A couple of more saints

Quebec City is blessed with the presence of 3 beatified persons, and today Fr. Stephen and I decided to visit a couple of two of them:  Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation and Blessed Marie-Catherine of Saint-Augustine.

Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation was an Ursuline nun who came to Quebec during the time of the founding of the colony and who worked in education. She had many mystical experiences, and has been called the “Teresa of New France”. There is another Blessed apparently of the same name, a Carmelite lay sister also from France, who lived around the same time as the Ursuline. Perhaps one took the name from the other?

Blessed Marie-Catherine of Saint-Augustine was an Augustinian nun who also came to Quebec at the time of the founding of the colony — she and Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation would surely have known each other. Blessed Marie-Catherine worked in the local hospital, and also had an extraordinary mystical life. It was the peculiar graces of this mystical life that delayed her beatification somewhat, because she was given the grace of spiritual warfare. While she had several visions of saints, and even had St. Jean de Brébeuf as her spiritual director after he had died, she also had visions of hell and of demons, and suffered from what is called “demonic obsession”. Demonic obsession is similar to demonic possession, in that one or more demonic spirits inhabits a person, but unlike possession those spirits do not gain physical control over the body of the person — the effect is purely interior, but causes tremendous suffering nevertheless. God apparently allowed Blessed Marie-Catherine to suffer these attacks because, in attacking her, those same evil spirits would then not be free to attack someone else. Kids, don’t try this at home! Anyway, her visions and spiritual experiences were published by her (earthly) spiritual director, Fr. Paul Ragueneau, in 1671, with most of the passages taken directly from her spiritual diary. I have a copy of the text — it’s pretty heavy stuff, but the amazing thing is that, during her earthly life, nobody except her spiritual director knew what was going on with her — she just seemed like a competent, kindly nun to most people. This is what help us conclude that she was not delusional or otherwise in need of treatment. It is said that her only desire was to do the will of God in all things, no matter what that might mean. Now THAT’S what makes a person a saint!

While Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation is the better known of the two saints, I really think the spirituality of Blessed Marie-Catherine needs to be examined anew in our times. I’ve been collecting books on her for the last little while, and I’m tempted to publish the 1671 text to the internet (it is, after all, in the public domain), just to spread the word about her a little bit more. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed visiting with both women — sitting near Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation’s tomb, or near the relics of Blessed Marie-Catherine, you really got a sense of being close to them in the communion of saints. May they continue to intercede for us in the church, especially here in Quebec.