Abbot Louys’ friendship with Catherine–Mectilde de Bar would have been akin to other more famous spiritual friendships of the 17th century: that of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, of Francis de Sales and of Jeanne–Françoise de Chantal, of Jean–Jacques Olier and Catherine de Langeac.
Mother Mectilde’s circle of male friends included besides Jean de Bernières and several other notable laymen, Benedictine monks of the Congregation of Saint–Maur, Premonstratensians, Cistercians, Cordeliers (Franciscan Friars), Tiercelin Penitents (Franciscans of the Third Order Regular), Carmelite Fathers, Capuchins, Lazarists, and Sulpicians. Mectilde de Bar was not narrow–minded. (Let us not rashly assume that the conspicuous absence of Jesuits means anything in particular!)
Mectilde de Bar was no shrinking violet when it came to engaging with the men of her day. She maintained her dignity, her exquisite sense of decorum and, at the same time, was not afraid of confronting her own humanity and the humanity of others on the terrain — or should I say battlefield? — of real life. Far from being a pious dreamer lost to this world and time, Mother Mectilde was, like Saint Teresa of Avila, a contemplative fully engaged in the messiness of life. Rarely, if ever, did things go as she hoped they would. Mectilde de Bar persevered in her Benedictine and Eucharistic vocation, quietly trusting God in the midst of war, famine, poverty, sickness, pillage, harassment from a rejected suitor, insecure housing, constant travel, vexing lawsuits, calumny, an attempted house invasion by the agents of a fake princess, and insidious detractions. God sent Abbot Épiphane Louys into her life to support her, defend her interests, and deepen her attraction to a fully Eucharistic life of adoration and reparation.
Born in 1614, the same year as Catherine–Mectilde de Bar, Épiphane (born Nicolas) Louys, was also, like her, a native of the Lorraine. Their peregrinations through a war–torn France led them both, at about the same time, to Paris. Early in 1664, Abbot Louys called on Mother Mectilde to give her news of her community in the Lorraine. A few months later, he appears as the protagonist in the drama surrounding the foundation of a monastery of perpetual adoration in Toul; the city’s notables are all opposed to it. Abbot Louys winning arguments prevail. He installs in the new monastery an image of Our Lady of Benoistevaux, a sanctuary in the care of the Premonstratensians. On 8 December 1664, Abbot Épiphane himself exposes the Blessed Sacrament in the monastery of Toul, thereby inaugurating the new observance. (Read more.)
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