blessed marie catherine of saint augustine

In his homily on the day of the beatification of Blessed Marie Catherine, Pope John Paul II said: “Among the founders of the Church of Canada in its spiritual springtime can be numbered Marie Catherine, this Augustinian whose hand, as well as her heart, was nothing other than charity.”

Catherine de Longpre was born at Saint Saveur near Cherbourg, France, on 3 May 1632. On the advice of Saint John Eudes she became a postulant in the Hospital of Hotel-Dieux and in 1644 took the habit of the Augustinian Hospitaller Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus. To the displeasure of her family, she volunteered for the mission of her community in Quebec, Canada, and arrived there on 19 August 1648. Her father went so far in his opposition as to present a petition in the courts to stop her. Because she had received an excellent education from her relatives, and as she was of an affectionate disposition and very ardent, Catherine felt for them an extreme gratitude and tenderness. Nonetheless she was resolved to live and die in Canada in service to the poor and sick. Her father later underwent a change of heart.

Conscious of the great numbers of people who had grown distant from their faith in her adopted country, Catherine offered herself as a victim for sinners, hiding from everyone the debilitating illness which she bore patiently until her death on 8 May 1668 at the age of thirty-six. For sixteen years she had also suffered periods of spiritual dryness and abandonment, temptation, and extreme destitution. It was only after her death that the extent of her suffering and the depth of her holiness became known, even to the sisters of her community.

In a circular letter notifying the sisters in France of Catherine’s death, the superior of the Quebec mission stated: “Her outward bearing had a charm that was the most attractive and winning in the world: it was impossible to see her and not love her. Her nature was one of the most perfect that could have been desired: prudent, with simplicity; keen of perception, without curiosity; sweet and gracious, without flattery; invincible in her patience; tireless in her charity; amiable to all, without undue attachment to any; humble, without being mean-spirited; courageous, without any haughtiness.”

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Easter Sunday, 23 April 1989. Blessed Marie Catherine’s feast is celebrated on 8 May.