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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
Here is an example – among thousands – of the mercy of the Blessed Virgin. Hermann Cohen, German by birth and Jewish by religion, enjoyed a distinguished reputation in Paris as a remarkable pianist and skilled composer. He became the adopted child of the famous Listz, and with him founded a music conservatory in Geneva. Then they traveled to different parts of Europe, earning everywhere the most flattering acclaim and applause. But let him tell us himself in what abyss he was plunged when the sweet Morning Star came to shine in his eyes: “In all societies I was pampered, I was celebrated, and, finding in me an understanding easy enough for my age, they tried to inculcate me in turn with the awful doctrines that came from the depths of hell to swarm on the surface of this den called Paris. Atheism, pantheism, socialism, massacre of the rich, complete license of morals, etc., everything entered my brain. I had even become a most zealous propagandist, and consequently the youngest of every new prophet from hell…” While this brilliant young man was giving himself up passionately to the whirlwind of the world, he was asked by the Prince of Moskowa to go in his place to a church in Paris, to conduct a choir of amateurs who had offered to sing the praises of Mary during the pious exercises of May 1847. Although a Jew, he willingly accepted the invitation; it was there, in front of the altar of Mary, that grace awaited him. While he was paying material homage to the august Mother of God, she was interceding for him before Her divine Son. At the moment when the priest raises the monstrance to dispense the blessing, our young impious looks with disdain at the inclination of the faithful… Suddenly an invisible weight weighs on his shoulders, obliges him to bend and fall on his knees in spite of the obstinacy of his will. From that moment on, his spirit received the invigorating light of faith, and his heart opened to the salutary impressions of grace. He generously triumphed over all the obstacles which opposed his complete conversion; he received holy baptism with the most touching dispositions. The Mother of God had not remained insensitive to the homage that had been involuntarily paid to Her… by a lost child.
On August 28, 1847, Hermann was baptized and prepared for his first communion. Oh, how long that interval seemed to him and how it made him suffer. “Since my baptism, he wrote during his preparation, I have been filled every day by the Lord with many sweets, many consolations and many heavenly favors. I have often swum in an abundance of spiritual delights.” But these graces, so slight, were not sufficient for the ardor of his desires; they only increased his tender impatience. “When the faithful go to Communion, there are the tears that overflow again; they are no longer tears of delight, but burning, bitter tears, tears of desolation caused by the sorrow of not being admitted, me too, to the Holy Table.”
On September 8, 1847, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, Hermann saw his wishes fulfilled and received the sacrament of the adorable Eucharist. What happened in his soul at the moment when he was so closely united with Jesus Christ? The witnesses of the august ceremony said that they noticed a supernatural expression on his face which struck them deeply. Hermann was asked about this in vain. From the moment that grace had opened his heart and mind to pious sentiments and serious reflection, he conceived a pronounced disgust for this world, of which he had been the idol and which he himself had madly adored, and he thought of nothing else but to hide himself in a retreat in order to live in the intimacy of the God of Love. The disorders of his youth had caused him to incur debts: “I spent gold more easily and more quickly than I had earned it… I no longer looked back or forward, and I lived from day to day without thinking of tomorrow.” He had to fulfill these obligations, and for that to continue to serve this world he hated. He still gave concerts and lessons, and during the year 1848 he paid off nearly 30,000 francs in debts. He confided to a friend, “On January 1 I had charged St. Joseph with paying my debts.” From the dawn of the year 1849, he no longer appeared in the world. Almost daily prostrated before the holy altar, at the foot of the tabernacle which contains the God Saviour, he adores Him and converses with Him. It was in these sweet talks that the thought of embracing the religious state, which had presented itself several times to his mind, fixed all his ideas, and after that, like the prophet Samuel, he repeated unceasingly to God, in a spirit of perfect submission to His divine will: Lord, what do You want me to do? Hermann soon entered the Carmelite Order and took the name of Augustine Marie of the Blessed Sacrament. Ordained a priest in 1851, a passionate lover of the Holy Eucharist, God rewarded his zeal with numerous and important conversions. A great number of Jews and Protestants, brought back to the fold through his mediation, abjured their errors before him.
He consecrated to the Queen of the Angels the fruits of his beautiful musical talent, wanting to have all the Christian mouths bless the mercy of the divine Mother who had miraculously delivered him from the fatal grip of the world. Nothing is more touching than the dedication of his hymns to Mary: “Morning star, You appeared to me in the dark night where I had gone astray! Salvation of the crippled, You strengthened my faltering steps! Refuge of sinners, You have opened to me a shelter in Your Immaculate Heart!”
Glory to Mary! Glory to this sweet and salutary devotion of the Month of May which has given to the Church of God a faithful son and a fiery apostle.