Circular of Mother Marie de Gonzague


Marie Davy de Virville (1834-1904)


Peace and very humble salutations in Our Lord who has saddened our hearts in calling to Him our honorable and beloved Mother ADELE-ROSALIE-MARIE DE GONZAGUE. She was 70 years, 10 months old and was in religious life 44 years, 27 of them as Prioress.

Our late lamented Mother was born in Caen from a family more honorable because of its virtues than by its noble titles. If the author of the Imitation wisely warned us to never to allow ourselves to be dazzled by the brilliance of a great name which he calls a shadow, he adds however that it is permissible to glory in ones ancestors when they have distinguished themselves by a holy life. Now our dear Mother counted among her family of true saints, among them SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA whose famous name is on all pious lips at this time. And yet her modesty and disdain of greatness of earthly things hardly permitted us to speak of them in her presence.

It was our honorable Mother GENEVIEVE DE SAINTE-THERESE, of so sweet and holy memory, that opened the doors of Carmel for our beloved Mother Marie de Gonzague on November 29, 1860, who gave her the holy habit on May 30th, 1861 and received her vows during ordinary time. From then on she could call her “her daughter and her crown”, as our seraphic Mother used to so graciously call her coadjutrix the Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus.

With what happiness, Reverend Mother, we spoke with you of the virtues and work accomplished by this second Mother of our Carmel during her long religious career, during the years where she devoted her life and energy to finish the construction of our convent, to make our chapel attractive, to raise up in the inner courtyard this little immortal Calvary in front of which “THERESE, her daughter and her crown” so many times strewed her roses.

But we promised her to absolutely respect her humble wish which was to have no other circular than a simple note asking for the intercessory prayers of the order, not even for herself but for the souls in Purgatory, in whose favor she had made the heroic vow.

On the day of the great revelations, Reverend Mother, you will be able to see with us the secrets of that life hidden from the world. In waiting for the hour of God, might we be permitted to tell you in a few words how edifying and holy the death of that blessed mother was. If we say rightly “As in life, so in death”, is death is really an echo of life, you should already be able to guess many things. Our good Mother Marie de Gonzague, after practicing the austerities of our rule for all her religious life, so to speak, was stricken with a tumor of the tongue. She bore cruel suffering until the end with a heroic courage, never complaining, except for not being able to recite her breviary. “When might I return to choir?” she said, weeping. “Oh, it is painful to no longer recite the divine office, to no longer sing the praises of the good God.”

However she still fulfilled her duty of trustee and was as much as possible in community, no doubt through faithfulness, but also because she knew so well that her presence consoled our hearts.

So it was until December 8th, the day of the closing of our annual retreat, in which our good Mother followed all the exercises without missing a one of these precious instructions given by our pious chaplain whom she trusted completely. On this day she was able to obtain with us the Jubilee indulgence.

That afternoon without any warning signs, a great attack of suffocation/choking that was very serious overcame her and we immediately wanted to call our devoted doctor. But she gently refused this and indicated her wish to attend that evening a private little feast in honor of the Immaculate Virgin, Patroness of our convent. This feast ended with the singing of a canticle of which the last words seemed to be a prayer for our dear Mother:

Soon the night of our life will come…
We will no longer sail on an ocean of tears/sorrows
Then, o clement, o very sweet Mary,
Morning Star, beacon of the Homeland,
Show us your Jesus!           

She then came to kneel before the statue of Mary, radiant with light, and glanced at her in a touching way that seemed to say, “It’s me, O Mother! to whom you show first your Jesus.” The next day she was taken down to the infirmary and on Saturday night, December 10th, she received Holy Viaticum and Extreme Unction with the liveliest sentiments of faith and piety.

From that moment on, the life of our dear patient was but a slow death. At times she suffered cruelly and when we tried to deaden her pain with sedatives she said to us with the simplicity of a child, “My Mother, isn’t it cowardice on my part to accept alleviation? I only suffer a quarter of an hour without telling you and right away you bring me a remedy. Perhaps I should wait longer before complaining? Ah! Suffering is such a great thing! Through it we show our love and our gratitude to God.”

Until her death, this beloved Mother never ceased to edify us in this way, offering all her sufferings for the holy Church, for France, for the persecuted communities and for our families.

We were above all struck by her deeply humble words which reminded us of the exhortations of our Mother Saint Teresa when on her death bed she had written, “You will not reject, Lord, a humble and contrite heart. I hope to be saved the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our late lamented Mother also repeated with an inexpressible tone of voice, “Have pity on me, O my God! I’ve had a lot of misery in my poor life, I have offended you very much. Don’t abandon me!”

In spite of this, we guessed that confidence overshadowed all her other feelings. How many times did she confide to us in her last days, “O my Mother, how the good God has been merciful to me! It’s something I’ve said all my life. Look, I was afraid of exile and I’m going to die before knowing that cross. Right now I have no fear, I want to see the good God not as a judge but as a Father full of tenderness and mercy. I am his child, I go to Him with filial confidence. I entirely abandon myself to Him.”

It was in this holy state of mind, Reverend Mother, that our so loved Mother Marie de Gonzague gave to God her soul, on Saturday December 17th at 5:30 in the morning after a peaceful death. The Community and we were present.

Our holy Mother affirms in The Way of Perfection that souls find God as they wish Him to be, as their hopes show him to be. We like to believe that our honorable and dear Mother had the sweet experience of such a consoling revelation and instead of a formidable judge, she found at the threshold of eternity a Father who stretched out his arms to her and opened his Heart.

However, Reverend Mother, as we don’t know the degree of purity required by the Lord of a soul he gave so many graces to, to enter into Heaven, we beg you to offer as soon as possible for our beloved Mother the intercessory prayers of our holy Order; by grace a Communion of your fervent Community, a day of good works, the indulgence of the Way of the Cross and six Our Fathers/Paters. She will be very grateful to you, as are we who have the grace to say it to you with the deepest respect and in religious union, My Reverend and very Honorable Mother,

Your humble sister and servant,
Sister Agnès of Jesus,
From our Convent of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Conception
of the Carmelites of Lisieux, December 20, 1904

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