26 January 2012

From the archives, Margaret Louisa Beall, Part II


Margaret’s superiors all agreed that they had never met a more docile, sincere, or candid person. She charitably spoke well of all, and when she could say nothing in favor of someone she remained silent. Her meekness gained her the love and affection of almost everyone, and her holy virtue of patience enabled her to withstand trials and “pains of mind.” Even though she was really debilitated, some in the monastery thought her constitution was robust and that she could bear a great deal. She never complained in the least, however, and she said that she did not even harbor an uncharitable thought against those who caused her to suffer. She did admit that she was sometimes tempted to speak up, however, her charity caused her to believe that the sisters actually took too much care of her.

As Margaret’s Novitiate ended her infirmities increased, especially a swelling of her feet which made her fear she wouldn’t be able to perform the ceremonies of her holy profession. As the date grew nearer (this was around the time of the annual retreats), she got better and undertook the spiritual exercises to prepare for her profession. This made her happier, since her desire to consecrate herself entirely to God was almost complete. About three months later, at the beginning of Lent, her sickness became serious. She received the holy Viaticum and extreme unction. She had not, however, yet received the sacraments of Confirmation, as Rev. Dubourg, Bishop of Louisiana, was here on a visit, he conferred this strengthening sacrament on her. (Editor’s note: Bishop Dubourg, whose life is well documented, also served as one of the first presidents of Georgetown University, and he later founded St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.) Everyone expected that Margaret would soon breathe out her last, and Father Clorivière said the prayers of the agonizing and gave her all the indulgences of the Church and their holy order, but she suffered for three more weeks. The sisters believed this was to purify her more perfectly and fit her for a more speedy union with him after death, and to edify the community by her patience, solid virtue, and perfect resignation to the will of God. One day someone asked her in jest if she was planning to disappoint everyone and get well again. She replied with her usual meekness and affability that disappointment or no, she had resigned herself entirely into the hands of God for life or death, and therefore whatever he pleased would be equally welcome and also would not surprise her. She was also asked if she wanted to see her natural sisters, or at least have them informed of her illness, and she replied that if it were up to her she would not have them come, but she’d leave it up to the will of her superior. The superior did think it proper for her sisters to visit, so they came on Palm Sunday and bid their last farewells to their dying sister.

Margaret’s illness had increased rapidly during Holy Week. Father Clorivière had stopped attending to her earlier when she had gotten better, but now he began again, and he gave her the holy Viaticum again at 10 o’clock on Good Friday morning. By noon she told the community that she was going, so they called Father Clorivière again, and the entire community gathered around her, remaining with her in prayer until she died. “This amiable sister preserved her presence of mind until her last gasp, and it was edifying and moving to see what efforts she made to pronounce the holy names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.” She died between one and two o’clock in the afternoon, “during the hours in which Christ himself had agonized on the cross for our sake.” The community believed that, as she died with him, she either went straight to heaven, or at least rose gloriously with him at his resurrection. “God grant to us to imitate her virtues.”

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