She was born Adele Louise Marie Mandat-Grancey, 177 years ago, September 13, 1837, in the family’s castle in Burgundy, France. Her parents were Jeanne Louise Eugenie Rachel de Cordouse and her father, Galliot Marie Francois Ernest de Mandat. They were of a long noble line, and “Adele Louise Marie” would have certainly become a Duchess or Countess.
The family ancestry also had a rich Catholic strain. St. Gallus (6th Century) was a relative who had come to the European continent with St. Columban from Ireland. Two Avignon Popes, Clement VI (1342-52); and Gregory XI (1370-78), were related to the Granceys. The family ancestry includes Blessed Peter, Abbot of Cluny, (1094-1156), who commissioned the first translation of the Qu’ran into a Western language. Tradition has it that St. Bernard of Clairvaux received his call to monastic life while stopping in the Grancey family chapel on the way from a battle.
Adele Louise Marie was the fifth of six children: Antonin, Charles, Christine, Leontine, Adele Louise Marie, and Edmond. She was baptized in the family chapel on September 14, Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. She was called most often, “Marie.”
All three of Marie’s brothers served in the French military. One, Antonin, died in combat in the Franco-Prussian War. Marie’s sister, Christine was a lady in waiting to the Queen of Belgium.
Though Marie was educated at home by her mother, the family would go to Paris part of each year. It was there – and near the Rue de Bac – that as a young girl she watched the activities of the “Family of St. Vincent DePaul;” the Daughters of Charity. They worked in the streets taking care of the poorest and most abandoned people.
As a young girl, Marie was drawn to God and to Mary. There remain today her handwritten prayers. At 10 years old she wrote, “My God, give me the grace to never mortally offend you.” “Grant me, my God, that I may always accomplish your holy work which requires charity, that virtue which you love so much.”
At 13 years old, Marie wrote, “My God, grant me more contemplation when I am in your presence and especially when I assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” “Grant me, I implore, my God, a vocation to the religious life. Give me the grace, O my God, to completely detach myself from the things here below and to aspire only to heaven.”
Marie’s determination to enter the Daughters of Charity alarmed some of her family, particularly her oldest brother, Antonin. Her grandfather gave great encouragement and support to Marie, helping her brother and the rest of the family to see God’s will in the decision. On May 27, 1857, at age twenty, Marie entered as a postulant. It wasn’t easy for her at first, as she admitted to her grandfather in a letter, “It is true that my not-so-generous nature wanted to refuse the sacrifice that I was called to make, but God does not refuse His grace to those who, at the bottom of their heart, wish only what He wishes.”
Marie persevered and the history of her life can be read in the wonderful book written by our own Vincentian Father in Kansas City, the late Father Carl Schulte, C.M., “The Life of Sr. Marie de Mandat-Grancey and Mary’s House in Ephesus.” Tan Books, 2011.
I have on previous occasions given some details of her life in these columns. There is so much to tell of her work among the orphans in France; in the hospitals and children’s homes in Smyrna, Turkey; of the discovery of Mary’s House in Ephesus; of how she was revered and loved by Christians and Muslims alike; of the many beautiful and holy actions of a woman who gave her life to God and sought only heaven.
Particularly today I wish to invite all of you to participate in an extraordinary rite of the Church, and an historic event in our Diocese: the Official Closing of the First Phase, the Diocesan Phase, of the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God, Sr. Marie de Mandat-Grancey, to take place on Saturday, September 13, 2014, (Sr. Marie’s Birthday) at the 4:30 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 10th and Broadway streets in Kansas City, Missouri.
Our special Tribunal, the Historical Commission, and the Theological Commission, have worked so hard as they gathered together all the known archival content, and compiled the reflections of many people about Sr. Marie’s life. We have heard the testimonies of people in Kansas City, Paris, Turkey, Rome, and New York. All this has been notarized and is being prepared for September 13.
On September 13, I will make the declaration that the diocesan phase is closed. In the sanctuary of the Cathedral we will seal the packages to be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. They will study all the materials and, if so moved by God the Holy Spirit, they may recommend to the Holy Father that Sr. Marie be recognized by the Church for her heroic virtue. If they make the recommendation, the Pope may declare her “Venerable.” We will continue to pursue the verification of a miracle toward her Beatification. Already we have received many letters about favors people have attributed to Sr. Marie’s intervention. If God wills it, Sr. Marie’s Cause will continue to go forward toward her Canonization as a Saint of the Universal Church.
I encourage and invite you all to take part in Holy Mass at 4:30 p.m., Saturday, September 13. Continue to pray through the intercession of Sr. Marie for the grace we all need to fulfill our vocations with the faith, hope, and love that characterized her life.