Thursday, January 10, 2008

O my 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.
Venerable Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon
Foundress of the Marianist Sisters

Today the entire Marianist Family and in particular the Marianist Sisters, celebrate the feast day of one of our founders - Adele. We, the Marianist Family, also enter into two weeks of celebration of our heritage... as another of our founders, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, has his feast day on January 22. These are great days of celebrating our charism!

Last year, on or near this day, I wrote extensively about Adele's legacy (see the archives if you wish!). This year, instead of repeating myself, I wish to share with you a few reasons her spirit has inspired thousands over the years and how her spirit inspires me to live the life of a Marianist Sister...

First of all, Adele was quite the networker! And people think I'm social! Adele, gifted by the spirit with incredible energy, wisdom and "spunk" had a very large "association" of young lay women when she was just in her teens. She realized that after the French Revolution young people needed support to live a Christian life and that the poor needed food, shelter and an education. So what did she do? She started a group... to offer each other support, for prayer, for learning about the faith and for caring for the needs of the poor. The group grew to be about 400 young women all over southwestern France. How? Letter writing. 

And what a letter writer she was! She only lived to be 38 years old, but we have 2 volumes of her letters and know that many were destroyed at some point in history. One of my favorite quotes of hers, that I wish I could live a little more faithfully, is:
Let us make a pact between our heart and our tongue, never to speak when the heart is unsettled. If we had the courage to do this, we would avoid many failings, would acquire many merits, and would draw down graces from heaven. (Letter 301)

Second, Adele was a strong advocate for the poor. You see, she was from a wealthy family... an aristocratic one. But, she refused expensive gifts of lace and silk from her father's journeys... She would rather have stationery for her writing and the rest of the money given to those who needed it. As a young woman she would give out bread from her kitchen door and teach short catechism lessons to those who would come - feeding both body and spirit. She wrote in another letter:
Let us imitate the love of our Blessed Mother. Like her, let us render to all our brothers and sisters the corporal and spiritual services in our power. God considers as done to himself what we do to others. How this should motivate our charity! (Letter 128)

And... she was courageous. I suppose living through the French Revolution could do that. When she and a small group decided that they would become religious, she wrote:
Let us get down to the work with courage and not let ourselves be frightened by the grandeur of the enterprise. Let us concentrate on what we are doing at the present moment, but let us do it well. (Letter 246)

Today we celebrated a special Eucharist at UD during the noon hour. And at one point in the Mass I was reflecting on characteristics of Adele. I prayed, "Adele, pray that I might be bold and full of life... reaching out with courage to those in need... and may I do so, as you did, with love and compassion." 

The Marianist Brothers and Priests published a prayer book for the Marianist Family called "Prayers for Marianists." In this book there is a prayer that Marianists try to say everyday from Jan. 10 - 22. I'd like to share it with you...
Almighty God,
you inspired Father Chaminade 
and Mother Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon
to found religious families especially dedicated to Mary.

We ask you to grant us through their intercession
the grace of fidelity to their spirit and vision.
Strengthen our alliance with Mary our Mother
so that we might be formed into the image of her Son.

Grant us a clear vision of the needs of the church and the world,
and give us the courage to respond in faith.

Raise up new vocations in our religious families
so that our work, under the leadership of Mary,
may continue to bring about the reign of God.

We ask this through Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Many blessings to all who read this!
~ Sr. N