Posted by, Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan
St. Jane de Chantal a wise, loving woman, mother, widow, visionary, and founder of the Visitation, utterly human remains an inspiration.
Below are some wonderful illustrations into her life and how she instructed her novices between 1627-1633.
Chantal occasionally used stories of her own married life to make her point. In 1629, on how God reaches out to the soul:
“There occurs to me on this subject a similitude, which is somewhat amusing, my dear Daughters. I remember that Monsieur de Chantal was very fond of lying in bed of a morning; I, having to look after the affairs of the house, was obliged to rise early to give all my orders.
When it began to be late, and I had gone back to the bedroom, making noise enough to awaken him, so that Mass might be said in the chapel, and afterwards the remaining affairs might be seen to, I became impatient. I went and drew the bed curtains and called to him that it was late, that he must get up, that the chaplain was vested and was going to begin Mass; at last, I used to take a lighted taper and held it before his eyes, and tormented him so, that at last I used to awaken him and make him get out of bed.
What I mean to tell you, by this little story, is that our Lord does the same with us.” [p.276]
In 1631, one monastery’s confessor had ordered the nuns not to say a prayer that was in their Book of Customs. Chantal was not about to let that occur again. In 1632:
“What, Sisters, are you weathercocks, that you thus let yourselves be turned about at the wish of others, and because of what they come and say to you?… Whatever they come and say to you, look at your Rules, your Directories, and your Customs, and keep to that….
If someone comes to the parlor and says: “Do not this or that, in this way, or that such a thing must not be done,” answer them boldly: “Our Rules and our Book of Customs order us to do so;” or else say nothing, but go on as usual, without yielding in anything of your Customs.” [pp.322-23]
In 1641, shortly before her death, Chantal spoke of dependence on God, quoting a saying of Francis de Sales:
“I think, Sisters, nothing places us in more perfect self-renunciation, and in greater dependence on God, than the practice of those few words: “Ask for nothing, and refuse nothing.” To them we must attach ourselves in the smallest occurrences.
If we are in the infirmary, they will perhaps not serve us to our taste; they will give us broth too salted or too bitter, or something else that will not be to our liking. Let us profit by these little occasions, let us accept them from God’s hand….” [pp.390-91]
May we stay awake when the Lord is calling, may we answer boldly when the need arises, and may we grow a greater dependence on God as St Jane de Chantal invites us.
Taken from Saint Jane Francis Fremyot de Chantal: her exhortations, conferences, and instructions / translated from the French edition printed at Paris in 1875. Westminster, Md.: Newman Bookshop, 1947. Rev. Ed. (xix, 478 p.)
LC#: BX890 .C37 1947