Christ the Lord was tempted and suffered for us. Come, let us adore him.
Or: O that today you would listen to his voice: harden not your hearts.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 1. Liturgical Colour: Violet.
Other saints: Saint Laserian or Molaise (- 639)
He was born in Ireland, became a monk on Iona, and was ordained priest in Rome by St Gregory the Great. Returning to Ireland, he entered the monastery at Leighlin, of which he became abbot a few years before his death. He was active in promoting harmony between the Celtic and Roman churches, notably in the matter of the date on which Easter should be celebrated.
Other saints: Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin (1809-1890)
Esther Blondin was born in Terrebonne (Quebec, Canada) on 18 April 1809, to a family of deeply Christian farmers. Esther and her family were victims of illiteracy so common in French Canadian milieux of the nineteenth century. Still illiterate at the age of 22, Esther worked as a domestic in the Convent of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, which had been recently opened in her own village. A year later, she registered as a boarder in order to learn to read and write. She then became a novice in the Congregation but ill health forced her to leave.
In 1833, Esther became a teacher in the parochial school of Vaudreuil. Little by little, she found out that one of the causes of widespread illiteracy was a Church ruling that girls should not be taught by men, nor boys by women. As a result of this ruling, many parish priests, not able to finance two separate schools, had no schools at all.
In 1848, under an irresistible call of the Spirit, Esther presented to her Bishop, Ignace Bourget, a plan she long cherished: that of founding a religious congregation “for the education of poor country children, both girls and boys in the same schools”. Bishop Bourget authorised this revolutionary move, not least because the State was in favour of such schools and the Church should not be left behind.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Anne was founded in Vaudreuil on 8 September 1850 and Esther, now named “Mother Marie-Anne”, became its first superior. The community grew rapidly and in the summer of 1853 Bishop Bourget transferred the Motherhouse to Saint Jacques de l’Achigan and appointed a new chaplain, Father Louis Adolphe Maréchal.
Father Maréchal set about getting absolute control of the Community he was meant to serve. He took it on himself to change the pupils’ boarding fees while the Foundress was absent, and forbade the Sisters from confessing to any priest but him. Mother Marie-Anne, as was her duty, fought to protect the rights of her Community, until on 18 August Bishop Bourget instructed Mother Marie-Anne to resign, called for new elections, and warned Mother Marie-Anne “not to accept the superiorship, even if her sisters wanted to reelect her”. Even though she could be reelected, according to the Rule of the Community, Mother Marie-Anne obeyed her Bishop, whom she considered God’s instrument. And she wrote: “As for me, my Lord, I bless Divine Providence a thousand times for the maternal care she shows me in making me walk the way of tribulations and crosses”.
Mother Marie-Anne was moved to the convent at Sainte-Geneviève, where she was named director of the school. Father Maréchal and the new leaders of the Congregation continued to persecute her and in October 1858 she was accused of mismanagement and recalled to the Motherhouse, where the Bishop warned the authorities to ensure that “she will not be a nuisance to anyone.”
Mother Marie-Anne never exercised authority again. For the rest of her life she was kept to domestic chores, mostly in the laundry and ironing room. The General Chapters of the congregation in 1872 and 1878 showed their respect for her by electing her as General Assistant; but the General Council barred her from attending any of its meetings.
Mother Marie-Anne led a life of total self-denial and thus ensured the growth of the Congregation. In the Motherhouse basement laundry room in Lachine, where she spent her days, many generations of novices received from the Foundress a true example of obedience and humility, imbued with authentic relationships which ensure true fraternal charity. To a novice who asked her one day why she, the Foundress, was kept aside in such lowly work, she simply replied with kindness: “The deeper a tree sinks its roots into the soil, the greater are its chances of growing and producing fruit”.
As she felt the end approaching, Mother Marie-Anne left to her daughters her spiritual testament in these words which are a résumé of her whole life: “May the Holy Eucharist and perfect abandonment to God’s Will be your heaven on earth”. She then peacefully passed away at the Motherhouse of Lachine, on 2 January 1890, “happy to go to the Good God” she had served all her life.
Mother Marie-Anne remained ignored by the congregation she had founded for almost another generation, due to long-held prejudices about her character. It was only in 1917, after a chaplain at the Motherhouse had come to know the details of her life and gave a series of talks about her to the community, that enthusiasm arose among the Sisters for honouring her. The Sisters began to collect the information necessary for having Mother Marie-Anne canonized. In 1950 the Archbishop of Montréal gave permission to introduce the cause of Mother Marie-Anne in Rome. Her first complete biography was published in 1956, entitled Martyre du silence. The Sacred Congregation of Rites approved the writings of Mother Marie-Anne on 15 December 1964. Pope John Paul II granted her the title of Venerable in 1991 and beatified her on 29 April 2001.
The attitude of Mother Marie-Anne, who was a victim of so many injustices, allows us to bring out the evangelical sense she gave to events in her life. Just as Jesus Christ, who passionately worked for the Glory of His Father, so too Mother Marie-Anne sought only God’s Glory in all she did. “The greater Glory of God” was the aim she herself gave her Community. “To make God known to the young who have not the happiness of knowing Him” was for her a privileged way of working for the Glory of God. Deprived of her most legitimate rights, and robbed of all her personal letters with her bishop, she offered no resistance and she expected, from the infinite goodness of God, the solution to the matter. She was convinced that “He will know well, in his Wisdom, how to discern the false from the true and to reward each one according to his deeds”.
Prevented from being called “Mother” by those in authority, Mother Marie-Anne did not jealously hold on to her title of Foundress; rather she chose annihilation, just like Jesus, “her crucified Love”, so that her Community might live. However, she did not renounce her mission of spiritual mother of her Community. She offered herself to God in order “to expiate all the sins which were committed in the Community”; and she daily prayed Saint Anne “to bestow on her spiritual daughters the virtues so necessary for Christian educators”.
Like any prophet invested with a mission of salvation, Mother Marie-Anne lived persecution by forgiving without restriction, convinced that “there is more happiness in forgiving than in revenge”. This evangelical forgiveness, guarantee of “the peace of soul which she held most precious”, was ultimately proven on her death bed when she asked her superior to call for Father Maréchal “for the edification of the Sisters”.
Other saints: Bl Mary of the Incarnation
18 Apr (where celebrated)
Barbe Avrillot was born in Paris in 1566. At the age of sixteen she married Pierre Acarie, by whom she had seven children. Through her household duties and many hardships, she attained the heights of the mystical life. Under the influence of Saint Teresa’s writings, and after mystical contact with the saint herself, she spared no effort in introducing the Discalced Carmelite Nuns into France. After her husband’s death, she asked to be admitted among them as a lay sister, taking the name of Mary of the Incarnation; she was professed at the Carmel of Amiens in 1615. She was esteemed by some of the greatest men of her time, including Saint Francis de Sales; and she was distinguished by her spirit of prayer and her zeal for the extension of the Catholic Faith. She died at Pontoise on April 18, 1618.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: Saint Athanasius (295 - 373)
Athanasius was born in Alexandria. He assisted Bishop Alexander at the Council of Nicaea, and later succeeded him as bishop. He fought hard against Arianism all his life, undergoing many sufferings and spending a total of 17 years in exile. He wrote outstanding works to explain and defend orthodoxy.
The matters in dispute with the Arians were vital to the very nature of Christianity; and, as Cardinal Newman put it, the trouble was that at that time the laity tended to be champions of orthodoxy while their bishops (seduced by closeness to imperial power) tended not to be. The further trouble (adds Henry Chadwick) is that the whole thing became tangled up with matters of power, organization and authority, and with cultural differences between East and West. Athanasius was accused of treason and murder, embezzlement and sacrilege. In the fight against him, any weapon would do.
Arianism taught that the Son was created by the Father and in no way equal to him. This was in many ways a “purer” and more “spiritual” approach to religion, since it did not force God to undergo the undignified experience of being made of meat. Islam is essentially Arian. But Arianism leaves an infinite gap between God and man, and ultimately destroys the Gospel, leaving it either as a fake or as a cruel parody. Only by being orthodox and insisting on the identity of the natures of the Father and the Son and the Spirit can we truly understand the goodness of creation and the love of God, and live according to them. For this reason many extracts from the works of St Athanasius have been adopted as Second Readings in the Office of Readings.
Liturgical colour: violet
Violet is a dark colour, ‘the gloomy cast of the mortified, denoting affliction and melancholy’. Liturgically, it is the colour of Advent and Lent, the seasons of penance and preparation.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||(2 Corinthians 4:10-11) ©|
Always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that his life may equally be manifested in our body. While we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown.
|Noon reading (Sext)||1 Peter 4:13-14 ©|
Beloved, if you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed. It is a blessing for you when they insult you for bearing the name of Christ, because it means that you have the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God resting on you.
|Afternoon reading (None)||1 Peter 5:10-11 ©|
You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again: he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.