A New Order, New Challenges, and a Long Wait
Slowly the Revolution died out, and Napoleon assumed power in France. In 1801, the new leader signed a Concordat with Pius VII, and Catholic Churches quickly reopened across the country (Keppel 23; Bascom 8). Rose wasted no time in reassuming religious life. She managed to purchase the “badly damaged” Ste. Marie in December of 1801 and moved back with only one girl for company (Keppel 23; Horvat). Life was not easy at the convent. Cold and snow blew in through missing and broken doors and windows. Funds were low at best and sometimes lacking altogether. A few of the Visitation nuns, after much pleading from Rose, decided to move back to Ste. Marie, but they found the extreme austerities of life there to be too much for them and did not stay long (Lynch; Jeanne Marie). Rose was devastated by the nuns’ departure. She wrote, “I was crushed. I was the subject of scandal. Gossip had it that I had driven away the religious, that I would not yield in anything, that no one could bear to live with me” (Lynch). Despite all of these trials, however, Rose remained convinced that God had a plan for her and for Ste. Marie. (9)
After nearly three years of struggling to build up a school at Ste. Marie, with the help of former Carmelite Madame Rivet and a few other brave women, Rose’s dream for the success of her convent began to come true on July 31, 1804. Father Joseph Varin, who, along with Mother Madeleine Sophie Barat, had founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1800, arrived at Ste. Marie with an invitation for Rose and her companions to become members of the new order (Keppel 27; Bascom 9). In December, Mother Barat herself visited Ste. Marie. Rose dropped to her knees before the woman who was to be her new Superior and exclaimed, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who bringeth good tidings and who preacheth peace” (Bascom 9). Mother Barat was surprised by this enthusiastic greeting but agreed wholeheartedly to accept Ste. Marie as a convent in her order. Rose entered the novitiate on New Year’s Eve, pleased to once again be formally a part of a religious community (Bascom 10).
Rose’s life in the Society of the Sacred Heart at Ste. Marie was always busy, to the point of being hectic. By 1806, Rose was secretary to the Superior, “head of the boarding school, teacher of the older children, business manager for the school and the convent, and nurse for the nuns and students” (Lynch). To find time to pray, she often stayed awake most of the night. Even so, she was usually first to rise in the morning. As a practice of self-denial and penance, Rose wore clothing discarded by others, and her meals consisted of leftovers from her pupil’s plates (Bascom 14). In 1815, Rose went to Paris for the Second General Council of the Society and was appointed Secretary General at the Mother House. It was painful for Rose to leave her beloved Ste. Marie, but she, as always, was willing to do her duty. (10)
Perhaps the most difficult part of Rose’s years in the Society of the Sacred Heart at Ste. Marie and in Paris was her long wait to fulfill a dream she had cherished since childhood. Ever since the young Rose had listened to the stories of a Jesuit missionary, she had longed to travel to America to share her faith with the Indians (Horvat). Despite all the trials of the Revolution and all her hard work to reestablish Ste. Marie, her desire was always in her mind and heart. She expressed her longing in an 1806 letter to Mother Barat:
Joy flooded my heart all that night, for the permission you gave me for vigil (on Holy Thursday) came just in time. O blessed night, when for the second time I thought that my prayer had been granted. Oh, that I may go before the end of the year! I have almost persuaded myself that I shall. All night long I was in the New World, where I journeyed in good company. First, I reverently gathered up all the Precious Blood from the Garden, the Praetorium, Calvary. I took possession of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Closely embracing my treasure, I carried It everywhere to share most lavishly without fear of Its ever being exhausted. (qtd. in Bascon 35)
Rose, however, would have to wait nearly twelve more years while Mother Barat firmly established the unity of the Society of the Sacred Heart in France and, at the same time, prepared Rose spiritually to face the hardships she would encounter in the missionary field (Jeanne; Bascom 13). During that time, Rose consoled herself, at least in part, by “offering all her works, prayers, and sacrifices for the sake of her ‘dark souls’ in America” (Horvat). Finally, her pleading bore fruit. In 1817 Bishop De Bourg of Louisiana visited Mother Barat, asking her for missionary help in his large diocese. Rose begged to go, and at first, Mother Barat gave permission, only to withdraw it six months later because she was still concerned about the unity of her order. Just as the bishop, quite displeased with Mother Barat’s refusal, was about to leave the Mother House, Rose appeared, dropped to her knees before Mother Barat, and cried, “Your consent, Mother! Please! Your consent!” (Bascom 14-15). Looking at her spiritual daughter on the floor before her and certainly recalling Rose’s strong desire to spread the faith, Mother Barat could no longer refuse. Rose finally had the permission she needed to embark on a new adventure, one that would prove to be even more taxing than all of her trials to that point. (11)
9. Do you continue to trust in God’s will even though beset by trials? How might you learn to trust Him more?
10. What kinds of penances do you do each day? Is prayer important enough in your life that you would do as Rose did and stay up at night just to pray?
11. Have you ever had to wait for something you really wanted? How did you respond to the wait? What did you learn from it?