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Br Marie-Nizier to Fr Poupinel, Villa Maria, 1 November 1870



This letter is a reply to one from Poupinel, dated 31 August. It mentions the first meeting between the latter and the brother’s sister, Sr St Ambroise (rf L 147). The Sisters of the Holy Family had a community at Farnay, not far from the Hermitage. In 1870 the congregation numbered some 300 sisters.

The war on Prussia which Emperor Napoleon III so rashly declared on 19 July that year turned out very badly for France. As Avit records in the Annales (3: 85): “Our soldiers had started out joyfully singing they were on their ‘way to Berlin’; about 400,000 actually ended up there, but as prisoners, and spent a hard winter there.” In October, the general house of St Genis-Laval was commandeered as a barracks and remained so for four months (ibid 91). With the call-up of many young brothers for military service and the widespread chaos caused by the war, it is not surprising that the superiors were obliged to postpone correspondence with the missions.

Marie-Nizier provides some information about the progress of his illness, which was being treated by the community’s regular physician, Dr Laure (Hosie 264).

This letter is found in Ronzon (LMN 137-8) but the translation was made from a photocopy of the original in the APM (OP 458.2).

Text of the Letter

Reverend Father,
I was not indifferent when I saw people receiving your replies to their letters, which had been sent not far from the time I sent mine, but never anything addressed to me. However I did not make a big thing about it. I was not too surprised. We know from your letters what a number of occupations you have and, anyway, my letter would have had little to interest you. But things in this world don’t follow the desires and opinions of men and frequently the opposite happens. I have just experienced this, for at the very time I least expected a letter from you, I was handed, to my great astonishment and very great satisfaction, your kind letter of 31st of August, together with one from Sr St Ambroise. You know sufficiently well, my rev Father, that I would not know how to express my gratitude for this proof of your solicitude.
Sr St Ambroise’s wishes have at last been realized! She had told me in her letters that you had given her hope you would be able to pay a visit to Farnay. The day of the visit would have been a happy day for the whole Farnay community, it was so keenly expected and looked forward to. But the invitation she received to go to Lyon to see you brought all those plans for such justifiable rejoicing to nothing. Sr St Ambroise was almost the only one to share it.
Fr Joly had your common letter read aloud. It reflects the general feeling of almost everyone of us here. All the defeats of the French army and the consequent humiliation of the whole nation are already, I believe, an authentic sign of what Our Lord said to Marie Lataste,[1] which she records in her 26th letter in the 3rd volume: “It will be given you, O France, to witness the judgments of my provoked justice at a time which will be made clear to you and which you will recognize without fear of mistake”. (What is consoling is that she then adds immediately:) “But you will also know the judgment of my compassion and my mercy…” Let us hope that the fervent prayers rising to heaven from the hearts of so many pious souls will soon draw down on our poor motherland, which has been so painfully tested, the compassion and the mercy her crimes have turned away, but which Our Lord promises her once more, provided, of course, she will once more listen to his voice.
A word in connection with my illness. Since your departure I believe I have had to undergo two painful operations. The last time the operation was quite a long one and I passed out completely during it. For I don’t know how many months I couldn’t find any position which was at all comfortable. One moment I would have to sit down, the next stand up and take a few steps around my room, and finally spend a few minutes lying down, and then I would have to start the whole process over again. Towards the end of June I experienced a quite copious discharge and then I began to find relief. Since then I have not suffered so much or so frequently. Fr Joly no doubt told you about this improvement. But the swelling is almost always the same, tending, I think, to grow rather than diminish. I keep taking the medicines and see Dr Laure regularly. He has been very obliging.
I cannot blame you, my rev Father, for giving my relations information about my illness. But to tell you frankly, I would have preferred they remained in ignorance, because they will keep asking questions about it and I cannot give them a definite answer. As I am not thinking of writing to Sr St Ambroise this time, I venture to ask you, my Rev Father, if a suitable opportunity arises, to let her know that you have heard I am better, without giving any details. I beg you to pardon me for taking this liberty.
We have heard nothing from St-Genis-Laval except the few words you mentioned in your general letter. No one knows why such a long silence. I had asked dear Brother Philogone in a letter to send me the date I made my vows in 1836 (it was in September or October) and also the date of my entry to the Hermitage in August 1833.[2] Perhaps the good Brother is now a soldier. That is why I am asking you, Rev Father, if it is not too much trouble, to be so kind as to remind St Genis-Laval of my request so I can get a reply.
In your letter you observe that you do not know if you have replied to all my requests since you do not have my letter with you. I will remind you, my Rev Father, without pressing it, that I included the request for a watch. The misfortunes of the times will probably be the greatest obstacle to this wish being realized.
I beg you, my Rev Father, to accept my very sincere gratitude for the special prayers you were considerate enough to ask for me, whether at St Genis-Laval or among my relations.
Deign to receive the expression of my heartfelt gratitude and the assurance of the profound respect with which I have the honour of being, in the Sacred Hearts of J.M.J., my Reverend Father,
Your very humble and obedient servant,
Br Marie-Nizier. Cat.
PS. I do not keep continually to my room. For several weeks now I have been busy pruning the vines or tying them up.


  1. Marie Lataste (1822-1847), French visionary who entered the Society of the Sacred Heart in Paris in 1844 and made her vows on her deathbed at the age of 25. Four editions of her life and works were published between 1862 and 1872. (Information supplied by David Harrison).
  2. The dates are 18 October 1836 and 26 August 1833. Presumably they were required for the community records.

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