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The life of Sister Marie-Dosithée

from our Monastery of la Visitation du Mans

 

SUMMARY OF THE LIFE AND VIRTUES OF OUR DEAR SISTER

Marie Dosithée GUERIN 1829-1877

Deceased in this Convent of the Visitation Sainte-Marie du Mans, February 24th, 1877, 48 years old, 17 years as professed at the rank of Associate Sisters.

“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7)

These words, so profound, dictated by the Holy Spirit, were carried out in a striking way in the holy and devout life of our late lamented departed one. The fear of God was since the beginning of her existence the prevailing sentiment of her soul. Never did it leave her even if later, love got the upper hand so that it absorbed all the rest; it was still always based on filial fear whose precious fruit was, according to the oracle of our holy Books, the possession of Wisdom.

Our dear sister was born on May 31st, 1829 in Saint Denis-sur-Sarthon, a little city in Normandy not far from Alençon where her virtuous and honorable parents lived. They lived in ease, possessing esteem and general affection, rightly deserved for their integrity and good principles.

Louise was the eldest of three children that God granted Monsieur and Madame Guérin. From her earliest years she acted as the guardian angel for her sister and later for her brother who, much younger, was brought up under her care and her almost motherly direction. Madame Guérin was a woman of stern character with uncommon energy, a courage which feared nothing, simple and a little rustic but with a robust faith and a very good judgment. The kind of education given by such a mother could only be serious and indeed it was. Reason, duty, observance of divine law and the precepts of the Church without any dispensation, work and solid Christian virtues; such were the principals she endeavored to inculcate in her children and above all to have them practice. The nature of our dear Sister was quite disposed to this austere regime through her own inclinations. She was born serious and felt an instinctive need to completely follow duty and to make good use of her life. Hardly had she felt the first glimmer of reason than the fear of sin increased so much in her innocent soul that its name alone filled her with terror. Very active and exuberant, the little girl had strong desires she would have followed if the rigid hand, however good, of her mother had not made her take the habit of obeying in all things. These words alone “That’s a sin” stopped the poor child in her strongest inclinations and immediately cut off all desire, in any playtime, almost all her thoughts. Madame Guérin who saw in her daughter this excessive fear of offending God, took a bit too much advantage of the powerful phrase “It’s a sin!” to suppress her least imperfections. Louise worked a lot and had very little fun.

Wishing to safeguard the innocence of her dear little one, Madame Guérin kept her away from other children and gave her lessons in regards to this whose austerity made our Louise overly fearful. On the rare occasions where she found herself with children her own age, if games were organized such as dancing or similar exercises, the poor girl believed it was a great sin to find herself near a little boy; she slipped away, trembling, and as adroitly as possible, sometimes attracting malicious comments about what was called her unsociable disposition. Something happened that showed the power that conscience’s voice had on this child. It so happened that one day Madame Guérin took her two daughters to a country house where Louise noticed one of these heads in colored cardboard used by fashion merchants, which excited her most burning desires. It seemed to her that nothing could make her happier than to possess this object. In her state of desire, she said over and over to her sister: “Oh! How happy I would be if someone gave me that big head!” Her sister loved her elder very much and told the lady who owned the treasure in question the vow of our Louise, then 7 or 8 years old. This lady knew the fainthearted conscience of the little girl and said laughingly to test her: “ I’ll happily give it to you on only one condition.” “Oh,” Louise said,” with one hundred conditions if you want. Madame, I would give all that I have to have it!” “There is nothing to do but something very simple and very easy.”—“I will do everything you want, Madame,” answered the child.—“Well then, if you kiss my little boy, you shall have it!” With those unexpected words, Louise felt a violent struggle within herself. Her sister urged and tormented her to quickly fulfill such an easy condition. But Louise feared disobeying her mother and offending God. This was enough to stifle her fervent desire. She became indifferent and cold and replied seriously to the good lady: “Oh! I don’t want it anymore, Madame. I thank you, keep it, I will never think of it again.”

Faults that were so common to childhood were really unknown to our beloved Sister. According to her own admission, she couldn’t remember ever telling the slightest lie, or having turned her head in church, or committed an act of disobedience. Once she understood what God was in regards to her, her greatest happiness was to pray and to be close to holy altars. When her mother took her to offices in the parish, Louise sat in such a state of profound recollection that she saw no one and didn’t even know who was next to her. As soon as she knew how to read, which she learned with the Apocalypse, she didn’t raise her eyes from her book. During high Mass reading three or four times the ordinary prayer of the Holy Sacrifice, she believed herself unable to remain a moment without praying. Faith, the fear of God and innocence shone with the most brilliant sparkle in this soul; but as we had a premonition already that a certain atmosphere of rigorism, constraint and scrupulousness restricted her growth and created many sufferings for her. The education that Louise received as well as her natural tendencies nourished this unfortunate disposition, which several years later would cause her to suffer a real martyrdom.

It seems that the lily of virginity was implanted in her soul through the grace of holy baptism; never did this child have any other thought than to consecrate herself to God and the very idea of marriage caused her repugnance and an inexpressible remoteness. This repulsion was known not only to her family but to friends who frequented the house. They enjoyed teasing her about this. Mothers said in her presence to Madame Guérin: “Oh, you will give me Louise to be my son’s wife.” Immediately the child burst out crying and sobbing, protesting that she would never marry. Her sister then, full of compassion for her dear elder’s pain and feeling none of her sentiment, said out loud with a candid frankness: “Oh, don’t make her cry; you can take me in her place!” Scenes of this kind were not unusual. One day among others, during the octave of Epiphany, a respectable member of the family brought the children a kings’ cake. Unfortunately it happened that the charm was in the piece given to Louise. Immediately the good gentleman said he was delighted that she was queen and that of course he was the king because he gave the cake, that the little girl would be his wife. Louise indignantly threw her cake on the floor and began to cry, exclaiming “no, no, I won’t be either your wife or your queen!” From that moment on she could scarcely bear the sight of the good old man.

Study was very attractive for our dear child; she would have done it with enthusiasm had her mother permitted it but Madame Guérin wanted her girls to learn needle work. It was toward this kind of occupation that she actively encouraged them. Our dear Sister took up then, since her early years, this habit of manual work which she later showed us as an example of perseverance.

Long before her first communion, Louise followed with zeal and piety the catechism of her parish; religious instruction held for her the sweetest charms; truth captivated her mind and delighted her heart. She wished always to hear God spoken of and the great mysteries of our holy religion. Her wish to draw near to the Banquet of Angels was fervent and when the year came that would bring her this happiness, the innocent child watched herself more closely to avoid the least faults and redoubled the fervor in her exercises of piety. When she was ten years old, Louise was finally able to receive her God for the first time. She seriously prepared herself for this ineffable visit and received abundant graces and lasting fruits. A religious vocation, which seemed born with her, grew appreciably stronger from this day; it was her only thought and she would have liked to have pursued it immediately. The cloistered life or life of a hermit stirred up her continual aspirations; the latter was even her preference and like Saint Teresa (of Avila) she had plans for a long time to flee the paternal house to retreat to some silent Thebaid where she would live only in prayer. But like our Blessed Sister Marguerite Mary, the fear of meeting men in her desert kept her from carrying out her plans of escape.

Seeing her eldest daughter grow up, Madame Guérin understood it was necessary to give her at least the main elements of instruction needed for all situations in life. So she placed her in a little secular boarding school in Alençon where the child conducted herself perfectly and studied with enthusiasm. After several months she took her out, preferring to entrust her, as well as her younger sister to the wise direction of the Religious of Perpetual Adoration. To do this, Madame Guérin decided her husband should sell the little land they owned in Saint-Denis and buy a house in Alençon in order to be closer to her two daughters who she could not bear being separated from. A strong-minded woman, this worthy mother sped up the sale and the acquisition, proceeded to have considerable repairs done in the new house and conducted everything with unusual energy. But it happened that expenses occasioned by the work greatly exceeded the budget projections of Madame Guérin who had undertaken all responsibility for the affair regarding her husband. The modest fortune of this respectable family found itself seriously compromised which caused the mother of our dear Sister worries and a sadness that nothing could dispel. During this ordeal, she didn’t have the courage to be separated from her dear Louise, her consoling angel and placed her daughter alone in a convent. Even though our dear Sister was only twelve years old she knew how to support her mother through this tribulation, to lift up her downcast mind with thoughts of faith and confidence that she suggested to her. They got through a difficult and very meritorious year, revealing herself in any way to comfort Madame Guérin and to avoid expenses that were not absolutely necessary. When the financial troubles were fading, Louise went to rejoin her sister at the Ladies of Adoration; it was the fulfillment of her ardent desires.

To find herself in a religious house, surrounded by spouses of Our Lord, to have before her eyes examples of virtue, to be able to pray and study as she wished was almost a paradise for the dear child. Never before had she been so happy and the two years she spent in the convent went by too rapidly according to her heart. In her faith and innocence she considered her Mistresses as Saints, whose footsteps and clothing she wanted to kiss; her veneration for them was equal to the honor she had for the Blessed in Heaven. Never did she see in them a shadow of imperfection, so much were her esteem and respect strong. Louise was an irreproachable student; she worked with such care and enthusiasm that it was necessary to moderated that rather than to encourage it. Her conduct was exemplary. At age fifteen, Mademoiselle Guérin was called back home to her family and left the boarding school with a pain that was deeply felt. She knew how to offer it as a sacrifice to God and began a life that was more virtuous than ever with a devotion for her family, forgetfulness of self and a piety that brought her many graces. At that time, a third child arrived, increasing Madame Guérin’s cares, who busy with the house, believed she could entrust her youngest one to her dear eldest daughter. Louise then took the place of the maid, mother and schoolteacher for her youngest brother who she surrounded with all the care and delicate consideration her heart suggested to her. It was she who gave him his first instruction, taught him to prayer and directed until his first communion the mind and heart of this child who later would be her consolation and pay for her devotion with the deepest gratitude.

Until the age of nineteen, Mademoiselle Louise sweetly led this family life in the practice of Christian virtues. The world had not the slightest attraction for her heart; she didn’t know it and was unknown by it. Its spirit and practices kindled her disdain. At her age when illusion is so easy and so common, our dear Sister tasted and already possessed this celestial Wisdom of which the fear of God gives the first fruits.

However, because this soul was agreeable to the Lord, it was necessary, as the Angel said to Tobiah, that it be tried through temptation; this happened and was as painful and prolonged as it was meritorious. The devil, undoubtedly jealous and worried about her rapid travel on the path of the Saints, put up his most skillful and treacherous troops against her. As he does with all souls, he attacked the sensitive part of her nature and made a powerful lever with the feeling of fear and her disposition of rigorism that dominated her conscience, without however enslaving it to it yet. God who wanted to purify her love and fortify her faithfulness, made this innocent and generous soul pass through the crucible of suffering, from which she would emerge even purer and richer with numerous merits from her resignation. Frightful interior pains came upon our beloved Sister. Terrors, doubts, perplexities of all kinds, continual scruples came back, general darkness on all concerned spirituality, enveloping her soul like a garment of pain and anguish. Life became suffering for her; her only desire was to love her God, to serve him, to do everything for his glory and she felt she was offending him at every moment. All paths, which should lead to Him, seemed to be closed or filled with insurmountable obstacles. Only souls who have passed through this kind of ordeal, know how cruel it is and that all other sufferings pale compared to this kind of torture. Our sister suffered even more as she had no help, no direction around her. She confessed to a very elderly, respectable priest who didn’t understand the situation of his penitent, which increased her suffering and complicated through his advice the inextricable problems the enemy built up in her mind.

When the soul suffers it is rare that the body doesn’t feel the painful influence. The health of Mademoiselle Guérin which was until then blooming and even vigorous faltered little by little seriously. The lack of sleep and appetite caused by interior sufferings led to an extreme thinness, a sickly complexion and a general weakness that worried her respectable parents. They were unable to discover the cause and their dear daughter took care to say nothing of this martyrdom of the heart, which wasn’t understood. This ordeal lasted five or six years and what was admirable in it was that the fidelity and love of our virtuous sister seemed to grow in proportion to the difficulties. Even though piety, reception of the sacraments and the accomplishment of all her duties offered her only thorns and tortures, she embraced them with the ardor and the generosity of martyrs welcoming the instruments of their torture. During these long and painful years there was only one month during which this courageous athlete weakened in that bitter combat and allowed the enemy to gain an advantage. Despondent and discouraged, believing that in spite of her hatred of sins and her ardent desire to love God, she could do nothing other than offend him. The poor soul put down her weapons and said to herself:”I can’t live like this anymore, come what may!” Virtue was too strongly engrained in this heart for big errors to be possible as it happens sometimes in souls who are less strong. But temper and nature took the upper hand and with the double influence of temptations of impatience and discouragement joined to suffering resulted in several indelicate behaviors in the relationship of our dear sister with her family. This was the only time of unfaithfulness reported in her life; her worst sins were limited to several sharp words, several passing moods, and less generosity in her work overall. God, who dearly loved this soul and knew how much he was loved by it, took pity on her momentary failure that was caused by weariness. All of a sudden during prayer, our beloved sister felt that her grief, her darkness, her fears were lifted from her. A brilliant light replaced the shadows. The sweetest certainties crushed the painful doubts. She was inundated by a celestial happiness of peace and calm. Her interior was transformed. But this private and precious grace was a short-lived help similar to the mysterious bread that the angel brought to the prophet Elijah to give him the strength to pursue his path.

Mademoiselle Guérin lived some time amidst the most sensible consolations and in an interior light that no cloud seemed able to darken but then had to travel again the road of Calvary. Without any apparent cause, the state of anguish and confusion returned and moral suffering enveloped for years yet the soul and life of our devout sister. In the middle of her sufferings she did not lose sight of the holy vocation she felt in the depths of her heart. She told her confessor who was a very enlightened priest and full of zeal, of her desire to enter with the Reverend Mother Clares. Seeing the health of his penitent undermined, he told her to wait several years and see if she could maintain the austerity of the Rule at home. Mademoiselle Guérin took this on with all her might. For three Lents she fasted with as much strictness as the generous daughters of Saint Clare; the result was the ruination of her stomach that never completely recovered from these pious excesses. Her health was too greatly ruined to leave her the hope of ever being able to support such a penitential life. She understood this and even though with bitter regrets, she gave up this vocation that so corresponded to all she found appealing. God permitted at this moment that the Life of our Holy Founder [Francis de Sales] to fall into her hands. She read it with delight and soon she so had a taste of its spirit that she felt an ardent desire to become one of his daughters. But several years kept her yet from entering the Holy Arch and a work of dedication was offered to her generosity before the happy door of religious life opened for that devoted soul.

Her younger sister reached the age where in the position with a modest fortune she had to think about taking care of herself for the future. She went one day to find her dear elder and begged her to join with her in a novena to the Blessed Virgin that would end on the day of the great feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Mesdemoiselles Guérin prayed fervently together and the novena finished, the sister of our dear deceased went to tell her mother that she wished to become the head of a lacemaking workshop. The point d’Alençon employed many young girls in the town; it was the industrial wealth of the area. Madame Guérin approved of this project but on the condition that her eldest daughter would be in charge and take responsibility for the business. It was a chain that was forming to keep Mademoiselle Louise in the world whose heart only wished to leave it. That notwithstanding, believing that Our Lord asked of her, in the meantime at least, the sacrifice of her dearest desires, she accepted the task that Divine Providence imposed upon her and devoted herself completely to it. The Guérin sisters chose their workers, put them to the task, and soon came a large amount of work that needed to be sold. Therein lay the difficulty; a little country village had few fortunes big enough to frequently buy expensive lace. Our dear sister, despite her excessive timidity, decided to leave for Paris where she knew no one, no street, in order to ask some business to buy her lace. We can easily see the extreme trouble she gave herself having no understanding of business. She had little success in this first trip, but without becoming discouraged she returned to Alençon hoping to find a commercial organization that was easier for young girls. Indeed, sometime after, a big Parisian store gave the Guérin sisters orders at a set price and things became established in a reassuring way for the future. Our good sister gave thanks to God, hoping to soon be able to leave the earthly interests in the hands of her dear younger sister, to deal with only those of heaven and eternity.

But an unexpected obstacle was yet going to rise up before her. Her health which changed notably as we know, through the interior trials and her austerities, re-established itself sufficiently to permit her to follow our kind of life. She saw nothing of difficulty with this, when a cold, completely neglected, came all at once to compromise the state of her chest and give her the beginning of the consumption that would slowly take our dear sister later on. Spitting up blood and a violent fever occurred and soon the life of Marie-Louise was in danger. The doctor said she was without hope and declared there was no remedy. For six weeks she fought against death which seemed imminent. In the depths of her heart, Mademoiselle Guérin was confident of eventually attaining her wishes and in this hope she started a novena to Our Lady of la Salette, asking her for enough health to be able to consecrate herself to God. The last day a noticeable improvement was seen; it continued and at the end of two months our dear sister took on a plumpness that she had not had for many years. The divine will was clear. Strength returned to her so that she might follow the call heard for so long. But through prudence, she thought she should put off her entrance into religion in order to be sure she was really well. A hard winter was faced without the slightest cough. Two others that followed went as well. Our dear aspiring person believed the moment had come to enter the ark. She begged her pious director to find a place for her in our convent. The priest wrote to our Very Honorable Mother Thérèse de Gonzague de Freslon, proposing his penitent to her, whose virtues and solid vocation he made known to her. The praise he gave was in her favor and a favorable answer was given.

A the height of her excitement, Mademoiselle Louise hurried in turn to write our venerable Mother asking permission to come immediately to do a retreat and if possible to then begin religious life. She was 29 years old. It was on Wednesday of Easter week, April 7th, 1858 that the doors of the house of God opened for this soul who for so long desired to cross them. Her first impressions were as sweet and consoling as possible. She believed herself to be in heaven. The sight of the religious, the exercises in the Choir, every area of the convent corresponded to her most private desires. She sang in her heart like the Prophet King: “Here is the place of my rest!”

Our dear Sister Marie-Dosithée appeared from the beginning that which she always was, a dutiful soul, filled with fervor in the service of God and devotion to her neighbor. But our good Mothers wanted to have information about her health, which appeared to be satisfactory. Then asked, Mademoiselle Louise gave information on her chest illness that she had two years earlier; it was made known to the doctor who noted that the lungs were actually in good shape, but the consumption could and would reappear sooner or later. This consultation fixed the departure of our dear person on retreat; the Community already had a good number of sick persons and those with delicate health. Our Very Honorable Mother did not believe it was possible to accept more. Our poor Sister was stricken by this decision and felt extreme pain; she made strong entreaties to change it, begging that they at least put her strength to the test but God allowed our Superiors to be inflexible, no doubt to spur on even more the faith and confidence of this generous soul. In vain did she invoke the goodness and gentleness of our Blessed Father toward weak health, he would have stopped her from leaving the Ark. In the middle of the abundant tears that Mademoiselle wept, a secret voice assured her interiorly that she would never leave this blessed refuge. The day of her departure was not yet set, so the virtuous aspiring sister, instead of inquiring about it, began with a touching devotion to follow from morning until night our holy exercises and in her free time she worked more than anyone in the House. Having prayed that they give her work and the dressmaking workshop lacking help, Mademoiselle Louise took the place of two or three, devouring, so to speak, the work to the point of making an entire dress each day. Three weeks went by like this. The Community could only be edified by so much constancy, humility and fervor. One night our dear Sister saw our Venerable Mother Thérèse de Gonzague enter her cell with an expression that was as consoling as it was satisfying. Our Charity said to her with a good smile:”My child, your confidence has touched us, Our Lord doesn’t want us to make you leave. Not only will you stay but tomorrow you will enter the Novitiate.” Never perhaps did the soul of our poor Sister experience such a deep joy. She was overflowing with gratitude; to live in the house of God was for her almost bliss! Also what thanks toward Our Lord, what warm thanks regarding our good Mother escaped from her heart!

Since she entered the Visitation, Mademoiselle Louise had given no news to her family, who, worried by such a long silence got ready to come find her, suspecting she did not find it to her liking. They wrote her about this and she replied right away that she was at the height of happiness but that there had been many difficulties for her admission. This was the reason for her silence. Madame Guérin, not reassured, arrived and said to her dear daughter that she wanted to take her back at any price in the fear that the original difficulties start again. But the energetic Sister Louise, affirming that never would her foot cross the enclosure door, put an end to the motherly combat and the happy postulant continued her try which began eight days earlier. This was really a time of ordeal for our generous Sister. Regarding health, nothing was spared to test her energy and her resources. The Rule was put forward to her bluntly; she followed it in every point, taking only two meals, taking communion at the Community’s Mass, fasting all of Lent and following the general life style from morning to night. Our beloved Sister, having no voice and her chest being compromised was put in the ranks of the associate Sisters which did not keep her from educating herself in the Novitiate about all the rubrics and ceremonies of the holy Office, as if she had been in the choir. It would be difficult to see a postulant more exemplary in all respects. An accomplished model of regularity, of fidelity to the least observances and recommendations of obedience, as soon as the duty was known to her, she carried it out with fervor and a generosity that turned aside all obstacles. By entering in the House of God, Mademoiselle Guérin said to herself with all the energy of her nature and ardor of her faith: “I have come here to be a saint!” This goal was always before her eyes and she held it with a perseverance that assured the victory.

AT the beginning of her religious life and even during several years, the fidelity and virtue of our dear Sister had something that was too rigid and which felt like constraint and discomfort. She was the first to suffer from it and as a consequence, her example was less appreciated and less profitable than if the holy liberty of our Holy Founder’s spirit had accompanied this great correctness. Being extremely timid our good Sister had troubles opening to her Superiors and direction was for a long time a painful ordeal for her. She wanted to make herself known and words did not come to her lips, not even to express the ardent desire that she felt to advance in a religious career and to reach the consummation of her sacrifice. Our Very Honorable Sister Marie Victoire Doney was the Director of the Novitiate, whose goodness, open-mindedness and simplicity led naturally to confidence. Seeing her postulant so withdrawn, so fearful even though very fervent, she formed an unfavorable opinion of her, fearing she could never understand the true spirit of our holy vocation. The prolonged the ordeal much longer than ordinary and it was only after eleven months of postulancy that Sister Louise was clothed in our holy livery on February 24th, 1859. This day brought to her soul ineffable consolations; to be the Fiancée of Our Lord, to bear the habit of his Spouses caused her an inexpressible joy. She received the name of Marie-Dosithée and it seemed that she was the faithful image of holy and so obedient religious who became her Patron. The Novice was even more exemplary than the Postulant had been. Our holy livery were truly for our dear Sister what our Blessed Father declared what they are truly in themselves, “weapons of light.” From then on she understood the defect, even though involuntary, of her behavior and resolved at all costs to overcome her timidity, her too serious austerity, the lack of openness with her Superiors and expansion in regard to others. Her year of probation was rich in victories over her natural tendencies and our beloved Sister showed herself to be better yet than all her life; a model of regularity, obedience and exactitude in all her duties. She was then employed in the refectory, in the wardrobe of students and as supervisor of the boarding school. This last job caused her extreme repugnance that her timidity increased. There as in all she did, she acted according to only one principle, duty: to accomplish it herself, to make it noticed by others that duty was her only preoccupation.

Under an exterior a little cold, our dear Sister hid a sensitive and excellent heart. During her Novitiate, touched by the kindnesses and devotion of her worthy Mistress, she developed an affection filled with gratitude for her but which could have become a little too exclusive. Our Lord, who wanted that soul to be completely detached and dead to humans, used a slight circumstance to break the string that was beginning to paralyze her flight. One day Sister Marie-Dosithée had an indisposition that kept her in bed in her cell. It so happened that her good Mistress, normally so attentive to her Novices, especially when they were ill, forgot completely to visit her and the next day, sending her back to the Novitiate to follow the ordinary exercises, asked for none of her news. Our dear Sister who had suffered abandonment the night before was very sensitive about this apparent indifference; it was enough to free her heart forever from seeking too natural consolations. From this moment, her detachment was total while remaining full of respectful affection and filial confidence toward her Superiors. She only saw God in them, obeying even better the creature that she considered as the Creator. When the year of probation ended, the Community was happy to admit our dear Sister Marie-Dosithée to holy profession. On March 12th, 1860 the union between this faithful soul and her Spouse was consummated that she had only desired and sought since the dawn of life. She understood the comprehensiveness of perfection contained in our three vows as well as our Institute, and devoted herself to it with a generosity of love that was never denied. The day of her profession was the height of her happiness all the while opening her eyes of her soul to a career of sacrifices. The first that Our Lord asked of her was that of her good mother. Madame Guérin went to sleep in the Lord in the arms of her second daughter, with a union as happy as it was Christian. Sister Marie Dosithée tenderly loved her family, but in a supernatural way, which will be easy to see in what follows. This painful event was deeply felt, but she resigned herself to it with her habitual generosity.

Hard on herself, our dear Sister did not voluntarily accept comforts and her mortification took precedence over her prudence. So it was that around the time of her professions that she neglected again a cold that led to a slow fever and spitting of blood several times. It was the old illness coming back as it had done several times in the past seventeen years. To become a saint, as we said, was the only goal of this soul; she didn’t reach it at all without efforts, without struggles, or suffering. God, in order to perfect her virtue and make her grow in love, permitted that she felt almost all the time of her religious life, except for the two last years, a group of revulsions, difficulties, fears that stopped her or at least seemed to hinder her path at every instant. The spirit of rigorism which in the world caused so many interior pains to our dear Sister was almost always her martyrdom. Obedience turned all her efforts in this direction constantly as her papers of direction show us. We read these lines written by different hands of the Superiors or Directors of our late lamented sister:”With obedience, develop a broadmindedness in all, interior or exterior.” “Avoid fear and constriction from relying on obedience.” Peace, humility, a great expansion in the service of God, total abandonment; don’t fear faults so much. Attention on growing even more.

This painful tendency remained a long time in the depths of her soul, causing her a thousand private sufferings. But out good Sister Marie Dosithée worked generously to vanquish the enemy of her perfection as well as her happiness. We can say that she defeated it entirely at the end of her life, as we will soon see. The virtues and perfect regularity of this true religious made her a model for beginners. Also at the time when she should have left the Novitiate, she was kept there as Assistant. She held this job for six years and it would be difficult to and it would be difficult to fulfill it with more zeal, devotion and punctuality than she did. Our dear Sister did not spare her time or trouble to train the postulants and novices in our holy observances. Possessing perfectly herself and accomplishing with exemplary fidelity everything related to the Rule, its usages and recommendations, her actions as well as her words were a perpetual instruction. Not only did she teach the young sisters what they must do, she showed and helped them to do it well. Several of us remember with gratitude the numerous visits to their cells by our vigilant Sister Marie Dosithée to instruct them in keeping order, of which current youth is often lacking in. She tried to inculcate in candidates a great love and respect for Superiors, the Rule and duty. Perhaps mixed among these precious teachings was something bitter and strict corresponding to her nature and the painful dispositions of her soul but if she frightened a bit, each one always held her in deep esteem and real gratitude. Our beloved Sister added to her job as Assistant of the Novitiate that of second door keeper, of Supervisor of the boarding school, of Assistant of parlor visits and Supervisor of the Community. She was also an aid in the dressmaking workshop, with the linens and appointed to take care of the stockings. In everything and everywhere, it was the faithful servant of the Lord, doing with the most complete devotion what holy obedience had entrusted to her.

Her serious and essentially practical mind had, as we said before, on the day of her profession understood our holy commitments in all their breadth. We believe we are able to say that she fulfilled them with a rare fidelity, even among fervent souls. The white lily who perfumed with her celestial fragrance her childhood and family life, embedded virtue even more in her soul when the vow was added. Our dear Sister lived, breathed and yearned for her Spouse only. Her detachment from creatures was complete. Her affections had no other goal, no other end than the glory of God and his holy will. Two of her nieces were raised in our boarding school. Sister Marie Dosithée, through obedience, took care of her dear children with an attentiveness and wisdom that tended to create serious Christians, which inculcated the spirit of sacrifice, of abnegation, the love of work and of duty which were firmly rooted in her. These dear children profited from her virtuous lessons and had a tenderness for their aunt that was filled with veneration and gratitude. Her loss caused them deep pain as with the entire family. In her relationships with family as with others, whoever it was, Sister Marie Dosithée always maintained an air of reserve and mortification which leads to respect and prevents all familiarity; perhaps one could have wished for more abandonment and development. These traits were the last to be added as crown to her virtue and toward the end of her life a sweetness and charity filled with expansion.

Our dear Sister’s poverty was truly poor and destitute. She loved the choice of clothing and vile and worn out items, as long as they were clean. Her efforts for the practice of this virtue were ingenious as well as touching. She asked for permission to mend her own shoes and to make the last until they fell apart. Her resolutions from retreat and her little spiritual notes were always written on scraps of paper found here and there. Rising and going to bed without light were her regular practices. Being in charge of an altar which she decorated with as much zeal as piety, her bouquets of artificial flowers offered to the Queen of heaven the perfume of holy poverty for lack of another merit. We don’t believe she ever used anything new to make them. Time was used profitably by this real religious as if it was the blood of Christ and which what holy avarice! She never lost a minute and her natural activity put in the service of her virtue made her work without ceasing at the work entrusted to her, with an ardor that obedience should have moderated. During the last weeks of her illness, we still saw her mending stocking from after Prime in the morning, never putting down her needle until coughing or extreme weakness didn’t allow her to hold it anymore.

The obedience of our dear deceased was perfect. Slave in a holy way of our blessed rules and observances, she accomplished them with punctuality and a scrupulous accuracy. One can even say regarding this that she accomplished all down to an iota. The importance she attached to this caused her to take the greatest care in learning about it. So it was that we could have recourse to her with complete assurance when a doubt arose or some problem concerning our slightest customs. Her spirit of faith made her see Our Lord in the person of her superiors. She always bore for them a respect full of affection and complete confidence and submission. She blindly followed their direction for the conduct of her soul and became aware of her interior with a great opening, overcoming with that her natural timidity. A word from our Very Honorable Mother was a holy order for our devout Sister who did not permit herself a comment whether it was for or against. If at time the eagerness of her nature and her strong desires made her show to a personal will to her Superior, she promptly asked forgiveness for it by mortifying herself of these little acts of self-love. The word of the Holy Books was born out in our good Sister Marie Dosithée in a striking way and this true obedience could truly speak of her victories. This virtue so fertile in fruits of holiness transformed inside and out of our dear deceased. Her fears gave way to a perfect abandonment, an absolute peace, a childlike confidence toward Our Lord. Her manner which was a little cold and whatever was less cordial in her relationships with others changed into a pleasant easiness, in a sweet and devoted charity. The mortification, a distinctive feature of her life, shone even brighter when it was accompanied with pleasant virtues which enhanced it. Sister Marie Dosithée was an enemy of seeking and natural satisfactions. She carried the cross of suffering and illness with a courage and rare energy which gained for her graces and exceptional consolations, as we will tell later.

Extremely faithful to prayer, her path was often painful. For a long time she believed herself to be able to practice it herself through personal action, which oppressed it instead of peaceful uniting her with God. In her last years, she understood that the soul must rather open itself to divine action. Then her heart expanded, she entered into a prayer of a simple glance so recommended by our Holy Founder and by it, gathered the most abundant fruits; a total self-giving to Our Lord and the holy freedom of the mind.

At different times during her religious career, there were worries more or less serious about our beloved Sister and the condition of her chest. Almost every winter saw reappear a bad cough accompanied by fever and spitting of blood. Two years before her death, the malignant humor, went to a foot instead of her lungs and produced a very considerable swelling which made walking difficult for our dear Sister. Our doctor, all the while treating the illness, considered it as a protector of the chest. The hour of the reward drew near for this faithful and generous soul. Like a skillful sculptor, Our Lord was going to put the finishing touches on this living statue so that she might most perfectly resemble her divine Model. In January 1876, the excellent triduum that our worthy Bishop preached for us was for our dear Sister a decisive and solemn moment for our Sister. Having had, like most of us, the advantage of seeing His Excellency alone, Sister Marie Dosithée received words that were so clear and so penetrating on God’s vision regarding her that starting at this time she entered onto a new path. Our worthy Prelate, with grace that was peculiar to him, understood then the needs of this devout but anxious soul. With a single word he put an end to her worries and established her in the peaceful abandon that she preserved until her death. Her gratitude for this invaluable benefit was frequently spoken of in a touching way. How many times since then she said to our Venerable Mother: “The bishop performed a real miracle. I am completely transformed. Oh! My Mother, what a grace! I only know how to love now, to trust and abandon myself! Help me to thank the good God for it!” We found in her papers these several lines that seem to date from this time: “Abandonment! But abandonment in the smallest details! The prayer of a simple glance to God; remember this word: don’t do anything and receive a lot. During dryness in prayer, keep myself in Our Lord’s sight without recourse to reflections. Abandonment for preparation for holy Communion and thanksgiving; allow Our Lord to act himself.” This spiritual program was punctually followed by our dear Deceased, who was truly able to lose herself in God, to allow him alone to operate and live in her soul.

During the autumn of that same year, our dear Sister who for the last several months had been fighting against a cough, fever and a group of troubles which announced an approaching end, had to stop her arduous and regular life despite herself. Without keeping her absolutely in the infirmary as it seemed community life was indispensable for her, our Very Honorable Mother wanted her to stay there during the times when she was the most breathless and worn out. But when the bell rang for an exercise, we saw her drag herself with her cane to the refectory, for recreation, to assemblies, happy to be able to show by her presence, her love for our Holy Rules. It pained us to see the generous efforts to draw strength from her weakness of our beloved sick person to follow the daily pace, but at the end of November the extreme swelling in her legs, the choking and the burning fever stopped our courageous Sister. For the last several weeks she had obtained permission from our Venerable Mother that gave the happiness and support of her life and from which she profited, we can say, until her very last breath. As her state did not ensure her a tomorrow, our excellent Mother authorized her to receive Holy Communion every day that she could rise. The faith and love of her soul performed a kind of prodigy on her poor body and we admired with emotion the dear sick person getting up each morning on time, that she could even make several movements to put on her habit. With the assistance of our good infirmarian sisters and her indispensable cane she dragged herself to choir despite the enormous swelling of her legs and feet which seemed at all instants about to give way. Thanks to that indomitable energy whose powerful lever was divine love, this devout soul was able, up to four days before her death, go to look for the good God, as was her expression and He came Himself when this faithful Spouse had to remain on the Cross.

“Never,” she told us with her humility,” would I have dared to ask for daily communion and here Our Lord has arranged things so well so that I might enjoy this great favor; the little energy I have left is all for the good God so that I might receive him every morning. Oh! What graces, Sisters!” said the dear sick woman, “I’m inundated!” Indeed, her peace was heavenly; she spoke of the progression of her illness, of death, of eternity with calmness and an admirable serenity. We couldn’t visit her without receiving a real spiritual benefit so much was her conversation edifying and filled with grace. Several weeks before her death, she let slip words capable of causing as much admiration as surprise. As she was close to appearing before the Sovereign Judge, her conscience that was so fearful and yet so delicate, permitted her to make this beautiful revelation: “Thanks to the good God, it seems to me that I never committed a sin that was completely voluntary!” Often when she was the Assistant of the Novitiate, she had unknowingly made felt prematurely this beautiful secret of faithfulness. When some young Sister was warned of a breach of discipline by Her Charity, she sought to excuse herself by claiming it was not voluntary. “Oh!” replied Sister Marie Dosithée, “Assuredly, my Sister, I agree! How could one suppose that a religious soul could commit voluntary sins?” A touching remark that sometimes mystified less faithful hearts who heard it and which revealed the purity and generosity of our devoted Sister. It had been difficult in the last months of that virtuous existence, to find any trace of that kind of bitterness and constrained rigidity that in times past seemed to be detrimental to the sweetness of her virtue. Our dear Sister Marie Dosithée was only gentleness, sweetness, abandonment; her manner was always gracious, her words filed with goodness and holy joy. She expressed to our beloved Mother her gratitude in the most touching terms and assured her that when she was in heaven, she would pray a lot for her and for our entire house so that all souls in it might become saints. She added delicately one day: “I will also ask Our Lord, my Mother, that he takes care of your heart and keeps death from coming to take your daughters, at least for a good amount of time.” This prayer was answered as we went two years without deaths after the loss of this dear Deceased. This is rather rare in our family and we really had the feeling that it was due to her charitable intervention that we owed this favor.

A Sister told her one day that she should pray for her healing: ”Oh!,” replied our virtuous sick person, “I would be careful. Doesn’t Our Lord know better than me what he wants for me? I entrust all to him that he does what he wants. I don’t trouble myself about it.” Another time she said to our good Mother: “I’m surprised to feel so much peace! I don’t even worry about the last suffering, or my death. I am so persuaded that the good God will give me his grace that I don’t have any worried about it.”

The state of our edifying sick person got worse each day; our doctor advised that she be administered last rites fearing a sudden complication. Nothing was easier than to announce this news to Sister Marie Dosithée. She welcomed it with joy, without a cloud of emotion. It was decided that the ceremony would take place that evening after prayer. The Community notified by the bell, gathered in the infirmary. Our confessor entered and everyone was at the designated place except the dear sick person. We soon saw her arriving unhurriedly from her cell, the cane in one hand and her little lantern in the other saying to us with a smile: “I think the ceremony won’t happen without me!” She sat in an armchair and received with faith and her usual serenity the holy anointing that armed her for the last battle. This was during the feasts of Christmas; our excellent disabled person continued to rise every morning on time to go to choir and receive Holy Communion until February 20th; she died on the 24th. We can say she used all the forces of nature until the end. When it was impossible for her to move her poor legs, she submitted with resignation to staying in bed, hoping it would only be for a short period of time. In fact, only three days separated her from her entry into the homeland. Our dear Sister spent them with the most edifying dispositions; her abandonment was so complete and her peace so perfect the one night our beloved Mother offered to have our worthy confessor come in for her. Our dear sick person replied; “My Mother, I really don’t have anything to say to him.” And after an instant of rest: “Oh! Yes, I have two sins. I can accuse myself of them before our infirmarians as our holy Founder said not to say mortal sins but that we can say venial sins. Well, I wish too much to die and then I asked questions to know if I’m not far from that.” Our good Sister Marie Dosithée who wasn’t very cheerful naturally became that way on the doorstep of eternity. She smiled at death, allowing pleasant and naïve words to slip out that surprised us.

Last rites were given to her twice in the three days she was bedridden. On the 23rd, the oppression increased as well as the weakness. Our Venerable Mother who paid many visits to the virtuous sick person, suggested that the Community come to recite next to her the prayers recommending her soul to God. Sister Marie Dosithée accepted this aid with happiness and united herself in her heart and her lips with these holy words. Our confessor had entered and she was abundantly furnished with all the indulgences. That evening, our good Mother after staying several hours with her, fortifying and encouraging her, told her as always to give herself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus who knew how to proportion his help and grace in suffering and the anguish of the final trip. “Oh! I entrust myself to him, my Mother,” replied out pious Sister. “Also I’m not frightened of anything. Our Lord will sustain me! I have the grace of the moment. I will have it until the end!” Around two o’clock during the night, painful death throes began. The sister who took care of our sick person went to notify our Venerable Mother and the infirmarian who came in all haste. This strong and energetic nature fought violently against her destruction but the serenity of her soul was not challenged for an instant. Sister Marie Dosithée had her full consciousness, murmuring quietly the aspirations that our beloved Mother suggested to her and renewed her vows, the sacrifice of her life with remarkable fervor. Our good Mother told her that she was resting on the heart of Jesus. “Yes, beautifully,” she replied. When we told her to drink a little: “Oh no. I don’t want anything more,” she said. “But Our Lord?” said our good Mother. “Oh yes!” our dear dying person replied with a smile. Informed of the time and realizing that the twenty-fourth day of February had begun, she said to our good Mother: “Ah! It’s beautiful to die on the anniversary of my clothing day!”----“Yes,” our Mother replied to her. “Our Lord is going to change the clothing of holy religion to that of eternal glory for you.” The pious dying person smiled at this thought. At last, around toward 7:30, a Saturday, this generous soul left her earthly body to join the choir of these faithful virgins, whose lamp was always abundantly filled with the oil of charity. Her face took on an air of bliss which struck us. Next to this virtuous deceased, we felt a heavenly peace and consolation that seemed to us an indication of the happiness that she enjoyed already. Our dear Sister Marie Dosithée’s little niece, still a student in the boarding school, made a request to see one last time the beloved remains of her good aunt, did not tire in saying while look at her: “Oh! My aunt is beautiful! She looks like a saint!” This assessment was shared by all the Community who sorely missed our beloved Sister as one of the most fervent souls that we had had among us. May our Lord grant us the grace to imitate her religious virtues and make our end like hers!

GOD BE PRAISED!

 

 

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