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The beginnings of the Carmelite Monastery in Jerusalem: April 19th, 1822 – 2022 150 years!

Sister Marie Xavier (Marie DESCHAMPS) and sister Theresa (Thérèse GUYOT) left the Carmelite Monastery in Saigon (Vietnam) in 1871 and came back to France. They reach Suez in December and Cairo in January. In Egypt they receive a letter inviting them to a pilgrimage in Jerusalem, where they will meet with the Princess of the Tour d’Auvergne. She is looking for nuns who could establish a monastery on the mount of Olives. Everything starts…

Excerpt from Mother Xavier’s journal, Friday April 19th, 1872:

We hurry to go to the Holy Sepulchre to attend the Holy Mass, which Mgr [POYET] celebrates for us in the grotto on the tomb stone.

Erstwhile in Cochin China, I had begged for a high grace in a fervent prayer. A sweet voice, that of my Master had answered: “I will answer your prayer in the Calvary.” The Calvary, dear Lord, may I hope to see it one day? Nothing, nothing is impossible to He whom my heart loves above all. The time for receiving holy communion arrives. My soul can feel the gentleness of Jesus. He fulfils his promise. His unworthy spouse is speechless and cries. Her tears flow on the marble column on which she leans.

Best moment of my life. Ineffable memory. I write it down to recall them on days of tribulation.

[…] After a little rest, we visit Rev. Fr RATISBONNE for the first time. We are so goodly welcomed by this holy man, specially favoured by our heavenly Mother. He asks us if we wouldn’t establish in Jerusalem. He tells us that the same morning, while celebrating holy mass, he had the idea that we should ask the Princess of the Tour d’Auvergne who lives in the Pater area. She hasn’t got a religious community in mind yet. She may welcome you and give preference to you. You should discuss this with Mgr [POYET].

We welcome this piece of advice and go up the streets. Mgr listens to our proposal, but makes some objections. We nevertheless agree to go and see the Princess, because she will soon leave for Europe.

At 3 PM, we ride on donkeys up to the mount of Olives, led by an Arab. The place of the Ascension is on our left and belongs to the Mohammedans. We reach the Princess’ house. She is pleased to receive us and helps us visit the cloister where the Our Father prayer is written in 32 languages. She then leads us into a little apartment which acts as a museum where she collects strange stones, witnessing that there were once churches on these holy grounds.

We engage conversation on Carmel. She offers us a statue of saint Theresa and leaflets of the Pater. Then she tells us that the Superior of a Carmel in France had contacted her three years ago to establish a foundation, but that it was impossible at that time because the surface was too exiguous. She gives us some hopes and leads us to the place where the Monastery should be built. What a wonderful view!... On one side, the city of Jerusalem on the mount Moriah, and on the other side, the Dead See, the way to Bethany, Bethpage; very close on the right: the place of Jesus’ Ascension; down the mount: the grotto of the Agony, the Holy Virgin’s tomb, the garden of Gethsemane, the Kidron valley, the Shiloh Spring. One can spot the way of the captivity twisting on mount Moriah.

The place where the Pater is localised would be the best and is very comforting. Yet we will need to overcome so many difficulties to have it! How shall we obtain the required authorisations? In this regard, the project of the church in Saint Anne would be easier. However there too is a main objection: to pose the gate and join a building. We leave the Princess with a ray of hope in our hearts and a great desire to come back to live on these blessed places.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Mother Xavier asks Christ to confirm her vocation to live in Jerusalem by a concrete sign. The gardener offers her a button of rose.

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