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For All Nails #62: Sunday Morning Coffee
From _The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints_, 10th
edition, by the Rev. William George Rutler. (The first edition was in 1869;
the current chief editor is His Eminence George Cardinal Francis, Archbishop
of Baltimore, Maryland, NC, CNA.)
Marie-Madeleine of the Annunciation (Danielle Richard) (1847-1910)
Danielle Rose Marie Richard was born on the feast of the Annunciation to the
Blessed Virgin, March 25, 1847 to Louis and Zťlie Richard of Trois RiviŤres,
Quebec. All accounts indicate that hers was a model and faith-filled
household. Of her four sisters, FranÁoise, Claire, Marie-Antoinette and
Jeanne, all but Claire became nuns. (FranÁoise and Jeanne joined her own
Ministering Sisters of St. Mary Magdalene, both eventually in fact succeeding
to the post of Superior after Danielle's death in 1910.) Generally regarded
by her classmates as being both the most pious and the most scholarly
among them, she attracted great attention at age 13 by saving a choking
school-teacher with a primitive version of what is now commonly called
the "coup de Danielle" in Quebec and better known in the English-speaking
world as the "Richard maneuver".
She showed an early aptitude for things scientific and particularly medical.
Encouraged by her father, a prosperous and well-regarded doctor in Trois
RiviŤres, she became one of the thirteen founding students of the Ursuline-run
Academie de Ste. Clothilde in MontreŠl (the first institution of higher
learning for women in the confederation) and was graduated in 1868. Emulating
the sisters that had taught her, she was admitted to the Ursuline Order in
1870 as Sister Marie-Madeleine of the Annunciation. After serving, somewhat
informally, as an adjunct to the growing science department of the Academie,
she took instruction (at the request of her superiors) in medicine at the
summer courses offered by the University of New Orleans, a Catholic
institution operated by the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
That University did not at that time admit women, but a number of religious
of both sexes were allowed to receive instruction during the long summer
break when most students were on holiday. On her return to Montreal it was
intended that she serve under the Academie's medical specialist, Dr. Charles
Dupin. His untimely death a week before her arrival (the first death in the
massive cholera epidemic of June and July of 1873) thrust her into the
position of Professor of Medicine.
The Ursulines were officially a teaching order and the Academie had begun
primarily as a college of arts and letters, but Sister Marie-Madeleine and the
growing science faculty put themselves at the disposal of the city in order to
combat the spread of the deadly disease. Marie-Madeleine's youngest sister
Jeanne, who was admitted into the Ursulines that summer as Sister Marie
Cosmas-Damian, testified later in life that Marie-Madeleine's inspiration
came from a dream in which the Virgin and St. Luke, patron of physicians, told
her to save the city. Initially, the Mairie was skeptical of how much the
faculty, consisting of the then-twenty-six-year-old Marie-Madeleine, two
elderly nuns and a lay assistant, could do to help matters, but by early July
of 1873, nothing their experts could do could stem the flood of the cholera.
The city fathers turned to the young nun.
Leading a crusade that touched on both physical and spiritual health,
Marie-Madeleine almost single-handedly stemmed the epidemic with a variety
of advanced public-health measures as well as promotion of the saying of the
rosary. By late August of that year, the cholera was under control and
Marie-Madeleine had gained an army of admirers, both lay and clerical. One
rather astonishing consequence of the nearly-miraculous delivery of the city
from the cholera epidemic was the eventual construction of a basilica to
Our Lady of the Assumption outside the city. This was the life work of
Blessed Alfred Bessette, a Holy Cross brother who had met the saint at New
Orleans and later had been posted to the College of Notre Dame at MontreŠl.
As he himself was struck down with cholera, the basilica -- which he never
saw completed -- became a massive ex-voto in honor of his recovery.
Marie-Madeleine's work during the epidemic was impeded somewhat by the initial
skepticism of the bishop of MontreŠl, Monsignor Francis Lequeu. Women nurses
had seen widespread service only since the establishment of the North American
Nursing Society by Florence King and Mary Barton during the Rocky Mountain
War, and the unprecedented commanding role played by the young sister gave
rise to even more resistance.
Nonetheless, Marie-Madeleine continued at her post, acting as an informal
advisor to the civic sanitary board she had helped to establish in MontreŠl.
It was at about this time, seeing that the Academie was attracting more and
more young female students with an interest in the sciences, that she
developed the idea of a new order to both nurse the sick and specifically
to train lay women for nursing and even possibly service as physicians. The
group of nuns, priests and laymen that had by now grown up around her became
known as the "Danielloises" and would become the nucleus for her new
In 1876, after a long series of refusals from the hierarchy, and with the full
support of the head of her order in Quebec City, she was finally granted
permission to establish the Ministering Sisters of St. Mary Magdalene, with
thirteen sisters from the Ursuline convent in MontreŠl. Her titanic efforts,
hampered by her chronic bouts of ill health, led to several episodes of
In 1888 the grey-habited Ministering Sisters, now also informally called
"Danielloises", opened the Women's Medical College of St. Agatha in
her home city of Trois RiviŤres, after unsuccessfully trying to establish
foundations in MontreŠl and Quebec. It would take four years for the
confederation authorities to properly accredit the school. Marie-Madeleine's
order, however, had grown in numbers from thirteen sisters to almost forty,
while the scientific community had taken an interest in Sister Superior
Marie-Madeleine after her discovery, in 1879, of the cholera-causing "comma
bacterium". She herself, in her humility, made no effort to identify
herself with this discovery, which nonetheless has earned her great renown
as a scientist. The order has continued to this day to utilize her work
to further improve sanitation and public health around the world.
Marie-Madeleine of the Annunciation died of tuberculosis on March 30, 1910,
five days after her sixty-third birthday, at the order's hospital in Quebec
City. Her funeral in Trois RiviŤres was attended by almost three thousand
mourners. The investigation into her cause, opened by the order, was begun in
1925 and accelerated under the Quebecois Pope Urban IX, who beatified her in
1947. She was canonized in 1962 at an outdoor ceremony in St. Peter's Square,
and in 1968 she was declared patron saint of doctors. The order is also
currently promoting the cause of her parents and of Jeanne, Sister Marie
Cosmas-Damian, all three of whom have been declared Venerable.
At the Convent of St. Mary Magdalene in Trois RiviŤres, a statue of the
saint carries in one hand a rosary and in the other a book on which a
microscope rests. On the base are carved her famous words: "Faith and
Science are witnesses to the face of the God Who calls us to praise Him
with the work of both the prayer-book and the stethoscope."
Montreal, Ass. Conf. of Quebec
23 September 1973
Carmen Valenzuela was, at this moment, quiet and
thoughtful. She had rarely had time to be quiet
and thoughtful these past three weeks, since she
had arrived and started her first term of medical
school. She'd become, it seemed, one of those
always friendly, always voluble people she'd despised
in high school -- either rushing to a class or a
practical, getting to know another one of her fellow
students, or negotiating her way through a new city
in a mostly new language. It seemed to be working
so far, but she treasured the rare times she could
share with herself without being "turned on" for
someone else. Mass this morning had been one of those
times, and now she could take another here on the sidewalk
of St. Laurent at the corner of Gallivan. In front of
her was the Parc Jeanne-Mance, surrounding the Hotel-Dieu
where she worked. Behind them was the mass of Mont-Royal,
with the great cross on top commemorating Champlain,
the stone fortresses of McGill and the Royal Hospital
crowding the cliffs, and the office towers of the new
downtown between the mountain and the cathedral .
But now it was nearly ten! She turned to the Cafe Soleil
de la Plate and grabbed an empty table with two stools.
"_Quelq'chose a boire, mad'selle?_"
"_Un moment... ah! Voici mon amie. Deux argentines, s'il
vous plait, grandes_. Paula! Over here!"
The waiter left as Paula Yastrzemski took the empty chair
and plopped her text, _Histologie_, on the table. That
book was over Carmen's head -- one of Paula's two second-year
courses. Carmen was having enough trouble with _Biochimie_,
given that her _chimie organique_ had been last year in another
country in yet another language. On the other hand, Carmen
was in a second-year anatomy practical -- the school so far seemed
to have considerable respect for her experience as a field medic.
"I've ordered your _argentine_. Have you figured out why
they call it that? The coffee comes from Victoria, the milk
from a few miles away."
"Didn't they invent the steamed milk business in the Argentine?"
"I thought it was an Italian thing -- but back home they started
calling a _cafe con leche_ a _sirena_ a few years ago."
"_Sirena_? Something about fire waggons?"
"No, it means mermaid, like French _sirene_. It's the trademark of
this chain of shops from Alaska with all different kinds of coffee.
Very trendy -- I like the _cafe russo_ with a shot of vodka in
it. But anyway, the two guys who started _La Sirena_ were Italians
from Novidessa, I'm pretty sure. Not Argentines. And they don't
grow coffee in the Argentine either -- ours comes from New Granada.
What do you call one of these in Massachusetts?"
"I don't think Hadley  has ever seen anything like it. You can have
coffee black, or with cream, and that's about it. We're not very
imaginative, unless you like Polish food -- sausage, dumplings, stuffed
cabbage -- I'll probably write a paper on how bad it is when we do
"I'm not sure beans, rice, and tortillas are much better, but I'll
bet chili peppers are good for you. Are you homesick?"
"No, I think I'd rather be here. I love my family, and I love my
home town, and I liked Shays  but it's time for me to leave the
nest finally. Meet different kinds of people, learn new things. You?"
"I was never very happy with Las Cruces , that's why I joined the
Army. It was the only way a girl could get to go out and _do_
something real. Here we are at a school where women make _all_ the
decisions, and it's Catholic! Back home "Catholic" meant what the
Padre wanted and that was that. Was that just a Mexican thing? What
about the CNA, what was your church like?"
"Well, the priests do pretty much run things, though the Daughters of
Our Lady of Czestokowa don't get pushed around. Women doing things?
It was Father Stanislas who said I should go to Shays and study so I
could come here and be a doctor, I can't argue with that. Things are
separate, though, married women join the Daughters and men join the
Knights of Columbus like my dad--"
"Your father is a Caballero de Cristobal Colon?" Carmen tried to keep
her voice neutral but didn't entirely succeed.
"Yes, of course -- oh! I know what you're thinking -- the original order
split up in 1915 or so, something about slavery. My dad said once that the
Mexican Knights aren't very nice..."
"In Las Cruces they were just small-town bullies. We have no _negros_ or
_indigenas_ to speak of, so they mostly sit around and talk about what
they would do if there were any. But about ten years ago a Jewish
shopkeeper moved in to town and they drove him out -- broken store windows
and like that. In Chiapas, though, they kill people -- they're almost as
bad as the Hijos de Santa Anna. I take it your dad's group isn't like that?"
"How horrible! No, they get a little drunk at meetings, but mostly they
organize kielbasa suppers to raise money for the church, sponsor the kids'
cricket league -- one time they got together to rebuild someone's tobacco
barn when it burned down just before the harvest. And they like Negroes
just fine -- they had a benefit to bring in a priest who spoke Creole for
the farm workers from Hayti. I thought it was getting better for Negroes
"Mostly because there are hardly any left, except up in Salt Lake with the
Saints . They're legally equal, but plenty of people don't like them,
like the Caballeros, and the law can't protect them. The smart _negros_
came over to this side of the line a long time ago."
"Someday, maybe, we'll all live together in peace like Jesus told us to.
Wasn't that an amazing story Father Patrick told us in his homily? I
thought he was talking right to me!"
In fact, Carmen thought, Father Patrick Cournoyer had more likely been
speaking directly to _her_. She wondered if he had planned in advance
to talk about Sister Marie-Claire, intrepid director of a Soeurs de
Marie-Madeleine clinic in one of the war zones of West Africa. She had
stood up to a warlord who wanted the clinic's service to be exclusive to
his forces -- she had been a hero, but at a great cost. The clinic had
been shut down and some of the workers killed. God sometimes posed
impossible choices, Father Patrick had said, where no alternative was
right, and in his compassion he understood. Was that his planned homily
_before_ her confession this morning? She thought back to it -- she'd
started by trying out her French...
"_Benisse-moi, mon Pere, parce que je suis pecheuse. Il y a cinq
ans que je me suis confesse..._"
"_Bien sur, ma fille, mais peut-etre tu preferes continuer en anglais?_"
"_Merci_, thank you, Father. I'm getting better all the time, but
English is still easier. How should I start?" She loved Father
Patrick's voice in English, the mix of Montreal Irish lilt and Quebec
sing-song. He was theoretically anonymous behind the screen, but
the school had only one full-time priest and there was no mistaking
his voice anyway...
"What about the past week or two?"
"Tuesday I went out for a drink instead of studying my biochemistry.
And I've been having impure thoughts about the boy at the coffee shop."
In Las Cruces, she thought, that would be the end of it. Tell the
priest a few sins, let him prescribe a few penances, sort of like a
chemist's shop. No one seemed to care about _her_, or what God thought
of _her_, just the sins and the penances.
"Have you been getting enough of your work done?"
"Yes, I think so, Father."
"Did you act on your impure thoughts?"
"I think God will forgive these sins."
"Father?" It was a silly problem, but maybe he'd understand.
"Yes, my daughter?"
"I'm worried... that I'm being too insincere, that I'm being
someone I'm not."
"How do you mean?"
"Since I've been here, I feel like I've been turned on all the
time, whenever I talk to someone I'm charming them, making them
"Should they like you?"
"I think so."
"I think so too. You're a beautiful, smart young woman, made in God's
image, here to dedicate your life to a noble cause. Have you always
felt that you were "turned on", and putting on some sort of act?"
"Well, before it was a different act, I think. Back in the Army you
never let anyone get close to you, and at school last year I sort of
stayed in the same shell, I think, just getting my work done."
"Do you like the people you've met here?"
"Oh, they're wonderful, Father, good and kind and friendly?"
"Might it be that you're acting differently because of the people
around you? That you feel more of God's love coming through you
because you are in a community that is full of God's love?"
"I -- I'd have to think about that. Maybe."
"Good. Now you mentioned five years since you last confessed?"
"Yes, Father. I... I think I lost my faith about then, and I joined
the Army where there weren't many chaplains, and then last year in
Mexico City I just didn't..."
"God understands, my daughter, and welcomes you back with the love of
his Son for all mankind. Confession is required once every year, but
the most important effect of it is the relief of the burden on your
own soul. There's no need to list all the sins you might have committed
in all those years, unless they were mortal sins. Have you committed
apostasy, denying the name of God?"
"No, Father, I always knew that I was a Christian, and a Catholic of some
"No, Father. I had plenty of impure thoughts about Jack , my last
lieutenant, though. We stole a few kisses, but we knew it couldn't
last, so we didn't do anything I'm ashamed of now."
"Can we come back to that one?" Despite her tension Carmen found herself
stifling an involuntary giggle, imagining the raised eyebrow behind
"You haven't murdered anyone?"
"Well, no, but my companions did." Here it came. After so long,
why should it seem almost easy to finally say it? "In the Army, on the
CNA border. We caught three infiltrators, one of them wounded. Our
unit -- my lieutenant shot one of them, and had a man torture the wounded
one, and wouldn't let me treat him. I didn't see the rest of it, but I
know they killed all three. "
"Do you think you could have stopped them?"
"I don't know! I didn't try! Is that a sin of omission, Father?"
"God only calls upon us to do what we can, my daughter. What
would have happened if you had called out, do you think? If
you'd blocked their weapons with your body?"
"Uh. I don't think they would have killed me, they would have
dragged me away. And then probably done it anyway -- I think
they had made up their minds. But I don't know! Maybe they
would have brought them back, though we hardly ever do with
_banditos_. I know once they started they weren't about to leave
"Did you ever report this to your superiors? I know a bit about
God's law, but not about man's military law in Mexico."
"Oh, the command knew! They had to! That lieutenant probably
said in his report that they killed them, just in action instead
of as prisoners. I didn't see what they did with the bodies.
I thought and thought about it, but I couldn't see it doing any
good -- I'm sure the Army would cover it up. I just asked for a
transfer to a different unit. But before, if I'd tried to stop
"I think that's enough for now, my daughter. I understand that
your heart is heavy, and that is right. But the peace of God passes
all understanding, and can lift the burden from your heart, in time.
I hope we'll talk again soon... _Ego te absolvo, filia mea, in
nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritu Sancti--_"
"Carmen? You were miles away there..."
"Oh, I was just thinking of some old times for a second, back in the Army.
Are you done with the coffee? Let's see if I can help you with that
anatomy assignment -- we had some good tricks to remember all the names
of those nerves..."
 Most of these places are in their OTL locations,
except that Gallavin is roughly OTL Avenue des Pins
and the Parc Jeanne-Mance is on the river side of
the Hotel-Dieu. On the plateau side, in place of OTL's
Parc Jeanne-Mance, is the Parc Soeur Marie-Madeleine.
[My original post referred to "Gallatin", but the street
is of course named after the CNA Governor-General Ezra
Gallivan, who gave Quebec the chance to vote for
 Like its OTL counterpart, Hadley sits in the middle
of the only good farmland in Massachusetts, a glacial-era
lakebed in the Connecticut Valley. As in OTL, Polish
immigrants came to work on, and eventually buy, small farms
growing wrapper tobacco, potatoes, and other specialty
crops. The OTL community is noticable by the lack of vowels
on mailboxes, kielbasa and pierogis at agricultural fairs, and
some good polka music programs on the radio. Since assimiliation
in the CNA is slower than in the USM or the OTL USA, even more
Polish culture is evident in the FANTL Hadley. Paula's father,
like the Long Island father of her OTL namesake Carl, is
a potato farmer. (Of course neither she, Carmen, nor Anna
DiMaggio have any idea that they share their surnames with OTL
 Shays University, founded in Amherst MA in 1874 under the Arthur
Program, was named for Daniel Shays (1747-1832). Shays was a
Patriot soldier until Saratoga/Albany, a farmer in nearby Pelham MA,
representative in General Court 1784, Speaker 1788, and the first
appointed Governor of MA to have popular support, in 1792. (He led
"Shays' Rebellion" against the requirement that taxes be paid in
hard currency.) He was the first popularly elected Governor
of Massachusetts in 1804, and retired to Pelham in 1808 after an
unprecedented eight terms as Governor. A supporter of
reconciliation with his former Patriot comrades, he championed
farm interests but was mostly seen as a uniter of a disparate state.
Shays College of Agriculture became Shays University in 1952
and has expanded to 5,000 undergraduates in a wide variety
of academic programs. It also has an excellent university press
(see FAN #59). Paula earned an Honors biology degree there.
 Las Cruces, MdN, USM is on the site of OTL Las Cruces, NM and the
center of a farming area on the Rio Grande. It's more of a market
town than OTL's because there is no large city where OTL El Paso
is, but it's also less cosmopolitan in the absence of OTL's New
Mexico State University.
 The Salt Lake region of Mexico del Norte was settled by a radically
multiracial Christian sect (not the Mormons as such, as no one has
reported finding any metal plates in Palmyra NY) and became a center
for _indigena_ (Native) culture. It welcomed escaped slaves before
USM's abolition and freedmen afterward. I leave their doctrinal
positions, history, etc., to others.
 Carmen was captured by CNA forces in FAN #19, along with Lt. Jackson
Martinez. She met doctors from the Order of Soeur Marie-Madeleine
while in captivity, and was so impressed that she decided to apply
for their medical school. She first spent a year in Mexico City
learning French and organic chemistry using her veteran's benefits.
 This incident is partially described in FAN #5.
(Thanks to Matt Alderman for help with OTL Catholicism and for writing
the hagiography of Ste. Danielle.)