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6. With God's own strength
Keep your arms wide open...
The years passed and little sister Magdeleine continued to travel in Eastern Europe. On August 22, 1977 she wrote to the little sisters:
But these were the "cold war" years and the world was shaken by dramatic events on every side: in Vietnam the Marxist regime has taken over the entire country, war was raging in Lebanon and in Latin America military dictators had taken control in many countries. The repression was as hardened and difficult in the Marxist countries as in those with right wing dictators. On December 8, 1977 little sister Magdeleine wrote to the little sisters:
After warning the little sisters of the dangers of one extreme or the other, both of which breed hatred, she added:
Several times there were families who arrived in Tre Fontane seeking asylum: a Lebanese family trying to escape the violence of war, political refugees who had to flee Vietnam or Latin America. Little Sister Magdeleine wrote to the little sisters:
Among these families was a militant Chilean communist whose daughter had been horribly tortured. After contacting many people little sister Magdeleine was finally able to have her leave her country and join her family in Tre Fontane. Later she wrote to little sister Magdeleine: "We learned a lot from you, especially about that most beautiful part of the human spirit that is love for another in a solidarity that is not self-seeking."
On July 25, 1978 while in Moscow little sister Magdeleine learned of the death of Bishop Riobe, the Bishop of Orleans, France. Olivier Clement had described him as "a man of prayer, deeply formed by the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld, a man forever wounded by the Gospel and his meeting with Jesus." He had struggled all of his life for freedom, justice and respect for the poor. He had written, "The cries of thousands of tortured people will never cease to resound in my conscience as long as I know that even one of them is naked in front of their torturers. To keep silence would be a betrayal of the Gospel."
The next day little sister Magdeleine sent some extracts from his writings to the little sisters saying,
"He was a dear friend to us and we had a deep affection for one another."
She was still in Russia when she learned through Bishop Nikodim on August 7th of the death of Paul VI. Deeply moved by his death Bishop Nikodim celebrated Mass and the office for the dead for him in his private chapel with the little sisters. Several days later he came to Rome as the Patriarch of Moscow's delegate for the funeral and stopped also in Tre Fontane despite his own fatigue.
And on Sept 5, 1978 Bishop Nikodim died of a heart attack in the arms of Jean Paul I during a private audience. Brother Roger of Taize who was in Rome for a visit gave this sad news to little sister Magdeleine.
In her own 80th year little sister Magdeleine wrote to the little sisters on Decembers, 1978:
Among her last follies
In October 1979, at the age of 81, little sister Magdeleine decided to travel to mainland China. Along with little sister Jeanne and little sister Carla she joined a tour group for three weeks. At times little sister Magdeleine did not have the strength to follow the day's itinerary and stayed behind with one of the official state-appointed guides with whom she became quite close. At the end of the trip this guide confided to little sister Magdeleine that her five-year old daughter had leukemia saying, "I don't usually tell this to the tourists."
At times when they were free from the organized visits little sister Magdeleine was able to contact several Chinese priests. One of them wrote to her later:
Little sister Magdeleine would comment,
"That is why the Lord wanted me to make this trip despite the many obstacles. I needed to come and see for myself to be strengthen in my conviction that we must be present in this enormous country. "
Another country where she dreamed of travelling was North Korea. Until the year of her death she sought in vain for a way to gain access.
On September 8, 1981 the fifth General Chapter was convened and little sister Carla, Italian, was elected Prioress General. Several weeks before, little sister Magdeleine had written to the little sisters.
Until her death little sister Magdeleine never ceased to repeat that this work of love had to begin within the community and among the little sisters.
In February of 1983 little sister Magdeleine accepted to do an interview with New City Magazine. She was asked, "How do you see the future of the Church?" She answered,
Outside of her yearly travels to Eastern Europe little sister Magdeleine spent most of her time in Tre Fontane. She took great care and was very involved in all of the building that was taking place there. Her keen eye for color and design made for a simple and harmonious style with great respect for the environment and the trees that she loved so much.
She also worked with a group of secretaries towards the editing of a series of books on the history of the Community. Many little sisters also corresponded with her and she never left a letter unanswered.
Despite such an intense workload her door was always open and she received many visitors in her tiny, neatly arranged office. There were several regular visitors whom she called her "mischievous children" whom she insisted on seeing, sometimes to the confusion of the little sisters at the door.
Each week she held a meeting with the little sisters at which she loved to reread some of the writings from the foundation. She was able to pass from one subject to another, from the most spiritual to the most mundane, without any need for transition. For her everything was equally important.
Often it was only in the evening that she had time to spend long moments in her little corner of the chapel next to the sacristy. Her life was so unified through her attitude of deep faith and love that everything became prayer for her.
Joys and sorrows, one after another
On June 2, 1984 Bishop de Provencheres died following a heart attack at the Tubet. It was a profound loss for little sister Magdeleine and she wrote to the little sisters:
On December 22, 1985 there was the joy of welcoming Pope John Paul II to Tre Fontane, having invited him to come for a long time. He spoke to the little sisters at length and encouraged them to remain faithful to their vocation:
The sixth General Chapter opened on September 8, 1987 and little sister Magdeleine wondered if she would have the strength to assist at all of the meetings. Having borrowed a wheelchair to help transport her to the meeting room she was able to follow all of the debates with an extraordinary quality of presence. She was delighted with the election of little sister Iris Mary from South Africa as Prioress General. At the end of this Chapter that dealt with many varied questions she admitted that
"she had experienced moments of both pain and joy."Then she added,
Inspired by Brother Charles...