Invasion of the Mother House, 1871 (Part 2)

(Text used with permission of the Provincial Archives and the Province of St. Louise)

Passage taken from Details Regarding the Invasion of the Mother-House and Our Miraculous Deliverance. This letter is in the collections of the Provincial Archives.

… Although for the first time the bell was silent at four o’clock in the morning, it was no difficult matter to assemble us for prayers; a sweet surprise awaited the greater number of the Sisters in the habit; it was deemed expedient to consume the Hosts in reserve, and on leaving the dormitory, we were notified to repair to the Sacristy for Holy Communion. Doubtless, our divine Master accepted, as a preparation, the acts of resignation to his Holy will which we had occasion of offering to him during that painful night. Each one went immediately to the Chapel to make her thanksgiving.

… Our worthy Father Director, who was ignorant of our situation, came to say Mass for us, but we warned him not to attempt it, nevertheless, he remained fasting until seven o’clock, hoping that he would be able to realize his project. But our most honored Mother, aware of the danger to which this might expose him, obtained permission to leave the House, and went to St. Lazare’s to consult with him regarding the measures necessary to be taken. It was decided that she should endeavor to obtain from the Commune a permit for all our Sisters to leave. The presence of our Father Director having become dangerous to himself as well as useless for us, since he could not come into our House, it was deemed best for him to go to Montdidier and about eleven o’clock he commenced his sorrowful journey towards the North. Meanwhile, Citizen Lefevre who, was one of the number at the House, obtained from Citizen Sicard the permission solicited by our most honored Mother; he presented the petition himself, it was promptly returned with the desired signature. The Sisters of the Seminary were to go first; they hastened to make up their parcels … Our Sisters were to take the cars at four o’clock in the afternoon for Montolien …
During this time, our Sisters of the Seminary had gone to our Mother to receive her advice, she informed them that our most honored Father having himself appointed Montolien as a place of refuge, should we be obliged to leave Paris, it was consequently there, she was to send them. “You will not be so comfortable there,” said our most honored Mother to them, … still our Sister Treasurer there, will see that you are provided with what is absolutely necessary; then, when I am able to have an interview with our most honored Father at Brussels, you will according to all appearances, have the consolation of seeing us at Montolien, where we will give the holy habit to the eldest among you.”

Meanwhile, they awaited in vain the arrival of the Adjutant: two Sisters set out to request his attendance … They were still looking for the Adjutant. Sister Mascureau justly troubled fearing that our Sisters would miss the train, requested the sergeant to go in search of him; but in the meantime he arrived and seeing the sergeant return, he prepared to give him a severe reprimand. Sister Mascureau wishing to excuse him said: “Sir, I requested him to go and see if you were coming.” The Adjutant replied with harshness: “Sergeant, remember that you are master here, you are not to obey, but to command:” … Seeing all the difficulties they would meet with in dealing with this man, they went for our most honored Mother. On seeing her enter, he assumed a more agreeable manner, and made a sign for her to take a seat. He then repeated the questions he had already asked, and inquired the number of those who were to go, as Sister Mascureau answered, he said: “My Sister, when the General speaks, the lieutenant Colonel is silent;” but our Mother meekly replied: “Sir, my Sister is constantly engaged with all travelling affairs; and she is better informed than I am on this point; this is the reason she replied.” He then demanded the list of those who were to leave, the presented it but he refused to sign it until they had given him a duplicate, consequently they were obliged to make a copy immediately. As our Mother divined, this was only an excuse that he might have time to take cognizance of the place; he asked to see the carriages and horses; he found them in a good condition and said to our Mother; “These will serve to transport the wounded.” But she had no doubt of the real use he wished to make of them.

When passing the basement of the Seminary, she heard him say to the Sergeant: “It will suit admirably for a battery.” His desire to know if he had a favorable position at the Seine, confirmed our Mother in her first impressions. They were then obliged to show him the garden; following the path of the linden trees, he passed the bake-house, but MARY Immaculate showed herself our Protectress, for it did not strike him to enter; our whole provision of flour was there and it was thus hidden from his gaze … He then returned to the parlor, the list was written, he signed it, and our young Sisters were permitted to start; but he required another list of all who were to leave the house the next day, with an express condition to add the family and baptismal names, ages, offices and residence of their parents; he then, departed, leaving a certificate of arrest which constituted us prisoners: it absolutely forbade any one to leave the house, or suffer any to enter it …

(to be continued in our next post)

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