Trich's Blog

March 7, 2010

First Communion

Filed under: Uncategorized — pjse @ 11:16 pm

Receiving first communion was a real milestone for girls eleven to twelve years old.  This first act of commitment by a young girl on the brink of puberty but still attached to all her girlish ways, was a serious if not solemn moment.  It required months of preparation that was strictly a mother-daughter undertaking. “Until the age of ten or twelve,the mother is the teacher of the heart and of the conscience… The mother helps her daughter to make her first examination of conscience. She guides her and while being close to her, helps her see the different forms of her thoughts and actions during the past months. The objective is to help her to confront her transgressions. ” (Marie-françoise Lévy,De mères en filles, l’éducation des françaises 1850-1880, Paris:Calmann-Lévy, 1984, p.78-79) What kind of sins could a girl have at the age of twelve? “There are essential defining points, such as prayer– was it regular, said attentively, forgotten –one’s attitude towards the church, one’s respect for God and the family. Then there were the following faults: anger, lying (for fun, to avoid punishment, to blame someone else in your place), vanity, jealousy, being a foodie, laziness and selfishness.(Lévy p. 81) Finally there are the times when you stole something or when you could have done charitable works and did not. (ibid).

Girls were given home schooling in the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but their religious upbringing was considered of utmost importance. After months of almost daily instruction and discernment, the girl was ready for her  private examination with the parish priest. You can just imagine how frightening that would be to a young girl at any time, but in the nineteenth century when girls had little freedom and mores were extremely strict! I am sure that few girls slept well the night before their ordeal! Mme Colchen would certainly have prepared Caroline well, and we do not know of any problems with the exam. We do know that the evening after her Confession, preceding her first reception of the consecrated host, Caroline shut herself in her room claiming that this time was reserved for God. She was not available to play with her brother and sisters.

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February 14, 2010

Father Chaumont’s portrait of Caroline

Filed under: Uncategorized — pjse @ 7:13 pm

Today I want to give you a picture of Caroline as a young girl just about to enter the convent school of the Visitation sisters in Metz. I have translated into English Father Henri Chaumont’s description of  her as he weighs the good and the not so good.

“Caroline Colchen was an exceptional young lady. She had acquired the use of reason even where it concerned feelings, which is very rare. The minute she saw something, she understood; as soon as she understood, she began to use her judgment and to affirm her reasoning. That explains why we see such little display of the sensitive tenderness of her heart and her highly developed pious instincts. They had already been sifted through her precocious habit of reasoning.

This habit also explains the special note about the little defects in this child’s character. Caroline Colchen was like a seed. From the soul of a woman would come the refinements that God likes to lavish upon it , but at the same time she bore the secret of a strong willfulness. She was called, in God’s plans, to add grace upon grace, but often her human weakness found the pretext for more than one imperfection. Caroline had the same feelings that her sisters would have had; she wished as her brothers would have wished. While in her heart she wanted to be obedient; the pride of reason led her too often to impose her will.”  Henri Chaumont, La Première Mère, p.6 Translation mine.

February 3, 2010

Pictures of Caroline’s neighborhood

Filed under: Uncategorized — pjse @ 10:46 pm

L\’Hôtel de Burtaigne is a house that was built by one of the most renowned families in the history of the city of Metz, the Gournay family. Much later it became the property of the de Guise family, who were the youngest branch of the dukes of Lorraine.  The intervening years before the Colchen’s purchased the house are a mystery, but the contemporary photo can give us an idea of what the house looked like from the front. Of course the entire neighborhood has changed, but this view of the Seille river which flows into the Moselle can help furnish our imagination of the large back yard sloping down the bank to the serene water flowing below. The quiet sound of the running water must have been very inviting.

La Seille river in Metz

Here is the bell tower of Saint Maximim’s church which served as the Colchen’s parish. Unfortunately all we can see of it is the bell tower.

saint Maximim, the Colchen's parish churchA romanesque church built in the fifth century, it was rebuilt in the twelfth century,and  was given a baroque entry door in 1753, creating a somewhat incongruous architectural style. Then In 1960 Jean Cocteau created stained glass windows for St. Maximin’s that are reported to be spectacular. Metz, here I come, if only there weren’t that small problem of money!

January 25, 2010

Caroline’s childhood continued

Filed under: Uncategorized — pjse @ 3:36 am

We really do not have any detailed record of Caroline as a child. We do know that the family was very close and that the children spent most of their time at home either being tutored by their mother or playing together, outside when the weather permitted. Caroline often looked after her younger siblings. French children even today do not visit their school chums at home; they play during the long lunch period in the school courtyard. Occasionally there might be a birthday party, but that is a special day; pajama or slumber parties are not part of a young French girl’s experience, and certainly not in the nineteenth century.  Mme Carré’s confessor and co-founder of the the Daughters, Father Henri Chaumont, wrote a biography of his collaborator shortly after she passed away, and he characterises her as stubborn, energetic and not at all hesitant to speak up whenever she saw any injustice being done.  Among a group, Caroline was always noticeable.  Another biographer, Gaëtan Bernoville, writes in  1951  that she was a “good child, affectionate, sensitive, direct and outgoing, usually cheerful but also bossy at times” (Madame Carré de Malberg, Fondatrice de la Société des Filles de Saint-Françoise de Sales, Paris: Bernard Grasset, p. 14. A developed sense of pride was certainly her greatest flaw, and in later life Father Chaumont would try to encourage her to become more humble. Caroline would confess her faults, but humility was most difficult for her.

January 24, 2010

A New Home

Filed under: Uncategorized — pjse @ 3:02 am

This loving family soon numbered six, for another sister. Emélie came along and then her brother Léon who was eight years her junior. The little house on the rue de l’Abreuvoir became very crowded, and since Victor’s  business was thriving, they were able to purchase a larger, more elegant house in Metz. It had been the manor house of the wealthy and distinguished family of De Guise, whose ancestors were the Dukes of Lorraine, of which Metz is the capital city. François De Guise whose life spanned the first two thirds of the sixteenth century, defended Metz in 1552 from the onslaught of  the German Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V of Lorraine, and in 1558 took the city of Calais back from the English. François had a brother, Charles, who became the Cardinal of Lorraine, and together they were the leaders of the Catholic Party after King Henry II’s death in 1559. Much later, the house was sold and was then known as L’hôtel de Burtaigne. The word “hôtel” does not mean an overnight lodging for visitors, but rather a large, handsome residence, a popular term since the sixteenth century. The house was at least two hundred years old, but being antique just added to its charm.  Like nearly all French homes built on city streets, there was no real front yard, for there was usually just enough room for the step or steps leading to the front door and a pathway traversing the front of the house. This prestigious property appeared quite imposing and somewhat austere, but its back yard was simply delightful. Trees, flower beds and a very spacious lawn meant plenty of room for playing. At the rear of the property the ground sloped down to the Seille River, which was really a large stream. Big trees and flower beds bursting with color, made the setting idyllic. Here the family had the beauty of the countryside with the convenience of the city; it was a perfect place to bring up children. Another advantage was its proximity to the Colchen’s parish church, where Victor served as President of the St. Vincent Paul Society  and on other committees.  When not teaching the children or doing hosework, Charlotte made church vestments for priests in the outlying parishes who could not afford to buy the costly robes. A closely united couple, they attended daily Mass, and often took communion, something that was rarely done in the nineteenth century. They also extended themselves to help out financially those in apparent need and  those seeking help of any kind, including the parish clergy. The word duty was not in their vocabulary, for service to others was doing the Lord’s work.  Of course, women did not work in that era, and Mme Colchen’s principal duty outside of her household chores was the education of her children in both their school subjects and in their catechism lessons. Every parent was responsible for seeing that their children were prepared to receive the sacraments. It required great amounts of time and patience, but being a good wife and mother was her state in life, about which she was satisfied and happy. The household was now complete with four children, and the games and squabbles of little people could be heard many times during the day.

January 19, 2010

Families rooted in Catholicism

Filed under: Uncategorized — pjse @ 4:14 am

It occurred to me in reading the last blog that more information about Caroline’s father, François -Dominique-Victor Colchen, might help to explain the  important role that religion played in his life. It is certain that his ancestors  and his parents in their turn,  instilled into their children the importance of being committed to their faith and of having high moral standards. However most of Victor’s relatives had lived and prospered in the pre-Revolutionary era, and even in the seventeenth century, while he was brought up in the post-Revolutionary years. His ancestors had all been offered a good education because it was easily affordable for the well-to-do, upper class bourgeoisie. However the Revolution had changed all that, and Victor’s parents could not afford to send him to the university. Not finding any job prospects in Metz, the young Victor decided, like many young men in the provinces, to try his fortune in Paris. Unfortunately, he ran into a dead end at every turn, to the point of becoming despondent and very depressed. One evening he found himself walking in an unsavory neighborhood when a young woman came up to him and offered her wares. Victor would have no part of it. His firm refusal was so surprising to a passer-by, that the gentleman stopped and congratulated Victor, and after some conversation, told him about a wine-merchant friend of his in Marseille who would most likely be able to get him a job. It gave Victor hope, and off he went on the long journey to the south of France.  He did indeed land a job with  the gentleman’s friend, but he also attended a youth group called “Oeuvre de jeunesse” or  “Working youth” that had been founded by the Fathers of the Sacred Heart before the French Revolution. The director, l’ abbé Allemand, was not only very self- disciplined but was very strict with the group members. Can you imagine any one putting up with such a tough taskmaster today? But L’abbé Allemand made so many sacrifices and provided such a saintly example for the men, that everyone loved him.  Victor would be in his group for seven years. By the time he returned to Metz, the young Victor was a fervent Catholic and would always see service to the Church as part of his everyday life. His fiancée, having come from a family with numerous children, and having beed educated in a Catholic School, was also very devoted to the Lord and His church. Victor Colchen had been tested, but he came out the winner, and was stronger for the experience. When you think about him, he seems to be so affable, so willing to help, almost brotherly. It is easy to understand Caroline’s great affection for her father, even though it was not proper to show your emotions in  nineteenth century France!

January 16, 2010

Caroline Barbe Colchen

Filed under: Uncategorized — pjse @ 10:38 pm

Imagine the excitement in the Colchen household when a newborn arrived on April 8, 1829! How happy her sister Élise must have been overjoyed to learn that the baby was a girl, a sister with whom to play and laugh. The Colchens were a warm, happy family with solid Catholic virtues. The father’s family had ancestors who belonged to the “noblesse de robe” because they had held important civic posts in the region. Caroline’s father, François Dominique-Victor Colchen, did not follow this path and in fact had experienced some setbacks as a young man seeking a job in Paris at the age of eighteen.  His whole famiily had been devout however, and he was no exception. He had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and had persevered through those bad times to become a successful businessman.   Her mother, Élizabeth Charolotte Simon, was the last of numerous children in her family (one biographer says 14, another 9).  Having been educated in the Visitation convent school, she herself knew a great deal about St. Francis de Sales and shared with her husband a devotion to the Church. At the time of Caroline’s birth they lived on the “rue de l’Abreuvoir,”  (Watering Place) in the city of Metz, the capital city of the province of Lorraine, France.

January 14, 2010

Why is Caroline Carré so special? Part III

Filed under: Uncategorized — pjse @ 11:54 pm

Caroline Carré is especially dear to all of us who carry her memory in our hearts and minds because she was so humble and unassuming; she had no visions of grandeur in founding the Daughters. She simply wanted to be as perfect as she could in giving her life to the Lord, and she wanted to help other women who had a similar desire. After her death, Father Chaumont wrote her biography which he entitled La premiére mère de la Société des Filles de Saint-François de Sales. The third edition that I am using is dated 1900, four years after Father Chaumont’s death. The author of the Preface is a V. Costaz, Directeur de la Société, who writes, “Certes l’action de Mme de Carré de Malberg avait été grande, et loin de nous la pensée de la diminuer en quoi que ce soit, mais enfin son rôle avait été celui d’une auxiliaire, toute remplie d’une sainte initiative, répondant avec une admirable fidélité à toutes les indications qui lui étaient données, elle avait été l’instrument docile entre les mains de l’habile ouvrier, et cette docilité, cette parfaite souplesse de l’instrument  avaient puissamment contribué à l’oeuvre de renaissance sociale et de sanctification que M. Chaumont avait conçue… on ne saurait perdre de vue qu’elle n’entreprit rien par elle-même et qu’elle agit toujours sous l’impulsion de son pieux directeur.” Préface, p. XI-XII. I would be happy to translate  if someone asks, but a summary of the Director’s comments will suffice to show you why Caroline’s story needs to be told.  V. Costaz gives Caroline credit for her long, hard work (grande) and does not wish to lessen her contribution in any way, but  her role was really that of an auxiliary. She followed like an obedient servant all the instructions given to her by the “skillful craftsman,” and became “the perfect docile instrument that contributed to the realization of the social and holy renaissance that Henri Chaumont  had envisaged. ” We must not, says V. Costaz,” lose sight of the fact that she (Caroline) did nothing on her own and that she always acted under the supervision of her pious director.”

This male chauvinism is expected in the nineteenth century, but that does not make it right. It is time that Caroline’s life work be brought to light, and that she receive the credit due her. We do not wish to denigrate the ideas and the work that Father Chaumont contributed to this endeavor, but without Caroline’s intelligence, desire, and take-charge ability, the entire enterprise might have lacked the essential impetus to hold the program together. Her personal compassion and drive were really the glue that bonded the society together . Caroline Carré deserves her rightful place among religious ground-breakers in the Roman Catholic Church.

January 13, 2010

Why is Caroline Carré Special Part II

Filed under: Uncategorized — pjse @ 11:18 pm

Yesterday I talked about why Caroline is so special to me personally. However she is also special in eyes of the spiritual cadre of religious and lay individuals for what she accomplished in the face of so many hurdles and set backs inlcuding living in a most domineering marriage. Caroline Carré had learned obedience since her youth, and never would she break a promise made before God, no matter if it meant death. She had taken her vows, and she would obey them no matter how difficult, insensitive and unloving her husband could be. Caroline always turned to God, and she had a longing to bring others to see what inner peace and serenity could be achieved through prayer and service to others such as Jesus gave to those with whom he came in contact. Through her years of being the dutiful wife, Caroline became friendly with many women; she acted as a guidance counselor, gave sympathy, offered her time, prayed with women who, once they had come in contact with her, almost always came back. Caroline was really like the mother hen; she took on the mental burdens of the women who came to her house, to her salon as one would call it in the nineteenth century. Eventually she would meet a confessor with whom she could have an ongoing religious relationship which would result in the establishment of the “Daughters of Saint Francis de Sales”. She is the only woman (at least to my knowledge)  to actually found a lay order. However the male religious want to give most of the credit to her confessor, Father Henri Chaumont.  Part three to come.

January 12, 2010

Why is Caroline Carré so special? Part One

Filed under: Uncategorized — pjse @ 11:53 pm

Why is it that I am so interested in Caroline Carré ? The simplest and most straightforward answer is LOVE.  As a lay woman, she is a true disciple of St. Francis de Sales and the best example of Jesus Christ’s message to all mankind that I have ever encountered: to love God above all things and to love thy neighbor as thyself .  Throughout her life, in face of the overwhelming challenges of nearly dying and living the rest of her life in poor health, of  living a burdensome and extremely difficult marriage, of losing all her four children, of being admonished again and again either by her husband or her confessor, whether for her pride, or her need to become this or that, or to make more sacrifices to bring her closer to God.  Never did she complain about her lot ; on the contrary, she always felt that she did not deserve any better because she wasn’t perfect. How could anyone, have the life that she had, and still be filled with so much love ?

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