Blessed Dina Belanger – Mystic & Stigmatic (1897-1929)
Mère Marie Ste-Cecile de Rome]
“THE LITTLE FLOWER OF CANADA”
By: Barb Finnegan
BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD
Blessed Dina Belanger was born in Quebec City, Canada, on April 30, 1897 (five months to the day before the death of St. Therese of Lisieux). She was the daughter of Octave Belanger, an auditor and accountant by profession, and his wife Seraphia Matte. She was baptized the same day in the Church of St-Roch in the Lower Town of Quebec, receiving the names Margaret-Mary Dina (the latter in honor of her paternal grandmother). She was an only child. A brother, Joseph-Simeon-Gustave, was born seventeen months after her, but lived only three months. Dina inherited from her family, in addition to their Norman French roots and deep Catholic Faith, a strong will and a love of order and precision (her father’s side) and a pious, reserved and unselfish character (her mother’s side).
Before she was born, her mother prayed earnestly each day at the Elevation of the Mass, that her unborn child, whether boy or girl, might be a holy religious, and she offered all her sufferings for the salvation of that soul. She lost no time in educating Dina once she was born. When Dina was six months old, her mother would take her tiny hand in hers and make with it the Sign of the Cross. And very soon the baby learned to do it when she was placed in her cradle for the night.
As she grew older she would say her prayers leaning against her father’s knee, her head bowed and her hands joined. She loved the ‘Angelus’ prayer, and whenever she heard the bell ring while playing outside she would run upstairs in time to say ‘Amen’, which was all the Latin she knew!
Madame Belanger took her to church at an early age, not only to Mass, but also to sermons, novenas, and meetings of the ‘Ladies of the Holy Family’. But as most four-year-olds can be in church, Dina got easily bored by the sermons. So one day she brought with her a tiny stoneware doll named ‘Valeda’ to church and began to play with it during the sermon.
‘Put that away’, her mother said….and she did. Five minutes later, the doll made its appearance again. This time her mother confiscated it and put it in her purse. Once home, Dina was reprimanded for her unseemly behavior. Before going to church again, her mother hid ‘Valeda’ in the house so Dina couldn’t find it. Not hidden enough! Dina searched while out of her mother’s sight, found it, stuck it in her pocket, and after her mother was ready to leave the house, walked with her to church. Then, at the sermon, ‘voila!’, there was ‘Valeda’ again! This time, her mother gave her a good ‘talkin’ to’ when they got home: “We don’t bring playthings to church-you’ll have plenty of time to play when you come home’. This time the reproof had effect, and Dina was ‘cured’ of bringing toys to church!
Dina was a mischievous child, and she also had quite a temper. Once when she was four, she refused to obey her mother. The second time, she flew into a passion and began a temper tantrum, kicking, screaming and jumping up and down. Her father, seeing this, rose from the table, took her by the hand, and said very calmly,
“Come on, let me help you to scream and dance-that way we can get this done sooner.” And he did the exact same thing that Dina did! Mortified by her father’s imitation of the tantrum, Dina stopped, having no inclination to continue. The lesson took hold, and there were no more temper tantrums from Dina.
Both parents spent time with her. When her father came in from work in the evening, he would take Dina in his arms, kiss and fondle her. He spent hours playing with her and answering her numerous ‘Whys?’. His greatest joy was to spring little surprises on her: a walk, a trip, some small present.
Her mother, being very charitable, would take Dina with her on her errands of mercy to the poor. Both parents rendered all sorts of services to the poor and needy, whether they were relatives or complete strangers. They were discreet in their charity; often they would say, ‘Do not put down my name’, or, ‘This is for you, but do not say anything about it’.
The Belanger couple encouraged Dina to share with other children. They often made presents of sweets, fruit and other treats. They accustomed Dina to share with other what she enjoyed, and to lend her toys willingly. Dina took great care of her belongings, and put everything back in its place once playtime was over. After some fifteen year or more, she was able to give away, in perfect condition, her fragile playthings.
Her parents taught her her catechism, and she was able to read before going to school at age six. There were a number of relatives who were in religious Orders, and often Dina would go with her mother to visit them. She says in her ‘Autobiography’:
‘There I observed everything, spoke little, but kept things in my mind. I often pretended not to understand what was being said, particularly when the remark concerned me. ‘Perhaps she will be a nun too’. Even though the question was put to me directly, I never vouchsafed to give the information that I wished to give for the Heart of Jesus, for I heard His call from my tender youth.’
When she made her First Confession, her mother prepared her carefully, then told her to go to whichever priest in the parish she felt most at ease with, while stressing at the same time, ‘we must see God and not the priest.’
Dina gave the devil a peculiar nickname, a word she made up herself, showing her contempt for him: ‘LE CAPIDULE’. [probably a French-Canadian ‘slang word’]
She had a dream when she was five: she saw the Child Jesus at the foot of her bed. He stretched out His arms to her and asked with a smile, ‘What would you like?’ She exclaimed, ‘Oh! Will you give me Your picture?’ It was close to Christmas; and when she returned from Midnight Mass, she found near her bed a Nativity set made of colored cardboard. On the bed of straw was the Infant Jesus, looking up beseechingly and stretching out His arms, just as in her dream! On seeing this, Dina cried out, ‘I knew He would send me His picture!’
EDUCATION – QUEBEC CITY (1907-1913)
At the age of six, Dina entered the convent school of St-Roch , in the ‘Lower Town’ of Quebec City. This school was run by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame, founded by St. Marguerite Bourgeoys of Montreal.
One day, before the start of school, Madame Belanger found Dina telling off the calendar days with her finger. ‘What are you doing?’ her mother asked. Dina replied, ‘I want to know how many days remain before I go to the convent.’ ‘Why?’ persisted her mother, ‘Are you anxious to begin?” ‘Oh no,’ said Dina, ‘I’m afraid of being lonely.’ ‘All the better,’ retorted Madame Belanger, ‘you will find school quite to your liking.’
Her mother’s ‘prophecy’ was fulfilled to the letter, as Dina states in her ‘Autobiography’; she took a deep interest in school and took to her studies with a passion.
She was very punctual in her school attendance-she never made illness, fatigue, family outings, or journeys out of town excuses for missing-or ‘skipping’-school. She had a few friends among her classmates. Usually it was her mother who extended invitations to the Belanger home, because Dina by nature was reserved and fond of solitude. She was taught to be discreet in personal matters both at home and at school-she was never allowed to talk in class or elsewhere of what took place at home, and never to mention anything but praiseworthy actions of her schoolmates, and always with strict regard for the truth.
Of a timid and sensitive disposition, the least thing caused Dina to burst into tears. She was ambitious-in the good sense-and aimed at being the head of the class. If she lost it, she redoubled her efforts. It was natural for her to obey her teachers, even in insignificant matters. She never took advantage of exceptions; for example, she had naturally curly hair, which allowed her to tie it back with a ribbon. But she conformed to the rules and braided her hair instead.
One day her teacher asked Dina if she knew her patron saint. ‘No’, Dina said, ‘do I have one?’ ‘I think so,’ Sister answered, ‘I’m going to look it up.‘ The only one who had that name was the daughter of the Biblical patriarch Jacob, in the Old Testament Book of Genesis. There was no ‘Saint Dina’ on the calendar of the Church, either. So Dina said to herself, ‘Very well! Then I shall be a saint, and be a patroness to those who will, in the future, be called by my name.’ She calls this her ‘first ideal.’
When she was seven, she followed the retreat given to the students. She says, ‘Our Blessed Lord drew me to Himself in a sensible manner. On the third day, I felt an overpowering love for Jesus. I was so eager to see Him and possess Him that I besought Him to admit me that very night, to His Paradise. This desire haunted me persistently. During the night, I was surprised to discover that my request had not been heeded.’
Our Lord taught Dina to accept gladly the little annoyances and discomforts of life as well the ‘klutzy’ accidents [my word] that can happen. On Holy Thursday, it was the custom to visit the Altars of Repose, in imitation of visiting the seven churches in Rome. If the weather was nice-this was done in the daytime before the 1950s-Easter hats and dresses made their appearance among the ladies and girls. On this particular Holy Thursday in 1920s Quebec, the melting snow made the streets very muddy and slippery (it was the days before asphalt paving), and Dina was wearing a pretty new outfit. Suddenly, she slipped and fell into a puddle of slush! She was a sorry sight in her wet, dirty, and dripping clothes! Again, did she act the ‘drama queen’? No, she didn’t-she was glad, she said, ‘because it was God’s Will. At the foot of the stairs leading to the house, I knelt down and thanked God, then bending over, kissed the ground.’
At school, each student was given her weekly marks for conduct and application in studies. Since Dina was six, she always received perfect reports. But one day she got only ‘good’, instead of the usual ‘very good’ because she ‘lingered unduly in taking my rank’. She begged her teacher to be allowed to ‘buy back’ her good mark, but in vain. The mark stayed on the report card, and still more in Dina’s memory. During the rest of her schooldays no other ‘bad mark’ ever appeared on her report cards.
When she was twelve, she left St-Roch convent school and continued her studies at Notre-Dame de Jacques-Cartier convent, a school recently opened in her parish and also conducted by the Congregation of Notre-Dame de Montreal. It was closer to her house than St-Roch. She continued to have success in her studies, both in the classroom and at the piano. She referred all her successes to God.
At age thirteen, she was admitted to the Sodality of Our Lady at Jacques-Cartier, and took as her personal motto ‘DEATH RATHER THAN DEFILEMENT’. This was her ‘ideal’ until she entered the Novitiate at Sillery Convent. At about the same time, she consecrated herself to Our Lady by means of the ‘True Devotion’ of St. Louis-Marie de Montfort (at this time only a ‘Blessed’). This consecration brought her great joy and peace.
When she was fourteen, at the end of her second year at Jacques-Cartier school, she asked her parents to let her go to boarding school. It would mean separation, but they didn’t hesitate to yield to her request, knowing that it would be good for her character development. The school was Bellevue Convent, again another school under the direction of the Congregation of Notre-Dame.
During the summer, her desire for religious life increased. She had a serious conversation with Father Philemon Cloutier, her spiritual director, on August 15, 1911. She felt a deep loathing for the world, and kept repeating, ‘Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity.’ But she was still very young, and he decided it would be better for her to remain in the world longer with her parents.
She entered Bellevue convent in the fall of 1911. And she became VERY homesick! The first Sunday after her arrival, she cried all day! During Mass, she sobbed and choked, and did the same when she saw her parents in the guest parlor that afternoon. Monsieur Belanger, touched by her tears, offered to take her home. ‘No thank you,’ she said, ‘I shall get used to it’. She continues, ‘For fourteen consecutive nights, and then for several weeks, I gave vent to my grief by fits of uncontrollable weeping. Then, finally, my will grew stronger and I was comforted.’
Her fellow students were kind to her but she found it trying to live with so many people. She remarked to her mother once, ‘Mamma, it is not easy to live with other people, is it?’ She was used to being alone in her own room. But being in boarding school drew her out of her solitude. She strove to be friendly with her classmates.
On the First Friday of October, 1911, as Dina went with the other girls to visit the Blessed Sacrament, she was prompted to make a private consecration of her virginity to Our Lord, ‘wholly and for all time, and I added,’ she says, ‘insofar as this promise was pleasing to Him.’
She didn’t like holidays or any prolonged recreation. She had to make at times violent efforts to take part in noisy games, to the extent of feeling great physical weakness.
Her teachers testified in later years about her practicing self-denial in order to live in a group. She was given projects which forced her to take part in recreations, in entertaining activities. On the other hand, she great timidity and reserve, but was-according to one teacher-pleasant, an exceptionable student, and kind towards her companions. And one of her classmates called her ‘the divine Dina’.
As at St-Roch and Jacques-Cartier, Dina excelled in her studies at Bellevue. Yet she had to appear in public at concerts and competitions, with parents and friends present in the audience. The praises she received at these events cost her tremendously. She says, ‘Jesus endowed me with these sentiments of reluctance for honors to keep me humble and lowly and to develop my will power, while He multiplied occasions for me to do violence to myself and conquer my natural shyness.’
She didn’t read much for recreation during her time at Bellevue; her free moments were usually spent in study. She read only two books: a library book of a ‘Biblical romance (the ‘only novel’ she ever read), and through the generosity of a classmate, the ‘Story of a Soul’, the Autobiography of [then Blessed] Therese of Lisieux. She loved reading the latter!
At age eight, she began taking piano lessons from a private teacher, who regularly came to the Belanger home for four years. She plunged into this activity ‘with great zest, though always in moderation, on account of my health.’
FIRST COMMUNION & CONFIRMATION
In her time, children didn’t receive their First Communion before ten years old-this was around the time of the decree ‘Quo Primum’ of Pope St. Pius X, which advocated frequent Communion and lowering the age for children to receive First Communion at the ‘age of reason’ (usually seven years old). Dina was already nine, tall for her age (a ‘growth spurt’, perhaps?), and was very well versed in her Catechism to receive at an earlier age. Her mother went with her to the parish rectory and begged the pastor to be allowed to receive before her tenth birthday. The priest refused permission; saying it was contrary to established order. Later on, in her testimony before her daughter’s beatification tribunal, Madame Belanger stated that Dina was deeply hurt by the refusal. She was disappointed, but decided to prepare for it more ardently.
She received her First Communion the next year, on May 2, 1907, two days after her tenth birthday. During her retreat to prepare for it, she heard it that ‘a fervent First Communion was a sure passport to Heaven, and a lukewarm one a ticket to Hell’. Since she wanted to, in her words, ‘take the train to Paradise’, she prepared for her confession with the utmost care. She accused herself of many faults, but she was certain she had not lost her Baptismal innocence. She expressed an intense gratitude to Our Lord and Our Lady for this favor. The sentiments she expressed on that day are strikingly similar to those of St. Therese of Lisieux on her First Communion day.
The same day as her First Communion, Dina was Confirmed (a custom in her day, perhaps), and was invested in the scapulars. She spent happy hours celebrating the day with her parents and other family members in her home later that day. A humorous incident happened to Dina later in the evening that made her realize the emptiness of earthly things: she had changed from wearing the simple white dress she had on for the First Communion Mass to a more elaborate one of white silk and lace. By some ‘klutzy’-or ‘awkward’ as she calls it-movement, she tore the fancy dress! Yet she had no feelings of regret for doing it….no ‘drama queen’ here! Instead, she was glad to slip away to her room, away from the noise of conversation, to dwell on WHOM she received: Our Lord Himself!
In the days after her First Communion, Dina grew more recollected at prayer, not moving unnecessarily, or taking her eyes from her prayerbook. She had a very tender conscience. At. this period, she fell prey to the trial of scruples-again, very similar to St. Therese. But, unlike St. Therese, she had a wise and holy priest, Father Philemon Cloutier, to help and direct her in this trial. She found peace of mind and soul in obedience to his counsels.
DINA HEARS THE VOICE OF JESUS FOR THE FIRST TIME
On March 25, 1908, which was Holy Thursday that year, Dina heard the ‘voice’ of Jesus for the first time. She says, ‘During my act of thanksgiving after Communion, Our Lord spoke to my soul by means of a new light. This was the first time I heard His voice so well; interiorly, of course, a soft melodious voice which overwhelmed me with happiness.’
It was during her two years at Bellevue that she paid her first visit to the Convent of the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Sillery. While she and her classmates were being shown through the boarding school, a group of postulants passed by in the corridor, edifying Dina by their happy, yet recollected demeanor. She enjoyed her visit, and the friendliness of the nuns and the students. Little did she know that in just a few years’ time she would be a member of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary!
She still thought of entering the Congregation of Notre-Dame. In May 1913, she and the other members of the graduating class-seven in all-went with one of their teachers to the Mother House of the Congregation of Notre-Dame in Montreal. They attended a Clothing and Profession Ceremony. The trip gave the girls an opportunity to study their future vocation after having had a retreat for that same purpose. They were welcomed cordially by the Sisters, but the ceremony left Dina cold and unresponsive. She says, ‘My pious dispositions seem to have fled, but I paid no need to this and my decision to enter this Community in the near future was confirmed.’
Her boarding school days were now over. Some of her teachers suggested she return the next year in view of following more advanced studies at their College in Montreal. Her parents decided against it; they missed Dina very much during her two years away, and they weren’t very keen on having her go to a faraway city like Montreal (remember, this was the early part of the 20th century). And at the same time, they thought that the ‘ordinary’ course of studies was sufficient for Dina to follow whatever walk of life she might choose.
Dina was grateful for the experience at Bellevue-for the work and sacrifices of her teachers she was particularly thankful.
LIFE BEFORE HEADING TO NEW YORK CITY (1913-1916)
Dina spent three years at home with her parents after graduating from Bellevue Convent. She was obliged to have some social contacts outside of home-she says she found them ‘a burden’. Her mother did allow her some freedom of movement, however; she trusted her daughter. But Our Lord saw that her desires were centered on Him alone-He knew her heart.
She drew up a rule of life for herself: morning and evening prayers, daily Mass and Communion, Rosary; at least ten minutes of meditation in the morning, and weekly confession. She also included her duties towards her neighbor and herself. In addition, she examined her conscience each night.
She wanted to add a day’s retreat every month, and the recitation of the ‘Little Office of the Blessed Virgin’ at least once a week. But she stopped short of doing these things because she didn’t want to appear singular; it was better that she looked like any other good and pious young girl of her day. She was naturally reserved, and disclosed what God was doing in her soul to no one but her spiritual director, Father Philemon Cloutier; but even to him she was unable to confide everything to him. She says, ‘I see now that Jesus willed it thus. He, my Master, was teaching me, enlightening me, shaping and moulding me according to His Will.’
Our Lord did continue to enlighten her, usually after Holy Communion, at her visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or at meditation. Yet there were times when dryness and distractions were her lot. When that happened, she says, she ‘deplored my misery at the feet of my Good Master and offered Him my abjection.’
She read very little-her director kept urging her, ‘read, read’-but she felt she couldn’t find in books the spiritual food she longed for. Our Lord supplied it for her!
Seven months after leaving boarding school, Dina asked her parents, her spiritual director, and her pastor for permission to enter the Notre-Dame novitiate. She was sixteen years old. The two priests thought it would be wiser to put this off until a later date. Her father testified after Dina’s death: ‘This refusal seemed to hurt her, that was evident.’ Her mother went further: ‘She cried. But she submitted herself, especially after she heard her pastor’s advice.’ The pastor, Msgr. Omer Cloutier, said that she should not enter before she was twenty-three or twenty-four. She remained in peace in spite of this decision.
And she remained in the world for the time being. She was ‘in the world, but not of the world’. It was a torment for her to dress in fine clothes and wear ‘superfluous’ ( as she called it) jewelry-but she wore these things to please her parents. Thoughts of vanity were far from her mind. She says, ‘I often thought how sad it was that, in the world, one felt obliged to waste such precious time embellishing this miserable body, so soon to become the prey of the tomb. How sad it was to spend so much money when so many poor people were cold and hungry, when religious institutions, missions, lacked financial resources, and because of that, would too often see their efforts being paralyzed.’
Social gatherings? She continues, ‘I was grateful to be invited; I was sensitive to the friendship or the courtesy of the people I knew. But I would refuse on the slightest pretext. If I accepted, I experienced a certain distaste.’
She does admit, though, that she enjoyed many happy times in smaller, more intimate hours with friends and relatives.
So she was not what one would call ‘worldly’. Thanks to her mother’s careful training, Dina presented herself as a perfect young lady ‘in the world’, even if her heart belonged to ‘God alone’. And so she would refuse the offer of a human love, no matter how pure and beautiful it might be.
During this time, Dina became involved in her parish. She joined the ‘Tabernacle Society’, where she, her mother, and other ladies would help make or embroider Church vestments. The meetings would begin with a short spiritual reading which Dina would find helpful.
She also became a member of the ‘Apostleship of Prayer’, which spread devotion to the Sacred Heart. She helped to distribute the monthly prayer leaflets. Her mother was also a member. In addition, she continued to help her mother in visiting the sick and the poor, something that was done since her early childhood.
When the First World War began in 1914, the seventeen-year-old Dina offered herself to Our Lord ‘in a spirit of reparation and love in order to give Him some consolation and save souls.’ She was especially distressed ‘at the moral evil threatening the world.’ And a little later, she offered herself as a ‘victim of Divine love.’
Her piano studies continued. She received a ‘Superior Class’ certificate, a ‘Laureate’, and lastly a ‘Teacher’s Diploma’. She took lessons from a Quebec musician, Monsieur Arthur Bernier, who was organist at her parish, Notre-Dame de Jacques-Cartier, from 1914 to 1917. M. Bernier was also a friend of the pastor, Monsignor Omer Cloutier, a humanist and a friend of the arts, particularly of music. The priest greatly appreciated Dina’s musical talents.
She says, ‘Toward the end of the year 1915, the matter of having me study piano in a conservatory abroad began to be serious. New York was the designated city, and the house of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, ‘Our Lady of Peace’, the ideal place to live.’ Her parents were at first concerned, especially her mother. (Dina tried to reassure her, saying, ‘Oh, Mamma, I could have flirted here, going to and fro on messages, nothing would have been easier.’) They examined the advantages and the pitfalls. Msgr. Cloutier strongly advised them in favor of the plan. She wouldn’t be going alone-she would have two other girls from Quebec as companions, and she would be staying in a residence run by nuns. So her parents consented, and gave her the present of two years’ study (eight months each year) in New York.
What was her opinion of herself as a musician? She had a certain measure of success; but the applause she received only tended to convince her of her incapacity. She did admit that God had endowed her with a certain talent, ‘but I aimed at so sublime, so unattainable an ideal that I know I did not merit so much praise. I accepted it, as a proof of the indulgent good nature of my friends. I felt myself utterly deviod of talent. Lack of sureness, a defective memory, a nervous touch were some of the defects I clearly perceived. Every false note I struck went straight to my heart and I would exclaim: ‘That is an example of what I can do!’ My self-centered soul, hiding its ardent emotions, let my icy fingers race over the keyboard without awakening harmonies, vibrant chords. I had not the knack of accompaniment, still less the living breath of improvisation.’ She often put the question to Our Lord, ‘Why so much study?‘ She had so little talent, she though. She frequently invoked the help of St. Cecilia, the patroness of music and musicians!
Once she was given the joy of, as she calls it, ‘a slight failure’. [an understatement if ever there was one!] In a crowded hall, she closed a literary and musical program by playing the future national anthem ‘O Canada’ (written by fellow Quebecois Calixa Lavallee). Instead of repeating the last line (‘O Canada, we stand on guard for thee’), she only played it once! [one can only imagine the silence that fell in the hall!] EVERYONE NOTICED IT! She says, ‘I was very grateful to God for that small humiliation. It was something better to offer Him then the beautiful bouquets with which I had been presented.’
NEW YORK CITY (1916-1918)
Dina left Quebec City in October 1916 with her father and her two companions. He wanted to know where she was staying and how far she would have to travel to the Conservatory. The two Quebecois girls who accompanied them, Bernadette Letourneau and Aline Marquis, were also going to study at the same school as Dina. Dina knew Bernadette more than she did Aline. The Belanger and Letourneau families were from the same parish in Quebec (Notre-Dame de Jacques-Cartier) and knew each other from participation in parish activities. The two girls also studied together for a short time. Aline met Dina in musical circles.
‘Our Lady of Peace’, run by the Religious of Jesus and Mary, was founded in 1902 on West 14th Street in New York to provide a safe place for girls and women coming to the big city to study or work. It was comfortable, up-to-date and attractive. Nine stories high (therefore not a ‘skyscraper’), it had a roof garden with a view of New York harbor. There was a chapel on the ground floor, and the Sisters took care of the residents’ needs and served their meals in the dining room. There was a social life for those who cared for it, and other religious services outside of daily Mass.
When the girls arrived, it was found that there were only two rooms avaiable-a single room and a double room. Dina always slept alone, except for her two years at boarding school, and was fond of solitude. Her father suggested that Dina offer Aline the single room, and she and Bernadette would take the double room. Later on, when other rooms were free, they could each have a single room.
But it was providential that Dina and Bernadette roomed together. They became close friends-almost like siblings. They shared the bond of being alone together in a foreign country, as well as all the joys, the loneliness of being away from home and family in Quebec….as well as their frequent fits of laughter! And in the end, both entered on the same day the Congregation of Jesus and Mary in Sillery, and made their First Profession side by side! Bernadette outlived Dina by many years, dying in 1977 at the age of 77 years. She is buried in the Community cemetery at Sillery Convent. Aline also became a nun, entering the Congregation of Notre-Dame in Montreal.
When her father left New York, felt the pains of homesickness. To halt those feelings, she immediately got down to work at her studies at the Conservatory! There she had speak in English, study in English, and understand in English! (one of her professors said to her at her first lesson, ‘I did speak French a long time ago, but I have forgotten it’) She says, ‘It was comical sometimes, particularly in the first few days. Happily, pianos sound the same in all lands although the names of the notes follow linguistic caprices.’ She learned English as a second language while in school in Quebec, but among her parents and friends she always spoke French.
She loved her teachers-one of them was Walter Damrosch, a well-known musician and composer of the day. He and the other members of the Conservatory faculty took great interest in all their students.
Dina wrote 280 cards and letters to her parents during her two years in New York. They were filled with affection, vitality, enthusiasm, and cheerfulness. She would tell of experiences such ‘New York’ things as riding the subway, and going shopping at Macy’s-she was fascinated by the escalators she saw there!
She made a reference to World War I, then raging at the time, in something of a tongue-in-cheek way: ‘Good morning, dear parents. You may sleep in peace, knowing that if the Germans come here I shall not wait to meet them. As the United States and Canada are allies, communications remain open. As we [her two companions and herself] are young girls it will not be supposed that we are deserting the country to avoid having to join the army. I am not at all worried.’
She and her two companions would play innocent tricks on each other and laugh uproariously in the process. For example: one evening Bernadette heard loud peals of laughter coming from Aline’s room. She ran to see what happening, and found Dina and Aline helpless with laughter. Dina had seated herself on Aline’s bed with an open umbrella over her head, waiting for Aline’s arrival. When Aline came in and turned on the light, she let out a shriek of terror! And of course, all three laughed till the tears came!
Dina told her parents in one of her letters from New York, ‘How we laugh! If the Americans form their opinion of French-Canadians in general from the specimens they have at 14th Street (the address of ‘Our Lady of Peace’), they will have to grant to that race the virtue of gaiety cultivated to the superlative degree.’
There were opportunities for leisure time for Dina and her companions outside of the Conservatory; but she was extremely prudent with regards to the concerts and other cultural events that were available. She saw performances at Carnegie Hall by famous artists such as the Polish piano virtuoso Ignace-Jan Paderewski and the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. She went to the movies once or twice, according to Bernadette Letourneau’s later testimony. They went to a French play once. And Dina’s reaction on coming out of the theater after seeing the play? ‘I am so happy to be out of there!’Anytime she went out-to concerts, movies or plays-if she had any doubts as to the moral content, she always sought advice from well-informed people before attending, usually from priests.
Dina kept to the same prayer schedule that she had at home, only now she indulged in longer meditations. She appreciated the fact that she was staying in a convent, with a chapel where Mass was said daily and other liturgical ceremonies took place. Yet she also went to Mass in at least two New York churches according to her letters: the Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier, and an unnamed ‘Church of the Assumptionists’. In the chapel of ‘Our Lady of Peace’, she spent many an evening, close to Our Lord in the Tabernacle.
During her two years in New York, she went home to Quebec for the Christmas holidays. The joy of reuniting with her parents equalled their sorrow when she left. Once, in the spring, they came to visit her in New York. And in her second year, her father came alone and unannounced, to spring a surprise on her. Dina was probably referring to this latter visit when she wrote to her mother, ‘At seven-thirty I had an interview with Mr. Belanger. Do you happen to know that gentleman?’
The temper that she had displayed as a four-year-old was not dead yet. One day, the Sister in charge of ‘Our Lady of Peace’ made a curt remark about the ‘dry and nervous way’ Dina played the piano in the ‘social room’. The nun also said that it ‘annoyed those around her’. Taken by surprise at this, Dina arose from the piano bench and went straight to her room. Bernadette, seeing her as she burst in, noticed how pale her friend looked and asked what was wrong. Half an hour later, Dina was crying. She says, ‘Why? Because my nature would fain to give vent to anger and my will refused the slightest complaint. My judgment admitted that the person was right, the remark was fair. My pride was wounded and it cost me a mighty struggle to keep them in abeyance. Grace triumphed, however, and peace settled down in the assurance that I had not given my dear Master [Our Lord] any pain.’
Dina passed all her courses at the Conservatory. Bernadette did, too-‘a graduate pianist as well as organist’, as Dina wrote in a letter to her parents. It’s presumed that Aline passed hers as well. They left ‘Our Lady of Peace’ filled with gratitude for the kind hospitality of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary. One of the nuns gave her a medal of the Sacred Heart, with the injunction to wear it always. Dina took the simple request as a literal command and put it around her neck. She wore it till her own Profession as a Religious of Jesus and Mary. But at the time of her departure from New York, she had not the remotest thought of entering the Congregation of Jesus and Mary.
As a graduation gift, her father made her a present of a piano: a ‘Knabe Baby Grand’. It was picked out in a piano store in New York while Dina was still in the city. The piano arrived in her home in Quebec on July 2, 1918. She was in the countryside at the time it was delivered. She came home the following day, eager to try out the new instrument. ‘I had hardly entered the house,’ she says, ‘I was alone, when I was inspired to restrain this natural urge. I knelt down and prayed with fervor, asking the blessing of God and His Blessed Mother on this piano….the time it took to whisper these prayers allowed me to feel the sting of mortification dart through my whole being. Then I became, as it were, insensible, and I felt I could give myself the satisfaction of trying my new instrument, for my joy had been sanctified and blessed.’
This piano is now in the ‘rebuilt’ Convent of Jesus and Mary in Sillery.
LIFE IN THE WORLD BEFORE ENTERING RELIGIOUS LIFE (1918-1921)
In June 1918 Dina finished her two years’ course at the Conservatory and returned to Quebec. These years were spent with her parents, living the ordinary life of a young Catholic girl in the world. That was what ‘the world’ saw.
She experienced the ‘dark night of the soul’, where she entered spiritual aridity and dryness. This started while she was still in New York. Spiritual exercises became occasions for distractions and struggle. But she was still faithful in doing, and even increasing them. She gave twenty, then thirty minutes for daily meditation-she had no permission to extend it any longer. There was ten minutes of spiritual reading,-often from ‘The Imitation of Christ’ (again, another ‘connection’ with St. Therese of Lisieux). Daily Rosary or the ‘Little Office of the Blessed Virgin’, or at least ‘part’ of the latter. She made frequent use of short ejaculatory prayers. She made the Stations of the Cross, and a daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament. To get all of these things in during the day, she curtailed her hours of sleep.
At times, the ‘voice’ of Our Lord, which she had ‘heard’ since she was eleven, made itself heard within her soul. He brought before her, through the ‘eyes’ of her imagination, images that were new to her. She was always afraid that these came from the devil and not from God. ‘Yet,’ she says, ‘I was fully convinced that the teachings were those of my Master; whatever treats of obedience, humility and self-denial can come from no other source.’ She noticed that Jesus spoke to her soul only when she was perfectly calm. If she was not, He would soothe her and inspire her with sentiments of humility and contrition for her faults; then she was able to understand His mysterious language.
One day, she asked Him not to let her be deceived by the devil. She says, ‘He explained how I could always recognize the difference between His divine voice and that of the tempter who so loves to play the role of imitator and deceiver. The Savior makes Himself heard only in hours of deep recollection, peace and silence. His voice is soft, so soft that in the soul all must be hushed; it is a melodious voice; while that of the devil is noisy, abrupt and discordant and his words are uttered in the midst of agitation and tumult.’ She uses a French-sounding word, ‘brusquerie’ !
In addition, Jesus gave her for guide and light the ‘Host’ and the ‘Star’–the ‘Host’ was Himself, and the ‘Star’ His Own Blessed Mother. he showed her a path bordered with thorns, which He wanted her to walk in, after He first walked in it. She says, ‘At the outset, the trials were not numerous [symbolized by the thorns]; but as I advanced they increased in numbers, in order to be faithful, I was not to allow myself to be dismayed by any suffering. The path was narrow and grew narrower as it became more and more infested with thorns. The latter were to become so thick and tall as to nearly choke up the route. I had to push them aside as I advanced. What matter the scratches when one’s destination is Heaven!’
The Host and the Star, representing Jesus and Mary, remained as a beacon constantly over her path. At the end of the road, at the summit of a mountain, there was a gate, the gate of Heaven, In a few short years Jesus and Mary would open this gate to Dina, and fill her soul with delight!
All this took place in her imagination. but the ‘picture’ was clear and distinct. She saw them more clearly than she would have with the eyes of the body. When she wrote this in her ‘Autobiography’, she no longer felt the ‘thorns’ of trial, for ‘love has blunted them and destroyed them.’
For clarification’s sake, Dina explained the expressions she used to describe her mystical experiences (‘I saw’, ‘Jesus spoke to me’ , etc.)–‘They signify that I saw in my imagination; Jesus spoke to me with that interior voice that every soul hears in moments of profound recollection when favored with divine consolations.’
Around this time Our Lord disclosed to Dina that He had a ‘mission’ to entrust to her. She says, ‘He exhorted me to pray fervently and pointed out the necessity of serious preparation, but did not reveal what this task would consist. I understood nonetheless that the salvation of a great number [of souls] would depend on my generosity and fidelity.’ He also taught her (again by using an image) the great value of grace, and how each grace received is like a link in a chain–unfaithfulness to grace snaps a link and breaks the chain.
Dina felt a tremendous responsibility-by her own fault she could compromise her ‘mission’! She was conscious of her nothingness (a trait common with many mystics). She relied on His love and His goodness. Our Lord said to her, ‘I wish to make use of you because you are nothing; I wish to prove My power by your weakness.’
Our Lord instilled into Dina a great desire for contempt and humiliation. She made this prayer every morning: ‘My God, grant me the grace of being scorned and humiliated as much as You desire me to be, and may all who despise and humiliate me be in no way blameworthy. If You desire that I should taste no more joys on earth, I am willing to forego them.’ When she made this offering, Dina thought she was renouncing every earthly joy; but as soon as her soul desired nothing ‘but sacrifice’, she was filled with happiness. She says, ‘Such is the secret of Divine love.’
It was usually in church and on Friday that Our Lord enlightened Dina; especially during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (like St Gemma Galgani) , but there were other times too. One First Friday, as she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, she seemed to see a great multitude of souls rushing to their eternal damnation. She was made to see that she should console Our Lord in His great grief, and pray for the conversion of their poor souls (like Sister Josefa Menendez).
Her thirst for martyrdom increased, and with it an intense thirst for self-denial. Under obedience, Dina relates some of these mortifications: never showing preference for any kind of food, taking what she liked least; turning her eyes away when passing by a confectionary shop (VERY prevalent in French-speaking Canada!); not drinking when thirsty; sleeping on a hard pillow; not crossing her feet at the ankles; accepting candy when offered but not touching it when alone. Are these childish? On the surface, maybe-but the scoffers and skeptics out there try for a single day what is most perfect in everyday circumstances, and how much strength of will it requires to endure what some spiritual writers call ‘a martyrdom of pinpricks’!
While all this ‘interior’ life was going on, Dina became a Third Order Dominican. After a year of probation, she made her profession, and took the name of St. Catherine of Siena. This name was granted her only after she said that her birthday was on the Feastday of St. Catherine (April 30 on the ‘Traditional’ Roman Calendar-now April 29 on the Modern Roman Calendar).
She often invoked the help of St. Joan of Arc (then newly canonized when Dina wrote her ‘Autobiography’). St. Joan was very popular in the Quebec of her day, and she asked for the help of the ‘Maid of Orleans’ to be faithful to her ‘mission’.
Dina continued her courses in harmony, through a correspondence course with the New York Conservatory. She still did ‘regular’ practicing on the piano, this time without lessons. It was here that she got the idea of taking Jesus as her Professor. She says, ‘I carefully prepared my pieces for a certain day. It seemed to me that at the appointed hour He was there, ready to give me my lesson. At other times, I felt His presence with me, too, but not exactly in the same manner. Before playing in public, I always invoked Jesus, Our Lady, the Angels and the Saints to listen to my pieces. I paid more attention at such times, if possible, than when before a visible audience. After playing each piece, I listened interiorly and received the criticism and judgment of my divine Teacher. When I was practicing, I pretended that I was in the presence of the Angels and thus I raised the worldly them of my pieces to a higher plane.’
She gave many recitals at this time. Before each one, Jesus would ask of Dina the sacrifice of her success and inspired with a real sense of failure. She submitted to His wishes and begged of Him the grace of not simply making a ‘little’ mistake that would pass unnoticed by everyone, but the humiliation of complete failure!
Yet she wondered-and indeed she asked this question to Our Lord-‘What can be the object of my musical studies?’ He answered, ‘Your music will protect your vocation, but you will do good particularly by your writings.’ She was surprised at this! Jesus continued, ‘Yes, in the convent, you will devote yourself to literary work.’ She was mystified by this; but it was fulfilled in the writing and publication of her ‘Autobiography’.
Her desire for religious life grew by the summer of 1920. She wanted to enter the Novitiate after boarding school in 1913, but her parents and her spiritual director Father Philemon Cloutier asked her to wait. Now she was twenty-four, and it was time to make up her mind. She no longer felt attracted to the Congregation of Notre-Dame de Montreal. Personally, she was attracted to the contemplative life. In August 1929, she spent a week with the Nursing Sisters at the Hotel-Dieu Hospital, where she attended a Clothing ceremony. She loved it-the grille of the enclosure appealed to her; but on the other hand, her studies were proof that God wished her to enter a teaching Order. Her choices narrowed down to three: the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, the Ursulines, and the Society of the Sacred Heart. She preferred the Ursulines for the cloister, which they still had at that time. She went to the Monastery in Upper Quebec City to seek information, where she was kindly received. Still she hesitated. She sought her answer from Our Lord in prayer, to know His Will. Then He said to her, ‘I want you in the Congregation of Jesus and Mary.’ [or ‘Jesus-Marie’, as it’s familiarly known in French]. She replied, ‘Whatever You like, my Good Master. You know I have little attraction to teaching, but I want to obey Your call and go where it may please You.’ His reply is significant: ‘You will not teach long.’
On September 4, 1920, Dina’s confessor, to whom she had spoken, told her she might leave the world in six months, or a year at most, and a week later it was decided that she should apply to the Convent of Jesus and Mary at Sillery, a suburb of Quebec. She went with Bernadette Letourneau, her New York companion, to meet their future Novice Mistress, Mother St. Elizabeth. After meeting and speaking with the two young ladies, Mother went straight to the chapel to thank Jesus and Mary for these two promising additions to the Novitiate! As a matter of fact, when she was made Novice Mistress in November 1920, Mother St. Elizabeth asked Our Lord that she might have ‘a Saint’ among her Novices….little did she know that ‘Saint’ would soon be among them in the person of Dina Belanger!
Now it was left for Dina to inform her parents of her decision to enter the convent, and to prepare them for the coming separation. It was heartrending for Monsieur and Madame Belanger, but they accepted with true Christian resignation: ‘Since it is God’s Will, we are ready to embrace it!’ As the time grew closer, they multiplied their attentions to her. It was not to dissuade her from her decision; on the contrary, they fully accepted it. In June, 1921, they gave her a last gift: a trip to Niagara Falls. She loved it-the trip made her raise her heart and mind to God in thanksgiving for the beauties of His creation.
Finally, August 11, 1921 came. She left her home in Lower Quebec City forever. Her father and her mother accompanied her to Sillery. They gave back to God the child they received from Him. (After Dina entered the convent, her parents moved to Sillery to be closer to her. They remained in Sillery until their deaths in 1951-Madame Belanger-and 1952-Monsieur Belanger).
ENTRY INTO SILLERY CONVENT-THE POSTULANCY (1921)
The day Dina entered Sillery Convent, August 11, 1921, was a day of sacrifice both for her and her parents. As stated at the end of Part 5, the Belanger couple, who were profoundly Christian, willingly gave their daughter to the service of God in the Congregation of Jesus and Mary.
Dina says that on her entrance day, ‘her soul was filled with darkness and repugnance, yet she had scarcely crossed the threshold when an inward force made her say, ‘THIS IS HOME’. These words were not inspired by any ‘natural’ feeling-she ‘felt’ nothing, groping her way in darkness of spirit.
In the evening, she received her postulant’s ‘mantilla’ (headdress), which she accepted with great piety. Next day she attended a Clothing ceremony and a Profession, but her dryness persisted-she was, she said, ‘indifferent as a rock’. The only thing that touched her was the kiss of peace that was given by each member of the community to the newly professed and the new novices.
Before she entered, she felt that convent life ‘presented one continual series of struggles against natural inclinations and tastes, and this had delighted me.. But the devil was waiting.’ He whispered to her, ‘Do you think you can live here to the end of your days? Are you going to submit yourself to all these burdensome regulations?’ It was a terrible conflict. She watched the other nuns, and was filled with admiration at seeing their happiness and their recollection; and thinking of their virtue, she said, ‘Surely each one of them is a great Saint.’ Then the devil showed her an abyss between their perfection and her own piety. She fought this temptation with Our Lord’s help, saying, ‘Why can I not imitate them? They are frail creatures like myself, and Jesus will help me as He helps them.’ Then the devil made use of another weapon.
Almost all of the spiritual exercises were done in common, and Dina would be obliged to pray aloud and use set formulas for prayer instead of being able to speak to Our Lord intimately. She says in response, ‘What a deceitful trick! Religious life is the state of prayer: everywhere, at the religious exercises, at work, or at rest, Jesus and the soul are one.’ Prayer in common eventually became a consolation to her, and the union of holy souls filled her with confidence.
But homesickness persisted. She spent sleepless nights struggling with temptation; but she protested to Our Lord over and over again that she would remain faithful to her vocation (very similar to Sister Josefa Menendez at the beginning of her religious life). During the day, there were distractions to keep her mind off her loneliness. One day she had very discreet witnesses. Passing by the chicken yard, she cried out impulsively, ‘You dear creatures, you are in your own home, make the most of it!’
Sometimes when out walking on the grounds by herself, she would feel a strong impulse to go home just as she was, without hat or coat, or escaping at night through a window. She knew instinctively that these were the devil’s temptations, and she held onto her vocation just as she did to her eternal salvation. To have to return to her home would have been a cruel trial; but as it happened during her boarding school years, her homesickness lasted several weeks and caused her to cry very much.
She received the grace to practice perfectly the recommendations that were made. One of her fellow Sisters [probably her Novice Mistress, Mother St. Elizabeth] states, ‘In one of our first conversations [after her entrance] she spoke of her practices of devotion. I made her clear to her that on entering a religious Order, the act of self-donation replaced all private practices and it was better to follow the spiritual exercises of the Rule and the customs of the Congregation. She accepted my point of view and endeavored to conform her conduct.’ So when ‘interior silence’ was mentioned, Dina made a complete ‘truce with the past’-she severed all ties to her memories of her life in the world. She was even prepared to give up her cherished music and never play another note, if that was God’s Will!
Postulants did not join the Novitiate during the first three or four weeks, but they were sometimes invited to spend recreation with the novices. Dina was edified by their charity, their cheerfulness, and their constant smile. She says, “I soon learned the secret of the soul that has surrendered itself to Jesus and now radiates the beauty and goodness of the Beloved. In observing each novice, the encouraging thought I already mentioned recurred to my mind: ‘What others have done, cannot I do?’ ” A sign hanging in the Novitiate impressed her greatly and seemed to be addressed to her personally: ‘If you begin, begin perfectly’.
The retreat she made before entering the Novitiate gave her much light and consolation-her worries vanished and she rejoiced over everything. The meditation that struck her most was on ‘fidelity to little things’. She says, ‘I was imbued with the thought that I should never be able to practice abnegation [another word for ‘sacrifice’] in important things if I did not generously accept small sacrifices.’
She received two graces in this retreat. First, she seemed to begin a ‘new life’. She plunged her past life into the Precious Blood of Jesus and drove it from her mind. The break with her former life was so complete that she felt as if she had died and had been reborn.
A FAVOR FROM THE LORD
The second favor was very remarkable. Dina was praying in the chapel at dusk on the last night of the retreat. Jesus spoke to her, filling her with love and with peace. ‘Then,’ she says, ‘my good Master took my heart-picking it up as when one removes an object, and replacing it by His Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. That was another ‘picture’, but there certainly took place in me a divine transformation that no pen could ever describe; I was lost in sentiments of gratitude and humility. I no longer had to look outside myself for the Host and the Star, Jesus and Mary, for I possessed Them within me. Since that moment, I have acted and loved with the Heart of my Savior and that of His Blessed Mother.’
She summed up in three phrases the plan of her ‘new life’: blind obedience, to suffer joyously, and love unto martyrdom.
She made every effort to observe the Rule and follow the recommendations made to her, but she made awkward blunders and involuntary mistakes [she was human after all!]. Those were times when she would say to herself, ‘I was much better in the world than I am now!’ Her actions did not always coincide with her desires, which was a source of humiliation to her. Dina strove to acquire the habit of greeting every person and every event with a smile. Her own natural expression was somewhat melancholic [as judged by some of the photographs that accompany this article]; but Jesus made her understand that true inward joy is reflected on the face, and He taught her the act of smiling always. As a result, every testimony gathered after her death mentioned her ‘sweet habitual smile.’
Her first teaching experience was in giving music lessons. She would represent Jesus at the age of each student, and she gave her lessons as carefully as if He were physically there beside her. One of of her former students likened her to a ‘porcelain vase’. The student continues, ‘That is what I felt during my music lessons and every time I came in contact with her. I used to envy, and long to imitate, her perfect simplicity, her humility, the unconscious charm of her gentle manner which nevertheless did not hide her strength of character.’ [we will see an example of this ‘strength of character later]. The student ends by saying, ‘There is a Saint for you!’
THE NOVITIATE (February-August 1922)
Now a novice, Dina (now Mother Marie Ste-Cecile de Rome-‘Mother’ a title given to the Sisters who taught) continued giving music lessons. She loved all her students dearly, but with a ‘spiritual’ love. She looked on them as ‘living ciboriums where the Trinity dwelled” if she had preference, it was for those who found it hard to study or keep to the rules.
She continued her musical training, as well as at literary work, which she was to asked to through obedience. She tried composing poetry, and her humble efforts, were corrected carefully and with patience, which ‘covered me with confusion’, she says. ‘I often racked my brains long and ineffectually to write four lines which were not without fault. Dictionaries were referred to constantly. I was far from possessing at that moment the facility that Jesus granted me later on, and that He had foretold when I was still in the world.’
She was still shy and reserved by nature, and it was hard for her to confide in anyone; but right from her entrance she found a true mother in Mother St. Elizabeth, her Mistress of Novices. ‘Jesus alone knows,’ she says, ‘the treasures of love He puts into the hearts of those who are charged with leading us to Him, guiding our first steps and strengthening our wavering will.’ While she was still a postulant she felt an all-too-human attachment to Mother St, Elizabeth, and she asked Our Lord to make her overcome this natural attachment at once. He gave her to understand the purity, the sweetness, and the strength which should characterize her attachment to her Mistress. She was to see in her Mother Mistress only Jesus or Our Lady. She says, ‘People in the world often think that our lawful affections grow cold within convent walls. No, it is there that they attain their full maturity. It is there that friendship, freed by grace from all self-seeking, blossoms out into the real flower of charity.’
Sometimes in her relations with her fellow novices, she felt that she often hurt them in spite of her good will not to do so. It was deeply humiliating, making her feel powerless she was of herself, and ashamed of receiving so much kindness and attention from all her Sisters.
At this time she made a ‘pact’ with the Angels guarding the Tabernacles of the world to replace her everywhere and always in adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in her place. Later on, as her mystical life deepened, she heard Mass in union with them in a special manner. She also ‘supernaturalized’ her meal times, imagining she was eating in the Holy Family’s presence and being served by Angels.
In her annual retreat in August, she was haunted by the desire to make the ‘Vow of Greater Perfection’ after hearing that St. Margaret-Mary Alacoque (the visionary of the Sacred Heart) made such a vow in her lifetime. She aimed at making this vow later on (she was not permitted to make it during this time of her novitiate), trusting absolutely in God. She wrote these words to sum up this retreat: ‘I want to be a Saint! With the help of Your grace, O Jesus, I will become one.’
During her Novitiate, there was some talk of sending some of the Sillery novices to finish their novitiate at the American Jesus and Mary house in Highland Mills, New York (Archdiocese of New York, now called ‘Bethany Retreat House and Thevenet Montissori School’). In Mother Ste-Cecile’s time, it belonged to the Canadian Province of Sillery, and it had been opened for English-speaking candidates.
Before the Superiors in Sillery announced the names of those who were going to Highland Mills, Mother Ste-Cecile offered herself to God as one of them, if it was His Will. She knew how her parents would feel about her separation and departure for America a second time; but on this occasion God accepted her offering and left her where she was.
She changed her motto after the August retreat, feeling that her schoolgirl ‘Death rather than defilement’ didn’t suffice anymore. She made up a new one that incorporated the Names of Jesus and Mary: ‘Jesus and Mary, the Rule of my love, and my love, the rule of my life.’ Later on, she found her definitive motto: ‘Love, and let Jesus and Mary have Their way.’ ‘Aimer et laisse faire, Jesus et Marie’ in French.
In the fall, she spent some time in the infirmary. While recovering, she tried writing verses, holding her crucifix in her right hand while writing so that Our Lord would guide her pencil ‘and set His stamp on my writings’, as she says. To her great surprise, ideas sprang into her head and the rhymes came without bidding. But when she was with others, she didn’t do this, so as not to attract attention and appear singular—then she got ‘writer’s block’!
She says with regards to this, ‘Our Lord was beginning to realize His words, ‘You will do good by your writings.’ He is pleased to make me write in the solitude of the infirmary where He favors me with greater illumination. The work is so much His that often I scarcely know what I am writing; I am impelled by a gentle yet powerful force so that when I read over the pages I am continually surprised at having expressed ideas without having conceived them!’
She prepared fervently for Christmas, but when the day came she was filled with spiritual darkness. Yet, when she made her Communion thanksgiving, she made a promise: ‘My God, I wish to perform my every action with the greatest possible perfection. I wish to refuse You nothing.’ However, even after making this promise, she did not hear Our Lord’s voice. He was putting her faithfulness to the test by leaving her in this ‘dry’ state.
Her union with Our Lord increased until one day He said to her, in an ‘exchange of names’, ‘It is I Who am acting in you and by you. In the future you will be called JESUS; but when you commit a fault or do something silly that will be your own action and you will be called CECILE.’
‘At these words,’ she says, ‘a feeling of dignity overwhelmed me, coupled with a profound of my nothingness. Since then, when my conscience reproaches me with nothing I know it is the work of the Divine Artist; but when I recognize my thoughtlessness or my defects, I hear a voice saying, ‘It is Cecile who has done that!’ ‘
Our Lord asked her to console His Heart in reparation for the outrages He received in the Blessed Sacrament. He also designated a number of souls to win for Him in the course of her day. She says, ‘Our Redeemer longs to pardon and forget. He often awaits only a gesture or a thought of love on our part to grant to some sinner the extraordinary grace that will snatch him from Satan’s toils.’
One morning, after listening to the reading of the day’s meditation, Mother Ste-Cecile couldn’t concentrate on it. She realized this was Our Lord’s doing, and let Him do His Will. He wished to be comforted (again, much like Sister Josefa Menendez in her experiences). She saw His Heart bruised and beaten by numerous hammers that fell roughly on Him. He showed His Heart to her, pierced by a number of darts that were driven into It by a greater or lesser depth. Each blow of the hammer, each prick was an insult caused by sin. Then she saw It wounded by numerous needles-small for the most part, very small.
He said to her, ‘These are the indelicacies of religious souls; oh! how the pinpricks make Me suffer, coming as they do, from the souls I love best!’ (another similarity to Josefa Menendez).
She saw His boundless sorrow, and it filled her with compassion and love. She was deeply touched by it, and wondered at the thought that we can console Him, miserable creatures that we are!
Her hunger for Holy Communion increased. A day without receiving Our Lord was a dreary, bleak day whose hours dragged on. She entrusted her preparation for Communion to Mary. As she approached the altar rail in the chapel, she pictured the ciborium surrounded by the seraphim, either in deep adoration or expressing their fiery love by heavenly music. She heard such wonderful singing, the sound of which made the most harmonious earthly pieces seemed discordant in comparison. She received Jesus from Mary’s hands. Led by her Heavenly Mother, Mother Ste-Cecile returned to her place, imaging herself to be surrounded by Angels forming the Court of the Divine King. During her thanksgiving, Mary often spoke for her. Mother Ste-Cecile only had to listen, uniting herself to Our Lady in contemplating and loving her Son.
Another day Jesus invited her to remain continually in retreat in His Heart, applying herself always to the closest possible union with Him. This did not distract her from her exterior occupations, however; He didn’t want her to be so ‘preoccupied’ with Him to the extent of neglecting her duties as a religious. She walked in His presence, always keeping Him company while He acted through her. An example of this is the following incident: one day she was at a picnic on the grounds of the convent. She played games, talked and laughed like everyone else. But her ‘inner gaze’ was still fixed on Jesus, keeping Him company all the while.
To all the extraordinary graces He gave Mother Ste-Cecile, Jesus added the gift of contemplation, saying to her, ‘I love you with a love of predilection [a word meaning ‘preference’]; My little spouse, you are a privileged soul.’
She understood that such graces brought with them a serious obligation of faithful correspondence (once again, like Sister Josefa Menendez), and recognizing her weakness, she felt that love was her only resource.
Mother Ste-Cecile loved following the common life of the religious in everything, but Jesus willed that she should be deprived of it. She feared exemptions yet she was often obliged to ask for them. It was humiliating for her to ask, she didn’t ‘singularity’. Then she realized that it was beneficial in the religious life to be guided by one’s Superiors.
It was time to know the names of who were to be professed. Mother Ste-Cecile was suffering at this time a severe interior trial (whatever it was is not known), when Our Lord said to her, ‘You will make profession; and a year later, on the Feast of My Mother’s Assumption, I shall come and claim you by death.’
She was filled with joy! It was in May 1923 when she received this message-fifteen months separated her from her eternal union with God in heaven! She began to count down the weeks and the days.
The awkward ‘blunders; she did seemed to increase. She says, ‘It was good for me that they humiliated me as I deserved, and on account of that I prized them; but I was often very inconsiderate towards those to whom I owed most respect and who were very kind to me. That proves what I was like! I used to tell Jesus how sorry I was and ask Him to repair my blunders, and to console those whose feelings I had hurt.’ Her delicate conscience made her see her failures in their worst public light; for all testimonies after her death spoke of her deep politeness and thoughtfulness of others.
During this time, as she prepared for her Profession, Our Lord gave her two Patronesses, to take care of of her as a sister: St. Cecilia and St. Therese of Lisieux [at this time still a ‘Blessed’]. St. Cecilia was in charge of the ‘exterior’ part of her life, teaching her to be an apostle (as she did on earth when she brought her husband Valerian and his brother Tiburtius to the Faith), watching over her work as a teacher, her various other jobs around the convent and other ‘external’ works. St. Therese guided her in her ‘interior’ life, showing her the path of ‘love and abandonment’ that characterized the French Carmelite’s earthly life [Therese was a Norman, the same part of France that Dina’s parental ancestors came from]. Both Saints were under the direction of Jesus and Mary, as well as Mother Ste-Cecile’s own Guardian Angel. She says, ‘It seemed to me that my two Patronesses bent towards me and took me by the hand to lead me on, according to the designs of my Divine Spouse.’
As she prepared for her Profession, she wished to offer her Spouse a gift, and began to prepare her symbolic ‘wedding basket’.
In describing this ‘basket’, she says, ‘I desire to offer to Jesus, on the day of my Profession, a basket of purest gold adorned with pearls and rubies which are to be purchased by my acts of poverty. In the center of the basket, I wish to put the monogram of ‘Jesus-Marie’ [the coat-of-arms of the Congregation] wrought in brilliant diamonds by the perfection of my actions. In the basket there must be lilies, the beautiful virtue of chastity; red roses, acts of love of God; white roses, acts of charity towards my neighbor; lilies of the valley, acts of humility. For verdure [greenery] there will be ferns, represented by my acts of obedience and mortification. I bed my Mother Mary to offer the basket to my beloved Spouse; and in return, I shall multiply my acts of devotion towards her.’
As she approached her retreat before Profession, she was roused to great fervor; but when it began, the instructions did not move her. The devil even made use of them to try to upset her. Our Lord wanted her to remain in ‘darkness’ while He worked on her spiritually; but when August 15, 1923 came, He gave her everything that would make her Profession a happy one! Her parents were present, the Ceremony was conducted by her former pastor Msgr. Omer Cloutier, the Mass was said by one of her cousins, and her former spiritual director Father Philemon Cloutier was also present. And next to her, professing the same vows, was her friend Bernadette Letourneau, now called in religious life ‘Mother St-Omer de Luxeuil’.
‘At last,’ she says, ‘I was a Religious of Jesus and Mary! On my breast, the cross [which the Sisters still wear today]; at my waist, the blessed Rosary. I now belonged forever to that institution which I cherished as the hand that led me to this blessed sanctuary of peace and love. O Jesus, make me worthy of the title I bear. Help me to pay the debt of gratitude I owe to my Congregation; fashion my soul Yourself, according to the spirit of ‘Jesus-Marie’, a spirit of charity, humility and obedience which is none other than the Spirit of Love. Act in me with Your sweet Mother to the praise of these Sacred Names.’ [the motto of the Congregation is, ‘Praised Forever be Jesus and Mary’]
Interiorly, her Profession Day had its joys as well, but she was powerless to express them. She only said, ‘The Blessed Virgin presented my basket to Jesus, Who in turn had a gift for me, one that concerned my soul. He let me choose it myself as on the day of my Clothing. I should have desired a chalice but this time I was no longer allowed to ask for suffering. My Divine Spouse smiled at my act of obedience and offered me a shining chalice overflowing with the gems of His Passion, much richer, more splendid than that of my Clothing Day. My joy was unspeakable! I could express my gratitude only by the wordless canticle of my love.’
She concludes her Novitiate by saying, ‘I could not leave my beloved Novitiate without pledging myself by a written promise to be faithful to the lessons implanted in my soul. I felt my gratitude, profound as it was, to be incapable of repaying the gifts I had received, so I left the duty of paying my debt to the Eucharistic Heart Itself [the chapel of the Novitiate was dedicated under this title], and to Our Immaculate Lady.’
LIFE AFTER PROFESSION (1923): TEACHING, ILLNESS, TRANSFORMATION
Now a young Professed, Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome began her active life. She was sent to the convent school at St-Michel de Bellechasse, a small town up the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City (the school still exists, now named ‘College Dina-Belanger’ in her honor and in her memory). She remained there for five weeks, teaching music. After that, she was recalled to Sillery, again to teach music. She contracted scarlet fever from nursing a student who had the disease, and had to go into quarantine. The after-effects of this highly contagious disease would eventually lead to tuberculosis, which caused her death six years later.
At first, Mother Ste-Cecile was distressed to have to be isolated from the rest of the community. It was not a cause for rejoicing to be inactive while her Sisters had to take on her work in addition to their own [something that anyone in today’s work force can attest!]. To be deprived of community life, and live by oneself day and night in one room….that was from a ‘human standpoint’. But from the moment of her isolation she discovered that Jesus was doing her a great favor: He had withdrawn her from active work and placed her in total solitude in order to work in her soul by Himself.
He began by depriving her of Holy Communion for ten days. She longed for the ‘Bread of Angels’! Every day she heard the priest pass by her door, bringing Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to the other sick Sisters’ rooms. She called out to Him inwardly with deep desires but submitted cheerfully to His Holy Will. His kindness granted her a consolation in return. She would make a ‘spiritual Communion’ at the same time the rest of the community approached the altar rails in the chapel for their sacramental Communion. It seemed to her then (this was an image in her mind) that an Angel brought her an invisible Host, which she received as from a priest’s hand, and she made her thanskgiving as usual.
On one of these morning Jesus said to her, ‘From now on, I shall give you the grace to feel My Presence within you; that is to say, you will enjoy the sensible Presence of God.’ She says, ‘Immediately, the life of the Blessed Trinity manifested Itself to me with a sweetness, a peace, and a love that cannot be described.’
After her personal adoration of Him present within her, she had the inspiration of gathering together a ‘Court’ for Him. She asked Jesus whom He would like at His court. He wished for Our Lady, St. Joseph, her Guardian Angel, St. Cecilia and St. Therese to keep Him company, to always think of Him and to love Him. This way He wouldn’t be forgotten or alone in her heart when her human frailty might distract her from His presence.
She would ask Him each day, ‘My dear Jesus, whom do You want at your Court today?’ Our Lady and the other four Patrons already mentioned were always present, but besides them Jesus would other Angels and Saints. Examples: St. Elizabeth of Hungary (her Novice Mistress’ namesake as a religious), St. Stanislaus Kostka (patron of the Novices), St. Aloysius Gonzaga (patron of youth), St. John the Evangelist (patron of virgin souls), St. Catherine of Siena (Dina’s name when a Third Order Dominican), St. Joan of Arc (patron of ‘faithfulness’ to Dina’s ‘mission’), St. John Berchmans (another patron for novices), and the Saints whose feast was on the calendar for the day. Later on, Mother Ste-Cecile would make a general intention to invite ALL ANGELS and ALL SAINTS to form the Court of her Beloved King, and remain there always.
On November 1, 1923, All Saints’ Day, she was allowed to receive Our Lord sacramentally-she knelt at the doorway of her room to receive Him in Holy Communion. She thanked Him with joyful tears. She abandoned herself more and more to Jesus’ divine action. She sought as her ‘ideal’ the ‘substitution of Our Lord for self’. She felt that Our Lord and she were one, that He made use of her faculties, senses, and members; that He thought, willed, acted, prayed, looked, worked, spoke, wrote taught-in a word, He LIVED in her. All she had to do was to contemplate Him and say always, ‘Jesus, I love You’, just like like her Saintly friends in heaven.
On November 3, Our Lord asked her for a retreat of ten days, during which He would, as she says, ‘destroy all that was purely natural, human and earthly,’ within her by a series of mystical transformations. It came to a climax on November 13, 1923 (Feast of St. Stanislaus Kostka, patron of novices). This is what she wrote:
‘Jesus showed me a high altar with a bright fire burning on it: this was the Altar of His Love. In His hand I saw my heart, my own heart that was taken from me when I was a postulant; He made me look at it as it to give me the opportunity to abandon myself once more to Him freely and entirely, then He placed it on the altar; the fire wrapped it in flames, and I saw it consumed to the last fiber. There remained nothing of it, absolutely nothing.[She continues] ‘Then Jesus invited me to go up to the altar myself. There were five steps to climb in honor of His Five Wounds. What went on within me is beyond description. I felt as it were, my nature overtaken by repulsion, in revolt against this; in my soul there was peace and happiness. I placed my foot on the first step, the second, and kept on in a spirit of abandonment. I soon reached the center of the altar. The flames moved apart on each side of me and did not touch me. The good Master, His eyes always upon me, made me open my arms as on a cross; immediately, the flames rushed upon me with violent intensity, but they were, nonetheless, moving slowly as they consumed my entire being. As this divine fire consumed me, it seemed to me that my being shuddered, moaned, and finally, it appeared to be dead at the moment of its complete destruction. When there was no longer anything to burn, the fire subsided and went out. In the center, there remained some ashes. Jesus drew near, breathed on them and reduced them to nothing. Finally, THERE WAS NOTHING LEFT OF ME.’ [emphasis mine]
The result of this stupendous experience was Jesus alone would now be acting in Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome. Her humanity would be as a ‘cloak’ to conceal Our Lord within her. He had ‘substituted’ Himself for her!
During her time of isolation in the infirmary, she missed a whole series of religious feasts. She would have loved to be at the beautiful ceremonies in the chapel and the community gatherings. But once again, Our Lord gave her a wondrous compensation.
That happened on November 22, 1923, the Feast of her Patroness in religion, St. Cecilia. Again, this is what she wrote:
‘Jesus said to me at the hour of Mass: ‘Since you cannot assist at Holy Mass in the chapel, come and hear St. Cecilia’s praises chanted in heaven’ . I seemed, forthwith, to be transported to heaven where I listened to harmonies of a sweetness and sublimity unknown to earth. Then a multitude of Angels and Saints intoned a hymn to the praise of the Eternal God: GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO! Innumerable instruments accompanied it and continued without interruption during the SANCTUS, SANCTUS, SANCTUS, DOMINUS DEUS SABAOTH. PLENI SUNT COELI ET TERRA GLORIA TUA. HOSANNA IN EXCELSIS! which followed. Oh! those only to whom the Lord deigns to grant the grace can understand these contemplations! The SANCTUS in particular surpassed all that I could imagine of ineffable and inebriating harmony. I heard the voices of children, of confessors, of holy women, of apostles and martyrs; I harkened to voices incomparably more beautiful, sweeter and richer than the former. These were the virgins who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. The different choirs alternated or blended into a sweet melody. This was followed-the instruments continuing always-by a marvelous paen of thanksgiving to the Lord glorified in St. Cecilia, a triumphant hymn in honor of this illustrious virgin. The hosts of Angels and Saints saluted her and praised her; then the music grew very soft and St. Cecilia alone intoned her song of love and gratitude to her Spouse. What pure, vibrating accents they were! The chorus took up the hymn and brought it to a conclusion.
[She continues] ‘At that moment Jesus said to me: ‘Mass in over, it is time to go back to earth.’ I murmured my thanks, opened my eyes and looked about me. After listening, I realized that the Holy Sacrifice had just ended in the chapel below. It was over then! I could no longer enjoy the music of earth. Oh! the rapturous melodies of heaven! Through these pure waves of sound echo the eternal charity of the Thrice-Holy Trinity; in the voice of each Angel and each Saint vibrates the enkindled breath of the Holy Ghost.’
While she was still in isolation, she received ‘visits in writings’ through the notes sent by her Sisters. And when the community took walks outside during the recreation times, they would have little talks with Mother Ste-Cecile as looked out of her window. She likened herself as ‘Jesus’ captive….His little dove imprisoned in the cage of His love.’
Our Lord had much to say to her during her time in the infirmary. He said to her, ‘You are a little privileged soul. Let Me do what I like in you; let Love do Its work.’
He asked her not to put her signature on anything she wrote (if others did so in copying and added her name it was not her fault). He said, ‘Because this work is Mine, not yours; you no longer exist, you can do nothing. Inspiration and facility in writing are My resources. I was your hand, which is My property, to tell souls that I love them with a love they do not understand, and to beg for their love, to quench in some measure the thirst of My Heart.’
Usually the quarantine for infectious diseases like scarlet fever was forty days, but Our Lord arranged that the doctor should order another nine days’ seclusion. One day He said to her: ‘I am going to send you another disease.’ She accepted this, not knowing what the implications were. He continued, ‘You will return to the infirmary, where I want to make you write. You will write until the month of July, then the task will be finished because you will suffer too much. I want to make known in writing the intense love with which My Heart burns for souls; I want to complain that I am forgotten, rebuffed; I want to plead for love as a beggar pleads for a crust of bread; I love souls so much, yet very often I am not understood and not loved.’ (this was fulfilled in the writing of her ‘Autobiography’)
On December 7, 1923, Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome was finally discharged from the infirmary, with permission to resume her music lessons and some other duties with the students in the boarding school in Sillery (study hall and corridor supervision). The hidden suffering she had was thinking of Our Lord’s sufferings, and all the outrages committed Him, and the lack of trust and love He met in souls.
RELIGIOUS LIFE (1924)–TEACHING, MORE ILLNESS, WRITING HER AUTOBIOGRAPHY
At the beginning of January 1924, Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome resumed her teaching duties. Her illness, however, threatened to become more serious. After a rest period in the infirmary, her condition seemed to improve. The sacrifice of teaching and of being with her much-loved students would be only temporary. In February, she was asked by her Superiors to return to St-Michel de Bellechasse until the end of the school year in June. Our Lord said to her, ‘Go to St-Michel-you will not be there long, you will be back in April.’ And so it happened-on April 2, 1924, Mother Ste-Cecile, once again ill, returned to the infirmary in Sillery.
Her local Superior, Mother Marie St-Romuald, soon recognized the exceptional qualities of Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome. Her talks with the younger Sister convinced the Superior that this was an exceptional soul, very close to God, and so she sought permission from the Provincial Council to ask her (under obedience) to write the story of her life. At first the Councilors refused-Mother Ste-Cecile was so young. They thought of the danger to her humility. It was contrary to the spirit of their Mother Foundress, St. Claudine Thevenet (1774-1837), who urged her spiritual daughters to adopt this saying from ‘The Imitation of Christ’: ‘LOVE TO BE IGNORED AND TO BE COUNTED AS NOTHING!’
Nonetheless, Mother St-Romuald tried again, and this time she said to the Councilors, ‘Our Lord will look after her humility.’ With this sensible argument, the permission was given.
So during a private interview, Mother St-Romuald said,
‘You will write your life, Sister.’
‘Do you wish me to, Mother?’ Mother Ste-Cecile asked.
‘Yes, Sister, it is my wish,’ was the reply.
‘Very well, Mother. I will do what you ask,’ was the last word.
‘She obeyed so simply that I did not suspect the heroism implied for her in doing so,’ the Superior later said.
This conversation took place in February 1924. Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome was going back to St-Michel de Bellechasse at the end of the month. She began the ‘Autobiography’ while at St-Michel.
As Mother Ste-Cecile wrote, the Superior collected the ‘notebooks’ one by one, and put them in her desk drawer without reading them. The first part of the book was finished in June 1924. Resuming it again under obedience, she continued writing until July 1929, when she became too ill to write any longer. Our Lord told her, ‘You will do good by your writings.’ She never dreamt that this was the fulfillment of His words!
She had not lost her very reserved nature (and remember, she promised Our Lord at the start of her religious life ‘not to think of the past’). Yet she wrote out of duty, simply and without reservation. She made this admission to her Superior on her deathbed: ‘Mother, when you commanded me to write the story of my life, I made the most heroic act of my whole existence.’
As stated, she began her ‘Autobiography’ while at St-Michel. She met again the students whom she loved and was devoted to, and spread her good influence among them as among the students in Sillery. One former student remarks,
‘At the singing lessons for the youngest pupils, as I was the smallest, and very frail and sickly, Mother used to put me sitting on the edge of her piano, to save me from the fatigue of standing all the time. This gave me great pleasure.’
But Mother Ste-Cecile was also capable of displaying firmness whenever discipline or convent regulations were at stake! This same former student relates this incident:
‘One day-I must have been about five years of age-I declined to eat my soup. Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome insisted. I stubbornly refused. In a tone that left no doubt as to her intention of carrying out her threat, she admonished, ‘Mademoiselle, you shall not leave the refectory until you have eaten your soup.’ Realizing that I couldn’t get my way, I gave in.’ [Imagine how that ‘threat’ must have sounded in French!]
The Superiors intended on having Mother Ste-Cecile stay at St-Michel till the end of the school year in June. But her health was giving them cause for alarm, and returned to Sillery on April 2 and was back in the infirmary again.
She suffered greatly (some of the illnesses she had in her religious life were: tonsillitis, heart trouble, swelling of the arms and legs, and tubercular glands on the neck). Her ‘human nature’ groaned at the pain and the tears flowed, but her will remained firm. Once she said to her Superior, ‘Mother, please order me to love God.’ And when she heard the reply, ‘Yes, dear Sister, I order you to love Him as much as He Himself desires, I order you to love Him even unto folly’, Mother Ste-Cecile’s eyes shone with joy.
On the other hand, her Mistress of Novices, Mother St. Elizabeth, feared the danger of pride in her former charge. To this, Mother Ste-Cecile responded, ‘Mother, I don’t see what I could be proud of. I am such a wretched creature, as you well know. The closer Our Lord comes to me, the more He makes me see my misery, and what happens to me is not my action but Our Lord’s action. I realize how culpable I would be if I committed the smallest infidelity. I have a big responsibility. Pray that I may love God very much. I have such a great desire to love Him.’
Now we come to a very mysterious-if not controversial-part of Mother Ste-Cecile’s religious life: the so-called ‘Deception of August 15, 1924’.
When she was still at St-Michel (and even before this, while awaiting her First Profession in 1923), she remembered what Our Lord told her, ‘On the Feast of my Mother’s Assumption, I shall come to claim you by death‘. From late 1923 until the summer of 1924, Our Lord kept intimating to Mother Ste-Cecile how many ‘days’ she had of life on earth-or so it seemed. When Christmas 1923 came, she heard Him say to her, ‘This is the last Christmas you will spend on earth; next year you will be in heaven.’
She was already back in the infirmary by the time she finished the first part of her ‘Autobiography’ on June 30, 1924.
As August 15 drew closer, she continued to confide in Mother St. Elizabeth, the Novice Mistress (Mother St. Elizabeth and Mother St-Romuald the Superior of Sillery Convent were the only ones who knew about the ‘inner life’ of Mother Ste-Cecile). Mother St. Elizabeth was not too keen on her writing her ‘Autobiography’, fearing the inroads of pride, as has already been stated. But the Novice Mistress had no say in the matter. She said, ‘If Mother Superior orders you to write, then you must obey her.’ And yet Mother St. Elizabeth grew more and more perplexed with Mother Ste-Cecile as the latter kept revealing to her the communications from Our Lord. She even went so far as to say, ‘You know, you do not look like a dying person!’ All the same, Mother St. Elizabeth knew that Mother Ste-Cecile was a good religious and close to God. She reserved her own personal judgment, saying to herself, ‘I may be mistaken; perhaps Our Lord WILL come for her.’
Then August 15 came, and Mother Ste-Cecile was still on earth-SHE DID NOT DIE! On that day, Mother St. Elizabeth came by the infirmary to check in on her. Mother Ste-Cecile was not too ill physically even if she was not confined there. Noon came-nothing happened. Then came the evening….and Mother Ste-Cecile was still alive.
NOW the Mistress spoke her mind! She rebuked her former charge, saying, ‘See how we can work ourselves up! See what lengths we can go if we give in to our imagination!’
What was Mother Ste-Cecile’s response? She simply said in a tone of deep humility, ‘That is true, Mother-I have been mistaken.’ No excuses, no explanations….just those few words….’I was mistaken’.
What happened? Was she the victim of her imagination-or even worse, a tool of the devil? She certainly wasn’t a victim of illusion-the words she heard from Our Lord were too clear, too concise. She was a woman of good sense and sound judgment-such a prolonged illusion would be hard to admit. And if she WAS a victim of her imagination, she would have tried to explain it away and justify herself. But she didn’t-she simply said, ‘I was mistaken’.
One thought (according to Dom Leonce Crenier, a French-Canadian Benedictine who wrote a detailed early biography of Dina Belanger) was that she was deceived by the devil on this. Dom Crenier says, ‘Yes, she might have been deceived….Our Lord might have permitted it for her future benefit.’
The most probable thought (again, according to Dom Crenier) was that Our Lord was referring to a ‘mystic death, that kind of death that makes one cease to live after a human fashion and introduces one to a life after the divine fashion, which is an anticipated beatitude.’
So, what did Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome do after August 15, 1924? Did she lose her courage-did she ‘give up’? No, she didn’t. She made this heroic act of surrender on the very evening that the Novice Mistress rebuked her, a grace of the mystery of Our Lady’s Assumption. She says, ‘I didn’t dwell either on the wish to see or on the wish to understand. I tried to make a more perfect act of surrender, a pure act of love; and I began all over again a totally new life; yes, I repeat, a new life.’ In appearance she was the same; her fellow Sisters did not see or remark on any outward change in her, but in reality she she experienced a profound transformation.
All this time she was also undergoing a deep interior darkness. She had desired to make ‘The Vow of Greater Perfection’ before her First Profession. Permission had been denied then, and she accepted in obedience. Now, as August had gone into September, and still she was in spiritual darkness. But on October 2, 1924, the Feast of the Guardian Angels (and the exact anniversary of her private vow of virginity at fourteen), she received permission to make this Vow in its fullest extent!
She made the Vow the next day, October 3 (Feast of her beloved ‘sister’ St. Therese of Lisieux on the ‘Older Roman Calendar’), after receiving Holy Communion in the infirmary. The joy she felt was like on a day of ‘spiritual espousals’.
She says, ‘The obligation of the Vow was constant, having application of every moment and embracing thoughts, words, desires and actions. Obedience was the chief rule of greater perfection; for instance, when there was the choice between a voluntary mortification and a natural satisfaction recommended or merely desired by [my] Superiors, [she] considered it more perfect to choose the latter, since their will was for [her] the Will of God. When obedience was not at stake, self-denial seemed the more perfect.’
The Vow became an exercise in humility for her. It gave her a whole series of humiliations-imperfections, stupid mistakes. They proved how weak and wretched she was. Whenever she became aware of an imperfection she would say to Our Lord, ‘This is what I can do of myself! I give You this failing and leave to You the task of repairing it, and for that I love you, oh! so much!’ Then she would take her crucifix and kiss the Sacred Wounds.
RELIGIOUS LIFE (1925-1928)
From August 15, 1924 on, Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome could be described as being on an ‘interior journey’. She became more and more ‘interiorized’, eventually reaching into the depths of the Blessed Trinity Itself.
But she still struggled with interior darkness. The devil still roamed about her, ‘but he cannot’, she says, ‘even graze me with the tip of his sullied wing; I am lost in God and the Holy Spirit works on without interruption in me. I do not know the nature of this action; there is always an element in the operation that escapes analysis.’
Her constant prayer was in offering Our Lord to His Father through Mary and the ‘Spirit of Love’ for ALL men, present and future. Our Lord told her that this offering pleased Him very much and contributed to the salvation of a large number of souls.
She understood now that the ‘mission’ given to her so long ago would go on ever when she was gone from this life. Through Mary, she would bestow the love of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus on the whole world until the end of time. She said, ‘I will be a little mendicant [beggar] of love.’
She was able to go to St-Michel de Bellechasse in July 1926 for a fifteen-day rest. It was here that Jesus began to speak to her about consecrated souls.
She became the confidant of the suffering Jesus. On September 2, 1926, she heard Our Lord as her interiorly, ‘Would you like to taste the chalice of My Passion?’ She answered, ‘Oh! yes, Jesus. How good You are!’ He repeated, ‘Do you want to taste it?’ Her response was, ‘My Jesus, You are fully aware that I am not only willing, but that is my desire.’
At that very instant she was given a cruel interior suffering which penetrated her whole being, a suffering which she could not describe.
The ‘chalice’ that Our Lord gave her at intervals from this time onwards was a participation in the sorrows of His Agony in the Garden of Olives. When He gave her this grace she did not ‘see’ an actual ‘physical’ chalice even with the eyes of her imagination; but she knew with certainty that Jesus was about to share His sufferings with her.
(Her Novice Mistress, Mother St. Elizabeth, whom Mother Ste-Cecile continued to confide, was asked later on by Dom Leonce Crenier, OSB, whether this state of suffering was visible to others. She replied, ‘Yes, at such times Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome wore an expression of intense sorrow; she was very pale, even her lips were white. But as she was ill, those who did not know about her interior life simply thought she was feeling worse. Now when I recall this expression on her face, I find she became, as it were, another Christ.‘)
She heard Him say, in the sufferings of His Agonizing Heart:
‘Very few souls wish to sympathize with Me in My Agony.’
‘Very few souls, even consecrated souls, know how to sympathize with the Agony of My Heart’.
‘I confide precious secrets to souls who are willing to console Me in My Agony.’
‘If religious souls only knew! But alas, they do not know! Some do not know because they are afraid to know. They are afraid of being obliged to give up some of their attachments….I do not call all consecrated souls to compassionate My Agony sensibly and in a special manner. I grant this favor to certain souls that I Myself choose. But I call all consecrated souls to console My Heart by obedience, regularity, perfect observance of the Rule, and care to perform every action perfectly through pure love of Me.’
Every Thursday evening, at the request of Our Lord, she was to make a Holy Hour to console the Agonizing Heart of Jesus.
DINA RECEIVES THE INVISIBLE STIGMATA
At the start of 1927 Mother Ste-Cecile’s health grew worse and she had to return to the infirmary in Sillery. On February 2 a great temptation assailed her not to tell everything that was going on interiorly. Only her spirit of fidelity and obedience enabled her to overcome this, and to write of the following grace. These are her words:
‘On January 22 , a Saturday and the Feast of Our Lady of Fourviere [the Patroness of Lyon, France, the birthplace of St. Claudine Thevenet, the Foundress of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary], we had a closing ceremony of the Forty Hours Adoration. During my meditation before the Blessed Sacrament exposed I suddenly felt myself enveloped in profound peace. I was already conscious of the Presence of my Divine Master, but this was something more than the ordinary union of Thursdays and Fridays. [sharing in the ‘chalice’ of His suferings].
I felt that Our Lord was granting me a great favor: the Stigmata of His Sacred Wounds. From His Divine Heart flames radiated on the feet, hands, and heart of my annihilated being. The Blessed Virgin applied these flames to my hands and feet, and Jesus imprinted on them the Stigmata of love of His Sacred Wounds. He was granting me one of my most cherished desires, but He astonished me by granting it at this moment when I was not expecting [it] and in this manner which I could never have imagined.’
The Stigmata remained invisible as she wished. No one could see them. But after her death, the infirmarians testified before the Beatification Process that they noticed an expression of pain on Mother Ste-Cecile’s face when her hands and feet were rubbed. Mother St. Elizabeth stated that the feet became so sensitive that it was impossible to rub them as before-the pain was too severe.
It was around this time that Our Lord began calling her ‘My Little Own-self’.
Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome had arrived at a point where nothing could distract her from the thought of Our Lord. Her union with Him increased her desire to suffer with Him and for Him.
She received revelations from Our Lord about His love for priests and consecrated souls. How was she to console Him and His Heart? By love and by sacrifice, by constantly acting according to His good pleasure.
He said concerning priests:
‘My priests ought to be other Christs. Many of them are eloquent and have much human learning, but they lack the fundamental science, holiness. Certainly they are united to Me by sanctifying grace, but they do not live intimately united to Me by self-denial and pure love.
‘My priests! My priests! I love them so much and so many of them love Me but little….I call them to be other Christs; that is their vocation.’
‘My priests rule the entire religious society. If they were all really holy, their mere presence anywhere, in church, in the street or elsewhere, would make people think of Me. They would draw souls to Me. On meeting them people would think, ‘This is another Christ passing by’. ‘
One time He even showed her the horrible state of a priest’s soul stained by mortal sin!
He also assigned her a particular intention for each day of the week:
Sunday: Day of reparation
Monday: Day of thanksgiving
Tuesday: For the Congregation of Jesus and Mary
Wednesday: For religious vocations
Thursday: For consecrated souls
Friday: For all souls
Saturday: For priests
As the years went by, Mother Ste-Cecile penetrated new depths of the knowledge of God, Who is infinite.
On August 5, 1927, Our Lord said to her: ‘Come into the Infinite Garden of the Trinity, where only a few privileged souls may enter’.
On Christmas Day, 1927: ‘Come into the Enclosed Garden of the Heart of the Most Holy Trinity.’
And on January 21, 1928: ‘Come My Little Own-self, let Me lead you into the Sanctuary of the Most Holy Trinity.’
He explained to her each of these different ‘dwellings’ where she was united to the Trinity, in a new and far more intimate way. She says, ‘But in truth, I do not know how to express in words these divine phenomena, nor describe the nature of these celestial habitations.’
Then she was transported into ”The Tabernacle of the Most Holy Trinity.’ She says, ‘I found myself as it were in an immense furnace of delight. The last expression, ‘an immense furnace of delight’ is indeed inadequate; but more and more I find myself unable to express in human language what I discover in the depths of the Infinite’.
She formed the habit of offering Our Lord to the Heavenly Father for the salvation of souls. She did this many times a day as she went about the convent (when her health permitted it), using the following formula: ‘Eternal Father, through Mary and Your Spirit of Love I offer You the Heart of my Jesus…or the Agonizing Heart of Jesus….in thanksgiving….in reparation for consecrated souls…..etc.’
On April 22, 1928, Our Lord led her into new depths, ‘into the Essence of the Heart of God, the very Essence of the Divinity,’ she says. He told her, ‘Here My Father must see Me incessantly, see Me alone, in your place.’
In this state of union with Our Lord her happiness was undoubtedly very deep, but it was accompanied by great suffering. At times she felt very fatigued and in spite of her interior joy, the tears would come into her eyes. This life of constant self-denial caused her many struggles. As she began to decline health-wise, her physical tiredness increased and she was at times tormented by temptations to discouragement. Often she was unable to restrain her tears and she found herself sighing aloud at times. These occasions gave her opportunities to humble herself, and she strove to ‘always smile’, as Our Lord told her. She was still fearful of illusion, of being the victim of her imagination. But she found her refuge in being obedient and completely open with her Superiors.
On August 15, 1928, she made her Perpetual Vows. During her retreat for Final Profession, the devil tempted her to discouragement, even to the point of her leaving religious life when her Temporary Vows expired! She asked herself if she was a good religious. She saw her faults and failings as innumerable, and was tempted to lose confidence in God’s Mercy. But Our Lord said to her, ‘Do not look at yourself. Have confidence in My Mercy. It is precisely because you are weak and wretched that I have chosen you.’ (an ‘echo’ of what Our Lord constantly said to Sister Josefa Menendez)
She wrote this when she made her Perpetual Vows: ‘I am the spouse of Jesus forever! I belong forever to my dear Congregation of Jesus and Mary! MAGNIFICAT! How can I thank my God worthily? May I now become a holy religious for the glory of God and the honor of my Institute!’
LAST YEARS (1928-1929)
Her health continued to decline after she made her Perpetual Vows. She was tempted to discouragement as stated before, but Our Lord encouraged her in the depths of her heart….and once she even heard the voice of Our Lady doing the same!
She continued writing her ‘Autobiography’, but it became harder for her to remember everything Jesus said, especially when the communications were lengthy. She sometimes begged Him, ‘Dear Jesus, make me remember all that!’ or, ‘My Jesus, You will have to write that down Yourself because I shall not remember it all!’ And so, as a concession to her weakness, Jesus in His Mercy allowed her to take notes as soon as He finished what He was telling her, because she was still under obedience to write down all He told her.
Christmas 1928 was her last one on earth. She was able to attend Midnight Mass and receive Holy Communion. When Our Lord came into her heart she renewed her ‘Vow of Greater Perfection’ forever. She did this in aridity and dryness of soul, however; Jesus was silent, but she felt a supernatural joy in having this bitter suffering to offer Him.
As she grew weaker and weaker, the entries in the ‘Autobiography’ became short and far between. On May 14, 1929 she felt so weak that she thought she was going to die. She feared being alone at night, but she didn’t want to disturb anyone by crying out. She abandoned herself to Our Lord; then she felt His presence at her bedside, and she heard Him say: ‘I am going to spend the night with you; I shall take care of you.’
Her last words in the ‘Autobiography’ are on July 29, 1929. She was thinking of the kindness of her Superiors and the charity of her Sisters in their care of her in her illness. She was distressed at not being able to repay them properly. So she asked Our Lord about it. And He said:
‘I will pay your debts Myself.’
‘You will pay them as God?’ she asked.
‘Certainly, I shall pay them as God,’ He answered. ‘I shall pay them with My Heart. To each person who has done you the least service or given you the slightest pleasure I shall give My graces in return. But beside that, in heaven you will pay your debts yourself. I have given you My Heart, It is forever yours. You will distribute My riches through My Holy Mother.’
LAST ILLNESS AND DEATH (1929)
As has been said, Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome spent much of her religious life in the infirmary of Sillery Convent. She suffered from the after-effects of scarlet fever; she had a tonsillectomy (the doctors had to use artificial respiration to bring her to); she had heart trouble and swelling in her arms and legs, and tubercular glands began showing themselves on her neck. In the spring of 1926 she began to show symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis. When that happened, she was put in a separate area of the infirmary that was reserved for that disease-far more advanced treatment than that given to St. Therese of Lisieux, who had the same illness!
When she was well enough, she continued writing-not only her ‘Autobiography’, but she also composed songs for community events, short plays for the Novitiate, letters for her Superiors or for Sisters too busy or unable to write their own letters. It was amazing how large was her written output! She never shirked a duty or refused a service-her response was always, ‘It is I who am obliged, Mother.’ Even when diagnosed with tuberculosis and was undergoing treatment, she was still able to accomplish some hours of work each day.
When she was confined to bed, she remembered her ‘Vow of Greater Perfection’ about not doing ‘any unnecessary involuntary movement of the body’. She kept absolutely still in bed. As a result, her legs became swollen, purple and extremely sensitive to the touch. One day, one of the other nuns asked her how much she was suffering lying in the same position all the time. She replied that it ‘rested’ her, and added in a teasing tone, ‘That is my employment, to be at ease in my bed!’
On April 29, 1929, her thirty-second birthday, she was moved to the tuberculosis isolation ward of the infirmary for good. When her New York friend, Bernadette Letourneau (Mother St-Omer de Luxeuil), went to the infirmary, she was told by the nun in charge, ‘Come and see Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome before she leaves.’ Mystified, Mother St-Omer followed her. There, in a wheelchair, was Mother Ste-Cecile, ready to go to the isolation ward! Mother St-Omer couldn’t hide her emotion. So Mother Ste-Cecile said in a teasing tone, ‘Well, is that the way you treat me on my birthday? Where are your courtly bows, your compliments?’ Regaining her composure, Mother St-Omer offered her greetings and well-wishes for her birthday, and they exchanged a few friendly words. The infirmarian, sensing the emotional atmosphere, took over the situation by saying, ‘It is time to go, are you ready?’ Mother Ste-Cecile nodded her assent, and with her statue of Our Lady of the Assumption in her arms, was taken to the isolation ward, where she stayed until she died.
Three days later, Mother St-Omer visited her in her new room. And when the end of the school year came in June, she obtained permission to visit more often. In July Mother St-Omer could not keep back her tears at seeing her beloved friend Dina suffer. Mother Ste-Cecile looked at her tenderly and said gently, ‘Weep as much as you like, have no fear of fatiguing me. I understand; if I were in your place, I would not only cry, I would scream!’
The other Sisters would come to visit her when they could. Being around her was like being on a retreat! Even visitors from other houses of the Canadian Province remarked on the holy atmosphere that pervaded Sillery Convent….a saintly soul WAS living there!
Mother St-Cecile never complained, never made any fuss if she was forgotten when it came to serving her at mealtimes. She drew no attention to herself when the cooks forgot to send her something from the kitchen. She offered the sacrifice to Our Lord, until the kitchen Sisters begged Mother St-Romuald to command Mother Ste-Cecile under obedience to ring the bell when things had been forgotten.
But even she would say, ‘Serve me after the others, Sister. You have much to do and I can wait.’
She was not fussy, fond though she was of order in her surroundings. She made a similar remark when the Sister in charge of cleaning her room rushed in full of apologies: ‘Please do not be distressed, Sister, it will do just as well later.’
When visitors came to see her, she was always cordial to them; but she always tried to steer the conversation away from personal concerns, and focussed on those of the visitors. She constantly tried to smile in the face of suffering; if a rare instance of irritation crossed her face, she would humbly ask pardon: ‘How like me that is! Pray for me, I beg of you.’
Three days before her death, she said to the infirmarian, ‘I will help you, Mother, I will help you.’ ‘Thank you!’ the nun replied, ‘you will be my heavenly assistant!’ And she fulfilled that ‘position’ very well after her death!
[Deathbed photo of Mere Marie Ste Cecile de Rome- Infirmary of Sillery Convent, 1929] In the weeks before her death, one of the Sisters would always come and pray the Rosary by Mother Ste-Cecile’s bedside. This caused the dying nun to say one day, ‘Holy Communion is my bread, the Rosary, my dessert!’ [I love this saying of hers!]
Her parents, who had moved to Sillery when their daughter entered the convent, came to see her. One day her father said to her, ‘We have had many Masses said for your recovery, we have prayed much….but it seems that you are not helping us a great deal.’ Her only reply was, ‘Papa, I want only God’s Will.’
On September 3, 1929, the day before she died, her parents came to spend a few minutes with her. Her father had his Rosary beads in his hand and was weeping. Her mother gave her a few drops of water to relieve her thirst. Mother Ste-Cecile was smiling at them. When her parents left, Mother St. Elizabeth, who was with her, asked, ‘Did your parents’ visit tire you?’ She replied simply, ‘To see them suffering.’
She asked for prayers, saying, ‘Pray that I may be faithful to the end.’ In the days before her death she received the Last Sacraments (Extreme Unction and Viaticum). Those at her bedside said to each other, ‘Did you notice how lovingly she kissed the crucifix?’
Then she made Mother St. Elizabeth come closer to her, and she murmured, ‘Mother, I heard a voice saying to me fifteen times, ‘Bienheureuse, bienheureuse.’ (Blessed, blessed)
Still fearing illusion, the Novice Mistress said, ‘Oui, vous etes bien heureuse de mourier.’ (Yes, you are very happy to be dying) The ‘play on words’ is evident in the French. This reply did not effect Mother Ste-Cecile at all–she wanted to be faithful in telling everything right to the very end of her life.
On the morning of September 4, 1929, she had an attack of weakness, which lasted all through the litanies, the Rosary, and the prayers for the dying. The pain around her heart was so severe that she felt as if it were being cut out of her chest. During this time she fixed her eyes on a picture of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus that hung opposite her bed.
Two hours before she died, she heard someone say, ‘Have courage!’, and she replied in a tone of conviction, ‘JESUS IS PRAYING.’ The smile that lit up her face was so extraordinary to those present that they wanted it photographed! (This is probably the origin of the famous ‘deathbed photograph’ of Mother Ste-Cecile) She remained conscious to the very end.
About two o’clock in the afternoon Mother St. Elizabeth and Mother St-Omer were saying the Rosary aloud by her bedside. Mother St-Cecile followed moved her lips in response. At the fifth decade, the recitation was interrupted so as not to tire her; but the dying nun raised her beads at eye level beseechingly as though requesting the continuation of the prayers.
When the Rosary was done, she said, ‘There is something in my eyes.’ The symptoms of death were showing themselves!
Later she said, ‘My eyes are fading out! …. ‘Death is coming for me!’ she exclaimed with joy. Turning to the Novice Mistress and to her friend, she smiled at them both-a pure, angelic smile which they would never forget.
Around three in the afternoon, she grew worse. Her last words were, ‘I AM SUFFOCATING!’ The Mothers, summoned in haste, reached her room in time to receive her last breath. She died sitting up in bed, head thrown back, eyes fixed on heaven-she died in the exact same position as her beloved St. Therese! The date of her passing from this life was September 4, 1929.
No sooner had she died than an angelic expression settled on her features, and a radiant smile, like hers in life but much more joyous, lit up her face. She was thirty-two years old, and in the eighth of her religious life.
She was buried on September 7 in the convent cemetery, in the presence of a large number of relatives and friends from Quebec City.
When the other houses of the Canadian Province heard about the communications Mother Ste-Cecile received, they were at first puzzled. But it gave way to ‘an enthusiastic hymn of thanksgiving, expressing itself in a renewal of fervor and an outburst of friendly rivalry in the pursuit of perfection.’
EPILOGUE:–AFTERMATH—INVESTIGATION, ADMIRATION, GLORIFICATION (1939-1993)
As soon as Mother Ste-Cecile de Rome died, letters and messages of admiration and veneration came from all sides: from priests who knew and directed her, teachers and classmates who were edified by her, relatives and friends who held her in great esteem.
Her ‘Autobiography’ was published in the years after her death. Two successive Cardinal Archbishops of Quebec City (Rouleau and Villeneuve) wrote glowing letters of recommendation. Messages poured into Sillery Convent from all over the world; from priests, religious, monks, nuns, Superiors from various communities and from young people. Many favors, both temporal and spiritual, were being granted through her intercession.
[Original headstone and tomb, Cemetery of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, Sillery Convent, Quebec. Small headstone (top) 1929-1951, Large tomb slab (bottom) 1951-1993]
Beginning in 1939, the Archdiocese of Quebec City began its investigation into the life, virtues and writings of Mother Marie Ste-Cecile de Rome. Her body was exhumed from its original grave in the convent cemetery, identified, and placed in a new tomb at another part of the cemetery in 1951.
On February 13, 1961, her Cause was sent to Rome.
On July 13, 1982, her Cause was introduced at the Vatican.
On May 13, 1989, Dina Belanger was declared ‘Venerable’.
On July 10, 1990, the cure of a New Brunswick man, Jules Chiasson, from hydrocephalus [‘water on the brain] as a baby in 1939 was approved.
And on March 20, 1993 (the day before the Canonization of her Congregation’s Foundress, St. Claudine Thevenet), Dina Belanger-Mother Marie Ste-Cecile de Rome-was made ‘Blessed’ by Pope John Paul II.
Her tomb is now in the Chapel of Sillery Convent. Tragically, the convent building that Blessed Dina knew was destroyed by fire in May 1983. It was rebuilt, and her relics were placed in the new Chapel prior to her Beatification. A small museum is also there, with photos and other belongings of Dina.
Her Feastday (in the Archdiocese of Quebec and the Congregation of Jesus and Mary) is September 4.
SOURCES FOR DINA BELANGER ARTICLE—PRINT AND PHOTOGRAPHIC
‘IN DINA’S FOOTSTEPS’ -published 1994, by the Religious of Jesus and Mary, Quebec City and Montreal. Written by Sister Ghislaine Boucher, RJM. Translated into English by Sister Florestine Audette, RJM
‘THE COURAGE TO LOVE’-published 1986, by the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, Rome, Italy. Written by Sister Irene Leger, RJM. Translated by Sister Marie-Therese Carlos, RJM
‘A CANADIAN MYSTIC OF OUR DAY’-published 1946, by the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, Sillery, Quebec, Canada. Written by Mother Mary Saint Cuthbert, RJM
‘CANTICLE OF LOVE-AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MOTHER MARIE STE-CECILE DE ROME, RJM (Dina Belanger)-published 1961, Quebec, Canada. Translated from the French by Mother Mary Saint Stephen, RJM
‘UN VIE DANS LE CHRIST’ (an early French biography of Dina Belanger)-publishing date unknown. Written by Dom Leonce Crenier, OSB (in reference to the ‘Deception of August 24, 1924, and the testimony of her Novice Mistress about the ‘chalice of suffering’ and Dina’s physical reactions to it)
Pictures for this article were purchased by me (Barb Finnegan) at Sillery Convent in 1994 and 1998. Photographs were made by me during the same visits. The Profession photo of Dina (full-length) came from the book, ‘PRAISED FOREVER BE JESUS AND MARY’, published 1993 by ‘Editions du Signe’, Strasbourg, France. Written by the Congregation of Jesus and Mary for the Beatification of Dina Belanger and the Canonization of St. Claudine Thenevet on March 20 and 21, 1993. The ‘deathbed photo’ of Dina was copied from the book, ‘A CANADIAN MYSTIC OF OUR DAY’, listed above. (*Note: you can click on the photos in this article to enlarge them)
About the Author: Barb Finnegan comes from Upstate New York. Her interests include travel, reading, music, dogs, and her Catholic Faith-especially the Saints!
-The webmaster would like to offer a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Barb Finnegan for this extraordinary article. May God reward her for her efforts in His regard.
Prayer to God through the intercession of Blessed Dina Belanger (from the back of a holy card by the Congregation of Jesus and Mary)
“Father of everlasting goodness, You put into the heart of Blessed Dina Belanger the burning desire to offer You on behalf of all mankind, the infinite riches of the Heart of Jesus present in the Eucharist, and to live, like Mary, closely united to Him whom she loved with an undivided heart.
May we, like her, find our joy in faithfully doing Your Will, and since You revealed to her Your great desire to pour out upon the world the abundance of Your graces, hear the prayer which we make for Your greater glory, and which we entrust to her intercession. Amen”
-With ecclesiastical approval
“This is what I can do of myself! I give You this failing and leave to You the task of repairing it, and for that I love you, oh! so much!” -Blessed Dina Belanger – See more at: http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2010/09/blessed-dina-belanger-mother-ste-cecile.html#sthash.sMBVd1JU.dpuf