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On a Prayerful Path with Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

Sr. Louise Côté, CND

Charles de Glandelet, Marguerite Bourgeoys’s spiritual advisor and biographer, wrote about her, “When someone on whom she relied asked her to give an account of her prayer, she said that she could not pray discursively (…). A single word or a single truth occupied her mind for long periods of time.” In what ways did the truths she contemplated keep her so long in prayer, absorbed and in the presence of the God she loved?

In the early 17th century, the “French School of Spirituality” was emerging. Marguerite was undoubtedly immersed in it and prayed in the manner of this School.

This spirituality was centered on the Word Incarnate – the Son of God made man, true worshiper of the Father. For her spiritual advisors, the Bible was their book of prayer. They strongly encouraged a prayerful reading of Scriptures. These two sources, the Word Incarnate and the Gospel, inspired a three-point method of praying: “Jesus before your eyes, Jesus in your heart, and Jesus in your hands.”

Jesus before your eyes: Admire, adore, contemplate, listen… Marguerite Bourgeoys whose desire was to always live in the presence of God, certainly began her prayers by placing herself in the presence of the One she loved, in a moment of profound adoration. She wrote, “(the spirit) must be even more prompt in raising our minds to God, to adore Him and to think of what He asks of us.”

Jesus in your heart: Love, allow Jesus to move in you; speak to Him… Marguerite tells us that prayer “must come from the heart, its very core.” She speaks to us about God “to whom we become inseparably attached.” “We must”, she says, “pay attention to what we ask, to what we promise and to what we ought to do for God.”

Jesus in your hands: Commit, declare, pursue our life with Jesus… According to Marguerite, we must “take away from prayer some good thought that will help us throughout the day,” that will inspire our actions, that will help us to imitate those of Jesus. Glandelet wrote, “From her loving attentiveness to the Divine Presence, she drew the strength to carry out her daily activities.”

To truly be able to walk on a prayerful path with Marguerite Bourgeoys, we need to explore two directions: her adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist and her way to go to Jesus “through Mary.”

In adhering to the French School of Spirituality, Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys possessed a singular devotion to the Word Incarnate present in the Eucharist.

When the Congregation erected its own chapel, Marguerite rejoiced that “the sovereign of all that has being, the Creator of (…) all things, has been pleased to take up a place in this house.” She continued, “I cannot find words to thank him for all the blessings we have received from His divine Majesty, especially this memorable grace of possessing Him in the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.”

In his encyclical, The Church Draws its Life from the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II described the Virgin Mary as a “Woman of the Eucharist.” In the same sense, Marguerite speaking of the Mother of Jesus said, “We can still marvel at her happiness each day at Mass and Holy Communion, adoring Our Lord on our altars, recalling that she contributed to the matter of this holy Body we receive for the nourishment of our souls.”

For Marguerite Bourgeoys and for the French School of Spirituality, Marian devotion never separated Mary from Jesus. Rather it always saw in Mary the holiness of her Son. Meditating on Mary’s presence among the Apostles after the Resurrection of Jesus, Marguerite contemplated the woman who “carried in her heart” all the words her Son had spoken. She recalled his teachings to his disciples and, like in Cana, his invitation to them to do “all he told them.” She saw Mary with “the first Christians, our models, absorbed in prayer and in the breaking of bread.”

The ways of following in the footsteps of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys on a prayerful path could be:

Before the Tabernacle where the Word Incarnate is present or in the silence of our room, contemplate God by meditating on His Word which Marguerite explains in this way: “When the heart is open to the sun of grace, we see flowers blossom in their fragrance; these are seen to have profited by the word of God.”

Once Jesus has been before our eyes in this way, retreat to the depths of your heart and affirm our faith and our hope, formulate requests, implore God’s grace, and praise and thank Him for the blessings He has bestowed upon us and for the love in which He envelops us.

Take away from prayer thoughts which will inspire our attitudes and actions, allow us to have Jesus in our hands and contribute to ensuring He is loved and served.

Marguerite Bourgeoys also invites us to seek the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Word Incarnate, so that we may, too, be attentive so that we may do “all He tells us.”


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