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The Life of the Venerable Mother Mary of the Incarnation by "A Religious of the Ursuline Community"

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sorrow for having offended Him. This feeling of loving sorrow was so
overpowering, that I would willingly have thrown myself into flames, if
thus I could have appeased it, and strangest of all, its force was full
of gentleness. It sweetly bound my soul by its very charms, and led her
on a willing captive. A strong interior impulse urged me to confess my
sins, and on returning to my usual condition, I found myself standing
opposite the little church of the Feuillants who had lately established
themselves at Tours. I entered, and seeing one of the Fathers standing in
the middle of the chapel as if he had been expecting my arrival, I on the
spot confessed the sins which had just been discovered to me, too intent
on making reparation to Him whom I had offended, to notice that I might
easily have been overheard by a lady who had entered the church in the
meantime. When I had finished, the Father gently told me to return the
next day to his confessional, and I left without observing at the moment
that I had not received absolution. This omission was supplied at my
renewed confession next morning. During the first year that I remained
under the direction of this Father, I confined myself entirely to the
accusation of my sins, thinking that nothing else should be introduced at
confession, but having heard a pious girl say that it was not right to
practise corporal austerities without permission from the confessor, I
applied for it to mine, and he then regulated the amount of these, as
well as the number of my confessions and communions. I returned home,
changed into another creature, and that so completely, that I no longer
recognised myself. I discovered with unmistakable clearness the ignorance
under cover of which I had hitherto thought myself very innocent, my
conduct very harmless, and my whole spiritual condition blameless. After
our Lord had opened my eyes, I saw myself as I was, and I had to own that
my justice was but iniquity."

She always looked on this heavenly favour as one of the greatest she had
ever received, and its date as synonymous with that of her perfect
conversion to God. "It would be difficult," says her son, "to lead a more
exemplary life than hers had been; by the word conversion, we are not
then to understand, a transition from a state of sin to a state of grace,
but a resolute determination to bid adieu wholly to the world, that she
might give herself all to God and live only by His love." To mark her
entire separation from the world, she assumed a peculiarly grave style of
dress, dismissed her servants, gave up her house, and returned to her
father's, where free from all care arid responsibility, she found herself
as she desired, alone with God alone. She chose an apartment in the upper
story as the most retired, and between this and the adjoining oratory,
she passed most of her time in prayer. She was never to be seen except at
church or at home; paid no visits and received very few; spoke but
rarely, and then concisely. She took her frugal meals at her father's
table, then retired to her solitude, as she says herself, "like the dove
to its nest." It was at this time, that in addition to her other most
severe austerities, she gave up the use of linen, substituting serge.
Knowing the danger of inaction, she occupied the intervals between prayer
in embroidery, choosing this employment because it left the mind free to
converse with her Lord. But although her life was thus hidden in God, it
was no part of her piety to forget the interests of her neighbour. In her
present straitened circumstances, she could no longer open her hand in
alms as had been her wont in better days, but the sick poor retained
their old place in her heart, and among these she still could always find
ample exercise for her charity. Accordingly, she sought out the most
revolting cases of disease, and made appointments with the sufferers to
meet her at her home, where kneeling before them while they sat, she
washed and dressed their loathsome sores, contriving to stoop closely
over their ulcerated limbs, so that nature might be crucified in every
sense, and crushed in every feeling. And as the soul's interests are more
precious far than those of the miserable body, so was it her chief
concern to instruct the ignorant, to encourage the weak, to rouse the
sinful to repentance, and animate the good to higher virtue. Thus passed
the first year of her widowhood: at its close, the tenor of her life was
altered, that in a new sphere, she might have the opportunity o£
practising new virtues.



It would seem as if the holy widow had now attained the very position for
which her heart had so long sighed, a life of close and constant
communion with God, and, at the same time, of active charity to her
neighbour,--a life combining every facility for her own sanctification,
with abundant opportunities of promoting the salvation of other souls
also. But scarcely had she realized its advantages and tasted its
sweetness, when at the end of one short year, she was called on to
relinquish it, by a married sister, who, knowing her talent for business,
begged her assistance in the management of a large commercial
establishment of her own. The proposal was naturally most distasteful,
but seeing in it a road to the suffering and humiliation for which her
soul thirsted, as well as an opportunity of practising her favourite
charity, she made the sacrifice in her spirit of habitual self-
immolation, only stipulating for freedom in her spiritual exercises, and
permission, to return home every evening. Our Lord was pleased to mark
His approval of her decision, and to reward her generosity, by raising
her to a higher degree of prayer.

This partial return to the world suggested the idea that she might now
perhaps be induced to accede to the unanimous wish of her friends, and
engage once more in married life. The subject was therefore before long
renewed, and one day she was so hard pressed with a variety of arguments
connected with the interests of her son, that she paused a little to
consider whether the opinions of so many wise and disinterested advisers
ought not to weigh somewhat against her own lights. The hesitation was
only momentary, and yet on reflection, it seemed to her to have involved
so serious an infidelity, that in subsequent general confessions of the
greatest sins of her life, she ranked this first, as the one most
deserving of her regret, and the possible cause of her severe interior
sufferings. She knew that in its own nature, the fault in question was
inconsiderable, but she understood equally well that its attendant
circumstances gave it a certain degree of gravity for her, whom the
Almighty had so favoured. Short as her hesitation had been, it appeared
like disloyalty to Him whom she had promised to take for her only Spouse
should the bonds of her earthly union be ever broken, and that with her
capability of appreciating the sublimity of a vocation to a life with God
alone, she should have deliberated for an instant between His invitation
and that of the world, seemed to her a fitting subject of life-long
sorrow and self-condemnation. The infidelity to grace was aggravated in
her estimation by its accompanying ingratitude, and this in itself was a
reproach, keenly painful to a heart so tender and loving as hers.

Here again, we are struck with wonder and admiration at her purity of
conscience, and here again we breathe a prayer for light to see ourselves
as God sees us; for grace to understand the malice of sin as the saints
understand it. It is because their hearts are so pure, that the spiritual
vision of the saints is so refined. "Blessed are the clean of heart, for
they see God" and in the light of that eternal Sun of Justice, they
discern minutest stains, invisible to souls obscured by the clouds of
sin, or dimmed by the mists of self-love. Again, it is because the hearts
of the saints are so pure, that their love of God is so sensitive.
"Blessed are the clean of heart," for they see the Divine attractions as
clearly as is given to man in his mortality, and seeing them thus
clearly, every slight infidelity to a God so beautiful and so good,
assumes importance in their eyes, and excites a corresponding sorrow. The
young widow's momentary irresolution left her only the more firmly
determined to renounce the world at once and for ever, and in order to
render that resolution irrevocable, she bound herself to, God by a vow of
perpetual chastity, being then twenty-one years of age. About this time
she was placed under the spiritual care of the Reverend Father Dom
Raymond of St. Bernard, and to this enlightened master she was first
indebted for the great blessing of regular direction in the paths of the
interior life.

Her position in her sister's house was unaccountably strange. She had
been invited there, because her clear intellect, sound judgment, and
natural aptitude for business promised to render her an invaluable
assistant in the management of a large concern, and yet, instead of being
at once placed in her own sphere at the head of the family, she was
permitted without question or remonstrance to establish her quarters in
the kitchen, as if considered suited only for menial work;--treated
meantime in the most imperious manner, not only by the master and
mistress of the house, but by the very servants; looked down on by all,
as if she had been not even a stranger or a hireling, but an outcast. The
Spirit of God inspired her, she says, to conceal her natural abilities,
that she might pass for an ignorant woman, fit only to wait on the
servants, and this lowly condition had such powerful charms for her
humble heart, that she actually feared excess in her attachment to it. In
proposing this apprehension as a conscientious doubt to her director, her
great fear was that he would oblige her to emerge from her abject
position, and assume her rightful place in the family.

Her insatiable desire of crosses and humiliations was not satisfied even
with the ingratitude of her brother and sister, nor with the insolent
behaviour of the domestics; she sought for new sufferings, and among
others, contrived to burn herself while employed in cooking. She attended
the servants in sickness, reserving the whole care of them to herself,
and voluntarily rendering them the lowest services. Among other instances
of the kind, she at one time dressed the infected wound of a workman
whose foot had been nearly severed in two by a terrible accident, and
whose deplorable condition rendered him absolutely unapproachable to all
but herself. Although gangrene threatened, and amputation seemed
inevitable, she persevered in her work of mercy and self-denial, until
she bad effected a cure. Her brother and sister, she looked on as her
best benefactors, accepting their unkindness as the greatest of favours,
and obeying their directions with scrupulous exactitude, and this life
she led, and this death to self she practised, not for a week, or a
month, but for three or four successive years. Oh! how richly traced in
heaven's own colouring, must have been the daily record of those years
kept by her faithful guardian spirit! How mighty the change wrought in
her spiritual condition, as one after another they passed away, each
leaving behind an accumulation of grace made fruitful; each marked by
new, and always more wondrous supernatural favours! It is not, however,
by her supernatural favours that we are to estimate her sanctity, but by
her practice of solid virtue, nor are we to forget that if by an
exceptional vocation, she was led into the higher paths of the mystic
life, she walked long, steadily and to the end in the common road, to
which, as Christians, we are called no less than she was. Nevertheless,
that singular favours should have been granted her, is exactly what we
should have been, led to expect from our acquaintance with the history of
the saints, which has taught us that it is ever God's way to be liberal
with His creatures, in proportion as they are liberal with him. There had
been no rapine in the holocaust of this, His faithful servant. She had
never refused Him one gift He craved; withheld one sacrifice He asked;
was He to be outdone in generosity? Oh, far from it! In presence of the
magnificence of His gifts to her chosen soul, we have but to bow down as
we bend before the sun when its ray dazzles us. The reverential wonder
which they inspire, is, after all, but a homage to the great Giver, and
if while we admire and venerate her exceptional privileges, we at the
same time study and try to copy the imitable portions of her example, we
shall reap profit from both passages of her life.



We cannot have studied the lives of the saints without observing, that
while infinitely generous of His graces to all His faithful servants,
their almighty Lord from time to time chooses certain individuals among
them as recipients of a more than ordinary measure of His liberality. We
read of a privileged few, to whom He is lavish of what may be termed
exceptional marks of His love. These chosen souls, He inundates with
celestial gifts,--revealing glimpses of His glory and beauty,
transforming them into Himself, so as in a manner to divinize them, and
even sometimes imparting visible external marks of their sublime
spiritual exaltation. It would seem as if He desired to manifest to men
in their persons, the immensity of His goodness, the infinitude of His
condescension, and the magnificence of His riches. They are the specially
favoured among the favoured: they form a class apart, in which God,
wonderful in all His saints, is wonderful surpassingly.

In that exceptional class, suited as it would seem to us rather for
angels than for mortals, a place was destined in the divine designs for
the subject of our history, Marie Guyart, but before those all-gracious
designs could be realized, certain preliminaries were needed. To the
thoroughly purified soul alone it belongs to fly without impediment to
God, as the needle flies to the magnet, and admirable, nay wonderful as
was the interior purity to which this-singularly favoured being had
attained; it had yet to undergo further processes of refinement before
she should be disposed for the privilege awaiting her. Our Lord continued
therefore to draw her more and more forcibly to the perfection of the
virtue, revealing to her in the meantime, that when it had reached the
required degree, a great, but as yet unspecified grace would be her
reward. To stimulate her zeal, He gave her a vision, of a soul free from
even the slightest shadow of defect, and the sight was one so entrancing,
so enrapturing, that she said, if men could only see it, they would
willingly renounce all things for the bare enjoyment of the glorious
spectacle. Charmed with the celestial beauty of such a soul, and
thirsting ever more to share its happy privilege of flying to God without
hindrance or delay, she was carefully on her guard against the most
trivial imperfection, and when betrayed into one, never desisted, until
by sighs and prayers she had obtained forgiveness, which she knew by the
cessation of reproach of conscience.

The sanctity of God was represented to her under the semblance of a vast
sea, with whose limpid waters no defilement however small was allowed to
mingle, all such being instantaneously rejected. Overwhelmed at--sight of
the disproportion between the purity of the human, soul, and the holiness
of the great God with whom she aspires to be united, she could only
exclaim again and again, in the depths of her self-annihilation, "O
Purity! O Purity! Hide, absorb me in Thee, O mighty Ocean of Purity!" At
another time, the same Divine attribute was shown her as a spotless
mirror, reflected on which, the least of her infidelities seemed
magnified into a mountain. The profound impression of the Sanctity of God
thus imparted, so greatly increased her delicacy of conscience, that she
reproached herself for her smallest failure, as if it had been a fault of
magnitude. She says that her union with God was never interrupted by
necessary conversation, even though it might have lasted the whole day,
but that if she spoke a useless word, or yielded to a distracting
thought, she at once found the interior bond weakened, and received a
reproach from conscience. Once, after she had committed an imperfection,
an interior voice whispered to her, "If an artist had painted a fine
picture, would he be well pleased to see it soiled and stained?" Another
time, the same interior monitor asked, "If you had a costly pearl or
diamond, would you like to have it thrown into the mud?" The words seemed
to give her a new insight into the sanctity of God, and they filled her
with unutterable confusion. So profoundly did the love of interior purity
strike root in her innocent soul, that she accepted, and even desired the
most vigorous punishment for the slightest fault, never admitting the
idea that there could be a disproportion.

Her view of the divine presence had now become so habitual, that by a
marvellous privilege, it was never interrupted. If duty obliged her to
speak with her neighbour, her communication with God was not in
consequence suspended. If she wrote, her mind was equally intent on her
subject and on her Lord, and as often as she paused to renew the ink in
her pen, her heart profited of the momentary interruption, to say a
loving word to Him. If the whole world had been present, she says,
nothing in it could have distracted her soul. She had received an infused
knowledge of the nature of the works of God, their relations with their
Maker, and the end of their creation; all therefore served to unite her
to, instead of distracting her attention from Him.

To make reparation to the outraged sanctity of God, and to honour the
Passion of her Lord, as well as with the specific intention of disposing
her soul for the yet unrevealed favour awaiting her, she redoubled the
austerities already so rigorous. She allowed herself only as much sleep
as was necessary for existence, taking that on the ground, with no
covering but a hair-cloth. After a while, the bare floor appeared too
luxurious a couch, so she spread a hair-cloth over it, and on that she
stretched her weary limbs for a short part of the night. This
mortification she looked on as the severest she had ever endured, the
weight of the body and the hardness of the boards combining to press the
sharp surface into the flesh, so that constant pain permitted only short
and broken sleep. A considerable portion of the night was divided between
prayer and corporal mortifications. She was familiar with instruments of
penance of every kind, and used them with an unsparing hand. Ingenious in
devising means of crucifying her senses, she mixed wormwood with her
food, and between meals, kept the bitter herb a long time in her mouth,
until forbidden, through regard for her health, to continue so mortifying
a practice. She succeeded however in so completely destroying the sense
of taste, as to be finally unable to distinguish one description of food
from another. Many years after she went to Canada, this fact was
decidedly ascertained by an unmistakable test. Yet she says she was never
ill, but on the contrary, always vigorous, always cheerful, always ready
for new mortifications, and so impressed with their value, that she would
have counted the day lost, on which she had suffered nothing. In daily
Communion, she renewed the strength so severely taxed by her appalling
austerities and her fatiguing labours for her neighbour.

That humiliation of mind might keep pace with subjection of the flesh,
she one day brought her director a written confession of the sins and
imperfections of her whole life with her name affixed, beseeching him
after he had read, to attach it to the church door, that all might know
the extent of her infidelity to God. Repeated rebuffs from her confessor
served only to manifest the sincerity of her humility; she received them
with her habitual love of contempt, and although the paper was burned,
instead of being exhibited as she desired, her fidelity to inspiration
was rewarded by a new flood of graces. Among the rest, she learned by
revelation the exact nature of the celestial favour previously promised
only in general terms, our Lord condescending to intimate to her
explicitly, that she was destined for that highest degree of divine
union, accorded, as we have just seen, only to a privileged few even of
the saints. Although the wondrous promise was not to be realized for the
present, the prospect of its accomplishment at a future day, filled her
with holy joy, nerving her at the same time to new efforts for the
removal of every obstacle to the consummation of her hopes.

After she had spent three or four years in the house of her brother-in-
law in the manner already noticed, Divine Providence permitted that he
should open his eyes to her capabilities and his own injustice. By a
tardy concession to her merits, he asked her at last, to undertake the
management of his affairs, foreseeing that they could not but prosper in
her hands. Besides holding the rank of an artillery officer, he was
charged with the commissariat of the whole kingdom, and under favour of
these two appointments, he embarked in a variety of enterprises which
obliged him to maintain a very large establishment; including numerous
servants and vehicles. His charitable sister, in undertaking her new
duties, still retained the old, from which her heart refused to part,
because of their attendant humiliations. She got through all, and
satisfied everybody; meantime so perfectly maintaining her union with
God, that she seemed like one of those celestial Spirits of whom our Lord
declared that "they ever behold the face of the Father in heaven." She
tells us that she spent the greater part of the day in a stable which
served as a store, and that sometimes she was still on the quay at
midnight, sending off, or receiving goods; that her ordinary companions
were carters, porters and other workmen; that she had to look after fifty
or sixty horses; that during the frequent absences of her brother and
sister, she had their personal affairs to attend to in addition to the
rest, and still, that as this multiplicity of occupations had been
undertaken only from a motive of charity, God permitted that instead of
proving an obstacle to the spirit of recollection, it tended on the
contrary to nourish and strengthen it. She says that when she found
herself so overwhelmed with business as scarcely to know where to begin,
she besought our Lord's help, reminding Him that without it, all must
remain undone, and the appeal was never made in vain. Looking back in
later life to this period, she remarks that the trials and hardships
which she had to encounter during her residence with her brother-in-law,
were especially arranged by Divine Providence as a most suitable
preparation for her future work in Canada.

Sighing for the consummation of the divine union promised her, and ever
seeking for some new gem with which to adorn her soul, she resolved to
bind herself by vow to the evangelical counsels, adopting as an
obligation, what had hitherto been only a voluntary practice, and thus in
a manner anticipating the time when she should realize the dearest wish
of her heart, by consecrating herself to God in religion. Her vow of
obedience regarded her director, her sister, and her brother-in-law, and
in its connection with the two last, was attended with difficulties known
only to God. As to poverty, she possessed nothing but what was given her
by her sister, contenting herself with bare necessaries. The interests of
her son, she abandoned to divine Providence, aspiring with her whole
heart to that perfect poverty of spirit which desires but God, and is
content with Him alone. In recompense of this new proof of love, her
generous Master granted her the precious gift of His own divine peace,
and to enhance the treasure, He brought it to her Himself, as on another
memorable occasion, He had brought it to His apostles. It was not that
her soul had hitherto been a stranger to God's peace; on the contrary, in
writing many years later of the favour now conferred, she says she had
not supposed it possible to enjoy here below a more perfect interior
peace than she habitually possessed, but that after our Lord had
whispered to her heart, "Peace be to this house,"--so profound, so
imperturbable, so transcendent a peace was imparted, that she never for a
moment lost it, although her multiplied afflictions might well have
shaken it, had it not been steadily anchored on loving conformity to the
will of Him who had established His empire in her soul.

The gold of her virtue had been well tried in the crucible of
tribulation, but as yet, it had not been subjected to the fiery ordeal of
temptation; through this, for its more entire refinement it was now to
pass. All at once her ordinary enjoyment of her spiritual exercises was
succeeded by utter disinclination. The sweetness and patience which had
scarcely cost her an effort in her intercourse with her neighbour, gave
place to a sensitiveness and irritability which would have caused her
many faults if she had not been closely and constantly on her guard. Her
childlike submission to her director appear intolerable yoke; her
dependence on her sister a positive degradation. The humiliations so
freely embraced, and so long and dearly prized, seemed in her altered
views, inconsistent with self-respect. The corporal penances hitherto
lightened and sweetened by the unction of Divine love, now assumed their
worst sharpness, and excited her strongest repugnance. Importunate
scruples were added to temptation, and while thus violently assailed on
many sides, she seemed not to receive light or comfort from any. Her only
support in these terrible interior trials was in the remembrance of God's
promise "to be with those who are in tribulation" (Ps. xc. 15), and
truly He was with hers in hers, and by His almighty grace brought her so
triumphantly through them, that amidst her complicated sufferings, she
never failed in her fidelity to her Lord; never omitted the smallest duty
or fell into the slightest impatience. He who does not permit His
creatures to be tried beyond their strength, granted her relief when she
least expected it. In the restored light, she clearly saw that the object
of the tempter had been to lure her from the path of perfection to which
God had called her, and on which, as we have seen, she had already made
gigantic strides; and she discovered with equal distinctness that the
ordeal through which she had passed was a necessary preparation for the
higher graces to come. By her example on this occasion, as well as by her
subsequent instructions, she teaches that however strong may be the
pressure of temptation, however impenetrable the darkness of aridity, the
afflicted soul should not omit any of her accustomed exercises, whether
of obligation or of mere devotion, or lose her trust in that divine grace
which never deserts her in her conflicts, but powerfully, though perhaps
imperceptibly supports her in every difficulty.



As the released torrent rushes on with increased impetuosity after a
temporary restraint, so did the emancipated soul of the holy Mother bound
to God with ten-fold ardour, now that the pressure of temptation, and the
darkness of doubt had been removed. As a reward for her fidelity in her
late trials, our Blessed Lord one day showed her His Heart and her own so
entirely united, so completely fused, that they seemed to form but one.
After this grace, her love of God appeared to change its character, and
to become altogether divine. Her heart was no longer her own, for it had
been made the possession of the Heart of Jesus. Absorbed in transports
and ecstasies of holy love, she grieved that even the short time which
she allowed to sleep, should interrupt the recollection of the only
Desired of her soul: She aspired with ever increasing ardour to the
mystic union so long promised and so long delayed. It was to be, as it
were, the culminating point of the Divine favours;--meantime she was
permitted, if not to reach the summit, at least to ascend to mysterious
heights on the holy mountain, and there behold wonders not destined for
sight of mortal eyes;--wonders which she herself confesses to be
inexplicable by human words. Miraculously strengthened to bear the
overwhelming flood of splendour, her soul was elevated even, to the
vision, of the most august and adorable Trinity. She saw the relations
between the Three Divine Persons; their unity, their distinction, their
operations within and outside themselves. She saw their operations also
in the nine choirs of angels, and understood how the human soul is
created to the image of God. It took but a moment, she says, to receive
the impression of all these wonders, whereas the effort to describe them
requires time, for human language cannot express in a word, what the mind
can grasp in an instant. The ecstasy lasted five hours, at the end of
which she found herself still kneeling exactly in the spot of the church
where it had commenced. She describes herself during that time as
absolutely lost in those unfathomable splendours; capable only of
passively receiving the impression of the purely intellectual vision
unfolded to her with indescribable clearness and singleness of view.
Writing of this great favour towards the end of life, she says that it
was then as vividly present to her in all its circumstances as at the
time of its occurrence, adding in her own simple way, that "great things
like this are never forgotten." It has been observed that the terms in
which she speaks of the most abstruse mysteries of faith, are too clear,
top precise, too strictly in accordance with the teaching of theology, to
have come within the natural lights of a woman of ordinary education;
therefore while the style of the narrative has excited the admiration of
the learned, it has left them without a doubt as to the Divine source of
her inspiration. For a long time after the vision, her soul was so
completely concentrated in the most adorable Trinity, that she had no
power to detach her thoughts from the ineffable mystery.

We might anticipate that the wonderful favour just recorded, would be the
last prelude to the elevation of God's chosen servant to the promised
high degree of Divine union, but such is the incomprehensible purity of
the all-holy God, that even after so many delays, so many trials, so much
fidelity, so much love and devotedness, He did not yet find her
sufficiently free from the dust of the earth, sufficiently disengaged
from every creature, sufficiently detached even from His own sensible
gifts, to be worthy of that mysterious union which requires the purity of
an angel. The work of preparation was accordingly to go on; the arduous
work of self-annihilation, of interior crucifixion, of total sacrifice of
every feeling, and absolute death to every inclination. Our Lord showed
her her soul as it would appear when adorned with the required degree of
holiness, and she confessed that He did her but justice in still
deferring the hour for which she sighed.

It is the remark of her son in the Life of his holy Mother, that
temptation is among the most efficacious means employed by the Almighty
for the purification of His creatures, for as in that state, the soul is
pursued by a vivid and constant apprehension of committing sin, she lives
in an habitual hatred of, and watchfulness against it, which are but too
apt to relax when the presence of evil is less apparent, and the
necessity for combating it less urgent. Through this grievous, suffering,
the servant of God had once more to pass. It appeared to her, she said as
if she had suddenly fallen from paradise into purgatory. She found
herself not only deprived of all consolation, but filled with alarm at
the remembrance of past favours, which seemed to her to have been unreal
and delusive. The thought of God was, as usual, ever present to her mind,
but it brought no comfort, for with it came an afflicting doubt of the
sincerity of her love for Him. Far down in the depths of her soul, it is
true, reposed the solid peace founded on submission to His will, but it
was a matter of difficulty to realize the existence of that submission.
Nature had once more asserted its sensitiveness to humiliation and
contradiction. In short, so profound was her anguish of soul that she
could scarcely support herself. This sore affliction, lasted for some
months, then gradually abated, and as it did, she learned to realize the
sweet use of sorrow. Trial, seconded by her own fidelity, had done its
work. Faith had triumphed over sense. Like "a two-edged sword reaching
unto the division of the soul and the spirit" (Heb. iv. 12), it had cut
away the last remnant of natural life, and left behind only the
supernatural. Long disengaged in mind and heart from all things on
earth, she was now so detached even from the consolations of heaven, so
singly centred in God alone, that she could rejoice in her spiritual
poverty, and thank the Lord for seeming to have withdrawn, the favours
which in her humility, she considered exposed to defilement in passing
through her heart. The Almighty who delights in manifesting Himself to
the humble, was pleased to reward her fidelity by a lively impression of
His adorable attributes, and a clear knowledge of the mysteries contained
in the first chapter of St. John. "During a holy week," she says, "our
Lord granted me new lights regarding His Divine attributes. I
contemplated the Unity of God, and in the Unity, I beheld His Eternity
without beginning or end; His immense Greatness; His adorable Infinitude;
and in an ecstasy of admiration, I could only exclaim, 'Goodness! O
Immensity! O Eternity!' I understood how all things have their origin in
God, from whom emanates whatever is beautiful and good, and I cried, 'O
more than Good! more than Beautiful! more than Adorable! Thou art God!
Thou art the great God!' Sinking into the very depths of my lowliness,
feeling in His mighty presence as if I had been the veriest worm, still I
could not refrain from telling Him of my love; still I could not but
rejoice that my God is so great; still I exulted that He is All, and that
I am nothing, for if I had been anything, then He would not have been
All. O Breadth! O Length! O height! O Depth! immense, adorable,
incomprehensible to all but Thyself! my Centre! my Beginning! my End! my
Beatitude! my All!" Unable to satisfy her desire to die,--if that were
possible, in order to render homage to the perfections of her God, she
substituted the slow martyrdom of still more rigorous austerities than
she had yet practised, and, after this new sacrifice, her mind, she
says, was so filled with light as to be in a manner dazzled, and as it
were blinded by the grandeur of the Majesty of the Most High. Thus
purified by trial, sanctified by grace, adorned with virtue, resplendent
with Divine love, elevated above earth and self and all their influences,
her happy soul presented no farther, obstacle to the designs of her all-
gracious Lord: it was ready for the ardently, desired union with Him,--
and now, at last, the promise so long made, and the expectations so long
cherished, were about to be realized.



A second vision of the most august Trinity was granted to Marie Guyart,
just two years after she had been favoured with the first. She was then
in her twenty-seventh year, and seven years had elapsed since the
memorable vision of the application of the precious blood of Jesus to her
soul. In this second vision, the will was more strongly affected than the
intellect; the heart absolutely consumed with the burning fire of love;
the mind, as before, inundated with floods of light. This grace gave, as
it were, the finishing touch to the beauty of her soul, seeming to supply
what had hitherto been wanting to its perfection. While her spirit was
absorbed, and in a manner annihilated in the contemplation of the three
most adorable Persons of the Trinity, the Eternal Word, according to His
promise, united her to Himself in close, mysterious bonds which there are
no human words to describe. [Footnote: The lives of St. Francis of
Assisium, St. Teresa, St Catherine of Sienna, St. Gertrude, and some
other saints furnish instances of supernatural favours similar to that
now granted to the Venerable Mother Mary of the Incarnation.] "He that is
joined to the Lord, is one spirit" (1 Cor. v. 17).

Often had she sighed for this hour, and with the Spouse in the Canticles
besought the Lord to show her His face, and to let her hear His voice--
that face so comely, and that voice so sweet. Now at last, possession had
replaced hope, so now she might entone the canticle of triumph, "I found
him whom my soul loveth: I hold him: and I will not let him go. My
beloved to me, and I to him who feedeth among the lilies. Till the
"glorious dawn of eternity" break, and the shadows of time retire,"
(Cant. iii. 4, ii., 17.) "when I shall see Him as He is, face to face,
and know Him even as I am known" (l Cor, xiii. 12). She seemed to have
passed into a new state of being. Ardent as her love of God had been
before, it now rose to heights hitherto unknown. Her whole soul appeared
to be transformed into love. Her life became one unbroken act, one
uninterrupted hymn of ecstatic love. In the busy streets, in distracting
business, amidst household cares and duties, at all times and in all
places, she gave vent to her irrepressible transports in the sweet song
of ceaseless praise, silently entoned within her own heart, and audible
only to her heavenly Spouse and His angels. Even in sleep, she could
scarcely be said to discontinue it, for while she slept, her heart
watched, and at each interruption to her short repose, it resumed the
strain, returning to the actual exercise of love with the first moment of
full awakening consciousness. Sometimes fearing that her emotions might
betray themselves exteriorly, she relieved their uncontrollable
impetuosity by committing them to writing, afterwards burning these
effusions. A few of them, however, by chance escaped destruction, and
have happily reached us. From these, as well as from the account of her
manner of prayer written at the command of one of her confessors, we
learn something of the holy ardour which consumed her. "O Love!" she
cried, "how sweet Thou art! how captivating are Thy charms! how light Thy
bonds! Sometimes Thou woundest, sometimes Thou enslavest, but still art
Thou ever sweet. As I am all Thine, so art Thou all mine, mine for ever,
O my most desirable Life! And what do I desire of Thee, O my All? I
desire Thy love, and Thy love alone. O Love! O great Love! Thou art all,
and I am nothing, but it is enough that the mighty All should love the
poor nothing, and that the miserable nothing should love the great All! O
great God! mayest Thou be blessed by every tongue and love by every

The impossibility of satisfying her holy eagerness to be inseparably
united to her God, caused her inexplicable suffering. It was death to her
that she could not die. "I long, O Lord," she would say, "to be free from
the prison of the body, that I may fly to Thee, and behold Thee in all
Thy beauty and Divine attractions. O Love! when shall I embrace Thee!
When shall I see Thee without cloud or veil! Knowest Thou not that I love
but Thee? Come then, that I may expire in Thy sacred arms. To a soul
which loves Thee, it is a martyrdom to be separated from Thee, and
meantime to see Thee offended by so many of The creatures who are
insensible to Thy goodness, and indifferent to Thyself. Oh! take me from
this scene of sin and misery where there is nothing but sorrow and
affliction of spirit. My heart sighs for Thy eternal mansions; for Thy
incomparable beauty; for the consummation of that blissful union, of
whose sweetness Thou grantest us a foretaste here below. While the
sensible sweetness lasts, we are happy in Thee, our Treasure, our Life,
our Love, but no sooner are we left to ourselves, than we feel once more
the full force of our poverty and misery. Who will grant to my soul to
burst its prison bars and ascend to Thee! May I be all Thine, as Thou art
all mine! O Sacred Heart of Jesus! be Thou the Altar of sacrifice on
which my heart shall be immolated! O Furnace of charity! enkindle in it
that celestial flame in which I desire to be consumed. Can it rest on an
Altar of fire and not be set on fire?" But notwithstanding her desire to
be dissolved, that she might be with Christ, she loved her Lord's will
too purely to wish for death or life except in conformity to it,
therefore she offered herself to bear the burden of existence until the
day of judgment, if God could be thus more glorified,--satisfied if
meantime she accomplished nothing more than to teach some simple soul to
know and love our Blessed Lady. Her chief relief and support was still,
as ever, in daily Communion, which uniting her really, though invisibly
to her Lord and Treasure, consoled her in some degree for the delay to
the eternal union for which she languished. She says of this most
adorable Sacrament, "that it is a fathomless and shoreless abyss of
grace, and that eternity's light alone will reveal the ineffable wonders
which God discovered to her soul at the time of her sacramental union
with him."

We know from the testimony of the saints who have endured the martyrdom
of Divine love, that the greatest of its pains proceeds from the
inability of the soul to lore God with an ardour proportioned either to
her own desire to love Him, or to the extent of His claims on her love.
This suffering the Venerable Mother experienced in its fullest intensity.
From, her insatiable desire of a more perfect love, sprang a fixed
impression of her utter powerlessness to do any thing for, or give any
thing to the great and generous God who had given her Himself, and with
Himself all things. "Thou hast made me for Thyself, O God!" she would
say; "for Thyself who art Love; why then should I not speak of love? But
alas! what can I say of it? I cannot speak of it on earth. The saints who
see Thee in heaven, silently adore Thee, and their silence speaks. Why, O
Lord, cannot we burn like them with silent love? If Thou art their love,
Thou art also ours. They see Thee as Thou art, and in this are more
favoured than we on earth, but when we are released from this prison, we
shall behold Thee like them; we shall praise, embrace, possess Thee like
them; we shall be absorbed in Thee as they are,--in Thee who art my Love,
my only Love, my great and glorious God, my mercy and my All!" While her
soul was thus rapt in a continual ecstasy of love, her bodily strength
wasted away under the action of the consuming fire. In one of the many
phases of the martyrdom of love which it was her privilege to pass
through, it pleased her Lord that the body should suffer more than the
soul, enduring in its turn a real agony, and that so violent, that she
says she must have died if it had lasted a few days.

While these miracles of grace were being wrought in the soul of this
admirable woman, no external sign gave indications of the work going on
within, for she took care to enfold her treasures under the mantle of
humility. Always devoted, laborious and active, she seemed altogether
intent on her harassing duties, yet, multiplied and fatiguing as these
were, she found time to attend to the spiritual interests of her
brother's numerous workmen, sometimes calling them round her to teach
them the Christian doctrine, sometimes profiting of conversation at table
to speak to them of God and the concerns of their souls. Reverencing her
as a saint, they submitted to her like docile children, gave her an
account of their conduct, adopted her advice, bore her reproofs, and
carried obedience so far as to rise from bed to say their night prayers,
if by accident she discovered that any one had retired without complying
with the duty. Solicitous for their temporal, as for their eternal
welfare, she interceded for them with her brother-in-law when they had
incurred his displeasure, and attended them in sickness with truly
maternal devotedness. Although her close attention to the presence of God
never interfered with the fulfilment of her duties, it incapacitated her
from following up the thread of any conversation unconnected with them.
Her brother-in-law perceiving this, sometimes amused himself by asking
her a question referring to something that had been said, but her
confusion on these occasions was so evident, that in order not to
increase it, the subject was quickly changed.

Finally, these vehement transports and exhausting languishings of divine
love were succeeded by a profound and permanent calm. Her soul sweetly
reposed in God, its Centre--that Centre was within herself, and there she
enjoyed a peace surpassing all understanding. In the account written by
her confessor's command of the special favours she had received from God,
she observes in reference to this highest degree of divine union, that
"the soul elevated to it, enjoys as far as possible here below, the
felicity of the blessed. Storms," she says, "may sweep over her inferior
part, but they do not reach the interior temple where the Spouse reigns,
and she rests tranquilly in His presence. It is alike to her whether she
is immersed in embarrassing cares, or buried in most profound solitude.
Amidst the turmoil of life and the distraction of business, she is alone
with God in her heart, enjoying His sweet company, conversing with Him
familiarly, transformed as it were into a paradise, of which His smile is
the light and the bliss. Vainly would she endeavour to explain what
passes in that interior heaven, for the subject is too sublime to come
within the reach of weak, defective human language. She is so elevated
above the world, that all its combined splendours appear to her but as a
contemptible atom of dust. Thus does the Almighty 'raise the needy from
the earth, to place them with the princes of his people,' and in doing
so, He only exalts His own glory, and shows forth His magnificence."

The intimate union with God, here described, became henceforth the
Venerable Mother's habitual condition. It must however be noted that she
does not speak of this privileged state as excluding temptation and
suffering, but only says, that violent and frequent as may be their
assaults, they do not disturb the inner region of the soul where God has
established His Kingdom in peace. The superior part remains tranquil,
although the inferior may be troubled and agitated, just as the ocean
depths repose in peaceful calm while its surface is lashed by the angry
tempest. By noticing this distinction, it will become easy to reconcile
the apparently contradictory statements which attribute to the Mother of
the Incarnation uninterrupted interior peace, with intense and almost
continuous interior suffering.



From her early years, the desires of the Venerable Mother had turned to
the cloister, as we have already seen. Her engagement in married life had
seemed at first to oppose an insuperable obstacle to their fulfilment,
but God who had destined her for religion, removed the impediment,
leaving her free by the death of her husband to follow her first impulse,
as soon as duty should allow her to separate from her little son. That
time had now come; the child had attained his twelfth year, and could
dispense with her immediate care. So far, she had faithfully fulfilled
her obligations towards him, watching over his infancy and childhood with
tender solicitude, training him in the ways of God as she had been
trained herself; forming his tender heart to piety, and giving his first
habits the right bent. The impression of her holy instructions and
example was never effaced, and when in advanced years he referred to the
period of their early companionship, it was in terms of most profound
veneration for her virtues, and boundless admiration of her truly
celestial life.

Like the storm-tost mariner nearing the haven, or the weary traveller
approaching home, she sighed with redoubled ardour for the end of her
pilgrimage, now that the end was 'nigh. It was but natural. Lovely as the
tabernacles of the Lord had looked in the distance, their beauty was
immeasurably magnified by the closer view. If then she had felt even in
the days of her exile, that those are blessed who dwell in the house of
God, can we wonder that she should have absolutely longed. and fainted
for His courts, now that their portals were about to be thrown open for
her admission? But although the hour of emancipation had come, she was
yet ignorant of the particular Order to which God called her. The perusal
of the works of St. Teresa had inspired her with a strong attraction for
the Carmelites, whose particular profession of prayer and recollection
exactly harmonized with her own inclination and practice. On the other
hand, the General of the Feuillants, anxious to secure so precious a
treasure for his own Order, offered in the most flattering manner to
receive her, promising to relieve her of all future anxiety regarding the
education of her son. This latter condition was of such vital importance,
that the proposal filled her with joy and gratitude. Besides, to the
Carmelite spirit of prayer and solitude, the Feuillantine Sisters added
the practice of great austerities, thus presenting a two-fold attraction
to the holy widow. Yet it was not to either of these Orders that God
called her, nor was it indeed to a purely contemplative life that her own
thoughts had originally turned. On the contrary, her earliest inclination
had been for the Ursulines, although strangely enough, she had no
acquaintance whatever with them, and could not even have told where they
were to be found. She merely knew in a general way, that the special
object of their institute is the salvation of souls, and that its mixed
life of action and prayer closely resembles the public life of our Lord
on earth. These two considerations had always strongly influenced her in
its favour, nevertheless, the more austere Orders had not lost their
charms, so, as God had not yet clearly manifested His will, she waited
calmly until circumstances should reveal it beyond a doubt. At length
Divine Providence interposed. About this very period, it happened that
the Ursulines established themselves at Tours, and as if to facilitate
her introduction to them, it further chanced that after a short time they
removed from the house they had first inhabited, to one quite near the
residence of her brother. Some secret attraction seemed to draw her in
the direction of the new convent, which she never passed without
experiencing an indescribable emotion, and a strong impulse to linger
round the precincts. In this monastery there lived a saintly religious,
who had been led to exalted virtue through much the same paths as those
which she had herself trodden. These two souls, alike privileged by
grace, were destined as mutual helps to perfection, and for the
furtherance of this great design, the wondrous providence of God had so
arranged events, that without premeditation on either side, both should
be associated in community life. Their acquaintance originated in a visit
which the holy widow had occasion to pay at the convent. At the first
interview, each felt that she was understood by the other, yet although,
their intimacy soon ripened into a saintly friendship, Marie Guy art
could never prevail on herself to speak of her perplexities to Mother
Francis of St. Bernard, wishing as ever to leave herself altogether in
the hands of God. Meantime Mother St. Bernard was elected Superior of the
new monastery, and no sooner had she taken office than she felt inspired
to make overtures to her friend to join the community. Having obtained
the necessary permissions, she sent for her, and in a few kind words
offered her a place among the sisters. The generous proposal did not take
the holy woman by surprise, for as she was entering the house, a strong
presentiment had seized her as to the direct purport of the visit. Full
of joy and thankfulness, she humbly expressed her gratitude, and asked
leave, before replying, to consult God and her director. The latter was a
man eminently versed, as already noticed, in the science of guiding
souls. The better to try her vocation, he received the application with
apparent coldness, and seemed for a while to have given up all idea of
her quitting the world, so her state of indecision continued. But one
day, while she was in prayer, all doubts as to her future course were
suddenly and completely removed. Her temporary inclination for the more
austere Orders instantaneously vanished, giving place to an ardent, fixed
desire to join the Ursulines, and that as speedily as could be
accomplished. Her director recognised the voice of God in the urgent
inspiration, and exhorted her to obey it without hesitation or delay.

But it was not to be expected that Satan would relinquish the prize
without yet another struggle. The career of the future Ursuline was to
bring great glory to God through the salvation of many souls; clearly,
then, his interest demanded a last strong effort to deter her from the
life to which her Master called her. The artifice employed was so much
the more dangerous, as it wore the semblance of good. The tempter
represented her flight from the world as a violation of her duty to her
little son, suggesting that so unnatural a neglect of her sacred maternal
obligations could not but compromise her own salvation, as. well as the
highest and dearest interests of her child. To the stratagems of Satan
were added the persuasive entreaties of some of her friends, and the
violent opposition of others. The two-fold conflict was a hard one, but,
aided by divine grace, she conquered nature once again, as she had so
often done before, and God was pleased to reward her fidelity by so
effectually changing the views of her sister and her brother-in-law, that
in the end they not only consented to her departure, but even promised to
take care of her child.

One more ordeal remained, and it was, indeed, a severe one. She had not
yet acquainted her son with her intention, but he seemed to have an
instinctive presentiment of some event of more than ordinary consequence
to him. He noticed that he had all at once become a general object of
silent sympathy. The compassion which he read on every face communicated
its saddening influence to his little heart; the low tone in which people
spoke in his presence, excited his suspicions. Oppressed by the sense of
some painful mystery, he took refuge at first in solitude and tears, and
before, long, unable to bear up against the weight of melancholy, he made
up his mind to go away altogether from the scene of his troubles. A
fortnight before the time appointed for his mother's entrance to the
convent, he managed to escape unobserved from the school where he was
then a boarder. The discovery of his flight, seemed a signal for general
censure of his mother. The world declared that she alone was to be blamed
for the disaster--she alone to be held accountable for its consequences.
It was difficult to bear, and that, too, at a time when her whole soul
was rent with anguish, when every feeling of nature re-echoed, while
every instinct of grace obliged her to resist the mighty pleadings of
maternal love. The terrible interior combat was immeasurably aggravated
by her efforts to maintain external composure. In her great sorrow she
turned for comfort to her friend at the Ursulines, and had scarcely
concluded her sad account when her director, Dom Raymond, happened also
to call at the monastery. From the habitual charity of this good
religious, she naturally expected his especial sympathy at this trying
moment. Great, then, was her dismay to find that far from attempting to
assuage, he seemed determined, on the contrary, to irritate the wound.
Well convinced by experience of the solidity of her virtue, he seized the
present apparently inopportune occasion of testing it anew. Assuming
great sternness of voice and manner, he told her it was easy to see that
her virtue was only superficial, since she manifested so great a want of
submission to God's will, and of faith in His providence, adding that her
excessive attachment to a creature clearly indicated the ascendancy which
nature still retained over her. Kneeling before her censor, the humble
mother listened to the harsh reproof in profound silence, but a sigh
escaped her, and this Dom Raymond declared to be a distinct confirmation
of his late assertions, ordering her to depart at once from the house of
God, which was not meant to harbour souls so imperfect as she was. She
immediately rose, and, with a low inclination to her director, left the
convent. Perfectly amazed at the heroism of her virtue, the Reverend
Father and the Mother Superior returned thanks to God for having
permitted them to witness so wonderful an example, and, without informing
her of it, sent messengers at their own expense to seek her son, those
whom she had herself employed not having discovered any trace of him.

By a singular coincidence, the flight of her boy occurred during the
octave of the Epiphany, when the Church reads the history of the loss of
Jesus in the temple, and it also happened that he, like the Divine Child,
was twelve years of age at the time of his disappearance. These
circumstances greatly consoled the poor mother in her bereavement: she
united her desolation with that of the Mother of Sorrows, and hoped that,
like her, she would recover her son at the end of three days, and so it
actually happened. Precisely at that time he was brought back by a person
who had accidentally met him at Blois. He then owned that he had planned
to go to Paris, where he hoped to be received by a partner of his
uncle's, resident in that city. The child's return removed the last
obstacle to her departure; and now the day was fixed irrevocably,
notwithstanding the renewed entreaties of her relatives; notwithstanding
the tears of her father; notwithstanding the agony of her own soul at the
parting from her only child whom she loved most tenderly. She recalled
the declaration of our Lord that "he who loves father or mother, son or
daughter more than Him is not worthy of Him" (St. Matt. x. 37), and the
words inspired her with invincible courage. No sooner was her final
decision taken than uncertainty and perplexity vanished utterly.

For the preceding ten years it had been her aim indirectly to prepare the
little Claude for the separation which she knew must one day come.
Believing that the less she had accustomed him to external demonstrations
of affection, the less also he would miss her presence and feel her loss,
she had made it a rule from the time he was two years old, never to
fondle or embrace him, carrying self-denial in this particular so far as
to discourage even his, own childish caresses and endearments. Yet though
grave, he found her ever kind and gentle; though reserved, sweet-tempered
and inaccessible to caprice; though undemonstrative, solidly devoted to
his interests and tenderly alive to his wants; so it happened after all
that he loved her fondly, and all the more so, perhaps, that unknown to
himself, his love was founded on reverence.

How shall the mother summon courage to bid him adieu? Where find words to
say that although he should ever dwell in her heart, her home and his
could be one no longer? That, already deprived by death of one parent, he
was now by her own voluntary act to lose the second too? Poor mother!
great is thy sorrow, yet not as that of another Martyr-Mother, whose
story of anguish thou knowest well. It was at the foot of the cross that
she bade adieu to her Son; there, too, must thou bravely stand by her
side to say farewell to thine. The virtue of the cross will strengthen
thee as it strengthened her; and when thy sacrifice is accomplished, thou
wilt find a balm for thy wounded heart by uniting it to the broken heart
of Jesus on the cross, and of Mary standing in its shade.

Summoning the boy to her side, she said, "My son, I have a great secret
to tell you. I have hitherto concealed it, because you were not old
enough to understand its importance, but now that you are becoming more
sensible, and that I am on the point of taking the step to which this
great secret refers, I can no longer hesitate to confide it to you. When
your father was taken from us, God immediately inspired me with the
resolution of forsaking the world and embracing the religious life. I
could not carry out this intention at once, for you were too young to
dispense with my care, but now that this is no longer the case, I must
follow the call of God without farther delay. I might have gone away
without forewarning you, for when salvation is in question, as in the
present instance, God's command must absolutely be obeyed, but to spare
you a painful shock, I determined to tell you my plans, and ask your
consent to their accomplishment. God wishes this parting, my son, and if
we love Him we must wish it too. If this separation afflicts you, think
of the great honour which the Almighty does me in calling me to His
service. Remember too what a happiness it will be for you to know
henceforth that your mother is occupied day and night in praying for your
salvation. This being so, will you not give me leave to obey God, who
commands me to go away?"

Awed and bewildered by the solemnity of the address, the child could only
say, "But I shall never see you again?"

"Not so, my son," replied the courageous mother; "on the contrary, you
will see me whenever you like; I am only going to the Ursulines, who you
know live quite close, and you can come to me there as often as you

"In that case," he said, "I am satisfied."

An oppressive weight seemed to have been taken from the mother's heart;
now she could breathe freely. "I should have found it very hard to part
from you, my child," she said, "if you had refused, because I do not like
to give you pain, but as you are contented, I shall leave you tranquilly
in the hands of God. I bequeath to you no worldly wealth, for as the Lord
is my inheritance, so do I desire that He should be yours. If you fear
and love Him, you will be rich enough. I entrust you to a heavenly Mother
who will amply make up to you for my loss, for her power to serve you is
far greater than mine. Love that dear Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary; be
faithful to her; call on her as your Mother; turn to her in all your
wants, reminding her that you are her child, and that she is bound to
take care of your interests, and be sure that she will never forsake you.
I have placed you in the charge of my sister, who has promised me to love
you and watch over you. Show her always the same affection and respect as
you have shown me. Serve God faithfully; keep his commandments; love Him,
and He will love you and provide for you in whatever position you may be
placed. Adieu, my son." Then she directed him to kneel at her feet, and
repressing every appearance of emotion, calmly made the sign of the cross
on his forehead, and gave him her solemn blessing. It was the last caress
and the last farewell of this heroic woman to her only child; henceforth
he was to be the child of providence, and she was to be as if his mother
no more. God, jealous of her undivided love, would admit no rival in her
heart; over that, He designed to reign sole Sovereign.

This most painful scene over, the remaining trials seemed easy to bear.
She bade adieu to her weeping relatives, and even to her aged father,
without betraying a symptom of the agony which rent her soul, and then,
on the 25th of January, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, in the
year 1631, she left her sister's house, accompanied by numerous friends.
The little procession was headed by her niece whom she had asked to
precede her with a crucifix, the standard which she had ever so
faithfully followed, and to which she was now proving the truth of her
allegiance by the severing of every human tie, and the sacrifice of every
human feeling. At her side walked her little son, silent and tearful, but
quiet and resigned. She alone of the whole party manifested no agitation;
her step was firm; her demeanour calm, her countenance beaming as if with
light from heaven. Yet the superhuman victory was not achieved without
mortal anguish; every tear of the weeping child at her side made her
heart bleed afresh; every sob seemed to lacerate her soul, but she says,
in alluding afterwards to her emotions on the occasion, "Much as I loved
my son, I loved my God far more."

At the door of the monastery, she smilingly repeated her farewell to the
child and the rest of the party, and a moment after, was joyfully and
lovingly welcomed by the Mother Superior of the Ursuline Convent.



It was in the sixteenth century that the Ursuline Order took its rise.
The epoch was one peculiarly disastrous in the Church's history. Luther's
heresy was working evil on a gigantic scale. It had spread from nation to
nation with the rapidity of a pestilential contagion, blighting with its
deadly venom all it touched, and everywhere marking its progress by a
wide track of spiritual ruin and desolation, as well as of political
anarchy and social disorganization. Each new success of its unholy work,
necessarily inflicted a new pang on the heart of the sorrowing Spouse of
Christ. Day after day, she had to weep afresh over some new profanation
of her sanctuaries, some new desertion of her faithless children, some
aggravated treason against her God. Nor was it only the ravages of heresy
that she had to lament, but perhaps still more, the disloyalty of too
many among her still nominal adherents. While a vast number of her
disciples revolted openly against her authority, others who recognised it
in words, rejected it in practice. Where the light of faith had not been
utterly extinguished, the fire of charity had but too often cooled. The
lower classes were ignorant, the better instructed careless; both more or
less indifferent. Worse than all, the very guardians of the fold had in
too many instances proved false to their sacred trust, so intent on the
advancement of their own worldly interests, as to concern themselves very
little for the protection of their perishing flocks. The ever spreading
torrent of corruption and infidelity, looked, as though in its fully
gathered strength, it might one day inundate the world. Where could an
efficacious barrier be found to its farther progress? The question was a
momentous one, involving the honour even of Him who had given His life-
blood to purchase the very souls of whom Satan was thus making an easy
prey. All unknown to each other, two faithful children of the mourning
Mother were just then occupied in studying the grand problem, and both
succeeded in discovering the solution. Yet a few years, and they would
give the world the practical result of their researches in the
institution of their respective Orders, the Jesuits and the Ursulines.
With the latter, the name of the Mother Mary of the Incarnation is so
closely interwoven, that a few words on the rise and progress of the
Order, naturally find a place in her biography.

Saint Angela Merici, the Foundress of the Ursulines, was born on the 2lst
of March, 1474, therefore was considerably advanced in life when Luther
took up arms against the Church. Dezenzano, her birth-place, stands on
the south-west bank of the picturesque Lago di Garda in the Venetian
States, about seventeen miles from Brescia. It is ever the saints whom
God employs to do His work, and in the present instance, neither the work
nor the instrument was to be an exception to the rule. Angela entered on
the path of sanctity almost at the same time as on the path of life, and
as she advanced in years, kept ever redoubling her pace, until at last
she may be said to have flown, rather than walked along the blessed way.
From her earliest days she evinced a dread of sin, a love of prayer and
solitude, and an inclination for the severities of penance, very unusual
in children. Ever cherishing a supreme, absorbing desire to live for God
alone, she perpetually added fuel to the heavenly fire by frequent
communion, prolonged prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and similar
holy practices, unhappily at that time but little observed. After her
admission to the Third Order of St. Francis, she placed so little limit
to her austerities, that she might with strict truth have been called a
living victim of perpetual penance. Her life became one almost unbroken
fast, and she was often known to pass a week at a time without any other
food than the heavenly manna of daily communion. To such perfection did
she carry her spirit of poverty, that after making the simple vow in the
Third Order, she would live only on alms, taking her rest on a mat or a
bundle of faggots, with a stone for her pillow. Thus, as years went on,
her ever increasing beauty of Soul, seemed even more than her remarkable
external attractions, to give literal significance to her name,--Angela,
the Angel.

But her personal sanctification, although her first, was not her only
aim. God had called her to work for other souls as well as her own, and
her apostolic vocation began early to assert itself. The deplorable decay
of faith and piety among nominal Christians of her day, weighed heavily
on her heart. Not content with simply lamenting the growing evil, she
longed for the power to check it. But how could she? How could a feeble
woman arrest an impetuous torrent? Again and again she asked herself the
question, and again and again, clearer than the heaven's light, came the
answer;--if the vices of the adult generation were traceable in a great
degree to the want of early Christian training--as who could doubt?--was
it not manifest that the only check to the transmission of its
irreligious spirit, was the careful education of the young? Yes; let the
ignorant be taught, and little by little God's work would be done.
Success might at first be small, but it would be certain. Each mind
enlightened, would be a heart converted, and even one was worth labouring
for. The single child trained to piety, would at a future day become a
religious mother, capable of imparting to her own family the holy
impressions which she had herself received; the circle of good would go
on extending for ever, and only God could see its final limits. Thus
Angela reasoned, and without delay she determined to carry out her

It was about her twenty-first year that she began her labour of zeal and
love, by assembling the little children of Dezenzano for catechism, and
instructing a vast number of adults in the Christian doctrine. Her
assistants were four in number, and like herself members of the Third
Order of St. Francis. It was but a diminutive plant that sprang at first
from the seed then deposited in the garden of God, but the blessing of
the Most High rested on the feeble seedling, and in that divine sunshine
it throve and grew, until at last it expanded into a great tree, of which
the historian Time can tell no tale, save that although ages and storms
have passed over it, its heart is fresh, its growth is steady, and its
roots are firm to-day, as in the early years, when sown by the hand, and
fostered by the care of Angela, it gave its young promise of luxuriance
and stability. Though she did not live to witness the full realization of
that promise, she was permitted to foresee its accomplishment in a
celestial vision granted her much about the period of the opening of her
apostolate at Dezenzano. One day, while praying with great earnestness
for Divine guidance, a high ladder, like that shown to Jacob, suddenly
appeared before her. One end of it rested on the ground, the other
touched the heavens. Down this ladder, a resplendent band of virgins
slowly descended, moving two and two with perfectly regularity, and
accompanied by angels. Their number was very great; their garments were
rich; their crowns were studded with gems of wondrous beauty, and they
sang a sweet canticle, to which their angelic guardians responded in
choir. Overwhelmed with astonishment, she looked and listened, utterly
unable to comprehend the mystery. At last she recognised in the
procession a beloved companion recently deceased, who told her to take
courage, for that she was the instrument chosen by the Almighty to
establish at Brescia a society of virgins similar to those she then
beheld. The revelation was too convincing to leave room for doubt, yet so
profound was the saint's humility, so deep her sense of her own
unworthiness and incapacity, that she permitted full forty year to pass
without taking any decided measures for its accomplishment. The vision,
however, served to add new fire to her zeal for the Divine honour, and to
intensify her already ardent love for her neighbour. She became
absolutely indefatigable in her efforts for the diffusion of religious
instruction, the reconciliation of enemies, the consolation of the
afflicted, and the conversion of sinners, sparing neither time, fatigue,
nor even frequent journeys in furtherance of these and similar objects of
charity; working among the poor from preference, but never refusing her
help to those also of the better class who sought it. But holy and
profitable as was the work at Dezenzano, she knew all along that it was
only preparatory to the greater work at Brescia. "Take courage, Angela,"
said the prophecy, "for thou shall found a company of virgins such as
these at Brescia." The prediction was explicit as to her future destiny,
but vague as to the period of fulfilment. To that there might be still,
as there had already been, a long delay, but she believed that in His own
time, the Almighty would provide for its accomplishment, and for that
time she waited tranquilly, devoting herself meanwhile to her humble
labours at Dezenzano as entirely as if she had not known full well that
Dezenzano was not her ultimate destination. And in His own time God did
interpose. By means apparently the most simple and natural, his ever-
watchful Providence prepared the way at last for her removal to Brescia,
using as its instruments, two distinguished inhabitants of that city,
whose names her historians have handed down to us, Jerom Patengola and
his virtuous consort Catherine. It happened that this pious couple had
some years before become acquainted with Saint Angela, in one of their
annual visits to their large estates near Dezenzano, and finding the
intimacy highly conducive to their spiritual interests, they had
cultivated it assiduously. In 1516, it pleased God to deprive them in
rapid succession of their only children, two daughters, in whom their
hearts and earthly hopes were centred. In the excess of their anguish,
they turned for comfort to their saintly friend, beseeching her to come
to them without delay. They had been kind benefactors to her little
society, gratitude therefore, as well as charity, pleaded their cause
with her sisters and her spiritual advisers, who all agreed that such
claims were irresistible. Looking on the decision as a manifestation of
the Divine will, she accordingly left Dezenzano where for twenty years
she had pursued her mission of love, and proceeded to Brescia, the city
of the promise, having first secured that the work at Dezenzano should be
continued by her sisters whom she intended to rejoin as soon as possible.

Her visit to Brescia proved a source not only of immense consolation to
her sorrowing friends, but of spiritual benefit to the whole city. To win
all to God by prayer, instruction, and example, was still as ever, the
aim of her life. Attracted by the reputation of her sanctity, as well as
of her natural abilities and supernatural enlightenment, persons of every
rank came to her for advice, and all withdrew benefited by her counsels,
filled with admiration of her wisdom, and edified by her equally striking
charity, sweetness and humility. It was about this period that she
received an infused knowledge of Latin, which she could understand, speak
and translate without having learned it; also of the holy Scriptures, on
the most difficult passages of which she could comment with wonderful
ease and unction.

Her original intention had been, as we have seen, to return to Dezenzano,
as soon as her work of charity in Brescia was completed; she had not
however been long in the latter city, when she became convinced that God
willed her to remain there. The memorable vision of bygone years had
assuredly never at any time faded from her memory; it must on the
contrary have formed the constant subject of her communications with God,
but after her removal to Brescia, it pursued her with an almost painful
persistence. Not once only, but continuously, uninterruptedly, it stood
before her in all the distinctness of its first vivid colouring, and all
the minuteness of its smallest details, so that whatever her occupations,
alone or conversing with others, in the church and in her room, at all
times and in all places, she seemed ever to see the mysterious ladder
with its glorious throng of gem-crowned virgins and dazzling angels; she
seemed ever to hear the words of the yet unrealized promise, "Take
courage, Angela, for thou shalt found a company of virgins like to these
at Brescia." Concluding at last that this almost importunate voice from
the past, must be intended as a warning to guide her movements in the
present, she prayed with all the earnestness of her soul that the
Almighty would manifest His designs, and enable her by His grace to carry
them out most perfectly. In answer to her prayer she clearly understood
that God willed her to remain at Brescia, and she accordingly established
herself in a retired lodging in the town, there to continue her career of
zeal and usefulness;--but many years more were to elapse before the
foundation of her Order.

Pilgrimages to consecrated spots seem to have been one of her favourite
practices of piety. Two years after her arrival at Brescia, she made one
to the tomb of the Venerable Mother Hosanna Andreassi, a religious of the
Order of St. Dominick; who had lately died at Mantua in the odour of
sanctity. Six years later, in 1524, her ardent love of our Divine
Redeemer prompted her to undertake a journey of devotion to the Holy
Land. On the way, God was pleased to test her love of the cross by a most
severe affliction. Just as the vessel touched the port of Canea in the
island of Candia, which she was the first to discern, she was in one
instant struck with total blindness, to the inexpressible sorrow and
consternation of her companions. The trial was a peculiarly painful one,
and it served to display the heroism of her virtue in a clearer light
than ever. She accepted it in the spirit of the saints, and refusing the
kind offers of her friends to accompany her back to Italy, she completed
the journey to Palestine, now attended with so much additional
difficulty. In the Holy Land, she redoubled her habitual most rigorous
fasts and other austerities, and as if to compensate for being denied a
sight of the blessed places which she had come so far to see, she poured
out her heart's love over them with a seraphic fervour which sensibly
affected the spectators. On her journey homewards, her patient submission
was rewarded by the recovery of her sight at the very place where she had
lost it. This favour was granted her while she prayed with great devotion
before a celebrated image of the Crucifixion, exposed to public
veneration in one of the churches of the town. After a narrow escape from
shipwreck, she reached Venice, and so strong was the impression of her
sanctity produced in that city by the reports of her companion pilgrims,
that she was earnestly entreated to fix her abode there, and take charge
of some of its institutions of charity. Tempting as was the offer, she
resolutely declined it, for she knew that God's will called her to
Brescia, where after an absence of six months, she returned, to the great
joy of the inhabitants.

But before again settling down to her old manner of life in this home of
her adoption, she had yet another journey of devotion to accomplish. Next
to the consecrated land of Palestine, Catholic Rome had ever presented
the strongest attractions to her faith and piety. She longed to pray at
the shrine of the Princes of the Apostles; to kiss the soil, bedewed with
their blood, and as a faithful daughter of the Church, to kneel at the
feet of God's visible representative, and beg his blessing on her
projected work. The publication of the great Jubilee of 1525, by Pope
Clement VII., supplied a fitting opportunity of carrying out her pious
wishes. In company with one of the numerous bands of pilgrims who
thronged the ways, she proceeded to the holy City, and here, not only had
she the consolation of receiving the benediction of his Holiness, but she
was honoured by an invitation from him to remain permanently at Rome, and
accept the superintendence of some of the public institutions for the
sick poor. This offer she humbly declined like that at Venice, and for
the same reasons, and returning once more to Brescia, resumed her life of
retirement, mortification and charity. At the end of nearly four years,
she was unexpectedly compelled to leave the city once again. The Duchy of
Milan was at this time passing through a severe political crisis. It had
long been the theatre of a disastrous struggle originating in the
pretensions of the French Kings, Louis XII. and Francis I., to the
reversion of its crown, and as a portion of the Duchy, Brescia had been
more or less involved in the troubles of the times. In 1529, the date
which we have reached, the war had lasted for many years, and with varied
success; Louis and Francis had each in turn won and lost the prize. One
Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, had died a prisoner in France; another,
Maximilian, had resigned his claim; a third, Francis, had fled from his
dominions. In 1525, Francis I. of France had been totally defeated at
Pavia by the confederate princes, at the head of whom was the Emperor
Charles V., but this event had not pacified the distracted country, as
might have been hoped. The victorious imperial troops continued to
overrun the north of Italy, and serious apprehensions were entertained,
that in the flush of success, they would lay siege to Brescia. Rather
than risk a renewal of the horrors of the first siege in 1512, many of
the inhabitants determined to abandon the city without delay. Among
others, Angela was induced to accompany a family of her acquaintance to
the neighbouring town of Cremona. Here she was visited as usual by
numbers of persons of all conditions seeking advice or consolation, and
among others by the fugitive Duke of Milan, Francis Sforza, who in his
reverses had sought an asylum at Brescia, and thence followed the
refugees to Cremona. He had already met the saint during his stay at
Brescia, and her gentle counsels had materially helped him to meet his
afflictions in the spirit of Christian resignation. Angela was happily
instrumental to many signal conversions at Cremona, but her active career
was suddenly arrested by an illness which brought her apparently to the
gates of death. There seemed little human probability that so utterly
exhausted a frame could resist so violent a malady, but she had yet a
work to do, and ardently as she sighed for her heavenly country, her
exile was to be prolonged until that work had been accomplished. Contrary
to expectation, she recovered under circumstances deemed miraculous, and
in thanksgiving for her wondrous restoration, made a pilgrimage in
company with other devout persons to a renowned sanctuary of our Blessed
Lady in the environs. On the conclusion of peace in 1530, she returned to
Brescia after six months' absence.

Although in her humility and self-distrust she still shrank as much as
ever from the responsibility of founding a religious Order, she could not
conceal from herself that the time had come, when, for various reasons,
decisive measures should no longer be deferred. Urged onwards by the
counsels of her director, as well as by the voice of inspiration, she
therefore determined at last to take the definite, though only
preparatory step, of assembling a few companions whom she could gradually
initiate in her views and form to the intended institute. Accordingly,
about the end of the year 1533, she proposed to twelve pious ladies of
the town to associate themselves with her in a life of prayer and good
works, to which they readily agreed. She then explained to them the
nature and object of the future foundation in which they would one day be
expected to co-operate with her, at the same time suggesting the
necessity of a certain course of preliminary training under her personal
direction. With one accord they placed themselves wholly at the disposal
of the saintly Mother, who devoted herself with all the ardour of her
zeal to imbue them thoroughly with the true spirit of the holy state to
which they aspired. She allowed them to reside with their families as
before, but required that they should assemble every day in a common
oratory for prayer and instruction, and employ their time in the
particular works of charity appointed at the daily meetings. These were
held at first in a room given to the saint by the Canons of the Church of
St. Afra; it adjoined the church, which enabled her to spend a
considerable portion of the night in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
Being soon found too small for a general oratory, a more commodious one
was substituted through the generosity of a pious widow.

For two years more, no farther progress was made. Angela was sixty-one,
and the prophetic vision of full forty years before, was but a vision
still. When would it become a reality? Soon now, for our Lord Himself was
about to interpose, and by mingled reproach and reproof, to conquer the
irresolution of His humble servant. Condescending to appear to her in
person, He reprimanded her for her hesitation, thus at once overwhelming
her with regret and confusion, and dispelling every lingering shadow of
doubt as to His designs. A moment's hesitation after this would have
seemed too long; she commenced her preparations at once, and on the feast
of St. Catherine, November 25th, 1535, just one year after the
establishment of the Society of Jesus, she inaugurated the infant
institute at Brescia. On the same day, she was joined by fifteen
additional members, making with the original twelve, the twenty-seven
pillars on which the edifice was to rest, she being herself the
foundation stone. Too humble to attach her own name to the Congregation,
she decided on. giving it that of the Holy Virgin and Martyr St. Ursula,
who had previously appeared to her in a celestial vision, and encouraged
her to carry out her inspiration.

In the design of Saint Angela, the life of the Ursuline was to be a union
of prayer and action. She was to employ nearly as much time in the
functions of Mary as if belonging to the contemplative orders, and to
devote herself besides to the instruction of the ignorant, and first, and
before all, to the education of the young. With these, the duties forming
her specific end, she was to combine the special practices now attached
to the Sisters of Charity.

Considering the spiritual apathy then so generally prevalent, it was not
to be expected that persons needing instruction would go far to seek it,
therefore, to adapt her work to the exigencies of the ages Saint Angela
decided that instead of retiring within convent walls, the members of the
Society should continue to live in their own homes, whence they could
more easily go in pursuit of the ignorant, and where too they would have
wider opportunities of, doing good by the silent influence of example.
"In these critical times," said the holy Foundress, "let us place models
of virtue in the midst of the corrupt world itself, and oppose living
barriers to the ravages of heresy and the inroads of vice." The Sisters
were to continue to meet at their oratory for spiritual exercises,
conferences, and necessary business arrangements; their dress was to be
dark in colour and plain in texture, but no particular form was made
obligatory. Foreseeing the social changes which time would effect, St.
Angela with her characteristic prudence empowered the Sisters to modify
the manner of life now adopted, as future circumstances might render it
desirable. She arranged in detail the internal organization of the
Society, and her regulations bore ample evidence to her wisdom,
intelligence and heavenly enlightenment. The Rule drawn up by the holy
Foundress, and accepted by the Sisters, received the unqualified approval
of the Bishop of Brescia, and on the 18th of March, 1537, she was
unanimously elected first Superior of the Society, notwithstanding her
earnest petition to be allowed to labour until death in the lowest rank,
which she said was the only one suited to her. It is a tradition among
the Ursulines, that on the eve of the election, the glorious St. Ursula
again appeared to her during one of her frequent ecstasies, and consoled
her by the assurance that she had taken the institution under her special
patronage, that it was agreeable to God, and that it would be perpetuated
from age to age, even to the end of the world. In little more than a
month after its foundation, the number of the members had increased from
twenty-seven to seventy-two, all filled with the spirit of their holy
Mother; all inflamed with liveliest zeal for the glory of God and the
salvation of their neighbour. They were to be seen teaching the ignorant,
relieving the poor, visiting the prisons and hospitals, and diffusing all
around the good odour of Jesus Christ, and so great was the veneration
which the Society inspired, that it was usually designated as _the holy
Company_. Far from opposing, the authorities both civil and
ecclesiastical favoured its progress, and the highest dignitaries of the
city gladly assisted at the spiritual instructions given on certain days
in the oratory of Saint Angela and her Sisters.

The first great aim of the new Superior was to train her fervent novices
to perfection, inspiring them with thorough detachment from the world, an
ardent desire of God's glory, and a tender charity for their neighbour.
Her second object was to procure the solemn approbation of the Holy See
for the Society; but this she did not live to receive, having survived
the foundation only three years. In the spring of 1539 she gradually sank
into a state of utter physical exhaustion, which she correctly
interpreted as a certain, though not, perhaps, an immediate, forerunner
of dissolution. She lingered until the commencement of the following
year, when, increased debility warning her that the end could not be far
distant, she summoned the leading members of the Society to receive her
last counsels. Happily the golden words had been previously committed to
writing, and thus the treasure has descended to her spiritual daughters
of all generations. She concluded her impressive advice to the
Directresses by making them the bearers of her final farewell to all the
Sisters. "Tell them," she said, "that I shall ever be in the midst of
them, and that I shall know them better, and help them more
efficaciously, after my departure, than when on earth. Tell them not to
grieve at our temporary separation, but to look forward to our meeting in
heaven, where Jesus reigns. Let them raise their hearts and hopes to that
blessed home, high above this passing world, seeking their Treasure and
their Friend in Jesus alone, who sits at the right hand of the Father in
the kingdom of eternal peace." Her "Last Testament," as it was called,
was addressed to the Sisters in general, and reserved by her own
direction to be read to them after her death. As a compendium of her
lessons of holiness, and an effusion of her sweet spirit of charity, it
may well be considered a legacy worthy of such a Mother. It concludes by
the consoling declaration that "the Society is assuredly the work of the
hand of the Most High, who will never abandon that work while time

And now the earthly task of the dying saint was accomplished. After
lingering yet a few days among her sorrowing children, she received the
last rites of the Church in presence of the whole Ursuline family,
numbering one hundred and fifty members, and, after the solemn ceremony,
exhorted them to charity, obedience, humility, observance of rule and
love of God. "O Jesus!" she said in conclusion, "bless this company of
virgins irrevocably consecrated to Thy service. Grant that as they
increase in numbers, they may also grow in grace, in fervour and in
wisdom before Thee and before Thy servants." At her own desire she had
been clothed in the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis, and that she
might die in the practice of her beloved poverty, she had herself
removed, tradition says, from the poor bed she had occupied in her
illness, to the rush mat on the ground which had formed her ordinary
resting-place in health. Her dying words were fervent acts of the
theological virtues, but she seemed to dwell, by preference, on the act
of charity, returning to it continually. "Yes, my God, I love Thee!" she
said. "Why cannot I love Thee infinitely? Holy Virgin! Blessed Spirits:
lend me your hearts to love Jesus. How long shall I be banished from Thy
presence, O Lord? Who will give me wings to fly to Thee, the only Object
of my love? Break the chains of my captivity. Receive the soul which
languishes for Thee; which can no longer live without Thee." Then, with
Jesus on the cross, she exclaimed, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my
spirit!" They were her last words, no sooner spoken than she gave up her
soul to God--"peacefully," says her historian, "as a child composing
itself to sleep in its mother's arms." She died on the 27th of January,
1540, at half-past nine in the evening, aged sixty-six or sixty-seven.

Her precious remains repose in the Church of St. Afra, at Brescia, and
are in a state of wonderful preservation. They are clothed in the brown
habit of St. Francis, with its white cord. The apartment in which she
breathed her last has been kept with religious veneration in exactly the
same condition as when she occupied it during life, except for the
introduction of a few engravings representing the principal events of her
history. On the wall, opposite the window, is an inscription, in gilt
letters, to the following effect:--"This poor room was the resort of the
most learned theologians and the most gifted ecclesiastics, who departed
from their conferences with St. Angela, amazed at the lights which she
had communicated to them." Her portrait, preserved at Brescia, and said
to be a true likeness, is of great beauty; it was taken after death. Her
statue at St. Peter's occupies the first niche on the upper row at the
left of the Confession of St. Peter. Although of colossal dimensions, its
elevated position apparently reduces it to life-size. It is a common
tribute of love and veneration from all her children throughout the
world. The name of Angela was enrolled on the catalogue of the saints in
1807 by Pope Pius VII. In the foregoing outline of her history, no
attempt has been made to portray the beauty of that inner life, which is
to the saint what the perfume is to the rose. Many elaborate works have
already done justice to the subject, which does not enter into a passing
notice like the present, intended only to trace to its origin the Order
illustrated by the virtues of the Mother of the Incarnation, as well as
of its holy Foundress.

On the 9th of June, 1544, Pope Paul III. granted a Bull approving and
confirming the Institution of St. Angela, but, as already noticed, she
had then been called to her reward. After her death, the institute spread
rapidly through many towns of Italy. Among the first to adopt it was
Dezenzano, the scene of her early labours. In Milan, especially, it found
an efficacious patron and protector in the great St. Charles Borromeo, to
whose zeal it is immensely indebted. In 1568 he introduced it into his
diocese, where it spread so wonderfully that, in the capital alone, it
counted eighteen houses and six hundred sisters.

We have seen that the saintly Foundress gave an anticipated sanction, for
such modifications of the primitive Rule as might be found necessary in
the practical development of the great work which she had lived to
establish, but not to perfect. The first modification was introduced by
St. Charles. Anxious to consolidate a work whose utility to the Church he
clearly foresaw, he procured from Pope Gregory XIII. a Bull renewing and
ratifying the first approval of the Rule, authorizing Ursulines to make
the three simple vows after a probation of one or two years, and
permitting them to live in community. He also organized the schools, and
introduced a mitigated form of cloister, the Sisters not being allowed to
leave the house without a particular permission. This branch of the
Society is known as the Congregation of Milan.

But although the Ursuline Order took its rise in Italy, its perfect
development is to be sought in France, a country connected with the name
of its glorious Patroness, St. Ursula, as Italy is identified with that
of its blessed Foundress, St. Angela. It was to the French shores that
the royal maiden was steering her course when she and her retinue fell
into the hands of the savage Huns, and, in defending the crown of their
virginity, won, in addition, the diadem of martyrs. Here, then, we
naturally expect to find a numerous company rallying round the standard
of St. Ursula and St. Angela; nor are we disappointed. Before the great
Revolution, France numbered fully three hundred and sixty houses of the
Order; many of those then suppressed, have not been restored, yet she
still counts at least one hundred and thirty, and it is her especial
boast that, while in other lands the Ursuline has lived and laboured for
her Master's cause, here she has not only lived and laboured, but died a
martyr's death for it.

The first house of French Ursulines was established at Avignon in 1594 by
two ladies named De Bermond. This branch of the Society, known as the
Congregation of Avignon, adopted the Rules of the Congregation of Milan,
and quickly spread through other parts of Provence. A few years later,
the Institute of St. Angela was introduced into Paris by Madame Acarie,
now venerated as the saintly Carmelite, Blessed Mary of the Incarnation.
Though not the second foundation in order of date, the Paris house
occupies a prominent position in the annals of the Ursulines, as their
first monastery. As we have already more than once observed, the Sisters
were not originally cloistered, bound by vows or monastic observances, or
even irrevocably consecrated to their manner of life, but the time was
come when by the adoption of these essential obligations, the Society, as
St. Angela herself had called it, would receive its full development by
being converted into a regular monastic Order. This alteration in the
form, changed nothing in the substance of the Saint's original
institution. Whether a member of a simple confraternity, or of a
religious order in the restricted meaning of the word, the Ursuline was
at all times equally bound to devote her life to the instruction of the
young, and to work out her own sanctification by the practice of the
evangelical counsels. The instrument of the great work in question was
Madame St. Beuve, a pious and wealthy widow, who at the request of her
relative, Madame Acarie, consented to accept the title and
responsibilities of Foundress of the house at Paris, on the express
understanding that it should in due time be formed into a monastery. In
this object she finally succeeded to her entire satisfaction. The
reigning Pontiff, Paul V., approved the design, and on the 16th of June,
1612, issued a Bull converting the Congregation into a Monastery, under
the patronage of St. Ursula and the rule of St. Augustine. His Holiness,
moreover, ordained that for the greater stability of the order, the
religious should add to the three ordinary solemn vows, a fourth of the
instruction of the young. The Bull of Pope Paul V. was confirmed in 1626
by Urban VIII. The convent in Paris, so interesting to Ursulines from its
associations, "le grand couvent de St. Jacques," as it was called from
its locality, was among those destroyed in the first Revolution, but, by
an inscrutable permission of Divine Providence, it is not among those
restored. Still, even in its ruins, it not only lives in the hearts of
Ursulines, but may be said actually to survive in its numerous
foundations and their offshoots. Between its establishment in 1612, and
the death of its venerated Foundress in 1630, eleven houses of the
Congregation had sprung up in the north of France. Its subsequent
diffusion was equally satisfactory.

Congregations of Ursulines were established at Bordeaux and Lyons, under
the respective dates 1605 and 1611, and, within a few years after their
foundation, were erected into Monastic Orders by Pope Paul V.; from
these, numerous filiations have also sprung. There are other
Congregations of Ursulines, but the three named are the most numerous.
Although the spirit and the essential end of Ursulines are in all cases
the same, the various Congregations differ more or less on certain
points, and each retains the name which distinguishes it from the others.

Notwithstanding the suppression of numbers of its houses, the Order of
St. Angela now registers about three hundred, the greater portion in
Europe, some in Oceanica, and a large number in America. The history of
the Mother of the Incarnation will shortly introduce us to the first in
the New World. Of late years, the old tree seems to have renewed its
vitality, so vigorously is it putting forth fresh branches. In Belgium
alone, thirty houses have been founded by one priest in our own times;
and although, unhappily, the work of suppression has been steady in
Germany, the dispossessed communities have not perished, but only removed
to other countries.

The increase of devotion to St. Angela keeps pace in our day with the
extension of her Order. Pope Pius IX., of revered and cherished memory,
gave a considerable impetus to this devotion, by raising the saint's
festival to a higher ritual rank, permitting the universal celebration of
her office, and proclaiming her the "Patroness of Christian mothers, and
the Protectress of young girls." The establishment of the arch-
confraternity which bears her name, has greatly contributed to the same
end. It was commenced at Blois in 1863 by the Abbé Richaudeau, a zealous
patron of the Order, and is widely spread wherever Ursulines are to be
found. Its objects are the honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the triumph
of the Church, the deliverance of the suffering souls in purgatory, and
the extension of the work of St. Angela by word and example, or the
apostolate of woman. It is enriched with indulgences, and the holy
sacrifice of the Mass is offered on the first Tuesday of every month for
the associates.

During the three and a half centuries of its existence, the Ursuline
Order is calculated to have given to the Church more than one hundred
thousand religious, by whom multitudes of young girls of every grade have
been trained to piety. Only the angels have kept the record of the
multitude of saints whom it has given to heaven, some bearing the palm
branches of victorious martyrs, all clad in virgin robes, and swelling
the celestial canticle which only the Spouses of the Lamb are privileged
to sing.

SECOND PERIOD, 1631-1639.




Marie Guyart was in her thirty-first year when she commenced her career
as an Ursuline. Even without her own testimony, we could easily have
understood, that after her long and severe probation. in the world, the
novitiate of religion must have appeared to her like a very heaven of
peace. She compared her entrance into the sanctuary to the opening of the
gate of a terrestrial paradise, and dwelt with holy joy on the happiness
of having exchanged a life of embarrassment, responsibility, and care,
for the blessed condition of a simple novice, whose only affair is to
sanctify her soul by the observance of her rule.

It was not long before her superiors had an opportunity of testing her
virtue, and satisfying themselves that it was genuine. She had been for
years accustomed, as we have seen, to the severest rigours of corporal
mortification, but, having now embraced community life, in which
singularities even in devotion are inadmissible, it had become necessary
to restrict her penances to those in ordinary practice. To persons
unacquainted with her spirit, the question may naturally have occurred,
whether it would cost her much thus to alter the whole tenor of her
external life, and submit unconditionally to the rule in the matter of
austerities, as of all else. But those who knew her well could have
predicted, that as attachment to her own will and judgment had never
mingled, however slightly, with her penitential works, she would renounce
them, in compliance with the Divine will, as readily as she had embraced
them from the same motive--and so it was.

Knowing that the sacrifice of obedience is more acceptable to God than
the sacrifice of victims, she at once submitted, not only without a
remonstrance or a hesitation, but even without a thought or a feeling
contrary to the will of her superiors, thus early establishing her
religious perfection on the solid virtues of humility and obedience, its
only secure foundation. A great love for common life became henceforth
one of the marked characteristics of her spirit as a religious, and,
except either by the actual direction, or with the immediate sanction of
authority, she never to the end of life departed from its rules. In her
later instructions, she remarks, that in good works of our own selection,
there is generally a mingling of the human spirit, and, therefore, a
proportionate deficiency of the Spirit of God, whereas in the observance
of the established ordinances of religious life, there is no room for the
intrusion of the human spirit, seeing that the will is not free to choose
between them, but must simply submit to each and all without distinction.

Although in every respect so superior to her sister novices, she took her
place among them with a sweet, child-like simplicity that charmed and
edified all who witnessed it. Forgetting her age, her talents, her
experience, her profound knowledge of the spiritual life, and her
extraordinary communications with God, she conversed with, and
accommodated herself to the youngest sisters as if she had really been
the least, and the most ignorant of them all. It was her delight to apply
to them for information regarding the practices and ceremonies of
religion; she was always pleased and grateful when they taught her
something new, and ever ready to admit her ignorance and apologise for
her mistakes. It was but natural that her mature years and her reputation
for sanctity should have elicited a certain degree of deference from her
youthful companions, but nothing confused her more than any external
manifestation of the feeling. The more her sisters would have
distinguished her, the more she tried to pass unnoticed in the crowd, and
far from considering herself an example to the others, she was never
tired of admiring their spirit of self-denial and exactitude to regular
observance, which she looked on as a lesson to herself. She made it her
especial study to carry out even the least direction public or private,
of her mistress of novices, the perfection of the accompanying interior
spirit elevating these trivial acts to the height of sublime virtue.
While her external life exhibited in every feature a living model of that
beautiful work of grace, a perfect novice, her heart was filled with so
deep a joy, that it almost seemed to her as if no trouble could reach her
more; no storm ever break on the peaceful haven to which the hand of God
had at last guided her. But it was not so; the cross was her portion, and
even now, its shadow flung itself across the sunbeams.

It happened that after giving her up so bravely, her little son repented
of his heroism, instigated to rebellion by various persons who persuaded
him that he had done a very foolish thing in permitting his mother to
become a nun, and that he ought to go boldly to the monastery, and demand
her restoration, an advice which he was not slow to adopt. The new
building being at that time in progress, his plan was much facilitated,
for the doors were left open for the workmen, and thus he easily managed
to enter the otherwise inaccessible inclosure, making his way, now to the
choir, now to the refectory, now to the parlour grate, and everywhere
announcing his presence by the plaintive cry, "Give me back my mother!
Give me back my mother!" She tried to appease his childish grief by
little presents given her for the purpose, but the tempest was allayed
for the moment, only to burst out afresh with renewed vigour. Once a
relative of hers wrote some pathetic verses on the desolate condition of
the forsaken child, and gave them to him to present to his mother; she
read them with exterior composure, but every word pierced her heart. His
companions, who loved and pitied him, determined at last to take the law
into their own hands. "It is because you have no mother," they said,
"that you are deprived of the indulgences and gratifications which we
enjoy, but come with us to the convent, and we shall make such a terrible
noise, that they will be forced to give you back yours. We shall insist
on getting her, even if we have to break down the doors." Forthwith the
self-constituted champions formed in battle array, and armed, some with
sticks and some with stones, they proceeded to besiege the monastery, if
not strictly according to the rules of war, at least with resolute hearts
determined never to yield until the fortress had surrendered. Many of the
spectators laughed as the belligerents passed along; many more looked
grave and applauded the children's spirit. Great was the clamour when the
little army reached the monastery, but the inmates were not left long in
ignorance of the object of the invasion, for high above the din and
uproar rose the familiar cry of a now well-known voice, "Give me back my
mother!" For once, that much tried mother's courage almost faltered.
Immovable in her own resolution to make her sacrifice to God at the
expense of every feeling of nature, she feared that the forbearance of
the sisters must be by this time exhausted, and that rather than submit
to continual disturbance from her son, they would recommend her to return
to the world, and resume the care of him, which she says would have been
very reasonable on their part, but an inexpressible trial to her. We are
not told by what arguments the doughty warriors were induced to abandon
the siege; all we know is that the fortress surrendered neither itself
nor its saintly inmate, whom our Lord Himself soon after consoled and
fortified by an interior assurance that notwithstanding all obstacles,
she would make her religions profession in this house.

Her troubles about the child were not yet, however, at an end. Before her
entrance to the convent he had been remarkably good and docile, but now,
so completely had his temper been soured by the irritating remarks of
injudicious advisers, that he had grown idle, self-willed and absolutely
reckless. This was the worst pang of all; she dreaded more than any other
misfortune, that of his offending God; the news of his death would have
been a light sorrow in comparison. To avert this greatest of evils, she
offered herself as a victim to the Almighty, consenting to endure any
suffering it might please Him to inflict, provided only her boy were
preserved from sin. The contract was ratified in heaven, and it bore its
fruits on earth; fruits of sorrow to the mother, of future sanctification
to the son. Some time after, at the request of the Archbishop of Tours
the Jesuits agreed to take charge of the child, and removed him to their
College at Rennes. Those who had most severely censured his mother, now
altered their opinion, and declared that in the step she had taken, she
had but obeyed the voice of God.

About two months after her entrance to the novitiate, Marie Guyart was
admitted to another of those supernatural communications, which the
Almighty seemed to delight in imparting to her pure and humble soul. It
was a third vision of the most adorable Trinity, differing from the two
preceding in this, that while in the first, she had been illuminated as
to the nature of the mystery and in the second, closely united in heart
to the Word, in this, her soul was chosen as the abode and possession of
the three Divine Persons, in highest fulfilment of the promise of Christ,
"If any man love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him" (St. John xiv.
23). It was the greatest favour she had yet received, as our Lord was
pleased to signify to her. While it elevated her to new heights of love
for a God of such infinite condescension, it lowered her, as did all
similar graces to deeper depths of self-contempt and interior
annihilation, with an increased desire to prove her love for her Divine
Benefactor by suffering for Him ever more and more. A few days after this
ecstasy, she received the holy habit, and with it, the now well-known and
widely revered name of Mary of the Incarnation.



So great was the joy of the fervent novice at finding herself clad in the
livery of her Divine Master, that she tells us she at first sometimes
instinctively touched her veil to make sure that her happiness was no
delusive dream. Proportioned to her gratitude, was her fidelity to her
heavenly Spouse. The only change observable in her after she had received
the habit, was a daily progress in the perfection of which she was
destined to be so bright a model to religious persons. Her virtues she
could not conceal for they betrayed themselves by their own sweet
fragrance. Neither could her humility altogether hide certain
supernatural privileges, granted her perhaps as much for the benefit and
comfort of others, as for her own advantage. Among these were an infused
knowledge of Holy Scripture, the capability of understanding it in Latin
without previous study of the language, and a singular facility for
speaking on spiritual subjects. So familiar was she with the Scripture,
that its words of life seemed to occur to her quite naturally on all
occasions. Whether her object was to lighten the burden of the suffering,
or to brighten the joy of the happy, she was never at a loss for some
appropriate sentence whereby to recall the thought of Him who is the only
true Comforter of our sorrows, as well as the only unfailing Source of
our bliss. It was in prayer, not by study, that she acquired her truly
wonderful acquaintance with the Sacred Writings. In the fulness of the
light imparted by the Divine Instructor, she was enabled to penetrate so
far beyond the literal meaning, alone apparent to ordinary readers of the
inspired words, that she sometimes feared lest the abundance of knowledge
should lead to curious speculations of the understanding, and that her
union with God in simplicity of soul, might in consequence be even
slightly impeded,--but the dread of such a danger was necessarily a
security against it. She had a very particular devotion to the Divine
Office, and in her trials of interior desolation, sometimes found in the
chanting of the Psalms, a relief and consolation which no other exercise
could impart. Very truly might she have exclaimed with the Psalmist, "How
sweet are Thy words to my palate! more than honey to my mouth. O how have
I loved Thy law, O Lord!" (cxviii. 103, 97).

A sister novice once asked her to explain the passage of the Canticles,
"Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth," which she had happened to
meet in her prayer-book. Their mistress was present, and to mortify her,
as she declared, ordered her to take a chair and proceed. No sooner had
she commenced, as desired, than her subject transported her as it were
out of herself. A torrent of sacred eloquence flowed from her heart to
her lips. She spoke with a fluency than amazed her hearers, and at the
same time, with an unction that penetrated, and a charm that fascinated
them. Suddenly she stopped, as if the remainder of the effusion were
meant to be reserved for the ear of her Lord alone. Her sisters dared not
interrupt the colloquy, which only the angels were privileged to hear.

But this ray from Thabor, served as usual but to light her back to her
ordinary abiding place on Calvary. Again her soul was plunged into an
apparently fathomless abyss of desolation, and inundated as by a deluge
of temptations; temptations to despair and blasphemy; temptations to
pride and vanity; temptations against faith, against charity, against
obedience, and against the angelic virtue,--sometimes assailing her one
by one, sometimes overwhelming her all at once. She was in constant
apprehension of having consented to the enemy's most extravagant and most
impious suggestions. The passing comfort which she derived from her
director's counsels, was counteracted by the after dread of having
deceived him. Even this, her only sensible succour, was taken from her
when she seemed to need it most, Dom Raymond of St. Bernard, who had
helped her through so many difficulties; being appointed Superior of his
Order, and obliged in consequence to change his residence. The spiritual
guide into whose hands she nest fell, increased her perplexities by
assuring her that she had hitherto been ill-advised, and pronouncing her
heavenly favours delusions. Finally, as the climax to her trials, she
seemed to have lost trust in the superintendence of Providence, that
strong anchor of the troubled soul. It was the most painful form in which
despair had yet assailed her, and as an apparent encroachment on one of
the attributes of God, the supreme Object of her love, it caused her
intense affliction.

If she could but have bathed her soul in the dew of Divine consolation at
prayer, how much it would have refreshed her! But she seemed to feel
only a loathing for the things of God; meditation, in particular, had
become her torture, for it appeared as if there especially, the torrent
of temptation was let loose. Her understanding was obscured, her memory
for spiritual things weakened, her imagination troubled, her heart sad.
From the constant strain on. her mind, and the unceasing struggle to do
violence to nature, she contracted an habitual headache which added to
the difficulty of her external duties, yet through all her multiplied
troubles, she never lost either the view of God's presence, or her
interior peace; she never formed a desire for the diminution of her
crosses, nor ever omitted any observance of rule, and so admirable was
her self-control, that only the Mother Superior and her director were
aware of her state of mental anguish. Her one only aim was to maintain
her patience; to avoid every deliberate imperfection, and to conform to
the will of God even without the sensible support of knowing that she did
so. The terrible interior trial lasted for more than two years almost
without intermission, and then the Divine Consoler of the afflicted came
Himself to her aid. As she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament with
entire abandonment of her will to the will of God, she seemed interiorly
to hear the words, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy" (Ps. cxxv.
5). She had never before, she says, understood the whole import of those
words, although in the daily habit of repeating them in choir, bat now
they struck her with their full force, revealing to her for the first
time, hitherto hidden springs of encouragement and consolation.

The cross was not removed, it is true, but a great increase of esteem and
love for it was imparted to her. Thus strengthened, she embraced it with
her whole heart, satisfied to bear it to the last moment of existence, if
thus she could at last attain the eternal joy to which those blessed
words pointed, as to a star of hope illumining the close of life's long
path of tears. The cross was not removed, but it was so far lightened by
her love for it, that in her renewed courage she could say with heart, as
with lips, "Thy yoke, O Lord, is sweet, and Thy burden light!" "I am not
tired of suffering, my God! I am not tired of suffering!"

As the time for pronouncing her vows drew near, she fully expected that
her sisters would reject her, on account of her numerous imaginary
disqualifications, but conscious only of possessing in her a treasure of
virtue, and a precious gift from heaven, they gladly admitted her to holy
Profession on the 25th of January, 1633: she was then in the thirty-third
year of her age. On the eve, her interior sufferings vanished as if by
magic, giving place to indescribable raptures of Divine love and heavenly
sweetness. After the ceremony, she retired to her cell to give vent
unobserved to the ecstasies of her joy and gratitude, and there it was
revealed to her, that henceforth she must incessantly fly in God's
presence on the six wings of her three vows, and of the virtues of faith,
hope and love. This respite from the cross is compared by one of the
writers of her life, to the clearing of the sky between two storms; it
lasted but eight days, and then the tempest burst forth afresh and with
redoubled violence. She might perhaps have doubted the reality of her
vanished joy, had it not left a substantial trace in her renewed ardour
for the cross, and her heightened aspiration after the perfection of
utter detachment from self and every creature.

The sermons of the following Lent were preached in the cathedral of Tours
by a Jesuit of great eminence, Father George de la Haye, with whose
saintly and enlightened spirit the Ursulines were well acquainted, from
his frequent exhortations to themselves. Full of compassion, for the
prolonged sufferings of Sister Mary of the Incarnation, the Mother
Superior was inspired by her own charity to procure her an opportunity of
conferring with this experienced director. Before forming a conclusive
judgment on her state, he required to see a written account of the graces
she had received through life, and of the manner of her correspondence
with them. The humble servant of God consented to prepare it, on
condition that she should at the same time be allowed to write a
confession of all her sins and imperfections. Such was the origin of the
first account of her life by herself, so frequently referred to in these
pages. After mature consideration of the document, and fervent prayer for
the light of heaven, the Father assured her unhesitatingly that her
method of prayer had been inspired by God, and that she had all along
been guided by His Spirit alone, a decision which filled her soul with
indescribable peace. Shortly afterwards, her interior trials were
instantaneously and totally removed.

Summing up the advantages of these at a later period, she says that they
are a source of self-knowledge and a stimulus to self-correction;--that
in the abundance of spiritual consolation, the soul is carried on by an
ardour which she mistakes for virtue, whereas, when the inferior part is
deprived of all sensible succour, she discovers that she is full of human
life and feeling, which she must begin at last in real earnest to mortify
and crush. Viewing interior suffering in this light, she conceived so
great a love for it, that if permitted to choose between spiritual
enjoyment, and her multiplied most bitter crosses, she tells us she would
have selected the cross.

Shortly before her Profession, she had the great grief of hearing that in
consequence of her son's recent insubordination, his removal from the
college at Rennes had become inevitable. One of his aunts accordingly
brought him back to Tours, where removed from the influence which had led
him astray, he quickly reformed. To complete his mother's obligations to
Father de la Haye, that good religious charged himself with the boy's
future education, and with that object took him to Orleans, where under
his own immediate direction the child continued his studies up to the
class of rhetoric. This he was sent to follow at Tours in a Jesuit
college lately founded, and then Father de la Haye recalled him once more
to Orleans for the completion of his course of philosophy.



In the second year after her profession, Mother Mary of the Incarnation
was appointed assistant Mistress of novices, a striking proof of the high
estimation in which she was held by her superiors. Much about the same
time, she had the remarkable vision of her vocation for Canada, which she
thus describes. "One night, after conversing familiarly with our Lord; as
usual, before falling asleep, I seemed as in a dream to see a strange
lady in a secular dress standing near me. Her presence surprised me
extremely, as I could not imagine how she had come to my room. Taking her
by the hand, I led her from the house in great haste, through a very
rugged, fatiguing road, without knowing in the least where it was that I
wanted to conduct her, or of course the way to our destination. We
advanced steadily through multiplied obstacles, until at last we came to
an inclosed space, at the entrance of which stood a venerable looking man
clothed in white, and resembling the ordinary representations of the
Apostles. He was the guardian of the place, and motioned to us to enter,
signifying by a gesture that we had no alternative but to pass through,
this being the only road on our way. It was an enchanting spot; the
pavement appeared to be composed of squares of white marble or alabaster,
united by richly coloured bands of brilliant red; its only roof was the
canopy of heaven; its greatest ornament and charm the stillness which
reigned around. To the left, at some distance, was a beautiful little
white marble church, with a seat on the top occupied by the Blessed
Virgin holding her Divine Infant. From the eminence on which we stood, we
could see a vast region beneath, thickly interspersed with mountains and
valleys, and covered with a heavy mist in every part except one, the site
of a small church. The Mother of God was gazing fixedly at this desolate
land to which there was access only through one rough narrow path; she
looked as immovable as the marble on which she was seated. I relinquished
the hand of my companion to hasten to her, stretching out my arms eagerly
towards her. Her back was to me, but I could see that as I approached,
she bent to her Divine Child, to whom, without speaking, she communicated
something important. I felt as if she were directing his attention to
this poor, forsaken country and to me, and I longed to attract her
notice. Then with ravishing grace, she turned to me, and sweetly smiling,
embraced me in silence. A second and a third time, she repeated the same
movements, filling my soul at each new embrace with an unction which no
words can describe. She looked about sixteen years of age. I could never
depict the enchanting beauty and sweetness of her countenance. My
companion was standing at the distance of two or three steps, as if
preparing to descend to the forlorn-looking land, and from where she

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