Continuing our theme of Adoration, I noted in In SInu Jesu, that the author on occasion mentions a Benedictine nun I had not heard about, and since she plays an important role in this new Benedictine monastery, dedicated to Adoration, I decided I had better check her out.
MOTHER MECTILDE (Catherine) de BAR was born at Saint–Dié in
Lorraine ( ) in 1614 to a family of the
lesser nobility. According to Prior Mark of Silverstream she deserves to be universally known in
the Church. “She is a woman of the stature of a Gertrude the Great, of a Teresa
of Avila, and of a Marie de l’Incarnation. Mother Mectilde’s life and
mission are a vivid and compelling demonstration of the role of women in the
Church today and in every age. Her writings, steeped in Sacred Scripture and in
the liturgical tradition that formed her as a Benedictine nun, reveal a woman
of profound human insights and of supernatural wisdom.” France
When Catherine was 21, she joined the Order of the Blessed Virgin of the Annunciation, taking the name Sister Saint-John the Evangelist. In May 1635, she and the nuns of the convent in Bruyères (NE France) were forced to flee before the Swedish army. Some nuns exhausted by hardships, fell ill with the plague.
In 1639 Mother Mectilde and her Benedictines were among the many refugees of the Thirty Years War in wandering from place to place in search of a home. They sought to arrange for hospitality at the Abbey of Montmartre in Paris but the Lady Abbess refused to receive the homeless Benedictines even though they professed to the same Rule as her Community. She argued that the admission of strangers into religious houses caused disorder, and that it was better to refuse the nuns hospitality than to have to turn them out later for unsuitable conduct.
|Mother Mectilde and Nuns in Adoration|
However, one night the Lady Abbess of
Montmartre woke up in
a dreadful state of fright. She said that it seemed to her that she saw the
Most Holy Virgin and her Divine Son reproaching her for her lack of hospitality
to the poor homeless Benedictines and she felt threatened with a rigorous judgment should they, through her
fault, perish in their misery and need. The next day the Abbess convened her
senior religious who all agreed that they had to execute the manifest will of
God, inviting Mother Mectilde and her nuns to return.
In 1654 Mother Mectilde founded the Order of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament in
. This was
the first society formally organized for the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed
Mother Mectilde compares the Benedictine nun (monk) to the Eucharistic Host on several levels. The first level pertains to the qualities of the Host and the Benedictine virtues: the Host is hidden in the tabernacle, and the nun is hidden in the enclosure of the monastery; the Host is silent, and the nun is silent; the Host has no movement in and of itself, the nun has no movement that is not made by obedience; the Host is abandoned to the will of another, the nun is abandoned to the will of God mediated by her abbess. The Host is, to all appearances, powerless, fragile, and perishable; the nun, too, is powerless, fragile, and perishable.
"Mother Mectilde offers a vision of Benedictine life capable of rejuvenating monasticism, especially where it has become institutionalized and listless, with an infusion of Eucharistic vitality. Her commitment to perpetual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament corresponds to a contemporary yearning, especially among young people, for a personal, transforming encounter with the Face of God." (Prior Mark of Silverstream, Meath Ireland)