NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local diocese, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.
~ Peter, Ministry Administrator
Thursday, June 25, 2020
Monday, June 1, 2020
Memorial: June 23rd
Marie, herself, was born in 1177 in the Belgian city of Nivelles. Her family was wealthy and her parents were quite concerned when their daughter, from an early age, displayed an unusual aversion to their affluent lifestyle. Rather, the young Marie was inclined to solitude, preferring the practice of prayer and self-denial to the lavish customs and events that were the norm for her high social status.
Hoping to stave off a religious vocation, Marie's parents forced her into an arranged marriage at age 14 with a youth named Jean ("John") from another rich family in Nivelles. As it providentially turned out, the groom was also disposed to piety so Marie was able to persuade her new husband to live a chaste life alongside her. The couple then dedicated themselves to good works, especially to the care of leprosy patients in neighboring Willambroux where Jean's brother was the chaplain. The duo remained there for 15 years.
During this early period of service and formation, Marie was not only a clear example of a Good Samaritan, but she endeavored to deepen her personal union with Christ through intense prayer and by performing extreme corporal mortifications: she abstained continuously from meat and frequently fasted from all food for extended periods of time (one such fast miraculously lasted 53 days!); deprived herself of sleep through prolonged evening prayers and, when she did partake of rest, it was on a wooden plank; plus, she wore a coarse rope around her waist under a simple white tunic she habitually wore. Marie had a marked devotion to the Eucharist, to Our Lady, and St. John the Evangelist.
In due time, the holy penitent began exhibiting an abundance of extraordinary charismatic gifts that included ecstasies, visions, apparitions (she had frequent visits from her guardian angel and souls from Purgatory), foresight, the reading of hearts, levitations, and the ability to heal through touch and prayer. Additionally, she also had... the gift of tears, which manifested through copious weeping whenever she prayed or meditated on the Passion; the fragrance of sanctity, which was noted as a constant aroma of incense emanating from her person; and her body was said to be so abnormally warm (the effect of the Divine Love that burnt within her heart) she never required the use of a coat or blanket even in the dead of winter!
As a result of her apparent virtue and alleged mystical powers, people regarded Marie as a living saint - countless visitors from the surrounding regions, from every background, sought her guidance and counsel... and she effectively led souls back to God. In fact, many dedicated themselves to Marie's care as her spiritual children. In particular, her laywomen followers imitated her brand of spirituality, which gave rise to the very first Beguine communities.
Circa 1207, desiring to live in a solitary manner, Marie obtained her husband's permission to retire to a hermitage next to the church of the Augustinian Priory of St. Nicholas in Oignies, France. There, her reputation for sanctity and wonders followed her, which despite Marie's efforts, still attracted pilgrims. It was here, the priest, Jacques de Vitry (later a Cardinal), met her in 1208 and became her confessor, confidant, and disciple; de Vitry, incidentally, later wrote the earliest biography of Marie of Oignies, based on his firsthand knowledge of her life, spirituality, and miracles of which a variety of details are mentioned in this blog.
Marie died on June 23, 1213, exhausted by her penitential practices and after being encouraged by a vision of her future place in Heaven; she was only 36-years-old. Mourners clamored for her relics and a popular cultus developed around her memory soon after her death. The Church officially recognized the public's devotion to Marie, which designated her as a Blessed. Her relics are still preserved and honored in the church of St. Nicholas in Nivelles, her birthplace.