Mary de Jésus Acarie

Mary de Jésus Acarie

The eldest of Madame Acarie’s three daughters is a privileged witness of her mother’s life. In the world, she lived about 22 years by her, and in religious life, two years with her in the Amiens convent.
Through her writings : a long evidence on her mother and souvenirs of the cardinal de Bérulle, or writings which are addressed to her : letters from her mother and letters from saint Saint François de Sales, we discouver an asserted but modest personality, very sensitive and very tactful with her neighbours, engaging through her frankness, the failings of her youth and the interior fights she faced before finding her vocation.
She seems to have inherited her mother’s gift to guide souls, that of governing wisely and the taste of beauty.
Stained glass window representing the cardinal de Bérulle giving the constitutions of the Carmelite Order to Madame Acarie’s three daughters.

Marie de Jésus Acarie

Conference by monsieur Bernard Yon

Mary is Madame Acarie’s first daughter and the second child of the family which will count six of them. Mary lived many periods by her mother, in civil life as in the convent, which enables us to understand better the deep relationship which linked these two persons dear to each other. But it would be limiting Mary to evoke her memory only in the shadow of her blessed mother, as exceptional as she was. In fact, Mary is much more than a faithful witness, she is herself moved by a desire of holiness, so that she perfectly understands the spiritual life lived in the background of her time.

Although limited for the scholar who always wants more, the available sources on Mary’s life are not insufficient for they go deep and much further than ordinary biographical records. They allow many detours in the sixteenth and seventeenth century France in which Mary seems to have been more interested than most of her contemporaries.

A first source of great importance is the testimony Mary gave at the trial of beatification of her mother (trial “in specie” or apostolic 1630-1633). This testimony, fifty four pages long (in the typed version), indicates how Mary had understood her mother even in her spiritual life. So she gives back what she witnessed herself, in a clear and detailed manner and still today we can completely enter in the spirit of her answers. Among all that Mary told the investigators of the trial, we have kept two themes in this exposé : the education given by her mother and received by the children Acarie (among whom Mary in the first place) and life in the carmel of Amiens where Mary and her mother were together about two years , one as a nun and afterwards, under-prior during the last six months of their lives in community, the other nun converse under the name of Marie de l’Incarnation. These two themes are of great interest because they are extremely rare : the first one because it witnesses the holiness of a mother when bringing up her children and the second, even more unusual, because it is the testimony of a daughter in the same convent as her mother !

A second incontestable source consists in four letters from Marie de l’Incarnation to her daughter Mary, who, after having left the Amiens carmel for that of Pontoise. The affectionate link between these two beings was not, for all that, broken. Letters, four of which are known to us today, were written from Pontoise to Amiens from 1616 to 1618. Among the high spiritual motions which these letters contain, we can read details interesting the life of the Acarie family, requests of prayers and exchanges of pious images which, at that time, were frequent to help true devotion.

A third source is the report which Mary, then prioress of the carmel d’Orléans, did of “the life of this great servant of God, M. le Cardinal de Bérulle”. The journey to Spain of the young Bérulle in 1604, to fetch the six Carmelite nuns who will establish the reformed Carmel in France, is evoked by certain details which have certainly attracted Mary’s attention. Then, in the course of her text, Mary evokes in this man of Church “the grace of conducting souls”. She adds that this grace “began to appear as soon as he was twenty” and she gives, with an exceptional accuracy, the case of a young girl whom the young Pierre de Bérulle guided till her entry into the convent. Incidentally she mentions Bérulle’s refusal to accept King Henry Fourth ‘s request : he wanted him to be the young dauphin’s (the future Louis XIII) tutor and this in spite of the multiple and reiterated solicitations among which those of the R.P. Coton. We finally learn that the young Bérulle had asked himself if he would not become Jesuit when he was a young priest.

The letters which François de Sales wrote to Mary are the fourth important source, which surpass the precedent sources by style (and orthography), but not by the substance (?). These letters are answers to Mary’s letters, which, unfortunately, have not reached us. Obviously the Carmelite chronicles and Madame Acarie’s biographies (and particularly those of André Duval and of J.B.A. Boucher) relate parts of Madame Acarie’s life and give useful indications on her oeuvre and specially on the vow which Anne d’Autriche made in order to give birth to a “dauphin”, vow which will be fulfilled by the arrival, on September 29 th 1638, of a lovely boy (the future Louis XIV).

All this enables us to understand Mary’s childhood, youth and her education, to evoke the young girl ill till her choice of the Carmel, her life as a Carmelite in Amiens, a part of which with her mother, herself being then under prioress, her moving to the carmel of Orléans as prioress, her work there and her correspondence with François de Sales.

1- Childhood, youth and education.

Probably a few days after her birth in 1585, Mary was baptized the 5 th of July, in Paris in the Saint-Gervais church, her family’s parish, not yet finished (the first building period of the actual church was finished in 1578, then, after twenty five years’ standby during the religion wars, the work was resumed in 1600 and was achieved in 1657). Her mother, Madame Acarie is not yet twenty (Barbe Acarie is born on the first of February 1566)! She gave birth to this second child sixteen months after the first one, Nicolas, who had been baptized on March 22 nd 1584. The following births, Pierre March 14 th 1587, Jean February 6 th 1589, Marguerite April 11 th 159O and Geneviève February 22 nd 1592, so that Mary will be the eldest, having, by her mother, a responsibility in the bringing up of all these youngsters.

The records of the Saint-Gervais parish keep the baptism acts of the six young Acarie. Mary’s says : “…whom (Mary was held on the fonts by noble sir Jean Suiller (Lhuiller), the king’s counselor and ordinary master in his Accounting House in Paris, godfather ; and by noble miss Ambroise Brulart, widow of noble sir Raoul Avrillot, the king’s counselor in his Parliament, and noble Miss Jeanne Bouchart, widow of noble sir Guillaume Sotin (Lotin), when he was living, the King’s counselor and ordinary master in his Accounting HouseJ.B.A. Boucher, Vie de la bienheureuseMarie de l’Incarnation, Paris 1873, p. 541 ”. So the custom for a girl, when baptized, to have one godfather and two godmothers (for a boy, two godfathers and one godmother)was respected. The godfather is a Lhuiller, the child’s great uncle on the mother’s side, and the godmothers, wives of Avrillot and Lotin, great aunts on both of the father’s side (the godfather is the brother of the maternal grandmother Lhuiler, the first godmother is the wife widow of the brother of the paternal grandfather Avrillot and the second godmother is the wife widow of a brother of the paternal grandmother Lotin). In fact, nothing very complicated if you think about it just a little bit.

Under the protection of Our Lady of Good Deliverance, honored in Saint-Gervais (see note A) the six Acarie children were in good health, which people of the time noticed when the death-rate of young children was very high. So Mary was a little girl who only had children’s illnesses which one could call normal. It was her mother, and not the servants, even the most valued, like Andrée Levoix, who looked after her at that time, as she did for her brothers and sisters. She notices the attention and the constancy of her mother : “When we were ill, she attended to us with so much gentleness and affection that she hardly moved from us and did herself what we needed, and sometimes the things the meanest and the filthiethProcès in specie ou apostolique 1630-1633, témoin 155 – R.M. Marie de Jésus Acarie, version dactylographiée. Riti 2236, f° 503r. Mary, belonging, no doubt, to her time, qualifies as “mean and filthy” all that she is ashamed of her mother doing because of the deep respect she has for her. “Once she knelt down for a long time doing to me what the doctor had ordered, which was to me more painful than my illness itself, and although I begged her, she never allowed one of her maidservants to do it to meop. cit. f° 503r ”. Mary is pained to see her mother lowering herself for her, but her mother tells her : “We shouldn’t have so much pain, which astounded us to a degree you cannot express”op. cit. f° 503r. But as a delicate girl, she obeys :”Seeing my sorrow, she mildly told me I should suffer that since she wanted it and this was her comfort… We couldn’t say a thing moreop. cit. f° 503r.

When telling this short scene in which we well imagine a mother kneeling to look after her child, Mary already shows deep and subtle feelings to which is harmoniously mingled the sense of what she much accept in spite of the affectionate respect she has for her mother :”This evidence of her maternal affection in these acts of humility, compelled us to more love, respect and submission to her, whether we were well or ill, have patience and surrender to all that the doctor ordered without bargaining and even to take the drugs she took the trouble to make for us and bring to us with her really maternal love and all this made everything easy for usop. cit. f° 503rv. With the love of a so patient and so devoted mother, it even becomes easy to take the horrible potions ordered by the doctors of this time. But you must, for that, have Mary’s spirit who desires to give back to her mother the love she gives her, “without bargaining” about anything whatsoever, even if it is unpleasant.

Mary becomes a boarder in the Longchamp abbey when she is nineJ.B.A. Boucher: La vie de la bienheureuse Marie de l’Incarnation, Paris 1873, Livre III, p. 335., the very abbey where her mother, then the little Barbe Avrillot, just a little older, went in March 1576, when she was 10 years old). Longchamp is an abbey for the daughters of Sainte Claire (called Saint Damien then), founded by Saint Louis’sister, Isabelle (1225-1270), recently beatified (1521), abbey, which, since its completion in 1259, had practically kept untouched its original traditionsJ. Le Goff, Saint Louis, Gallimard ed. 1996, p 271.. Since the remote Middle Ages, parents trusted their daughters to famous nuns for their education : for example, at Longchamp, the little Barbe had been placed under the tutorship of sister Jeanne de Mailly who, now, was old. Francine Pottier, acting as abbess since May 10 th 1587 (and will stay in this office till July 31rst 1606– Archives de l’abbé Courage, archives du Carmel de Pontoise. had not introduced any notable change in the schooling given according to a supple syllabus but unchanged in its object since the beginning of the abbey. This is, more or less, what should have been the schooling syllabus in the XIIIth century, probably still in use in the time of Mary :”Then…”to learn to read” is said “to learn the Psalter”. Probably one applied oneself to find out the texts of the psalms one had memorized : a kind of global method since the words themselves were already known and that reading and writing consisted in finding out and reproducing the words the memory had registered…(The pupil) had not studied the meaning of the words or the division in syllables or the knowledge of cases and tenses. (The teacher) had somewhat neglected teaching grammar, paying attention to the texts themselvesR.Pernoud, Hildegarde de Bingen, Paris, Editions du Rocher 1994, p.17-18..

Certainly the Longchamp period will have had an influence on Mary’s development , but much less than one could imagine at first sight. In fact, Madame Acarie, Mary’s mother, kept her daughters close to her “Her daughters have always lived by her and have never had another leadership but hers till they entered the convent except the time when after the siege of Paris (Monsieur Acarie had left Paris and his house was in a great devastation because his creditors had taken hold of all he had, she was unable to feed her family and had no time to look after or to cook for them), she separated from them, putting the two eldest daughters in the monastery of Longchamp and her other children somewhere else till by her work and her good conduct she had straightened out her house business Marie Tudert, Témoignage au procès, Riti 2235, f°541witnesses Marie Tudert, Madame Acarie’s own cousin, at the beatification case. In fact, Pierre Acarie’s banishment begins on April 5 th 1594, but the time of extreme misery was quite short and the family’s own house rue des Juifs was recovered even before Pierre came back. From then, it is probable that Mary Left Longchamp and went back into the bosom of her family.

Remains a document written by Mary herself which enables us to see her handwriting and her style which comes probably in some way, from her first training as it was done in that time. Mary wrote this text when she was already mature, in Orléans, having for religious name Marie de Jésus. The text bears, in the margin, “By the own hand of Reverend Mother Marie de Jésus, daughter of Mademoiselle Acarie, named in religion Sister Marie de l’IncarnationRelation manuscrite de la mère Marie de Jésus, prieure des carmélites d’Orléans, sur la vie de notre bienheureux père, Monsieur le Cardinal de Bérulle, Archives Nationales, M 233 d 8 pièce 3, p 27., which leaves no doubt about the authenticity of this text. When looking at this, one is forced to note that Mary’s writing was regular and the letters well formed, with rigorous thoroughness and carefully. Reading this long text, one realizes that the author uses the style of her time with a certain elegance but that the orthography, which, in fact, is not really stabilized, is a little fanciful (for example she writes profesie, which we today would write prophétie and which reminds the Greek root of the word and la dessante sur les Apôtres which we would write descente). Without taking away any merit to the education given by the monastery, Mary has not been given a very elaborate intellectual education : in her time for girls’ education priority was given to character and femininity for an (eventual) future home. But Mary can express herself and write with clearness as we have just seen.

When Mary leaves Longchamp her education is not yet over. In a general way, children were taken away from the monastery schools when they were between 12 and 14 years old (Barbe Avrillot leaves Longchamp in 1578 at twelve) and invited to choose a state of life : either religious life, or returning into the world, and for girls that was invariably in the perspective of marriage at about sixteen or seventeen years old (Madame Acarie will be married at the age of sixteen). But even in stricken poverty, children from a great family couldn’t consider taking a profession. So Mary says that in this terrible period (but fortunately short) , when “all was seized” at the Acarie’s, her mother, not knowing how to obtain bread, tries to sell one of her rings to an inflexible relative : “She kneeled, begged him to do her the favor of lending her five sols to have bread…but on the contrary, with biting words, he refuses and tells her to put her children to work at a shoemaker’s or a cobbler’s…, sent her away in this manner without giving her a pennyProcès, Riti 2236, f° 539v : it was unthinkable to put an Acarie child in apprenticeship by a shoemaker or a cobbler, and Mary goes on saying what she has heard her mother saying : ”I heard her say that among all that the only thing that really hurt her was that she should put her children to work, thinking that they were not of that condition” (13) . But the pseudo-advice of this relative was irrelevant because Nicolas, the eldest of her children, was only ten, or just a little more, poor kid.

Enjoined to leave Longchamp, Mary lets her mother know that her inverse desire would be to stay there to take up the religious condition. “But her pious mother who found her too young to choose her way, did not let her make such an important choiceBoucher, Livre III, p 335.”. Obeying may have been hard for Mary, but there is no doubt that she felt all the affectionate solicitude of her mother who really did not want to push her children to enter the orders, if they did not have a real call. However, one may be allowed to think a little differently : Mary, happy with her tutor in Longchamp, could have desired to stay and because of that have said that she wanted to be a nun. This could explain what we shall see later in this report, that it took Mary a long time to discern her real call and that her childish words said more her fondness for a state of life rather than express a real desire to be a nun in this convent.

Mary was prepared to her first communion by her mother, that is certain, when she was about ten. For this occasion, Madame Acarie wrote a small booklet to receive the Holy C ommunion with dignity for her daughter: “She had to instruct her daughter who was only beginning her spiritual life. It (the booklet) is made of prayers, which is not a little way to progress in inner life ; because the soul puts to work her two powers : understanding and willAndré Duval, La vie admirable de la bienheureuse Marie de l’incarnation, Paris 1621, réédition Paris 1893, p.352.”. This text was published in Paris in 1622 under the added title : ”Real exercises of the Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation written by herself, very proper for all souls who desire follow her good life”. It was so well received by the public that it was reissued several times in the years which immediately followed.

Stage by stage, Mary’s father was allowed by the King to get nearer Paris, so that his banishment became less demanding. This way he takes refuge by the Molé de Champlâtreux, in the town of Luzarches (Mathieu Molé 1584-1656) , was the first president Garde des Sceaux in France), and related to the Séguier, so near the Acarie. Mary is then called to keep him company and leaves Paris for Luzarches. Pierre’s wife, Madame Acarie, who “was deeply affected by my father’s banishment because of the ligue”Procès, Riti 2236, f° 538v also came to Luzarches, but for short stays. For St. John’s feast 1596, coming home on horse back from one of her visits, she made a very bad fall and her servant being far ahead from her, she only received help three hours after the accident which broke her leg with three open fractures. Mary was then called back to Paris to look after her mother and probably to run the house for a year while her mother was immobilized (June 1596-June 1597). Unfortunately when her mother was able to get up, she was definitely disabled, hardly walking, resting on a crutch.

Pierre could get nearer to Paris, in Ivry, and his banishment was over. How many changes in these few years ! Finally the family was again together, Madame Acarie severely crippled for the rest of her life, and Pierre having to sell bis office of “maître à la Chambre des Comptes de Paris”. Mary, when she was thirteen, had already been through the worst ordeals of her life (from a human point of view).

It is worthwhile to linger on the education Mary and her sisters got in their family from their mother and also from Andrée Levoix, very devoted to serve the Acarie and to whom the children were often trusted. “Where is Andrée there is peace” will be said about her. The main direction is :”She has brought up all her children with much kindness and maternal affection but for God and as he would wish”op. cit. f° 500rv. The choice of the kind of life to which it leads is left to everyone’s own freedom and conscience : “She brought us all up for God whatever state or condition he would like to call us. Without ever talking about religion (religious state), she nevertheless tried to incline us to it by practicing small acts of virtue suitable for our age (17)”. Small acts of virtue suitable for the age of the children are precise and without pettiness : “She didn’t bear us having the tiniest quarrel or dispute however small it may be” (17), but from her mother, Mary receives more particular directions : “She told me I was the eldest, I should always help my sisters because I had more sense ant to them she said particularly that they should do as their eldest sister (17). The eldest has authority upon her sisters but this authority does not seem to have to be used upon the brothers who, they, have a master for their education or are in a boarding school.

Mary notes also: ”She desired us to obey quickly, and always to be ready to do or leave whatever we were doing without even showing any grumbling” (17). As you grow more is expected from you not to do your own will but accept small humiliations : ”She wanted us to be indifferent even for small things like wanting one color rather than another for our clothes, and not even to say I would rather have this one than the other… She also wanted us to eat everything without refusing anythingop. cit. f° 501rv”. Mary remembers that when she was about ten years old she “told the servant she wouldn’t eat some kind of meat, she (her mother) had meat served to me for a few days till she saw I ate it without concern, as anything else, recognizing that I was, by nature, very proud and very far from humility (18)”. To master Mary’s proud nature and lack of humility, her mother asks her :”to sweep the staircase where everyone was coming and going. She noticed that I watched at what time I would less be seen and because of that, closed a door, she took care of mortifying my inclination and feeling by having me doing it as everyone could see me(18)”

Cleverly, Mary would have liked to lessen the humiliation by a certain concealment, which her mother vigorously refuses. All forms of lying are strictly cured : ”Among the faults which she disliked most, she hated lies, however slight, and she never forgave us any however petty the topic was…She couldn’t stand deceitop. cit. f° 502rv”. On the other hand an open and simple heart, which, for instance, enables acknowledging one’s faults, shortcomings and cowardice, is shown in a very positive manner : “If you had lost and turned over the whole house, but owing up once you are asked, I will forgive you very heartily (19)”. It is wonderful! Lose or turn over the whole house, is not a petty thing, but it will be forgiven if you own up. So, no fear, about the worst fault if you acknowledge it. Another detail must be noticed: when you are asked. So faults should not be acknowledged to anybody or anyhow but only when you are asked, and sometimes simply b the move of a straightforward conscience and with caution. One can’t help thinking: what could think (and suffer) Madame Acarie and her children when Pierre was sentenced to banishment ant to the seizure of his property? Pierre was engaged in a conflict, which, in a family point of view, was very unwise and which upset his whole house. But in Pierre’s family a fault confessed and recognized is forgiven. In another family, without forgiveness, what would have happened ?

Mary indicates her age in two other notations about her life with her mother which are worthy mentioning: “Being in a country house with her, and being about fourteen or fifteen years old, she wanted to send me to people living in a town quite nearby, because she had things for me to do…I showed I was eager to go, which she noticed. Without saying anything to me, as I was with her in the carriage and the driver touching his horses, she made me get of and take down my night bag, saying she didn’t want me to go. After having gone up into our room and picked up my work, as I had forgotten, she had me called and said she had changed her mind and told me to climb into the carriage, from which I think she again asked me to get off to see if I would not show any resentment or sadness. Mary does not say what finally happened but it is certain that by this bringing up, pleasant but forceful, her nature, from proud and far away from humility, has become docile without reserve. For the choice of clothe, as we have seen, one could not be capricious or demand and “if ever we said, we were given the opposite thing, and this till we were about fifteen or sixteen (the age of marriage for girls), where the character is formed and the adult himself must make up his mind, and is able to exercise his own freedom acquired in this school of self control.

At last, Mary learns from her mother :”it is not suitable for a girl to be bored wherever she may be or to have a desire different from that of her mother’s (17) so she will proscribe idleness and be obedient to her mother, as in case of marriage, she will have to be to her husband.

This was a “good education” for a girl. Mary having responded as best as she could she finally wonders about the love her mother gives her beyond her gentleness and apparent affection. Her mother clearly lets her know “that she would love us as much as e loved God, and that she would love a foreigner from Germany more than us if she saw he loved more God than us (17), and further in her statement “She would love none of her children if they didn’t love God and if she found that a foreigner from Germany loved God more than us, she would love him more than usop. cit. f° 512rv, and Mary concludes on a note which leaves us with a feeling of sadness for she had such a good heart :”That touched me all the more that she would never love me because I had so little love of God, and from whom I am still so far away (20)”. Mary also writes :”I was lucky to stay with her till I was twenty-twoop. cit. f° 514v, because it was on March 23rd she took the dress of the Carmel.

2- The young girl till her choice of Carmelite life.

Mary had followed her mother and her two sisters when the Spanish Carmelites arrived in France and settled in their first monastery in Paris in 1604. She was also present when the Carmelite nuns settled in Pontoise the next year and she helped with the last equipments of their first house located in the street now called “Marcel Roussier”Histoire manuscrite du Carmel de Pontoise, tome I (1582-1680), p.145-146.

Marguerite, the first of Mary’s sisters, took the dress on September 15 th 1605, less than a year after the arrival of the Spanish mothers, and then, Geneviève, her second sister, on June 24 th 1607.

But Mary, they say, hesitated a long time, between “setting up in the world”, which normally took place at the age of sixteen or seventeen, or entering the convent, and this in spite of the state of mind she had expressed when she was about ten, when leaving the Longchamp abbey. She must have looked very much like her mother, who was a noticed beauty. You can probably have an idea about this by looking at the portraits of her two sisters which have been preserved, and in particular that of Marguerite painted by Simon Vouet. The Acarie women were very beautiful. So it is not astonishing that Mary liked dressing up, specially as she was proud and far away from humility which means she was neither modest nor sufficiently unobtrusive.

At that time a woman’s dress is very complicated. A woman of quality needs at least an hour, or even two, to get dressed each day, and the help of a chambermaid is absolutely necessary. For a feast, one adds so many accessories and items that a whole morning is necessary to put everything on and decorate with jewels and furs. The cloth is very neat from the body linen to the heavy brocade of the weighty dresses, always with marked and harmonious colors. The women, when outside, wear all day their hair in the Médicis way, brought in fashion by the Queens Catherine and Marie. This very nice headdress can be seen in the painting of the Saint Merry church (painted in the 19 th century) which represents Mrs. Acarie giving alms to the poor (and which you find on the cover of M. Michel Picard’s book : Madame Acarie). Incidentally, let us note that this headdress was part of the uniform of the Ursulines, dedicated to the education of girls of the upper-class : their clothing was a model for the boarders. This religious headdress was worn by the Ursulines till the Council Vatican II, and was then replaced by a simple veil. Rather than looking at the paintings by masters of that time (Le Primatice and the Fontainebleau school), you may realize how splendid were the clothes of the upper-class women in the Renaissance period or at the beginning of the classical period, by visiting museums relative to that period, like that of Ecouen. Consequently, one understands that Mary was attracted by all this for herself: “although her mother was careful to keep her away from the worldly pleasuresBoucher, p. 335. ” And Mary “always staid quite religious, but her piety suffered from the frivolous tastes she had taken. (23)” Let us quite understand that Mary being brought up in Paris, with constant relationship with the families Molé, Séguier and Marillac and all the nobility of the time, must wear the clothes and the headdress her condition requires, but she must cut out what is frivolous and indecent.

Among some of the women of the high society, it seemed that the fashion has lost its former reserve. Also men of high spirit felt that their duty was to call to more reserve by publishing books of propriety. In one of these written in the XVIIth century, one reads about the importance and the meaning of the veil women had to wear : “If she (the wife) considers him (her husband) as she ought to, let her appear her head and throat veiled, since, in this way, says the Great Apostle, she will show she is really and voluntarily submitted to her husband. For in St. Paul’s time, when a girl got married, her head and her shoulders were veiled, to mark she had come into the power of her husband and that she hided from anyone but him, her face and breastJ. Boileau Despréaux, De l’abus des nuditez de gorge, Bruxelles, François Foppens, 1675, p. 106 ”. At each time its morals ?

In Mary’s text which she wrote when a nun in Orléans, about Pierre de Bérulle, mentioned in the precedent section, she mentions some of the memories from the time of her youth. Mary notes that Pierre’s ordination as a priest took place on June 5 th 1599, as she was fourteen years old and him twenty-four : “the following day he says the holy mass in the feast of the very holy Trinity, day from which, and till his death, he hasn’t missed saying it more than twice. Once, travelling by boat to SpainRelation de la mère Marie de Jésus, p.4 “and she gives us the extraordinary reason : “a new (duty) arises : he must establish the Carmelites in France at God’s request… he begins the journey to Spain and embarks in Brittany to fetch the nuns. He has hardly left the ground that such a great storm rises up so that the pilot ordered to leave the ship and to go to the nearest rock, this great servant of God gets out the first, but the rock being frozen (it was in February 1604), he slipped into the sea, God…preserved him from this danger, his coat spreading on the water kept him above the water till someone moved him from there…In Spain he had much work and many sorrows to get the nuns which the Brief of the Pope had named, and once was much offended and denigrated by people from whom he could have expected more courtesy and charityop.cit. p. 9-10 ”. About the establishment of the reformed Carmelite order in France, Mary says nothing else nor about her mother, nor about Bérulle’s role as superior (this will be the object of the third letter we still have from François de Sales to Mary), and even less about the unavoidable conflicts between these people…Silence not from one who knows nothing, but from one who doesn’t say…probably by exquisite charity.

Mary tells us furthermore that in 1602, the young priest goes to Verdun in the Lorraine province (specifies Mary, meaning it was not France) to take the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius under the control of the R.F. Maggio, “Jesuit whom he trusted very much… to be ensured by him (the R. F.) of what God wanted from him (Pierre). The result of this retreat given to him by (the father) was that God did not want him to enter the Jesuit Companyop.cit. p. 8 .” But Pierre is still fond of the Jesuits and helps them in spite of their exile from France which jealous and intriguing people had managed to obtain, under the pretence of corrupted moralsDivers écrits des Curés de Paris, Rouen, Nevers, Amiens, Evreux et Lisieux, contre la morale des Jésuites, publiés pendant les années 1656, 1657, 1658 et 1659, sans lieu de publication, 1762 and even practice of witchcraftL’histoire du père Henry, Jésuite, brûlé à Anvers le 12 Août 1601 . Indeed Jesuits “fought vigorously against Protestantism. In 1602 when Henry IV was willing to restore them, the Calvinist synod assembled in Grenoble were determined to employ any means to stop their returnJ.Cretineau-Joly, Clément XIV et les Jésuites, Bruxelles 1847, p. 98,99 ”. To tell all this story, which took place at the very time as the discerning retreat of the young father by the Verdun fathers, would take us too far but it is worthwhile reading what Mary says about Pierre’s activity : “God had chosen him to be superior of a new (community) which He wanted, through Pierre to establish in His church, and although he saw what he had to do, he didn’t start doing it yet… for he didn’t want) to prevent the return of the Jesuits fathers to France, for which he had employed all his skill, as when they were banished, he had shown a great and sincere affection Relation de la Mère Marie de Jésus, p. 8,9

England, at that time, after the torment of the five Carthusian monks, Thomas More’s and the bishop John Fisher’s beheadings, who were all unwilling to sign the submission act to Henry VIIIth, persecutes to death anyone who in not Anglican : Catholics faithful to Rome as Lutherans and Calvinists. Mary again writes about Pierre quite conscious of the danger to which he will expose himself: ”Going to England, he wrote to the Carmelite nuns in these words :”I am writing to you so that my journey is commended to your prayers and those of your house (31)”. She witnesses that priests refugees in France need help ”specially English, Hibernais (?) and Scottish priestsProcès, Riti 2236, f° 506v ”, without forgetting, obviously, that her mother “had a great aversion against heretics…and a particular desire of the conversion of the Kingdom of England and often earnestly prayed for thatop. cit. f° 508v.

All this shows that Mary had a broad knowledge of the important facts of her time and she must have had a strong personality so that : ”when Mary was 17, she (her mother) tried to develop her mind, telling her the family problems, giving her a heavy burden, even asking her sometimes to give her opinionDuval, La Vie admirable de la Bienheureuse p.46. ”. Her mother even entrusts her with the key of the alms cupboard where are put away the sums of money given by benefactors till they are judiciously shared out. Marriage is proposed to Mary. “Once, they thought marrying her with a young man, with an office in the capital, and she would be given a dowry proportioned to her birth and the rank her father had held in the worldBoucher, Livre III, p 336 ”. Of this interesting party, we know nothing more. Whoever he was, Mary didn’t want him and her parents didn’t force her to take him. It seems she never hesitated to refuse marriage : as she saw it with her parents and close relatives and as it was understood at that time, it didn’t suit her : “she (her mother) proposed her marriage and told her that a few young people, men of honor and with big estates, were proposing to her. But her daughter never responded, not wanting to be married363636- Duval, La Vie admirable de la Bienheureuse p. 216.”. But then, a young girl who does not get married must enter the convent, there is no other choice. And Mary does not feel (yet) called to that. Her mother has said and repeated that she didn’t want to push any of her children into religious life unless he had a real call. Undecided, that is how the contemporary authors understand Mary.

In the manuscript Marie de Jésus left us, we find, in its last part, a quite long report with many details, about the interior battle a young girl, whose parents Pierre de Bérulle, become cardinal, often visited, led to decide what to do, as she didn’t want to marry nor enter the religious state : “A young girl far away from piety and wanting even less to become a nun, her father and mother were on the point of concluding an affair so that she would have a state in this world (she was about 15 or 16 years old), our blessed cardinal, foreseeing God’s will on this soul, not knowing what was happening, inspired by God, goes promptly to see her parents and tells them :”Do not proceed further, stop the business, I assure you she will be a nun”. Because of the regard they have for him and their esteem for his virtue, they comply to his word and they obey in the dark (as I have heard them say)… A year goes away in the world as usual and someone proposes to her again, which makes the parents very sad. And then a terrible storm arises in the poor girl’s soul : she had a great disgust of religion (read : the religious state), and such that I have heard her say that she would rather chose to suffer all the pains and tortures endured since the creation of the world and continue to suffer in purgatory till doomsday than become a nun… In the same time she had a great aversion for marriage… more painful and unbearable than death agonyRelation de la mère Marie de Jésus, p. 19,20 ”. The report, 9 pages long, goes crescendo, and describes the discrete but constant influence…By Mr. de Bérulles ‘s words, his simple presence, the young girl’s call ended by bursting out after six years of very deep and difficult interior fights. “I am taking care of your soul (he tells her), being able to answer God about it… I pray you to believe it is God’s will for which I can answer ”. This young girl finally enters the convent and this is the epilogue : “The grace of God given to this soul to find Paradise in the place which seemed to her to be hell, and to give her enough strength to observe the rule, against human appearance, is a real and irreproachable evidence that God wanted her to be a nun, and in this order as our blessed cardinal had ensuredop. cit. p. 25 ”. Mary describes this case with disconcerting truth and precision. The similarity between Mary and the young girl of the text is found even in the dates: sixteen when refusing the first marriage, six years of undecided quest, refusal of the good matches which arose, and then entrance into a religious order (obviously undetermined in the note), at twenty-two. Moreover Mr. de Bérulle’s influence on Mary’s decision was obvious: “…in spite of her hesitations and failures, she was under the discrete but persevering influence that his words, his presence alone exercised on her soulM. Houssaye, M. de Bérulle et les Carmélites de France, 1575-1611, Paris, Plon Ed. 1872, p. 224 ”.

On the other hand what biographers have remembered of the way Mary took her great decision, differs from the case of the handwritten note. “She (Mary) staid suspended between sky and earth, which caused in her heart great anguish. Her good mother, moved by compassion and not wishing her to remain irresolute any longer, led her to Notre-Dame de Liesse about six months before her entry into religion. And it was in this holy place, through the merits of the Holy Virgin Mary Mother of God, and the fervent prayers of her blessed mother, she was so moved by God that she felt completely decided to become a nun in the Carmelite orderDuval, La Vie Admirable de la Bienheureusep. 216-217. ”. And moreover :”To put an end to the doubts of her daughter, the blessed woman made with her a pilgrimage to Notre-Dame de Liesse, to beseech the help of the blessed Virgin ; and this young girl, touched by grace, at once decided to become a Carmelite nun. Six months after this journey, she took the Carmelite dress in the first convent, on March 23 rd 1608Boucher, Livre III, p. 336”. Let us note that these two testimonies are not contradictory. Mary took her decision at the foot of Notre-Dame de Liesse, after having been encouraged for six years by Pierre de Bérulle’s prayer and discrete support.

And as a testimony of respect for the state of priest, Mary witnesses :”the day before my entry into religion, she (her mother) led her to him (Mister the curate) to receive his apostolic blessing and recommend me to his holy payer and sacrificeProcès, Riti 2236, f° 527r”.

3- Carmelite in Amiens with her mother.

The first convent was that of Paris, which is quite normal for a young Parisian girl. To her name is added the name of Jesus. Marie de Jésus is from now her religious name. Then, “The next year on March 25 th of the same month she made profession, with the last of her sisters (Geneviève) (41). “One does not know exactly when Marie de Jésus left the first convent for that of Amiens (founded in 1606), but, when her mother entered it on February 14 th 1614, Marie de Jésus did not yet belong to this community. On the other hand, one knows, that in February 1615, at the latest, Marie de Jésus is in Amiens in this same community, which begins a very particular period where mother and daughter are together, and even more particular when the daughter is elected underprioress, her mother being a lay sister.

Marie de Jésus knows her mother intimately since she has stayed by her till the age of 22. Since the terrible days of the banishment of her father, Pierre Acarie, she has lived through all the family ordeals by her mother, and as from the age of 17, she has been called to assist her in her multiple tasks. She remembers the shady creditors who seized all the goods of the house, servants sent by their masters to through out her mother who was seeking for bread for her family, and also, her mother “working night and day” to gather the necessary sum to pay the ransom which would release her father ; his progressive return from exile, but dimmed by the serious horse accident where her mother, coming back from Luzarches, broke her thigh in three open fractures. Mary was also with her mother two years later when she made a false step which broke her leg again and Mary also remembers her mother’s face, ”so quiet and calm that one would have said she had no painop. cit. f° 541r”, suffering incredible pain from the surgeon La Noue as he replaced the bones. She looked after her mother during the three months necessary to her recovery. And even in 1606, little before her entry in the Carmelite convent, for three months Mary looked after her mother struck by a serious illness during which one believes she is lost. Sometimes, in spite of the acutest pains, her mother told her nevertheless “Marie, would you like to please me? I beg you go to bed”op. cit. f° 543r.

Then, about three weeks before the end of her mother’s novitiate, as she had already been ill for two months, her illness worsens and becomes very serious, Marie de Jésus is looking after her :”Her illness was getting worse and reached such a point that on April 8 th 1615, the day her novitiate finished, one thought it was the last day of her life and herself seemed to believe so, or at least think it op. cit. f° 520v”. On the request of the Mother Prioress who desires the patient to make her profession in extremis, Marie de Jésus helps the patient to hold the paper so that she writes it and then she hears her pronouncing her vows :”with devotion and a wonderful fervor so that the whole convent, present at this holy scene, was in tears, being extremely edified and full of devotionop. cit. f° 521r”. Then the newly professed nun took once more holy communion with much devotion and recites the verse dear to Thérèse d’Avila : Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo, verse which magnifies God who is merciful, God who is Love. A contemporary hymn takes this Latin verse as refrain and develops its meaning in these verses of pure praise :

1- I want to sing and say for ever :
“Your mercy is infinite, o my God!”
2- I want to love you, I want to make people love you
Claim your name everywhere in the whole world
3- I will sing your praise, o Lord
By all your achievements you have filled me with joy.

But the physical state of the dying person, very exactly described by Marie, becomes pitiful :”The doctor finds her whole body as cold as a dead person till the stomach, having no heat except from the stomach to the heart, asserting, with tears in his eyes, that she couldn’t normally live more than an hour, he leaves the convent certain he will never see her again aliveop. cit. f° 522v”. But “The confessor and Mother Prioress tell her that, by obedience, she must ask God not to die yet…O my God, if you please give me life back and let it be only to suffer (she uttered)…As soon as she had made this prayer and had agreed to live, one felt that natural heat was coming back in all her limbs which were completely out of work and as cold as those of a dead person…from then we had complete hope that God had given her life and had cured her from her illness which had already happened three months agoop. cit. f° 523r

And on May 11 th 1616, Marie de Jésus is elected underprioress. Her mother, observing the rule, desires to show her all the respect due to her rank:”Often meeting me in our Amiens convent in a hall or at a door, as soon as she saw me, a few steps away, she got out of the way to let me pass, and when I saw that my pride could not bear it, I went backop. cit. f° 532v-533rv”. Indeed Mary cannot bear it and yet :“What I had to suffer, but I confess that seeing my good mother arriving with extraordinary humility, who, irrespective of what the others did nor of her sore leg, she fell on her knees to kiss me and kiss my scapular, her face showing much joy about the submission, which my pride could not bear…She took pleasure to give me respect and obey me in all kinds of occasions… asking my permission for a few things she could have done without asking me (48)”.

For reasons which extend the aim of this text, the general superiors of the Carmelite order transferred Mary’s mother to Pontoise where she arrived on December 7 th 1616. As from this date, Mary did not see her mother any more. She died in Pontoise on April 18 th 1618. But this absence does not mean that Mary had no more news from her dear mother: on the contrary her mother wrote letters, {tooltipfour of which are still known to us today}{end-text} Madame Acarie, Ecrits spirituels, présentation de Bernard Sesé, Ed. Arfuyen 2004, p 115-128 {end-tooltip} (in spite of the regretful fact that the original letters disappeared in the 19 th century). In these letters of March (or April) 1617 addressed from Pontoise, one can read the pressing requests of prayers addressed to Mary for the family members:”…that you remember your two brothers and sister-in-law. I recommend these more particularly than the others, thinking they need them more op. cit., lettre n° 9, p. 117”. The same insistence is found in the letter of October 2 nd 1617: “But, more earnestly, pray for your two brothers who are in the midst of the the world and could well be ship-wreckedop. cit., lettre n° 10, p. 120 ”. And in the letter of January 21rst 1618, her concern is increased because her sons give no news to their mother. “I think they are in Champagne. We hear no more news than you. We would need, I think, help from heaven to make things change op. cit., lettre n° 11, p. 125”. Till her death, Marie de l’Incarnation will ask her eldest daughter that the whole monastery of Amiens prays for her sons: “I beg you the whole monastery prays for your eldest brother (Nicolas). His salvation is very hazardous…And for the other I would like him to be out of all dangers op. cit., lettre n° 12, p. 127-128”. As we see, Mary’s brothers have given much concern, especially the eldest Nicolas and Jean the youngest son.

As it is difficult for members of the same family living in the same religious community to avoid restoring the warm family atmosphere between them, Sister Marie de l’Incarnation discloses in letters to her daughter, her great spiritual maturity: “God wants us to lead a whole spiritual life and that we have no affection because we are of the same flesh and blood which has little value compared to that of the spirit which links us and unites us to God. It is in Him indeed that we must be united, strongly withdrawing from anything that could prevent the union our blessed Mother (Thérèse) talks about so well in her book The Château de l’âme”.op. cit., lettre n° 11, p.124

These letters also inform us that pious images were sent both ways, and that news were exchanged about sisters in both convents and about people of the world who count for both convents. “She (Madame Acarie, especially when she was in the world) wrote many letters for her domestic affairs and to answer those who wrote to her. She never read them over…and yet her letters were always well written so that you couldn’t find any fault, although she wrote them very quickly and without a breakDuval, La Vie Admirable de la Bienheureuse p 347”.

Marie de Jésus also receives letters from other people, who inform her about her mother’s health so that she could know what exactly was going on in Pontoise day after day :”In a letter which wrote the late Mr. Le Garde des Sceaux de Marillac four days before this blessed death…Procès, Riti 2236, f° 546r ”On the occasion of this death, Mary receives much mail from which in her evidence she mentions the most important letters which try to comfort her by a last evidence to her exceptional mother :”The Reverend Father Dom Sans de Sainte Catherine, general of the reverend Feuillants fathers in this writing he sent me after the death of this blessed [mother] to comfort me…” The holy man adds in this same document :”I want you in the same spirit as your holy mother, that is with the same humility, simplicity, ingenuousness, truth, faithfulness, charity and holiness which were in her soul.op. cit., f° 545r et 549v

The Carmelite order spreading very quickly, the well formed “superiors” were scarcely sufficient, so in July 1620, Marie de Jésus was sent as prioress by the general superiors, to the Carmelite convent of Orléans, founded on March 25th 1617.

4- In the Carmelite convent of Orléans.

The Orléans Carmelite convent had hardly started when Marie de Jésus arrives as prioress. This convent is poor, as probably all the Carmelite convents, but this one is particularly poor because the foundation gift was very small. The monastery has been placed under the name of the holy mother of God and of Saint Joseph. Mother Marie du Saint Sacrement , professed nun from the Pontoise Carmelite convent, was the first prioress, in particular helped by sister Thrérèse de Jésus, under prioress, and sisters Madeleine de Saint Joseph and Jeanne du Saint Esprit, coming also from PontoiseChroniques de l’ordre des Carmélites de la réforme de sainte Thérèse depuis leur introduction en France, Troyes 1856, Tome III, p. 183. The mother prioress, during the three years she was in charge, received the profession of seven nuns!

Marie de Jésus, haloed by the fame of her mother thus arrives in Orléans in 1620, on July 1rst exactly. It was she who had the convent built in a suitable state for a religious community and it has often been said that this convent was the one which complied the most to the rule of the order. Two reasons enable us to understand this : the first is that Mary knows very well the Carmelite order ; the second is that Mary had real artistic gifts, probably developed while her education in Longchamp first, and by her mother afterwards. In the monastery which she had so well built, she added six hermitages, and a seventh one later “in honor of her blessed mother N.B.S. She usually turned to Marie de l’Incarnation, for all her needs in the beginning of this house, the poverty of which had a double need of the Providence. In the most extreme needs and to provide at the expenses of the building, she often ran to this holy place where she was found absorbed in GodHistoire manuscrite de la fondation des Carmélites de France, volume Orléans. Copie aimablement transmise par le carmel de Créteil.

Anne d’Autriche made an important gift (10.000 pounds, but we do not really know to what compare it to have an idea of its practical importance : Pierre Acarie gave 100 crowns for the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Délivrance in the Saint-Gervais church), to ask the monastery for prayers so that she could give birth to a dauphin to France. One must say that Anne d’Autriche married at 17 (her husband had the same age as her), and having no descendant after 21 years of marriage, had knocked at every door: she had even asked to sleep in Marie de l’Incarnation’s own bed in the Pontoise convent. But still, why did the Queen Anne d’Autriche, address Marie de Jésus, rather than another sister, to tell her her intention of prayers, which, as one can easily imagine, was particularly dear to her ? A plausible answer would simply be to, point out the direct link between Mary and her mother which popular piety henceforth designated as a favored intercessor near Our Lady of Good Delivery. As Anne d’Autriche was fulfilled beyond any hope, having given birth (at the age of 38!) on September 29 th 1638 to a healthy child of the masculine sex, she added other gifts to the monastery (heating and objects for worship) and obtained later from this son, Louis XIV, tax relief on salt. This birth, and probably many others, have directed popular devotion towards Marie de l’Incarnation.

One knows that a deep and spiritual friendship was born in 1602, between Madame Acarie and François de Sales, then coadjutor of Monseigneur de Granier, bishop of Geneva and living in Annecy. This friendship obviously extended to the children. The first letter François de Sales sent from Tours to Marie de Jésus, still under-prioress in the Carmelite convent of Amiens, is dated September 20 th or 21rst 1619. This letter is short but doesn’t fail mentioning Mary’s two other sisters, Geneviève and Marguerite, both Carmelite nuns. But above all, one notices marks of the deep affection of François de Sales for Mary and his joy about the decision Mary finally took after all her inner struggles: “I send you this note which will tell you on my behalf that I have always cherished you with all my heart and have been comforted by knowing that His Divine Majesty has withdrawn you for his service in such a (blessed) vocation as in the one in which you are living and which I deeply respect and for which I pray God now and will never cease that you persevere successfully making continual progress…François de Sales, Œuvres Complètes, édition de la Visitation d’Annecy, tome XIX, année 1619, lettre MDLIV, p. 23-24 ”.

Arrived in the Carmelite convent of Orléans on the 1rst of July 1620, Marie de Jésus receives from the great bishop François de Sales a new letter written in September or October of the same year which seems to be an answer to two previous letters from May to François de Sales, which, unfortunately, have not been preserved. Thus there could have been a regular exchange of correspondence between these two people, precisely during the period when Mary was leaving Amiens with the office of under-prioress for Orléans with that of prioress. No matter the circumstances it is in this letter that we find wonderful sentences on spiritual friendship: “One quality of friendship come from heaven is that it never dies nor the source from which it comes never dries up, and that the presence of [the friend] doesn’t feed their friendship neither his absence make the friend languish nor puts an end to their friendship, because its base is everywhere since it is in God whom I thank with much humility for your call, and that of your two dear sisters, to such a holy instituteFrançois de Sales, op. cit., tome XIX, année 1620, lettre MDCCV, p. 342-344..” It is striking if you match this text with that of the letter written on January 21rst 1618 by sister Marie de l’Incarnation to her daughter Mary :”…let our affection be purely spiritual since God wants us to lead a purely spiritual life and does not want us to have affection for people from the same flesh and blood which is little compared to that of the spirit which links us and unites us to God (59).”

François de Sales’ letter goes on expressing all the satisfaction he feels about the union which links the Carmelite convent with the Visitation in the town of Orléans. Far from showing any competition François de Sales’ healthy theology appears with bright intelligence and straightforward faith for God’s purpose, and all this in an elliptic and pleasant style: “(since I am talking to you, it seems to me, heart to heart) I can add, according to the real rule I have often inculcated to them (the sisters of the Visitation) that everyone should do his office in which he was engaged, faithfully and very lovingly for the Love of Him who has sent us there ; but because of that he should not stop knowing and recognizing the greatest excellence of the others and in the same way give them much respect and veneration (59)”. How could we refrain from asking ourselves if the great François de Sales would limit to this acknowledgement the eminence of the others? The answer in February 1938, is overwhelming : “ coming from Thérèse Bénédicte de La Croix :”I am far from thinking that God’s mercy is restrained by the borders of the visible Church. God is Truth. Who seeks truth seeks God, whether he is aware of it or notE. de Miribel, Edith Stein (1891-1942), réédition Paris 1998, lettre 172.” Is it “shocking to juxtapose the thoughts of these two spiritual great beings who have expressed themselves in the Carmelite spirituality surroundings?

In front of the difficult question which already arises about the government of the Carmelite order in France J.D. Melot, Histoire du Carmel de Pontoise – Tome I – 1605-1792, p. 111 – 112, the great bishop writes in December of the same year, 1620 consequently, a letter to Marie de Jésus in which he advises her not to want to change the superiors. He does this with great humility expressed by the tact with which he takes the liberty of giving his opinion, and all this with exquisite politeness and warm affection:”It is not that I want to be the referee in a dispute supported by so many people on both sides; but I am speaking to you as to my late and beloved daughter, in all confidenceFrançois de Sales, op. cit., tome XIX, année 1620, lettre MDCCX, p. 410-411. ”. And the end deserves to be recorded so it shows affection and respect but giving superiority to affection without diminishing respect:”I am pleased to write to you without much ceremony and to dare simply call you my Daughter and to treat from heart to heart with your soul I have always tenderly cherished and I pray God he fills you with his holy love”

Marie de Jésus was prioress for almost 20 years and received the profession of twenty-two girls. One of these young girls, Mademoiselle Catherine Couplier, a girl of the very high society, was received, but having great difficulties to read, could not be accepted as a choir sister. This affected her family for whom it was a matter of honor. But Marie de Jésus being able to read in the souls persisted with the direction she gave her novice. Finally, this novice…”fulfilled the duties of her vocation with much edification ; she was extraordinarily repentant and hard workingChroniques de l’ordre des Carmélites, tome III, p.194”.

Marie de Jésus died on July 31 st 1641, at the age of 56. She was the first of the sisters to die in this Carmelite convent which, since its foundation in 1617 had not yet recorded a departure for heaven : so that it was said that the daughters of Ste Thérèse were immortal!

The witnesses of the time have acknowledged in Marie de Jésus deep humility, great charity to support the neighbor and an exact constancy for prayerBoucher, Livre III, p. 337, en note de bas de page.. For us, ordinary people, Mary is first a person who has much suffered in her youth and in her feelings, and has not lost her balance. Probably did she enjoy life, but having to make a decisive choice about her state of life, she has been able to prefer, not without an interior fight, the Carmelite convent. And yet, what moves us still more, is that she has loved hers, and in the first place, her mother, to whom she has given care and help in the times of her greatest ordeals. In fact that is what François de Sales had discerned as very bright in this, both exceptional and very human soul.

Pontoise November 11 th 2007

Bernard YON and Soeur Anne-Thérèse


Note A : Saint Gervais, the Acarie’s parish

The Acarie had a very deep link with the Saint Gervais chuch. This is what the historian of this church says about it :

“In 1528, Messire Loys de Harlay was living where is now the n° 22 of the rue du roi de Sicile. Against an exterior pillar of his house, in a recess, stood a Madonna in stone. But, during the night from Monday to Tuesday of Whitsuntide that year, a fanatic Huguenot profaned this statue by breaking the Virgin’s head and that of the Child Jesus. This act of violence preceded, quite a long time beforehand, the religious wars. The King François Ier, most moved, ordered solemn reparations, took part himself in the expiating processions and had made a Virgin in silver to replace the mutilated statue, which was confided to Saint-Gervais, and, as it was, still mutilated, placed in a small chapel, in fact more subsidiary than lateral, and which was perhaps built for this event, for no mention is made of this before.

Spontaneous devotion of faithful people honored this Madonna because of the impious treatment she had undergone and of which she still kept marks, first under the name of Our-Holy-Lady-of-Pain, and later, by a process we can easily understand, and for the exclusive benefit of pregnant women, under the name of Our-Lady-of-Good-Deliverance.

But, at the assembly of the churchwardens held on July 22 nd 1590, during the siege of Paris by Henry IV, messier Pierre Acarie, lord of Montberost, King’s counselor, ordinary master in his Chamber of Counts, ardent member of the Ligue, and one of these churchwardens asked for and got the concession of the same chapel.

His mother, Marguerite Lotin, still alive, but near her death, had just, by testament, chosen the Saint-Gervais church as place for her sepulture, there where her son would design his. So he asked for this chapel and to be allowed to dig a burial vault so that himself, his mother, his wife and his descendants could be buried there. He offered 100 crowns and promised he would arrange the chapel and would embellish it with all “ornaments”.

The assembly agreed, but nevertheless with a few restrictions so that anyone could have a free access to this chapel because of the statue which had been so venerated for such a long time.

Pierre Acaries’ wife, Madame Acarie, also known under the name of Marie de l’Incarnation, introduced the Carmelite order in France and became herself a Carmelite nun after the death of her husband. It is in this chapel she liked to retire, to hear mass, and where she had this famous rapture which lasted a whole Sunday! It is In this chapel again, as says her historian, André Duval, that her friend the Queen Mother Marie de MédicisDans le témoignage de Marie de Jésus, on peut lire : "La reine-mère du Roy a daigné une fois l’honneur de sa visite en sa maison en l’année 1603 et demeura plus d’une heure avec elle en sa chapelle et plusieurs fois a pris la peine par sa piété de venir à sa chapelle de Saint-Gervais …" f° 547., gave her an appointment when she came, like the other mothers, to recommend her pregnancies to Our-Lady-of-Good-Deliverance. Pierre Acarie and his mother were in fact buried in this vault, empty today…The chapel was, without anyone protesting, deconsecrated in 1768 and converted into the new sacristy”.

Louis Brochard : Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1938, p. 120-122.

Dates come most of the timeline established by Monsieur Michel Picard, in his book Madame Acarie, Pierre Téqui éd. 2004, p. 217-218