Religious Orders that are Consecrated in a Special Manner, by Name and by Duties, to the Blessed Virgin, by Father B Rohner, OSB

detail of a stained glass rose window of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception; date unknown, artist unknown; Saint Nicholas Catholic Church, Zanesville, Ohio; photographed on 31 December 2014 by Nheyob; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsAlthough there has never existed in the history of the Church a Religious Order which was not, by its very nature,founded on the model of the Blessed Virgin’s life, and consequently devoted of necessity to the promotion of her honor and glory, there have also existed certain congregations, satellites as it were, which were sometimes called after her and which were, in a special manner, devoted to her service. Hence it is proper that they, too, should find a place in our list of the Servants of Mary.

Mary’s Servants of Mount Carmel

In the northwestern part of Palestine rises the majestic holy mountain called Carmel, a name which, in our language, means “Garden in the Woods.” The base of this mountain consists of chalk and contains a great many caves, to the number of a thousand or more. Here it was that the prophet Elias lived and performed his miracles. Hither. also, in the early ages of the Church, many Christians fled from the temptations of life or from the persecutions of the pagan emperors. The pious empress, Saint Helen, planted the cross on the highest point of this mountain. From these early hermits the great Carmelite Order took its rise, though it was only during the latter half of the twelfth century that it assumed the form of a regular community.

Berthold, a crusader from Calabria, in the heat of battle prayed to God for victory, at the same time vowing to embrace a monastic life. Having won the battle, he laid aside his armor and built, in the year 1156, near the cave of Elias, a hermit’s cell, which soon developed into a large monastery. From this beginning the Order in its monastic form spread gradually throughout the different countries of Europe. In the year 1247 the Pope ordered a moderation of the rule which, up to that time, had been one of extreme rigor and severity. He also gave to the Society the name of the “Order of Our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel.” Very soon afterward an event occurred which showed plainly how pleasing this Confraternity was to the Blessed Virgin, and which, at the same time, rendered the Order of Mount Carmel one of the most renowned in the Church. On the 16th of July, 1251, the Mother of God appeared to Saint Simon Stock, who was the Superior General of the Order, and gave to him the Scapular, as a designating badge of the Order and as a pledge of her favor and protection.

In the course of time several branches sprang from the mother Order. All of these, however, were closely united to each other, and with the Blessed Virgin Mary, by the common bond of the holy Scapular. Saint Teresa, who lived in the sixteenth century, was one of the brightest ornaments of the female branch of this Order. She restored much of the severity of the ancient rule.

It may interest you to hear of the present condition of that ancient seat of devotion to Mary, and how it has withstood the ravages of time.

Amid all the changes that have come upon the Holy Land in the course of centuries Mount Carmel, which stood forth prominently as the unchanging central point of the surrounding country, has been exposed to the ravages of the elements and to the unsparing hand of the invader. Hence the monastic buildings were time and again destroyed. In the last three quarters of a century they have been razed four times-the last time in the year 1821. A humble friar, called Brother John Baptist from Frascati, was the man of Providence, who, under the special protection of Mary, built the present monastery, having collected in Asia and Europe the sum of 90,000 gulden, which was expended on the work. He made ten journeys from Palestine to the various countries of Europe, succeeding everywhere in inspiring a genuine enthusiasm in favor of the time-honored shrine of Mary on Mount Carmel. He found a friendly reception in the palaces of the great and in the cabins of the poor, among Catholics and Protestants. Poets dedicated their verses to him, painters sent pictures to him, newspaper men recommended his cause in the public journals, ladies sewed and embroidered for him and got up lotteries and concerts for the benefit of his undertaking.

The king of Prussia issucd orders enabling Brother John Baptist to travel free on all the public conveyances in the kingdom, in order that he might gather contributions as he saw fit, throughout all the provinces. Hence, in the year 1840, the good Brother was rich enough to finish the monument of Catholic love for the Blessed Virgin.

Christian reader, do you not discover in the oft disturbed, but always restored, sanctuary of Mount Carmel a striking figure of the Catholic Church standing on the rock of Peter, regaining new life and strength from each storm that passes over its indestructible walls?

The Carthusian Order

This Religious Order, it is true, does not derive its name from Mary, the ever Blessed Virgin, yet there is hardly any other Order in the Church that has imitated our holy Mother in her earthly life as closely as this Order has done. For, while most of the other Orders have more or less devoted themselves to some outward work of honor to God, or of charity to man, as, for instance, to the care of souls, the giving of missions, the direction of schools, the care of the sick or other good works, the Carthusians repudiate such works for themselves in order to give themselves up the more perfectly to God in prayer, meditation, and solitude of life. Hence this order is called specially a contemplative Order. While other Orders resemble the active Martha, the Carthusian, like Mary, sits peacefully at the feet of Jesus and quietly renders praise and homage to the divine Master. “Mary hath chosen the better part, which Shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

The founder of this exceedingly severe Order was Saint Bruno, born in Cologne in the year 1035 – a man of great talent, profound and varied knowledge, and amiable character. He took the resolution of renouncing the world and its honors. He relinquished the position of canon in the cathedral at Rheims, and that of teacher and preacher in the renowned school of that city, and with six companions withdrew into the remote solitudes of a neighboring forest in order to lead a life of prayer and mortification similar to that of the hermits of primitive Christianity.

There was a retired hermitage in the wildest and most barren part of the diocese of Grenoble. But Urban II, the then reigning Pope, who in his youth had sat as a pupil at the feet of Saint Bruno, felt that, in his lofty and responsible position as Supreme Pontiff, he needed the counsel of his wise and beloved preceptor. Accordingly he summoned the saint to Rome, and Bruno obeyed. The Pope offered to his old professor the Cardinal’s hat and the archbishopric of Reggie. Both honors were respectfully hut firmly declined by the humble hermit.

In this single act of Saint Bruno we may discover the whole character of the Order which he founded, namely, a renunciation of all honors and offices of dignity, perfect solitude, and true love for God. The Order has ever remained firm in its adhesion to its chief object, namely to imitate the silent, solitary life of the holy family in the lowly cabin at Nazareth.

The first chapel erected in the solitary waste of Grenoble was dedicated in March, 1085, by Saint Bruno, to the honor of the Blessed Virgin, and was from that time known by the title, “Our Lady of the Cells.” It became a place of frequent pilgrimage for persons in search of Christian perfection. It would be difficult to find a sanctuary better adapted by its peacefulness, and its seclusion from the world, for prayer and contemplation. Here, during a long lapse of centuries, the pious monks sang the praises of the Most High. Every night, about 11 o’clock, matins were chanted solemnly, and at such a slow pace that the morning sometimes dawned before the end of the devotion. Beside this duty each monk was expected to recite the office of the Blessed Virgin every day. Such were the duties of the Carthusian.

Although, on account of its extreme severity, this Order made but slow progress in point of numbers, at the period of its highest success it counted three hundred members. At all times it had among its sons a large number of most devoted servants of Mary.

The Order “De Mercede,” or “Our Lady for the Redemption of Captives”

In the year 711 the Moors, a wild Mohammedan tribe from the northern coast of Africa, invaded Spain, and although the Christians of that country defended every mile of territory fiercely, step by step the barbarians succeeded in entrenching themselves firmly in the land, and reduced large numbers of the Christians to the most abject slavery.

The condition of these captive Christians was so excessively wretched, the danger to which they were exposed of losing their faith, and eventually their immortal souls, was so imminent, that every Christian heart was deeply moved with compassion for their sufferings. How much more, then, the compassionate heart of Mary, the help of Christians! Could it be that no one was found to reduce this compassion to practical effect by bringing relief to these poor sufferers?

In the year 1189, in the village of Le Mas de Saintes Puelles, in France, a child was born who received at the baptismal font the name, Peter Nolasco. He was most carefully brought up by his pious parents and trained in early years to the exercise of horsemanship. At the age of 15 he lost his father by death. His mother was most anxious to procure for him a suitable companion in marriage that she might see perpetuated the illustrious families to which her husband and herself belonged. But the young man felt in his soul other aspirations and other imperative demands. It was his greatest pleasure to relieve the poor and to visit the churches, where he would often remain through the whole night assisting at the celebration of the Divine Office.

The sufferings and trials of the Christian captives among the Moors would wring the heart of the sympathetic Peter. He prayed often and fervently for their delivery and for the expulsion of their pagan masters. He took the resolution to expend the whole of his worldly means in redeeming these captives, and also to solicit from other charitable benefactors alms to be devoted to the same purpose.

It pleased the Blessed Virgin to lead her servant thus far and to prepare him thus perfectly, in order then to reveal to him her wishes on this subject. She appeared to him in person and made known to him that it was God’s will that he should found a Religious Order, the members of which,beside taking the three usual vows, should bind themselves by a fourth vow to devote their lives to the redemption of Christian slaves. Peter applied to his Confessor for counsel. This was no other than the renowned Raymond of Pennafort, a distinguished professor in the University of Bologna, and at the same time a canon in the cathedral at Barcelona. By a strange coincidence this saint had had the same vision as Peter Nolasco. Both men became convinced that they were bound to follow the injunctions so mysteriously laid upon them. They wished first to apply to the bishop, and to the king, with a view of obtaining their approval. But, lo, the Blessed Virgin had already prepared the way for them. James, the young king of Aragon, furthered the good work by lending to it his whole royal influence.

Since the year 1192 there had existed in Barcelona an association of pious priests and nobles who made it their duty to visit the captives and to gather means for their ransom. Nearly all the members of this Society united themselves to Peter Nolasco, who gave to the new organization the name, “The Order of Our Lady for the Redemption of Captives.”

On the 10th of August, 1217, Peter, together with seven other valiant knights and six devoted priests, pronounced their solemn vows in the cathedral at Barcelona, in presence of the king and his whole court. The Order was approved by Pope Honorius III.

Very soon people of the highest rank, from Spain, France, England, Germany, and Hungary, flocked to the standard of “Our Lady de Mercede.” One of the most glorious ornaments of this Order was the great Saint Raymond Nonnatus, born in the year 1200, a man who in his holy life became an eloquent example of how the Blessed Virgin cares for her servants and procured suitable members for her “Order for the Redemption of Captives.”

The Order of the Servants of Mary

From very early times there existed in the city of Florence a venerable brotherhood known as the Confraternity of the Laudators (Dei Laudesi), whose chief duty consisted in singing in a certain oratory the praises of the ever Blessed Virgin. On the festival of the Assumption of Our Lady, in the year 1233, seven of the principal merchants met for this purpose in the oratory. Animated by a simultaneous and spontaneous inspiration, these seven servants of Mary resolved to sell all their goods, distribute the proceeds among the poor, and then live themselves afterwards on the alms of the charitable. Bishop Adringo, of Florence, approved their good resolutions and promised to become their protector.

These devout men then repaired to a dilapidated old house beyond the city walls, in the village of Camarsca, where they divested themselves of the judicial robes which they had long worn with honor. In their stead they put on hair shirts, a scanty gray over-garment, and an iron girdle about the waist. This occurred on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, of the same year. The new company chose for their Superior the oldest and most pious of their number, Buonsiglio Monaldi. When they had resolved themselves into 21 Religious Congregation, they repaired in a body to the bishop, to receive his blessing and further advice and counsel. As they passed through the streets of Florence the neighbors, much surprised at the change wrought in the personal appearance of men but lately so handsomely dressed, cried out, “Ecco i servi della Madonna,” that is, “Behold the servants of the Madonna.” The cry was taken up and repeated by the little innocent children. Hence the members, thinking they could find no better name, called themselves, from that time, “Servants of Mary,” or “Servites.”

These pious persons lived for about one year in their first habitation. Then, finding that their abode was too easy of access to visitors and others, they removed, with the consent of the bishop, to the solitude of Monte Senario. There, on the ruins of an old castle they built a chapel, and around it placed their cells in a circle. There they spent their time in chanting the praises of the Mother of God, sustaining bodily life with roots and herbs. Later on they begged for alms through the streets of Florence.

It is stated that on Good Friday, in the year 1239, the Blessed Virgin appeared in a vision to some members of this pious community and commanded them to make the rule of life by Saint Augustine the base of their community Observances, and, in remembrance of the sufferings and death of her divine Son, to adopt a black habit.

At the same time she handed to her devoted servants a black Scapular with which they were to invest themselves and others, as a sign of completer dedication to herself and her service. This is the origin of the Scapular of the “Confraternity of the Seven Dolors of Mary.”

After Pope Alexander IV had given his approbation to the Order, in the year 1255, it grew rapidly in numbers, notwithstanding its extreme rigor. The desire to consecrate themselves entirely to the service of the sublime Queen of heaven outweighed, on the part of those seeking admission to its ranks, every fear of a hard and rigorous mode of life. When in the year 1283, seventy-seven years after the founding of the Order, the last of the seven founders died, in the 110th year of his age, the Order numbered more than ten thousand members.

With the main Order there was united a “Third Order of the Servants of Mary,” for the benefit of the laity of both sexes, which in course of time numbered thousands of members. As is well known, the foundress of this Iwraneh was the illustrious Saint Juliana of Falconieri.

The Missionary Fathers of La Salette

This Order was founded in 1852 by Bishop de Bruillard, of Grenoble, France, a few years after the apparition of the Blessed Virgin on the mountain of La Salette, when that apparition had been recognized as authentic by the Church. “These missionaries,” said the prelate, “will be called the ‘Missionaries of La Salette,’ and will be a perpetual remembrance of the merciful apparition of Mary to Maximin and Melanie.” Since 1852 these Fathers have had charge of the shrine of Our Lady of La Salette. Their end is to preach missions and retreats, and to make known the teaching of the Blessed Virgin at La Salette. God has abundantly blessed this Order, which was approved by the Holy See by two decrees of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, the first dated 27 May 1879, the other May 14, 1890. In these decrees the Holy See highly approved the aim and end of the Order and made it a regular institute with the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Order has houses in France, Switzerland and Italy, and has two houses in the United States, one in Hartford, Connecticut, the other in Fitchburg, Mass.

The Little Brothers of Mary

This Religious Congregation was founded in 1817 by the reverend Father Champagnat, a priest of the diocese of Lyons, France, whose cause of beatification has been formally approved by the Sovereign Pontiff. The Congregation numbers seven thousand Brothers, engaged in the instruction of Christian youth. The foundation of the spiritual progress of its members is laid on fervent devotion and veneration 0f the glorious attributes of the Immaculate Virgin. The motto of the institute is “To Jesus through Mary.” The Brothers in their religious exhortations place special stress on the dignity which God conferred on Mary by elevating her to the supereminent dignity of Mother of Jesus Christ, and inculcate veneration of Our Lady by the practice of her virtues. To foster this beautiful spirit of devotion, they initiate their pupils into the various sodalities instituted by the Church for the edification of Catholic youth, and by the daily recital of the Chaplet in honor of the Blessed Virgin.

The marvellous success and wonderful development of the Congregation can only be attributed to the powerful intercession of her in whose honor and under whose patronage, the holy founder placed his infant community, to perpetuate the glorious work of the apostolic era.

Congregation of the Brothers of Our Lady of Lourdes

This Congregation was founded in Belgium in 1830. In 1887 a new mother~house was established at Oostacker, near the marvellous grotto known as the Flemish Lourdes, and from this circumstance the Congregation received its present name. On his reception into the Congregation, each Brother receives the name of Mary, in addition to his name in religion; he recites daily the office of the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes, and wears the beads and a medal of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The Congregation is vowed to the Christian education of youth, especially the poor; the care of orphan asylums, the nursing of the sick and of old men in hospitals, and kindred works of charity. The Congregation and its rule are approved by a decree of His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII, dated 18 July 1892. There are no more than three hundred Brothers in the Congregation, laboring in the schools, asylums and other charitable institutions of Belgium and Holland. In the United States, the brothers have a college and a novitiate at Seattle, Wash. They have fitted up a grotto there similar to that at Lourdes, and hope to establish a pilgrimage.

The Order of Saint Bridget

Saint Bridget was born in the year 1302. Her parents belonged to the royal house of Sweden. Even in her childhood she was remarkable for a special love for the practice of all religious exercises. Having grown up in innocence and the fear of God, to young womanhood, at the desire of her parents she entered the holy state of matrimony, without ever diminishing her zeal for religion.

Once, when her husband lay grievously sick, Bridget, by her persevering prayers to the Mother of God, obtained his restoration to health. This dangerous illness and its miraculous cure impressed the good husband so forcibly with a sense of the uncertainty of human life that, with the consent of his saintly wife, he betook himself to a Cistercian monastery where he died some years later in the odor of sanctity.

Bridget, being now free, renounced her princely dignity, divided her estate among her children, and sought nothing more ardently than the glorious privilege of be coming a handmaid to the poor. Yet she was not fully satisfied with this mode of imitating the “handmaid of the Lord,” the Blessed Virgin, for she also desired that her sublime patroness should be praised and imitated by others.

In order to do all that lay in her power for this object, she founded, in the year 1344, an Order whose purpose should be to honor the Blessed Virgin every day. Accordingly she caused to be built at Wadstena, in the diocese of Linkoping, in Sweden, a large convent which she occupied together with sixty nuns. In another building, some distance away, she placed thirteen priests in honor of the twelve apostles and Saint Paul; four deacons to represent the four doctors of the Church, Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory, and Saint Jerome; and, finally, eight lay Brothers to take care of the temporal affairs of the institution.

It is the most favorite life-duty of these consecrated souls to honor and glorify the Queen of heaven in the most diverse and even childlike manner. They are present every day at a High Mass celebrated in honor of Mary, after which they are required, by rule, to sing the “Salve, Regina.” With the view of maintaining sisterly love and harmony they observe the following beautiful practice: Each day, before Vespers, they repeat solemnly together a “Hail, Mary,” at the end of which the head Sister of the choir bows low before the others and says, “If we have offended you by word, action, or sign, forgive us out of love for God and His blessed Mother, for we, too, forgive you from the bottom of our hearts if you have in any way offended us.” The second Sister then bows in turn and makes the same request.

In imitation of the poverty and self-denial of Mary these Sisters fast often and strictly, and observe perpetual silence.

This peculiarly formed Order spread rapidly over the countries of northern Europe and brought down from Heaven many blessings upon the members. Branches of this Order of Mary’s servants existed also in Germany, France, and England, where they promoted lasting devotion to her. The mother-house at Wadstena was transformed into a young ladies’ Protestant school.

The Order of Mary Immaculate

In the court of King John II of Castile, whose wife was the Princess Elizabeth of Portugal, there lived a young lady named Beatrix, distinguished for her beauty of person and her high qualities of mind and heart. She became the unwilling subject of disputes among the young noblemen of the court, who even fought duels on her account. When the queen heard of these things she imprisoned the young woman for three days and kept her on bread and water. The innocent Beatrix, in this hour of her trouble, had recourse to the loving Mother of Jesus. Recommending her life and her innocence to the care of Mary, she made a vow of perpetual virginity. Then the blessed Mother, clothed in a white robe partially hidden by a blue mantle, appeared to her child, promising her speedy relief. No sooner was she released than she hastened to Toledo, where she entered upon a strict religious life among the Dominican nuns. However, she soon reduced to practice a long cherished desire of founding an Order in honor of the Immaculate Conception. Queen Isabella entered heartily into the plan of Beatrix, placing at her disposal the royal palace at Galliana together with the adjoining chapel of Saint Fides. Beatrix, together with twelve other devout young women, took possession of their new religious home in the year 1484. As the habit of her young community she adopted the dress in which the Blessed Virgin had appeared in the vision in the prison, namely, a long white gown and a blue veil or mantle. She added a small white scapular reaching to the waist, and on which she had embroidered in silver an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At the parlor-grating, and in all their assemblies, the Sisters wore above their other habit a large scapular that came down to their feet.

At the request of Queen Isabella the Pope approved the pious Order in the year 1489, gave them the Cistercian rule of life to follow, and imposed on them the obligation of reciting the little Office of the Blessed Virgin every day.

The Order of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin

A king’s daughter and a king’s queen, Jane of Valois, born in the year 1464, was the foundress of this community piously dedicated to the honor of the Mother of God.

Jane’s father, King Louis XL, had given her in marriage to Louis, duke of Orleans. The latter, on ascending the French throne as Louis XII, discarded his pious wife in order to take for his queen, Anna, the duchess of Brittany, who was the widow of Charles VIII. Jane was banished to Bourges, where she lived in quiet retirement, seeking, in resignation to God’s will, consolation in the bitter disgrace to which she was subjected. More especially did she occupy her thoughts in working out a plan whereby she might, by founding an Order in honor of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, give outward and practical expression to her sentiments of love and gratitude for that blessed Mother.

Aided by the counsel and direction of her Confessor, the Franciscan Father, Gabriel Nicolai, Jane reduced her plan to practice and succeeded in carrying out her design. She gathered about her ten young women whom she guided in the paths of sanctity, and in union with them observed strictly a rigorous rule of religious life. This rule, composed by herself, had direct bearing on the ten principal virtues of Mary which they are obliged to imitate, namely, chastity, prudence, humility, faith, devotion, obedience, poverty, patience, compassion, and the fear of God. Hence it was that the Order and its rule of life came to be called by the name of “The Ten Virtues of Mary.”

With much significance the Mother Superior in this Order was always styled “handmaid” in remembrance of the Blessed Virgin’s words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” The Order, obtaining in due time the approbation of the Pope, spread rapidly throughout France and Belgium.

The Order of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

In the cathedral of Dijon, during the lenten season of 1604, a course of sermons was delivered by a certain preacher who, by his gentle humility and powerful eloquence, had brought some seventy thousand heretics back to the bosom of the one true Church. This great preacher was Saint Francis of Sales, bishop of Geneva. One of the most attentive among his listeners was a distinguished lady in deeP mourning. This was Saint Jane Frances of Chantal. Some four years previously her husband had been accidentally shot, by a friend, while on a hunting-party. These two holy souls, Saint Francis of Sales, and Saint Frances of Chantal, had never before met each other, yet now each felt that an inward voice, unmistakable in its accents, called them to the united performance of some great Christian enterprise. F rom that time forward they were bound together by a sacred tie of charity, working and praying for the cause of God and of immortal souls.

As yet Jane Frances was bound to the world by the tenderest of ties, for she had an aged father and three loving children. But the heroic woman with supernatural courage stifled the voice of nature and obeyed the call from Heaven, though not until, with careful foresight, she had provided for the future maintenance of her three children.

Saint Francis of Sales had in contemplation to establish a community of religious women who, though leading a life of retirement in a convent, might at the same time go abroad from the Cloister for the purpose of doing good works among their fellow beings. The sublime model that these two devout servants of Mary Chose for their Order was Mary herself, who, though she preferred greatly to pass her life in prayer and contemplation in her home at Nazareth, was ready, in obedience to God’s call, to forsake her beloved retirement and to hasten over valleys and mountains to visit and to serve her cousin, Saint Elizabeth, and to gladden her heart with joyful tidings. Hence it was that the new community was called the Order of the Visitation.

On the 29th of March, Saint Jane Frances of Chantal set out from the city of Dijon, arriving, on the 14th of April, at the little village of Annecy, a town prettily situated on a hill on the road leading from Geneva to Chaxnberry and overshadowed by the towering peaks of Mont Blanc and Mont Saint Gothard. Here the bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis, had established his episcopal see.

Here, on the 6th of June, 1610, which fell that year on Trinity Sunday, Madame de Chantal, with three companions, began her life of religious retirement. The Order of the Visitation had now entered upon its existence.

For some good reason it became desirable that the members of the new community should lead a strictly cloistered life, and it was so decreed by a brief of Pope Paul V in the year 1618.

Today the Order is widely diffused throughout the Catholic Church, everywhere preserving with the utmost fidelity its original spirit of fervor and strictness. Most of the convents have attached to them an academy for the education of the daughters of the wealthier classes. In this way the Order has rendered incalculable services to both Church and State. The Sisters moreover, are bound by rule to attend Choir-service, which consists in the daily recitation of the Office of the Blessed Virgin.

The Congregation of Notre Dame

Blessed Peter Fourrier, a regular of the Order of Saint Augustine, was born at Mirecourt on the 30th of November, 1565. He was not only privately a zealous advocate of Mary through his own personal devotion, but he also founded a religious community, by means of which he might implant in the hearts of future genexations the same devotion towards our blessed Lady.

Father Fourrier, being parish priest of Mataincourt, found among his own parishioners a most suitable person to help him reduce his design to practical shape. In the little village of Hymont, within the boundaries of his parish, there dwelt an amiable young woman named Alice, who had been carefully brought up and who possessed fine qualities of soul and body. Her whole life had been blameless in the eyes of man, yet she loved to attend country dances, was fond of fine clothes, and cherished other feminine vanities. Being present one day, with her parents, at a wedding-party where she joined heartily in the dance, she suddenly felt, during the height of the enjoyment and when the music was the liveliest, as if she saw the evil spirit winding a chain of flowers about all the youthful dancers and drawing them towards himself. At once she was seized with remorse, shame and fear, resolved never again to join a dancing-party, and in the very hour itself secretly uttered a vow of perpetual virginity and gave herself up to God. Henceforth she wore only the plainest and coarsest garments.

She soon found a companion of her own way of thinking in a young woman named Gante André. Both placed themselves under the special guidance of their saintly parish priest who, by his noble example of life, as well as by his sermons, in which he often and effectively spoke of the folly and the fleetness of the things of this world, and of the value of virtues, especially of chastity, exercised a powerful influence over them. Although the young, enthusiastic souls were eager to carry out their desire of establishing a religious community in honor of the Blessed Virgin, their prudent spiritual father subjected them to a long and trying test.

At last, on Christmas day, 1598, Alice and Gante, with two other companions, appeared at Mass clothed in black garments with veils thrown over their heads, as a public sign that they wished to renounce the world.

Soon other young women affiliated themselves to the little society. Refusing all help from their parents, they led a. life of much self-denial, supporting themselves by the work of their own hands. Black bread, milk, fruit and herbs composed the meagre fare of these young women, all of whom had been comfortably and even generously brought up. A little straw on the hard ground sufficed for their short night’s sleep.

Secular teaching and religious instruction in the course of time formed the chief occupations of the Congregation of Notre Dame. It was approved by Pope Paul V in a bull dated 1 February 1615. The blessing of heaven’s Queen descended so visibly and effectively on this enterprise devoted to her honor that even in the life-time of its founders it numbered thirty-three different convents of the Order. Previous to the breaking out of the French Revolution it numbered houses by the hundred. In many cities have these good Sisters trained up generation after generation of young girls to become models of Christian piety and prudence, always, of course, implanting deeply in their tender hearts a solid devotion for their ever blessed Mother.

The Order of Notre Dame de Sion

This Order was founded at Paris by the Reverend Father Theodore Ratisbonne in conjunction with his brother, the Reverend Father Marie-Alphonse, whose miraculous conversion from Judaism by an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church of Saint Andrea delle Fratte, at Rome, on the 20th of January, 1842, made their names known throughout the whole Catholic world. It was introduced in the United States in 1892.

The object of the institute is to give a Christian education to all classes of children, in all countries, and in all languages.

The Religious of Notre Dame de Sion combine this work with that which our divine Lord came on earth to do – striving to effect the conversion of the Jews, for which their prayers, works and sacrifices are daily offered.

– text taken from Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her Feasts, Prayers, Religious Orders, and Sodalities, by Father B Rohner, OSB, adapted by Father Richard Brennan, LLD, published in 1898 by Benziger Brothers; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael Augustine, Archdiocese of New York, New York, 22 June 1898