Sr. Clare Teresa spoke recently at Assumption College's second annual Assumption Day, a morning set aside by the College for its faculty, administrators and staff to become more familiar with the origins of the Assumption.
In a 45 minute lecture punctuated by several humorous asides, Sr. Clare showed how the "intellectual conversion" of Marie Eugenie led her to deepen first of all her sense of the purpose of her own life and then the purpose of a Christian education as well -- her conversion led her to see life, with all its various component parts, as a whole. Marie Eugenie had observed the proliferation of many religious orders "consecrated to the conversion of souls." But, she remarked to Father dAlzon, "there is none whose aim is to Christianize the whole person in all its dimensions." The Assumption, in both its male and female branches, was to be a response to this lack. Her understanding was that "no particular truth can be foreign to infinite Truth," meaning that no science or art could be outside of God. In addition, it was clear to her that "intelligent persons [cannot] be content with isolated truths and unconnected fragments of knowledge. They will feel keenly the need to bring all the truths of human science to the unique Truth which reigns in our minds with a certitude guaranteed by God himself." This faith in the human hunger for wholeness informed Marie Eugenie's philosophy.
Sr. Clare provided the participants with a translation of an August 1845 letter from Marie Eugenie to Father d'Alzon in which she urges him to found the Assumptionists, something which he did about four months later, at Christmas of the same year. Marie Eugenie's forthright comments about the state of Catholic education in the France of that era surprised many of Sr. Clare's listeners, but also gave them a sense of the freedom of spirit of this young foundress. In her letter, she says: "I am convinced that we Catholics will only acquire a true superiority in our studies through a superiority of character in both professors and students, a passion that would drive them and a philosophy that would direct. And this is precisely what most Catholic education kills so that secular education has an intellectual advantage. . . .Better a strong character according to worldly standards and honor than no character at all. Better for the development of the intelligence an enthusiasm that is deceitful in its natural passions and the flame of a false philosophy than the absence of all life in the soul and studies done just to know facts. But what a force if these three elements of life were drawn from the source of Life and not from the broken cisterns of which the Prophet speaks; if characters were forged in the strength of the Gospel. . .if the Wisdom revealed by the Son of God and the relationship of all with Him became the philosophy, the guiding principle and the end of all learning!"
After Sr. Clare's talk, the room divided into small groups and then returned for a lively question and answer session followed by an excellent lunch.