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Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Letter of Inspiration

I would like to share with you a letter from a Jesuit missionary in the New World to the first apostle of devotion to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, Saint John Eudes. This is actually an excerpt from an old book by Daniel Sargent (an early Center friend) on Saint John Eudes, entitled Their Hearts Be Praised. How did I come upon this passage? One of our sisters was ill for over a month (we call this a “Slave vacation”) and so she was able to do a bit more reading. When she shared this passage with me, I knew that I had to share it with you! May it make you love Our Lady more and live your total consecration more fully. The passage begins with a brief biography of the writer of our letter:

Our Lady did not make the year 1662 anything but a series of failures for Saint John Eudes, but She did console him. She arranged to have letters come to him from afar, from hands of men from whom he did not expect to hear. One was a Jesuit in Canada, Father Pierre Joseph Chaumonot. Since Our Lady chose this Jesuit to write to him, we will do well to examine Her choice. 
Father Chaumonot, when asked by his Superior to write an account of his life, began as follows: “Since your Reverence has ordered me for the greater glory of God to write you at least in summary all my life, I begin by declaring the baseness and the miseries from which Our Lord has had the goodness to draw me, and set me in the Holy Society of Jesus.”
This beginning was an exaggeration. The Society of Jesus was holy, and Our Lord had drawn him into it, but Pierre had not been base. As a lad he had merely been irregular. He had borrowed some money without due permission from an uncle, but it had been in order to study Latin under the Oratorians at Beaune.  He simply did not always think. And then, when the money, which was only a hundred sous, was expended before he reached Beaune, what was there for him to do but to wander and beg his way? He begged his way to Rome. 
Then, later, he had prayed at the Holy House at Loreto, and had asked to become a priest. To his astonishment the Jesuits had accepted him. He was always being astonished, for everything that happened seemed to him a favor, and he could not see why he of all people should receive any favors.
One of those favors brought him to Québec, where he arrived in 1639, when Eudes was still an Oratorian. He went immediately among the Hurons with Father de Brébeuf, and found that he could learn the Indian tongues better than any other Jesuit.  He did not become a martyr as Brébeuf did, and that did not surprise him; he did not think he merited it. One day, it is true, an Indian struck him over the head with a hatchet, and he did not have his hat on, yet he survived. In telling the story he so related it that it seems as if he were congratulating himself that his hat was not hurt, and that only his head had been marred. He has not been canonized as was Brébeuf. He was never during his life given any great position of leadership. Yet he is one of the most fascinating Jesuits that ever came to the New World. He could not grow old. He built a chapel near Québec, modeled on the Holy House of Loreto, which still exists, Indian Lorette. He had his Hurons compose a letter, which he wrote down in Huron, to Our Lady in the Crypt at Chartres, vowing their fealty to Her. He organized in Canada, among the French and the Indians, the Confraternity of the Holy Family, to which Catherine Tekakwitha came to belong. He was in his devotions a child, most childlike, of the Mother of God, and She in a vision hailed him, to his astonishment, as more than Her child, even as her spouse, for, She said, “You are the father of so many of my children.” 
This extraordinary Jesuit, who had never seen Father Eudes, was chosen by Our Lady to write a letter to him in 1660, which would arrive in his hands when he was being persecuted. The letter was no usual one:

Pax Christi! 
Reverend Father,
     I have been consoled to hear through Father Torcapel the holy ambition that you have to surpass no matter who in loving Our Lady. May it please God, that you communicate this spirit to all the ambitious people of the earth! Might I dare to ask of you for the love of Mary, Virgin and Mother, whom you so much love, to procure for me the advantage of being admitted, as the last of your servitors to the service of this Sovereign Mistress, or, if you like it better, as the littlest of all your cadets, into the adoption of this Mother of Mercy. If you die before me, would you have the bounty to resign to me, or to leave to me in heritage, as much as it is in your power, a part of the devotion which you have for Her, in order that you may continue even after your death, to honor Her on earth through me? Father Torcapel will tell you face to face of the displeasure that I have that so many persons receive, in the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord, with the immense gifts which It carries with It, without showing therein to Her who has given Him to us the least sentiment of gratitude. Now, in order to remedy this, or in some fashion, to make up for their ingratitude, I should be glad to learn that there is an association of Chaplains of Our Lady, I mean that there is a quantity of good priests, who make an agreement not to celebrate ever a Mass without having among other intentions, that of honoring the Blessed Virgin, and of offering to God, by Her hands, Her adorable Son, in order that in quality of sacrifice, He mount to His Father, by the intermediary of the same person by whom He descended to us, in making Himself man. I should not want merely that this devotion limit itself to the forming of this intention; but should like it that, in addition, both before and after the Mass or Communion, we make the most honorable mention of the Blessed Virgin possible: for example that the evening before the Communion, we conjure Her to take possession of one’s heart, in order to prepare one to receive Her Son, and that after the Mass or Communion, one thank Her for having given one a so loving Pastor for our souls. I beg of you, my Reverend Father, to consult Our Good Mistress concerning this, and if it be a thing agreeable to Her, set your hand to the task, begin this association, and do me the favor to admit me to it. But, since few persons give themselves to such devotion, if there proves to be little interest in this, I leave it to your prudence and to the fervent desire that you have to increase the cult of the Blessed Virgin, to write something to draw souls to this devotion, and to have a copy of it sent to me. The love which you have for the Blessed Virgin serves me as an excuse for having taken the liberty to write to you so familiarly, I, who am only a poor man whom nobody knows.
Pierre Joseph Chaumonot

I hope that Father Chaumonot’s letter, as well as the brief sketch of his life, gives you ideas and inspiration for how to live your total consecration more fully and joyfully, toward true sanctity. Nos cum Prole Pia, benedicat Virgo Maria!
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