06 May 2011

The Last of Rigden

This is the last in our mini-series about Sister Ann Catherine Rigden. We hope our readers have enjoyed these accounts. Stay tuned for more historical accounts from the archives.

Fr. Clorivière visited her every day, and his presence cheered and revived her. He had a particular gift for speaking to her in the most consoling terms. In those days one received Holy Communion only with the permission of the spiritual director, and the communicant was required to refrain from all food and water after midnight. Ann Catherine would not drink during the night even when it troubled her, for she cared more for her soul. Five days before her death, Fr. Clorivière decided she should be given the Viaticum; two days after giving her the sacrament, he administered extreme unction. Each time the whole community surrounded her bedside, and since she could not speak loudly enough to be heard by everyone, she asked Fr. Clorivière to express her sentiments to them, including again asking pardon, and assuring them all of her affection. She often recommended the love of God above all things, and now in a better fashion than she had ever done previously, even from the most profound humility. The sisters concluded she must have been most agreeable to God, since she seemed to have been assisted in a supernatural manner. Although the sisters observed many examples of this supernatural gift, they hesitated to write all of them down out of fear of not being believed. Instead, they asked Fr. Clorivière to tell the story in his own words, one that would show how much they were indebted to Ann Catherine for building the church that was begun six months before her death, and that would tell of her dedication and tender devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

A gentleman called on her during the last weeks of her life. The sisters told him she was sick, but he asked for permission to see her before either her death or his. She was too ill and unable to grant his request. Everyone wondered who he was. It was only then that she told father Clorivière the circumstances that she had kept secret until then except from Leonard Neale himself. This was the man to whom she had once been engaged (see part two). Although her family long ago feared he had committed suicide, it happily was not the case.

After having endured nearly 14 months of sickness, her strength failed, and she came to the end surrounded by the community. She entreated Fr. Clorivière not to leave her during these last moments, and she cried out to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to the Sacred Heart, and the Sacred Wounds as long as she could speak. She took her last breath at 11:00 on the morning of December 21, 1820. She was buried the next day under the church, in Tomb 3, after the sisters adorned her body with the finest flowers.

Her two natural sisters were present at her interment, for they had recently converted to Catholicism. They sobbed at the sight of her countenance that was still so sweet. The church was not yet finished, so they stood on a scaffolding above the basement and viewed her through the tiles of the floor. Her mother, who had also lately been converted thanks probably to Ann Catherine’s intercession and prayers, expressed full expectation that God who had been so generous to her during her mortal life would not fail to give her a reward for her virtues, which the community endeavored to imitate.

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