Our Saints’ experience: a model for all seasons
It seems that the time has not yet come to hang our panels “danger past” alluding to Covid 19. It is because of this insecurity that we still witness countless signs of heroic humanity towards those who lack practically the mere necessity for their livelihood…I am not saying “they lack the superfluous”.
Maybe one day these daily signs of humanity will be written for the Cause of Beatification of many anonymous saints, who today, very timidly and faithfully, dedicate themselves to their “neighbor”…..but as a religious of “Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd” I cannot refrain from alluding to our Saints from whom we have inherited heroic examples of charity towards their “neighbor” ….just as we witness today because of the world-wide Pandemic.
I am referring to Saint John Eudes (1601-1680) and Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier (1796-1868) who, despite of having lived two centuries apart, both identified themselves for their mercy and zeal towards their neighbor, whoever he/she could be.
John Eudes, promoter of the devotion towards the sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, son of Normandy peasants, was became a priest and missionary, dedicated to the renewal of the Church (with a particular impetus towards the formation of priests, building Seminaries), artisan of mercy towards those who are excluded from society.
Just ordained a priest we can see him leaving everything to go to another town to assist his confrères, victims of the plague; coping with all sorts of misery, result of the 30 Year War of Religions. In his rural area there reigned an acute religious ignorance. Fr. Eudes dedicates himself passionately to the rural “Missions” in order to instruct, uplift and encourage so many at the Confessional. We find him on the forefront to assist the victims of plagues which often occurred due to wars and their consequences. He willingly sleeps in a wine-barrel (kindly placed for him by the nuns in a famous Abbey in Caen) so as not to infect others. With the same indomitable courage he intercedes with the authorities on behalf of many peasants, heavily taxed on their production of salt. He is successful in his enterprise and also manages to have some prisoners freed.
However, perhaps without exceeding in praising this great 17th Century Missionary, his mile-stone could be considered the institution of the” Order of Our Lady of Charity” (1641) on behalf of women who wanted to change their life-style but had no referral. He had attempted various solutions but they were only temporary and not efficacious. He understood that he could not rely on lay people who were generous but unprepared in reorienting the lives of so many unfortunate women, victims of all sorts of poverty.
After many unsurmountable difficulties, he founds the Order of O.L.C., an extraordinary institution due to its dual life-style: both monastic and apostolic when we do know that women were destined exclusively to a monastic life. “Where there is a will there is a way” and John Eudes also succeeds to obtain the “Vow of Zeal” for his nuns.
Two centuries later, in another French region, south of Normandy, we meet in Angers, the future foundress of the Sisters of O.L.C. of the Good Shepherd, Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier who, after 17 years in the Monastery of O.L.C. in Tours, was elected superior for a new foundation of the Monastery in Angers, by the Loire River. Providence, through the request of various cities demanding new foundations, indicated the way to the erection of the “Generalate”, that is, the new Congregation would expand world-wide.
Our Saint was born when the French Revolution had not yet been totally subdued. However, all her life-long, she had to deal with other four revolutions exposing her new foundations to insecurity, famine, abandonment to divine Providence.
How did this woman deal with all sorts of difficulties, from a cloistered Monastery where she entered at the age of 18 years but shielded with the firm conviction that she was “personally loved by God”? When only 10 years old, she lost her father; as a teenager, she lost her mother and two younger sisters and a brother who was a prisoner during the battle with the British Navy. She had tasted suffering but endowed with a jovial character and trained since childhood to help the poor, she was ready to respond to whatever God demanded of her.
As a leader of a world-wide Congregation nothing would stop her in helping girls and women who called for help. She would not refuse from helping anybody who knocked at her door. At the Process of Beatification, a Sister-witness said, 2Who will ever know how many weddings she has saved?” The butcher who served the Monastery recalled how, “Mother was punctual in paying the bills and even gave something extra!” The workers testified that despite of the poverty that reigned for so many years, “she did not hesitate to offer to them a piece of meat to carry home”. The coachman’s daughter had this to say, “Mother Superior had her daughter’s dress for her First Holy Communion sewn by the Sisters”. Besides she settled her bills always punctually.
There would be so much to be said regarding all her enterprises to save the little black girls who were sold on the banks of Alexandria in Egypt after having walked hundreds of miles in the desert. Her reaction knew no exception: “I will never allow that a creature be sold like a piece of merchandise!” Through a series of projects she succeeded to found the House of Cairo in Egypt where these little girls were welcomed and saved from slavery and death.
We could keep on going with so many examples of her extraordinary charity towards teenagers saved from prison and welcomed in her convents where they were treated with the due respect. She earned the title of “the woman who empties prisons”! On their behalf she bought new convents to give them hospitality and ensure the civil authorities that they were well cared for.
The list could be long, quite long…many other examples apparently of our own days. Thirst of saving souls, of helping the neighbor next door, of letting Jesus reign in souls, of making happy those who weep, were the source of energy that made Saint John Eudes and Saint Mary Euphrasia never tired, never count the price. To make another person happy, to wipe the tears of those who are suffering…is the cause of joy of those who carry out these acts of mercy. And thus, their motto: “One person is worth more than a world”!
N.B: This article is to be printed in a magazine in Sicily where they want to show what is being done to help the poor in our times. They asked us to talk about our Saints in a page or two
Article by Sr. Annunziata, Province Italy/Malta