The Priest of The Miraculous Medal, Father Aladel by M. J. Egan. Part 2.



IV. OTHER HEAVENLY MISSIONS

The work accomplished by Father Aladel in connection with the introduction and propagation of the. Miraculous Medal was so immense and so far-reaching in its results, that his labours in other directions are apt to be overlooked. He was in fact entrusted with two other Missions

(1) To restore the Rule to its original rigour;

(2) To found an Association to be known as “the Association of the Children of Mary Immaculate.” On the occasion of the first apparition, Our Blessed Lady said to Sister Catherine:

“Tell him who directs you that, though he will not be Superior, he will one day be charged, in a particular manner with the Community, and he is to do his utmost to restore the Rule in all its rigour. When the Rule has been restored, another Community will wish to be united to yours. This is against the ordinary custom, but that Community is dear to me, so tell them to receive it. God will bless the union and all will enjoy a great peace and the Community will increase.”
Sister Catherine duly informed Father Aladel that Our” Lady wished to entrust the mission to him and enumerated the reforms that Our Lady desired. It may be asked what was the cause of the non-observance of the Rule? It must be remembered that we are dealing with the year 1830. The Community had passed through all the horrors of the French Revolution. One would have thought that the Sisters would have been spared, but, in the eyes of the Revolutionaries they were guilty of one great crime: they stood for religion, and therefore they could not be tolerated. Hence they were driven from their convents and hospitals, but their love for the poor was such that they had assumed lay attire and thus disguised, they carried on their blessed work. In these circumstances community life was rendered practically impossible and therefore the Rule could not be observed. By 1830, however, conditions had become normal and the time seemed to be ripe for a return to the primitive spirit of the Community.


The strict observance of the Rule was, indeed, in harmony with Father Aladel’s own wishes, and he lost no time in placing the matter before his Superior, Father Etienne who warmly approved of the reforms suggested. Sometime afterwards Father Etienne was appointed Superior-General, and during his term of office, he introduced the reforms, and in that task he received the co-operation and whole-hearted support of Father Aladel. We can see the loyal spirit in which the reforms were accepted by the Community by the following extract from a letter written by a Sister at that time:
“It seemed as if we had returned to the time when our Saintly Mother, Louise de Marillac, under our holy Founder, laid the foundation of the Community. The direction of our Superiors, inspired by the tender love of the Divine Master, was gladly followed by the Sisters of Charity, who without question, submitted to all their desires. In the Mother-House, the fervour, recollection, and harmony which reigned shone in all the happy faces.”
It will thus be seen that the introduction of the reforms was accompanied by a renewal of the spirit of the Founders. It was a second Spring. There abides in the Church the Divine gift of perpetual youth. With her it is always Spring, and her vitality is such that she continually puts forth fresh shoots of devotion and charity, age after age. The Spring belongs as of right not only to the Church at large, but to the life of every individual Catholic. It is the life of grace, and if we could only see it, there is a perpetual burgeoning of new life which is not restricted to a particular time, as, for instance, Retreats, but is present with every worthy reception of the Sacraments. There is a perpetual renovation of our nature, if we could only catch the hour of grace, utilize it, and make it our very own. What fair flowers bloomed in the Community during this second Spring. Let Father Etienne himself tell us:

“The Congregation of the Mission increased and developed. On their part the Sisters of Charity were still more remarkably favoured by a wonderful prosperity, for, in the greatest shrines of Christendom no greater privileges were bestowed than in their humble Chapel, consecrated by the august Presence of the Queen of Heaven. There, a great number of girls, irresistibly attracted, went to be clothed under the eyes of Mary Immaculate, in, the habit of the Servants of the poor, and then, as valiant soldiers, they went forth to far-distant lands, their heroism and devotedness causing great exultation to the Church and wonder to the world.

A Community of Sisters of Charity, founded in the United States by Mother Elizabeth Seton, who was beatified in 1941, was anxious to unite with the French Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, and as far back as 1810, arrangements had been made to bring about the union. Difficulties, however, were placed in the way by the French Government of the day, and the negotiations were in consequence abandoned. However, in 1849, the matter was again taken up, and, early, in 1850, the union was happily effected. On the 25th March of that year, the Feast of the Annunciation, the American Sisters renewed their vows, for the first time, with the formula used by the French Sisters, and on the 8th December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the American Sisters assumed the habit and white Cornette of The French Sisters, thus completing the union. The prophetic words of Our Lady were thus fully verified. The part played by Father Aladel in bringing about the reforms so earnestly desired by Our Lady has been gracefully acknowledged by Father Etienne, Superior-General. In a letter to the heads of the Community, announcing the death of that devoted priest, he stated, “He has been to me what Father Portail was to Saint Vincent. If the former took a large part in the work of the foundation of your Community by Our Blessed Father, Father Aladel did not render me less cooperation in the great work of its restoration, and of its return to the primitive spirit. I cannot refrain from saying this to you.”

In one of the written accounts of the Apparitions, Sister Catherine stated:

“One day I remember saying “Father Aladel, the Blessed Virgin has another Mission for you. She wishes you to begin an Order. You are to be its Founder and Director. It is to be an Association of Children of Mary Immaculate. The Blessed Virgin will bestow many graces on it, and Indulgences will be granted to it, It will be a great joy to her.”

It will be observed that no indication was given respecting the persons who were to be enrolled in this Association, nor how it was to be constituted. One thing only was known- the members were to be called “Children of Mary Immaculate.” Everything else was left to the holy Founder; he was to exercise his own judgment and discretion to try to discover by prayer God’s Will in the matter. For a long time he had been anxious to find some means of protecting the innocence of the young girls, who, on leaving the schools of the Sisters, took up positions in offices, workshops, factories, etc. Here, in the big city of Paris, their faith -and morals were exposed to great danger. Many of them had lost contact with the Sisters, and there was no one to take any interest in their spiritual welfare. Father Aladel was well aware that many fell away, and this grieved his heart. Here then was a means inspired by heaven, to remedy the evil -an Association which would bind the girls together in one large family, under the protection of Mary Immaculate. This wise and prudent Director would arrive at no hasty decision, but having carefully thought out the matter, he placed his views before his Superior and friend, Father Etienne, who warmly approved of them, and encouraged him to proceed with the good work. Of course, he had difficulties to contend with, but he faced them with quiet confidence and ultimately overcame all obstacles.

His first care was to draw up Statutes and Rules for the government of the Association, which he placed under the special protection of Mary Immaculate, in whose honour it was founded. He explained that exterior honour is not sufficient: that the truest honour consists in imitating her virtues, especially her angelic purity, her profound humility, her perfect obedience, and her incomparable charity. He decided that he would begin with the girls attending the schools conducted by the Sisters. The task he set himself was, not to prepare them for the Cloister, but to safeguard them against the snares and pit-falls of the world. They would be no longer like the proverbial bundle of sticks, easily broken, when separated, but they would be bound together in sweet bonds by Mary Immaculate, and in that unity they would be unbreakable. They were to meet every Sunday for the recitation of the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, and perform the other spiritual exercises, as required by the Rules. Not every girl would be enrolled, but only those who were deemed worthy. At the Reception, which would he a solemn religious function, they would be invested with the Miraculous Medal attached to a Blue Ribbon which would be worn round the neck. In due course they would leave school and go out into the world to take up positions, or to return to their homes. This would be the testing time. Would they be faithful to their promises and good resolutions? Would they continue amid the distractions of the world the spiritual exercises to which they were accustomed in the school? In short, would they remain faithful Children of Mary? Happily, the success of the new Association exceeded all expectations, and gave great joy and consolation to the heart of its founder and director. By their exemplary conduct, their robust Catholic Faith, their Christian virtues, their charity, and their good works, they exercised a profound influence on all with whom they came in contact. They were in the world, but not of it. They were as a light shining in the midst of the darkness of materialism, irreligious and unbelief. Quietly, firmly, without ostentation, they held aloft the torch of Faith, and amid an appalling spiritual desolation, they were living witnesses to the joy, and peace, and beauty, of the full Catholic life. Their aim was personal holiness, but it was never interpreted in a narrow, self-centred piety, but was animated by an all embracing charity which sought every opportunity to win souls for God, and thus to extend His Kingdom on earth. In this way they exercised a veritable Apostolate, and may be regarded as pioneers of Catholic Action.

The years passed: the Association grew and prospered.

There was only one thing now needed to ensure its permanence and future success, the approval of the Holy Father, and Canonical sanction. This was sought in 1847 by Father Etienne, then Superior-General. On 20th. June of that year in a private audience granted to him by the Holy Father(Pope Pius IX) he requested “the power to establish in the schools conducted by the Sisters of Charity, an Association of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin, with the same Indulgence as had been granted to the Children of Mary established in Rome, for boys in the colleges under the Society of Jesus.” His Holiness readily granted the faculties and indulgence requested, and he himself signed the Brief, as a special mark of favour.
A few years later (19th July, 1850) Father Etienne again approached the Holy Father to solicit power to enroll in the Association the boys in the Vincentian Colleges, and also those attending the schools of the Sisters. His Holiness graciously granted this favour also. A further step in its development took place in 1876, when the Association was extended by Papal Authority to include young girls, not attending the schools, who were members of clubs established by the Sisters. Nor was this all, for, on 25th March, 1931, the Holy Father gave permission for the establishment of the Association in every parish and Institution, when requested by the Parish Priest or Chaplain. It is, therefore, world wide now.

Such, in brief, is the story of the origin, growth and present position of the “Association of Children of Mary Immaculate.” From its humble beginnings in the school of the Sisters in Paris, it had grown by 1933 to an active membership of 200,000. Did not Our Lady say that she would bestow many graces on it? In that promise and its fulfilment, we find the secret of the success of the Association which characterized it, from its very inception.

Father Aladel addressed the Children of Mary shortly before his death, in the Chapel of the Apparitions, Rue du Bac. He little thought that he was speaking to them for the last time, as he then appeared to be in his usual good health. Nevertheless, the address reads like a valedictory one, as if he had some premonition of his approaching end. It was fitting that his last meeting of the Children of Mary should be held in this privileged Chapel, for it was here that Our Lady commissioned Sister Catherine to convey to Father Aladel her wish to found this Association. So, in this hallowed sanctuary, they were to hear his striking address, which in part, has been preserved for us. It is as follows:

“My good children, I speak to you in the name of Our Lord, and to the glory of Mary, and it is not only to you I speak, but to all existing Associations, and I say to all:

You are objects of admiration, not only to God and His Angels, but to the whole world, which has a right to expect in you piety, modesty and every good example. In the midst of scandals and corruption of the world, in the midst of temptations and dangers, guard and save your souls; maintain purity of sentiment, treasure your innocence and keep up a tender devotion to Mary. Under the mantle of the Immaculate Virgin, exercise your spirit by the study of her virtues, and your heart by a love for them, with a holy ambition to acquire and imitate them. Ask her particularly for the virtue which each one of you knows is most necessary for you. Thus only will you be Children of Mary in time and eternity.”

The words we have quoted bear testimony to the marvellous success of the Association, of which he was the founder the law-maker and the Director. That testimony has been confirmed by the highest authority on earth- the Vicar of Christ. Children of Mary to the number of 7,000 flocked to Rome from all parts of the world for the Beatification of Sister Catherine, and on the following day (29th May, 1933) the Holy Father (Pius XI) addressed them. He reminded them of their high and holy vocation and its true meaning and said:
“You are in our eyes, dear Children of Mary, a sight of great joy, a vision in white-a vision of snow-a spectacle of innocence and purity, blessed from on high by Blessed Catherine Labouré.

“You are wearing this Miraculous Medal which has worked so many miracles, which works the very miracle we see at this moment, and makes a reality of this vision of which one would not have thought the world capable.

“You remind us that the Blessed Virgin said that she wished for an Association on which she would shower her graces. Her wish has been magnificently granted since numerous though you be, you are here but the representatives of 200,000 Children of Mary Immaculate.
“You are the elite of the Blessed Virgin.”

The three-fold mission of. Father Aladel has now been accomplished with complete success. As he passed before us, in the different scenes we have described, we have learned to revere and admire and love him, yet his beautiful character has been revealed only in part.

V. THE DEATH OF FATHER ALADEL

On the morning of Monday, 24th April, 1865, Father Aladel celebrated Mass as usual in the Chapel of the Apparitions, and appeared to be in his usual good health. Although only 65 years, the long white hair, falling in great profusion on to his neck and over the ears, gave him the venerable appearance of a much older man. During the day he attended to his customary duties; hearing Confessions, giving instructions, etc. Towards evening he received a message from Dax that Father Etienne had been taken suddenly ill, and was in imminent danger of death. Father Etienne had gone to Dax to attend the religious ceremonies in connection with the anniversary of the opening of the Vincentian College and Church, which had been erected there in memory of St., Vincent de Paul, whose birthplace it was; The receipt of this news caused Father Aladel the deepest distress. On recovering from the shock, he at once took steps to obtain the prayers of his own community, and of the Sisters for their beloved Superior. In a conversation which took place that evening, between himself and the Mother-General some words escaped him, which, taken into account with other circumstances, gave the impression that he offered to God, from the altar of his heart, the sacrifice of his life for his friend. Such a sacrifice was in keeping with the character of one, whose whole life was one grand act of self-sacrifice. It was, too, only following in the footsteps of Him Who said:
“Greater love than this no man hath than that he lay down his life for his friend.”

He retired to rest that night as usual. It is surmised that he was taken ill during the night, and that he made a supreme effort to get up at the hour for rising-4 a.m. His fellow-priests, assembled as usual for morning prayers and meditation, were astonished to find that Father Aladel (who was never known to be absent) was not present. There was, however, no undue alarm as it was assumed that he had gone on direct to the Rue du Bac for his early morning Mass. The Sister Sacristan awaited his arrival there; but as Father Aladel, who was noted for his punctuality, did not arrive she became alarmed and went in haste to St. Lazare to inquire as to the cause, feeling some premonition of evil. When she had explained the object of her early morning visit, one of the priests went to his room, knocked at the door, and, receiving no answer, entered. He was horrified to see Father Aladel lying unconscious on the floor, face downward. How like His Divine Master in His Agony in the Garden! He summoned assistance and the stricken priest was tenderly lifted off the ground and placed on the bed. The doctor, who was sent for, quickly arrived, and expressing his opinion that it was a case of apoplexy he, according to the treatment at that time, bled him; but there was no hope, so Father Aladel was anointed as soon as possible. The sad news of his serious illness soon spread quickly, and people came from all parts of the city to inquire for him. The priests and the Sisters assembled in the sick room offered up prayers for him, without ceasing. The sweet and holy names that he loved during life: “Jesus, Mary, Joseph,” were now invoked on his behalf. He lingered on, without regaining consciousness, until 3 o‘clock in the afternoon, when he breathed forth his soul to God.

It was observed that his soutane was only partially buttoned, and that his breviary was open at the Litany of the Saints. It was the feast of St. Mark, the Evangelist, when, according to the Rubrics, the Litany had to be recited, and Father Aladel was evidently preparing to do so, when struck down. May we not believe that he gave his life for his friend, Father Etienne, who recovered from his serious illness, and lived many years more to continue as Superior-General, his great work for the two Communities.

In the letter to the Mother-General, announcing his death, from which we have already quoted, Father Etienne pays him this noble tribute:

“Our Congregation has lost one of its most worthy members, one of the most vigilant guardians of its spirit and traditions, and one of the most perfect models of the virtues of St. Vincent. Your Community loses a Director as enlightened as he was filled with devotion. During the years that he occupied this important position, he has constantly shown himself as worthy of your respect as of your confidence. Endowed as he was with a robust constitution, and having never been attacked by any illness, I was persuaded that. he would have a long career, and preserve for us for a long time his precious services; but he was a martyr to duty and devotion, and he refused to take any rest. So a life, that gave every promise to attaining to extreme old age, was brought suddenly to a close at the comparatively early age of 65. Our consolation is that he was ripe for Heaven. He has gone to receive the recompense which must crown his virtues and labours. I have no doubt that he will be for me before God a powerful friend, and the support of my weakness; and for you, a protector who will obtain for you new graces and abundant blessings.”

There is a Spanish proverb which says that “the soul of a people is the soul that blossoms from the soil.” So we can say that Father Aladel- a farmer’s son—more truly represented the soul of France than the false prophets whose spirit is alien to the soil. His character reflected those specifically French virtues, to which the Church has owed so much. The Catholic tradition was his heritage, and the Faith of the Saints and Martyrs of France was in his blood. It was obvious that, even in his tender years, he was destined to labour as a priest in the Vineyard of the Lord. There he worked unceasingly, with a zeal that never flagged. He had one object in view, and one only, to be always about his Master’s business. Neither in the noonday heats, nor when the burdens of the day pressed heavily on him, did he seek any rest. As the shadows lengthened and evening came, one would expect him to take a little relaxation, but no, the weary body might crave for rest, but the indomitable spirit which ruled it, would allow no respite. It had to bear the burden while strength remained, even if he should fall in the furrow. And so he fell as the ripe fruit falls from the tree, for the work that he was sent into the world to do was accomplished and he was ripe for Heaven. The Good Master, therefore, His heart filled with a great Love for such a faithful servant, took pity on the weary toiler and translated him to the Heavenly Vineyard to rest for ever in the Eternal Peace of God. Of this great and holy Priest it can be said:

“He was beloved of God and man, and his memory is in Benediction.”
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O Mary conceived without sin, Pray for us who have recourse to thee

PROTESTATION.
In obedience to the Decree of Pope Urban VIII, the author protests that, unless it is expressly stated that the Church or the Holy See has recognised the truth of miracles, or other supernatural manifestations referred to in the following pages, no credence is claimed for them beyond what the available historical evidence may warrant.

Nihil Obstat
RECCAREDUS FLEMING, Censor Theol. Deput.
Imprimi Potest
 IOANNES CAROLUS, Archiep. Dublinen.,
Hiberniae Primas.
Duhlini, die i6 Nov., anno 1945.