Sister Marie of the Trinity
(Pretoria, South Africa 1901 – Jerusalem 1942)
“There is no God – everything people say about Him is a joke. Life isn’t worth living.” A long series of useless sacrifice and struggle brought me to the point of thinking that there is no God! […] I knew despair! To die, to die…”With these words Sister Marie of the Trinity begins “the story of her conversion: her weakness and the Lord’s mercy,” as she called it, that on the night between the 13th and the 14th of February 1926 led her to the light of faith within the Catholic Church and later to become a Poor Clare in Jerusalem. Sr. Mary of the Trinity—Luisa Jaques, as she was known in her early life, was born on 26 April 1901 in South Africa, where her father was a Protestant pastor and founder of missions in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Her mother died in childbirth, and Louise was raised in Switzerland, her family’s country of origin, by an aunt. A strong will and strong principles combined with a very fragile state of health, repeated disappointments at work, a failed relationship with a married man, and great loneliness due to her beloved family being so far away brought her, at the age of twenty-five to not understanding the meaning of life and to make the bitter pronouncement: “There is not God”. But it was during this night that “despair entered the light”: a presence came to her, “a religious sister wearing a deep brown garment, belted with a cord”. From this moment on she was reborn in an “irresistible attraction” to the cloister, and an ardent desire to receive the Eucharist. Thus began the journey that would lead her to become a child of the Catholic Church. Her health increasingly weakened by tuberculosis and the too-recent conversion constantly thwarted Luisa’s attempts to enter a religious institute, but this long trial lived in faith while seeking the will of God proved to be a slow and patient work of grace. In 1938, in the Poor Clare monastery in Jerusalem, Sr. Marie of the Trinity finally found refuge where God was awaiting her and an interior voice, the Lord Jesus. She found direction in the day-to-day of a life offered up in in fraternal charity, silence, service. In His own time, the Lord Himself revealed its meaning: “You must forget yourself and discover My Voice” (cf. n. 1) In obedience to her spiritual father, Sr. Marie wrote these “Notes”. This notebook, with the story of her conversion and vocation, has been published and translated in over seven languages (The Spiritual Legacy of Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity Poor Clare of Jerusalem (1901-1942), ed. Rev. Silvère van den Broek ofm in cooperation with the Poor Clares Corpus Christi Monastery, Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, 1981). In his preface to the French edition (Qu’un même amour nous rassemble, Apostolat des éditions, Paris 1977), Hans Urs Von Balthasar emphasizes the main lines of her spirituality : listening to the interior voice of the Lord, profound awareness of the free will God allows his created beings in choosing to respond to him, and the Vow of Victimhood considered as “a high degree of availability and non-resistance to all God’s decisions” within a profound Eucharistic orientation. Having fallen ill with typhoid fever, Sr. Marie of the Trinity died peacefully at the age of 41 on the 25th of June 1942, leaving behind a silent but glowing testimony of Christian life.