28 April 2011

Returning to Rigden

...and the second-to-last in our series of Sister Anne Catherine ...

In the beginning of November 1820, Mother Ann Catherine Rigden developed an inflammatory disease that caused everyone great alarm. She had abscesses on her breast and other disturbing symptoms. Dr. Beaty, the monastery physician, thought there was no immediate danger, but Sr. Mary Leonard McNantz, who was ill and expected to die soon, prophesied that Ann Catherine “was never to recover from this sickness, that she would get better for a while and go about a little, but that finally she would die of it.” She repeated this twice in different company, which increased the sisters’ alarm. They prayed and said many novenas for Ann Catherine’s recovery, and in the spring she did attempt to resume work. “Alas, however,” the constant cough returned, along with pain in her chest, and a slow, burning fever. She continued to work, but by fall she lost her remaining strength. She concealed the symptoms of her decline, and sometimes after a particularly bad night she would forbid the sister who stayed in her room to say anything about it. This left the poor sister at a loss about what to say if asked how Mother was doing. Whenever she wanted to get help for Mother during a bad night, Ann Catherine would exhort her not to “disturb the spouses of Christ, for whom we should have great respect.”

Toward the end of November it became evident that she would die soon, but she didn’t express the least concern except for her apprehension of God’s judgment, “not on account of any sin which I have committed in the world, nor whilst I was a simple religious, but since I have been Superior.” She humbled herself with much sincerity before all the community, begging pardon of anyone whom she thought she might have afflicted. Sometimes she would send a sister in her name to ask pardon when she was unable to get up and do it herself, and she would ask the sister to do so in the most humble manner. She spoke to everyone with heartfelt gratitude for the care she received, and she reproached herself for any uncharitable or rash judgment she may have formed against any of them.

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