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A story for every day...

Notre Dame du Laus

The month of Mary in the poor man’s cottage

One day, the parish priest of Saint-Maurice d’Angers saw a peasant from Le Genêt, his former parish, enter his house. He was a strong and vigorous man who was not yet thirty years old. His face announced kindness, honesty and piety.

“It’s you, Pierre, exclaimed the priest, happy to see him again. How are we doing at Le Genêt? Are the harvests promising well? Is your family in good health? But you look very serious, my boy?

– Ah! Father, said the peasant with a certain embarrassment, it’s because I’m doing a great enterprise. I am going to the Trappist monastery which is beyond Le Mans, on the way to Paris.

– You’re going to the Trappe!

– My God, yes. You used to tell us so often that we couldn’t do too much for the good Lord; in the end, I decided to leave everything for Him.

– But you were well needed by your mother. She is a poor widow, and the farm is cumbersome for you?

– That’s why I didn’t hurry, Father. It has been more than ten years since it has been pounding in my heart to become a monk. I was waiting for my little brother Jean to be conscripted. He drew a good number, and here he is free. I thought I could go away.

– Your good woman of a mother, whose support you were, how did you manage to get her to take this?

– Ah! Father, my heart is still bleeding… No, I thought that I would never get over it. She was suspicious of a purpose that I didn’t want to tell. In winter, by the fire, when we were there, she spinning, I thinking, her spindle often stopped. She looked at me, I opened my mouth, no way! My knees quivered, my lips trembled, my heart froze the rest of my body and the words failed in my mouth. I felt sorry for my mother. ‘Peter, she said to me, oh my son, if you don’t like something, tell me. Do you want to settle down in your household? We are not rich, but we have a good reputation. Your father lived and died like a saint, and every honest family in the country will esteem our alliance.’ The more my mother pressed me, the more I was afraid to confess to her that I was thinking of something else, and that I wanted to go away a monk. Finally, the other evening, my mother who had gathered us to open in family the month of the good Virgin, remained in prayer alone with me, the others left. It occurred to me that this was the moment, and my thought suddenly escaped me. ‘Mother, I said to her, if you allow it, I am going to the Trappist monastery, I am going to pray for you and do penance.’ Ah, my God! when you think you have to say things like that!

For a moment my mother was there, before my eyes, trembling, without speaking, and as if without breathing; then remaining on her knees and with her eyes turned towards heaven, peaceful: ‘Peter, she said, the good Lord is your first Father, religion your first mother; they come before me. Go ahead, since they call you in your heart. If I stopped you for a quarter of an hour when it was a question of the perfection of your soul, I would die of sorrow. You have loved me well and assisted me well. I bless you.’ She returned her eyes to the image of the good Virgin and began to pray again.

I couldn’t take it anymore, Father. I went out to breathe almost more easily. But it was the hour when the cattle were brought in, and here my oxen, which were walking their pace, came to me and began to look at me as if they had said to me: Our master, why do you go away? I fled to the fields, without being able to escape my sorrow. Even the trees that I had planted and pruned, and the soil that I had sown, wanted to stop me like my poor oxen in the land!

Holy Virgin! how our heart has roots here below! I threw myself on my knees, I prayed, I took my crucifix and I asked Him for help; for I was going to lack courage. There, looking at Our Lord on the cross, it came to me that I was ashamed to be so cowardly, and it was finished. I did not sleep at home. I did not want to see again what had shaken me; and in the morning, before daylight, I left. I passed by our parish as the first mass was said; that put all the calm back in my heart; and here I am, to say goodbye and thank you for the good sentiments you gave me in my youth.

– It is well, my dear child, said the priest; you obey the good Lord. But why did you prefer the Trappe de Mortagne, which is so far from your village, when you had the Trappe de Bellefontaine nearby?

– I have often thought that, Father; it would have been more convenient, as you say. But, you see, I have experienced that I am a coward in friendship. If, once under the hood, our people had come to me crying, would I have kept it up? I would have been in a position to throw away the robe, and at the very least to have my heart broken for a long time. Now, when one gives oneself to the service of the good Lord, I think that one must put oneself there joyfully and remain content. Wouldn’t it be better to start at the beginning with the hardest, in order to persevere more?

– Indeed, my friend, observed the priest, it is to perseverance that you must tend. You are young and strong, and in the austerities of the Trappist monastery, life will seem long.

– Ah! Father, for that it is sooner finished than one is used to believe; and one is not long in reaching the end. Everything tells us in this world that life is short. The other week, I was out fishing a pond. It was wide, deep, a dreadful body of water; well, you know the pond of Deux-Ormeaux. Well, when we removed the lock and it started to run, in no time all that water disappeared; and I said to myself: That’s how the life of this world runs and races to be swallowed up in the eternity of the good Lord, who looks at us motionless as I am there on the edge of this pond. And then, Father, whether we run or walk, we still come to our last hour. You said it well to us. And then, what can give more comfort to the soul than to have done for God all that one could do! That is what pushes me to penance. So, goodbye, Father, bless me; the water is flowing, life is going away, I am anxious to bring something to the good Lord.’”

The parish priest blessed Pierre, saw him off and began to pray; and when he had prayed, he wrote down what the peasant had said to remember and nourish his heart with the works which God has done in the souls He has chosen for Himself.

(Father Huguet)

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