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Catholic Heroes… St. Marie Of The Incarnation

April 25, 2019 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

Stories of St. Rene Goupil and St. Isaac Jogues, two of the first French Jesuit priests to be martyred in the New World, led many other French citizens to seek missionary service in Canada. Women as well as men set sail for New France. Women such as St. Marguerite Bourgeoys left the comforts of France to bring Christ’s love to the people of Canada.
One of their contemporaries also left France and came to Quebec to save souls. Marie Guyart, the fourth of eight children, arrived on October 28, 1599. Her father, Florent Guyart was a master baker married to Jeanne Michelet, a member of the noble house of Babou de la Bourdaisiere. He took Marie to St. Saturnin the very next day after her birth to have her baptized.
The Guyarts raised their children to be devout Catholics; but Marie proved to be specially blessed by our Lord. Marie was a gregarious child, full of joy and adventure. When she was just seven years old Marie had her first mystical encounter.
As she explained in Relation 1654: “With my eyes toward Heaven, I saw our Lord Jesus Christ in human form come forth and move through the air to me. As Jesus in His wondrous majesty approached me, I felt my heart enveloped by His love and I began to extend my arms to embrace Him. Then He put His arms about me, kissed me lovingly, and said, ‘Do you wish to belong to me?’ I answered, ‘Yes!’ And having received my consent, He ascended back to Heaven.”
Thus began a deeper love of Jesus Christ. She had dedicated herself to Him, but when she approached her parents at the age of fourteen about entering the religious life with the Benedictines of Beaumont Abbey, they refused.
In 1617, Marie married Claude Martin, a master silk weaver. She and Claude were happy and welcomed baby Claude into their family two years later. Sorrow came when Marie’s husband died a few months later.
Widowed at the age of 19, Marie inherited her husband’s failing family business and soon she lost that as well. Thus, Marie and her son moved into her parents’ home. She spent more time in prayer, intensifying her spiritual life.
At the age of 20, still hoping to enter into a deeper relationship with our Lord, Marie took a vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Then on March 24, 1620 she experienced another vision that greatly increased her devotional life.
In 1627 to satisfy her thirst Marie read St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. While this helped her desire for a greater knowledge of the spiritual life, she hungered to deepen her devotional life and to begin a religious life similar to that of the Spanish mystic: to die a martyr bringing the faith to the New World.
After one year, the Buissons, Marie’s sister and brother-in-law, invited Marie and Claude to live with them. Their transportation business was doing so well that they needed her assistance with the bookkeeping, managing the household, and running their kitchen.
She helped them for ten years at which time she decided it was time to join a religious order. With Claude just 11 years old, she agonized over her discernment, reluctant to leave her son.
She spent much time praying about this, seeking God’s will on whether she should go to New France or not. It wasn’t long before she received a vision as she describes in Relation 1654: “I saw at some distance to my left a little church of white marble…the Blessed Virgin was seated. She was holding the Child Jesus in her lap. This place was elevated, and below it lay a majestic and vast country, full of mountains, of valleys, of thick mists which permeated everything except the church….The Blessed Virgin Mother of God looked down on this country, as pitiable as it was amazing…it seemed to me that she spoke about this country and about myself and that she had in mind some plan which involved me.”
In consultation with her spiritual director, they discerned the country was Canada. Finally, on January 25, 1631 she entered the Ursuline convent in Tours. At this time she received the name Marie of the Incarnation.
While she had realized a lifelong dream, Marie found the separation from her son just as painful as her young son found it. There were not a few dramatic scenes. One time Claude collected his friends and they descended upon the monastery where Marie was enclosed. Many other times he would be found crying at the gates, similar to the son of St. Jane Frances de Chantal.
After many years, Claude became a Benedictine monk and they communicated frequently with each other concerning their spiritual and emotional trials.
In 1633 Marie made her final vows and that Christmas received another powerful vision about New France. When her spiritual director recommended that Marie read about the Jesuits in New France, she was convinced that God was calling her to spread the Catholic faith in the New World.
She met with much resistance from both her superiors and her family. Her brother blamed her for neglecting her son and promised to strip him of his rightful inheritance. Meanwhile, her superiors ridiculed her for having such lofty aspirations. She also lacked the funds for sailing to the New World.
Madeleine de la Peltrie changed things. She met Marie on February 19, 1639 and as she was the daughter of a fiscal officer, and a religiously devout lady, Marie recognized Madeleine as the woman she had seen in a vision in 1635. Since Madeleine’s family objected to her supporting Marie’s quest, she contracted a sham marriage by which she could give her money to Marie.
The two women left for the New World and when they arrived, “The first thing we did was to kiss the ground of the place to which we had come to fulfill our lives in the service of God and the Indigenous people.”
After Marie built a small monastery for their little community of consecrated women, she added a boarding school for both Indian and French girls — something never yet done.
She also invited both the Algonquin and Huron adults to dinner when they came to her door. Teaching them about God, she encouraged them to share the Gospel. The home became known for its open doors — and arms — to people from all walks of life.
Marie founded the first Ursuline convent in the New World in 1647. She also organized books written on grammar and catechisms in the four languages spoken in New France.
Her son, Claude, now a Benedictine monk, begged her to write about her spiritual life and the effects of grace. This work revealed a woman who had reached a lofty state of holiness.
Her writings to the novices of New France led Bishop Bossuet to call her “Teresa of New France.”
Marie continued her selfless service even as her health continued to fail. She died of a liver illness on April 30, 1672. The Church celebrates her feast on the anniversary of her death.

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