It was October 9, 2005 and the feast day of one of our great Dominican saints, Louis Bertrand. Since it was a Sunday, we would not be Liturgically celebrating his feast day, but following our custom, and as a feast day gift, Mass was still scheduled for the intentions of our sister named for this Dominican Saint, namely Sister Mary Louis Bertrand of Jesus (Eugenie Georgina Brouilette).
Born in August 1905, Sister had reached the ripe old age of 100 a few months earlier. In God’s providence, she had known a “hundredfold” of years while her fraternal twin (Eugene) had died at birth. What a mystery of God’s choice! Originally from Canada, Sister had come to the United States and found work as a hair dresser. In May of 1928, she answered the call to religious life by entering our Monastery of the Mother of God. In time her artistic abilities were put to work in our Spiritual Bouquet department. After many long years of dedicated service, Sister needed more care than we could give her at the monastery and so she was placed in a nursing facility.
Getting back to that October day in 2005…shortly before Mass we received word from the nursing home that Sister had unexpectedly passed away! The Mass intention was quickly changed from “living” to “deceased,” so that about an hour after her death Mass was already being said for the repose of her soul! Another striking “coincidence” (God’s providence of course) was the Benedictus antiphon for that Sunday that we had just sung at Lauds: “You have left everything to follow me; you will have it all returned a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
God takes care of His own, though we don’t always see this except in hindsight. Sister apparently had found it hard at first to think about leaving “the world” to become a nun—she was dreaming instead of finding the “perfect man” to wed. As she once wrote: “Thus when I heard the call within I tried the thoughts to hush.” But in time she realized that “perfect man” was really Jesus, and He—most amazingly—was calling her to become a Bride of Christ. As she continued to reflect on her vocation:
How wonderful that call within, so gentle and divine; the thought of which still staggers me. That call was really mine. It came to pass that I said, “yes,” and became His dear spouse, which simply meant I left all things and and left my father’s house ... Beware of thinking that the call would never come to you. The call of Love is not your own: ‘Tis He that chooses you.
We hope that Sister, having experienced a hundredfold of years on earth, and almost eighty of those as a cloistered nun, has now obtained the promised inheritance of those who love God. May she, and all our dear Sisters who have gone before us, rest in the peace of Christ!