A Year with the Saints – 14 October


If a dry stick could possess humility and self-annihilation, and then be chosen to office, God would give it sensitive and intelligent life, rather than permit His servants to be without good government. – Saint Jane Frances de Chantal

The story of the Blessed Berengaria, a Poor Clare, furnishes an illustration of this. She lived for a long time in a Portuguese convent, employed in the lowest offices in the kitchen; for, on account of her love of humility, she made herself appear like a peasant and a half-idiot, so that she had become the laughing stock of the Sisters and was considered unfit for anything but the meanest position in the Order. After a time the Abbess died, and all the nuns assembled to choose a successor. They had no decided preference for any of their number, and thought the first ballot would show who was most likely to obtain the place. Each of them, therefore, without informing anyone else, gave her vote to Berengaria, considering that this would afford her the desired opportunity, as she was sure not to be chosen. And so, when the Father presiding at the ceremony had received and read the folded ballots of the nuns, he found that Berengaria had been legally elected. Therefore he bade her, in the name of God, take the seat of the Superioress, to receive from the others, according to custom, the first token of homage. The humble maiden was constrained, though with very great repugnance, to take this position. But still greater repugnance was felt on the part of the nuns, who murmured against such an unexpected election and refused to recognize as their Superior one who was quite inexperienced and wholly unfit for such an office. Seeing this the new Abbess, interiorly moved by the Holy Spirit, turned towards the tomb, there placed in the center of the chapter house, and called upon the dead nuns to rise and render her the prescribed homage, to teach their living sisters what obedience they owed. And behold! the sepulcher instantly opened, and seven nuns came forth, one after another. Kneeling, they offered homage and obedience to Berengaria, and then remained on their knees at her feet, in presence of the whole convent, until she bade them return into the sepulcher and rest in peace, which they reverently did. Amazed and affrighted at this sight, the nuns all threw themselves at the feet of their Mother, humbly asked her pardon for their fault and promised and always observed most perfect submission and obedience to her.

MLA Citation