Thursday, January 11, 2007

O God, my heart is too small to love you,
but it will see to it that you are loved by so many hearts
that their love will compensate for the weakness of mine.
Mother Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon
Foundress of the Marianist Sisters

Wow. What a start to the New Year. I have had a great 2 weeks... busy... in fact, very busy, but good all the same.

But, instead of sharing with you what I've been up to (which I will do soon enough), I wanted to share with you a little about the woman named above. You see, yesterday (1/10) was the anniversary of the death of our Foundress, Mother Adele. I meant to post yesterday in honor of her feast day, but there were not enough hours in the day.

In truth, the Marianist family has 3 founders -- Venerable Mother Adele, Blessed Fr. William Joseph Chaminade, and Marie Therese de Lamorous. Over the next few weeks, since Blssd. Chaminade's feast day is quickly approaching, I will be sharing with you a little about these amazing peeople.

Yesterday morning I received a phone call from my friend and fellow Marianist novice Luis. He was charged with writing a reflection about Mother Adele and asked me for my help. Being who I am, I ended up writing a lengthy "reflection" to send to him. I thought that I would share it with you to give you a glimpse of how I see our first Superior General and Foundress.

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Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon was a woman ahead of her time and a woman wise for her years. A young woman who, though from a wealthy family, dedicated everything she had to serve the physical and spiritual needs of the poor. A young woman who was dedicated to a personal rule of life from the age of 12 and who gathered groups of other young women together to support one another in their spiritual growth. A foundress of a religious congregation before the age of 30. A visionary, wisdom figure and friend for her sisters and the entire Marianist family even until now.

Born the year the French Revolution began, 1789, Adele's early years were filled with much uncertainty, exile, family separation and confusion in society and in the Church. Influenced mostly by her mother, the Baroness de Trenquelleon, Adele learned to rely heavily on God, to aid those around her who were in need, and that death could come at any moment.

It was during these early years that the seeds of a religious vocation were planted. While in exile, before she was 10 years old, she was drawn to the life of the Carmelites in Spain and dreamed of one day entering their congregation, but this was not to be.

Shortly after her Confirmation, at the age of 15, Adele, her spiritual director and a few of her close friends began what Adele affectionately called "The Little Society." This little society was formed, mainly because parish Churches were in shambles following the Revolution and Adele saw a need for people to come together to support one another in living a Christian life. The "Little Society" began to grow almost immediately. Within a few years, it reaches over 200 young women in several cities across southern France.

One could say that it was the strength of Adele's vision and her style of ministry that caused the group to grow. She was never chosen to be the spiritual guide for the group, however she was its leader by the sheer fact of who she was. Adele, being a young woman who believed passionately in the value of friendship and support, had a way of reaching out, inviting, attracting new members... and of writing letters. Some members of her group had never met Adele and yet she wrote to them constantly offering support, words of advice, encouragement in ministry and prayers.

This Little Society was growing at the same time Blessed Chaminade's Sodality was growing in Bordeaux (I will say more about that in a few weeks). Once Adele and Chaminade became aware of the work of the other, it was natural that the two would begin to work together. And thus, the Marianist Family began to take shape.

Adele had never lost sight of her call to religious life, but she discerned that the life of a Carmelite would not be her own. Several young women in her Society, now a part of Chaminade's Sodality, expressed an interest in taking religious vows. Together with Blessed Chaminade plans were made for a new religious congregation.

At the beginning of this venture, Adele writes to one of her closest friends, who would later be Superior General of the Congregation,
Let us put all into the hands of God. If it is his work, he will know how
to make it succeed despite all contradictions; if it is not his will and for his
glory, he will not permit it to succeed despite all our efforts. Let us abandon
all to the lovable will of God and remain in peace...

At first it was not certain that Adele would be the congregation's first superior. Chaminade asked Marie Therese de Lamorous for her help in ascertaining whether the young woman could handle such responsibility. At first, de Lamorous was hesitant, however after spending time with Adele it was evident to her that she would indeed be a natural fit... although she was only 27 years old. Adele lead the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary, now the Daughters of Mary Immaculate or Marianist Sisters, until her death on January 10, 1828 at the age of 38.

Adele lead the Congregation as she ran her "Little Society," with passion, wisdom, dedication to Jesus and Mary, compassion, humor and love for her Sisters. For she writes to the Sisters in Bordeaux:

I simply cannot allow a week to go by, my very dear daughter, without sending
you a little word.... O my dear children, be sure to correspond to the many
graces you receive.... My dear sisters, fly down the lovable course that has
been opened to you; run in the bright light that shines for you. Pray that we
may follow you, for we also want to reform and to become saints. There is a
great deal of work to be done, but we do not despair because we put our trust in
the arms of the All-Powerful God.

Let us follow the example of Adele who gathered, formed, encouraged, and supported others in living out their call.

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And there you have it. My thoughts on an amazing woman.

Have a blessed week!

Sr. Nicole