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Foundress of Tyburn nuns known for adoration of Sacred Heart

MANCHESTER, England — A little-known French nun whose cause for canonization will be opened Dec. 3 was known for mystical visions of the Eucharist.

Mother Marie Adele Garnier, foundress of the Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre OSB, was driven by visions and revelations from Jesus, including this one: "I saw Jesus saying to my heart by means of a bright light that he willed his eucharistic heart to be the special object of adoration at Montmartre and that the Blessed Sacrament should be exposed there day and night."

In one mystical experience described in a body of 1,500 largely unpublished letters, Mother Garnier wrote to a priest friend, describing how she saw the Blessed Sacrament turn to bloody flesh.

"At the moment in which the priest took a particle of the holy host and put it into the chalice, I raised my eyes to adore and to contemplate the holy particle. Oh, if you could know what I saw and how I am still moved and impressed by this vision. The fingers of the priest held not a white particle but a particle of striking red, the color of blood and luminous at the same time ... The fingers of the priest were red on the right of the particle, as from a blood stain that seemed still wet."

Bishop Joseph de Metz-Noblat of Langres, a diocese in the northeast of France close to where Mother Garnier grew up, will open her cause for canonization Dec. 3. Her order, which also is known as the Tyburn nuns, moved from France to England and has since spread to Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Italy, France, New Zealand, South Africa, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. 

tyburn nunMother Garnier was born in Grancey-le-Chateau, near Dijon, in 1838, and as a young woman worked as a governess. She turned her back on marriage to totally abandon herself to the will of God through the adoration of the Sacred Heart through the Eucharist.

She took this as her personal mission and, following a series of locutions, made a direct request to Cardinal Joseph Guibert of Paris, who eventually allowed her to form a small community around the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the Montmartre section of Paris.

There, her fledgling congregation was persecuted by the devil, with cases of obsession and diabolical possession and objects overturned, picked up and thrown around the rooms. On one occasion the sisters were coated suddenly with particles of altar breads, and one of them was struck by invisible blows.

But it was the anti-clerical Law of Associations, forbidding the existence of religious orders not registered by the state, that ultimately uprooted the Adorers, forcing them into exile in London, where they were welcomed by Cardinal Herbert Vaughan of Westminster.

At first, the nuns settled in Notting Hill but with the help of a large and unexpected donation they purchased a house near Marble Arch, adjacent to the site of the Tyburn gallows upon which 105 Catholics died as martyrs during the Protestant Reformation.

Mother Garnier was convinced that God was guiding her with the move. 

"The Lord wants his Sacred Heart to reign here where these courageous martyrs had their hearts torn out, remaining faithful to him," she told Dom Bede Camm, a Benedictine monk and close friend. Mother Garnier eventually placed her order of contemplative nuns under the "Rule of St. Benedict."

She died in Tyburn in 1924 and is entombed there.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016