If people really understood the Sacrament of Marriage, there would be no divorce. Marriage is so beautiful, so great! Unfortunately, everyone does not understand it. Those among you who are divorced probably think: “My life is ruined! I would like to have lived the beauty of this Sacrament, but I failed”.
However, the Lord is so kind as to restore hope in our hearts by the help of witnesses. That is why today, I want to talk to you about “Solitude Myriam”.
Those who have contracted a new alliance may think, “I, too, if only I had known, if I had truly understood the beauty of the Sacrament!…now, I have a new family, I have children!”. But even there the Lord shows His Mercy. He helps us find a way out of our difficulties, and He brings us back to the path of holiness. We are witnessing this!
I married when I was 18 years old. Certainly I did not understand sufficiently the greatness of the Sacrament of Marriage. However, I knew enough to make a valid marriage. I wanted to found a happy home and have many children. But from the very start of my marriage, I saw many great obstacles. We, husband and wife, would tear out each other’s hair, because we did not understand. Four years later, I had a child with my husband. When that baby was 18 months old, I was 24 years old, and I could not continue the kind of life we were living, always fighting. I knocked at many doors looking for help but I did not find any. We should not ask why, sometimes the Lord permits trials. We loved each other but the obstacles were so great that 5 years of marriage ended in separation and divorce. I experienced panic and loneliness, suffering terrible deception in thinking, “My life is finished”.
During the 5 years of my present ministry, I often hear these words: “I did not choose the celibate life. I wanted the life of a married couple and now I am alone”.
I met Maurice who was a bachelor. We loved each other. I had faith, and I was practicing it, but I had not yet really encountered Jesus. I had no light. My faith was at the level of the law but not on the level of a deep love for Jesus. As I believed firmly in the indissolubility of marriage, I had never thought of the possibility of contracting a civil marriage. I had always thought that the Sacrament of Marriage was a sacred bond that only death could break. Yet, certainly, I did not see its profound mystical dimensions. Then I went to the chancery office to inquire if there was any possibility that the Church might recognize my previous marriage as invalid, as I myself thought it was. However, my record having been examined, I was told: “No, your marriage is valid”.
I then lived through the crisis that many people experience, crying: “The Church does not understand us!” “What does the Church understand about the life of married people”? How could a priest who has chosen the celibate life understand the life of a couple”? …and so on… I experienced a certain deception, though not revolt. Later, fortunately, I understood that the Church, being our Mother, and a good Mother, cannot permit us to do everything we’d like to do.
Then, at that moment, I decided to begin a new life with Maurice, and I left the Church, because I believed she did not understand. Do you hear what I am saying?? Humanly speaking, we lived a happy life, the kind of life I would have wanted to live with my first husband. But as you know, even if we are humanly happy, at some time or other, there was a soft interior voice telling me what had been said to the Samaritan woman: “This is not your husband”. That reality was tarnishing my happiness and I could not live in peace. I tried to find good excuses such as: “Ah, you know, everybody knows your husband. God understands! Maurice is such a good man for you. You raise your children well. You help everyone. You are kind. You hurt no one.” Thoughts like those make you happy…don’t they? We excuse ourselves a little…and we keep on.
One day, awaiting the birth of my third child, I had a miscarriage. I went to the hospital. I had a hemorrhage and because of an error in the medicine, my blood became very thin. Noticing this the doctors stopped the serum but it was too late! The doctor could do nothing more. I was at the door of Heaven or Hell, which it didn’t matter, but I was at the door of something. I must say that, at that moment, I felt I was dying and I was fighting against death. How funny! I was afraid of death and I still had no thought to ask God for forgiveness. That’s why I understand when He says: “Always be ready, you know not the hour”!
Yet, I was struggling while thinking of my children ages 6 & 11. At that same moment, I asked the Lord to prolong my life for them. I said: “That has no meaning Lord, I am going to die and leave them orphans and they will live separated from each other for I had two husbands. One will be with his father and the other with the second husband and they will be terribly unhappy. For the love of my children, I beg of you Lord, to give me 5 more years to live”! It is completely crazy, asking only 5 more years when one is only 30 years old! My mother would say to me: “What are you up to, asking but 5 years more to live”? Now I understand that Divine Providence was at work. At that time I suspected nothing. I mentioned 5 years. Within 5 years my children would be grown up, so I could go. “And so Lord I promise you upon my honor not to fight anymore as I do today. Later my children will be able to live by themselves… Then you can come and take me with you”. At that moment, I really completely abandoned myself. I had no choice. At that very moment I really felt life coming back to me. Just as I had struggled during a part of the night, in the same way I ceased struggling for I felt life coming back to me. My pulse began to beat normally. The doctor was able to take care of me and told me afterwards: “I understand nothing! You were at St. Peter’s door and then you came back. In an instant all came back to order? I understand nothing”! Then I smiled and did not tell him my secret.
I left the hospital and today with great shame, I must confess I was the most ungrateful woman, for I did not even think of saying “thank you” to God for the life He gave back to me. I had asked, I received, and then I forgot. I had only one goal--to hold on to my children. I think they were like God for me.
As for Maurice, he was an adult so he could get along. But I was worried about my children. I looked for a job. More often than not, the future of the children lies in money. I wanted for them a good future. We love our children but often in a bad way. I worked hard as time went by and did not think much of death.
Then one day as I was lying in bed, suddenly I had a flash—my 5 years were over, it was the end. No, it was impossible! I began to calculate, month by month, day by day. Five years later the Lord would come and get me, but not as I thought. As for me, I thought He would cause me to die. Actually, I was dead because I was living far from Him. And that was my biggest sin, to live without God for 15 years and not allow my children to meet Him. It was unthinkable. However, happily, I believe in God’s Mercy and Infinite Power! He was going to make up for all the errors of my life. I was quite sure of it. So, on my bed, all at once, I began to think: “This is it, I am going to die”!
Then I really began to see my life unfolding before me in the twinkling of an eye, and it was not so nice! So I looked for some good actions I could offer to God to excuse my life. But all of a sudden without even trying, I came to understand the true meaning of life. We come from God, created by Him, and return to Him, for all eternity. Consequently, our life on earth is but a transitory passage, during which we can learn how to know Him, to welcome His Love, and to answer that Love of His, to love Him more and more in order to become purified. In other words, it is a time of purification. All our life is a way of LOVE to attain perfect Love, to be able to see God face to face for all eternity.
I was in complete despair because I thought, “I have no more time, and I understand now the meaning of life.” I fell into materialism. As I was still not converted, even with only 4 or 5 years ahead of me, I was foolish. I had been lucky enough to get a job which brought me a good income. Maurice also had a big salary. I led a merry life. I was full of pride, which I still have a lot of, but…
Lying on my bed, I was thinking, “Now I own two estates, possess a lot of jewels, very valuable diamonds, beautiful toilette sets, a fur coat able to make all women jealous of! Yet, suddently, I felt how trifling all that was. I felt how all that was nothing but wind, “vanity of vanities”. I was to appear before the Father and it would be forever! What will be the use of all that?... And looking at my fur coat I thought “I cannot take it with me, surely not to Hell, where it is already too hot”! So I understood how futile my life had been. I was thinking “there is no more hope for me. Everything is over! You have to manage with my sins Lord as you always have done. Now that I understand, I cannot make amends for my faults any longer. Well, that is what it is…and I cried, and cried, and cried, and cried.
If you only know how much I cried! I was expecting cancer and then death! However, God our Father is so good! He has a bag full of tricks! God put in my path near the place where I was working, a man who was involved in the Charismatic Renewal and who invited me to a prayer meeting. How could I go to such a meeting when I hadn’t entered a church for 15 years? But he was so insistent in asking that I was like the widow in the Gospel, boring the judge by constantly asking that he take care of her case. So I began to think “I’ll go once to see, just to satisfy the man, and then no one will speak of it anymore. The matter will be ended. I shall get rid of him”.
Therefore, one Saturday evening I went to that meeting. I laughed, felt it was stupid, because I did not know how full of pride I was. I looked down on those people and I found them really stupid, mad. However, after that evening, someone asked me: “Do you want to receive the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit”? I answered: “It is not at all for me. Go on and pray as you like, but as for myself, I prefer to speak to God alone, in my room”.
But the next morning, the Holy Spirit woke me up very early. At that time, I was working very hard six days a week with dreadful hours. So I sanctified the seventh day by sleeping. However, on that Sunday, I was unable to sleep. The Holy Spirit woke me again and His words kept running through my mind. As a result of my curiosity (there are people who are taken in like that), I went… And there, I must say, I began to look at people, to listen to their testimonies of conversion, reconciliation. There were drug users cured, alcoholics also. All that began to touch me. I thought they looked like foolish but happy people, while I did not look foolish but was actually unhappy. I was able to see the difference.
Then, right in front of me, a crippled lady was suddenly cured. At the Offertory she brought her crutches to the priest who was there and she was crying. As for me, at that moment, I discovered Jesus and He was living!! For me, Jesus had come to earth… He had spoken to us, He had left His teachings with us… He had returned to the Father, was sitting at His right side and was there waiting for us, very calm, without making so much as a noise! But here I was completely amazed. The blind were seeing, the deaf were hearing. I was seeing Him, could feel His Presence. He was living, speaking, working in the midst of His people! For me it was a discovery! Nowadays, when anyone speaks of a conversion happening in the Charismatic Movement, people say, “It is just fanaticism”. But there really is a matter of exaltation when you become aware that God, whom you thought was dead, is suddenly living there, to make you free! Jesus met me also.
When meeting Jesus, you are first sent back to yourself. Jesus becomes like a mirror for you. I saw myself as I really was, with all my limitations, my errors, my sins! I did not find it all by myself, but I was touched because I felt Jesus’ Love. I could understand God’s LOVE for those who had been faithful in their married life, for the couples still united and loving each other, for Priests, for Sisters. But, for myself who had chosen another way, who had lived for long years in error, who had committed so many other follies that it’s not necessary to tell you, I felt loved.
I lived the life of Mary Magdalene fallen at the feet of Jesus. What made me shed tears the most was that she saw not only her sin but also the goodness of Jesus who loved her. She would have liked to offer Jesus her purity, but she had only sins to offer Him, yet she felt Jesus’ Love for her. When she fell at Jesus’ feet, she was a prostitute, but when she stood up, she was St. Mary Magdalene. She followed Him up to the Cross. And it is to her that Jesus appeared and said: “Go to your brethren and tell them that I am risen from the dead”!
That is what Jesus does when He meets us. In my case, I felt I was loved by Jesus and that He was changing me. I was not changed because I was holier than anyone else, but Jesus had turned my faults into assets and my heart entirely. Then I came out of there, went to my car, and cried, and cried, and cried…and I knew that I would never be the same because I had met Jesus and that I loved Him crazily and that He loved me. It was so beautiful! And I told myself that to acknowledge oneself as a sinner was the greatest grace that the Lord can give to us. As long as one does not recognize oneself as a sinner, there is no way out of it. But as soon as one admits one’s sinfulness, we discover that Jesus loves us all the same. “For me your sin makes no difference. What would hurt me would be that you stayed the same! I will change your life, I am going to sanctify you. Never mind the past. Let’s turn the page”! One day I heard someone say that God had no memory, and I was happy to hear that. Because we have a memory, we have a lot of trouble forgiving. But God has no problem in forgiving us. From that time on I started to go ahead.
I went back home. Maurice had not yet met Jesus. It was not easy. Luckily, Jesus arranged for me to meet a priest. I thank Him for encountering that particular priest, for nowadays there are many priests who no longer know how to guide us. They are afraid to shatter us or hurt us. They hesitate because they are afraid to hurt us. It is not for us to judge them, it is out of love that they do that. However, the Lord let me meet a priest who said to me: “Alright Danille, it is true, you are wrong, you are an adultress! And Jesus is calling you to a much greater happiness! Now that you have met Him, return to Maurice and offer to live together with him in chastity, like brother and sister! Both of you lend an ear to the Holy Spirit to know where He wants to lead you, what He wants to tell you. After all, you have a family. Don’t break up the family. Listen to what the Spirit wants to do in your life.”
Now then I am going to let Maurice talk two or three minutes. Some among you might like to hear him longer, but Maurice does not like to speak in front of people, (neither do I)! He always says: “Danielle has the charism for speaking, and mine is for silence”.
Maurice: “I had not met the Lord when Danielle asked me to live as brother and sister. I wasn’t ready for that. I had good excuses. I am a man, I need to live, I need to live with a wife, I am not made of wood! Today I can thank the Lord and Danielle, too. Because during all the propositions I made, she always knew how to resist. If it had not been thus, I would not be where I am today and I would not have understood what Danielle was doing. But then I looked for a woman to live with. Finally I came back home and said to Danielle: “There aren’t 56 choices in my life. I want to do good, but I am doing evil… I want to live the same way you are living and pray the Lord that He will grant me strength!”
We prayed together. It was a long time that the Lord had waited for that moment. After that, I really understood the call that the Lord was giving me and it was much easier to live that way.
Danielle continues: “I’ll admit that there were difficult times after I had really chosen Jesus. It caused much aggressiveness on Maurice’s part and impatience also on my side, because he did not understand. There were uncountable struggles and that is normal. They couldn’t be avoided. I’d say it was God and the devil battling each other, but God is the stronger. That strife was not easy because of Maurice not wanting that sort of brotherly life in chastity. He would have chosen something else, but as for me, the Lord gave me the strength to resist. It was really a grace! When we give our lives to the Lord, He gives the grace of living that to which He has called us. When Maurice came back, he said to me: “We have a family. It’s been 15 years that we have been together, that our love has filled our hearts! My family is you, my children! I do not want any other family! I want to live this life.” Then I felt totally happy. The Lord was speaking to me through those happenings, because I had offered Maurice to the Lord. I explained to Maurice, that at the age of 24, I had the choice to choose Jesus or him. “Today”, I said, “I choose Jesus and I am determined to carry the Cross which I refused when I was 24, because Jesus gave His life for me”.
Hereafter followed a road that was low and difficult. My spiritual director sent me to a community called Myriam-Bethlehem. In my first meeting with the Foundress, she told me she was completely at a loss as to what to do with me. “If I listened to myself, I would say to you to return to your home because that would be easier for me. You’re a married woman”, she said, “you’re divorced and living with another man and you have children. Nevertheless, I feel the Lord is calling you. Therefore, could you possibly spend a year of formation at our house? During this time, I am sure the Lord will give us an answer as to what He expects from you”.
It was then that my children themselves told me: “Go ahead! We are not babies anymore. We know that you are living something great, something beautiful. If it is really a call and you do not go, you will be unhappy. And if you go and find out that you are mistaken, come back home”. Worried, I went to consult a priest who said: “Don’t ask the Lord for any more signs. Your children approve, they encourage you. That is the sign God gives you. Go ahead”!
I took in all the spiritually that God willed to give me in that community. I learned to die to myself, to let myself be really led by the Holy Spirit. After one year I came back home. My spiritual director had me give my testimony in the parish. After that testimony, women separated from their husbands, divorced, remarried, broke down, began to call me on the telephone. In the face of such suffering, I felt powerless. Sometimes I would cry with them. I was saying to myself: “What can I do but offer them to the Lord?” I felt the Lord telling me: “OFFER THEM”. I was praying for them. But one evening while I was in the little chapel, I was telling Him: “They are so broken down, so torn apart.” One young women 24 or 25 years old told me: “My husband is gone with another woman, I remain alone… and the Church asks me not to start a new life…it does not make sense. I have children, they need a man”. I remembered that at 24 I had not been able to carry my cross, but I felt that the Lord was now telling me: “Avail yourself of your own errors now to be a witness, to be their support, their strength.” I then gave them the testimony of my life that had been a mistake. I began to tell them: “The Lord wants to call you also to a total love. Why not begin at once?”
And marvels were wrought. In the evening, I cried and I was saying to the Lord: “Lord, you are their Father. Their human suffering is there before your eyes, you must do something.” And then, I felt within me an interior voice saying: “Look at Moses. What did he do? He climbed the mountain, he cried for his people. And I always gave Moses what was needed to save his people from oppression. I shall give you all that is needed to save them from their sufferings and their sadness.”
I was none the wiser for it, but I felt deeply peaceful and had the intuition that God was going to take our business in hand, that He would do something, but I did not know what. Therefore, I kept praying…and during the night I had a dream. The Lord assigned me a mission as I was sleeping. I guess I wasn’t a good enough listener during the day so He had to come at night! I could see His Face. He was telling me:
“Look, these are my sheep. Look at how they are hurt and wounded. Hurry up, assemble my sheep. Wolves are eating them up. Gather them together. I’ll give them joy. I’ll strip away sadness from their hearts because you will no longer hold them aloof, but consecrated within my Church. I want them for My Kingdom. Your house will be called Solitude Myriam. And so you will welcome numerous priests who will come to you to get the strength to live their celibacy and solitude”.
Then I woke up. And to prove to myself that this had come from Him, (I am in no way a musician and had no musical talent whatsoever) I woke up with a song coming out of me just like that…a song that was to be the foundation of all this work. It would be too long to sing it all, so I’ll just sing the refrain:
“I dreamed one day of an enormous house, where there would be sun, peace, joy and love. Yes, I dreamed one day of an enormous house, where I would assemble women who had been crying”
And here’s the last verse:
“It’s Mary’s House, it is the house of my Mother! Here boredom has vanished, Mary has won victory over worries. She’s inscribed in our hearts in letters of fire and flame. The name she has meant for it: it’s Myriam’s Solitude!”
I felt as if I were giving birth to a child. I felt I was going to give birth to something new in the Church. I left to see the responsible people in the Church; one bishop, my superior, my spiritual director. I told them all that had happened, everything. They told me: “Get them together!” But what would I do for them? Make those very hungry people consecrated persons in the Church? That’s impossible! That’s something that cannot be thought of! Sr. Jeanne of Myriam-Bethlehem, told me: “Pray”. I made arrangements to meet a few ladies who had telephoned me.
At the first meeting there were 12, because in the beginning there were only women, but now there are men. That surprised me, because it seemed to be like the beginning of the Church—12 Apostles! A drop of water in the ocean! But when I saw what the Lord could do with 12 men, I said to myself that He could very well do something with 12 women! We prayed together! I had the impression that it was really the work of God, for I had done nothing. They said that Danielle Bourgeois was the Foundress, that made me laugh, because I am under the impression of not having founded anything! The Founder is really Jesus, who does all things! We are really poor instruments only. He chooses what is the poorest to show His greatness, His own wealth! Then, we prayed.
At first, there were sorrows, tears. “Lord, bring my husband back to me! Make him leave his mistress.” It was not easy but little by little, to my great surprise, there were no more tears, but instead only praise and thanksgiving. “I thank you Lord! You have loved us so! Brought us everything! You gave us a house! Thanks! I had given you up for so many years! I notice now that it is due to that separation, that suffering, that I came back to you! I bless you Lord for that separation which brought about my conversion! Blessed be the sin which brought me to such a Savior!”
Today the devil wants to divide families! He attacks the family and the Church, but the Lord is always a conqueror on the ground of his enemy. Of these divorcees He makes consecrated ones, He does so in order that graces of sanctity, of reconciliation will gush forth. Jesus bends again over the misery of His Father. He comes again to save us. And of all our errors, he makes a road which will put us back on the straight path!
The Bishop told me: “In all my life, it is the first time that people have come to ask me permission to help other persons live the radical message of the Gospel. Often times, they visit bishops to obtain permissions. I am truly touched.”
In October 1986, it will be 5 years since the foundation of Myriam-Solitude.
Today we are 65 divorcees, having been consecrated in the Church. It is a small number, it is but a drop of water, but what hopes for today’s Church! I’d like to explain to you the meaning of this consecration.
Why does God want to make of us consecrated divorcees? He says: “We will not call you reprobates any longer; we will call you by a new name: My spouses and my deeply beloved”! When being in a situation of separation, that of a divorcee, and when we are converted, one says to herself: “I love Jesus so very much that I would want to give Him all my life. I feel I want to go much further. I cannot live my life as a couple. My husband has gone away with another and has remarried. I am married, but I have no husband. I cannot live a life of vows like religious do.”
Our consecration does not make of us religious. We remain lay people, but lay people consecrated by our Sacrament of Matrimony. We remain fathers and mothers. Someday we will be grandparents. We do have a family duty to fill out. We don’t leave the family. This is our ministry within the Sacrament of Marriage. The Lord one day gave me to understand that when we marry, it is a man and woman who marry taking their vows at the foot of the altar. They are the ministers of that sacrament while the priest is only the witness. However, Jesus also wants to become a spouse and He becomes the Spouse of the wife but through the husband. And the Spirit unites us. The link between the Father and the Son is LOVE. It is the Spirit that unites us under the gaze of the Father and for His Glory. And from that moment, Jesus says to us: “From today we are united for life. It is God’s wedding, we are united for life. The wedding is an image of the Trinity”! The Persons of the Trinity are melted one into the other. In our wedding God is with us. “I beg of you not to separate what I have united! It is my own marriage for me too, with you”!
That is why the Church has the duty to be very serious before recognizing the nullity of a marriage because the Church must be certain to note major reasons for which God could not marry the couple. Moreover, the Church sometimes recognizes that God could not marry this couple, that God was not present in that alliance for major reasons. But when God approves an alliance, He also makes an alliance with us. When one party leaves the other, the latter may say to himself: “I am alone”. However he can also think: “Jesus, who has espoused Himself to me through my spouse says to me that both of us are abandoned, but you are not alone, for I am there with you. I suffer as much as you do! I am also your Spouse. I’ll console you and you will console Me also. (Because we must console the Heart of God too!) Come pray with me!”
This is where we discover the meaning of our consecration. We repeat our “yes” to our alliance with our spouse and with Jesus. But this time, this “yes” is repeated in solitude and on the Cross. And this mandate is our ministry in the family, the marriage, as parents and in the Church; being for all an instrument of sanctification. We belong to God entirely, and by the vow of fidelity we promise to observe chastity according to our state. It would therefore not be an obstacle to the return of the other party and to start life as a couple in conjugal chastity. We are then repeating our “yes” to our partner and we become entirely his spouse in expectation of him, if he ever comes back. I accept this Lord because you have espoused me and the grace of our Sacrament will come to meet my husband! That is our hope! The Lord cannot be unfaithful to His Promise!
I repeat continuously that the essential element is not praying that our husband comes back to us, but that he returns to God. There are many chances that coming back to God he will also return home. However, there are also cases when that will not be possible. There are cases when the husband and even the new wife will both come back to God.
I remember a prayer meeting where we experienced such beautiful things, so that towards the end I prayed thus: “Lord, I beg of you to bless us… along with our husbands and second wives and husbands. Come someday and reconcile us that we may all be together with You in Heaven”! This feast we have to start living right now on earth. There have been reconciliations of couples who were not able to start their lives again together because there was another union, another family. However, the Lord works with all these errors. The main thing is that all walk along the path of truth and of sanctity, that all together we may come back to God. “That they may be one so that the world may believe...” (John 17:21)
We are not to judge those who take another way. We have to help them too. There are all the divorced and remarried people who suffer by not being able to participate fully in the sacraments of the Church. “You must rejoice in being able to be on the path you are treading. The desire for receiving the Eucharist, the desire of Jesus, you must offer it up, for it has an incomparable power”. Not only the divorced, remarried person must abstain from the sacrament, all Christians much have a pure heart to greet Jesus.
Some people say “Maurice and Danielle are out of their minds”. Yes, but we are extremely happy! We know a much greater happiness than the happiness we had before as a couple. Maurice said: “I would not like to live any other way”.
We are small instruments in the Hand of God. The Apostles saw the Risen Lord and went proclaiming in loud voices: “He is living! We are His witnesses because we have been filled with the Spirit of God”. As for us, Jesus leads us to purity of body, heart and spirit. It is He who does it in us. We are happy in this. He has made us witnesses who stir in the hearts of others the desire of following Jesus Christ closely, whatever our situation might be. You are always called to sanctity. God calls us always. It is because He is a wonderful Father who is infinitely Good, but He does have demands. Yet these demands are ALL LOVE. God never demands what could destroy us, but asks us to conform to Him little by little.
One day, when I was young, people would say to my mother: “Your daughter Danielle looks like her father”. I was proud because my father was a good man whom I dearly loved. Today, I have grown old and am less pretty, but it impresses me that according to a testimony, there are people who, still now, come and tell me: “You are beautiful”! I realize that it is not physical beauty, but the inner beauty given by God because He has purified my soul and has made me all clean. It is that beauty that people see in me, and in people converted like us. I am happy because I can still say: “I am beautiful because I look like my FATHER”!
There are many other things to say, but I must stop. Let me just tell you:
“The demands of God are made known through the Church because the Church is the mouth of God speaking to our world of today. These demands are LOVE and they are there to restore us in beauty. Amen”!