The Anniversary of a Heavenly Friend
July 16th is the 111th birthday of one of my dearest heavenly friends: Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus (Yvonne Beauvais), Augustinian Canoness, Hospitaller of the Mercy of Jesus, of the Monastery of Malestroit in Brittany, France. Born on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1901, Mother Yvonne-Aimée died at 49 years of age on 3 February 1951.
Beloved of Jesus
Mother Yvonne-Aimée’s life was indescribably rich . . . in the most bitter sufferings and in an avalanche of the most astonishing charisms. From the time of her girlhood she knew of Our Lord’s tender love for her. She believed in it. She trusted it, and she staked her life upon it. She was, in the truest sense of her name in religion, Aimée de Jésus, the Beloved of Jesus.
Mother Yvonne-Aimée’s intercession is powerful. From her place in heaven she is, like Saint Thérèse, her own special friend, attentive to all the prayers addressed to her. She responds graciously, willingly, generously, and promptly to those who ask her for help. In a word, she is in heaven as she was on earth: a dispenser of the Divine Hospitality, of tenderness, mercy, healing, and joy.
A Victim of Sexual Aggression
It is all to the credit of her spiritual son, Father Paul Labutte, that, after more than fifty years of silence, he chose to reveal one of the most painful secrets of her life. On 10 August 1925, three men ambushed Yvonne Beauvais, then twenty-our years old, in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. The three men beat Yvonne, and tortured her by puncturing her breasts with knitting needles. One of the three, a depraved priest, whom she had previously tried to help by addressing to him a warning from Our Lord, raped her. Yvonne lived for some time in anguish, believing herself to be pregnant. The reprobate priest who raped her later repented of his crime and was converted.
Father Labutte chose to write of this episode in the life of Yvonne-Aimée, believing that victims of similar crimes would take comfort in seeking the intercession of one with a personal experience of their suffering.
Her Care for Priests
Beginning in her early twenties, Mother Yvonne-Aimée had a particular mission to priests. Ever respectful and discreet, she was sensitive to priests in moral distress and in temptation. She readily took on herself the temptations and sufferings of priests. She calmed many a troubled conscience, dispensed wise motherly advice, and communicated joy and hope to priests haunted by depression and tempted to despair. Many times she was sent by Our Lord to deliver a message to priests in the throes of temptation or spiritual combat.
To my brother priests and, in particular to those among them enduring emotional or spiritual sufferings, as well as to those struggling with depression and weariness, I recommend recourse to the intercession of Mother Yvonne-Aimée.
Father Paul Labutte, borrowing a line from the famous French literary critic, Charles du Bos, said of Mother Yvonne-Aimée, with all due proportion, what Du Bos said of Our Lady: “There will never be but one way to come to know her; it is by addressing her. No sooner does one call upon her than she reveals herself by answering.” Personally, I can attest that this is true.
Gaston Courtois and Other Priests
Among the many priests who sought her out was the Abbé Gaston Courtois, Fils de la Charité. The Abbé Courtois exercised a profound influence over the French clergy between 1930 and 1950. It was said of him that he was priestly “to the very last fibre of his soul.” Mother Yvonne-Aimée referred priests in difficulty to the Abbé Courtois. He, in turn, entrusted priests, especially those in need of a real conversion of life, to her. The Abbé Courtois wrote of Mother Yvonne-Aimée:
Only those who were very close to her know to what point she suffered, in a great spirit of Redemption, most especially for priests.
The Impressions of Two Great Abbots
Dom Marie-Gabriel Sortais (1902-1963), Abbot General of the Trappist Order (O.C.S.O.) considered Mother Yvonne-Aimée a great Superior who built all her work on the rock of faith. Dom Sortais remarked Mother Yvonne-Aimée’s gift for pacifying and opening up souls. Until his death in 1963, Dom Sortais kept her photograph on his desk; it was the only photograph of a woman, apart from one of his own mother, that he allowed himself to keep.
The Abbot of Solesmes, Dom Germain Cozien (1921-1959), personally helped while hospitalized at Malestroit, by conversations with Mother Yvonne-Aimée, observed that she was marked by “the sense of prayer, of liturgical beauty, of praising God, in the school of the Church.” And he added: “All the life of Mother Yvonne-Aimée was under the influence of God.” Yvonne-Aimée was not afraid of expressing her friendship. To Dom Cozien she wrote in 1939:
I say it to you simply: I miss your presence. It is so when the Lord permits and seems to want a bond between souls. My prayer, then, will join yours in your dear abbey, which I loved, and love even more now. Did you not feel that also, my Very Reverend Father? May the Most Sweet Lord Jesus be thanked for having sown this joy of heart and soul on my path. Say to Him in the morning when He is all yours, when you hold Him in your hands (how fortunate you are!) even at the risk of prolonging the elevation a little bit, oh, say to Him, Give her, O Lord, Your light, Your strength, and Your mercy.” I have such need of light to know what I must do; of strength, to follow through generously; and of mercy to repair the mistakes that I make.
My Own Experience
Almost thirty years ago, after having tried for a very long time, as most monks do, to practice the ceaseless prayer of the heart, providentially I came upon an out-of-print French biography of Mother Yvonne-Aimée, and learned of her Little Invocation, “O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in thy merciful goodness.” One day, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament without trying to think of anything in particular, I realized, to my surprise, that Mother Yvonne-Aimée’s prayer was repeating itself ceaselessly and effortlessly in my heart. I found myself praying the Little Invocation at every waking moment and even during the night, in a way similar to the practice of the “Jesus Prayer” by monks of the Eastern Church. Over the years, the grace of ceaseless prayer by means of the Little Invocation has not abated. It is always there: a gentle murmur of confidence bubbling up deep inside.
As a newly-ordained priest, I often gave the Little Invocation as penance to those who came to me for Confession. Individuals from all walks of life began attesting to the graces received: graces of inner healing, of victory over persistent and deeply rooted habits of sin, of trust in the mercy of Christ, and of a ceaseless prayer of the heart.
The Little Invocation
O Jésus, Roi d’Amour,
j’ai confiance en ta miséricordieuse bonté.
O Jesus, King of Love,
I put my trust in thy loving mercy.
Mother Yvonne-Aimée received the inspiration of the Little Invocation in 1922. The invocation began to spread almost immediately, first within her own Order and among patients in their hospitals, and then, especially during World War II, on a world-wide scale. Before long, persons praying the Little Invocation began witnessing to the graces and favours they received. In 1932 the Bishop of Vannes, France, approved the prayer for his diocese. The following year, Pope Pius XI indulgenced it for the Augustinian Canonesses of the Mercy of Jesus, for their sick and for all those hospitalized in their health care facilities. Pope Pius XII renewed the favour, and on December 6, 1958, Pope John XXIII extended it to the universal Church.
Mother Yvonne-Aimée cherished the Little Invocation to Jesus, King of Love; she wanted to make it known and see it spread because such was Our Lord’s own desire. In a letter requesting that Pope Pius XI indulgence the prayer, she wrote:
It is so sweet, so strong, so rich, this little invocation . . . This invocation is appreciated by the sick; it consoles them. They love this prayer because it appeals to the Kingship of Christ Jesus, to His Love, His Mercy, His Goodness; in some way, it compels us to trust. It condenses our familiar invocations to the Sacred Heart and sums them.
In 1927, Mother Yvonne-Aimée had little cards printed in order to spread the prayer. In 1940, during World War II, in order to make the prayer even better known and loved, she had a medal struck. She drew an image of the Child Jesus, King of Love, which has since been distributed around the globe. Her drawing is naive and sweet; let the art critics say what they will, it appeals to the little and the poor, to the weak and the fearful, and has a way of touching their hearts.
Mother Yvonne-Aimée had but one aim: to draw souls to trust in the Heart of the Child King, to hope in His merciful goodness, and to abandon to Him all their worries, their fears, their cares, and even their sins.
More information on Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus and on the invocation, as well as images and medals of Jesus, King of Love, may be obtained from the Augustinian Canonesses, Hospitallers of the Mercy of Jesus. Visit their website here. And tell them that Vultus Christi sent you!