18 Apr Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation, Widow
Today is the feast day of Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation. Ora pro nobis.
Known also as Madame Acarie, foundress of the French Carmel, born in Paris, 1 February, 1566; died at Pontoise, April, 1618. By her family Barbara Avrillot belonged to the higher bourgeois society in Paris. Her father, Nicholas Avrillot was accountant general in the Chamber of Paris, and chancellor of Marguerite of Navarre, first wife of Henri IV; while her mother, Marie Lhuillier was a descendant of Etienne Marcel, the famous prévôt des marchands (chief municipal magistrate). She was placed with the Poor Clares of Longchamp for her education, and acquired there a vocation for the cloister, which subsequent life in the world did not alter. In 1684, through obedience she married Pierre Acarie, a wealthy young man of high standing, who was a fervent Christian, to whom she bore six children. She was an exemplary wife and mother. (2)
Pierre Acarie was one of the staunchest members of the League, which, after the death of Henry III, opposed the succession of the Huguenot prince, Henry of Navarre, to the French throne. He was one of the sixteen who organized the resistance in Paris. The cruel famine, which accompanied the siege of Paris, gave Madame Acarie an occasion of displaying her charity. After the dissolution of the League, brought about by the abjuration of Henry IV, Acarie was exiled from Paris and his wife had to remain behind to contend with creditors and business men for her children’s fortune, which had been compromised by her husband’s want of foresight and prudence. In addition she was afflicted with physical sufferings, the consequences of a fall from her horse, and a very severe course of treatment left her an invalid for the rest of her life. (4)
At the beginning of the seventeenth century Madame Acarie was widely known for her virtue, her supernatural gifts, and especially her charity towards the poor and the sick in the hospitals. To her residence came all the distinguished and devout people of the day in Paris, among them Mme de Meignelay, née de Gondi, a model of Christian widows, Mme Jourdain and Mme de Bréauté, future Carmelites, the Chancellor de Merillac, Père Coton the Jesuit, St. Vincent of Paul, and St. Francis of Sales, who for six months was Mme Acarie’s director. The pious woman had been living thus retired from the world, but sought by chosen souls, when, toward the end of 1601, there appeared a French translation of Ribera’s life of St. Teresa. The translator, Abbé de Brétigny, was known to her.
She had some portions of the work read to her. A few days later St. Teresa, appeared to her and informed her that God wished to make use of her to found Carmelite convents in France. The apparitions continuing, Mme Acarie took counsel and began the work. Mlle de Longueville wishing to defray the cost of erecting the first monastery, in Rue St. Jacques, Henry IV granted letters patent, 18 July, 1602. A meeting in which Pierre de Bérulle, future founder of the Oratory, St. Francis of Sales, Abbé de Brétigny, and the Marillacs took part, decided on the foundation of the “Reformed Carmel in France”, 27 July, 1602. The Bishop of Geneva wrote to the pope to obtain the authorization, and Clement VIII granted the Bull of institution, 23 November, 1603. The following year some Spanish Carmelites were received into the Carmel of Rue St. Jacques, which became celebrated. Mme de Longueville, Anne de Gonzague, Mlle de la Vallieres, withdrew to it; there also Bossuet and Fenelon were to preach. The Carmel spread rapidly and profoundly influenced French society of the day. (2)
Her worthy spouse died in 1613; she then requested admission to the Carmelite Order herself. She arrived saying, I am a poor mendicant who begs of you the divine mercy, and that I may cast myself into the arms of religion. At Amiens where she dwelt, her own daughter was Superior; and a perpetual contest in humility began, observed by all. She died in 1618, on Wednesday of Easter week, at the age of fifty-two years, loved and praised by all who had known her. She was beatified by Pope Pius VI; her mortal remains are in the chapel of the Carmelites of Pontoise. (1)
Image: Marie of the Incarnation (5)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff