Guest contributor Sister Nicole Trahan, F.M.I, offers her thoughts on Marianist founder Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon as we celebrate her life today.
Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon was a woman ahead of her time and a woman wise for her years. A young woman who, though from a wealthy family, dedicated everything she had to serve the physical and spiritual needs of the poor. She was a young woman who was dedicated to a personal rule of life from the age of 12 and a foundress of a religious congregation before the age of 30. She was a visionary, wisdom figure and friend for her sisters and the entire Marianist family. Her spirit has inspired thousands over the years and her spirit inspires me to live the life of a Marianist Sister.
There are many things that I admire about Adèle… her spunk, her courage, faith, compassion, vision… and her ability to really connect to people and maintain those connections.
Adèle realized that after the French Revolution young people needed support to live a Christian life and that the poor needed food, shelter and an education. So what did she do? She started a group so that they could offer each other support, pray together, learn about the faith and care for the needs of the poor. The group grew to more than 200 young women all over southwestern France — all through letter writing.
And what a letter writer she was! She only lived to be 38, but we have two volumes of her letters and know that many were destroyed at some point in history. One of my favorite quotes of hers, that I wish I could live a little more faithfully, is:
Let us make a pact between our heart and our tongue, never to speak when the heart is unsettled. If we had the courage to do this, we would avoid many failings, would acquire many merits, and would draw down graces from heaven. (Letter 301)
As a young woman, Adèle would give bread from her kitchen door and teach short catechism lessons to those who would come — feeding both body and spirit. She wrote in another letter:
Let us imitate the love of our Blessed Mother. Like her, let us render to all our brothers and sisters the corporal and spiritual services in our power. God considers as done to himself what we do to others. How this should motivate our charity! (Letter 128)
Adèle was courageous. I suppose living through the French Revolution could do that. When she and a small group decided that they would become religious, she wrote:
Let us get down to the work with courage and not let ourselves be frightened by the grandeur of the enterprise. Let us concentrate on what we are doing at the present moment, but let us do it well. (Letter 246)
Each Marianist Sister in the world has been gifted by the Spirit with a portion of the spirit of Adèle — our charism. And at times I can sense that Adèle is walking with me… encouraging me when I’m tempted to remain silent… smiling as I try to articulate a vision… and standing next to me as I discern possible the path ahead of me.
May each of us, as we move through our day-to-day life, be graced with a portion of Adele’s spirit. May all of us act with complete trust in God and with courage, serving the needs of those around us and supporting others with whom we walk this journey.