Monday, April 30, 2007

Who was Jeanne Chezard de Matel?


(Icon of Jeanne Chezard de Matel, used with permission
from the Sisters of the Incarnate Word, Cleveland, Ohio)

Jeanne de Matel was born in Roanne in the diocese of Lyon, France on November 6, 1596. Her father, Jean Chezard de Matel, an officer in the army, enjoyed the friendship of two monarchs: Henry IV and Louis XIII. Her mother belonged to an excellent family of Roanne and distinguished herself by her virtue and piety.

At the age of twelve, Jeanne made her First Communion. This was the beginning of an intimacy with the Incarnate Word, to Whom she consecrated herself by a promise of perpetual virginity. Thus, there was established between God and this servant a degree of friendship which manifested itself through extraordinary graces received. The priests of the Society of Jesus were the confidants of these graces accorded to her, and during her lifetime, they were her most faithful counselors and protectors.

Our Lord Himself clearly informed Jeanne that He had chosen her to be the foundress of a new religious Order. After having consulted her spiritual directors, Jeanne, at the age of 29, commenced working for the establishment of a new Institute. She began with two companions, in Roanne, on July 2, 1625, but soon afterwards transferred to Lyon. From there she called for her first companions, and they established themselves on the Gourguillon hill, in a spacious house which Our Lord had previously shown her.

Monseigneur de Miron, the Archbishop of Lyon, died unexpectedly after having occupied the archepiscopal See for only two years. His successor, Cardinal Alphonse Louis de Richelieu, brother of the famous Prime Minister under Louis XIII, maintained an unwavering opposition to Mother de Matel's foundation. Confronted with the dispositions of he new archbishop, Mother de Matel's situation became both difficult and critical. Despite the protection of the Jesuit Fathers, the Cardinal would not consent to the foundation of a new Congregation, and he refused his approbation within his diocese. In 1633 Mother de Matel received the Apostolic Bull of Establishment from Pope Urban VIII authorizing the foundation of the new Order, but Cardinal Richelieu refused to make the Bull effective. Mother de Matel, tranquil and full of confidence in God, established the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in other dioceses. She founded a monastery in Avignon on December 15, 1639, in Grenoble, on June 3, 1643, in Paris on January 1, 1644. The successor to Cardinal Richelieu, Monseigneur Camille de Neuville canonically recognized the monastery in Lyon on December 30, 1655.


(To be continued....)

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