Marie of the Incarnation (Carmelite)
|Marie of the Incarnation|
|Widow and Religious|
|Born||1 February 1566
Paris, Kingdom of France
|Died||18 April 1618 (aged 52)
Kingdom of France
|Venerated in||Discalced Carmelite Order|
|Beatified||24 April 1791 by Pope Pius VI|
Marie of the Incarnation, also as Madame Acarie (1 February 1566 – 18 April 1618), was the foundress of the nuns of the Discalced Carmelite Order in France, who later became a lay sister of the Order. She has been called the "mother of Discalced Carmel in France".
"Le belle Acarie" ("the beautiful Acarie"), as she was known in Paris, was born Barbara Avrillot in Paris. Her family belonged to the higher bourgeois society in Paris. Her father, Nicholas Avrillot, was Accountant General in the Chamber of Paris, and chancellor of Marguerite of Navarre, first wife of Henry IV of France; while her mother, Marie Lhuillier was a descendant of Etienne Marcel, the famous prévôt des marchands (chief municipal magistrate). She was placed with the Poor Clares of the Abbey of Longchamp, where she had a maternal aunt, for her education, and acquired there a vocation for the cloister. In 1584, through obedience she married Pierre Acarie, viscount of Villemor, a wealthy young man of high standing, who was a fervent Catholic, to whom she bore seven children. Pierre Acarie disapproved of Barbe's reading romance novels and with clerical advice removed the books and substituted books of a more pious and spiritual bent.
Pierre Acarie was one of the staunchest members of the Catholic League, which, after the death of Henry III of France, opposed the succession of the Huguenot prince, Henry of Navarre, to the French throne. He was one of the sixteen who organized the resistance in Paris and partly responsible for the subsequent famine which resulted from the siege of Paris (1590). Mary was so wise in her almsgiving that during a famine the wealthy persons who desired to help the poor caused their alms to pass through her hands, and she was widely respected. After the dissolution of the League, brought about by the abjuration of Henry IV, Acarie was exiled from Paris and his wife had to remain behind to contend with creditors and businessmen for her children's fortune, which had been compromised by her husband's want of foresight and prudence. She defended her husband in court, drafting memoirs, writing letters and furnishing proofs of his innocence. He was acquitted and enabled to return to the city after three years. In addition she was afflicted with physical sufferings, the consequences of a fall from her horse, and a very severe course of treatment left her an invalid for the rest of her life.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Acarie was widely known for her virtue, her supernatural gifts, and especially her charity towards the poor and the sick in the hospitals. To her residence came all the distinguished and devout people of the day in Paris, among them Madame de Meignelay, née de Gondi, a model of Christian widows, Madame Jourdain and Madame de Bréauté, all future Carmelites, the Chancellor de Merillac, Père Coton, the Jesuit, as well as Vincent de Paul and Francis de Sales, who for six months was Acarie's spiritual director.
She is reputed to have had the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy, of predicting certain events in the future, of reading hearts and of discerning spirits. At the age of twenty-seven, she received the stigmata, the grace of physical conformity to the Suffering Christ. She is the first Frenchwoman the authenticity of whose stigmata (although invisible) have been attested by eminent persons.
In 1601 she was introduced to the Life of St Teresa of Avila and was greatly moved by her life. A few days later Teresa, appeared to her and informed her that God wished to make use of her to found Carmelite convents in France. The apparitions continuing, Acarie took counsel and began the work. A meeting in which Pierre de Bérulle, future founder of the Oratory of Jesus, Francis de Sales, the Abbé de Brétigny, and the Marillac's took part, decided on the foundation of the "Reformed Carmel in France", 27 July 1602. St Frances the Sales was the one who wrote to the pope to obtain authorization and Pope Clement VIII granted the Bull of institution on 23 November 1603. The following year some Spanish Carmelites were received into the Carmel of Rue St. Jacques, which became celebrated. Mme de Longueville, Anne de Gonzague, Mlle de la Vallieres, withdrew to it; there also Bossuet and Fénelon were to preach. The Carmel spread rapidly and profoundly influenced French society of the day. Barbara Acarie also cooperated in the new foundations of Pontoise (1605), Dijon (1605) and Amiens (1606). In 1618, the year of Mme Acarie's death, it numbered fourteen houses.
Mme Acarie also shared in two foundations of the day, that of the Oratory and that of the Ursulines. On 11 November 1611 she, with Vincent de Paul, assisted at the Mass of the installation of the Oratory of France. Among the many postulants whom Mme Acarie received for the Carmel, there were some who had no vocation, and she conceived the idea of getting them to undertake the education of young girls, and broached her plan to her holy cousin, Mme. de Sainte-Beuve. To establish the new Order, they brought Ursulines to Paris and adopted their rule and name.
When her husband died in 1613, his widow settled her affairs and begged leave to enter the Carmel, asking as a favour to be received as a secular sister in the poorest community. In 1614 she withdrew to the monastery of Amiens, taking the name of Marie of the Incarnation. Her three daughters had preceded her into the cloister, and one of them, Margaret of the Blessed Sacrament, was sub-prioress at Amiens. She made her solemn profession on April 8, 1615, in the course of a prolonged sickness. In 1616, for reasons of health, she was sent to the Carmelite convent at Pontoise, where she died at the age of fifty-two.
She is primarily noted for the introduction of the reform of Teresa of Jesus into France, so much so that she merits the title of "mother and foundress of the (Discalced) Carmel in France".
Evelyn Underhill regarded, the vigorous and saintly Madame Acarie, as providing the first definite impulsion towards that interior growth which made, the exquisite and urbane Francis de Sales, a fit guide for the soul of Jane Frances de Chantal.
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- Mystics of the Church, Evelyn Underhill, P.192, Pub 1975 by James Clarke and co Ltd. (first Pub.1925)