A Model Catholic Wife and Mother: Anna-Maria Taïgi

A Model Catholic Wife and Mother:

Anna-Maria Taïgi (1769-1837)

  By Dom Bernard Maréchaux, O.S.B.

  Published in Le Sel de la terre 62, Autumn 2007

Anne Marie Taigi is known above all for the mysterious sun by which God gave her to see contemporary events, especially freemasonic intrigues. In a Rome victimized by subversion, she would warn the pope (for example, when the Carbonari 1 wanted to assassinate him) or particular cardinals that they should avoid this or that visit or outing. Consulted by Msgr. Natali concerning the audiences that Leo XII (1823-1829) was to grant, she would respond with confidence: “You may receive such a one; but stay away from this other; and be on guard about this one,” etc. Miraculously instructed concerning the dangers that were threatening the Church, she gave valuable counsels to Gregory XVI (who condemned the first manifestation of “liberal Catholicism.”)

But the marvelous must not hide the most important: it is particularly through her conversion and life as a wife and mother of a family that Our Lord has established Anna-Maria Taigi as a model for others. (“I have destined you to be known to the entire world as an example of penance and as the model for married women.”) We will thus accord particular attention to these two features of Anna-Maria in the essay which follows 2.

All those who must speak about God to their children or neighbors can ask Anna Maria Taïgi for this grace, because her husband described her talent as follows: “She spoke of God without becoming wearisome.”

Birth and Early Life

Anna Maria was born in Siena (which is in the region of Tuscany, Italy) on May 29, 1769. She was baptized the very next day with the names Anna-Maria Antonia Gesualda. Her father, Luigi Giannetti Masi, was a pharmacist. He fell into complete financial ruin when Anna-Maria was only six years old, and so relocated his family to Rome, where he and his wife were taken on as domestic servants in well-to-do homes. Their journey (on foot) advanced very slowly, and it was thus that Anna-Maria found herself from early childhood carried along by what a poet might call “the sorrowful wind of poverty (il vento doloroso delle poverta)”

Born in Siena, Anna-Maria Taïgi can be associated with the group of Siena mystics, especially the virgin St. Catherine. She is not unworthy to be compared with the saint by the greatness of her sanctity, the heroism of her martyrdom of love, by the supernatural gifts with which she was clothed, or by her role as a victim and mediator before the Roman Court and sovereign pontiffs in Rome where she lived and died, as did St. Catherine. The same Siennese blood, renamed by its sweetness “sangue dolce” (the expression of St. Catherine) coursed in both women’s veins; the same impassioned love of Christ embraced the hearts of the virgin and this humble woman.

The parents of Anna-Maria were Catholics. Once arrived in Rome, they placed their child with religious sisters, who prepared her for her first Holy Communion and Confirmation, and then had her apprenticed with honest women to learn domestic tasks. She then became a housemaid where she was exposed to the greatest of worldly dangers, but God protected her naiveté. Her intelligence and vivacity were hardly ordinary, and vanity and love of adornments occupied the thoughts of her young head. She did not have bad intentions, but who knows where this dangerous path might have led?

But Domenico Taigi, a domestic at the princely home of the Chigis, asked her hand in marriage – and she agreed. He was a man without much refinement, but an honest and a serious Catholic. Anna-Maria was 21 years old when the two were married.

Conversion

After her marriage, Anna-Maria continued for a little while with her life of entertainments and worldliness. This was pleasing to her husband who was proud of his young, elegant and well placed wife, but displeasing to God who put an inexpressible disquiet in her soul even though she did not deviate from her duties. Our Lord had designs of lofty and eternal mercy on Anna-Maria, and so on the designated day, the divine hunter of souls captured her in His net with a beautiful blend of authority and extreme sweetness.

The following is an account of Anna-Maria’s conversion as stated in the official proceedings of her beatification:

Anna-Maria went to Saint Peter’s in worldly attire. A Servite religious, Father Angelo (Verandi), upon meeting her, heard a heavenly voice: “Take good notice of this woman. I will confide her to your care, and you will work for her transformation. She will sanctify herself, for I have chosen her to become a saint.” In effect, Anna-Maria, not able to resist the disquiet in her heart, had resolved to go to confession and change her life.

She entered Saint Peter’s and drawing near to a confessional said to the confessor who was in it, “Behold at your feet a poor sinner.” The confessor dismissed her with harshness saying “Go! You are not my penitent.” This response discouraged the poor woman and she made an incomplete confession. Although she left troubled, she made the resolution to entirely renounce for God all her vanities and the resulting offenses.

But she wanted to have recourse to the Sacrament of Penance again, and so this time she went to church of St. Marcellus. Upon entering, she saw a priest in the confessional and without knowing who he was, she took her place in the confession line. It was again Father Angelo, and he recognized her. When it was her turn in the confessional he said to her with graciousness, “You have finally fallen into my hands.” He told her of the words that he had heard in Saint Peter’s, and encouraged her with a great charity and evangelical sweetness to make a full conversion.

Anna-Maria did not hesitate henceforward to give herself totally to God; with the consent of her husband, she divested herself of all her worldly attire and clothed herself in a simple, coarse dress. She embraced with ardor the most extraordinary penances, such that her confessor had to moderate what she was doing. She wept torrents of tears over her faults; hair shirts, disciplines, fasting and other mortification became her delight. So as to create a barrier between herself and the world she asked her husband for permission to wear the habit of the Third Order of the Most Holy Trinity. Domenico agreed 3, but on the condition that she not neglect any of her duties as a wife and mother; and in fact she did remain wholly faithful.

So now we have seen the account of our Blessed’s conversion. At this point there is an observation that we believe to be well founded: the crisis of vanity is crucial for women. At a decisive moment, every woman must answer the question whether to choose the world with its vain “joys,” or Jesus crucified with the renouncements that this entails. If, at the feet of her crucifix, she sacrifices her taste for vain adornments, she will walk with great strides along the Christian path, even to the highest summits. If, however, she imagines an impossible union between God and the world, she will be restless in her conscience, peace will elude her, the Sacraments will lose their savor, she will be exposed to illusion and sin, and even her salvation in peril.

Anna-Maria gave herself to God with a complete generosity, trampling on the vain attractions of this world. From the very start, she rivaled the most experienced of saints.

Thirst for Penance

The thirst for penance of this humble woman was insatiable. She pursued it in everything, allowing nature no comfort or respite.

The instruments of penance that were used in cloisters were familiar to her, but she subordinated their use to the judgments of her confessor – upon whom she depended in all things, knowing that nothing has value in the spiritual life except through obedience.

But a mortified soul is able to mortify itself in everything it does. Serving at table for her husband and children, Anna-Maria reserved for herself the scraps – and even food that was spoiled. When the weather was very hot, she drank very little or not at all. (And to endure the torment of thirst in Rome is a penance worse than the pain of hair shirts or iron chains!) Sometimes one of her children would notice that her lips were not wet on her glass, and would cry out: “Papa, mama is not drinking!” And then at the directive from her husband, Anna-Maria would drink a little bit.

She arranged things so that she could undertake what can be called the “Roman devotions.” This was not only the Scala Sancta (quite well known to Roman pilgrims) where she climbed these special steps on her knees, but also the great stone staircase of the Ara-Coeli. Anna-Maria would visit the various crucifixes that were venerated in the churches of Rome, notably that which was in St. Paul Outside the Walls. She made the tour of “Seven Basilicas,” which was a long journey under a hot sun and a midst waves of dust. Upon entering the doors of St. Paul’s, she would remove her shoes and not put them back on until she returned into the city. The way of the cross at the Coliseum was also quite familiar to her. Those who have undertaken such penitential practices will appreciate these heroic mortifications of the servant of God.

All of these devotions were only a portion of the penances that she undertook. Can you see her with her face prostrate and touching the ground, shedding tears and sobbing? Anna-Maria thus lamented her sins. See how she afflicted herself! She would strike her head and face on the ground to the point of bleeding from her mouth. This is similar to what St. Francis of Rome would do: for an idle word she would strike her mouth with blows of her fist until blood flowed. Such penances were forbidden to Anna-Maria, but what a penitential spirit did she not manifest as she chastised herself in so many ways!

The saints display a strong realization of the magnitude of sin. Is it the same with us?

Mother of a Family

It is important to recognize that the foundation of Anna-Maria’s great sanctity was her constant and unceasing carrying out of her daily duties as wife and mother, all elevated by her great love of God.

Concerning all this, we have the testimony of her husband Domenico Taigi from her process of beatification. A good Catholic, and a man of duty, Domenico knew nothing of mystical states. While Anna-Maria was often carried away in ecstasies (in spite of herself) by the strong power of the Spirit of Our Lord, Domenico thought that she suffered from some kind of sleeping sickness. Later, of course, he recognized such things as actions of God.

He was, moreover, aware of the great virtue of his wife and presented a testimony that reveals a profound emotion. He knew that she was very humble, sweet and patient; that she displayed a true spirit of religion, a great modesty in her conduct, and such wisdom and mastery of herself such that he could not but admire her without reserve.

Anna-Maria had seven children, four boys and three girls: Camillo, Alessandro, Luigi, Pietro, Aria, Sofia and Margharita. Three died at a young age. Only two daughters outlived their mother: Maria who never married and Sofia who became a widow with six children. Camillo had died at 42 years of age, and Alessandro at 35.

Domenico related that his saintly wife suspended her mortifications during all of her pregnancies, and took every precaution required of human prudence. She nursed all of her children and said that she could not understand how any mother could be indifferent to this duty. She formed her children in the ways of prayer; she taught them the first elements of religion.

She watched over the modesty of her little children with an extreme attention. Not only did the children have separate beds, but the beds all had curtains.

She never failed in her duty to correct her children, and she would not endure any fits of passion. She did not allow her children to be hit upon the head.

She neglected nothing so that her beloved little ones would have a solid religious instruction; she saw to it that her young daughters received Holy Communion every week, and her sons three times per month. These were the maximums allowed during the time period when Anna-Maria lived.

We also see that on one occasion Anna-Maria imposed a fast upon one of her not-so-young daughters for a fault that she had committed. This was not a very ordinary punishment!

Patience for Any Trial

Testimony concerning Domenico Taigi by his daughter Sofia:

My father was pious and serious as much as could be desired, but with a fiery, demanding temperament that was both arrogant and extravagant – which was quite a marvel. Upon returning home, he would whistle or knock. We had to thus run to let him in, at the risk of hurting ourselves. In fact, on two occasions my sister Mariuccia fell to the ground due to dashing too quickly, and one of these times she was holding our 5-month old baby sister in her arms. If he (Domenico) did not find everything to his liking he flew into a rage even to the point of seizing the tablecloth off of the dinner table and throwing everything in the air even though our meal was fully set out! Everything had to be ready at the precise moment, the soup had to be hot in the serving bowl, and the chairs in place. The same requirements he demanded for his clothing and for everything.”

Nevertheless, Domenico gave the following witness concerning his wife:

“I lived with this blessed soul for about 48 years. There was never a word of disgust, nor any contention. We lived in a continual peace like paradise. Her great tact was such that there was never any serious conflict between us. She knew how to charitably reprimand, and I owe to her the correction of several of my faults. She made her admonitions with an incomparable charity. All of her ways were of such a charm that they irresistibly compelled everyone to please her for the good of the family…

If she saw that someone was troubled or upset she would say nothing. She would wait until the person was calm and then with all humility and sweetness she would help the person to reflect. And while such altercations were rare, my poor wife was so prudent that as soon as she perceived any conflict, whether it was a matter of an old mother or a daughter-in-law, she hastened to defuse the dispute with a magnanimity that established a greater peace and harmony than had been there previously.”

(To be continued)

1 — Masonic sect.

2 — This essay was published in 1924 at Mesnil-Saint-Loup (France) under the title “Blessed Anna-Maria Taïgi of Rome, Mother of a Family.” Dom Maréchaux introduced this work with the following: “I have drawn everything I have written here from the most authentic sources, namely from the depositions given under oath for the beatification of Anna-Maria, large portions of which were published in the collection entitled Analecta Juris Pontificii (54th, 60th and 62nd editions).”

3 — The permission Anna-Maria received to dress with an austere simplicity, and then to adopt the religious habit of the Third Order Trinitarians, is worthy of a special comment. Domenico liked it that his wife was elegant, but then he consented to have his wife appear almost as an indigent. Is this not an indication that the love of adornment comes from the woman and that she is responsible for it, although she may hide behind the (false) idea that it is her husband who wants it?

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé No.32: September 2019

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé

No. 32: September 2019

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Profession before Fr. Prior (August 14th)



Fioretti of St. Vincent Ferrer

Even though he preached for hours, St. Vincent never tired the faithful. He frequently put them at ease with anecdotes, little stories, comparisons to nature, and even jokes! “Squash,” he said, justifying this practice, “are delicate and delicious, but in order to prevent them from burning and sticking to the pot, it’s necessary, if you want to cook them well, to keep stirring them with a spoon!”

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The unjust innkeeper

One day an innkeeper asked St. Vincent to preach on the obligation of paying debts, because several clients were behind in their bills. “Alright, I’ll explain how much those who retain the goods of others are guilty; but first, show me the wine you sell.” Once the innkeeper brought out a bottle, St. Vincent had him pour it into his scapular, which he held out in the form of a bowl. The water passed through, and the wine stayed in the scapular: a lot of water, and very little wine…!

“St. Vincent’s water”

A very loquacious woman, on bad terms with her irascible husband, asked St. Vincent for advice on how to “convert him.” “If you want to put an end to your quarrels, go to the porter of our convent and ask him to give you some water from the well in the middle of the cloister. When your husband comes home, put some of this water in your mouth right away, without swallowing, and you’ll see your husband become as gentle as a lamb.”

The woman did as she was told, and when her husband came home grumbling, she took a mouthful of the “miraculous” water. Her husband, seeing that his wife kept her peace without talking back, calmed down himself and thanked God for having changed her heart — and closed her mouth. The same scene repeated itself several times, always with the same happy success. At the end, the woman came to thank St. Vincent, who explained: “The real remedy was not the water from the well, but silence. In the future, keep silent, and you’ll live in peace.”

The hermit and the sack of gold

St. Vincent recounted the story of a saintly hermit who was walking to town one day when he came across a burse of gold coins. He fled immediately, crying out: “Death and tragedy!” A few onlookers asked what he saw, but his only answer was: “There, by the tree — flee while you can!” However, they didn’t take his advice, and taking the gold pieces, they went into town, got drunk and ended up killing each other in a violent dispute.

Community Chronicle

May 24th: Mr. Jean-Claude Marchon, benefactor of the community, passes away at the age of 91. Mr. Marchon gave up a comfortable apartment in Paris to come and spend his last years doing penance in our Friary. His good humor and edifying example will be sorely missed. (On the 29th: Solemn High Requiem Mass, and burial in the Friary’s cemetery.) R.I.P.

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May 26th: Fr. Marie-Dominique is at the Loncheray with the youth group “Friends of the Sacred Heart,” to prepare for their summer camp.

June 2nd: “Solemn Communion” ceremony and public profession of Faith for 6 young ladies of the parish (4 from the school St. Rose of Lima).

The same day, Fathers Marie-Dominique and Hyacinthe-Marie are in Paris for the Third Order.

June 8th-10th: Fr. Marie-Laurent and Br. Michel-Marie represent the Friary at the annual Pentecost pilgrimage of the Combat for the Faith, at the Puy-en-Velay. After the pilgrimage, Bishop Zendejas pays a visit to the Friary on his way back to the U.S.

June 19th: Solemn High Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart celebrated by Fr. Angelico in celebration of the 10th anniversary of his ordination.

June 20th: Fr. Marie-Dominique is in Riddes, Switzerland, at Fr. Epiney’s parish for the 25th anniversary of the ordination of his vicar, Fr. Grenon. Fr. Epiney is a legendary figure in the Fight for Catholic Tradition; it was he who received Archbishop Lefebvre in his parish for the foundation of the seminary of Écône. He has stood firm in his fidelity to the combat of the Archbishop, even at the price of now being ostracized by the superiors of the Society of St. Pius X.

June 23rd: Corpus Christi procession with the presence of Bishop Faure, and presided by Fr. Dominique Rousseau, who recently joined the Combat for the Faith.

June 26th-28th: Exams for the seminarians and our clerical brothers.

July 1st-6th: Fathers Marie-Dominique, Hyacinthe-Marie, and Fr. Ballini preach a retreat at the Friary for 22 men.

July 3rd: Fathers Prior and Louis-Marie, accompanied by Br. Alain, are at the Villeneuve (priory of Fr. Pivert) for a formation session for the “Friends of the Sacred Heart.”

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General Chapter of the Knights of Our Lady, held this year in the Friary’s library

July 12th-15th: The Knights of Our Lady hold their 26th annual General Chapter at the Friary. This year they celebrated the 30th anniversary of the restoration of their traditional observance.

July 14th: Fr. Prior and Br. Augustin-Marie are at Saumur for a doctrinal session for a group of tertiaries.

The second half of July: As every summer, several Fathers and Brothers are busy with camps: Fathers Angelico and Hyacinthe-Marie, with Br. Agostinho at the Lion-d’Angers for Our Lady of Fatima’s Youth Group (elementary boys and girls), and the “Valliant Souls” (adolescent girls); Fr. Terence (joined later by Fr. Angelico) and Brothers Alain and Augustin-Marie in Dordogne (near the famous sanctuary of Rocamadour), with the Cadets of the Sacred Heart. Despite the heat wave, the children all went home happy, and hopefully a few steps closer to God.

July 17th: Outing in Tours for the novitiate, with a guided visit by our Greek professor, Mr. Trouillet.

July 20th: The Friary hosts the marriage of a former student of Saint Thomas Aquinas Boys’ school; Fr. Louis-Marie has the honor of celebrating and receiving the vows.

July 22nd-27th: Fathers François-Marie, Marie-Laurent, and Fr. Picot preach a retreat at the Friary for 32 women.

July 23rd-27th: Fr. Prior is in Lourdes visiting Fr. de Mérode.

August 2nd: For our table reading, we read the Friary chronicles for July-August-September 1979, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of our definitive installation here at the Friary of La Haye-aux-Bonshommes. Fond memories for the most senior members of the community, and fascinating discoveries for the younger members (many of which were not even born at the time)!

August 4th-12th: Our annual retreat was preached this year by Fr. Morgan, who inspired us with the example of Bl. Dominic Barberi (1792-1849), the Italian Passionist priest who was responsible for a wide movement of conversion to the Catholic Church in England in the 19th century.

August 14th: Vigil of the Assumption: Solemn High Mass, during which our postulant Emmanuel receives the habit of lay brother, and a new name: Brother John. The ceremony also included the first profession of Brothers Pie-Marie and Marie-Thomas, who will now start their philosophy and theology classes with the other clerical brothers.

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August 15th: Annual Assumption procession, with a large crowd of faithful from all parts of Western France: a big difference from the 6 faithful present for the first procession 40 years ago, when the Fathers just arrived!

August 22nd: Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and 25th anniversary of the perpetual vows of Brother Martin. This day is also the 25th anniversary of the profession of our very first tertiary: Sr. Catherine (Miss Ruth McQuillan, Scotland). Ad multos annos!

News from our worksites

Other than a few small maintenance projects and the preparation of a Calvary mount, we don’t have much to announce. Please pray that we may finally obtain the authorization for the construction of the new parish hall with cafeterias for our schools. The lack of space has reached a critical point.

Crisis in the Church

In 2017, The Conference of French Bishops published the latest statistics concerning the Church in France. Compared to the statistics from 1990 (let alone those from before Vat II!), they show clearly that the crisis in the Church is still raging.

1990 2015
Baptisms 472,130 262,314
Confirmations 91,281 43,627
Marriages 141,146 55,854
Priests 32,267 16,830*
Religious (female) 52,507 29,183
Religious (male) 10,652 5,490

*10 000 of which are over 65 years old…

What’s more, we have to ask ourselves what kind of formation does this “little rest” have? How many of these souls have actually kept the Catholic Faith?

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Clama ne cesses! Cry out, never cease!

(arms of St Vincent Ferrer)

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Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé No. 31: May 2019

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé

No. 31: May 2019

St Vincent Ferrer

2019: Year of St. Vincent Ferrer

St. Vincent Ferrer: 1350-1419

The apostolate of St. Vincent Ferrer was as international as the Dominican Order itself. Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Switzerland (some even say England, but proof is lacking)… received his visit, and all of Europe felt the power of his message.

He traveled on foot – or, at the end of his life, riding on a donkey – accompanied by a group of confessors and a flock of penitents who would follow for a time the preacher that converted them. Arriving in town, he would kneel down on the ground, not wanting to penetrate any further into the city without imploring for it the divine blessing. After which, the mission commenced.

He himself would rise each morning at 2 o’clock, in order to recite the Breviary and say his private prayers. A few hours later, the mission would start with a Solemn High Mass, celebrated by St. Vincent, with deacon, sub-deacon, and a highly-trained schola — with musical instruments! The saint placed great importance on the beauty of the liturgy, which for him was the first way to preach.

The Mass was generally celebrated outdoors, as no church could contain the crowds of faithful. Next came the sermon, which easily lasted three hours (sometimes longer), the blessing of the sick (and the resulting miracles), and the reconciliation of enemies.

The Angel of the Last Judgment

In the eyes of the faithful, Saint Vincent Ferrer was above all — as he said himself — the “Angel of the Last Judgment”, he who came to cry out to the world: “Fear God, and give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment is come” (Apoc. 14:7). Born in 1350, two years after the start of the terrible bubonic plague that decimated Europe, he preached to a Christendom ravaged by the Hundred Years War, natural catastrophes (such as the earthquakes shaking even St. John Lateran and St. Peter’s), and the Great Western Schism. If that wasn’t the end of the world, it was at least a striking prefiguration. Throughout Church history, just as there have regularly been precursors of the Antichrist, God has sent precursors of the intrepid preachers who will be his direct adversaries at the end of the world.

A hundred years ago, the review La Vie spirituelle underlined the significance of St. Vincent’s mission, for his epoch and ours:

God gave him the mission to speak to all the people of Europe, to repeat during 30 years, without tiring, the importance of salvation, the blinding light of the final judgment, the eternity of Hell. […] The whole of St. Vincent’s preaching consists in boldly confronting his listeners with the most frightening and the most certain of all realities: Hell is the punishment for sin. Unless you convert, you will all perish.

The Angel of the Judgment is thus [always] a “Saint for today”.

The Problem of Evil

If God exists, where does evil come from? This is a common objection, but which actually turns against atheism and leads to religion.

And yet, evil exists, doesn’t it? Evil (for example, deafness, blindness…) does not have its own proper existence: it’s an absence, a lack, a disorder, that doesn’t exist all by itself, but only in something else that it damages. Evil is a privation of being — a privation of the normal order.

What does that prove? A privation does not have a proper cause. The shadow of a tree (privation of light) is not positively produced by the tree (which only limits the action of the Sun), and much less by the Sun itself! In a way, one could say that evil is to God what shadows are to the Sun.

But if God is all-powerful, what could limit His action? God, being all-powerful, is free to manifest His goodness as He wishes. Instead of an egalitarian universe (with millions of identical beings), His wisdom preferred a diversified creation, reflecting His goodness in a multiple fashion (in varying degrees). In this hierarchy, certain beings cast shadows on others: animals eat other animals, which eat plants, which assimilate minerals, etc. Each creature, with its limits, contributes to the general order of things.

Doesn’t the presence of evil inside humanity itself (wars, crimes, injustice…) argue against the existence of God? False notes in a concert do not in any way rule out the existence of the symphony, nor the existence of a composer. It’s actually the opposite which is true: it would be impossible to discern the false notes if the melody and harmony of the whole did not exist. Similarly, the presence of evil in the world does not in any way raise doubts as to the existence of God: to the contrary, we could not discern what is evil without having first recognized a general order of the universe.

Evil remains a scandal! Evil is a scandal for those who are more or less pantheistic (thinking that the universe itself is God), or who adore Mankind. The imperfections of our world prove first and foremost that the world is not God; it is not the Supreme Being, and so we must therefore search for something higher. Every man has a thirst for happiness which cannot be completely satisfied by things here below. This is just one more proof of the existence of God: true happiness is over and above this world!

But if God is good, couldn’t he eliminate all evil? Evil will always be a mystery for our limited human reason. We can understand that evil is permitted by God for a greater good, but it remains difficult to discern what this greater good actually is. The mystery of evil calls upon other mysteries which alone can shed light upon it: the mystery of eternal life (our life on earth is only a temporary trial, before our real life), the mystery of final judgment (one day, everyone must render an account of their actions), the mystery of original sin (man used his liberty to “thwart” God’s plan), and the mystery of Jesus Christ, who made reparation for sin in a manner even more beautiful than if sin had never existed (God’s goodness is revealed better by Jesus taking on human nature in order to make reparation and suffer in our place). To all those who suffer and are tempted to revolt, only Jesus (who suffered even more, but who leads us to happiness), provides the true answer.

Community Chronicle

January 31st: Mrs. Miriam CARROLL (Sr. Claire Gambacorta t.o.p.) passed away in Kansas, fortified by the sacraments of the Church and assisted by her fellow tertiaries. According to the constitutions of the Third Order and her personal wishes, she was buried wearing the Dominican habit.

Mirriam Carroll (coffin)

February 1st: At Montagnac-la-Crempse (Périgord), Fathers Marie-Dominique and Angelico represent the community at the funeral services for Mother Marie-Emmanuel, the first Prioress of the contemplative Dominican sisters of Avrillé.

February 9th: Brothers Michel-Marie and Augustin-Marie receive the tonsure during a Pontifical High Mass celebrated by Bishop Zendejas. Several seminarians receive the cassock, tonsure and minor orders on the same occasion.

February 10th: The Third Order Fraternity of “Saint Dominic and Saint Francis” (which gathered together all our tertiaries of Southeastern France) having become too big, Fathers Angelico and Marie-Laurent preside the erection of a new Fraternity for our tertiaries of Auvergne: the Fraternity “Saint Vincent Ferrer.” The fledgling Fraternity will be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on May 5th, feast of St. Pius V.

February 17th: Third Order meeting for Fathers Marie-Dominique and Hyacinthe-Marie at “Saint Joseph’s Domain” (Convent of the Sisters of Mary Coredemptrix, near Rennes, Brittany).

March 9th/10th: Weekend recollection for the faithful near Bordeaux, with Fathers Marie-Laurent and Hyacinthe-Marie.

March 17th: Annual pilgrimage in honor of St. Joseph for the families of St. Philomena School, with Fathers François-Marie and Angelico. Fathers Marie-Dominique and Hyacinthe-Marie are in Chartres for a conference, then to Paris for the Third Order.

March 30th/31st: For the 600th anniversary of St. Vincent Ferrer’s entry into Heaven, Father Louis-Marie leads a group of tertiaries on a pilgrimage to his tomb in Vannes (Brittany).

March 24th: Arrival of Bishop Thomas Aquinas, who will stay several weeks in France.

March 28th: Father Prior is in Rennes (Brittany), where Bishop Thomas Aquinas presides over the ceremony of the final vows of Sr. Marie-Liesse, and the temporary vows of Sister Marie-Joseph (Sisters of Mary Coredemptrix).

March 30th-April 6th: Annual pilgrimage to Rome for the graduating class of St. Thomas Aquinas Boys’ School, accompanied by Fr. Marie-Dominique.

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Death of St. Vincent at Vannes (Brittany)

News from our worksites

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In order to have a spotless church in time for Holy Week and Easter, a 5-day cleaning operation, under the di­rection of our Br. An­dré-Joseph, was ac­complished in late Feb­ruary. The height of the vaulted ceiling and the fragility of the murals (dating from the 14th century) made it neces­sary to rent a crane for the delicate procedure.

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The construction permit for the future Parish Hall was rejected due to a change in zoning laws… The architect is now revising the blue prints in conformity with the new requirements, and we’re hoping to get the project under way in 2020. We’re also counting on your prayers to remove all the administrative and financial obstacles!

Crisis in the Church

February 4th, 2019: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom.” (Declaration on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.)

March 30th, 2019: Rabat, Morocco: the Pope visits the “Mohamed IV Institute for the Formation of Muslim Preachers,” thereby giving formal encouragement to spread a false religion fiercely opposed to Our Lord!

To send a donation:

YOU MAY USE PAYPAL (ON OUR WEBSITE), OR SEND TO:

In the U.S.:

Dominicans of Avrillé, Inc.
P.O. Box 23, Newman Lake, WA. 99025

In Canada:

Association of St. Dominic

C I B C, 201-21 Street East

Saskatoon (SK) S7K OB8 Canada

Please include a note, and specify:

acc. #40-91531

In the U.K.:

Association of St. Dominic

R B S Edinburgh, 17 Comiston Road, Edinburgh EH10 6AA

Please specify: acct. # 00105564

For more information :

Couvent de la Haye-aux-Bonshommes

49240 Avrillé, France

crucifixion-saint dominic

Mortification in our spiritual life

Mortification in our spiritual life

By Fr. Martín HARRISON, O.P.

How we dread the word “mortification”!  It suggests terrifying penances, hair-shirts, plank-beds and other extraordinary hardships practiced by some saint; mark the word “extraordinary.”  Such penances are not for “ordinary” people like ourselves, but for those called by God to be out of the ordinary through the help of special graces.

Yet penance in some form or another we must do, since we are bound to mortify the flesh and its desires.  What does mortification really mean?  In a spiritual sense it may be defined as the act of subduing the passions and appetites of our lower nature by fasting or severities inflicted on the body, the act of subordinating all natural impulses to the influence of the Holy Spirit, in a natural sense it may denote being humiliated by circumstances, depressed by disappointments or vexations; but these are not penances in the strict sense, though they may be turned into true mortification by our method of acceptance.

Mortification essentially consists in self-denial: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself” (Mt 16, 24).  Self-denial means saying “NO” to self, which for most people is a difficult thing to do.  By sin our willpower was weakened; we became prone to evil finding it easier to give in to the desires of the flesh than to resist them.  Because of sin the soul lost its domination over the flesh, so that “the flesh, lusteth against the spirit” (Ga 5:17).

The chief work of mortification is to strengthen the will power and heal the wounds caused by sinBy denying self what is lawful, the will is strengthened to resist what is unlawful, and some measure of atonement is made.  Therefore penance is imposed as a strict duty.  Thus the Lenten and other fasts imposed by the Church consist in refraining from a certain amount of food, otherwise lawful, so denying to us the pleasure of satisfying hunger completely.  Too often these grave obligations of fasting are dismissed as impracticable because of hardship or inconvenience, before any attempt has been made to find out if they are really so.

It is difficult to understand how anyone can settle in conscience so grave an obligation in so casual a manner.  Certainly some are excused by the nature of the work they must do, or for other good reasons; but this does not free them entirely from all obligation of doing penance of another sort.  We are bound to deny self, and that is the essence of penance.  We need so much to be strengthened against temptations that only by denying lawful things to ourselves can we hope to be strong enough to deny the unlawful also.

It is difficult to understand how anyone can settle in conscience so grave an obligation in so casual a manner

Some pride themselves on their strength of will, but too often it is shown only in denying something to others rather than to themselves.  In reality such people are simply stubborn and actually weak-willed, since they are not able to say “NO” to self.

Let us test ourselves by the following questions:

1. — Do I always stick to my own opinions and insist on having my own way?

2. — Can I admit being in the wrong, or that I have made a mistake?

3. — Can I give in gracefully to the will of the majority?1

The answers to such questions as these, will soon prove whether we can say “NO” to self or if we are self-willed.

Mortification is necessary for all.  The wounds of nature demand an effort to strengthen the will against its propensity to evil; the more we indulge our natural desires, the stronger and more insistent they become in demanding satisfaction, the more difficult to resist their appeal.

However, it is not necessary to undertake special hardships or penances beyond those imposed under obligation by the Church.  Life itself provides a variety of opportunities for mortification that we cannot escape.  The pity of it, is that we endure without much or any spiritual profit much that might be mortification, because of the wrong attitude we adopt toward these various vexations.  We can make a virtue of necessity by accepting in a spirit of patience and humility the daily trials forced upon us.

[Some examples:]   Take any ordinary day in life:

— Probably we must get up earlier than we would wish, we should like to stay in bed much longer.  It is not easy to rise promptly; it demands self-denial.  How do we react?  Do we come down peevish and disagreeable, upsetting others by our grumbling and irritation?  If this is out reaction, then we have lost the chance of mortifying ourselves, instead of turning the necessity to spiritual profit by accepting it with patience.

— We have to go to work, oftentimes hard and disagreeable, to work with others who get on our nerves, to take orders given in an abrupt manner, and endure many other similar vexations that can be very irritating.  What is our attitude to such things?  They can all become occasions of mortification if accepted in a proper spirit.  Obedience to others, which is the submission of our own will to that of another, can be a very real and difficult penance.  Too often we can become impatient and disgruntled, resent the orders given to us: and miss the chance of being spiritually mortified under adversity.

Life is full of such opportunities: we make silly mistakes, are humiliated by others, meet with disappointments, hear slurs east or disparaging remarks made about us; accidents make us ludicrous and cause laughter and ridicule at our expense.  These things are certainly humiliating to our pride and self-conceit? but do we turn them to spiritual worth by a humble and contrite spirit in accepting them as mortifications?  If they simply cause us to become disagreeable and complain, there is no penance; they are lost to us entirely when they might have been real crosses born for the love of God, real penances accepted in a spirit of self-denial, some atonement for the sins we have committed.

We are told [by Holy Mother the Church] to perform the three good works: Prayer, Fasting, and Alms-deeds.  These can all form some kind of mortification for us:

By fasting we mean here self-denial in any form, the giving up of one’s desires and inclinations.  We are forced to this at times by circumstances, yet profit little because we accept grudgingly, with resentment and complaints about the hardness of our lot.

Prayer might find a larger place in our lives and provide penance at the same time.  For instance, we might give up an evening’s pleasure so that we may go to Benediction.  How many give up the Sunday evening to selfish comfort rather than go out to the evening service?  It may be cold and wet; it is so much pleasanter to sit reading by the fireside, or playing cards with friends.  The weather is so often an excuse to avoid going to church, but it would not prevent us from going out to the cinema or to a dance.  It is difficult to give up pleasure and comfort to go to church, hard to mortify our desires and say “NO” to self!  To give up our comforts can be a real mortification.

Alms-giving does not necessarily mean giving money away.  The best alms is to give happiness to others – any kind of action done for the love of God and our neighbor, any small service especially if it means self-denial, is acceptable to God as a mortification.  Our Lord went about doing good, never sparing Himself.  We, on the contrary, find doing good to others to be too much trouble and to cause too much inconvenience to ourselves.  We could make a point of doing at least one kind act a day to help another, as a mortification.  We could do much more to ease the burdens of others, to bring happiness or solace, and if this entails denying self and putting ourselves to some inconvenience so much the better, it will mortify us all the more.

There is no need to undertake extraordinary penances – life provides its own opportunities of mortifying self.  We do not know that Our Lady or St. Joseph ever did any special kind of penance, but they did accept the many trials and sufferings of life, grief, hardship, poverty, hard work, and such like, in a spirit of resignation to the will of God.  The early disciples do not seem to have done extraordinary penances, but we may note that St, Paul writes; “I chastise the flesh to bring it into subjection… lest perhaps I become a castaway (1 Co 9, 27).”   If St. Paul felt the need of “chastising the flesh,” how much more we, who do so little to atone for all the number of times we give way to our evil inclinations.   We must chastise the flesh by denying to it the satisfaction it demands, even in what is lawful, that we may strengthen ourselves to refuse all that is unlawful and to thrust down the inclinations and desires of unlawful passion, by denying the pleasure of lawful desires at times.  We must learn how to say “NO” to self.

To resume therefore, we cannot escape mortifications, even though we do not seek them.  Life will provide many opportunities of self-denial; let us see to it that these unavoidable vexations are all turned to profit for the soul by accepting them in a spirit of penance and humiliation for our many sins and as a means of strengthening our will-power against our proneness to evil.  If we would realize that hardship, sickness, poverty, disappointments, vexations, inconveniences, even the monotony of life, can all be spiritually useful and made profitable by a spirit of humble acceptance and mortification and for the love of God, we should be carrying out our obligation of doing penance lest we perish.

It is all a matter of will-power pitted against the fatal attractions of sin in which we prove so weak and easily overcome.

Only by denying self what is lawful, or accepting what we cannot escape as a means of self-denial, can we become strong in our resistance to what is unlawful, strong to resist the many temptations that beset us from the flesh, the world and the devil.

We must atone for sin by true repentance and by penance enjoined to the sufferings of Our Lord, that they may become an atonement for our many sins.

“Unless ye do penance, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lc 13, 5).

Taken from Credo, Fr. Martin Harrison O.P.

Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 1954, pgs 141-145

A Program for Sanctity

A programme for sanctity

by Fr Vayssière O.P. (1864-1940)

Union with God

1. By union and abandonment to the Divine Will. See this adorable Will in all and always by the Faith, even in the smallest details, and always be united to this Will in all and  through charity.  The result of this is a very real permanent union with God at every moment, even when we are not conscious of it – our will being lost, as it were, in the Divine Will.

2. By the thought and remembrance of Jesus, either His intimate Presence in the depths of our heart by grace, His Eucharistic Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, or by His divine mysteries.

Try to develop a greater and greater fidelity to this remembrance, and to arrive at an intimacy with God, as habitual as it is full of tenderness for the Divine Master.

3. Apply ourselves especially to union with His Sacred Heart and, in this, to respond to His call “learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart”.  Therefore, exercise oneself, always in the practice of humility and charity:

* Humility

  • Never speak of oneself;
  • Avoid with great care the sentiments and thoughts of vain complacency; to consider that all that is in us belongs to God, and in serving him and serving our neighbor, we are only doing our duty strictly and rigorously.
  • Prefer and seek to be in the last place.

* Charity

  • Watch over our tongue
  • Never refuse a service in the measure that it is possible.
  • Apply oneself especially to interior charity:
    • Charity of the will in desiring sincerely the good of all.
    • Charity of the spirit and judgment in thinking of the well-being of others, refraining with all our power from rash judgments.

4. Envelop oneself with a serious spirit of penance, both interior and exterior.

5. Put oneself especially under the patronage of saint Catherine of Siena 1 and to see in her the model of our interior life, our exterior life, and the apostolic life, which the Dominican tertiary ought to reproduce.

**

1. Remember that your life is really and totally consecrated to God.  Even though living in the world you must live only for Him.  Your life must be truly a religious life.  “God alone”, that is your motto.

2. To this God, your only lot, your only ambition, you must walk by the interior way, the true way, unique even, which permits to find, to know, to taste and to unite yourself to Him:

  • Greatly desire this interior life.
  • Ask for it by incessant prayers.
  • Prepare oneself for that grace:
  1. by a purity of heart ever-growing.
  2. by recollection.
  3. by a spirit of renouncement and of sacrifice.


3. In consequence:

  1. Get yourself used to acting, in all things, with a great interior spirit.
  2. Do faithfully daily mental prayer.
  3. Say vocal prayers (Rosary and Office) with a great interior attention.
  4. Develop in yourself devotion to the Holy Ghost and of the most blessed Virgin Mary.


4. Apply the spirit of renouncement and of sacrifice especially to the two great virtues of humility and gentleness, distinctive virtues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, capable of establishing the soul in the very state of perfection, provided they are practiced generously.

5. Make recollection the principal object of your particular examinations (of conscience).  Put yourself on guard against agitation and haste.  Make an effort to possess oneself always in God, living in us.

Do this and you will live

(Marcelle Dalloni, Le pere Vayssière, Paris 1957, p 191-193)

About the Third Order of Penance

The Dominican Third Order

I heard that you have a Third Order. What is a Third Order?

In each Religious Order, the secular Third Order constitutes, as its name indicates, the third part of the Order (after the Brothers and Sisters or Nuns), which is given to persons living in the world to permit them to associate themselves in order to live according to the spirit and the spirituality of the Order to which they attach themselves, in a manner adapted to their state in life. The Third Order secular of Friars Preachers, which goes back to Saint Dominic himself, is also called the “Third Order of Penance of Saint Dominic”.

What is its purpose?

It has two ends:

One general purpose which consists in promoting the personal sanctification of its members by the practice of the Christian (Catholic) life in a more perfect manner (Constitutions, art. 2);

And a specific purpose, based on the special end of every Order of Saint Dominic, that is; to procure the salvation of souls by means in conformity with the state of the faithful living in the world (ibid.).

These means aid the tertiary to advance more easily, more surely and more rapidly towards that Christian Perfection to which he aspires, giving him a spiritual family and making him contribute to the great work of the propagation of the Faith which Saint Dominic assigned to his sons.

What are these means?

  • Prayer, especially liturgical prayer (the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary), meditation and the Rosary of Our Lady;
  • The practice of penance and the struggle against the spirit of the world;
  • The study of Doctrine and the works of the apostolate for the defense of the Faith and the Church;
  • The works of fraternal Charity.
  • Wherever the Societies of Tertiaries are organized, regular reunions are carried out with the Dominican Fathers, to pray (Mass, Rosary, Little Office), to be instructed in Doctrine, to exchange with one another and find themselves in an atmosphere of Christian emulation and of fraternal Charity.

What are the conditions for entering the Third Order?

Rather than conditions, one should speak of dispositions. To enter the Third Order of Saint Dominic, one must sincerely desire to attain Christian perfection, as the Rule states (article 8). Nevertheless, the rules don’t mean to say that one must already be advanced in the ways of the spiritual life: entrance in the Third Order isn’t a reward but a beginning, a help offered to Catholics who desire to work on their own sanctification and who want to help save souls and spread Catholic Truth.

All the faithful who come with these good dispositions, male or female, working or retired, married or single, can then become members of the Third Order of Friars Preachers.

Can such a Third Order be relevant or a reality in the Twenty First Century?

More than ever! The Catholic Faith has never been attacked as much as it is being today, and in the most insidious ways. We are approaching the time predicted by Our Lord Jesus Christ: “The Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 128.8).

The attacks against the Catholic Faith are not only coming from the outside of the Church, but the smoke of Satan even introduced itself into the Church (said Paul VI) and the wolves are in the sheepfold.

The Third Order of St. Dominic, also called the Militia of Jesus Christ (from the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers, art. 233), is a small army of laypersons in the world who help the Order of St. Dominic to lead the good fight for the Faith.

We know that our Order has, from the beginning, been specially instituted for preaching and for the salvation of souls. This is why we must apply ourselves principally to being useful to the souls of our neighbors. To this end is tied the work of teaching and the defense of the truth of the Catholic Faith, as much in word as by various forms of writing. (Constitutions O.P. art. 3).

Any questions should be addressed to the :

Couvent de la Haye aux Bonshommes, 49240 AVRILLE. France.    Or, contact us online.