How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself?
1 Samuel 1: 14
St. Marguerite Bourgeoys was a woman with vision.
As a young woman in France she tried to join the Carmelites and the Poor Clares but was rejected by these cloistered communities.
A local priest suggested that she had a mission beyond the cloister and she formed a group of women who taught poor children in her hometown of Troyes. But church authorities looked down upon this effort to form a community of non-cloistered women. Just a few years earlier the Vatican had suppressed the “galloping girls,” the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded by Mary Ward.
But it was not a church leader but the French governor of Ville-Marie in Canada who opened up the way for her vocation. He invited her to come and teach children in the settlement that would later become Montreal.
She went and ministered to children, to the sick, and to the small village. She went back to France to recruit more teachers and eventually these women sought to establish a religious community, the Congregation of Notre Dame, Our Lady.
They again ran up against church authorities who were wary of non-cloistered religious women and Montreal’s first bishop, Msgr. Laval, tried to get them to join the Ursuline sisters. But St. Marguerite prevailed, noting that
True it is that the cloister is a protection, but could we find a more powerful guardian than the Mother to whom the Eternal Father confided the Sacred Humanity of his Divine Son?
The community flourished and more women joined them, including two Iroquois and a New England convert to Catholicism.
St. Marguerite died on January 12, 1700.
As I read her story I thought of Hannah in today’s first reading, 1 Samuel 1: 9-20 who had a great desire to have a child. She prayed so intensely before God that the priest thought she was drunk. (I also thought of another Canadian saint, Marguerite d’Youville, who founded the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, whose name in French soeurs grises could also be translated as the tipsy nuns.)
How many people, especially women, are considered drunk or crazy because they have dreams that they bring before God, longing for their fulfillment.
May we not stifle them but support them in their efforts to make their dreams a reality so that God may be praised by their works of love.