Sister Mary of the Divine Heart was born into a family of high European nobility, and she became a humble nun, receiving from the Divine Master the lofty mission of suffering for the salvation of souls and of being His messenger to the Pope.
Newsdesk (09/06/2021 11:15, Gaudium Press) It was June 8, 1899. In Rome, the Holy Father, Leo XIII, began with great pomp the triduum in preparation for the consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
On that same day, a humble nun who had been the main instrument of Divine Providence in bringing about this act of transcendental importance for humanity, Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart, of the Congregation of the Charity of the Good Shepherd, died in the city of Porto after three years of atrocious suffering.
In the world, she was called Countess Maria Droste zu Vischering. Her lineage was distinguished for centuries by her fidelity to the Church and the Pope, in whose service she never refused any effort or sacrifice.
Maria’s illustrious ancestors were cardinals, bishops, and rulers. With sublime virtue, she crowned the heroic deeds of those who preceded her in the sign of the Faith. An immense desire to practice charity, especially towards the poor and needy, burned in her heart.
From Her Earliest Youth, This Innocent Soul Was Attracted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Maria and her twin brother Max were born in 1863, on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Darfeld Castle, in Münster, an important city in Westphalia, Germany. Their mother, Countess Helena, revealed to Maria many years later, that on the day of the birth of the two children, she experienced a consolation, a supernatural joy such as she had never known in her lifetime. It was already the grace of God showing how the two children, especially Maria, would walk the path of perfection and God’s love.
As exemplary Catholics, Count and Countess zu Vischering maintained an atmosphere of intense spirituality in the family manor house, thus very favourable to little Maria’s aspirations to virtue and holiness. If you were to pass the threshold of the Castle’s main entrance, you could read the beautiful motto: “In you, O Lord, I have waited: I shall not be put to shame”.
In this blessed home, the future nun stood out among her seven brothers and sisters because she was the most cheerful and lively. She loved children’s toys and was fond of jumping, running, and riding horses in the company of her parents and siblings.
A school friend said of her, “In the playground, nobody ran more than she did, and nobody threw the ball as high and as well as she did. But when the bell announced the end of the game, the most serene and the quietest of all was Maria”.
For her, devotion to the adorable Heart merged into devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, as she declares: “I have never been able to separate devotion to the Heart of Jesus from devotion to the Blessed Sacrament; and I shall never be able to explain how, nor how much, the Sacred Heart of Jesus has deigned to favour me in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.”
What a beautiful consideration! Truly, if our Redeemer shows Himself so manifest in the images of the Sacred Heart, how much more so in the Sacrament of the Altar, where He is really present, with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity?
Suffering, Her Specific Vocation
To be a daughter of the Holy Church was a source of immense happiness for her. She rejoiced when her parents and brothers went to Rome to see the Holy Father.
When the hard blow of anti-Catholic persecution drove many priests and religious into exile in 1872, she not only remained faithful but could say, “All these events increased more and more our enthusiasm for Holy Church and her ministers”.
On the day of her Confirmation, at the age of 12, she received the grace of her vocation so clearly and intensely as to leave her in no doubt: “I am going to be a nun!”
From then on she received great spiritual favours that led her to a very close union with the Heart of Jesus. Her communions were an experience of luminous piety, and she received many revelations from the Blessed Sacrament.
She understood that suffering was her specific vocation. She was seized by a great desire to sacrifice herself for the needs of the Church, for the salvation of souls, and the sanctification of priests.
Being of rather frail physical constitution, she had to wait a long time to be admitted into a religious community. While waiting to fulfill this desire, she embraced the state of perfection as best she could, while still living at home. She practiced charity towards the poor, becoming a mother to all those in need.
She lived like this until the age of twenty-six when she was admitted into the Congregation of the Good Shepherd, an institution dedicated to the care of wayward, orphaned, and abandoned girls.
During the first five years of her religious life, her virtues grew stronger and stronger through moral and physical sufferings.
In her humility, she never allowed any ostentation of the nobility of her lineage, veiled under the unassuming name she adopted. With a hint of jest, she took her failures in front of the other sisters as a great chance to “slap the Countess”.
However, her great mission was yet to be accomplished. In 1894, the wings of obedience carried her to Portugal. Given her great capacity to do good and to sacrifice herself for others, she was appointed Superior of the Porto Community.
“I will perform the greatest act of my Pontificate”.
Three years later, a painful spinal ailment prostrated her in bed, overcome by paralysis. The last phase of her holy life began, in which her union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus grew closer day by day. She heard Him speak to her interiorly, showing how valuable the sufferings she endured were for the good of souls.
In 1897 she received from Jesus the mandate to communicate to Pope Leo XIII the request to consecrate the world to His Sacred Heart.
Desirous of transmitting the message without delay, she was prevented from doing so by her confessor, who objected: “His Holiness already has his advisers.”
In obedience and resignation, she confined herself to praying fervently for the removal of obstacles to the fulfillment of the Divine Will.
But on two other occasions, Our Lord insisted on His request of her. She then wrote the Pope two letters, one in June and the other in December of 1898, conveying the great desire that the Heart of Jesus had expressed to her.
The reading of these letters deeply impressed the Holy Father. The second letter arrived in January of 1899 and – with remarkable haste – in February the Successor of the Apostles decided to consecrate the entire human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Expressing his gratitude for all that Sister Mary of the Divine Heart had made known to him, Leo XIII declared:
“I am going to perform the grandest act of my Pontificate. We know by divine revelation that this act will hasten the mercies we are awaiting. There are souls in the world who receive communications from Heaven, and sometimes they are transmitted to the Pope in such circumstances that it is impossible to doubt that they come from God.”
Extremely moved, the seer could not contain herself with gratitude. Her last days were spent in a contrast between atrocious pain and the happy prospect of seeing the world soon solemnly consecrated to the Heart of Jesus.
Precisely on the morning of the day of her death, a consoling gift from the Holy Father arrived in her hands: two copies of the encyclical ‘Annum Sacrum’, whose theme was the consecration of humanity and the world to the Sacred Heart of the Divine Redeemer.
Filled with peace, the holy messenger expired at three o’clock in the afternoon, in the sweet certainty that the Lord’s wish had been fulfilled.
She was beatified by Paul VI in 1975.
Text taken from the magazine Heralds of the Gospel n. 30, June 2004.
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