Last known letter of Mother Joseph, November 25, 1901
Your very consoling letter inspires in me a deep confusion, along with sweet hope. In fact, Monseigneur, if such appreciation of my pain is contained in the heart of a bishop, what might I expect of my Divine Spouse, the originator of all charity! This is an opportunity to ask you to forgive me for speaking so much when I should have been silent and listened to you. Alas, this is one of my lesser weaknesses; you can guess the others....
The interest you have shown me allows me to admit, Monseigneur, that in a spirit of hope, I surely move on to the end of my mortal career and will, I hope, eternally sing of the mercy of my Creator.
I am most pleased to hear of your good health.
I beg you, Monseigneur, to bless me as I kneel at the feet of Your Grace, and remain with deepest respect, your humble servant, Sister Joseph of the S.H.
This touching letter was in response to a sympathetic message from the Most Reverend Paul Laroque, Bishop of the Diocese of Sherbrooke, Quebec. In May, Bishop Laroque had visited the west and spent several days with Mother Joseph and his own sister, Mother Benedict, Provincial Superior, in Vancouver.
Mother Joseph drafted the letter in pencil on a rough notepad. Although nearly blind and in great pain, her handwriting is strong and clear; less refined than in earlier days, but still direct and simple in manner. The note at the end indicates that Mother Benedict later transcribed and sent a clean copy of the letter to the bishop on Mother Joseph's behalf.
Following is the text of the earlier letter from Bishop Laroque:
November 14, 1901
My dear Mother,
Suffering from your eyesight as you are, I am likely adding to this by making you read these lines. Yet, in spite of the risk of being cruel, I dare satisfy my eagerness to pay you a visit. With little imaginary effort, I find myself at your refectory table where, but a few months ago, I enjoyed the kind and sympathetic hospitality of your house, so well known as "Providence." You were seated at my left and, and although in pain, sometimes very acute, you kindly kept me company. You not only recalled the events, incidents, accidents related to your foundation, but also the interesting memory of the development of your community on the Pacific Coast. So full of interest as these are, we must let this glorious past of our Canadian "Providence" missionaries and of Mother Joseph rest in peace.
Let us rather dwell on you, for I am concerned about you when I think of you (which happens daily) at the "House of Providence" in Vancouver. Is it true that your eye is not responding to any treatment, and causes you increasing daily pain? If that is so, I do not understand why Heaven is deaf to the prayers and entreaties of all your Sisters, who love you dearly and believe in the value of your life being prolonged? I reflect and meditate, seeking a satisfactory response, and find none, other than this: the guilty one is our good Mother Joseph herself. During more than fifty years of religious life, she has done so well, with hand and foot, head and heart, to foster the works of charity, that God, in His infinite love wishes to bestow a special grace to completely purify the supreme consecration of this pain by allowing her to be useful to her dear Community and its admirable works to the very end. And so, Mother Joseph, what do you think of my explanation?
It is possible that theologians would contradict this, but all would admit that this is quite plausible. And you, dear Mother, will find, as I do, that it is a consoling thought. Yes, indeed! It seems to me that you are consoled and strengthened, you who have so loved work, and are still at work, since suffering is more efficient than ever for souls and for God's glory and the furthering of the works to which you have given all the physical energy God has given you. With this conviction and in spite of your body's decreasing strength, you are still useful to others and to yourself. How sweet and easy it is to repeat after St. Andrew, "O cross, sweet cross!" I will continue to pray for you, that God grant that you may carry your cross to the bitter end with love, in your rising to Thabor. I leave you with these thoughts and with deep emotion and the sweet hope of seeing you in heaven, if not once again on earth.
Allow me another word, and a request that you forgive me for such a lengthy letter, which I had promised to be short, that of my most affectionate and sympathetic blessing. Your ever devoted uncle, Paul, Bishop of Sherbrooke
English translation by Sister Thérèse Carignan, 1995.
(13) Personal Papers of Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart:
Correspondence, Bishops, Personal Letters, 1858-1901(?)
Providence Archives, Seattle, WA