Sister Marie admits to her grandfather that it isn’t easy to sacrifice but exhibits how she is devoted to the poor. She takes her first vows and spends 10 years at Aire-sur-la-Lys.
Sister Marie was not only devoted to the young and healthy, but she brought poor children with scalp disease into the house. She combed their hair, mastered the repugnance of her delicate nature that she never tried to spare.
It was easy to work with gifted and joyful children, but Sister Marie, because she was a servant of the poor, began to bring into activities lonely, slow, weak and sickly children. They had a greater need for her help, and her work emphasized even more how much she was devoted to the poor. The most neglected persons were those with scalp disease. She would not let the scabby, bleeding heads with mucous smells bother her.
She began to treat them and became the first to wash their clothes out in the yard; the first to undertake all the heavy cleaning work, all this done by the daughter of a count, who recently had been surrounded by a most brilliant society, gave orders to numerous servants and who had access to all the pleasures of life.
Sister Marie did all these things without any noticeable effort, just like it came as a routine task. She described her actions in one paragraph of a letter to her grandfather:
“It is true that my not-so-very generous nature wanted to refuse the sacrifices that I was called to do, and I can assure you that as a result, one has to suffer cruelly, but God does not refuse His grace to those who, at the bottom of their heart, wish only what He wishes and I have now myself experienced. How well He knows how to alleviate the burdens that seem to be the most crushing.”
A zealous evangelist, Sister Marie could boldly confront people from all walks of life and tirelessly strive to convince them of the need for conversion.
A Newsletter described her thusly: “Her good nature, her simple and straight-forward ways, her energetic and somewhat brusque manner of speaking plus her sharp wit helped people receive from her what they would not have received so well from anyone else.”
Daughters of Charity do not take vows until they have lived five to seven years in Community. The sister Servant – the local superior – or another is assigned to assist her during the course of the next year as she prepares to take her first vows. These vows begin with a review of her first vows that every Catholic makes – her Baptismal promises. She will then proceed to determine what it means to vow poverty, chastity, obedience and service to the Poor.
For the Daughters of Charities, it was different. Once the Archbishop of Paris approved their working as a religious community in Paris, they were able to work freely in the archdiocese. He had a right to evaluate their work, but did not have a right to alter their internal community life.
How and what they agree to live with is what was approved by the Church in their Constitutions. For the Daughters, it was the core of what Sister Marie studied for her vows and what she had already lived since she joined the Community in Paris.
In poverty, she is allowed to retain ownership of the personal funds she had at the time of her entrance into the Community as well as any inheritance she receives. She may accept personal gifts and further exercises the vow when it comes to spending any of these funds. With permission, she may use these funds for the poor and for good works and projects in accordance with the teachings of the Church.
The Daughter of Charity herself may be a poor person, such as Sister Catherine Laboure, who had little to no education, no funds to give, only an open, loving heart. Or she might be a wealthy person who can aid hundreds of people from her own personal funds . . . that is, if she gives without expecting anything in return but the love of Jesus Christ.
Before taking vows, Sisters in a local mission give to the Sister Servant their opinion on the readiness of the Sister who wishes to take vows. The Provincial Superior and her Council make their recommendations to the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission on whether he should grant Sister’s request for vows. The vows she takes are for one year duration, renewable with permission each Feast of the Annunciation.
These reserved vows can only be dispensed by the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission or by the Pope and not by any other. At the end of the year, she is free to depart from the Community. However, to take the first vows, it is done with the thought and intention that this is what the Sister wants for the rest of her life.
After she secured permission, in the presence of her local Community in Aire-sur-la-Lys, Sister Marie pronounced her vows in the company of the Daughters of Charity on the Feast of the Death of St. Vincent de Paul – 27 September 1862.
That morning, like any other morning, Sister Marie went to work. She remained in the mission for eight years. Then, on the Feast of the Annunciation, she, like all other Daughters of Charity, silently renewed her vows.
At the time of the cholera epidemic of 1865, a procession was planned in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary to counter the disaster and attempt to preserve the city. Sister Marie, in the charge of the choir which also gave her a little authority of a vicar, went to see the dean to ask that the procession pass by a specific street.
“But that’s impossible,” said the dean. “It’s a long route and you know that it takes twelve men to carry Our Lady Panetiere (heavy stone statue of the old Madonna venerated in this country).”
“It’s of no importance, Mr. Dean,” Sister Marie answered. “There is in this street a protestant to be converted. Take this street; the Blessed Virgin will convert her!”
Sister Marie won her case. The procession, indeed, took place under the eyes of the protestant woman, who was edified. The woman, in good health in the morning, came down with cholera in the evening, and faced with death, begged for the help of the Catholic religion.
Segment 5: After ten years at Aire-sur-la-Lys, Sister Marie is sent on to Le Pecq.
Find previous segments in the left toolbar!
" I am not a priest and cannot bless them, but all that the heart of a mother can ask of God for her children, I ask of Him and will never cease to ask Him." ~ Sister Marie