Gospel of the good mother



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Emmanuel de Bézenac, ss.cc.

GOSPEL OF THE GOOD MOTHER

Reflections on the Life and Spirit of Henriette Aymer de la Chevalerie (1767 – 1834). The SS.CC. Charism.

Congregation of the Sacred Hearts

THE GOSPEL OF THE GOOD MOTHER: Reflections on her life and her spirit, SS.CC. Charism

Emmanuel de Bézenac, ss.cc.

Edition revised, corrected, and completed.

Formación Permanente, Viceprovincia SSCC

Apartado 17-09-07341, QUITO-ECUADOR

edebezenac@puntonet.ec

Quito, November 2007

Translated and adapted to French, Quito, 11 August 2010

L’EVANGILE DE LA BONNE MERE

Réflexion sur la vie et l'esprit d'Henriette Aymer de la

Chevalerie (1767-1834). Le charisme ss.cc.

Congrégation des Sacré Cœurs

Translated into English, Calcutta, India, 2012 by:

GOSPEL OF THE GOOD MOTHER

Reflections on the Life and Spirit of Henriette Aymer de la

Chevalerie (1767 – 1834). The SS.CC. Charism.
Jane Francis Leandro, ss.cc.

In collaboration with :

Julie Louise Thevenin, ss.cc., Honolulu, Hawaii

Marthe Duhaime, ss.cc. Poitiers, France



Bibliography

*Asterisk Indicates English Version of the Documents

ECRITS DE GABRIEL DE LA BARRE http://www.ssccpicpus.com/ (Bibliothèque/ Fondateurs) http://www.ssccpicpus.com/pag.aspx?id=408&ln=fr

*Writings of Gabriel de la Barre, (Available on SS.CC. Web Page, Library, Books)

CORRESPONDANCE DE LA BONNE MÈRE http://www.ssccpicpus.com/ (Bibliothèque/ Fondateurs) http://www.ssccpicpus.com/pag.aspx?id=408&ln=fr


CORRESPONDANCE MERE HENRIETTE/SŒUR GABRIEL1802-1830

http://www.ssccpicpus.com/ (Bibliothèque / Fondateurs)

http://www.ssccpicpus.com/pag.aspx?ln=fr&id=408

LES BILLETS DE LA MÈRE HENRIETTE http://www.ssccpicpus.com/ (Bibliothèque/ Fondateurs) http://www.ssccpicpus.com/pag.aspx?ln=es&id=408

EL P. COUDRIN, LA M. AYMER Y SU COMUNIDAD, Juan Vicente González, Roma 1978

*Father Coudrin, Mother Henriette and Their Community, Juan Vicente González, Roma 1978 (Available on the SS.CC. Web Page, Library, Founders)

HENRIETTE OU LA FORCE DE VIVRE, María del Carmen Pérez sscc, traduction: Bernard Guégan http://www.ssccpicpus.com/ (Bibliothèque / Fondateurs) http://www.ssccpicpus.com/pag.aspx?ln=es&id=408

CAHIERS DE SPIRITUALITE N° 10 bis 2000 http://www.ssccpicpus.com/home.aspx?ln=fr (Bibliothèque / Cahiers de Spiritualité) http://www.ssccpicpus.com/pag.aspx?ln=fr&id=273

*Cahiers of Spirituality 10bis, Rome 2000

LE SERVITEUR DE L’AMOUR, Juan Vicente González, Chile, 1990, http://www.ssccpicpus.com/ (chercher à la version espagnole de la Page Web: Biblioteca/ Fundadores) http://www.ssccpicpus.com/pag.aspx?ln=es&id=408

VIE DU PÈRE MARIE-JOSEPH COUDRIN, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris 1997, Bernard Couronne, sscc

*A Man with a Heart Aflame: Father Marie-Joseph Coudrin (1768-1837), Bernard Couronne, ss.cc., Published by Picpus Session (Available on the SS.CC. Web Page, Library, Founders)

Suggestions for Readers


  1. For those who do not know the life of the “Good Mother”, first read the Abstract on p. 10

  2. Read the Preamble (p. 7) to understand the objective of the book

  3. The book is composed of 43 chapters in 11 sections (see below). It can be read consecutively or section by section.

  4. So that the reader will not become fatigued, I have varied the names of the protagonists.

Henriette=Aymer=Good Mother=Henriette Aymer de la Chevalerie

Pierre=Marie-Joseph=Coudrin=P. Coudrin=Good Father=Pierre Coudrin



  1. Apart from the biblical citations, the others are taken especially from ss.cc. works (cf. p. 3). The references appear at the bottom of the page.

  2. When ss.cc. works were available in English, the citations are from the English translations.


Sections


I

RUPTURE ………………………………………………………...

11


II

WISDOM …………………………………………………………..

19


III

JOY IN THE CROSS …………………………………………….

33


IV

MARY, WOMAN ………………………………………………….

46


V

REPRODUCE THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS …………………

53


VI

THE POOR FIRST………………………………………………..

67


VII

EARTH AND HEAVEN …………………………………………..

76


VIII

GOD……………………………………………………………….

85


IX

CONFIDENCE ……………………………………………………

95


X

A NEW MODEL FOR RELIGIOUS LIFE AND COMMUNITY..

108


XI

SANCTITY ………………………………………………………...

134



Table of Contents
PREAMBLE 7

I. RUPTURE 11

CONVERSION 12

RUPTURE 15



II. WISDOM 19

VISIONS 20

THE GOOD MOTHER AND THE REVEALED TRUTH 24

THE GOOD MOTHER AND THE WORD INCARNATE 27

THE GOOD MOTHER AND TRUTH THAT SAVES 29

THE CHAIR 31



III. JOY IN THE CROSS 33

THE SUFFERING OF GIVING BIRTH 34

LOVE OF THE CROSS 35

INTERIOR SORROW 36

VICTIM 39

ANATHEMA 43



IV. MARY, WOMAN 46

THE TWO HEARTS 47

OUR LADY OF PEACE, THE GREAT AND THE SMALL 49

V. REPRODUCE THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS 53

THE FOUR AGES 54

THE ACTUALIZATION OF THE FOUR AGES 57

MEANING OF THE FOUR AGES 61

HOW TO UNITE CLANDESTINITY AND VISIBILITY 63

ADVANTAGES OF CLANDESTINITY 65



VI. THE POOR FIRST 67

CHRIST UNDER THE TWO SPECIES 68

PRUDENCE, CHARITY AND PROVIDENCE 70

TO BE BREAD FOR OTHERS AS JESUS 72

GOD IS THE GIFT; MAN IS THE NEED 74

VII. EARTH AND HEAVEN 76

SPIRITUAL AND HUMAN AT THE SAME TIME 77

TO PEOPLE HEAVEN 81

VIII. GOD 85

AN INTIMATE GOD 86

IMMANENT GOD 88

THE INTERIOR LIFE 93



IX. CONFIDENCE 95

THE GOOD MOTHER AND MONEY 96

AWAIT THE HOUR 100

ABANDONMENT 102

THE MYSTERY OF GROWTH 106

X. A NEW MODEL FOR RELIGIOUS LIFE AND COMMUNITY LIFE 108

LIBERTY, EQUALITY FRATERNITY 109

REFOUNDING RELIGIOUS LIFE 116

NEW MODEL OF COMMUNITY 118

PERSON, INITIATIVE AND INSTITUTION 124

MEN/WOMEN RELATIONS IN COMMUNITY 128

RELIGIOUS LIFE: A WAY OF PERFECTION OR IMPROVEMENT 130

A GRAND IDEAL IS OFTEN FRAGILE 132



XI. SANCTITY 134

LIMITS OF SANCTITY 135

THE CANDLE 138

PEDAGOGIC IMPORTANCE OF CANONIZED SANCTITY 139



CONCLUSION 141

THE GOOD MOTHER – ALWAYS YOUNG 142




Preamble

This is not intended as a life of the Good Mother.

We wish rather to present her message. To open the curtains of the time and the mentalities that separate us from her; to rediscover her essence, beyond the actual events that pertain to the pass, to lift the veil of oblivion and to perceive, in the light of the Gospel, the true sense of her actions and of her words. To break the shell that hides its secret…

We verify, then, that her life is the luminous expression of the charism of her Congregation. It cannot be otherwise because, being one with the Good Father, she engendered with him this new family for the Church and the world. Without a doubt, her life shows, in all clarity, the common spirituality of the SS.CC. Brothers, Sisters and Laity.

Finally, we realize that her message remains relevant. We discover with astonishment that beyond a particular charism, we have here the Good News of Jesus in its purity. In effect, the life of the Good Mother is nothing more than a particular incarnation of the eternal Gospel.

Abstract of the life of1

HENRIETTE AYMER DE LA CHEVALERIE, CALLED THE “GOOD MOTHER” (1767-1834)


Her first experience of love given and received

In 1767, Henriette Aymer de la Chevalerie was born in the small château of the Aymer family… We have few details concerning her first years, but they suffice to prove to us that at the base of her personality there was a happy childhood, the only daughter between two brothers, in a warm and united family. The time spent at the Abbey of the Holy Cross in Poitiers, to better prepare her for her First Communion, offered her the experience of personal and liturgical prayer and, perhaps, awakened in her the attraction for sacred music. We know that at the Abbey, Henriette succeeded at all that she undertook, that she was full of spirit, that she was loved by all the community, and in a special manner by the Mother Abbess.

At eleven years of age, she experienced her first great suffering in the death of her father. Without a doubt, beginning at this point, to a greater extent, she became a support and a friend for her mother, more so because her oldest brother, Louis, was absent (a page of King Louis XVI since his adolescence). Madame Aymer had assumed the responsibility of preparing her daughter for a life of social relations, a brilliant and superficial life to which she seemed destined. Always hidden, and in appearance forgotten, the germ of this spiritual sensitivity instilled in her at her first contact with God at the Abbey had never left her. …

The historical horizon, the experience of the lack of love

While the political and social upheaval of the Revolution approached, the young Henriette flourished in Poitiers where she and her mother were located… Social tensions provoked an explosion and France was enflamed everywhere… Even at the Aymer home, mother and daughter suffered persecution and were led to prison. Henriette saw her first contact with violence and destruction, and it led her to live her life more deeply.…


The conversion

When she left the prison at 28 years of age, she had matured; she was dead to the easy, superficial life. She had become a strong women tending toward an ideal. In the face of the violence, the hatred, the destruction, she understood that it was urgent to reestablish the Reign of love…

During that time in Poitiers, a certain person had become famous. He was at the same time a zealous priest and adventurer, “Marche-a-terre” (tramp) or “Jerome”. This was Father Coudrin… Henriette found in him the guide whom she sought. “This priest,” she told a friend, “speaks as I pray”.

The illumination: to contemplate, to live and to announce Love

Her aid and contacts with the “Society of the Sacred Heart” led her to discover a new way. On the foundations of her own personality, and matured by all the events through which she had lived, she began the second and decisive stage in her life: contemplation. “When you established adoration…and you gave me an hour, without doubt, you fixed my destiny”, she wrote to Father Coudrin.

This was the beginning of a special relationship between Henriette and Pierre Coudrin. He was her true spiritual guide, her spiritual companion. Together, they put in process, within the Society of the Sacred Heart, the project he had so much at heart since his vision in the attic of the Motte d’Usseau: the creation of a mixed religious congregation, just at the hour when the Revolution had suppressed all religious orders. The new congregation of the Sacred Hearts would be formally born on December 25, 1800.

During that time, Henriette lived a true mystical experience. She saw clearly the way that God had traced for the new congregation. And despite her repugnance to reveal it, she understood that the Lord wished her to speak. One can say that, if she considered herself a disciple of Father Coudrin, if she venerated him profoundly and submitted to his judgment all that concerned her and touched the establishment of the congregation, it was frequently he who allowed himself to be guided by all that she transmitted to him. In the writings of Henriette, entire paragraphs have become documents of the new congregation.

Given the pastoral activity of Father Coudrin as vicar general in diverse dioceses, the government of the Work was perfectly shared between the two. The “Good Mother” was such a fundamental element that the Founder could write: “She is the light and I am simply the candle holder that supports it.” Or again: “She is the root of the tree, if one uproots it, one deprives it of life.” “She is more Founder that Foundress.” “She is the soul of the two families.”".

If it is necessary to choose a single trait of the personality of Henriette Aymer, one would opt, without doubt, for her aptitude to love. To love God passionately, but also to love all who approached her; an aptitude and an attitude which merited for her the characteristic name of “Good Mother”. It is clear that the experience of hate, of violence and of destruction that she had lived, awakened in her the urgency of Reparation; it was necessary to reconstruct the Kingdom of God and for this, it was indispensable to place, in this destroyed world, the love that she contemplated in the Heart of Jesus.


One can see in the letters of the Foundress a constant insistence on the priority of love. “In your community, you are very observant but a little grouchy. Here, we are very superficial, a little disoriented, but we are joyful and we love each other.” This was also the foundation of her pedagogy: “May the children feel loved and encouraged”, in summary: “may they be happy with us.” And with this same attitude, she tried to help with her counsels whoever had recourse to her, even with a monetary gift if she could, always with affection.
The activities of Henriette

In the course of her career as founder of the communities, the Mission was the objective which occupied and preoccupied Henriette. In her zeal she could not forget, as beneficiaries of her missionary action, the inhabitants of the far away isles that the Good Father foresaw in the attic of the Motte d’Usseau. With ardor, Henriette collaborated in the preparation of the voyages of the first missionaries…


But she was above all, the Superior General, educator and, at the same time, contemplative. She opened 17 houses in France that she managed and administered in the midst of a very grave economic shortage; she was the “mother of the family” of the two branches. She received several hundred Sisters and saw more than two hundred die, among them her friend and confidante, Sister Gabriel de la Barre. In her communities, hundreds of young girls were educated and raised with preference for the poor, and many families were helped. Everyone experienced the support and security of this petite, welcoming, joyous and imaginative woman who knew so well how to create around herself a cordial atmosphere. She was the center of unity, the heart, one might say, of the great ss.cc. family which was rapidly being established.

To being consummated like a candle

The wear and tear of her very difficult life was the reason for her physical condition. In December 1829 she was struck by an attack of apoplexy. She was 61 years old. Even though she recovered a little, the paralysis of her right side hindered her from totally resuming her activities. From her room, she continued to be the soul of the Work even in 1830 when the house of Picpus was invaded by revolutionary troops at the moment of the abdication of Charles X and the ascension to the throne of the Duke of Orleans under the name Louis Philippe.

On November 23, 1834, after having lived a full life, Little Peace (as the Founder called her) entered forever into the great peace. She left the Work in operation, the Work that she had founded and maintained with the conviction that it was “a necessity for the Heart of God.”

I. Rupture

CONVERSION

From the exterior to the interior
The experience of the social upheaval of the Revolution and, concretely, that of the prison definitively changed the heart of Henriette.

In October 1793, the young Henriette and her mother were imprisoned after having been surprised for hiding a refractory priest in their home.


Despite this, Henriette soon regained her serenity, and devoted herself to alleviating her mother’s pains, paying as much attention to her needs as possible. When it was learned in Poitiers that the new law condemned to death those who hid priests, there were some days of anguished uncertainty. Would this apply to Madame Aymer and her daughter? All depended on the judgment of a tribunal and there was no appeal against it. The young girl concealed this from her mother, showing her nothing but an optimistic smile. Charity was opening up her heart, impelling her to make as objects of her attentiveness persons far removed from her in spirit: the jailer’s family and an aristocratic lady who was notorious for her revolutionary ideas.

In the last days of the Reign of Terror, there was a rumor that a plot was being hatched to massacre all the political prisoners of Poitiers. In learning this, two priests of the underground climber over the wall of the Hospitaliers, to offer their services to the prisoners. Henriette took this occasion to make her general confession to Father Soyer, sealing what she called her “conversion”.2

While her mother found a little diversion in the social life practiced in the prison, Henriette refused to join in these vanities. She began to discover “the world of persons” beginning with her mother. Henriette busied herself to make her mother’s life in prison less difficult. She offered her services normally done by servants.3
Mode of Henriette’s conversion
There are conversions that begin interiorly, in the heart; and others begin exteriorly, from the exterior world. The second, in contrast to the first, does not consist of a purely spiritual phenomenon; it is a consciousness that springs from the tragedies of life. It was this form of conversion that Henriette experienced.

Her confession with a priest was the confirmation, not the cause of her conversion. Her spiritual growth would be the outcome of a face-to-face encounter with the Lord in Eucharistic adoration. The cause, the raison d’être of her conversion, was the prison.

Her point of departure was not, then, a proper religious experience on the occasion of a retreat, the reception of a sacrament or a sermon. Her sacramental confession was important, but it did not happen until the end of the process. The driving force of her change was fundamentally her confrontation with the grim reality: a turning point of the universal history that overtook her. She was plunged into it without her having sought it. Deeply affected by the circumstances, she discovered the call of God and discovered her very self.
God speaks through events
In the Bible, God does not first speak with words but through events. First the events occur, and then the word analyses and interprets. God does not speak with ink and letters but with what happens. The first Word of God for me, the most efficacious and therefore the most striking, is the reality of life. In effect words touch the senses of hearing and intelligence, while events shake my whole being.

The weight of events speaks more strongly than words. Reality awakens consciousness. God uses the circumstances of our life, the good but especially the bad; in effect, we neither wish to understand nor to change. These difficult circumstances, in biblical terms, are called trials. At the heart of these, we are called to decipher the call of God. It is a difficult language to understand although we have the key, the grammar and the dictionary: the Bible explains step by step how God interacts with man and the world. Evidently, with it the Spirit helps us to translate the language of events.


Conversion of Henriette in the light of the Old Testament
God is able to change us directly by the means of his grace, but he prefers to use the mediation of historical events. Twice, using the most known examples, the people of the Old Testament experienced situations that illustrate what happened to Henriette.
Desert
The Israelites, delivered from the slavery of Egypt, wandered in the desert for 40 years without objective or goal.

“In the desert, the entire assembly of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron. The children of Israel told them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread: for you have brought us out into this desert to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” (Exodus 16, 2-3)


After many rebellions, they finally made a pact with God, not because they desired it but because no other solution was offered to them.

God said: “Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation…The entire people replied, “Everything that the Lord has spoken, we will do. (Exodus 19, 5-8)


In prison, by necessity, Henriette had to abandon her somewhat superficial life. There was no longer anything to satisfy these worldly appetites. Neither was there a future because death threatened. Others, in the same circumstances, would renounce their faith, but she possessed a docile spirit and decided to seek God, to place herself entirely in his hands. If the covenant of the desert was her model, we may suppose that she resolved to submit all to the will of God. “I will do all that you say”. And He, without her realizing it, promised, “You will be for me a holy nation”, and He destined her to found a religious community consecrated to His Heart.
Exile
Second example: the Babylonian exile. Far from their country, without a temple or cult, the Israelites returned to their past and began to dream of a rebirth of their people. They imagined the hour of their return as a new history with a new temple, a new cult, and a new community of believers that would replace the nationalistic structure of the past.
I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land…A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel; 36. 24 – 28)
Henriette, in supposing that she would regain her liberty, no longer dreamed of returning to her previous life. She dreamed of a new life totally centered on God. She no longer thought, if she had the occasion, to reenter her little vain and petty world. She dreamed, subconsciously, of a new family, marked by fraternity and spirituality.


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