ST MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS
Mother Bourgeoys laboured hard every day. She knew that God wanted her to have good works to show to Him when she died. God loved this good nun and He always tests those He loves most, with greater trials.
On the night of December 6, 1683 a terrible fire broke out in the Sisters Convent. Everything they owned was destroyed by the fire - furniture, clothing, cooking utensils, everything. But the worst disaster was that two Sisters, one of them being Mother Bourgeoys niece, died in the Convent fire. What a great loss these Sisters were to the community. This was a very heavy cross for Mother Bourgeoys and the other Sisters.
Another Convent had to be built without delay. But where would they build? The Congregation owned a piece of land in Upper Town, and the population was moving in that direction. Mother Bourgeoys decided that the new Convent would be built there.
The next question was where would the sisters of the Congregation get the money to build a Convent and boarding school large enough to hold the Sisters and students who would go to school there? The Sisters hardly had any money!
Mother Bourgeoys trusted the Good God. She knew that God would help her and the Sisters. She thought, God has helped us before. Why should He not help us now? We are brides of Christ. Surely He will not abandon us. We are His spouses, who try to please Him more and more every day.
Faith and Hope Mother Bourgeoys had these wonderful virtues. With a few pennies to pay for the job, the good Mother started to build. Many people from Ville Marie gave generously towards the building of the Convent-boarding school. Soon a beautiful stone building was erected, and in 1685 the Sisters were at work in their new dwelling.
When Bishop de St. Vallier, successor of Bishop de Laval, made a visit to the Congregation in 1685, Mother Bourgeoys had already received more than forty Sisters. The Bishop asked that the house of La Providence be used to receive sick and old, and from this developed the General Hospital of Quebec in 1688. The Congregation looked after this hospital for a few years, and then, in 1693, the Bishop handed it over to the Hospital Sisters.
Marguerite had difficulties in Quebec City, and in 1692, she went there to help her Sisters with a business problem. She tried to resolve the problem, but had no success. Finally, at the end of her rope, Mother Bourgeoys went to the Jesuit church and she abandoned herself and her problems into the arms of Our Lady saying, Blessed Virgin, I can do no more. Our Lady heard her prayer. Just after leaving the Jesuit church, Marguerite met a person who was ready to lend her the money she needed to solve the problem in Quebec City.
In the later years of her life, Mother Bourgeoys suffered a terrible interior purification. One of her daughters, Sister Tardy, was having false visions. In November 1689, Sister Tardy declared that Heaven had told her that her Superior, Mother Bourgeoys, was going to go to Hell!
Marguerite, in her great humility, had always believed herself unworthy. She was very troubled by these false visions caused by the devil, and remained in a state of anxiety for more that four years.
Sister Tardy, with her false visions, said that the communities of Ville Marie would all join together as one group and that she was to be the Superior of this group. What made matters even worse was that two Priests supported this false visionary.
Poor Mother Bourgeoys believed that she had lost the friendship of the Good God, but she abandoned herself into the arms of God. The visit of Bishop de St. Vallier did not improve the situation.
In 1690, Fr. de Belmont, the Sulpician who had worked with the Congregation of Sisters, wrote to Fr. Tronson, the Superior of the Sulpician seminary in Paris. In his letter he stated: We have a nun here by the name of Sister Tardy, who is having false visions, and furthermore, there are two Priests who are supporting this nun. It has caused many problems here.
The answer came in 1691. Fr. Tronson asked Sister Tardy, and the main Priest who supported her, to come back to France. Mother Bourgeoys purification was almost over.
Marguerite lived through these painful years in charity, continuing to direct her work, and taking care of the missions in New France. God was helping her, and He continued to bless her every day.
In 1693 when Marguerite was seventy-three years old, she resigned as Superior of the Congregation. She had done her job well.
The Death of St Marguerite Bourgeoys
But before she left her post as Superior, she reminded the Sisters, Whoever will be elected Superior should see that all the rules, even the smallest, are observed exactly. God is watching us, and we must ever keep this in mind. Persevere in the spirit of poverty, contempt for the things of this world, and obedience to God and your Superiors. Always remember to abandon yourselves into the hands of God, for He will take care of you.
A few days later Marie Barbier, from Ville Marie, was elected as the new Superior, and shortly after, Mother Bourgeoys trials vanished; her trial of purification had come to an end.
Mother Bourgeoys believed it was her duty to get the rules of the Congregation officially approved by the Church. In 1963, Bishop de St. Vallier announced to the Sisters his desire to give a set of rules to the Congregation. He asked for a copy of the rules that the Sisters had been following, as he wanted to prepare some rules himself.
In May 1694, the Bishop came to Ville Marie and gave the Sisters a new set of rules to follow. The Sisters were not to keen about some of the rules that he gave to them. Yes, they would obey, but first without breaking the rule of obedience, Marguerite asked the Bishop if he would consider a few things concerning the rule.
The Sisters obtained permission to examine the new rules. They wanted the rules to be in line with what King Louis XIV had allowed in 1671, and the canonical approval of 1676.
Our Lady was truly watching over her Congregation of Sisters. Not only were the Sisters able to present their suggestions, but the Bishop also announced that he would present these ideas to Fr. Tronson, on his next voyage to France.
At the request of Fr. Tronson, a Council of Sisters from the Congregation sent him a written statement about the rules they thought were the best. They wanted to have their rules based on the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It took a few years for the rules to be approved, but finally on June 24th, 1698, the Sisters signed a document stating that they accepted the new rules for their order.
On the following day, June 25th, in the presence of Bishop de St. Vallier and the Priests of Ville Marie, the Sisters of the Congregation made the simple vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and the instruction of young girls. It was during this time that Marguerite took the name, Sister Marguerite of the Blessed Sacrament.
God asked another purification of Sister Marguerite, who was now a sick person in the infirmary. Since the time she was asked to give her advice about the rules that the Sisters would live by, Marguerite was left in the background. She began to feel that the Sisters were not as fervent as they should be, and this bothered her.
But what could she to do? Sr. Marguerite had promised God that she would do His Holy Will as soon as she could see that something was His Holy Will. She would have liked to warn the Community about their lack of fervour, but not being the Mother Superior, she could not do so.
So under obedience, following the advice of the priests, she wrote down whatever seemed to be necessary. In her writings she mentioned her fear of seeing the Sisters drift away from the Rules of the Community because of some modifications.
She writes, In Communities of women, no great perfection can be expected unless the Rule is kept as perfectly as possible. We must remind ourselves about the Holy lives of Jesus and Mary then we will practice Holy Poverty at all times.
We must always remember to keep everything simple: our food, our clothing, our rooms, our furniture and even the infirmary among the sick. For it is in these things that we discover the marvels of God. A careless, lax, and easy life is a dark cloud, which hides from our eyes, Gods beautiful graces. On December 31st, 1699, the Sisters were suddenly awakened and called to say the prayers for the dying at the bedside of Sister Catherine. Sr. Marguerite was always full of Charity for others. She felt compassion for the poor young Sister who was dying and offered her life to God saying, O my God, why do you not take me? I am useless and can do nothing in this Community. Why not take me instead of this poor Sister who can still do great things for Thee?
After Marguerite had said this prayer, the very next night, she herself became very ill with pains and a high fever, while Sister Catherine continued to get better. Marguerite continued on with her illness until January 12th, 1700. On this day she died, leaving behind, her Order of Sisters and her wonderful acts of Charity.
Pope John Paul II canonized Marguerite Bourgeoys on October 31st, 1982
St Marguerite Bourgeoys, pray for us!
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