Blessed Mary of the Incarnation: Mother and Foundress of Carmel in France
On April 17, we honor Blessed Mary of the Incarnation. Also known as Barbara Avrillot and Madame Acarie, she is recognized as the “mother and foundress of the (Discalced) Carmel in France”. She is the patron of widows and the poor.
Barbara Avrillot was born into an upper middle class family in Paris in 1566. Her father, Nicholas Avrillot was a French government official. She was educated by the Poor Clares of Longchamp, who prepared her for the cloister.
At the age of sixteen, however, she married Pierre Acarie, a Catholic aristocrat of good character, with whom she had six children. She was a model wife and mother.
Pierre supported the Catholic League against Henry IV. When Henry became king, he seized the Acarie estates, impoverished the family, and exiled Pierre from Paris. Barbara had to remain behind to battle with creditors and business men for her children’s fortune. In addition, she endured considerable physical pain, the result of a fall from her horse. Nevertheless, Barbara went to court, won, and regained part of the family fortune.
Madame Acarie was commonly known for her virtue, her supernatural gifts, and particularly her charity towards the poor and the sick in the hospitals. She is reported to have had the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy, of predicting certain events in the future, of reading hearts and of discerning spirits. At the age of twenty-seven, she received the stigmata, bearing the wounds of Christ.
In 1601, she was introduced to the Life of St Teresa of Avila and was greatly moved by her life. A few days later St. Teresa appeared to her and told her that God wanted her to found Carmelite convents in France. When the apparitions continued, Madame Acarie spared no effort in bringing the Discalced Carmelite nuns into France. She founded five houses between 1604 and 1609.
Following her husband’s death, she became a lay Carmelite, taking the name of Mary of the Incarnation, withdrawing to the cloister at Amiens in 1614. Her three daughters had preceded her into the cloister, and one of them was sub-prioress at Amiens. In 1616, she went to the Carmelite monastery at Pontoise, where she died on April 18, 1618. She was distinguished by her spirit of prayer and her passion for the propagation of the Catholic faith.
Prayer of Blessed Mary of the Incarnation
Lord Jesus, conform my spirit to your blessed humanity, filling my mind with knowledge and my memory with a continual recollection of You, my will with an ardent affection for your Majesty, [conform] my soul to your very holy soul… Enlighten me inwardly with the light of your Divinity, all the more so as I believe, by it, that you are totally within me. By this means, I very humbly beg you to look from now on through my eyes, speak by my tongue, and accomplish by all my members and senses the things which are agreeable to you.