Following Jesus of Nazareth

The major intuitions of Little Sister Magdeleine of Jesus

'He took me by the hand and blindly I followed.''He took me by the hand and blindly I followed.' In attempting to assemble the pieces of Little Sister Magdeleine's life for her biography one of the things that impressed itself very strongly upon me was the extent to which she was not one who came to know God or his will through rational thought or discursive reasoning. Her life and the history of the Fraternity, as she recorded them, were repeatedly defined in terms of God having taken her by the hand and of her having blindly followed. Practical and concerned with the details of every day life, though she was, her letters and journals are full of references to feelings, intuitions, dreams, sudden realisations, and lights that guided her, to the knowledge that she must do something even though in human terms that action might be folly, precisely because life had shown her from a relatively early age that what to human eyes was madness was often divine wisdom.

The exact nature of her initial vocation is accordingly characteristically lacking in clear direction. She wrote of how 'well before her first communion' and 'almost from the age of reason' she felt a calling to the religious life and maintained that her vocation was probably born of a love of Africa. She spoke of how even as a small child whenever she saw little African children, she felt spontaneously drawn to them, and of how her favourite game was making a tent out of blankets with one of her brothers. People who took to the road in caravans, had next touched her heart. Later it was prisoners who attracted her to be 'a prisoner with them'. Then a visit to a leper colony awakened in her 'dreams' of a calling associated with them. It would have taken several lives, she claimed, with what in the light of all that was to come we now identify as irony, to fulfil so many dreams. She acknowledged the impact of her parents' faith and of her father's special affection and concern for the Muslim nomads. Her father was in her eyes a saint, who never expressed regret for having made a treacherous journey to Tunis on horseback, in order to save the life of a little boy, at great personal cost to his own health and career. Her father, perhaps not insignificantly, was also a man of premonitions: when news reached him of the declaration of the First World War, he is said to have knelt down with his head in his hands and predicted: 'Today there are six of us. When the war ends there will be three.' He was proved to be tragically right.