Sr. Mary-Birgit Dechant, FSO
“They loved Jesus…”
Mother Julia Verhaeghe and Blessed John Henry Newman
Mother Julia was filled with a tremendous love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She gave herself unconditionally to the Lord and wanted nothing else than to be his instrument. Repeatedly she spoke about His “unspeakable love”. Her whole life was an expression of her longing to answer His love generously and selflessly.
John Henry Newman, too, had a deep personal love for the Lord. Something of it we find in the following words: “To have a virgin soul means to love nothing on earth in comparison of God, or except of His sake. That soul is virginal which is ever looking for its Beloved who is in heaven, and which sees Him in whatever is lovely upon earth, loving earthly friends very dearly, but in their proper place as His gifts and His representatives … loving Jesus alone with sovereign affection, and bearing to lose all … [to] keep Him.” How would he have been able to find his way into the Catholic Church, if he had not been ready “to lose everything to keep Him?” His, as Mother Julia’s love, was a pure, unselfish love, a love which was hidden in his love for and fidelity to prayer, in his untiring commitment for souls, in his labours and struggles. In his Catholic time, his love for Our Lord found expression in his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He wrote to a friend: “Ever since I have been a Catholic, I have had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart.”
Her love of God inspired Mother Julia so much that she was ready to accept many sufferings, both physical and spiritual, as wells as trials freely and in a joyful spirit. Much she had learned from St Paul, so revered and loved by Cardinal Newman, too. Mother Julia found a brother in Cardinal Newman also in this regard: Newman experienced many hardships in his life, many disappointments, many difficulties. His strength like hers was the love of Christ whom both embraced fully. “Life passes, riches fly away, popularity is fickle, the senses decay, the world changes, friends die. One alone is constant; One alone is true to us; One alone can be true; One alone can be all things to us; One alone can supply our needs; One alone can train us up to our full perfection; One alone can give meaning to our complex and intricate nature; One alone can give us tune and harmony; One alone can form and posses us.”
Mother Julia wrote once in a letter: “I strive for perfection in everything. … I long only to love Jesus sincerely and completely and to strive to make others love Him…. Is it not simple to do every day what he demands, to fulfil one’s duty to God and one’s neighbour faithfully and promptly? Good and beautiful thoughts, feelings and resolutions alone will not bring me peace.” That she lived up to these words, anybody can testify who was in close contact with her. She was very near to God in prayer and her contemplative life motivated her to fulfil her daily duties with great care, with a sincere striving for perfection.
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