Eucharistic Crusade
Saints who loved the Blessed Sacrament

Mother Henriette {1767-1834}


Mother Henriette was born in Poitiers, France, on August 11, 1867.  Her full name was Louise Victoire Catherine Henriette Monique de la Chevalerie.  She came from a noble family who lived in a castle.  Her father Louis was the Marquis, a nobleman whose rank is between a Duke and a Count.  Her mother's name was Marie and she was also of noble blood.  They had two sons as well.

The Marquis was a fine soldier and a true gentleman and he died quite young.  After Louis' death, his widow Marie went to live in a house, which she had built in Poitiers.  She sent Louise to be educated by the nuns of the Holy Cross Abbey.  This is where all the girls of nobility from the neighbourhood were educated.  Louise made her First Holy Communion at this time.  She was a charming girl and very popular.  Marie did not let her daughter stay in the school too long, because she wanted her to meet other gentleman and get married one day.  She took Louise out of school and made her take up painting, embroidery, music, and other courses that were looked upon as necessary for a lady in society.

Day after day, and night after night, Louise was at some social gathering.  But she was always very careful about being good and virtuous.  In 1789, Louise obtained the title of  "Countess", and was known as Countess Henriette.  But these so called "good times" did not last forever, because in 1792, the French Revolution broke out.  This meant terrible suffering for all Catholics, especially Priests.  The French Government organized the priests according to their own tastes.  Priests who remained faithful to the Catholic Church were killed or chased out of the country.  It was the time of Martyrs!

Also anyone who kept a priest hidden was guilty of a crime against the State.  Henriette and her mother were some of these people who kept the priests in hiding.  First of all they gave shelter to their cousin, Fr. de Vezins.  Later he was arrested and put to death.  Then the two good women took in a priest of the parish church, Fr. St. Georges de Noisne.  They were arrested by the Government for doing this, and the three of them were thrown into prison.  The prison used to be a Convent, but the Revolutionists turned it into a jail.  Here they kept a great many priests and persons of nobility.

Of all the prisoners, Henriette had the most courage.  The prison life was a great test for the noble women who were used to an easy life of luxury.  Henriette did not waste her time worrying and fretting.  As the old saying goes, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going!" and this is what Henriette did.  She kept herself busy, sewing constantly, so that she might provide her mother with the necessities of life. 

Henriette not only worked hard, but she also prayed.  For Henriette, this period in prison was a special grace from God.  Practically all the society of Poitiers was in that jail.  Henriette did her best not to gossip and complain.  She became very serious because she knew that the next day might be her turn, to get her head cut off at the scaffold!  She stayed close to God and listened to His voice speaking to her heart. 

Day after day, Henriette saw her friends taken from the prison. They were led to the scaffold to have their heads cut off with the guillotine.  Mother and daughter escaped the guillotine because of the kindness that Henriette showed to a noble lady.  Even though this lady was partly in favour of the Revolutionary ideas, she had been thrown into jail.  The other women looked upon this lady as a traitor, but Henriette felt sorry for her and was very kind to her.  When this lady was let out of prison, she succeeded in getting the President of the Tribunal to put off the trial of Henriette and her mother.  God was sparing Henriette for something in the future.

When there were only eighteen prisoners left in the jail, Robespierre died.  He had been the leader and the cause of the terrible Revolution, also known as the "Reign of Terror!"  Things were starting to become normal again and the women were able to receive the Sacraments from a priest.

Henriette made a general confession to Fr. Soyer and received Holy Communion.  But before making her confession, she said to herself, "If I confess, it must be fully and entirely.  I must make the resolution to belong totally to the good God, and I must give everything to God and refuse Him nothing."  Henriette was faithful to her resolution and she remained close to God for the rest of her life.  She looked upon the time spent in jail as the happiest time of her life.

The Countess and her mother were let out of prison after they had been in there for one year.  But what a different world they had to face.  They were now poor and had to make do by themselves.  They went to live in their town house, but now there was no servant.  Henriette had to do all the work but that did not matter, because her soul had changed and she now lived only for God.

Every moment she could spare, Henriette spent at the church, in front of the Tabernacle.  The Blessed Sacrament was her only love. Here she poured out her tears and repented of her past, care free life.  And when she went back home, she would continue to keep herself united to God, by speaking to God in her heart, as she carried on with her duties.

Henriette received another cross when Fr. Soyer was moved from Poitiers.  She begged God to send her another good spiritual director.  One day she heard a priest named Fr. Coudrin, preach a sermon.  She knew at once that this was the right director for her.  She went to confession to him and he ordered her to receive Holy Communion every day.

Fr. Coudrin had suffered during the Revolution.  When the time for his ordination arrived, the "Civil Constitution of the Clergy" was in force.  He knew that to get ordained priest then was to face martyrdom, but he was not a coward.  He searched for Bishop de Bonal, who had refused to take the oath.  This good Bishop ordained him in the library of the Irish College, while a few feet away the Revolutionists had taken over the chapel.  The young priest had refused to take the oath and had to go into hiding, so that the Revolutionists would not catch him. 

Mother Henriette

For five months, Fr. Coudrin stayed in a building where grain was stored, and every night at midnight he would say Mass there.  It was truly a hidden life and he kept very close to God.  One night while he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, he had a vision.  In the vision he saw a number of missionary priests dressed in white.  Following the priests were a number of nuns dressed in white, who were to help the missionaries by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and penance.  He also saw a house where this new association of religious was to live.

Fr. Coudrin was filled with courage by the vision.  He left the granary even though he knew that he would be facing martyrdom.  He willingly offered his life to God and went about doing good.  He hid in caves and mountains but continued his priestly work, always carrying the Blessed Sacrament with him.  It was a life of sacrifice, a life very much like the lives of the priests in Ireland, who were persecuted under the reign of the terrible and wicked, Queen Elizabeth I of England. This dreadful queen had very many, Priests and Catholics killed, because they would not become Protestants!  How shocking!

In time God led Fr. Coudrin to Poitiers, to meet the ladies who would later become the nuns, which he had seen in the vision.  In Poitiers there were some holy women living together who honoured the Sacred Heart of Jesus in a special manner and prayed for the return of France to the Catholic Faith.  They also gave shelter to persecuted priests and Fr. Coudrin came to this house to hide from the Revolutionists.

Here the good priest said Mass every Sunday.  He also realized that these four ladies were the ones he needed to form the new order, which he had seen in the vision.  At once he set about training them in the spiritual life.  Other priests joined him and other good women, and when the persecution ended it was necessary to move to a larger house. 

When they moved to another house, Perpetual Adoration was set up to atone for the crimes of the Revolution.  This meant that all the members would have to take their turn adoring the Blessed Sacrament.  The members of the Association spent all night in adoration, while some people from the outside world would keep up the adoration during the day. 

The first Superior chosen by the priests was Fr. De Bruneval.  When this good priest was thrown into prison, he appointed Fr. Coudrin as the new Superior.  Fr. Coudrin wanted to set up a new religious order of Reparation, but he wasn't sure that any of the members of the Association were trained well enough to do the work.  So he continued to pray that if God wanted him to found an Order of Reparation, He would send him a suitable person.

In November 1794, Countess Henriette came to ask Fr. Coudrin to direct her soul.  A few months later in February 1795, she asked to be allowed to join the Association of the people who adored the Blessed Sacrament.  She was refused, and later on she came back again and begged to be accepted into the Association.  This time she was accepted. 

Henriette continued to live at home with her mother.  She came every day to the house of Adoration, to spend her hour or hours of adoration before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  There, all alone and silent, she listened to the voice of God directing her in her chosen work.  After doing this for two years, she decided to become a religious in the House of Adoration.

Fr. Coudrin asked Henriette to forget about the things that she thought God was speaking to her.  She was most humble and kept on praying.  In time Fr. Coudrin realized that God was indeed speaking to Henriette and that she was the one chosen by Him to found the new Religious Order. 

One day in the spring of 1797, Henriette spoke to Fr. Coudrin, "I am filled with sorrow because the work of Adoration does not seem to be growing.  What can I do to help the order grow?" 

The good priest settled the matter at once; "It is time for you to start the work by finding other suitable ladies and a house to live in."  The Countess was delighted even though she knew that it would be a difficult task.

Henriette owned some land which had belonged to her father.  She sold the land and with this money she bought a large house which stood across from her mother's home.  When Fr. Coudrin saw the house, he recognized it as the one he had seen in his vision, when he lived in the granary. 

This became the first foundation of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart and Perpetual Adoration.  But it was three years before they could move into the house.  In the meantime, Henriette who no longer had to care for her mother went to live in the old House of Adoration.  Her mother had to leave Poitiers because the nobility were always being persecuted, even though the Revolution had ended.

In the House of Adoration, Henriette began to live a life of perpetual silence and practiced great mortifications.  Above all, she spent most of her time in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  She was such a good example to the others, that they tried to follow her ways of spirituality.  Some of the ladies joined Henriette, and they lived a more penitential life apart from the others.  This continued for three years and then this little band of women chose Henriette as their Mother Superior. 

On August 25, 1797, these good women knelt before Fr. Coudrin, and made their first promises of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.  Because religious persons were still persecuted, the Nuns wore a plain dress, but under this dress they wore a religious habit.  Since the police were always watching the House of Adoration, Mother Henriette and five other Sisters moved to the house, which the good Mother Superior had bought before.  Fr. Coudrin brought the Blessed Sacrament to the house and Mother Henriette promised that she would now have Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament there.

Henriette worked hard to make the new Community a success.  She only thought of God's glory. She kept most of the night hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and she chose to do the lowly jobs herself. 

In the beginning there were many trials for the Sisters.  Someone told the police about the house and some of the religious had to go into hiding.  Also in order to keep peace in the Community, a Rule was necessary.  They adopted a few rules from the Trappist Order: silence, sleeping on boards, fasting from food at times and not eating any meat at all.  They also chose to make a special religious habit out of white wool.  In 1800, Mother Henriette was elected Superior-General for life and Fr. Coudrin became the Superior over the Order. 

Mother Henriette and Fr. Coudrin were very brave to start the new order, because the Revolutionists had closed the other convents.  Many of the religious who had not been martyred, were scattered far and wide.  But these two people were sure that God wanted this new work of adoration.  So on October 20, 1800, Mother Henriette and four other sisters pronounced the vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, for one year. 

God rewarded Mother Henriette for her courage. One night when she was praying before the Blessed Sacrament she saw Our Lady, who promised to protect the Community and look after it.  This was followed by other visions.  In one vision Jesus told her His plans for the Community, " I desire to have an Order that will adore My Divine Heart, and make Reparation for the outrages It has received.  I wish this Order to enter into the interior sorrows of My Sacred Heart and retrace the four periods of My life:  My Infancy, by educating children; My Public Life, by preaching and Missions; My Hidden Life, by perpetual adoration and silence; and My Crucified Life, by the practice of Christian and religious mortification.  The Rule must be strict in order to imitate My Crucified Life.  I desire especially that you should enter into the interior crucifixion of My Heart." Mother Henriette remained always in the presence of God.  When she prayed, Our Lord often taught her many things and even told her about the future.

On Christmas Day 1800, Fr. Coudrin and Mother Henriette made their final vows.  On February 2, 1801, four Sisters also made their vows.  At the same time Mother Henriette made a vow to be crucified in all things.  By this vow she desired that with her heart, mind, and actions she would accept all crosses, and sufferings, which God gave to her.  She also made a vow to take pleasure in nothing and by this vow she desired to do all things for the love of God, even if she did not feel like doing some things.  She offered herself as a victim to God, in order to save all people.

She had asked for the Cross and God sent it to her.  A short time later, her mother and two of the Sisters of the new Community, died.  In October 1801, Mother Henriette herself came very near to death.  But God spared her for the work and she was suddenly cured of her illness.  She was needed because it was a terrible time for the Church in France.  Peace had finally come, and the exiled Priests and Nuns were returning to France to take up their work.

On July 28, 1802, Mother Henriette and the other sisters moved to a larger house in Mende, France.  There the Nuns continued to adore the Blessed Sacrament day and night.  A little later, Mother Henriette started a school for girls in Cahors, France and Perpetual Adoration was set up as well.  During this time the Mother Superior continued to do penance and make sacrifices. 

Some time later Mother Henriette set up another Community in Paris, on Rue de Picpus.  This was a very special spot because here lay the bodies of over 1300 Martyrs, who had been put to death during the terrible French Revolution.  Henriette had great trust in God and set up many more Communities as the years passed by.  She also opened schools with free classes for the poor, and boarding schools for other families. 

It was not easy to start up religious communities in France, because Napoleon, the ruler of France, had to give his permission first.  By 1814, there were eighteen new Communities of Perpetual Adoration and more than one hundred and forty Sisters lived there. 

After the Society had been going for twenty years, on November 1, 1817, Rome approved the Rules of the Society.  There was then a great demand for the Society to be set up in other places.  Mother Henriette did her best to set up new Communities whenever possible.  She was able to do all this work and more, because her heart was burning with great love for the Blessed Sacrament.  She consecrated her life completely to spreading devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. 

For nearly thirty years, Mother Henriette never lay down, but took her rest sitting in a chair.  She wore a hair shirt, iron chains, and even slippers with iron spikes, as well as many other instruments of penance.  One is reminded of our own Mother Catherine Aurelia, who started the Order of the Precious Blood Sisters, in Canada.

Henriette always had to bear some type of physical suffering, and she also had mental suffering, because she feared the judgment of God.  But she got all her strength to bear these sufferings, from her visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  She loved to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. 

On October 4, 1828, Henriette became paralyzed. But even though she was no longer able to move, she still directed the Community as the Mother Superior.  She died two years later on November 23, 1830. 

The work of Mother Henriette spread over the whole world.  There were Communities set up in France, Belgium, Holland, Spain, England, Oceania, Chili, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and the United States.  May the good work of Mother Henriette last until the end of the world?  Ask Jesus, if it were His Holy Will, to make Henriette a canonized saint one day.                                 

 The End 

       O Sacrament most Holy, O Sacrament Divine,
all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.


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