Mother Mectilde and her community now found themselves under the authority of Dom Placide Roussel, the prior of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. From all accounts, Dom Roussel was anything but placid, in spite of his name. A Benedictine of the Congregation of Saint-Maur, Dom Roussel was a difficult man: legalistic, pessimistic, stubborn, and authoritarian. He had the talent of seeing difficulties where no one else could see them. More than once, Mother Mectilde and the Countess de Châteauvieux returned completely discouraged from a meeting with Dom Roussel. To a friend, Mother Mectilde wrote, “We were to see the Reverend Father Prior who, as much as possible, turns everything upside down.”
Dom Roussel required that Mectilde puchase land to build a future monastery and that she collect a large sum of money to assure the upkeep of a community of five. His exigences blocked the establishment of the monastery at every turn.
Dom Roussel Relents
Mectilde held her peace; she prayed, did penance, and waited. On 24 March, 1653, in response to an intervention by Madame de Châteauvieux, the dreaded Dom Roussel surprised Mother Mectilde by sending her a message authorizing exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament for the following day, the feast of the Annunciation. Benefactors of the monastery had previously provided a chalice, patien, monstrance, and thurible, so that all would be in readiness once the long-awaited permission came.
The First Solemn Exposition
On the feast of the Annunciation, then, 25 March 1653, Holy Mass was sung in the Oratory of the house, and the Most Blessed Sacrament was exposed in the monstrance. Alerted at the last minute, a considerable number of the faithful attended the celebration. During Holy Mass, Mother Mectilde saw the Most Holy Virgin Mary, clothed in the raiment of an abbess, and holding the crosier in her hand. Our Lady presented the nascent community to Jesus the Host, as victims offered to His Eucharistic love. Even today, the Benedictines of the Most Holy Sacrament consider this feast of the Annunciation 1653 as the first solemnity of perpetual adoration of the Institute.
Mother Mectilde wrote to Madame de Châteauvieux, “All that paradise loves and adores, I now possess, thanks to you.”
To be continued.