Mother Mary of Jesus, foundress of the Kirk Edge Carmel and 32 other Carmels in England, Wales and Scotland. (Taken from the blog, “Carmelite Spirituality and the Practice of Mental Prayer”). The book of her life referenced in the first paragraph is available from Mother Mary of Jesus’ first foundation in England, the Carmel of Notting Hill’s gift shop: http://carmelitesnottinghill.org.uk/craftynun/#ecwid:category=1485975&mode=product&product=6028179 . This book is fantastic and it is about a very holy, wonderful, intelligent, wise nun so in love with her God, her order, her nuns and people. I have this book and only read it like 3 times so far! It gives her life as a child, teen, young woman, her entrance into the Carmel Rue d’Enfer in Paris and her coming to England and then her founding 33 Carmels in Great Britain. It is excellent for me as it is also like having her teach me in the novitiate in Kirk Edge as the book relates what she taught her postulants, novices, nuns and others.
I will be His alone (fragments)
…She had come very early to that clear consciousness of God and one’s own soul that marks the beginning of the spiritual life. It happened like this. A trivial incident at a family marriage when she was only three, stung her pride. When the children were paired off, French fashion, a boy with a girl, she found herself partnered by a tiny boy much smaller than she, and, crowning indignity, actually dragging a toy behind him on a string. Madeleine was indignant, and showed it: ‘Go back to your nurse!’ she said scornfully to her small partner. She was also jealous of her little cousin who, she thought, was better paired than she. Suddenly the eyes of her soul were opened, and in one blinding but illuminating flash, she saw for a second the infinite purity of God and her own sin, and realized the outrage one was against the other. From that moment began her suffering. That one glimpse, fleeting though it had been, was utterly irresistible. Deep in her child’s soul there had woken that thirst for God which St Augustine crystalized for all time in his famous aphorism: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee”. With all the ardour of an eager, loving nature, the child longed to find God, to give herself to Him and to possess Him. She could not have formulated it, but she knew that this and this alone could bring her happiness. But, that fleeting glimpse past, she could not find Him; between them sha was conscious now of the barrier of her sinfulness; she had only the one standard by which to judge, since she had caught the faint reflection of divine purity, and she saw her sins, childish though they might be to others, in that light. The more she tried to eliminate them, the worse they seemed to grow. When she heard people referring to her as ‘good’, the mockery of it, in comparison with what she saw in herself, only deepened her suffering. It did not seem as though she would ever be able to reach God; sometimes, He even seem to repulse her, yet she could not but struggle to find Him and to give herself to Him. If she turned away from the pain of this continual interior struggle, and tried to find her happiness in the things of earth, to enjoy life as her companions did, to take pleasure in the natural beauty, or in the human affection that surrounded her, it was useless. There was only bitter taste in them all now, and she could find satisfaction in nothing. Heaven seemed as adamant, earth a wilderness, and its joys all Dead Sea fruit: small wonder, then, that her child’s heart, hungering for the happiness for which she was created, came to know at times something akin to despair. But she would not give in; her tenacity of purpose stood her in good stead. ‘You see very well’ she would say to Him sometimes, with an almost piteous determination, ‘that whatever I do, You do not want me. But I want to love You!’
If the child had been able to realize it, the fact that this interior suffering had no effect on her health, might have reassured her that things were in the right order, as also might the fact that, somehow, she was able to bear it all in silence, and even with a habitual gaiety that quite concealed it from tose around her……As she grew, the suffering grew with her, until it came to be not so much the background of her life as her real life, beside which lessons, games, music, were no more than a passing shadow. All that serves to bring joy and peace to most Catholic children, in her case only served to deepen the suffering and sense of loss. She had longed for the day when sacramental absolution would bring her some assurance at least of God’s pardon and forgiveness. Alas, when the time came, the priest, in accordance with a custom apparently common enough at that time, gave her a blessing, but no absolution. Nor did it occur to him to explain to the child that the absention was based on the assumption that there is insufficient matter in a child’s confession to warrant absolution……her anguish may be imagined….This continuous interior suffering, broken by crises of temptation, and also, mercifully, by tiny oases of light and peace, is the story of Madeleine’s soul right up to her entrance into Carmel. Her tenth and eleventh years, however, seem to have marked a sort of milstone. In the first place, it was in 1861 that M. l’Abbe Dambre was appointed assistant-priest at St Alain, in Lavaur, and was asked to take charge of the young girls of the parish. ….Although only two year ordained when he came to Lavaur, the young priest had already acquired a reputation in the diocese for his zeal, and also for his wise direction….’M. Dambre was, all his life long, nothing more nor less than a sower of the good God’. He was quick to sense the potentialities in Madelein’s soul, and to guide her as far as he could, but humble enough to admit that he could not follow more than a fraction of what God seeme to be operating within her. Thus, for the first time, the child began to receive a real help and support. It was M. Dambre who told her later on, ….that he was convinced that God had some special mission in store for her.