February 2 – THE NOVITIATE OF MARIE-LOUISE TRICHET
THE NOVITIATE OF MARIE-LOUISE TRICHET
The clothing ceremony is well-known thanks to a picture whose original hangs above the tombs in the basilica at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre. It shows Louis Marie de Montfort, who is 30, standing before Marie-Louise Trichet, 19; she is kneeling, wearing the new habit which the Daughters of Wisdom were to wear for two and a half centuries: it was cut from coarse grey serge; a large white linen neckerchief forming a point at the back covered the shoulders, and a white linen headdress or coiffe was worn in lieu of a veil; a large ebony crucifix was placed on the breast; within reach of the hands a rosary with large black beads hung at the side. At the same time she received the name Marie-Louise de Jesus. In the consecrated life, the clothing ceremony and the religious name are usually the double sign of entry to the novitiate. But what a novitiate! ·
From the time she had met Montfort who had heard her confession in the chapel of Poitiers General Hospital two years earlier, she had been working in the hospital without residing there. She wanted to become a nun, and while Montfort was away in Paris in the summer of 1702, she knocked on the door of the canonesses of St Augustine at Chatellerault but she had to leave for health reasons. When Montfort returned she renewed her application to become a nun but he invited her to move into the hospital, then to become one of the Cenacle of Wisdom; this was an association he had just founded made up of a dozen unattractive virtuous women. Then on 2 February 1703 the clothing-ceremony took place, marking her entry to the novitiate, so to speak, but again what a strange novitiate!
Its setting? a hospital. The desired solitude? Living among the poor. The formation received? Strange humiliations and mortifications imposed by her Director.
Its length? Not one or two years, as was usual, but the time determined by Montfort:
“My daughter, do not leave this hospital for ten years.” Ten years without human support, awaiting the return and decision of her spiritual Director. In 1713, unable to wait any longer, she asked the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul for admission but the Bishop of Poitiers opposed her request. She turned to another cloistered order, the Benedictines of the Calvary, but her confessor demanded that she sought Fr. de Montfort’s opinion in writing; naturally Montfort opposed her wish. Her third attempt was to try and join the Carmelite nuns, only to be told by the prioress, “You cannot join us, Miss, because you are not strong enough.”
Marie-Louise’s novitiate came to an end on 22 August 1715 at La Rochelle when she took her vows.
The feast of 2 February is still the date on which the Daughters of Wisdom hold clothing or religious profession ceremonies, and on that day all the Sisters renew their vows.