Biography of Sr Madeleine of the Blessed Sacrament



a heart of gold

Three coffins in a week (2, 4, 7 January 1892)

Nobody, that morning, had sounded the matraque at 5:45 for the waking signal. Thérèse nevertheless was up as usual for prayer. In the corridor, complete darkness: nobody has lit the gaslight. A deathly silence hangs over the house. Driven by a hunch, Therese moves, lantern in hand, to the cell of old sister Madeleine. The door is wide open. She hesitates and enters; the old sister is dead, "dressed and lying on her mattress."

Thérèse feels no fear. She contemplates the peaceful face: "It was like a sweet sleep" (Ms. A, 79 v °). Sister Madeleine, the oldest converse sister, left alone on the night of the 6th to 7th at 1 am. Someone had washed her a final time and then left her. Reflex of a sacristan: Thérèse fetches the blessed candle; Easter light at the bedside of the deceased. And, as usual, the crown of roses. ...
She now goes to the choir. Silent prayer happens near the coffin of Sr Fébronie, the sub-prioress, who died Monday night. Tomorrow, Friday 8th, only six or seven sisters will be present for the burial and that at the price of what efforts! For friends of Carmel, what emotion to discover two coffins instead of one! The same funeral service therefore brings together the two nuns, who entered four months apart in 1842. Both provided valiantly her half century of Carmelite life.

"Heart of gold, deep humility"

It is customary to put in the hands of a dead sister's her formula of vows, reminder of the covenant "to the death". Sister Madeleine's paper is in its place, in the writing case of her cell, but another is attached, covered with a clumsy writing (for, says the chronicle, "Sr Madeleine could barely write"). It wears this humble request:
"I ask our Reverend Mother who will be in charge when I die to write a circular (obituary) for me only to ask for the prayers of our Holy Order, having nothing good to say about me; I wish all the prayers to be applied to the souls in purgatory, according to the desire of the Blessed Virgin to whom I gave everything, abandoning myself entirely to the mercy of God, and relying on the Charity of my mothers and sisters. If I am unable to talk at the moment of death, I beg my dearly beloved mothers and sisters to please forgive me for all the subjects of pain I have given them with my bad temper, my pride, my lack of sweetness, charity, regularity and silence. I beg you to pray for me and I promise you if God gives me mercy as I hope, to pray for you, and I will compensate you in heaven for all the trouble I gave you. "

"The just always accuses himself first" says a maxim on the wall of the Chapter room. But "he who humbles himself will be exalted" promised Jesus. This humble note simplifies the task of Mother Marie de Gonzague, herself hit by influenza, but not that of future "historians" of Sister Madeleine.

At the heart of the Auge (1817 1842)

The chronicle of the monastery presents Desiree Toutain as from "a very honorable family, highly regarded, in Beuvillers near Lisieux." Father Sauvage, as later the death certificate also, says she is originally from Saint-Martin-de-la-Lieue, south of Lisieux, close to the Saint Pierre Cathedral. In fact, Desiree was born in the hamlet of Saint-Hippolyte-des-Prés, May 27th, 1817.
Her parents were married fifteen months earlier: Marc-Frédéric Toutain, 29 and a half years old from Beuvillers, a linen worker, and Luce-Victoire-Jacquette, Lepage, widow, 34, of Lisieux, "owner" . They are farmers.

They have a second child in 1821: Frederick Isidore (later the father of Sister St. Benedict, mistress of Therese at the Abbey). Perhaps is it followed by one or two other boys.
At Beuvillers, the Toutains proliferate: twenty-five descendants for four families in fifteen years (1793-1809). There the grand parents of Desiree remained (branch Michel Toutain), uncles, aunts, cousins ... Textile workers for the most part, the flax industry will flourish in Lisieux, at the forefront of industrial cities of Calvados.
Reversals of fortune forced Desiree to move away from home. Her brothers settled in Paris called her to live with them, hoping to place her properly; there, she ran the greatest danger, but God preserved her in a special way. "(Carmel Chronicle). Paris is worth nothing to this country girl, who returns to her own home in Saint-Martin-de-la-Lieue. She met Fr. Sauvage, who discerned in her "all the marks of a good vocation." The family is Christian (they saved a priest during the Revolution). But when Desiree talks about entering the new Carmelite convent, so poor, so austere, it is a categorical refusal. Patience. Two Toutain aunts support her projet. Finally, she ran away from her father's house a few days before her twenty-five years on Pentecost, May 15th, 1842.

Carmel (1842-1892)

She is greeted by Mother Geneviève of Saint Therese, 37, prioress for four months, and (by the wish of the superior) novice mistress. She received the name Sister Madeleine of the Blessed Sacrament and became the companion of Sr Radegonde, a converse. The novitiate of the recent foundation is like a buzzing beehive : six young professed are pursuing their education. Sr St. Joseph of Jesus, Sr Radegonde, Sr Louise (a widow), Sr Adelaide, Sr Aimee of Jesus and Sister St. Charles. Their professions ranged from November 1839 to October 1841. Added to the novices, Sr Mercy and Sister Fébronie, a postulant who entered January 15th, 1842. The postulate of lay sisters lasts only one year. This period allows her family to calm down. Father Farolet, pastor of St. Pierre gives the sermon for Clothing on July 4th 1843. And Sister Madeleine made her profession on July 10th, 1844.
"Soul of faith and devotion," wrote Mother Marie de Gonzague in 1892. "It would be impossible to write of the tireless dedication of the heart as great as it was generous in service to God and her mothers and sisters ." The chronicle adds," My Sister Madeleine with her character that was a bit lively made amends with a heart of gold and deep humility. She was so charitable, so good for the sick, not sparing herself when it came to spending the night near them. Such an excellent judgment that even her Prioresses asked for her opinion. One can understand this little glimpse of sadness in our hearts from seeing us unable to surround her with our prayers, as all our sisters were bedridden.
At seventy years old, Sister Madeleine was still cooking. She is thrilled when Mr. Martin sends the beautiful fish, perhaps from Saint-Martin-de-la-Lieue, one of his favorite spots, also well known by Therese as a child. "Sister Madeleine is delighted, she serves us worthy portions like the ones of Mother Fanchon. This is the place! "(Letter of Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart to her father, was 1887).
She keeps a cheerful character, target for the affectionate teasings ... and Marie of the Sacred Heart excels in this area. “This evening at recreation, the two of us had such fun (teasing each other). She says I burn my cuttings in the sun. It doesn’t surprise me, for she soaks hers every night in a bucket of cold water to get them to take root, so she finds my method funny. I said to her: “Sr. Madeleine, I accustom my flowers to hardship, they know me… the strongest survive; my cuttings and I resemble each other, we muddle through, thanks to God." (Letter of Marie Martin, August 23rd, 1887.)



Yes, a heart of gold, the sister Madeleine! Solicitous for novices, she saw more than one die in the prime of life, during the heroic time of the foundation. One day in February 1889, she runs into Therese, novice, near the kitchen. She is alarmed:
"But what did are you becoming, my poor little sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus! You visibly lose weight! If you continue at this rate, with the face that shakes, you will not follow the rule for a long time! "
Thérèse is stunned. A few moments earlier, Sister St. Vincent de Paul comes to exclaim, a bit snidely, "Oh! what a face of prosperity! Is she strong, this great girl! Is she big ... "(Yellow Notebook, July 25th, 1915). In February 1889, the "poor little Sister Therese of the Child Jesus" would have reason to be sad face: her dad entered the Bon Sauveur in Caen.
Sister Madeleine is right; Therese did not long follow the rule - only eight years still - but she followed it up to the limit of her strength, as Sister Madeleine did for fifty years.
"If God has mercy on me as I hope ..." Next to her, a small Carmelite of nineteen had to answer in her heart: "You want mercy, you will have mercy" since the soul receives exactly what it expects of God.

Sr Cecile OCD


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