, despite my unworthiness. Nevertheless I am not without experiencing pain from time to time for dryness and interior suffering is sometimes very necessary for my soul; in those times I accept whatever nourishment the Lord thinks proper to give me”.
That is the letter which Sister Mary St. Peter wrote at the command of her superiors. On receipt of the letter her superiors had no longer room for doubt; it was plain that grace had taken entire possession of this holy soul, to mould it according to its designs, to make it a privileged instrument in the great work so necessary to France and to the Church.
Sister Mary St. Peter now describes two spiritual concerns which cause her anxiety. One is a ‘Vow’ made by mother prioress at the time of the building and move to a new house. The other is the Association which was established by the Sovereign Pontiff. The terms of the vow were that for the space of one year two of the religious in turn according to rank would pray every day for the accomplishment of the designs of the Sacred Heart in order to draw down a special benediction on the community.
“It was my turn to communicate”, continues the sister “and my good Master desired despite my unworthiness to manifest himself to my soul. On the last occasion on which he had addressed me he was full of wrath against France and I listened to his words with trembling and fear and wept bitterly. But today I was filled with joy when he made known the pleasure experienced by his Divine Heart at the sight of the zeal and good-will manifested by his children towards the growing Association. Our Lord gave me to understand that the Association which he wished to establish in France has two objects in view: first the reparation of blasphemy uttered against God; second the sanctification of his Holy Name on the Lord’s Day; consequently the complete destruction and blasphemy and the prohibition of manual labour on Sunday. Blasphemy and the violation of the Lord’s Day were the principal sins which provoked the anger of God against France”.
MHB. A comment of my own. When I read the last paragraph it occurred to me the similarity between the cause of God’s anger and Our Lady’s appearance at La Salette. Then I discovered that a later chapter in the book refers to La Salette. What wonders have we still to uncover in the life of Sister Mary St. Peter?
Back to Sister Mary’s words “Our Lord manifested to me that the devil would use every means in his power to crush this work from the beginning. I felt as though I could shed even the last drop of my blood for so holy an Association”.
Sister Mary was so moved by Our Lord’s plea that she felt it necessary for the Bishop of Tours to be advised. She wrote a note to mother prioress “Will you please permit me to address the archbishop for I have such an ardent desire to inform him of these things! I humbly beg of you to grant me this permission. Then I shall have performed all that lies in my power towards the accomplishment of the work that has been revealed to me”.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF TOURS
Nothing of what we now know concerning Sister Mary St. Peter had yet passed beyond the walls of the cloister. Only the ecclesiastical superior, the sister’s confessor and a very few intimate friends had been informed by the mother prioress of all that had occurred. The grave nature of the last revelation to the cloistered virgin and her pressing solicitation to have the matter brought before the archbishop made it obligatory on the Rev. Mother to inform his Grace of all that had transpired.
The archbishop of Tours was Monsignor Morlot a man of great holiness. His incessant labours of his Episcopal charge led to his early and most edifying death. He had a particular veneration for the Carmelites; it was with pleasure that in 1846 he assisted at the installation and consecration of their new chapel with great solemnity. At the time of the disastrous flooding which happened shortly afterwards he hastened to offer them the hospitality of his own palace thus enabling them to continue in peace their religious exercises.
It had been decided by the Rev Fr. ecclesiastical superior of the Carmelites along with the Rev Mother that there should be a written account to present to the archbishop of all that had taken place. When presented to him he could not fail to be impressed with the evidence of sincerity which pervaded every page and approve of the conduct of her superiors towards Sister Mary St. Peter encouraging them to continue as before. With regard to the communications themselves he was so impressed that he did not hesitate to let it appear in his pastoral for the ensuing Lent of 1844 from which the following is an extract relative to the profanation of the Lord’s Day:
‘Have the workshops been closed? Has manual labour been suspended on
The Lord’s Day? Show me the street or thoroughfare of the city in which
the noise of commerce has for one instant been interrupted! Everywhere
the same clamour resounds, the same agitation, the same commotion sways
the multitude as on weekdays. Look at our villages, pass on to our hamlets
what do we behold? The forgetfulness of God’.
Sister Mary St. Peter continues: “I had the honour of writing to his Lordship; my worthy superiors had already informed him of all that the Divine Master had made known to me regarding the Work of Reparation. Then the pious prelate had little circulars printed and distributed but there was no Association established according to the demand of Our Lord; it seemed that the hour had not yet come”.
When Sister Mary perceived that the archbishop was taking a neutral stand she turned to her heavenly spouse who had confided the mission to her. The Saviour gave her to understand that until the Association was established it was in her own soul he desired to make reparation: of this she thus gives this account to the mother prioress:
“Permit me to relate in all simplicity what has passed today within my soul after Holy Communion. Our Lord inspired me to present myself before him in the name of France and to offer him my communion in a spirit of reparation for the crimes of which our nation is guilty”.
The Divine Master lent a favourable ear to the humble prayers of his servant; he revealed to her the heinousness and enormity of the sin of blasphemy. “It seems as if Our Lord said to me: ‘You cannot comprehend the abomination of this sin: if my justice were not restrained by my mercy the guilty would be destroyed in an instant’”.
At this time Sister Mary had much to endure for God did not spare her; interior sufferings were to prepare her to accomplish his work: her mind was at times overspread with darkness and in the face of her arduous mission she was confronted with the experience of her own weakness and incapacity.
A new aspect of things comes over the life of Sister .Mary St. Peter. The Carmelites had just quitted the venerable and cherished monastery which had been the cradle of their foundation. The following is an account in the annals in regard to this subject:
‘Towards the end of the year 1843 our old monastery was sold. The plan of a new monastery was made which was as much as possible in conformity with the rules and customs of our order. A convenient site at the back of the archbishopric had been bought’. While awaiting completion of the edifice the community were obliged to remove to a small dwelling-house which had neither gratings nor cloisters. It was small and inconvenient for religious, the absence of gratings being one of the greatest annoyances. In such cases every Carmelite carried her own grating with her if we may be allowed the expression: a thick black veil enveloped her from head to foot scarcely permitting her to breath or to move. Such was the habitual condition of Sister Mary St. Peter during the two years she was portress. Let us listen to the naïve complaints to which she gives vent:
“The time had come when Our Lord had prepared a great trial for me. I was obliged to quit the dear convent where I had pronounced my vows and where I had been overwhelmed with graces. I found myself in a secular house having no grating and I still held the office of portress which kept me in continual contact with seculars. I was condemned to stay for nearly two years in this parlour and observing that a great number of persons were always coming: some to solicit prayers for the sick, others for the conversion of those dear to them, some again to be consoled of their pains and sufferings while others were drawn by mere curiosity. I went to mother prioress and told her of the repugnance which I experienced. Perhaps she would relieve me of the office or give me someone to help. But she did neither, judging it better to leave me alone and unaided. To avoid the frequent visits of seculars I said politely that the mission of Carmelites was to make silent prayer to God. All my reasoning was to no avail; I cannot help laughing even now when I think of one good woman who insisted on bringing her daughter so see me in order that I might give her some advice about her approaching marriage; I declined to comply saying that she was obliged to go and consult someone else better posted than I on such matters!”.
“My good Master allowed me to suffer from this extreme repugnance but one day he had the goodness to come and console me in the inmost recesses of my soul. He told me that I should not grieve at having an office which brought me in such constant communication with my neighbour; that I should receive these people with the same spirit of charity with which he welcomed all who approached him when passing through the towns and cities of Judea”.
Six months passed during which the communications in reference to the Reparation remained as if suspended and Sister Mary was conducted on a path of aridity, darkness and temptation. She seemed ready to fall under this weight when God favoured her anew.
“He made me understand that the intelligence of man cannot conceive the heinousness of the affronts offered God by the sin of blasphemy. This crime pierces his Sacred Heart and covers him with wounds like another Lazarus. He pointed out the compassionate dogs who consoled poor Lazarus by licking his wounds and invited me to render him a similar service employing my tongue every day to glorify the Holy Name of God despised and blasphemed by sinners. He also said ‘Do all in your power to have this Work established; I shall enrich you with my merits that you may obtain it from my Father. Ask in my name and it shall be granted”.
Before the end of this chapter Sister Mary has one more story to relate. “A priest came to beg me to pray for two graces, one for himself and the other for one of his colleagues. The question at stake was the salvation of a soul and also the shielding of the reputation of two persons in whom they were greatly interested. The priest said; ‘I believe in the Work with which the Lord has charged you; but in proof of your mission, beg for these two graces. If you obtain them, I promise that my colleague in the ministry and myself will devote ourselves to propagate this Work’. I went immediately before the Blessed Sacrament to pray my good Saviour to defend his cause for the glory of his Name and to grant the two priests the favours which they desired. The priest who has spoken to me received the graces he so much desired on the evening of the same day”.
THE LITTLE GOSPEL
The eldest son of The Duke of Orleans had died after falling off his horse. A few years previously he had shocked the Catholic world by marrying a Protestant princess. Sister Mary St. Peter became conscious that his soul was suffering in purgatory. This was confirmed by Our Lord who asked her to pray for the princes’ soul. Many prayers and Holy Communions followed which were offered for the soul until Our Blessed Lord asked for one more act of charity which was to offer a Holy Communion which gained an indulgence. Sister Mary states that she was a little reluctant as she was intending to apply the indulgence to her own soul! Nevertheless she submitted to the Lord’s holy will. After that she had no more anxiety regarding the prince. Three years later this was confirmed when the Jesus appeared to her with the prince at his side. Sister Mary explains that she ‘saw by an intellectual view, not a physical one’.
Sister Mary St. Peter tells us about The Little Gospel. “My amiable Saviour made me understand the depth of virtue contained in the sacred name of Jesus, the very mention of which puts the devil to flight. This led to my superiors allowing me have scapulars made which contained ‘The Gospel of the Circumcision’”.
MHB. The book is very vague about this ‘Gospel’. I cannot find any explanation of it.
As well as ‘The Gospel’ scapulars were made of woollen material and containing the name of Jesus and a cross with the Sacred Heart. They were to be worn around the neck as a medal. Sister Mary said “Our Lord told me that these pious little objects of devotion should not be sold but that they should be distributed free in his name”.
The rest of this chapter tells of many graces extended to those who wore the Scapulars.
THE HOLY FACE
In June 1845 the Divine Master once again referred to the Work of Reparation and encouraged his servant to have an interview with the archbishop. Nothing less than a command from such a source could have compelled this humble and timid maiden to place herself in direct communication with a Prince of the Church.
She writes: “I then suffered an interior martyrdom which God alone knows; I could take no nourishment; existence was a burden. My heavenly spouse told me not to fear he himself would accompany me and suggest what I should say”.
The archbishop consented to pay a visit to the sister who he already held in great esteem because of her rare virtue. When she came into his presence she fell to her knees and kissed his feet; she than implored him to finish the Work which he had begun for the glory of the Holy Name of God, explaining to him the manner in which the Lord urged her to further his designs. The prelate replied: “My child, I desire with all my heart to establish this Work and to give it all the publicity it merits; but this is an undertaking of some difficulty; you cannot see all the obstacles. If at present there is so much difficulty in obliging the people to perform their obligations of conduct, what would be said of me if I were to propose practices of piety hitherto unheard of? Would not the wicked be excited to blaspheme God more than ever? Commend our present embarrassments to God, and pray fervently for me; ask for new lights; if the Lord deign to enlighten you further, you must make it known to me”. He added; “My child, in that which you experience I recognize the hidden workings of God”.
Sister Mary continues: “These counsels were as a healing balm poured over my soul; they filled me with consolation, for my confessor had declined to give me an opinion on what had transpired in my soul saying that the archbishop had received from the Holy Ghost the power of pronouncing judgement and I should submit to his decision”
Some time later the archbishop consented to give his approval to the prayers of Reparation but not to the formation of the ‘Association’.
MHB. Dear Mother and Sisters I have to admit that try as I might I have found it very difficult to distinguish between the ‘Prayers of Reparation’ and the formation of ‘The Association’. It is not for want of trying that I have failed! What we need to bear in mind is that Our Lord was asking for both, and that he needed them to be established in ‘exactly the way that he had explained’ to Sister Mary St. Peter. It seems to be this ‘exactness’ which caused delays.
The archbishop’s approval soon met with great success and 25,000 copies of the prayer of Reparation were distributed the expenses of publication being met mostly by the pious Monsieur Dupont. From different cities in France came application to Tours for authority to spread this devotion for the glory of the Holy Name of God.
Sister Mary felt that she had failed in the task set her by Our Lord. With a heart laden with sorrow she asked him to choose someone else more worthy than she for the accomplishment of his designs. She was assailed by a thousand temptations to which was added the loss of all consolation; it seemed that her soul was not even in the state of sanctifying grace. She scarcely dared to receive Holy Communion.
One day when she was hesitating to receive Holy Communion without having previously exposed her sad condition to her superior, the following happy thought presented itself to her mind; that this Bread of the strong would give her courage. “Oh! How great is God”, she exclaimed; “How great is his mercy! After having received this God of love in Holy Communion I said to him with faith: ‘O heavenly Physician! I remit my soul into thy hands; and immediately my adorable Saviour made me experience the effect of my prayer drawing me to himself alone that I might forget all my sorrows’”.
Our Lord favoured her with one of his most consoling and most fruitful communications. The Work of Reparation through the Holy Face was suddenly revealed to her. She was transported in spirit to the road leading to Calvary. “There”, she said, “Our Lord gave me to behold in a most vivid manner, the pious Veronica, who with her veil wiped his adorable Face covered with spittle, dust, sweat and blood”. It was the first time Our Lord spoke to her of his Holy Face. “The effects of this communication in my soul were so marvellous that I could not but admire the power of Our Lord. He invited me to ask any grace that we wished in the name of the service rendered him by Veronica”.
“Before receiving this communication I was in an abyss of sorrow and after having partaken of this Bread of Life I was as if resuscitated from death and my soul was dilated with joy; I went to seek our reverend mother; ‘Reverend Mother’, I said, ‘Our Lord promised to grant any graces asked for through the intercession of Veronica. What shall; I ask for?’; Our mother answered ‘If God desire that we should soothe his Divine Face and if he be disposed to grant us a grace in consideration of the services of the pious Veronica, the favour which I desire you to ask is that he would have the goodness to veil the faces of his spouses who will be exposed to the eyes of seculars if the ground adjoining our garden be sold to strangers. If he grants you this your superiors will have a visible proof of the spirit which conducts you’”.
Mother superior was at that time occupied with the construction of the new monastery. On one side of the enclosure there was a piece of ground which commanded a view of the Carmelite’s garden, a great inconvenience for the cloistered religious. Sister Mary St. Peter obeyed the order of her superior and we shall find out later how this grace was granted.
Sister Mary St. Peter rendered homage to the Holy Face from the moment she received the first communication. She said; “I experience a special protection from the pious Veronica and I am continually occupied in the adoration of the Holy Face or Our Saviour”.
“I understand that as the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the visible object offered to our admiration to represent his immense love in the most Blessed Sacrament of the altar, likewise in the Work of Reparation, the Face of Our Lord is the object offered for the adoration of the associates, to repair the outrage of blasphemers who attack the Divinity of which it is the figure, the mirror image. In virtue of this adorable Face, offered to the Eternal Father, we can appease his anger and obtain the conversion of blasphemers. Lord Jesus said to me ‘I seek more Veronicas to console and adore my Divine Face which has few worshipers’”.
VERONICA AND THE GOOD THIEF
MHB. We do not know the name of the pious woman who wiped the face of Jesus leaving his impression on the cloth. The occurrence is not mentioned in the Bible and it is ‘tradition’ which has brought the story to us down through the ages. The name Veronica comes from the Latin for ‘truth’ which is ‘vera’ and the Greek for ‘image’ which is ‘icon’. So an easy way to remember the interpretation of ‘Veronica’ is ‘true-image’.
Sister Mary St. Peter had difficulty in persuading herself that she had been granted the great favour of being presented with the gift of Jesus’ Holy Face. She heard Jesus say ‘As in an earthly kingdom we can procure all that we desire by having a coin stamped with the image of the king, so also with the precious gift of my humanity, which is my adorable Face, you will obtain in the kingdom of heaven all that your heart can desire’. This filled Sister Mary’s heart with joy and her thoughts turned to the ground close to the new monastery which commanded a view of the house. Mother Prioress had asked her to ask Our Lord for an answer to the problem. Our Lord told her that the situation would be solved, and not to be anxious how it would come about. In fact the affair was quite suddenly dealt with. The owner, Baron de Nom, who had resisted the appeals of the priest who was the counsellor and confessor of the sisters, came voluntarily to offer the land at most favourable conditions, and strange to relate, he died, very unexpectedly, three days later. Though afflicted at the sudden death of this good baron, Sister Mary nevertheless offered thanks to God for the benefit obtained. She said; “I regarded this favour as tangible proof of the gift I had received, that of the Holy Face”.
Sister Mary continues: “On the 6th November I received a new communication on the subject of the Holy Face in respect of the Work of Reparation. The Saviour makes use of the soul of his servant as a channel through which to reach the souls of men he redeemed by his Precious Blood. He declared his wish to make me understand the virtue of his adorable Face in order to restore the image of God in the souls who have effaced it by sin. He made me observe the power which this Holy Face exercised over his unfaithful apostle St. Peter rendering him penitent. Jesus cast upon him one glance and Peter wept bitterly. We have in this precious gift an infallible means of appeasing the wrath of God the Father irritated against blasphemers”.
“Our Lord presented me with a flock of sheep and appointed me their shepherdess. He foretold that I would undergo much suffering because this flock of blasphemers in a special manner under the guidance of the Prince of Darkness”.
Christ informed her that two people had rendered him special service during the Passion – the first was Veronica and the second the Good Thief who from his cross as from a pulpit undertook to defend Jesus’ cause and proclaim his divinity, even at the very moment he was being blasphemed by the other thief and by the Jews. Our Lord gave me to understand that both the one and the other are the two models given to the Work of Reparation, Veronica, the model for women who are not appointed to defend his cause by their eloquence but to soothe his Holy Face in reparation for the blasphemy of sinners by prayer, praise and adoration; The Good Thief as the model for his ministers who in the Work of Reparation should defend him publicly.
MHB. In mentioning our Jewish brethren I am quoting from the book but I have never been happy to blame them. My understanding is that Jesus died on the Cross for my sins. So our Jewish Brethren were but the means by which I crucified Jesus.
Now we hear from the redoubtable and pious Monsieur Dupont who has an amazing story to tell. Early in the month of September 1846 he called to visit mother prioress. He was about to visit St. Malo and he was taking a list of mother prioress’s relatives in that town so that he could visit them and convey her good wishes. After writing the list they sat back and discussed the divine mission of Sister Mary St. Peter.
“I will relate to you what St Mary has just told me”, said the reverend mother, “Our Lord addressed Sister Mary and said ‘My Mother (Our Lady) has spoken to men of my displeasure; she desires to disarm my justice and she has shown me her maternal heart saying: ‘O my Divine Son, behold this heart which has so loved thee! Let me shower benedictions on my other children!’ After which she descended to earth”. Monsieur Dupont states that he made a note of these words but found them to be a mysterious language, in which the past was confounded with the present and the future! Monsieur Dupont continues: “Imagine my surprise when on the 22nd October I heard of the apparition of Our Blessed Lady at La Salette which took place on the 19th September. This was the fulfilment of the prediction made in early September by Sister Mary St. Peter. The servant of God had some weeks previously announced the apparition of La Salette and the merciful intervention of Mary in favour of France.
MHB. La Salette is not the best know apparition of Our Lady so in order to remind ourselves of the basic details here is an extract from a booklet ‘The life of Our Lady’ which I dedicated to the Monastery at Kirk Edge:
‘It was on Saturday 19th September 1846 that 14 year old Melanie and 11 year old Maximin were herding their cows on the mountain slopes. At noon the Angelus sounded and the children drove the cows to a ravine, to water them at a spring. Then they sat down to eat their packed lunches. Perhaps it was the warmth of the day plus the food which made them sleepy but they both stretched out on the ground and had a nap.
Over an hour later Melanie awoke and was concerned for her cows. Where were they? She woke Maximin and they went in search of their small herds. They soon found them crazing placidly. It was getting on towards the middle of the afternoon and time to journey down off the mountains.
Melanie turned back towards where they had been sleeping to collect their knapsacks when she suddenly halted, thunderstruck. Below, in a ravine she saw a circle of brilliant light, outshining the sun. She called to Maximin “Come quickly! See the light down there!” He dashed to her side “Where?”. She pointed. He too saw it.
As they watched, the splendour of the light intensified, dazzlingly. They were both puzzled and fear-stricken and were about to flee when they observed that the luminous circle was opening. Gradually they could make out, ever more sharply defined, the figure of a woman. She was seated, her face in her hands, in an attitude of sorrow, weeping. Slowly, with unearthly grace, she arose. With her arms crossed on her breast and her head somewhat inclined, she confronted them.
The loveliness of her grieving face was magnetic. But they noticed as well the details of her vesture: the headdress topped by a crown with roses; the golden crucifix hanging from a chain about her neck, a hammer on one side of it, a pair of pincers on the other. And all was suffused in glory. As they gazed in fascination, the children heard the woman speak in a voice both commanding and reassuring.
(If I were writing about Lourdes, Fatima or Medjugorje or any other apparition I would have to condense the details of Our Blessed Mother’s appearance and words. But for the apparition at La Salette that is not necessary. The whole apparition lasted about fifteen minutes. Certainly no more than half an hour. So I can give details of every word which was spoken.)
“Come to me, my children,” she said “Do not be afraid. I am here to tell you something of great importance.” She spoke in French, not in their dialect. They found it hard to follow her, but grasped her meaning. They moved slowly to the ravine, and came within touching distance of her. They could now see her closely and noticed the tears upon her cheeks.
(Why did she speak first in French, which the children did not fully understand? Probably to make it clear that her message was not just for the local La Salette district but for the whole of France.)
Again she addressed them, at first in French, later in their own dialect. “If my people will not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son’s arm. It is so heavy, so pressing that I can no longer restrain it. How long I have suffered for you! If my Son is not to cast you off, I am obliged to entreat Him without ceasing. But you take not least notice of that. No matter how well you pray in future, no matter how well you act you will never be able to make up to me what I have endured for your sake.”
“‘I gave you six days for working. I have kept the seventh for myself. And they will not give it to me.’ This is what causes the weight of my Son’s arm to be so crushing. The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing in my Son’s name. These are two things which make my Son’s arm so burdensome.”
“If the harvest is spoiled, it is your own fault. I warned you last year by means of your potatoes. You paid no heed. Quite the reverse, when you discovered that the potatoes had rotted, you swore, you abused my Son’s name. They will continue to rot, and by Christmas this year there will be none left.” “If you have grain, it will do no good to sow it, for what you sow the beasts will devour, and any part of it that springs up will crumble into dust when you thresh it.”
“A great famine is coming. But before that happens the children under seven years of age will be seized with trembling and die in their parent’s arms. The grownups will pay for their sins by hunger. The grapes will rot, and the walnuts will turn bad.”
(Both children received secrets which they never disclosed verbally though, at the request of Pope Pius IX, they were encouraged to write them down and they were transmitted to the Pope. We know nothing more about the secrets.)
The Lady continued: “If people are converted, the rocks will become piles of wheat, and it will be found that potatoes have sown themselves.”
There was a pause, then with a searching look the Lady said, “Do you say your prayers well, my children?”
“No,” they murmured, shamefaced.” We say them hardly at all.”
“Ah, my children, it is important to say them, at night and morning. When you don’t have time, at least say an Our Father, and a Hail Mary, and when you can, say more.”
The Lady continued: “Only a few rather old women go to Mass in the summer. All the rest work every Sunday throughout the summer. And in the winter, when they don’t know what to do with themselves, they go to Mass only to poke fun at religion. During Lent they flock to the butchers shops, like dogs”. (This must be a reference to fasting from meat.).
“My children, haven’t you ever seen spoiled grain.” Maximin answered “No, never”
“But, my child, you must have seen it once, near Coin, with our papa. The owner of the field said to your papa, ‘Come to see my spoiled grain’. The two of you went. You took two ears of grain in your fingers. You rubbed them, and they crumbled to dust. Then you came back from Coin. When you were but a half hour away from Corps, your papa gave you a piece of bread and said, ‘Well my son, eat some bread his year, anyhow. I don’t who’ll be eating any next year, if the grain goes on spoiling like that.’”
She was right! Just such an incident had occurred; those very words had been spoken! Maximin had clean forgotten, but astonishingly, this woman knew all about it. “It’s very true Madame. Now I remember it. Until now I did not remember.”
The woman looked earnestly at them. “Well, my children, you will make known this to all my people.” Slowly she turned away, gliding along the ravine, paused, and, without facing them, repeated the command, “You will make this known to all my people.” She proceeded to higher ground, stood still for a moment, then rose in the air. They saw her look towards heaven, joy in her face. Then she began to disappear and faded into the air.
The children looked at the spot where they had last seen her and finally looked at each other. “Perhaps she was a great saint” said Melanie. It was the nearest either came to attributing any identity to the woman.
That is the basic story of La Salette. Through the mouths Melanie and Maximin Our Lady rebuked ‘her people’ as she lovingly styles France, her cherished kingdom, reproaching them for their impiety so openly manifested by their contempt of the commandments of God, notably by blasphemy and the profanation of Sunday.
Our seraphic little Sister Mary St. Peter intones a hymn of gratitude and joy on this occasion. She says “I render thee thanks, O Divine Mother, for having given me these two little shepherds as sounding trumpets to cause the mountains to re-echo in the ears of France, that which was made known to me in solitude”.
THE SINS OF FRANCE
Jesus continues to ask Sister Mary St. Peter to abandon herself to the Work of Reparation. To which she replied; “Lord thou knowest that my superiors have given me the permission to abandon myself entirely into thy divine hands; do with me what thou wilt. But what am I, O Lord? Is it really you who has spoken to my soul?” He replied: “You will not be long in doubt”. Of this she was soon convinced by the flooding of the river Loire. It threatened Tours with imminent peril and caused the most frightful ravages such as had not been witnessed for centuries. All the world was in consternation and recognized the all-powerful hand of Him who disposes of the elements at will and whom none can resist “We should acknowledge”, observes the pious Carmelite, “that Tours has been saved by a miracle. But alas the people are ignorant of the principal cause of this terrible disaster – the profanation of Sunday”.
Throughout this chapter Our Lord keeps asking Sister Mary St. Peter for her help in promoting the Work of Reparation. For her, three things were never separated in her thoughts; the Reparation, the salvation of France and the Holy Face. “I am occupied with all these”, she said, “according to the inspiration of grace”.
“The Divine Director of my soul said to me: ‘My daughter be more pliable under my operation, more simple, for I wish to nourish you myself with the milk of my consolations. The uneasy reflections you make on self, the fear you have of illusion, impede me from fully accomplishing my designs over you’. When I acknowledged my fault, he assumed a greater power over me and revealed many admirable secrets. He called my attention to his justice and manifested his wrath as a great ocean, but at the same time, he commanded me to resist the impetuous torrent of his anger in union with his Divine Heart, that it might be lost in the abyss of his mercy”.
“Another day he presented to my view the multitude of souls who are daily falling into hell and invited me in the most touching manner to fly to the rescue of these poor sinners”.
MHB. As Sister Mary is being asked to ‘rescue them’ we must assume that the souls are in purgatory.
“On another day he presented me his Holy Cross saying that he had brought forth his children upon this bed of sorrow; making me understand that it was by the cross borne for his love that I would obtain eternal life”.
“On another occasion, Jesus placed my soul at the gate of eternity or rather at the gate at the end of the road called Time, in order to aid agonizing sinners to prepare themselves for this last important journey”.
In January 1847 Sister Mary writes: “For three weeks Our Lord has released me somewhat from the important occupation pertaining to the salvation of France, that I might apply myself to the dying. I accompany the most Blessed Virgin as her little servant on her visits to these travellers from time to eternity. Jesus made known to me that he gave me his august Mother to fulfil this mission. Oh! what a glorious occupation”.
“It seemed to me that Our Lord announced to me that I had only three more years to live” (A footnote in the book state: Sister St Peter died in her 32nd year, 17 months after this revelation, being then 31 years and 9 months of age. There is here a slight contradiction explained by her words ‘is seems to me’. Some time later she announced the precise date of her death).
Three years have elapsed since the time Sister Mary had urged the establishment of the Work of Reparation. After a long period of trial her superiors were more and more convinced that her communications were from God. They made an effort to push the project forward but no-one dare take the initiative. However it was decided to make a collection of the divine communications under the title, ‘An Abridgement of Facts relative to the Establishment of the Work of Reparation for Blasphemy’. This was quite separate from the document of the Work of Reparation. Copies were sent to the Archbishop who gave his approval to them being distributed. With regard to the ‘Abridgement of Facts’ the superiors, through motives of prudence and discretion, only had fifty copies printed. Monsieur Dupont distributed several amongst his pious friends and mother prioress sent some to other Carmelite houses. Sister Mary St. Peter rejoiced exceedingly believing that her desires were now about to be accomplished and her mission fulfilled. But it was not to be. Jesus said: ‘My daughter, during the first years of your religious life, when you were without any office, you were not supremely happy?’ Sister Mary replied; ‘Yes Lord, that is true’. ‘Know then’, said Jesus, ‘that a religious should be a living crucifix. If you had not these sufferings how would you be able to serve the souls I have placed under your care? I desire you to remain in the office of portress and you must know that it was myself, through the mouth of your superior who refused you assistance’. Then he said, ‘I command that you be instantly restored to health’. Her health was restored and she was able to keep her rule to the letter. “Henceforth”, she said; “ I desire to have no other will than his; I will be portress all my life, if it be pleasing to God and my superiors”. In fact she was portress until her last illness.
MHB: For a reason which I have been unable to ascertain from the book the archbishop became disturbed at the distribution of the ‘Work of Reparation’ and the ‘Abridgement of Facts’. He was alarmed by what he called ‘its political aspect’. This gives the impression that there were secular pressures which caused the archbishop’s concern. Therefore he ordered mother prioress and Monsieur Dupont to cease their distribution.
The injunction of the archbishop put a stop to any further action in the matter on the part of the Carmelites. Rendering an account of the sadness she experienced Sister Mary St. Peter says; “Today after Holy Communion Our Lord Jesus revealed to me that the evils which had been inflicted on us were only the forebodings of what his justice was preparing if we did not appease his anger”.
The injunction of the Archbishop did not lessen Jesus’ request to Sister Mary that she was his instrument chosen to ensure that the Work of Reparation should be established. She objected; “But my Divine Master, my superiors have already requested its establishment”. “That is not enough”, the Lord replied, “you must demand it in my Name”. The pious Carmelite, having thus been ordered by the Lord to write to the archbishop consulted with mother prioress to know if she should comply: the latter dissuaded her under the pretext that she ought not to trouble him in the midst of his many occupations.
Soon afterwards, following Holy Communion, Sister Mary told Jesus of mother prioress’s decision. He told her to be submissive to her superior and to remain tranquil and he said: ‘when I created you I proposed that it should be through you that the Work of Reparation be given to mankind. Therefore be consoled; when this work is be accomplished I will leave you no longer on earth and my mercy will compensate you for all your labours”.
Secret societies, the scourge of the French people, had long been plotting against the Church of God. Toward the end of the reign o f Louis Philip, at the period to which the life and communications of Sister Mary St. Peter occurred, came the turn of the Communists. Jesus had warned Sister Mary about them. He said ‘Oh, if you knew their secret and diabolical plots! If you could comprehend their anti-Christian principles! They are only waiting a favourable moment to set France in flames therefore be earnest in your supplication for the Work of Reparation’.
At that time Sister Mary wrote; “God has imposed on me a new mission, at which I would be agitated was it not for his all-powerful hand guiding me. He commanded me to cross swords with the Communists who, he told me, were sworn enemies of the Church. He gave me to understand that the greatest number of these renegades were born in the bosom the Church but now declare themselves the most bitter enemies”.
Sister Mary went into battle armed with the Cross of Jesus and the instruments of His Passion. To assist her in this mystic combat, the Saviour revealed to her the anti-christian principles of the Communists. She was told; ‘…it is the Communists who have dragged me from my tabernacles, profaned and despoiled my sanctuaries, and have even dared to raise their hands at the anointed of the Lord’. Sister Mary explains; “The way by which Our Lord now conducts me is most painful of nature, for my Divine Saviour continually exacts from me the most absolute interior mortification. The communications I receive are of a nature to cause much suffering, as they unveil to my view the justice of an angry God and the eternal loss of so many immortal souls, as well as the sight of France on the verge of the abyss. This Work of Reparation, I have now borne for nearly four years and God alone knows how much suffering it has caused me. I have had the good fortune of receiving nothing but reprimands and humiliations because of this work”.
Shortly after, she adds: “The object of this work is twofold: Reparation for blasphemy and Reparation for the profanation of the Lord’s day by manual labour, consequently is embraces not only reparation for the outrages committed against God, but also against his Holy Face. Our Lord, himself, has given his most Holy Face so that it be respected, honoured and revered”.
One day on May 5th 1841 when she was asking the Lord for the establishment of the Reparation he replied that he would grant this grace though the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. “Our Lord”, she said “informed me that he had placed all things in her hand and that she would obtain the Brief from the Sovereign Pope. This Work of Reparation is so necessary for France and fraught with so much glory for God that he desires his Holy Mother to have the honour of giving it to this kingdom as a new pledge of mercy. Let us then have recourse to the most Blessed Virgin who is the treasurer of the graces of God”.
On May the 23rd, the feast of Pentecost, while before the Blessed Sacrament, the sister asked what more had she to do and manifested her willingness to make any sacrifice, even to shed the last drop of her blood, were it necessary. She writes; “Our Lord gave me to understand that his sole desire was to posses my heart and my will; that the more I would love him, the more grace I would obtain for the accomplishment of his designs. Soon this Divine Saviour took possession of all the powers of my soul, favouring it with a most admirable perception of the beauty and excellence of the Work of Reparation”.
“Our Lord made me approach his most Holy Mother, to receive from her blessed hands the grace which I had been soliciting for such a length of time. I placed myself with all confidence in the heart of this Mother of Mercy, begging her to be my advocate in the cause of God. I did not invoke her in vain and soon inspired her servant the Bishop de Langres, who heard the project spoken of and took a lively interesting in it. Through the Bishop’s zeal the Holy Father signed a Brief on the 27th July 1847 for the Association for Reparation and another on the 30th July erecting an Arch-Confraternity”. Sister Mary St Peter writes: “I beheld the mercy of God, superabound where sin had abounded. Be forever blessed, O my God! All this has not occurred by hazard; thy Providence has conducted and directed all for the glory of thy Holy Name and for the salvation of France. Protect this work which is thine, and defend it against its enemies. Propagate it in this kingdom consecrated to the glorious Virgin Mary”.
The story as to how the Arch-Confraternity came to the attention of the Holy Father is one of apparently chance meetings between fervent Christians and priests and then between priests and Bishops. But it started by correspondence from the Carmelites of Tours to a priest at St. Dizier who had passed it on to the Bishop of Langres. The Carmelite records tell that it ‘sprang up almost miraculously by the sole will of God’. When it was eventually brought to the Holy Father he said “The Reparation is a work destined to save society”.
Thus were realized the wishes of our dear Sister Mary St. Peter conforming to the inspiration she had received from heaven. But she was disappointed that the glorious privilege of being the headquarters of a work destined to spread all over France would not be Tours but at Langres some 250 miles away. Another source of regret is that silence had been maintained to the devotion to the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ. To make up for this Litanies of the Holy Face composed by Sister Mary St. Peter were inserted in the Manual of the Arch-Confraternity.
Sister Mary’s Litanies were read by a Mademoiselle Dubouche who was a distinguished artist. She was full of admiration for the beautiful litanies of the Holy Face. The following night Our Lord appeared to her in the same suffering condition as during his Passion. She was inspired to make a painting of the Holy Face which she took to Tours to present to the Carmelites. Sister St Peter was asked if the painting corresponded to what she had seen; she humbly replied that the Face of Our Lord had never been shown her in a sensible manner, but that the picture was a good expression of the idea she had conceived of the suffering countenance of Our Divine Lord. When Monsieur Dupont saw the painting he obtained permission to have copies made and Mademoiselle Dubouche also copied the picture several times.
MHB. Sister Mary’s words ‘never been shown to her in a sensible manner’ give the impression that Sister Mary did not have a vision of Jesus but had an inner locution which gave her the understanding of the Passion which he suffered.
That Sister Mary St. Peter is accepted as the founder of the Work of Reparation is borne out by a letter from a Mother Isabella of St Paul (presumably a Carmelite Monastery) to Mlle Dubouche, written after Sister Mary’s death, where she wrote; ‘Sister Mary St. Peter is certainly the founder of this work, and I believe that from the highest heavens she aids us with her powerful assistance’.
THE DIVINE MATERNITY
The work of Reparation is now established: at last Sister Mary St. Peter has attained the essential object of all her desires. Our Lord will now spread out before her vision a series of communications so extraordinary and mysterious, that before exposing them we must point out their precise importance and nature. They form in the history of her visions, a chain of revelations in themselves, of the highest interest. Indeed, without leaving in the shade the most hopeful and the most consoling part of this great Work of Reparation. The Lord granted them to the virgin of Carmel for two reasons, clearly discernible in her account of these favour. One in particular seems to have been to recompense her here below for all the sacrifices which the accomplishment of her mission had entailed. The other motive, relative to the Work of Reparation itself was to look ahead to the graces of mercy and salvation which the realization of the work was to follow.
This future effusion of grace, promised to the world, will be the result of the merits and of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of Jesus, (at the same time the Mother of Christians), a foretaste of which was given to the pious servant of her Divine Son in causing her to participate in a spiritual and heavenly manner in the virginal food which he, himself, received in the arms of his Mother during his infancy.
In explaining to the mother superior what had happened Sister Mary had been obliged to employ expressions and images which strike the senses, while in reality all had happened in a sphere purely intellectual. It is well known that theologians distinguish three minds of divine communications; those which strike the senses physically, such as visions and other external apparitions; those which take place in the imagination with the aid of representations and interior, invisible images; and thirdly, those which pass in the understanding, the superior part of the soul, without any images whatever, either visible of invisible. These latter, according to the masters of the spiritual life are the most elevated and the most perfect. This is precisely the kind of communication with which Sister Mary St. Peter was favoured. Consequently, in all that she described she had beheld nothing with her eyes, heard nothing with her ears, touched nothing, not even in her imagination. In her words to mother prioress she would use the expression; “Our Lord caused me to understand”. She saw, heard, felt and tasted by a means intellectual and angelic understood only by the chosen few who have had the experience of this most perfect mode of revelation.
The testimony of St Theresa of Avila herself, well versed in these matters explains what Sister Mary is experiencing. “The vision of the intellect in the most elevated the most sublime, and that to which the devil can have the least access. We behold neither with the eyes of the body, nor with those of the soul, understood that the vision is not imaginary. It is a light which, without striking the senses, illuminates the understanding that the world may enjoy so great a Good. Truth is there imprinted by a knowledge sovereignly clear, excluding all doubt, that afforded the testimony of the senses, for oftentimes in that which strikes the latter, it is not infrequently that a doubt arises whether it is an illusion. In our case a doubt presents itself at the first moment, but there is a firm conviction that this doubt is without any foundation… The language is so heavenly that no human effort could succeed in causing it to be heard if the Divine Master himself did not teach it by experience”. These are an extract of the words of the illustrious reformer of Carmel and what she explains has been worthily exemplified in her saintly daughter the Carmelite of Tours.
To explain the Divine Maternity Sister Mary wrote to mother prioress: “It is with the greatest confusion that I behold myself obliged to say something of the favours which I have received from the Divine Jesus and his most holy Mother. I have long hesitated before undertaking to write this letter, for I would much rather write my sins; however I must co-operate with the will of the Infant Jesus, who wishes to engrave his innocence in me, and in all simplicity, I will narrate what has passed in my soul”.
“A few days ago, the Infant Jesus strongly applied me to consider the honour and the homage of perfect praise he rendered his heavenly Father during the period he was nourished with the virginal milk of his most holy Mother: he gave me to understand that he willed I should adore him in this humble condition in union with the angels, in order that his mercy might fill me with innocence, purity and simplicity, and that I might collect the precious graces which flow forth from this ineffable mystery of an Infant God. Oh! what a grand mystery I perceive! Mary the nurse of God! but she is also the nurse of man! What great things my soul has conceived here at the feet of Mary during this high contemplation which has ravished my soul! It took the entire hour of recreation for me to return a little to myself”.
“The Divine Infant desires to embellish my soul with the virtues of his Holy Infancy before I appear at the tribunal of God. I must become a little child in order to enter the kingdom of heaven: for this reason whatever time remains for me to pass on this earth, must be consecrated to honour and imitate his infancy, in order to receive its divine impress”.
Sister Mary, concerned at the authenticity of what was being revealed to her, consulted two priests distinguished for their knowledge and piety and was told that the spirit of God was acting in her soul. She also read the life of a seventeenth century member of the Capuchin Friars Minor, Father d’Argentan, where she found a discussion on the Maternity of the most Blessed Virgin Mother. What she read in this work was an echo repeating letter for letter, all that had been imprinted on her soul.
Later she writes: “Having received the Holy Infant Jesus in my heart in Holy Communion I beheld in spirit the most Blessed Virgin nursing her divine Infant. The Blessed Virgin turned from her Divine Son, to converse with me, if I can express it thus, in order to make me understand the designs of mercy which her Divine Son had formed over me. The following is what she said: ‘My child, my Divine Son desired to contract a most intimate union with you. The most Blessed Virgin gave me to understand that I should honour her maternity by some practices of piety’. I obeyed, and the Holy Ghost inspired me to compose a little exercise on the incomprehensible mystery of God becoming man in the womb of a Virgin”.
This ‘little exercise’ of the pious Carmelite was composed of invocations taken from the prayers and hymns of the Church and from the pious works which the reading of Father d’Argentan’ seemed to have inspired her. In her meditations Sister Mary heard the Virgin say; “Of my substance I give nourishment to him who has given me life. It will be incorporated into his being, becoming the very blood in his veins, which will be shed on the cross for the salvation of mankind”.
MHB: It was a great joy for me to read these words. As a Eucharistic Minister of the Precious Blood I have the privilege of adoring the Blood of Jesus. But it has occurred to me that Jesus’ blood came from his Mother Mary. Firstly from the time He was in her womb and secondly from when she fed Him with her milk. So as well as Adoring Jesus in the Precious Blood I can also honour Mary from whence the blood came.
Sister Mary also read the life of the seventeenth century Carmelite, Venerable Marguerite of Beaune. She had a similar devotion to The Holy Infant as had Sister Mary. Jesus revealed to Marguerite that he had been nursed for fifteen months by his Holy Mother, and that he desired her to honour him for the same length of time. Sister Mary St. Peter writes: “It is no more difficult to the Holy Infant Jesus to make me a participator in the virtues of his infancy, than to have communicated them to one of our sisters two hundred years ago. What does astonish me is that this sister was a saint, whilst I am but a miserable sinner, divested of either virtue or talents, a poor worm of the earth meriting but hell-fire”.
MHB. Throughout the book Sister Mary St. Peter repeatedly refers to her sinfulness.
Towards the end of this chapter Sister Mary writes: “Verily I behold this truth clearly in the light of God: man should have continual recourse to the Blessed Virgin, his Mother, if he wishes to arrive at the perfect age of manhood in eternity. Behold the two grand mysteries of the Maternity of Mary, which the Infant Jesus wishes to teach me; Mary, Mother of God, and Mary, Mother of Man. For this reason he keeps me in constant contemplation of himself as Infant in the arms of his Mother, being nourished with her virginal milk, to teach me by his example to have recourse to her, that I may be fed with her heavenly virtues”.
INTERVIEW WITH THE SECRETARY
The establishment of the arch-confraternity for Reparation was a source of joy to Sister Mary St. Peter. But she was not satisfied because the Church at Tours, the inheritance of the great St Martin had not been recognized. In December 1847 Our Lord appeared to Sister Mary and said these sad words: “The Jews crucified me on Friday, but Christians crucify me on Sunday! I implore you to solicit the establishment of the Reparation in this diocese of Tours. My daughter, the heavens are overcast, the storm is threatening to burst forth, but I shall keep my promise if my will be done”. Sister Mary made no delay in informing the archbishop of this communication. He was warned of the ‘storm’ which was threatening, and told that the last hour for action had come.
Some time afterwards St. Teresa of Avila appeared to Sister Mary who relates what she heard: “St. Teresa has been appointed by God to combat the enemies of the Work of Reparation which the powers of darkness are trying to overthrow. She told me that this holy work would be the honour of Carmel for it was truly in conformity with the spirit of our holy vocation, whose sole object is the glory of God and the relief of the necessities of the Church. For this reason she urged me to devote all my energies to this work, and to pray with untiring fervour”.
For the next few months Sister Mary received from the Lord repeated warnings that ‘the Church is threatened with a violent tempest’ (This prediction was fulfilled that very year 1848, in France and Italy particularly in Rome when the Holy, Father was obliged to flee to Gaeta which is two or three hundred miles south of Rome). Sister Mary continues: “My adorable Saviour made me understand that his justice was roused by the sins of the world, but particularly by the crimes which outraged the majesty of God. Eventually Our Lord positively commanded me to speak to either the archbishop or his secretary, telling me that I should boldly proclaim what has been revealed to me during the past four and a half years”.
Sister Mary wrote to her superior: “Reverend Mother, in obedience to my Divine Master, I very humbly beg you to solicit the favour of a visit from the archbishop. If his lordship be too occupied, beg him to send his secretary to record all that I feel my duty to reveal on this matter”.
The request was forwarded to the archbishop and the object of the desired interview was explained to him. The prelate sent his secretary, l’abbe Vincent, who held the following conversation with Sr. Mary St. Peter; this is a complete account written by herself.
The Secretary: “Sister, I have come from the archbishop to tell you that he has presented your letters to the members of his council and that all, unanimously, have pronounced against the establishment of the work you demand. The archbishop has seriously examined the matter before God and finds it impossible to take any part in it; we do not recognize the validity of your mission”.
Sr. St. Peter: “I do not pretend to importune the archbishop, nor to uphold my own opinion of the mission which I believe has been imposed upon me by Our Lord for the salvation of France. My intention was to fulfil my duty conscientiously. When I had the honour of speaking to his Lordship about the communications which I have received from God, he said to me at the time: ‘My child, be tranquil; there is no illusion here for I discern the finger of God.’ It was on the authority of those words, which I received as coming from the Holy Ghost himself that I persevered in my mission”.
The Secretary: “My good sister, the archbishop told you this at the time, because he did not know to what lengths this affair would go; but since then he has minutely examined all the particulars; he has prayed – and this cannot be”.
Sr. St Peter: “Very well, reverend sir, that is sufficient. All I desired was to have the decision of his Lordship. My conscience obliged me to do as I have done for the Work of Reparation; now I am in perfect peace. But allow me to tell you that the reason why I desired to speak to the Archbishop was to discharge my duty. Since you are his representative I shall depose my mission in your hands, leaving the responsibility to the authorities of the Church. They will answer for it before God”.
The Secretary: “But my good sister, the association of which you speak is already established”.
Sr. St Peter: “It is true, but the Church of Tours should have had the honour of being the mother of this association. I begged it from the archbishop but he did not deem it advisable to establish the work and I submit to his decision! What proves the Reparation to be really the work of God is that without any concurrence on my part it has been established”.
The Secretary: “But there are many members here in Tours. And has not the archbishop approved a little book of prayers Reparation?
Sr. St. Peter: “Yes, very true, reverend father, but there must be at Tours an association aggregated to the one at Langres. The work has need of the patronage of the archbishop, all eyes are fixed on him because it is in his diocese that the idea was first conceived”.
The Secretary: “Sister, I tell you quite candidly that this work established at Langres is not very prosperous, it has even been the subject of comment in the daily papers”.
Sr. St. Peter: “That is not very astonishing sir, for Our Lord has warned me that the work would be opposed by all the powers of darkness. Have you not observed that the devotion to the Sacred Heart met with nearly the same opposition? And that there were many difficulties to be overcome before the feast of Corpus Christi was established? The Lord has imposed similar missions on souls more worthy than I, it is true, but they also have suffered from unjust accusations and persecutions”.
The Secretary: “All the works of God have suffered from persecution, among others, the arch-confraternity of the Sacred Heart of Mary. This is a most admirable project embracing all good works for its primary aim is the conversion of sinners”.
Sr. St. Peter: “Our Lord was fully aware of its existence when he demanded another confraternity; for he made me understand that the first was not sufficient; because if we wish to obtain pardon from a person offended, it is just that we offer reparation of honour. The Lord has given me to understand that it is the transgressions against the first commandments that have aroused his wrath against France. If these disorders cannot be prevented by the authority of the Church, or that of the State, they should at least be atoned for by a suitable reparation”.
The Secretary: “Very true, but there lies the difficulty, my good sister. How are we to be assured that God exacts reparation? You may be deceiving us”.
Sr. St Peter: “That is very possible, yet I hardly think that the imagination could invent anything like this lasting for five years without the influence of any mortal being. My prudent superiors have not countenanced me in my ideas; they have even forbidden me to think of the subject, yet they have not wished to pass any judgement. Our father superior has always referred me to the decision of the archbishop”.
The Secretary: “Very well, my good sister, be perfectly tranquil, you have done your duty in making known these communications to the archbishop. Now I say to you in his name, think of these things no more, cast them entirely from your mind”.
Sr. St Peter: “The archbishop, doubtless does not forbid me to ask of God the accomplishments of his designs?”
The Secretary: “No, but do not pray for this work”.
Sr. St. Peter: “Reverend sir, I pray you to assure the archbishop of my obedience to his orders”.
Sister Mary was true to her promise. A few days later she writes: “Our Lord has entirely divested me of the desire of beholding the Work of Reparation established in Tours. I have been not a little grieved over these last refusals, but Our Lord consoled me for he gave me to understand that his work would take root and flourish”. This was fulfilled two days later when the Work of Reparation was established at Lyons, where it was pushed forward with great zeal.
As if to give his servant some consolation, the Divine Master, applied her anew with greater intensity than ever, to the contemplation of his Holy Face. St. Mary writes: “Let us be filled with confidence; his all-powerful Name will be our buckler, and his adorable Face take root in the hearts of the faithful. O good Jesus! conceal thy people in the secret recesses of thy Holy Face. That it may be to them a tower of defence against the attacks of thy enemies”.
In March 1848 Sister Mary received Holy Communion in honour of the most Holy Face. She implored him to imprint his Adorable Face upon her heart. She writes: “My soul experienced great joy in performing this act of simplicity and love. After Communion, my Divine Saviour was pleased to show me that this exercise was most agreeable to him and that I should continue it. Soon he caused me to hear these consoling words: ‘Your pilgrimage is drawing to a close! The end of the combat is approaching! You will soon see my Divine Face in heaven!’. At these words I prostrated myself on the ground saying: ‘Lord, I merit only hell-fire’. But my good Master replied: ‘The virtue of my Holy Face has restored the image of God in your soul. Those that contemplate the wounds of my Face on earth will one day behold the glory and majesty with which it is surrounded in heaven’”.
Before undertaking the account of her last illness and death we will cast a glance at the virtues of Sister Mary St. Peter. We have been assured by her superiors that it would have taken an acute and attentive observer to detect the least sign of the marvels of graces with which she was favoured.
A sister who had the opportunity of observing, left her writings in the annals of the monastery which we quote in full:
“To speak of Sister Mary St. Peter and to render homage to her virtue is both a duty and a happiness. She entered religion several years after I did. At the time, although professed, I was still in the novitiate, which gave me the opportunity of observing her closely, and consequently of admiring her greatly. We already perceived her to be a soul fully formed to all virtues; those which I particularly remarked were her humility, her recollection and her obedience. She received the trials and the humiliations to which she was subjected with as much joy as gratitude, so much so, that we were all edified; far from excusing herself on the contrary, she was always accusing herself, ever seeking new occasions of humiliation”.
“She was so recollected that she did not behold what was passing before her very eyes. Until her profession, I had no other relationship with her than that of the novitiate; but soon after, I perceived her special devotion to the holy Infancy of Jesus, towards which I also experienced a great attraction; this bound us closely to each other, and gave me an occasion of becoming better acquainted with this beautiful soul. Her piety was so meek and loving that I was enchanted with her”.
“Our practices of devotion were always directed to honour the mystery of the Holy Infancy. The holy child Jesus was the subject of our conversations. With what tenderness she spoke of him! How well she knew how to imitate the virtues of this Divine Child! For her rule of conduct, she had taken these words ‘he was subject to them’, I am confident that she practised them with the greatest perfection”.
“The office of portress, to which she was appointed a few years after her profession, gave her a wide scope for the exercise of virtue; I was a witness of her promptitude to obedience and her perfect selflessness. During our removal, her occupations were redoubled, and although over-burdened, yet she never for an instant lost her habitual recollection. She was very diligent, and edified all by her remarkable zeal and charity. Being at the time treasurer, I was often in embarrassment to settle bills, but when she perceived me depressed, or impatient, she would quietly repeat the words: ‘And he was submissive to them’ adding, ‘Come let us submit ourselves to the will of the Holy Infant, we are his little servants’. She had to bear sufferings and trials from all sides; but she was ever meek, patient, and resigned, and was never heard to murmur or to fret. Our dear sister was a great edification to me in all the corporal infirmities she had to support. She was taken ill nearly a year before her death. I was then infirmarian. I cannot describe the consolation I experienced when beside this pious invalid. She never refused any remedy how disgusting or bitter it might be, content with all that was done for her, she seemed to forget her sufferings to be occupied solely with God. To such a degree did she carry her spirit of submission that she would not have taken a step outside the infirmary without my permission. Her recollection seemed to be continual; in a word, I seemed to behold an angel rather than a suffering mortal. I was inconsolable when I ceased to take care of her”.
This picture will be completed by one more remark: there was a conviction, almost amounting to a certainty among the Carmelites, that this pure soul had preserved intact her baptismal innocence; she lived in the world as not belonging to it, and from the moment of her arrival in religion, she was never seen to commit a single voluntary fault. This is the unanimous testimony of the entire community.
HER LAST ILLNESS AND DEATH
In narrating an account of the last illness and death of Sister Mary St. Peter we shall reproduce part of the account written by order of the venerable prioress Mother Mary of the Incarnation.
“Our dear sister foresaw her approaching death; in several of her letters she plainly stated that Our Lord had told her the time of her death; although not aware of the precise moment, yet she spoke of it as a thing close at hand. She was frequently subject to head-aches, and we noticed that she suffered particularly on Fridays. From that moment she made an entire abandonment of herself to God for the accomplishment of her designs, she gradually pined away”.
“At the very moment when the Church celebrated the Passion of Our Lord, a long martyrdom began for this dear sister. On the 30th March 1848 Jesus announced that she was nearing the goal. From this moment she thought only of heaven. Yet her passion was to last another three months. She suffered from consumption along with a burning and continual fever. Her throat was ulcerated and her tongue and mouth as if pierced with thorns (we must recollect that Our Lord had told her she must suffer for blasphemers)”.
“In order to sustain and encourage her we recall to mind that she had offered herself to God for the accomplishment of his designs. ‘Yes’, she replied. ‘and I do not repent of it; my God, I desire all that thou dost desire, and if it were necessary, I would be willing to suffer even to the end of the world’”.
“On Friday 7th July her death agony began. But she was in full possession of all her mental faculties to the last. During the night our dear sister was in the most acute agony. She frequently called for holy water and kept united to God by fervent prayers. The whole community were at her bedside as she made her final prayers saying; ‘I renounce Satan with all his works and pomp, I desire to belong to Jesus forever’. A few moments before she seemed to undergo a painful combat, but after this her countenance beamed with peace and happiness. From this moment till her last sigh, she never ceased praying; the sweat of death covered her face, her body was already cold and stiff, yet her livid lips kept repeating: ‘Jesus, Mary, & Joseph. Come Lord Jesus’. These words were the last words we were able to distinguish. Soon her eyes closed, she uttered a cry and on Saturday on the 8th July 1848 near mid-day, she calmly expired”.
HER BURIAL – HER WORK
From the moment the servant of God breathed her last sigh, the conviction of her blessedness filled all hearts; each felt like praying to her, than for her; each recalled her virtues, and loudly proclaimed that she was a saint. In saying this we must recall that few knew of the rare favours and celestial communications which the Lord had bestowed on her.
There was one sister who did not share in the general opinion of the sanctity of Sister Mary St. Peter. She had never beheld her commit any fault, but her life, so simple and ordinary, did not seem to her to merit so much praise. Annoyed at the difference of opinion between herself and the other religious she had earnestly addressed to God the following prayer: “My God, if Sr. Mary St. Peter be as holy as they say, make it known to me, I beseech thee by giving me some relief (this sister was ill) so that I can join the community exercises”. She had a dream which at the moment of Sr. Mary’s death saw her immediately resuscitated under the figure of the most beautiful child. The day following at communion she felt entirely changed. The life of her pious companion appeared in all its holiness, and she was filled with regret for not having recognized the sanctity of her companion. Her prayer was heard and she was able to follow the rule minutely to the great surprise of all.
After her death the archbishop, who had visited her during her final illness and given her his blessing wrote: ‘It is with the most lively sympathy I read of the death of this good sister, but we must rejoice with her rather than weep over her. Let us hope that she will continue in heaven what she has so well begun on earth. She will protect your house, the diocese, and France!’
The sentiments of the archbishop were shared by Monsieur Dupont. He had assisted with a radiant countenance at her funeral and as if in triumphant procession followed her mortal remains to the same cemetery where six months previously he had deposited the last remains of his only beloved daughter. From this time he went frequently to pray over the tomb of this venerable sister and keep it in perfect order. In 1856 after the Loire flooded, the cemetery was transferred to a site outside the city limits. At this time Monsieur Dupont took the opportunity of having Sr. Mary St. Peter’s remains restored to her monastery. On the 18th November 1857, the anniversary of the day the sister had entered religion, and with the joy of the mother prioress and all the religious, her hallowed remains were deposited in the interior of the monastery where they reside in the chapter room, which is at the right of the chapel on entering. A slab near the holy water font bears this simple inscription:
Sister Mary St. Peter of the Holy Family
Professed of this Monastery
Who died on the 18th July 1848
Aged 31 years and 9 months
“Conceal her, O Lord in the secret of Thy Face.”
Monsieur Dupont took it on himself to labour for the Work of Reparation and to the devotion to the Holy Face. He did so fro the glory of God and the salvation of souls, wishing to be, as he said, “the voice” of the revelations of Sister Mary St Peter. Several copies were made of the Holy Face and mother prioress gave one to Monsieur Dupont. Through that picture the most extraordinary cures, conversions were miraculously brought about, peace and harmony restored in families, in fact so numerous were the wonders performed through the prayers of this saintly man before the “Holy Face” that after his death in 1876 his house became a private orator and a favourite resort of pilgrims from both far and near.
A new archbishop of Tours, Monsignor Colet, established a confraternity in Reparation for Blasphemy and the Profanation of Sunday. Finally this successor of St. Martin founded a society under the title ‘Priests of the Holy Face’ to attend to Monsieur Dupont’s chapel. The invocations composed by Sister Mary St. Peter called ‘Litanies of the Holy Face’ have been authorised by several Bishops, and Pius IX enriched them with an indulgence. Since then demand for the ‘Holy Face’ has grown. It would be impossible to calculate the number of these sacred effigies exposed for the pious veneration in thousands of places but among them can be named; Notre-Dame in Paris, the Basilica in Lourdes and the chapel of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre. There is no doubt that Sister Mary St. Peter’s legacy lives on.
Made by Our Lord Jesus Christ to
Sr. Mary St. Peter in favour of
those who honour his most
“By my Holy Face you will work marvels”.
“You will obtain from my Holy Face the salvation
of a multitude of sinners”.
“According to the care you take to repair my
countenance disfigured by blasphemy, so shall
I be animated in the same degree to transform
your soul which has been disfigured by sin;
I will imprint thereon my own image, and I will
render it as beautiful as when it came forth from
the baptismal font”.
“My adorable Face is the seal of the Divinity,
having the power to imprint itself on the souls
of those who apply it to their persons”.
“As in an earthly kingdom, the subjects can procure
all they desire by being provided with a piece of
money stamped with the effigy of the monarch, so
also shall you be able to obtain all that you desire
in the kingdom of heaven, on presenting the impress
of my sacred humanity, which is my Holy Face”.