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Sr. Caroline Clément wish to be a priest

Sr. Caroline Clément

1825 - 1887 AD

The following extract is taken from Histoire d’une Ame Victime. Caroline Clément, by R. Henry, Téqui publishers, Paris 1890, pp. 53-57. Translation from the French by John Wijngaards.

Note. These auto-biographical notes describe Caroline’s search as a girl (17-20 years old) before she entered the convent. She had been given the task of being ‘sacristan for the main altar’ in the local parish church. When reading her private reflections, we should judge them in the light of the devotional spirituality of the time, which was not unlike that of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The unique aspect of this passage is that her desire to become a priest has not been expunged by later authors, as usually happened.

On Sundays or feastdays it was my great fortune that I was allowed to decorate the altar. Often I could not sleep on the night from Saturday to Sunday. I waited all the time for dawn to break. I loved very much to watch Jesus under the Eucharistic veil. Also, whenever the priest took the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle, my joy was complete. Although seeing the sacred ciborium excited me, whenever there was an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and I could look at him for a long time on the altar, my happiness knew no bounds. I felt his divine presence so much on the altar where the Sacrament was exposed that I was mostly just overcome in silence. At times I wept. Without even noticing it, I was totally bathed in tears.

I would then reflect how lovely Jesus is how great, how powerful in his self-annihilation. I suffered at not being able to love him as I would have liked to. Often he showered his love on me as rays of fire. I felt my heart warming itself at the fire of his love. His love sometimes was so strong that I felt my whole chest ablaze. I felt my heart as it were penetrated by a divine flame until it became painful. My heart melted as it were in Him whom I loved.

It was almost impossible for me to detach my view from him, even during the time when I had to fulfil my duties. On those days, I simply could not leave the church. Love kept me there practically the whole day. I called those feastdays 'my beautiful days'. Although all my days were beautiful in some ways, these were so in an incomprehensible way.

Love is all

Oh what beauty, what riches I saw in my Jesus. I simply could not understand the indifference of people for this sacrament of love. Their coldness tore my heart. And if, during those happy moments I enjoyed the presence of my beloved, in another way I suffered much by seeing him so unrecognised, so outraged by many indifferent Christians. I said then to my Jesus to give that love to me which these ungrateful people did not want, so that I could love him in their stead.

But it seemed to me of little use only to pray for these misguided sinners, although I tried to do so with all the ardour of my soul. I would have liked to have had sufferings to offer for them, to join them to those of my divine Saviour. I begged him constantly to give me something to suffer for other people, or at least that he might deprive me of the sweetness of his presence leaving me in solitude of spirit.

But he would not listen during those years. He augmented my consolations every day, making me constantly enjoy the sweetness of his presence, but in a an intimate and delicious manner. He increased especially my love for his state as victim. What filled me with amazement was to see a God so great annihilate himself in such a way as to make himself a victim, unto the point of enclosing himself in such a small space.

I then spoke to him often as follows: "It is in vain, my love, that you hide yourself under a simple piece of bread, in a poor ciborium. I discover in you so much magnificence, so much grandeur, that it overcomes me. This is how you hide yourself from us people in order to communicate yourself to us. How else, in fact, could we otherwise endure the radiance of such a great majesty, we who are so feeble and so miserable. Yes, how great is your goodness towards me for communicating yourself to me from this ciborium and from this tabernacle from which you look at me! Oh love, my love, when will I be able to love you as much as you deserve!"

The desire to be a priest

Oh how jealous I was of the happiness of priests who touch the sacred host everyday and who break this bread of life to the faithful! How I regretted that my sex did not allow me to offer the sacred sacrifice! I complained about this to you my Jesus. I wept bitterly. My sorrow was so great that it often made me ill. Every day I had to put this idea out of my mind. It tore me. It broke my heart. I used to kiss with love everything belonging to the altar. Those pious objects evoked in me almost every day tears of tenderness. Those were the inner experiences I had during many years and that practically without interruption . . .

Receiving holy communion

It was especially when receiving holy communion that I felt myself totally penetrated by divine love. During many years, this was a transforming experience. For my preparation, I could never follow the acts of devotion suggested by authors. I could not think of anything else than the infinite love of Him who gave himself to me. I prayed to St.Teresa, to St.Gertrude, to St.Catherine of Sienna, St.Magdelene of Pazzi, to obtain for me the ardent love with which they had loved this God on earth, a God who had communicated himself to them so often. I implored them to obtain the same love for me to.

The only thing that mattered for me was love, I asked for nothing else but love. Most often I simply could not make any explicit act, finding myself totally absorbed in love. At the moment of holy communion, I did not know how to hide my ecstasy of ecstacy and of love which the presence of the beloved made me feel. A number of times I was on the point of rising from the Sacred Table with shouts of joy.

It has happened to me a lot of times, especially on feasts of Our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin, and at Christmas, that I could not speak another word than the simply word ‘Jesus’ during my thanksgiving. I kept repeating it without end. After I had received communion, my whole soul and my heart was filled with such a tender bliss that it almost made me lose the use of my senses. It seemed at times that I could not breathe anymore so great was the love that I felt, so palpable the love of my beloved. My face would then be covered with tears without me being able to control them, or to say a word.

I had difficulty enduring such profound inner experiences. I kept saying to my Jesus that he should temper the tenderness of his love. I begged him even to make others taste the consolation he gave to me to make them share in them. But instead of diminishing, these consolations and inner stirrings increased every day, especially at holy communion.

Caroline Clément, in 1846

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