Place Published: Philadelphia
Publisher: Saint Joseph's University Press
Date Published: 2000
Book ID: 22
158 pages + introduction and bibliography | 8.5 x 5.5 inches | 6 b/w images
I Leave You My Heart makes available, in English translation, the firsthand account of the travails of the nuns of the Lyons Bellecour monastery of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary during the French Revolution. Unlike accounts of other convents of this period, this is not a chronicle of martyrdom. Its author, Marie-Jéronyme Vérot, the monastery's mother superior, offers instead a narrative of divine intervention, as she recounts the intertwined tales of the virtually miraculous escape of her community from the terror and persecution of revolutionary France to re-found their monastery in Mantua, and of the providential preservation during this course of events of these Visitandines' most prized possession, the relic of the heart of their founder, St. Francis de Sales. In the ideological wars of the age, this relic represented an enormously important weapon, and the revolutionary authorities were anxious to confiscate it in order to deprive it of its charisma. But at every turn, these nefarious characters are frustrated and thwarted in their schemes by the simple, but resolute nuns.
The translation is preceded by a double introduction. The first, by Jo Ann Kay McNamara, author of Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millennia (Harvard University Press, 1996), firmly situates Mère Vérot's chronicle in the context of the historical circumstances of the times, and of the evolution of Salesian/Visitandine spirituality. Complementing this approach, the translator's introduction provides an overview of the four major periods of the history of the Visitation Order from its foundation to the Revolution, as well as discusses how the relic of De Sales' heart came into the nuns' possession and the author's biography.
Peronne-Marie Thibert, V.H.M., ed., trans.
"[Mother Vérot's] letter remains to us as a testament to the courage and ingenuity of the 'simple women' who clung so fiercely to their profession and their faith in the midst of revolutionary turmoil. It remains also as an invaluable window onto the sensibilities of the more conservative forces who have been marginalized by the historian's magnetic attraction to the new and progressive in human history."
Jo Ann Kay McNamara from the Introduction
"Although much has been written about the role and experiences of the French clergy — parish priests as well as higher clergy — the history of religious sisters has largely been neglected. This has not been due to a lack of original sources. Religious congregations have left vast archives depicting their daily lives and inner experiences, but to date few scholars have availed themselves of the riches contained in these documents. This chronicle is evidence that further study of these sources is well worth undertaking."
Jo Ann Browning Seeley, Catholic Historical Review