Lives of the Saints

Our Models and Protectors

April 12
  May 8

Blessed Catherine of St. Augustine

Virgin
(1632-1668)

Blessed Catherine of St. Augustine
Blessed Catherine of St. Augustine

A young future missionary to New France, Catherine de Longpré, in religion Sister Marie-Catherine of Saint Augustine, was a nursing nun in the community of the Hospitaler Sisters of Saint Augustine in Evreux. Born in France in 1632, she went to Quebec at the age of sixteen. Having offered her life for the sick and the sanctification of souls, she found in Quebec City a newly-established and very poor hospital, where she would labor for twenty years with unfailing devotion and courage.

Blessed Catherine's physical and moral sufferings increased to a measure which few Saints have surpassed; she was chosen as a victim by God for the expiation of sins, in this territory which He destined for Himself in a particular way. To sustain her in the terrible obsessions which she endured, to preserve other souls who could not have withstood hell's assaults, she was given for her heavenly spiritual director, Saint John de Brebeuf, the North American martyr who had died not long before, in what is now Ontario. The entire history of her interior life was written by her confessor, the Jesuit Paul Ragueneau, who had been a friend of the great Martyr and had labored with him. Father Ragueneau recognized as authentic his fellow Jesuit's spiritual role in the life of this remarkable religious.

The sale of alcoholic beverages to the Indians in exchange for furs was a grievous abuse which the saintly first bishop of Quebec, Monsignor Francis Montmorency de Laval, was striving to abolish; sins of the tongue, immodesty and impiety were rampant in the city and surroundings. Monsignor de Laval recognized in Sister Catherine a soul of predilection, and he often asked her intercession for particular persons, for the colony and the Indians, whose souls were his great concern, as they were also of his clergy and missionaries. She, for her part, complied by her prayers and sacrifices, and saw in vision how the demons of hell were working for the ruin of the colony, in various places and in various ways. A spiritual battle of great proportions was underway, to win Canada for Christ.

Blessed Catherine died at the age of 36, saying shortly before she expired: My God, I adore Your divine perfections; I adore Your divine Justice; I abandon myself to it with my whole heart. One of the great mystics of the Church, her life remains a prodigy of sacrifice and love, a gold mine of doctrine for those who seek understanding of God's ways with His Saints and His people.

Fr. Paul Ragueneau, S.J., La vie de la Mère Catherine de Saint Augustin, (F. Lambert: Paris, 1671). Reprinted in Quebec City, 1923, by the Augustinian nuns.