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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
When we talk to some people about the numerous conversions that take place in our neighbors’ countries or in unbelieving regions, they always have in their mouths a certain proverb with which they reject all the assurances that are given to them about the truth of the fact that is told to them. Now, today, in order to convince them better, we are going to tell them again the story of a miraculous conversion which took place, not on the other side of the Channel, not in China or in the country of Anam, but near, very near to us, so near that several of our readers have been the happy witnesses of it. So there will be no way this time to tell us those unflattering words: “A fine lie that comes from afar.”
Mr. N… had received in one of the best colleges of Paris a careful education. He fulfilled his religious duties, if not with great fervor, at least with regularity, until the age of twenty-two to twenty-three. At that time, his ideas underwent the most bizarre reversal; he abandoned all pious practice and armed himself with a cynicism that despaired of all those who had a sincere interest in him. To undermine one by one all the bases on which rests the august edifice of the Catholic Church, to raise all the sarcasms vomited by the Voltairian school against the sovereign pontiffs, the priests, the Holy Scripture, in a word against all that has right to the respect of the Christian, such was the usual slope, and the occupation of mind of this unhappy young man, who seemed to have taken it upon himself to push from sophism to sophism, from objections to objections the religious discussion, to its last limits. Mr. N. was not, however, a godless man in the full force of that term, so scourging to one who deserves to wear it. He shrank from atheism; deism suited him better, and several times he seriously considered becoming a Protestant. This pale sketch of Mr. N.’s dispositions gives only an imperfect idea of the fluctuations of his mind, which led him, alas! to the last paroxysms of doubt and error! Given over to the fatal addiction to strong liquors, he soon ruined a fairly robust constitution, and the physical sufferings from which he was afflicted only imprinted on his character a stamp of irritability which, combined with his frequent, energetic, and frightening denials of our most cherished beliefs, made it very painful for his sister, a pious person animated by the most lively faith, to care for him with the most constant devotion, but who had no direct influence on the patient. Seeing well that the tightest and most conclusive reasoning only redoubled the ravaging fire of her objections, she had recourse to prayer, and her zeal provided her with a thousand industries to obtain in favor of her brother the most numerous, the most fervent suffrages. Several times the associates of the Archconfraternities of Our Lady of the Sick and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary invoked for him the Health of the infirm, the sweet Refuge of poor sinners. Several times the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered in the crypt of Chartres to obtain the healing of his soul even more than that of his body, and many mortifications were practiced in the secret of the cloister to obtain his conversion! However, the patient’s strength was getting weaker by the day. A pious clergyman as well as a doctor, who was as skilled as he was a good Christian, visited him, talked with him, and in the presence of the mutability and strangeness of his opinions, they had finally lost all hope of bringing him back to healthy and upright ideas. For not only was Mr. N. returning to his favorite objections after having momentarily abandoned them, but also (perhaps, it is true, by a certain spirit of contradiction) he was talking again of embracing Protestantism.
One morning, when he woke up, he seemed dreamy. He kept silent, and when he broke his silence, it was to declare that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to him surrounded by glory, and that this sight had made a singular impression on him. Mr. N. told what he called his vision to the priest who came from time to time to talk with him. But he left it at that. Nevertheless, this pious memory often came back to his mind. A supreme struggle was then established in his soul. Furious to see his prey escape him, the spirit of evil blew to him again all his infernal repetitions. So the good curate, who had tried unsuccessfully with Mr. N. to make a last effort, left him, resolved to let grace work and not to return to the patient unless he asked for help from his ministry. The devil thought he had triumphed, but Mary had not yet said her last word to the patient’s heart. This victorious word made him give up his arms, for he spontaneously called the priest who had gone away from his bed of pain all discouraged, confessed with great feelings of faith, and received in his soul, purified by repentance, the God of love whose delight is to be with the children of men, with the poor exiles of the earth.
Mr. N. lived for a few more days after his conversion, which he never for a moment ceased to attribute to the powerful mediation of Mary. At his last hour, he invoked her with a faith, a love, a confidence that only the truly miraculous operation of Our Lady of Victory could have deposited in his soul.
Note. – A generous offering had been promised to Our Lady of Chartres by the pious sister of H. N… in case she would obtain the conversion of her brother. This sum was devoted to the restoration of the chapel of Saint Magdalene, in the church of Notre-Dame sous Terre.
(The Voice of Our Lady of Chartres, 1859)