THE STORY OF AN EXTRAORDINARY AND SINGULAR GRACE
In 19th Century France, there was a Jewish concert pianist of great promise. His name was Hermann Cohen. His virtuosity not only made him a bright star in the salons of Paris, but merited for him the honor of being widely recognized as a respected associate of the Hungarian, Franz Liszt (1811-86), one of the greatest pianists of all time. Then suddenly, in the midst of his growing fame, Hermann Cohen, unaccountably and quietly, slipped away from the concert circuit into virtual oblivion.
the streets of Paris dressed in the garb of a Carmelite monk. He had undergone a wondrous spiritual conversion to the Catholic Faith. On fire with his new found Faith, he quickly applied for admission to the Order of Mount Carmel and was warmly accepted. He was vested in the Religious habit and given the name in Religion of Augustine. In due course he pronounced the solemn vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, completed his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood.
Father Augustine’s inspired zeal and tireless missionary labors soon became even more celebrated among the Parisians than his masterful keyboard performances of old. As once with unparalleled passion he strove to fill the ears of his audience with the beauty of sound, now with even greater passion, he strove to fill them with the beauty of eternal Truth.
Although the holy Carmelite was unceasing in prayer for the conversion of his beloved mother, she died without being received into the Church. Father Augustine was deeply grieved that his mother should die an unconverted Jewess, but let us see how our merciful Lord, whom he loved so tenderly, consoled him.
The death of Madame Cohen took place on December 13, 1855. Father Augustine was at the time preaching the Advent sermons in Lyons. He announced the sad news to a friend in Cuers in the following touching words: —
“God had just inflicted a terrible blow on my heart. My poor mother is dead,… and I am in uncertainty. Nevertheless, so many prayers have been offered up for her, that we must hope that something special occurred between her soul and God, of which we know nothing. I have been ordered to Paris to console my family.”
The sorrow of the son was great; but his hope in the infinite goodness of God supported him. He was to preach on the evening when this crushing news reached him. Many in his place would have been totally unfit for the duty; but he, after weeping and praying much, ascended the pulpit as usual. He preached on death; and, according to the testimony of all that heard him, it was in words that sank into the lowest depths of the hearts of his audience, exciting salutary and durable emotions. And when, toward the end of his discourse, he breathed his own sorrow into the souls of his audience, his words found in every heart a sympathetic echo.
Not long afterward he confided to the holy Cure of Ars his anxiety about his mother’s death — departing this life without the grace of Baptism. “Hope,” said the man of God to him, “hope! You will one day, on the Festival of the Immaculate Conception, receive a letter which will be very consoling to you.”
These words were nearly forgotten, when on December 8, 1861, six years after his mother’s death, a letter was handed to Father Augustine by a priest of the Society of Jesus. The writer of the letter had died in the odor of sanctity. Her letter was as follows:–
“On the 18th of October, after Holy Communion, I found myself in one of those moments of intimate union with our Lord wherein He so sweetly makes me feel His presence in the Sacrament of His Love, that it seems to me as if faith were no longer necessary in order to believe in it. After some moments He made His voice audible to me, and was pleased to give me some explanations relative to a conversation that I had had the previous evening. I remembered then that, in this conversation, one of my friends had expressed to me her astonishment that our Lord, who promised everything to prayer, had nevertheless remained deaf to those of Father Hermann, so often offered up for the conversion of his mother; her surprise amounted almost to discontent, and I had found some difficulty in making her understand that we must adore the justice of God, and not seek to penetrate His secrets. I have the boldness to ask our Lord how it was that He, who is Goodness itself, could have resisted the prayers of Father Hermann, and not grant the conversion of his mother. This was His answer:
” ‘Why will ____ always seek to sound the secrets of My justice, and try to penetrate into mysteries that she cannot understand? Tell her that I owe my grace to no one, that I give to whomsoever I please, and that in acting thus I do not cease to be just, and Justice itself. But let her know also that, sooner than fail in the promises that I have made to prayer, I would overthrow the heavens and the earth and that every prayer that has My glory and the salvation of souls for its object is always heard, when it has the necessary qualities.
“He also said: ‘And to prove this truth to you, I will let you know what took place at the moment of the death of Father Augustine’s mother.’ . . .I was made to understand, the moment that the mother of Father Hermann was on the point of breathing her last, when she seemed deprived of consciousness, and life was almost gone, Mary, our good, Mother, presented herself before her Divine Son, and prostrating herself at His feet, said to Him: ‘Grace, mercy, O my Son! For this soul that is about to perish. Another moment and it will be lost, lost for all eternity! . . . The soul of his mother is what is dearest to him; a thousand times he has consecrated it to me; he has confided it to the tenderness, to the solicitude of my heart. Can I allow it to perish? This soul is mine; I want it, I claim it as a heritage, as the price of Thy Blood, and of my sorrows at the foot of Thy Cross.’
“Hardly had the most holy suppliant ceased to speak, when a grace, strong, mighty, escaped from the source of all graces, the adorable Heart of Jesus, and fell upon the soul of that poor dying Jewess, and triumphed instantly over its obstinacy. The soul immediately turned with loving confidence toward Him whose mercy pursued her even in the arms of death, and she said: ‘O Jesus, God of the Christians, God whom my son adores, I believe, I hope in Thee, have mercy on me!’ “In this cry which was heard by God alone, and which came from the lowest depths of the heart of the dying woman, there were included sincere regrets for her obstinacy and her sins, the desire of Baptism, the explicit wish to receive it, and to live according to the rules and precepts of our holy religion if she could return to life. This outburst of faith and hope in Jesus was the last sentiment of this soul; as she was uttering it before the throne of Divine Mercy, the feeble threads that still held her in her earthly tenement were broken, and she threw herself at the feet of Him who had been her Saviour before being her Judge. “After having shown me all these things, our Lord added: ‘Make this known to Father Augustine; it is a consolation that I wish to grant to his long sufferings, in order that he may everywhere bless and cause to be blessed the goodness of My Mother’s heart and her power over Mine.’
“An entire stranger to the Rev. Father Hermann, the poor sick woman that has just penned these lines is happy to think that they will bring consolation and balm to the ever-bleeding wound of his heart – the heart of a son and a priest. She presumes to ask of him the alms of his fervent prayers, and she hopes that he will not refuse them to one who, although unknown to him is united to him by the sacred bonds of the same faith and the same hopes . . .”
What seems to add greater authority to this letter is the fact that it had been announced to Father Hermann six years before hand by the saintly Cure of Ars, as above mentioned. (From “Glimpses of the Supernatural,” Thomas B. Noonan & Co., Boston, 1884.)
(Taken from the May 2005 edition of “Fatima Findings” – Reparation Society, I.H.M., 7920 Beverly Ave., Baltimore, Maryland 21234-5308)