April 18: Blessed Mary of the Incarnation Acarie

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Barbara Avrillot was born in sixteenth century France. She was pious from a young age and wanted to be a nursing sister of the poor. But her parents wanted their only child to marry, so she did. Her husband, Peter Acarie, was a young lawyer from a noble family. He was, like Barbara, pious and charitable to the poor, but he was not always wise in his decision-making, which caused difficulties to their family.

Barbara became the devoted mother of six children; she was so attentive to their spiritual life that some asked her if she intended them for religious life. “I am preparing them to carry out God’s will,” was her reply. (Three daughters ultimately became nuns; one son became a priest.)

Barbara’s husband had incurred debts as a supporter of the Catholic League in France, and when a new king reigned, his property was seized, and he was forced to leave Paris in disgrace. Barbara and their children were so poor that at one point they didn’t have anything to eat. But she bravely stepped up to prove her husband’s innocence in the courts, recovered some of their property, and made it possible for Peter to return to Paris.

At this point, she became aware of the reformation of the Carmelite order under Saint Teresa of Avila and initiated multiple foundations of the Discalced Carmelites into France. Though still married, she became a sort of unofficial novice mistress to the Carmelite nuns and received advice from Saint Francis de Sales. No one was surprised when, at her husband’s death, she entered the Carmelite order herself and became known as Mary of the Incarnation. Though she had suffered for decades with a limp as a result of a broken leg, she cheerfully and humbly cleaned pots and pans and obeyed her own daughter, who was sub-prioress of the house. Despite her busy life, Mary had a deep spiritual life and was known for the spiritual truths that were revealed to her in her times of contemplative prayer. She died in 1618 on Easter Sunday at the age of fifty-two.

Blessed Mary of the Incarnation, teach me humility.

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