Joseph Stefanelli, SM
This biography of Marie Thérèse is intriguing in the variety and number of “hats” she wore during her long life.

by Joseph Stefanelli, SM

517 pgs.

Hardbound edition also available, see separate listing to order hardbound

She was from the aristocratic class and had lived on a country estate; during the Revolution, she bravely ministered in Bordeaux; when she fled to the country at Pian, she served as spiritual leader of the townspeople. She began a long association with William Joseph Chaminade and was instrumental in the development of the Sodality, the foundation of the Daughters of Mary, and the early years of the Society of Mary. Her major work was the Miséricorde, a refuge for women who wanted to reform their lives.

This selection is taken from an incident on October 27, 1803, when it seemed they would have to close the Miséricorde for lack of funds, or even food.]

Marie Thérèse, aware now that the whole house was upset, left her office and went to her customary place in the community room. With her two assistants beside her, she addressed them all in words of faith. “Have courage; banish all concern, all solicitude. We have done all that depends on us. Let us await calmly the manifestation of God’s will for this house. If it is God’s work, he will prove it by sending needed help. He who can change stones into bread can also provide bread for this house is so he wills. If he does not, it is because he does not wish to do so. And is it not his most holy will that we seek to do? Let us then be at peace; let us persevere in submission, courage, and joy until the end.”

After their meager “last dinner,” Marie Thérèse and the others went to the chapel to pray, as was their custom. With humble faith and deep sadness and pain she prayed fervently for light, for help, for her filles. She saw that many of them, too, seemed to be praying most earnestly. She turned to God, at once complaining and challenging. Later she would describe her sentiments with great simplicity.

So! You would withdraw from us your hand and your protection, you would let fall this house to which you called these poor women! And when, O my God? Precisely when they are imploring you with such ardor. See N., prostrated at your feet; she is begging your grace, your mercy, and lively contrition for her sins. And N., looking up at the statue of Mary, asking her for the same favors. Will her confidence in this Mother of the Miséricorde be deceived? You know, O Lord, that we have at heart only the salvation of these poor ones. If you wish to use those whom you have called to this work as your instruments, come now to their help. Their fate and that of the whole house rests in your hands. May your most holy will be done!

Editors’ Preface
Author’s Preface
1 Encountering Les Filles of Bordeaux (1800)
2 Living on a Country Estate (1754-1767)
3 Growing Up in a Port City (1767-1789)
4 Leaping into the Maelstrom (1789-1794)
5 Ministering to a Priestless People (1794-1800)
6 Tasting the Bittersweet Beginnings (1800-1803)
7 Turning a House into a Home (1803-1806)
8 Finding Help in High Places (1806-1808)
9 Attracting to a Christian Community (1801-1809)
10 Riding the Bureaucratic Roller Coaster (1808-1813)
11 Enduring the Pangs of Homesickness (1813)
12 Seeking Justice in the City of Light (1813)
13 Forming a Religious Institute (1813-1815)
14 Helping To Establish Other Foundations (1816-1817)
15 Sharing Community Life with Her Filles
16 Sharing Responsibility for Her Filles
17 Building up the Church
18 Extending a Successful Enterprise (1818-1820)
19 Consolidating a Second Miséricorde (1820-1821)
20 Facing the Inevitable (1821-1836)
21 Sowing the Seeds of Fioretti
22 Planting more Fioretti
23 Extending Her Mercy and Love Beyond Death

Appendix One Background: History of Prostitution
Appendix Two De Lamourous: Ancestry
Appendix Three De Lamourous: Marriage Certificate
Appendix Four Marie Thérèse: Baptismal Certificate
Appendix Five Marie Thérèse: Act of Oblation
Appendix Six Eulogy by Barrès
Appendix Seven Religious and Secular Names
Appendix Eight Population of the Miséricorde of Bordeaux
Miséricorde Registres des Pénitentes
Population of the Miséricorde of Laval
Appendix Nine Social Strata Represented among the Filles
Appendix Ten Personal Histories of the Filles
Appendix Eleven Chronology of the Institute