Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ven Margaret of the Most Holy Sacrament

"Margaret was born at Beaune (Cote d'Or) on Feb. 6, 1619. From her earliest childhood she gave proof of extraordinary virtue: she was only seven years old, in fact, when she would spend entire nights at prayer, even during the winter; moreover, she cared for the sick in the hospice and did not hesitate to kiss their wounds. After the death of her parents, when she was twelve and a half years old, she asked to be admitted among the Discalced Carmelite nuns of her native city (1630). Her youthful age not withstanding; her request was granted, thanks to the reputation that she enjoyed. Critical studies leave no doubt about this fact.

The young postulant thus entered into an exceptional environment, one profoundly permeated by the most authentic traditions of Carmel, among them a touching devotion to the Child Jesus. This devotion had its origins in two sources: the teaching of Cardinal de Berulle, and the practices of the Spanish foundresses of the French Carmel. Peter de Berulle, during the course of a trip to Spain, made in 1604 in order to study the introduction of the Teresian Carmel into France, had had occasion to meet with the protagonists of devotion to the infancy of Christ. At Alcalá de Henares he had been able to talk with the lay brother Francis of the Child Jesus, whose role in the development of this devotion was to be so important. Moreover, the cardinal had met the provincial of Castile, Joseph of Jesus Mary, the admirer and future biographer of the holy lay brother. Finally, he had chosen as prioress of the first French monastery Anne of Jesus, to whom Francis wrote that the foundation was willed and protected by the Child Jesus Himself.

It was for Margaret Parigot, who in taking the habit in the Carmel of Beaune had become Margaret of the Most Blessed Sacrament, to spread it among the masses, to bring closer to popular simplicity the devotion to the infancy as conceived by Brother Francis of the Child Jesus.

From the first months of her novitiate, in fact, Margaret saw herself chosen by Jesus to honor His infancy and His crib. She confided as much to the novice mistress, Mary of the Trinity, of Quatrebarbes: «The holy Child Jesus,» she said, «keeps me constantly intent on the moment of His holy birth, and He has made me concentrate on the first twelve years of His infancy in such a way that He has given them to me wall and an outwork beyond which He does not permit me to venture.» This mission, therefore, will be the grand, unique occupation of Margaret's life; and her entire existence will be a continuous dialogue with the Child Jesus, a total adhesion to His state.

Margaret's prayer was incessant, silent and meditative. She remained united to Him Who had completely separated her from the things of earth in order to seize her for Himself. It was He Who had destined her to experience, not one of those sorrowful states that purify the soul and transform it, as is the case with so many other saints, but one of those joyful states that adorn the soul with the rarest of virtues and add to the charm of purity and simplicity the graces of the divine infancy.

It was the privilege of the venerable to reproduce within herself, interiorly as well as exteriorly, this state of the Child Jesus. Frequently consoled by special illuminations on the state of God as a child at Bethlehem, she carried about «the impression of His holy and divine infancy.» For a long time she manifested exteriorly «a participation in the state of the Child Jesus in the crib,» even remaining «lying on the floor for many days without being able to rise, and from time to time emitting a little infant's cry. Her appearance and all the movements of her face were changed and became altogether like those of a new-born child...» During this period she received ineffable insights and knowledge about the state of the Child Jesus in the manger:.. His littleness, His divine weaknesses and His abasement..::. (Ms. n. 9, f. 255, of the Carmel of Beaune,. a text partially cited by Deberre, Histoire de la Venerable Marguerite, pp. 108-9).

For many years these divine favors remained Within the ambit of the community of Beaune, but after 1638 great changes took place. The Child Jesus called Margaret to work actively for the salvation of souls; He revealed to. her that in His divine infancy she was to find the means of obtaining the mercy of the Father. At the same time He taught her the way of honoring His holy infancy from the moment of His incarnation until his twelfth year. The Child Jesus wanted the project that He communicated to her to have as its title: «the family of the Child Jesus.» Following these directives, Margaret, beginning on March 24, 1636; brought together the «household and associates of the Child Jesus.» The associates were to celebrate the twenty-fifth day cf every month in memory of the Annunciation and of the Nativity, every day to recite the abbreviated rosary, called «the rosary, of the Holy Child», and to meditate, week after week, on «all the actions, words and mysteries» of the Child Jesus. But the fundamental obligation which they assumed when they inscribed themselves in the association was that of following the states of the Incarnate Word «in a holy union of heart and of spirit,» since the best way of «honoring the simplicity and the kindness of the holy Child Jesus is that of constantly practicing a most perfect simplicity, kindness, pleasantness and deep humility» (Manual of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Infancy of Jesus, established in the monastery of the Carmelite nuns of Beaune, in Deberre, Histoire, pp. 385-421, and ms. n. 23, ff. 1-5 of the Carmel of Beaune). In other words, it was necessary for the associates to submit themselves to the divine will with the candor of infancy.

Circumstances were to favor a rapid diffusion of the association, which.the Holy See was very soon to erect into a confraternity that is still flourishing. France was then in a very serious crisis, her frontiers were menaced on all sides, the future of the dynasty was uncertain. The royal family and the masses sought for help from all the praying communities. It was the moment at which, through the initiative of the Calvarine Anne de Goulaine, the consecration of France to the Blessed Virgin was being prepared in accord with the vow of Louis XIII that was reputedly imposed by Richelieu: Hence, as soon as the existence of the association of the holy Child Jesus became known, enrollments multiplied. Anne of Austria confided her worries to the venerable; for twenty years she had been praying in vain for the birth of an heir. The restoration of peace and the birth of an heir, which followed one after the other, increased the fame of the humble Carmelite.

During the course of the first world war an analogous phenomenon was to be verified: the confidence placed in St. Therese of the Child Jesus was to create a favorable climate for her glorification. Just as the Saint of Lisieux would protect the soldiers who were entrusted to her, so Margaret defended the interests that were entrusted to her and she became the symbol of the power of devotion to the infancy. Surrounded by veneration, she continued her mission of peace and of union — something that is illustrated with so much eloquence by the statue of the Little King of Grace still preserved at Beaune.

When Margaret died, on May 26, 1648, in an ecstasy of love; devotion to the infancy of Jesus was in its full flower. Associations were being created everywhere to honor the mystery of the crib, most often through the inspiration of the Oratorians, since the school of Berulle was not long in coming under the influence of Beaune. Works dedicated to the infancy of Jesus multiplied to such an extent that these themes were among those most often treated by spiritual writers of the XVII and even of the XVIII centuries. Any number of names could be cited, but it is sufficient to recall those of Father Barre, Minim; of St. John Eudes, who depends on both Berulle and Margaret; and of St. John Baptist de La Salle, who owes her so much.

-- Adapted (abridged) from the biography by Raymond Darricau


If you wish to learn more about this important figure in the Teresian Carmel and the devotion to the Infant Jesus, you may want to get A Gem from the Diamond Mine - The Life of Venerable Margaret of the Most Blessed Sacrament by Msgr P Fliche. It was recently republished (2009) by Treasures of Carmel Publication (ISBN 9780646521558). Lord willing, there will be some post from this wonderful book later this year.

1 comment:

aspiring... said...

I didn't know about Ven. Margaret before your post. The information and the wealth of it begins to fill and round out an empty area in me in a way, an area in which I've had no real affinity and into which I've searched and puzzled over. Can't explain it, but did want to mention it as the reason for my "thanks." God bless you, ocd sister, now and always.