- From: Weedy <richarra@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 16 Jul 2011 10:18:06 -0700 (PDT)
First drink from the Old Testament, so that you may drink from the
well. You cannot drink from the second without drinking from the
from the Old Testament to slake your thirst, and from the New to
completely. Compunction is found in the Old Testament; joy in the
Christ because he is the vine; drink Christ because he is the rock
out water. Drink Christ because he is the fountain of life; drink
he is the river whose running waters give joy to the city of God, and
is peace, and because out of his heart will flow rivers of living
Christ to drink the blood which redeemed you; drink Christ to drink
The Old Testament is his word; the New Testament is his word. Holy
drunk and swallowed when the power of the eternal Word penetrates the
the mind and the virtue of the soul. In short, we do not live by bread
but by every word of God. Drink this word, but according to its own
it first in the Old Testament; then hasten to drink it also in the
--St. Ambrose of Milan
July 16th - St. Mary-Magdalen Postel, Virgin
(Foundress of The Sisters of The Christian Schools of Mercy)
John Postel and Teresa Levallois his wife were members of the
bourgeoisie in the
small port of Barfleur, to whom on November 28, 1756, was born a
was baptized with the names Julia Frances Catherine. This child was
of a pious
disposition, and several illustrative anecdotes are told, of the sort
be found in the childhood of some who grew up to be anything but
however, it may be noted that she was allowed to make her first
she was eight, four years earlier than was customary in those days.
sent to a local school and afterwards to that of the Benedictine
Valognes, and while there she determined to devote her life to the
service of God and her neighbour and took a private vow of perpetual
On leaving school when she was eighteen she returned to Barfleur,
opened a school for girls, and her pupils in after life were a
witness to the grounding they had received from their first teacher.
Julia carried on quietly for five years, and then the revolution
burst. In 1790
the National Assembly imposed an oath on the clergy to maintain the
constitution, which oath Pope Pius VI forbade as detrimental to the
the Church. Nevertheless, many clergy (the "constitutionals ") took
it and the
Church in France was torn by a schism.
In Barfleur the constitutional clergy had the upper hand, and Julia
Postel was a
leader among those who refused to attend their services or accept
ministrations. She made a secret chapel under the stairs in her
house, and here
Mass was offered by the abbé Lamache, rector of Notre Dame de
Barfleur, who had
been proscribed as "refractory". M. Lamache trusted her to the extent
reserving the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel, and Julia made the
arrangements necessary to enable him to minister to his flock.
After a time it was deemed imprudent to reserve the Blessed Sacrament
longer and, in accordance with the law of the Church in time of
other extreme need, Julia was allowed to carry it on her person and
administer it as viaticum to the dying when no priest was at hand: a
"maiden-priest ", as St Pius X did not hesitate to call her in the
beatification. Admiration for her was not confined to the
when her house had been searched the comment of the disappointed
"Let her alone. She does nobody any harm, and is very kind to the
Year after year of such danger, responsibility, and nervous strain
supported only by an intense inner life. And if Julia was always with
showed time and again that He was always with her.
For four years after the concordat of 1801 Julia was one of those
workers who laboured at whatever task came next to repair the ravages
revolution in the religious life of the people; she taught, she
prepared children and adults to receive the sacraments, she organized
mercy, and always she prayed. Then, in her fifty-first year, armed
reputation and a testimonial from a priest, but with no material
beyond her own hands and head, she went to Cherbourg where she heard
municipality was in need of school-teachers. She told a local
chaplain, the abbé
Cabart, that "I want to teach the young and to inspire them with the
love of God
and liking for work. I want to help the poor and relieve some of
These are the things I want to do, and for long I've seen that I must
religious congregation to do it." M. Cabart was not the man to
enthusiasm or fail to recognize ability. He told Julia she was just
the woman he
had been looking for and he would find her a house.
One was soon rented; it was dedicated in honour of our Lady, Mother of
(the patron of that former chapel under the stairs); pupils were got
three other teachers joined her, Joan Catherine Bellot, Louisa Viel
Ledanois. In 1807 these four took the vows of religion before M.
representing the bishop, and Julia took the name of Mary-Magdalen.
later it was reported to the charity commissioners that two hundred
were being instructed by them in sacred and profane knowledge,
taught to others, ragamuffins rescued from the streets, and ten
a year given in alms.
In 1811, when the community numbered nine sisters, the Sisters of
returned to Cherbourg, and, rather than appear to emulate and rival
Mary-Magdalen withdrew her family to Octeville-L'Avenel, where they
six months in great hardship in a barn adjoining the school-house.
migrated to Tamerville, and looked after orphans and the poor there
lease fell in. Again they migrated, this time to Valognes, where it
looked as if
the foundress's undertaking would come to nothing. There were already
convents of nuns teaching in the town, and Mother Mary-Magdalen and
sisters had to subsist on the work of their hands, they and their
orphans. Sister Rosalia died, and when an untrue rumour that she had
death got around, the abbé Cabart thought it was the last straw,
wished to sever
his connection with them, and told the community it was time to give
superioress thought otherwise.
"Tell monsieur l'abbe ", she said, "that I am so certain that our Lord
the realization of my aims that I shall not cease to pursue them with
greatest ardour. He who has given my daughters to me and who watches
birds of the air can easily provide me with the means to support
them. So long
as God gives me strength to work I shall never leave one of them."
That act of faith turned the tide-but not yet.
For two years they lived at Hamel-au-Eon, in extreme poverty, doing
that came along, needlework, repairs, in the fields, and then Prince
offered them their former house at Tarnerville and the charge of a
Almost at once a famine broke out, which gave Mother Mary-Magdalen's
their chance to earn a permanent place in the hearts of the people,
and then in
1818 in consequence of a new by-law she had, at sixty-two years old,
to sit down
and pass an examination to qualify as a head teacher. Though the
reduced by deaths to four, a school was started at Tourlaville: and
expansion of activity the community began to grow in numbers; by 1830
convent was imperatively needed. Mother Mary-Magdalen obtained the
abbey of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, which had been founded in the
century and abandoned at the Revolution. Here in the first twelve
community received ten postulants, before whose coming its total
number was only
fifteen; among them was Bl. Placida Viel. In 1837 the rule by which
Mary-Magdalen had governed her sisters for 28 years was laid aside
(not on her
own initiative, but without a word of protest from her) and that
approved by the
Holy See for the Brothers of the Christian Schools was formally
canonical novitiate was begun, and at the end of the year their vows
received by Mgr. Delamare, Bishop of Coutances, who was the devoted
adviser of the community.
The last 8 years of the foundress's life, though they had their
setbacks, and crosses, was a period of expansion and achievement: the
congregation grew, the number of its pupils increased, and the great
church of St-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, which had been in ruins, began to
She died when this last work was not yet finished on July 16, 1846, at
of 90. Miracles were not wanting to confirm her reputation for
sanctity; and in
1925 she was canonized. For 41 years the life of St Mary-Magdalen
the vicissitudes and progress of the institute that she founded; had
been raised to the altars of the Church her name would still be
illustrious by the Sisters of the Christian Schools.
See the life by Mgr Grente (Eng. trans., 1928) and his Une sainte
(1946). There are other lives in French, e.g. by Mgr Legoux (1908, in
volumes) and by P. de Crisenoy (1938).
Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external
When we don't pray, we quit the fight.
Prayer keeps the Christian's armor bright.
And Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.
He who kneels before God,
Can stand before anyone....
May God be gracious to us,
& bless us,& makes His face
shine upon us....
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