The Life of Venerable Anne de Guigne
The Great Meeting
As early as June 1915, when she was only four and a half, Anne had spoken of
her First Communion. She had always loved Our Lord, though at first, like most
of us, she loved herself as well; but since the great day when she turned her
whole heart to God, the desire to possess Him in Holy Communion became stronger
That autumn, when the family went to their house in Cannes for the winter,
her mother thought Anne was old enough to join the catechism class at the Auxiliatrice
convent. This was an immense joy to the little one, for she felt she was now
preparing for the great event in real earnest, though she knew she was a good
deal younger than most first communicants.
To her, catechism was not just "a lesson." She really cared about
it. Most children want to find out everything about the people or things they
are interested in. Anne's interest was in Our Lord. She really loved Him, so
she wanted to find out all about Him and the things he taught.
At that time the catechism class was taught by Mother St. Raymond, a most holy
nun and a very good judge of child nature by reason of her naturally keen insight
and long experience. She very quickly saw that the little newcomer, though only
five years old, was far ahead of all the rest in something more than brains.
"I soon saw," she once said, "that Anne was a very gifted child;
but what struck me most was this: the others were never jealous of her, though
she was cleverer than any of them and the youngest. This is a remarkable thing,
but it is true. Every one of them loved and admired her. I think it was because
she never tried to 'show off' or get the better of anyone. Her manner was so
sweet too. She always seemed to know how to adapt herself to other people's
tastes, and she was as nice with some rather spoiled children as with those
who behaved well. I do not think I ever saw her in a bad humor or upset over
"At first she had a little difficulty in learning by heart, so one day
I told her to repeat in her own words all she had understood of the day's lesson.
It was about the Church, a difficult subject for a small child, and I did not
expect much; but to my great surprise she had understood it all and repeated
the whole lesson in astonishingly clear and precise words. It often seemed as
if God must have taught her."
Once a priest asked Anne where the Holy Spirit dwelt specially. "In the
souls of the just," came the quick answer. Now no one remembered teaching
her that. It is of course quite possible that she had heard it in some sermon,
but the frequency of such answers makes it impossible to deny that she must
have had an understanding of spiritual things which was, to say the least, unusual
in a child of five.
"She listened eagerly to all I said," Mother St. Raymond continues,
"but she never tried to answer out of her turn, or in fact until she was
questioned; but very often all heads would turn in her direction when nobody
knew the lesson - and they were not mistaken. 'This little girl knows everything!'
a nine-year-old once said. And she answered so sweetly too, in her dear little
voice (she had such a tiny whisper of a voice you could hardly hear it), but
what energy there was in her and what courage! It was such a contrast."
When she began to prepare Anne for her first Confession, Mother St. Raymond
was again surpised, for she found that the child not only knew her faults, but
analyzed them with a judgment as correct as it was careful. Not that Anne was
scrupulous - there was never a sign of foolish scrupulosity in her either then
or later - but she made her examination of conscience with a gravity and care
that impressed all those who had to deal with her. Nor was she frightened about
her first Confession. "Afraid of the priest!" she said to Mother St.
Raymond, looking up at her with innocent amazement. "Why should I be? You
said he would be acting as Our Lord!"
Anne loved God and she also knew what even the smallest imperfection meant
to God. Love is a wonderful searchlight when it plays upon the conscience of
a soul. No one who loved God as Anne did could ever feel sure she had loved
Him perfectly, still less could she feel sure that she had loved her neighbor
with anything like perfection. She knew well enough that we often irritate or
disappoint people and so cause them to sin.
There was Melanie the cook, for instance, a good woman, but one whose tongue
was not so golden as her heart. "Dear Lord, what can I possibly have done
to Melanie?" her governess heard Anne praying one day when the cook had
sent her off with some tart remark. Melanie knows now what her sharp word meant
to the dear child that she loved indeed with all her warm old heart, but whom
she had pierced with one of the little thorns of her tongue. What would she
not give today to be able to unsay that sharp word!
Perhaps Anne was sensitive, but she had learned the lesson of sensitivity.
She never pricked anyone. She would keep no "little thorns under her tongue."
"Not only did I never hear her say an unkind word," says Mother St.
Raymond, "but she never even teased the other children, and this must have
meant considerable self-control, for she was naturally so quick and sharp."
And so the winter months went by, and it was perfectly evident to Madame de
Guigne and to the nuns that Anne was fully prepared to make her First Communion.
Her confessor too was of the same opinion, but the Bishop made difficulties
when he saw the name of a child of five on the list of first communicants. However,
when it was presented to him again that Anne was by far the most intelligent
child in the class, His Excellency finally agreed to give his consent, but only
on condition that the little girl should be put through a rigorous examination
by no less a person than the Superior of the Jesuits, who was by no means disposed
in her favor. In fact, when he saw how extremely small she was, he remarked:
"Really, it is rather absurd to present such a baby. The mothers will soon
want them to make their First Communion before they can walk!"
The interview seemed likely to be rather a terrible ordeal and her mother trembled
for the result; but Anne went into the Father's room quite unconcerned. She
wanted Our Lord and she was sure she could make even a severe examiner understand
that, so she did not worry. Besides though she never put herself forward at
school, it was out of humility, not shyness. She was still the born leader when
there was anything to be done. The retirement Mother St. Raymond speaks of was
simply the delicacy of true humility that will not "show off."
Of strangers she certainly had no fear, for the story goes that about this
very time a gentleman called to see her mother, who happened to be out. But
his business was important, so he decided to await Madame de Guigne's return.
Anne, however was at home and she gravely walked into the room and talked with
him politely till her mother arrived. "Visitors are very tiresome, aren't
they, Mother?" the blase little hostess remarked afterwards. "But
I thought he might find it dull to wait alone so I went down and entertained
him." The gentleman had been very much entertained.
But to return to the examination. The learned Jesuit did not keep to the order
of the catechism, but questioned Anne up and down at random in a way that would
have upset any child who did not really know the subject; but he was quickly
convinced that she was perfectly prepared. He became so interested in her, moreover,
that he prolonged the interview for some time, questioning her on all sorts
of subjects and even probing the little one's conscience.
"What is your chief fault?" he asked.
"Pride," answered Anne promptly, "and disobedience too."
"Humility here," thought the priest, but he pretended to be very stern
and told her that a little girl who wanted to receive Our Lord must obey at
once and do whatever she was told. Then with a quick turn he asked: "When
does Jesus obey?"
"At Mass," answered the child without any hesitation.
"What words does He obey?"
"He obeys the priest when he says: 'This is My Body, this is My Blood.'"
Then the examiner tried another subject.
"What Sacraments have you received?"
"Baptism and Penance," she replied.
"And which are you hoping to receive?"
"The Holy Eucharist and Confirmation."
"Perhaps some day I shall receive the Sacrament of Matrimony," she
"Holy Orders too, eh?"
"Oh no, Father, how could I? That's your Sacrament!" The little maid
was not to be caught tripping.
Outside, Mother St. Raymond was getting more and more anxious, but at length
they both appeared smiling, to her great relief. "I wish you and I were
as well prepared to receive Our Lord as this little girl is," was the examiner's
All obstacles being now removed, Anne joined the first communicants' retreat
at the convent. It was given by one of the Jesuits who took for his text: "Obedience
is the sanctity of children." All those little ones listened with good
will no doubt, but as in Our Lord's time, "the seeds fell, some on thorny
ground, some by the wayside and some on good ground."
For Anne the Father's words were a revelation. Being a saint, then, for a little
girl, meant being obedient. Being obedient meant pleasing Jesus; and as she
wanted to please Jesus, she must therefore be obedient. The logical little mind
had put the matter with a clarity worthy of St. Thomas. All that remained was
to carry it out; and with Anne, to know was to act, so it was done. From that
time forth she was practically perfect in obedience.
At last the great day came. Anne was radiant when she arrived at the convent,
but soon Mother St. Raymond saw a sad look on her face.
"What is it, dear?" she asked.
"Daddy is not here," said the child.
"But he is with Our Lord," answered the nun, "and so he is much
closer to you than if he stood beside you."
"Oh," said Anne, "drinking in the great truth. "Oh, then
I'm quite, quite happy."
It was the 26th of March, 1917, and Monday in Passion week. A strange day for
the First Communion of a little child, but that year it was also the feast of
Our Lady's Annunciation, transferred one day, because the 25th fell on Passion
Sunday. And so it was under the shadow of the purple that His Mother brought
Jesus this little white soul who later on, when she had learned to write a bit,
laboriously traced these words as her First Communion resolution: "I will
give my sacrifices to Mary, so that she may give them to Jesus."
Anne never spoke of this first great Meeting, but those who saw her were struck
by her wonderful expression. "It is impressed on my mind forever,"
says Mother St. Raymond. "Later in the day I was speaking to the group
of first communicants and said to them: 'Now we have given you the very best
gift we could, for we have allowed you to receive Jesus.' At these words Anne's
eyes flashed with a joy that I shall never forget. She said something I could
not hear, but her expression was so beautiful. I always felt that what we saw
of her life was a mere nothing, the real beauty was within."
Taken from The
Life of Venerable Anne de Guigne by TAN
Books & Publishers, Inc.
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