Challenging Stories

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The empiricist in me always finds stories like this enormously interesting and very challenging. They help me to grow through trust.

from Meet Katharine Drexel
Mary van Balen Holt

Mother M. Mercedes once told an interesting story of their arrival for the ceremony. She said Mother Katharine had been delayed and had taken a later train to Richmond than intended. It pulled in under a dark night sky.

Mother Katharine was willing to remain at the station and wait for morning Mass and a chance to buy breakfast before traveling on to Rock Castle. but the station closed after their train arrived. Forced to stand outside, trying to decide what to do, they were met by an older black gentleman with a horse-drawn carriage. He told them they were expected to spend the night at the Franciscan convent of St. Joseph in town.

Surprised, but appreciative, the two sisters climbed into his carriage. Once at the convent, he carried their bags to the door and left. They rang many times before rousing anyone.

As it turned out, no one had been expecting them, nor had the Franciscans sent the older gentleman to meet the travelers at the station. Mother Katharine commented that he must have been St. Joseph, who did not want them out alone so late at night.

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Are you familiar with the story of the convent in New Mexico that has a staircase built by a mysterious stranger also believed to be St. Joseph?

Dear Gregg,

No, I'll have to try to look that one up. It's entirely possible that it's connected to the same order as Mother Katharine apparently built a lot of churches, mission houses, convents (? would that be the right word?) in New Mexico. In fact, she met, funded, and supported the archtype of the Archbishop in Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop.




There's also the wonderful story of when the Nashville Dominicans just about starved Mother Katharine to death in their efforts to make her feel at home. I'm told some of the older, Southern Nashville Dominicans are still embarrassed over it, though it happened about a hundred years ago.

Dear Tom,

That story is not so easily found on the web, if you have details, please share.



Lifting from (ahem) this article (from this book):

The next major undertaking for the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament was Immaculate Conception Academy, a school for black girls in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1905, when Mother Katharine purchased the property for the academy, Nashville was not a city that welcomed the idea of Catholics teaching blacks in a white neighborhood. The bishop of Nashville, Thomas Byrne, arranged for a third party to buy the property, after Mother Katharine settled for a quick look at it from a closed carriage.

All in all, that was a memorable day for Mother Katharine and her traveling companion, Mother Mary Mercedes. It was the eve of the Feast of the Purification, one of the congregation's fast days. Due to a late train the day before and an unexpected snowstorm, they returned for supper to the Dominican convent where they were staying without having eaten a full meal in more than thirty hours. Thinking they had had a large dinner that afternoon with Bishop Byrne, and knowing that it was a fast day for them, the Dominican sister caring for them served them a little bread, tea, and cake. Mother Mercedes, in her account of this trip, wrote, "For the first time in years, Mother Katharine consumed two pieces of cake!"

Dear Tom,

Thanks so much for both references. I suppose I shall have to invest in the book now. But not until after Lent.



Thanks, Tom, for the pointer to the article.

Gee Tom, how did you know where that was?
Do you know the author?



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 17, 2004 6:11 PM.

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