Maria and the Bellasis Family 4
I found it no problem at all to write up the notes for Mother Francis' book that I am happy to help her compose. She is a very calming and relaxing individual, and I much look forward to our get togethers.
She approved of what I had done, and praised my beautiful penmanship. So we decided we would carry on in the same way.
“So the next part of the Connellys’ life dealt with how they became Catholics,” she said. “It was in August, 1835, they took passage on board a vessel that was expected to sail shortly for Europe from New Orleans but there was a delay and during that time Cornelia became a Catholic but Pierce wanted the prestige of being baptised in Rome. "
"He sounds like a very self serving individual, " I put in.
“So it all went well, and they came back to the US and Pierce got a job teaching at a Jesuit college, but he wasn’t really content. They had another child by this time, little John Henry. He was 2 ½ at the time everything changed.”
“Let me tell you. One day towards the end of January, 1840, as Cornelia was walking with her children she looked upon her peaceful home, surrounded by the beauties of nature and at that moment flooded with glorious sunshine. As her children played around her, her eyes must have lingered with special fondness upon the youngest of the laughing group. John Henry, now two and a half years old, was extremely lovely, with fair hair and large dark eyes. At the most winsome stage of childhood, full of courage and high spirits, he was the delight of his mother's heart. A sense of intense happiness filled her soul as she gazed. Suddenly, as she afterwards related, impelled by she knew not what, she raised her eyes to heaven and exclaimed, ‘O my God ! If all this happiness is not to Thy greater glory and the good of my soul, take it from me. I make the sacrifice.’
"I make the sacrifice." In four words she had laid all that life held for her upon the altar of her soul, and her offering was acceptable.
“Twenty-four hours later John Henry lay upon her lap in the agony of death.”
“Oh no, you make it sound as if she had wished him dead.”
“Not at all,” she just said, “Thy will be done,”
I was taken aback by this. I knew she disliked being interrupted but I couldn’s help myself.
“But even when Abraham was asked to sacrifice Issac, God changed his mind and let him live.”
“Let me go on with my story,” she said, annoyed with my lack of appreciation of her convent’s founder's great faith.
“John Henry had run into the garden to play with a large Newfoundland dog, near to a sugar boiler which was used outside the house for converting the raw maple juice into sugar, when the dog suddenly sprang upon him and threw him over into the boiling liquid. For forty-three hours he lingered in unspeakable torture in his mother's arms, until at early dawn on the Feast of the Purification he was taken into the Temple of the Lord.’”
“I find that very hard to accept. Most people would be cursing God for taking their little innocent child, rather than thanking him for it. And to be honest, I think her care of her child was seriously lacking, Anyone with any sense wouldn’t let a little child run around with a dangerous cooking substance where it could be easily knocked over. “
She obviously decided to ignore my comments.
"She took the death of her child she bore with the deep sensibility of an affectionate mother, but at the same time with the strong resignation of a perfect Christian.
“Now without a profession, to Pierce there seemed to be no scope for his talent, and he chafed under his enforced inactivity. A secular professor in a Jesuit College would certainly not have had much opportunity for exerting spiritual influence over his pupils. He felt within him a sense of wasted power and of a vocation unfulfilled.
“The Catholic Church, he knew, demanded celibacy from her clergy. If he was indeed still destined for the sacred ministry, and the thought was ever pressing more insistently upon him, the sacrifice of separation from his wife would become imperative. What was to be done? Was such a separation right or possible ? If so, by what authority could it be sanctioned ?
“At last the blow fell which was to be the determining factor in shaping Cornelia’s life course. It was the custom of Mr. and Mrs. Connelly to attend Mass together and while walking home from Mass with his wife, Pierce Connelly told her of his desire to become a priest, and explained that the fulfilment of what he believed to be his vocation would necessitate their separation and her entrance into a convent.”
“I don’t see why if he wants to be a priest, that automatically means she has to be a nun,” I put in. I was becoming very uncomfortable sitting in her stark office, contrasting it to the posh chair I was offered at Florence’s house. But I know that convents are meant to be austere, but getting older makes sitting on hard chairs much more uncomfortable.
“It is difficult to realise what must have been her anguish that day. Hard as the idea of separation was for him, it was incomparably more terrible for her. We have to take into account the force of her mother's instincts, the strength of her affections, and her love of the home where she had ruled as queen. For the sacrifice she was called upon so unexpectedly to make meant far more than the separation of two individuals, and the mother's heart must have been torn with anguish as she looked upon their two children and on the little cot which was awaiting the arrival of another.
“Before the close of that day they had mutually consented to embrace continency, and everything points to the belief that both made a promise to observe chastity, for a time at least, on the same day. Later, speaking in confidence to some of her religious, she said that the Feast of St. Edward marked the beginning of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.”
“So his decision to become a priest, more or less forced her into a convent, and gave her the idea of starting her own convent. That was a very big decision to make considering her soon to be responsible for three children’s lives.”
Mother Francis probably picked up from my position changes that I was uncomfortable.
“I think we have had enough of this for today. Thank you for writing it all up so beautifully for me, and I presume we can continue next week.”