On the occasion of the 155th anniversary of the death of our Foundress, Blessed Alphonse Marie, let us reflect how she was dying.
Father Reichard made for Elizabeth, who was bedridden, the schedule. At 8 a.m. Elizabeth, with her confessor, prayed and listened to his advice for her spiritual life. She also talked with him about the graces she received. At the end, he entrusted into her prayers petitions of many persons, who asked for intercession.
An important step that awaits each of us is dying. How was our Foundress dying? Not much information has been preserved about her last days. Yet it is known that until her last day, until her last breath, she kept the one command of the Lord, which contained three words: Pray, suffer and be silent. Pray, suffer and literally – die quietly – be silent. Although the last days of her life were accompanied with fever, she was able, even in this condition, to arrange many more things. She rallied with all her might and to the last moment she was still working for our Congregation.
Just before her death, something unsusual happened. Father Reichard, who was her spiritual director and the director of the Congregation, came to visit her. It was July 21, 1867. She told him that he would die before her. Imagine that visit: he came to visit her and she told him – you will die first and then me. And so it happened. The next day, on July 22nd, Mother Alphonse Marie suffered a stroke. When Father Reichard was told the news, he was so deeply shocked that he too suffered a stroke and died two days later, on July 24, 1867.
Fearing that the health condition of MAM would worsen, the Sisters were afraid to tell her that Father Reichard died. However, she perceived everything. When she asked the Sisters how Superior Reichard was doing, they said that he was fine. Then she said, “Yes, everything is fine where he is”. During the burial of Father Reichard, they did not want to ring the Church bells so that MAM would not know anything about the sad events. But she knew of them, and allegedly spoke these words, “They want to keep it a secret from me that the funeral is now taking place”.
More interesting news is that two years before her death, she predicted her death completely accurately. Indeed, what a grace! Imagine that the Lord would say to you that you would die on July 31st. We probably would fear it. In the end, on July 31, 1867 she also went to the Lord. On August 2nd, a grand funeral was held. On that day, according to the Tridentine calendar, the feast of St. Alphonsus de Liguori was celebrated. It was ordinarily a joyful Feastday for the Congregation, and then, it really was a double Feastday. MAM made her last journey to the grave on the feast of her heavenly patron. The funeral was attended by about two hundred Sisters, as the records say. The Sisters realized that during the 10 days they lost not only their spiritual mother but also their spiritual father. They became orphans.
When she was buried, stillness and silence fell upon her grave. No one talked about her. She had a very special request and the Lord fulfilled it. “My Savior, please let me be forgotten after my death, that no one may speak of me.” This is a stunningly humble request. To be forgotten. For almost a hundred years she was not talked about.
Let us inscribe these words of MAM deeply in our hearts. We are not here to be talked about, but only to talk about Him, our Redeemer. If our ministry causes us to talk about Him more than talking about ourselves, then we are doing well. But if more is talked about us than about Him, then we should think. about it.. The last day of MAM and the day of her burial was a beautiful accounting of love for her Redeemer.
We know that for a good death we need to prepare well. One of the patrons of our Congregation is also a great intercessor in this regard. It is St. Joseph, a great patron of the Universal Church and a happy death. Often turn to him with this request. One more thing: older people more often ask for a day of death. Is it good or bad? It is not a sin. However, St. Dorotheus of Gaza reminds us not to sigh frivolously after death, because suffering on earth is a great privilege from God and it serves for preparing to meet Him. We should not give up this privilege so easily, but do it as St. Martin did. He prayed, "Lord, if you think I'm still needed on earth then I accept your decision, and if not, then take me."
MAM came to this world unnoticed as she left it unnoticed. She left a fruitful life and wise words, such as these, “You have come here to live the life of Jesus Christ, the life sacrificed and crucified as our Divine Master lived. But remember, our Congregation will live as long as it practices poverty and will be totally dependent on God.” A woman, who died at the age of 52. Physically early, but she still lives. She put her life to the feet of her Redeemer. After her, many Sisters at a younger or older age did the same as she did. Let us pray for the Sisters who one by one laid down their lives to the feet of our Redeemer, starting with MAM, Superiors General and all the Sisters, down to the last Sister we buried.
Blessed Alphonse Marie, pray for us.