Readings & Reflections: Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time & St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, January 12,2018
Fallen human beings try to refashion reality. That is why the people of Israel defiantly demand that Samuel appoint for them a king; that is why the scribes repudiate Christ’s genuine authority to forgive sins. The “splendor of our strength” is walking in the light of the Lord’s countenance.
Heavenly Father, we sometimes lose sight of what is going on around us and we forget that it is our mission to be witnesses of the Good News. A lot of times, we overlook the human suffering around us. We forget Christ’s preferential option for the marginalized and suffering. Lord, give us the grace to focus on Christ and be united in faith when we gather for religious services and pray together. Being united in faith with each other, sharpen our eyes to see the human suffering around us and increase our desire to alleviate it, and to commit ourselves to serve the marginalized in our society and globally. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.
1 Sm 8:4-7, 10-22a
All the elders of Israel came in a body to Samuel at Ramah
and said to him, “Now that you are old,
and your sons do not follow your example,
appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us.”
Samuel was displeased when they asked for a king to judge them.
He prayed to the LORD, however, who said in answer:
“Grant the people’s every request.
It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.”
Samuel delivered the message of the LORD in full
to those who were asking him for a king.
He told them:
“The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows:
He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses,
and they will run before his chariot.
He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups
of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers.
He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting,
and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.
He will use your daughters as ointment makers, as cooks, and as bakers.
He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves,
and give them to his officials.
He will tithe your crops and your vineyards,
and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.
He will take your male and female servants,
as well as your best oxen and your asses,
and use them to do his work.
He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.
When this takes place,
you will complain against the king whom you have chosen,
but on that day the LORD will not answer you.”
The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel’s warning and said,
“Not so! There must be a king over us.
We too must be like other nations,
with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare
and fight our battles.”
When Samuel had listened to all the people had to say,
he repeated it to the LORD, who then said to him,
“Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them.”
The word of the Lord.
R. (2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;
in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk.
At your name they rejoice all the day,
and through your justice they are exalted.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
For you are the splendor of their strength,
and by your favor our horn is exalted.
For to the LORD belongs our shield,
and to the Holy One of Israel, our King.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus immediately knew in his mind what
they were thinking to themselves,
so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”
–he said to the paralytic,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
He rose, picked up his mat at once,
and went away in the sight of everyone.
They were all astounded
and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1 – Jesus heals the paralytic
In yesterday’s gospel scene, we saw Jesus heal the leper. Jesus healed the leper by touching Him. He showed the world that if we are to come to somebody’s rescue and we need to go out of our way and meet the need of a neighbor even if it means touching a leper, a banished member of society. Seeking God and bringing His people closer to Him, is doing what is necessary beyond what is readily available and accessible.
In today’s gospel reading, we are all witness on how Jesus healed the paralytic. A group of men who sought Jesus for the healing of their paralytic friend confirmed what Jesus hoped we would do to a friend in need. They revealed to all of us that we have to go beyond what is regular if we have to help a friend and bring him back to the Lord. “While he was delivering God’s word to them, some people arrived bringing a paralyzed man to him. The four who carried him were unable to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they began to open up the roof over the spot where Jesus was. When they had made a hole, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.”
If we have to be unconventional in our ways just to ensure that we are able to bring God’s people closer to Him, then we have to do it.
One who loves God and his neighbor always endeavors to bring his neighbor and himself closer to God. He does not only have the determination and the initiative to do God’s work but always hopes and prays for God’s guidance. He plans His work with God’s Word on hand and depends on Him every step of the way.
Being a disciple of Christ, doing His work and bringing souls to the Father, entails a lot more than beautiful words to impress and actions that only hope to draw the attention of the world around us. A disciple of Christ is truly committed to God’s cause and His people, is totally submitted to Him and has a deep intimacy with Him. He knows God’s will and has made His will very much his own. He is so self-giving that he is ready to give up his comfort zone, his own wants and desires for the good of his neighbor. He is willing to accept death for the sake of what is good and right in the eyes of our Lord. His faith is founded on Christ that he lives like Christ and seeks God not only for himself but for his neighbor as well. He seeks the TRUTH, firmly stands by it and is never swayed by what is convenient and what will directly benefit himself. He leads neighbor and community to what God has planned for all and not what will aggrandize and glorify his image.
Let us ask ourselves how well we have ministered to a neighbor who was in need. What have we done to those whom our Lord has brought to us to minister and care for? Have we taken the initiative of bringing people to our Lord whatever the situation maybe or whoever they maybe or have we left the task to others when situations seem difficult? Have we persevered in our work to draw people to God amidst the trials and problems we may all have?
Within the context of our community and church, have we gone out of our way and designed a program that will prevent members who cannot seem to find the way, are lost, confused and burdened, from being another statistic to fall off the cracks of our imperfect system? Are we full of aspirations without any action? Do we project an image of being mellow, kind and sweet with beautiful and sweet words but cannot seem to act and decide for those who are hurting?
Loving one’s neighbor means bringing Him closer to God at all cost.
Heavenly Father, strengthen my feeble hands and make my weak knees firm as I bring my neighbor closer to You and your people. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Reflection 2 – We never saw anything like this!
Do you know the healing power of forgiveness and compassion? Jesus’ treatment of sinners upset the religious teachers of the day. When a cripple was brought to Jesus because of the faith of his friends, Jesus did the unthinkable. He first forgave the man his sins. The scribes regarded this as blasphemy because they understood that only God had authority to forgive sins and to unbind a man or woman from their burden of guilt.
Jesus claimed an authority which only God could rightfully give. Jesus not only proved that his authority came from God, he showed the great power of God’s redeeming love and mercy by healing the cripple of his physical ailment. This man had been crippled not only physically, but spiritually as well. Jesus freed him from his burden of guilt and restored his body as well. The Lord is every ready to bring us healing of body, mind, and spirit. Is there any area in your life that cripples you from walking in the freedom of Christ’s transforming love and forgiveness?
Bishop Ambrose of Milan (339-397 AD), an early church father, explains how the healing of the paralytic points not only to Christ’s power to heal the whole person, but also to raise the body to everlasting life as well:
But the Lord, wanting to save sinners, shows himself to be God both by his knowledge of secrets and by the wonder of his actions. He adds, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk?’” In this passage he shows the full likeness of the resurrection. Alongside of healing the wounds of body and mind, he also forgives the sins of the spirit, removes the weakness of the flesh, and thus heals the whole person. It is a great thing to forgive people’s sins – who can forgive sins, but God alone? For God also forgives through those to whom he has given the power of forgiveness. Yet it is far more divine to give resurrection to bodies, since the Lord himself is the resurrection. (excerpt from EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 5.12–13.5)
Do you believe in the healing transforming power of Christ’s forgiveness and merciful love? Ask him to set you free and transform your mind and heart to be like his heart.
“Lord Jesus, through your merciful love and forgiveness you bring healing and restoration to body, soul, and mind. May your healing power and love touch every area of my life – my innermost thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and memories. Pardon my offenses and transform me in the power of your Holy Spirit that I may walk confidently in your love, truth, and righteousness.” – Read the source: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/2018/jan12.htm
Reflection 3 – Amazing!
All were amazed and glorified God. —Mark 2:12
When Jesus healed a paralytic as proof of His authority to forgive the man’s sins, the people who witnessed the event were amazed, and they “glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mark 2:12). More than a dozen times in the gospel of Mark, we read accounts of people reacting in a similar way to the words and works of Jesus.
The word translated as “amazed” or “astonished” carries the meaning of “being thrown into a state of surprise or fear, or both.” We may sometimes feel that way when we encounter Jesus Christ as we read God’s Word. Like the disciples, we may be amazed when we read of Jesus saying, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (10:23). So often we think that having lots of money would solve all our problems.
Those who saw a man delivered from a legion of demons reacted with amazement (5:20). But why? Did they think he was beyond God’s power to save? Do we feel the same way when God saves certain people?
Jesus is not bound by our limitations or expectations. He speaks and acts with authority and wisdom far beyond ours. With reverence and awe, let’s hear Jesus’ words and look for the transforming touch of His mighty hand.
— David C. McCasland
I bow, O Lord, before Your throne
In awed humility
When I reflect on who You are
And all You’ve done for me. —Sper
Never measure God’s unlimited power by your limited expectations (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).
Reflection 4 – Convicting Word
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” —Mark 2:5
A young cowboy with no regard for God traveled to San Francisco and began a life of revelry, spending the money he had earned while working on the range. One night he staggered to his hotel room and slept until late the next day. When he awoke, he saw a small book on a nightstand near his bed and picked it up. It was the gospel of Mark. Disgusted, he threw it on the floor.
That evening, the book had once again been laid beside the bed. When he saw it in the same place the third day, he decided to read it. He found the book so interesting he couldn’t lay it aside. He later testified, “I learned that the Son of God said to a paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ and praised a poor widow for giving her last two coins. I was impressed when Jesus took little children in His arms and blessed them. And then, in spite of the unjust way He was treated, He went to the cross to save sinners. When I read why He died, I saw my own guilt and found peace in believing.” From that day forward, that cowboy became a different man and spent many years giving copies of the book of Mark to others.
We too must reach as many as possible with the convicting Word. The gospel is truly powerful. — Henry G. Bosch
O what joy awaits you, sinner,
When you heed Christ’s “Come to Me.”
To each seeking soul He whispers,
“I have now forgiven thee!” —Bosch
The gospel is sent to break hard hearts and to heal broken ones (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).
Reflection 5 – Wholeness Of Life
Son, your sins are forgiven you. . . . Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house. —Mark 2:5,11
A social worker told her colleagues about a young boy in an urban ghetto who appeared to be little more than a bit of twisted human flesh. He had been struck by a car several months before and had not received proper medical attention.
Although not part of her caseload, the social worker took the boy to an orthopedist, who performed surgery on his legs. Two years later the boy walked into her office without crutches. His recovery was complete. The two embraced. “If I accomplish nothing else in my life,” said the social worker to herself, “I have made a real difference with at least this one!”
She paused, then said to her colleagues, “This was all several years ago now. Where do you think that boy is today?” Some suggested that he might be a school teacher, others a physician or a social worker. With deep emotion, the woman responded, “No, he’s in the penitentiary for one of the foulest crimes a human can commit. I was instrumental in teaching him how to walk again, but there was no one to teach him where to walk.”
We must point people to Jesus. Through Him, those with broken bodies, broken dreams, broken homes, and broken hearts receive wholeness of life.
— Haddon W. Robinson
Lord, help us to tell of Your love for mankind—
A love for the sin-sick, the broken, the blind;
And help them to see by the way that we live
A wholeness of being that You long to give. —D. De Haan
A person may go wrong in many different directions but right in only one (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).
Reflection 6 – God always forgive me
God will never give us up: the constancy of his love depends on what he is and not on what I am or on how I behave. The story of the paralytic man reveals’ Jesus remarkable capacity to discover how people behave and operate. Jesus understood right away that what he needed most was reconciliation with God and the realization that God love him and had forgiven him all his sins. Jesus perceived that he could heal this man only if he was willing first to receive and accept God’s forgiveness and assurance of his love. The stretcher on which he was lying was not just something that supported him in his sickness. As Jesus saw it, the man was more than just physically sick. He seemed to use his sickness, the hurt in his life, his resentment and anger about his sickness as stretcher to rest on, to arouse pity and draw attention. To heal him from that ailment needed a more profound touch because he seemingly did not want to get healed on that level. Jesus consequently said to him first, “Your sins are forgiven.” With this, the deepest root of his sickness was removed. But after the cure Jesus added a surprising remark: “Pick up your stretcher and walk.” Why should he do that? Why forget all about the past enlisted in this stretcher? Jesus told the man, “Your past is forgiven and healed. You now can carry your past (symbolized in the stretcher) on your shoulders. Never again use the past with your failures, your faults, your hurts, your misconduct and your self-pity as a “stretcher” again. Walk as free person and carry your past as forgiven never allowing it to paralyze you again.
Let me tell you a story about a teenager Tom. Getting on the train, he was very nervous and excited. He sat opposite a middle age man that he had never met before, but he felt he should tell him his story. He told him that he had just been released from reformatory school, where he had spent three years for robbery and other crimes. He realized how wrong he had been and he just wanted a second chance to go straight and to show that he was sorry. He felt sorry for letting his family down, and he hoped that they would forgive him. They had never visited him or written to him during the three years but he did realize that neither of his parents could write and that they were too poor to be able to come to the reformatory which was a long distance from their home. He wanted so much to be able to go home but he wanted to make sure that he was welcome. He wrote to his parents and asked him to give him a sign. His home was just beside the railway track and they had an old apple tree at the end of the garden. If they wanted him back, all they had to do was to put a white ribbon on the apple tree. If he was not welcome home, they were to put nothing on the tree and he would just pass on to some town where he knew nobody and no one knew him. As the train was close to home, he was so nervous that he could not look and he asked his new found friend to look for him. After a while, the man caught Tom by the shoulder with joy on his face and said, “Just take a look!” Tom looked and saw the old apple tree and it was wearing not just one white ribbon but a whole host of ribbons. Tears ran down Tom’s face and the bitterness and anger of the years washed away. The other man said later, “I felt that I had witnessed a miracle.”
This story tells us that no matter how I may have messed up my life, how unchristian, how indifferent my life has been, with what indifference I have behaved, God always forgives me. Even more, he offers me a future full of hope that exceeds all expectations and dreams I might ever have entertained for myself. For God there is never a “too late,” therefore, I have not missed anything yet. Remember: if I really believe in God’s constant forgiveness then I must also hold to the truth that the best years of my life are still ahead of me and not behind me. At every moment God offers me “a future full of hope”.
Reflection 7 – Your sins are forgiven
There are some things you cannot do. You cannot drive a car with only water in the gas tank. You cannot keep food cold and fresh in a refrigerator if you do not plug it in. And no one can forgive sins on human authority alone.
The scribes who observed Jesus as he declared that sins were forgiven were quite right in their objection, “Who can forgive sins except God alone?” But they missed the point since they did not know the identity of Jesus. Because Jesus is divine, equal to his heavenly Father in all things, he could and did forgive sins on his own authority. He did so, however, in a human way. Jesus could very easily have forgiven the sins of the paralyzed man by a simple act of his will. Instead he looked with compassion on the paralytic and spoke powerful, but human words: “My son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2:5). In Jesus we see that the divine way was to take the human way.
Jesus confirmed the power of his words by a miracle. Because the remission of sin is invisible, there was no test to the power of his words, but when he said to the paralytic: “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk again,” (Mk 2:11) everyone turned to the paralytic so see whether Jesus’ words had actually had an effect. When the man stood up, it was a sign for everyone that Jesus had not only cured the man with his words, but he had equally forgiven his sins with his words.
In Jesus God was doing something new. Never before had anyone heard words of forgiveness like those of Jesus. His words and his power continue in the Church, because God’s divine way is still to take the human way.
A priest does not forgive sins on his own. He needs “to be plugged” into the Church since according to the will of Christ forgiveness comes in and by means of the Church. That is why the words of absolution in the sacrament of penance include this important prayer: “Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace.”
But who is the Church to forgive sins? As with Jesus, it is a question of identity. The Church is much more than a society or an assembly of people. The Church is a mystery. The Church is actually Christ himself, continued in space and time and communicated to his people. Through the Church Jesus has freely chosen to carry on in a human way his divine mission of reconciliation.
The paralytic must have been excited with delight to have regained his ability to walk. He was more profoundly blessed to have had his sins forgiven, and to have experienced a miracle which confirmed his freedom from sin. Like the crowd he must have been awestruck. With them he must have given praise to God.
As Catholics one of our greatest gifts from God is the sacrament of penance. We are blessed to be able to hear a human voice express our forgiveness and to feel the reconciling touch of a human hand. When we couple this human experience with faith we too should be awestruck and give thanks and praise to God for such a generous and wonderful favor from our great, good and merciful God. (Source: Charles E. Miller, CM. Sunday Preaching. New York: Alba House, 1997, pp. 206-207)
Reflection 8 – Who’s lifting your mat?
Are you weary? In need of a good rest? Hebrew (4: 1-5, 11) speaks of the “rest in peace” that we’ll enter into after we pass from this earth, IF we are obedient to God’s Word and have faith in his promises — the promises that Jesus fulfilled in his death and resurrection.
However, there’s much more for us in these verses if we remember that scripture is never meant to be a carrot dangled just beyond the reach of our present life. (For those who don’t like carrots, think of chocolate chip cookies.) God cares about us too much to make us drool over promises that we cannot receive a taste of here and now.
Entering into God’s rest does not require waiting; it requires faith – faith that God truly does care about you and is working a plan for your benefit as well as for the good of all those who are involved in your wearisome situation. Even though we have to wait for that plan to be completed, the opportunity to rest in peace is available now.
We think we can’t have restful peace until the problem ends, but this is a wrong assumption. When we suffer from overwhelming weariness, it’s not because of the problems, it’s because we’re not availing ourselves of the peace that God provides. Some of this peace comes during our quiet, alone moments with God. Most of the time, he provides it through community.
Jesus did nothing on his own. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always worked together, not just because they are one God, but because God’s very nature is community — an interactive community. Remember that he created us in this image. He designed us for community life. He uses community for the implementation of his plans.
No divine promise is fulfilled for our sake alone. There is no rest for the weary unless community helps us carry the burdens.
Look at the story in today’s Gospel reading. The paralytic received a healing because of his friends. Do you have at least four friends who carry you when you’re tired of ill health or mental anguish or spiritual trials — one friend for each corner of your mat, so to speak? Name them, thank them, and spend some time relaxing with them.
What is making you lame? What’s paralyzing you from doing what you’re called to do? What has caused you to sit down on the roadside of your personal growth? Instead of trying to figure out how to get up and walk solely by your own strength, rest! God never intended for you to move forward by yourself. Rest in the help that God is providing through community.
To receive his help, we have to let down our walls of individualism and go to where we will find community. Every parish has a variety of opportunities, from ministry organizations to social events. It makes no sense to think that we can be in a good relationship with God without joining ourselves to his community. – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2017-01-13
Reflection 9 – Generous love
Reflection 10 – How the paralytic set out toward Jesus
“Such must be Christian repentance: First we must put aside the idea of finding a remedy for our sin; then, though we feel the guilt of it, yet we must set out firmly towards God, not knowing for certain that we shall be forgiven. He, indeed, meets us on our way with the tokens of his favor, and so he bears up human faith, which else would sink under the apprehension of meeting the Most High God; still, for our repentance to be Christian, there must be in it that generous temper of self-surrender, the acknowledgment that we are unworthy to be called any more his sons, the abstinence from all ambitious hopes of sitting on his right hand or his left, and the willingness to bear the heavy yoke of bond-servants, if he should put it upon us.
“This, I say, is Christian repentance. Will it be said, “It is too hard for a beginner?” true: but I have not been describing the case of a beginner….
“The longer we live, the more we may hope to attain this higher kind of repentance, viz., in proportion as we advance in the other graces of the perfect Christian character. The truest kind of repentance as little comes at first, as perfect conformity to any other part of God’s Law. It is gained by long practice – it will come at length” ( Source: Blessed John Henry Newman, Magnificat, Vol. 16, No.11, January 2015, p. 242).
Reflection 11 – St. Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700 A.D.)
“God closes a door and then opens a window,” people sometimes say when dealing with their own disappointment or someone else’s. That was certainly true in Marguerite’s case. Children from European as well as Native American backgrounds in seventeenth-century Canada benefited from her great zeal and unshakable trust in God’s providence.
Born the sixth of 12 children in Troyes, France, Marguerite at the age of 20 believed that she was called to religious life. Her applications to the Carmelites and Poor Clares were unsuccessful. A priest friend suggested that perhaps God had other plans for her.
In 1654, the governor of the French settlement in Canada visited his sister, an Augustinian canoness in Troyes. Marguerite belonged to a sodality connected to that convent. The governor invited her to come to Canada and start a school in Ville-Marie (eventually the city of Montreal). When she arrived, the colony numbered 200 people with a hospital and a Jesuit mission chapel.
Soon after starting a school, she realized her need for coworkers. Returning to Troyes, she recruited a friend, Catherine Crolo, and two other young women. In 1667 they added classes at their school for Indian children. A second trip to France three years later resulted in six more young women and a letter from King Louis XIV, authorizing the school. The Congregation of Notre Dame was established in 1676 but its members did not make formal religious profession until 1698 when their Rule and constitutions were approved.
Marguerite established a school for Indian girls in Montreal. At the age of 69, she walked from Montreal to Quebec in response to the bishop’s request to establish a community of her sisters in that city. By the time she died, she was referred to as the “Mother of the Colony.” Marguerite was canonized in 1982.
It’s easy to become discouraged when plans that we think that God must endorse are frustrated. Marguerite was called not to be a cloistered nun but to be a foundress and an educator. God had not ignored her after all.
In his homily at her canonization, Pope John Paul II said, “…in particular, she [Marguerite] contributed to building up that new country [Canada], realizing the determining role of women, and she diligently strove toward their formation in a deeply Christian spirit.” He noted that she watched over her students with affection and confidence “in order to prepare them to become wives and worthy mothers, Christians, cultured, hardworking, radiant mothers.”
Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1258
SAINT OF THE DAY
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.
|ST. MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, C.N.D.|
Portrait by Pierre Le Ber (1700)
|FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME|
|BORN||17 April 1620
Kingdom of France
|DIED||12 January 1700 (aged 79)
Fort Ville-Marie, New France,
French Colonial Empire
|VENERATED IN||Roman Catholic Church(Canada and the United States),Anglican Church of Canada|
|BEATIFIED||12 November 1950 by Pope Pius XII|
|CANONIZED||31 October 1982, Vatican Cityby Pope John Paul II|
|MAJOR SHRINE||Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel in Montreal, Canada|
|PATRONAGE||against poverty; loss of parents; people rejected by religious orders|
Marguerite Bourgeoys, C.N.D., was the French founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal in the colony of New France, now part of Québec. She lived in Fort Ville-Marie (now Montreal) as of 1653, educating young girls, the poor, and natives until her death at the turn of the 18th century. She is also significant for developing one of the first uncloistered religious communities in the CatholicChurch. She has been declared a saint by the Catholic Church.
Bourgeoys was born in Troyes, then in the ancient Province of Champagne in the Kingdom of France, on 17 April 1620. The daughter of Abraham Bourgeoys and Guillemette Garnier, she was the seventh of their thirteen children.Marguerite came from a middle-class and socially connected background, her father being a candle maker and coiner at the royal mint in the town. Her father died when she was very young, and her mother followed when Marguerite was 19.
In her early years, Bourgeoys had never held much of an interest in joining the confraternity attached to the monastery in the town of the canonesses regular of the Congregation Notre-Dame, which had been founded in 1597 by the Blessed Alix Le Clerc, C.R.S.A., dedicated to the education of the poor. The canonesses of the monastery helped the poor, but remained cloistered and did not have the right to teach outside of the cloister. To reach poor young girls who could not afford to be boarded within the cloister as students, they relied upon the confraternity, whose members they would educate in both religion and pedagogy. It seems, however, that she had a change of heart on 7 October 1640, during a procession in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary. Her response to this experience was to seek to give herself wholly to God and to live a life that mirrored, as much as possible, that of the Virgin Mary.
By chance, the Director of the confraternity, Mother Louise de Sainte-Marie, C.R.S.A., was the sister of Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the Governor of Fort Ville-Marie at the time. During a visit to France in 1652, de Maisonneuve stopped in Troyes to visit his sister. Mother Louise and several of the canonesses enthusiastically volunteered to accompany him back to New France to teach its children. He told them, however, that the colony was still too fragile for the establishment of a community of cloistered women to provide education, but a laywoman would be welcome to teach the children of the settlers and of the indigenous peoples. Bourgeoys was the leader of the confraternity and it was she who was ultimately chosen for this task. At the age of 32, having been refused admission to the Carmelite nuns, she agreed to accompany Maisonneuve to the colony.
In February 1653, Bourgeoys set sail on the Saint-Nicholas from her native France along with approximately 100 other colonists, mostly men, who had been recruited and signed to working contracts.
Life in the colony
Upon her arrival in the port of Quebec City on the following 22 September, Bourgeoys was offered hospitality with theUrsuline nunsthere while transportation to Ville-Marie was arranged. She declined the offer and spent her stay in Quebec living alongside poor settlers. This hints at her character and the future character of her congregation in Montreal – a secular and practical approach to spreading God’s will. She arrived in Ville-Marie on 16 November.
Though this period of Bourgeoys’ life in New France pales in comparison to her later years in terms of expansionary scope and influence, it is often seen as much more intimate. Bourgeoys would have known practically everyone in the colony.However, she also faced difficult struggles during her first years there. There were no children to teach due to the high levels of infant mortality, which frustrated her plan to provide education. Despite this, she took it upon herself to help the community in any way she could, often working alongside the settlers.
During these early years, Bourgeoys did manage to make some significant initiatives. In 1657 she persuaded a work party to form in order to build Ville-Marie’s first permanent church – the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel (French: Bonsecours). She was provided with a vacant stone stable by de Maisonneuve in April 1658 to serve as a schoolhouse for her students. This was the beginning of public schooling in Montreal, established only five years after Marguerite’s arrival. Today a commemorative plaque marks the site of the stable school in Old Montreal. It can be found on a wall just below the southwest corner of Saint-Dizier and Saint-Paul Streets.
Soon after receiving the stable, Bourgeoys departed for France with the goal of bringing back more women to serve as teachers for the colony. Her success in doing exactly that put her in a position where she was able to house and to care for the “King’s Daughters,” or filles du roi, as they are known in Quebec (orphan girls sent by the Crown to establish families in the colony) upon their arrival from Europe.Marguerite and her four companions were also responsible for examining the male settlers who arrived seeking a wife.
The small group began to follow a religious way of life, establishing periods of common prayer and meals. The women, however, would spend time on their own in various towns throughout the colony, teaching the local children. During this three-year period, Bourgeoys and her small community sought various forms of official recognition and legitimation from both the Crown and the religious establishment in New France. In 1669, Bourgeoys had an audience with the colony’s highest religious authority, François de Laval, the Apostolic Vicar of New France. He ultimately granted her wishes through an ordinance that gave permission to the congregation Notre-Dame to teach on the entire island of Montreal, as well as anywhere else in the colony that saw their services as necessary.The bishop, however, later attempted to draft a Rule of Life for the community which would have imposed enclosure upon them.
In 1670 Bourgeoys set out once again for France, this time with the goal of gaining an audience with the King to protect the unenclosed nature of her community. She left with no money or clothing, only with a letter of recommendation by Jean Talon, Royal Intendant of the colony, in which he declares her great contribution to its future. By May of 1671, she had not only met with Louis XIV, but had obtained letters patent from him which secured the viability of her community in New France as “secular Sisters”. In fact, the French monarch went so far as to write that: “Not only has (Marguerite Bourgeoys) performed the office of schoolmistress by giving free instruction to the young girls in all occupations (…), far from being a liability to the country, she had built permanent buildings (…).”
Helene Bernier refers to the future saint’s work after 1672 as the “Golden Age” of the Congregation. During the period, Bourgeoys’ work as educator expanded rapidly in response to the growing needs and demands of the colony.
Though she always devoted the majority of her efforts to helping the more needy members of society, she also established a boarding school at Ville-Marie so that more affluent girls would not need to venture all the way to Quebec for their education. She went on to establish a school devoted to needle-work and other practical occupations for women in Pointe-Saint-Charles. Other smaller schools were also established and run by other members of the Congregation in places such asLachine, Pointe-aux-Trembles, Batiscan and Champlain. In 1678, Marguerite also expanded into Native societies, setting up a small school in the Iroquois village of “la Montagne” (Montreal).
Marguerite made a third trip to France in 1680 to protect the uncloistered character of her institution and seek additional members. Bishop Laval, also visiting France, forbade her to bring back any new recruits. However, the recruitment of Canadian-born women into the congregation assured the survival of her work. Though Bourgeoys may have returned to New France somewhat frustrated with the bishop, her influence continued to grow in the colony.
The 1680s saw the congregation grow significantly and finally gain a strong foothold in the city of Québec. The new bishop in the colony, Jean-Baptiste De La Croix de Saint-Vallier, had been impressed with the vocational school that Bourgeoys had established in Ville-Marie and worked with her towards establishing a similar institution in Quebec. A large number of sisters were also brought to Île d’Orléansto help the growing community in that area. In 1692, the congregation opened a school in Quebec that catered to girls from poor families.
After originally attempting to step down in 1683, Marguerite relented and stayed on as the figurehead of the Congregation until 1693. Though she had removed herself from a leadership position, her presence could still be felt and she attempted to help her sisters retain the spirit which had characterized the Congregation from the start. Bourgeoys and her colleagues were able to keep their secular character despite efforts by Bishop Saint-Vallier to impose a cloistered life upon them through a merger with the Ursulines. On July 1, 1698, the congregation was “canonically constituted a community”.
The last two years of Marguerite Bourgeoys’ life was devoted primarily to prayer and the writing of her autobiography, of which some remnants remain. She died peacefully in Montreal on 12 January 1700. Her likeness, painted by Pierre Le Ber immediately after her death, speaks of the compassion that animated her life. The portrait can still be seen in the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum. She has an all-girls high school named after her in Toronto, Canada and a school commission in the Montreal area. A women’s college was also named after her, which became a cegep in the 60s after colleges were abolished, but retained its name of ‘Collège Marguerite-Bourgeoys’ until it closed down in the 90s. The building on Westmount Avenue still belongs to the Congretation Notre-Dame and is now occupied by Marianopolis College, another cegep, originally founded by the English speaking division of Congregation Notre-Dame.
Veneration and canonization
Before Marguerite Bourgeoys received official recognition in 1982 as a saint in the Catholic Church, many people had already looked upon her as having the virtues of one. The day following her death, a priest wrote, “If saints were canonized as in the past by the voice of the people and of the clergy, tomorrow we would be saying the Mass of Saint Marguerite of Canada.” Helene Bernier writes, “[P]opular admiration had already canonized her 250 years before her beatification.
Numerous stories are associated with the time preceding her death. The elderly Sister Bourgeoys was said to have given up her life to God in order to save that of a younger member of the Congregation who had fallen ill. After intense prayer, it is said that the young nun was cured and Marguerite fell terribly ill, dying soon thereafter.Her appeal continued after her death, as she was well known and highly regarded. The convent held an afternoon visitation open to the public; people treasured objects that they touched to her hands at this time, which became considered spiritual relics. Her body was kept by the parish of Ville-Marie, but her heart was removed and preserved as a relic by the Congregation.
Marguerite was canonized by the Catholic Church as the first female saint of Canada in 1982; the process began nearly 100 years before in 1878, when Pope Leo XIII gave her the title of “venerable” via papal decree. In November 1950, Pope Pius XII beatified her, giving her the title “Blessed Marguerite Bourgeoys”. On 2 April 1982, Pope John Paul II issued the Decree of Miracle for a cure attributed to her intercession; on 31 October that year, she was canonized as Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys.
On 30 May 1975 Canada Post issued ‘Marguerite Bourgeoys, 1620-1700’ designed by Jacques Roy based on a painting by Elmina Lachance. The 8¢ stamps are perforated 12.5 x 12 and were printed by Ashton-Potter Limited. THE LOVE OF A LOVER: THE MYSTICAL JOURNEY OF MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS by Ann Deignan is a new biography.
- Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700) – biography, Vatican News Service
- Terry N. Jones, “Saint Marguerite Bourgeous”, Saints.SQPN.com., 11 January 2010, accessed 6 February 2010
- Simpson, Patricia. “Marguerite Bougeoys and Montreal, 1640-1665”, (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press), p.6
- “Marguerite Bourgeoys”, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=82
- Simpson, Patrcia. “Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal: 1640-1665”, (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1997) p. 101
- Simpson, Patricia. “Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal: 1640-1665” , (Montreal: McGill-Queens Press, 1997) p. 105)
- Simpson, Patricia. “Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal: 1640-1665”, (Montreal: McGill-Queens Press, 1997) p. 8
- “Marguerite Bourgeoys,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
- “Marguerite Bourgeoys”, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
- Simpson, Patricia. “Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal: 1640-1665”, (Montreal: McGill-Queens Press, 1997) p.117