Marie de l'Incarnation
Marie de l'Incarnation, née Marie Guyart, founder of the Ursuline order in Canada, mystic, author (born 28 October 1599 in Tours, France; died 30 April 1672 in Québec).
Life in France and Spiritual Vocation
As a child, Marie Guyart, daughter of a master baker, showed unusual spirituality. Her husband, Claude Martin, died in 1619 after two years of marriage, leaving her with a six-month-old son and a bankrupt business. Urged to remarry, she withdrew into secluded meditation and prayer and on 24 March 1620 experienced a mystical and emotional "conversion." She decided to withdraw from the world, but her sister and brother-in-law called on her to help their failing carrier business. Under Marie the business prospered but visions continued to haunt her.
Founder of the Ursuline Order in Canada
In 1632, though heartbroken at leaving her son, she entered the Ursuline cloister at Tours. She took her vows in 1633 and taught Christian doctrine for six years. From her reading of the Relations des Jésuites and her visions, she concluded that her vocation was in Canada. With two Ursulines and Mme de la Peltrie, she landed at Québec on 1 August 1639 and established a convent in the lower town. In 1642, it moved to a permanent stone building in the upper town. She worked zealously at educating French and Aboriginal girls, wrote numerous theological and spiritual treatises, an Iroquois catechism and Algonquian and Iroquois dictionaries (see Aboriginal Languages), and kept abreast of public affairs. Although cloistered, she received many notable visitors at her monastery.
In 1980, Marie de l’Incarnation, François de Laval, and Jose de Anchieta (the “Apostle of Brazil”) were officially declared “Blessed” by Pope John Paul II (this process is known as beatification and is often a step towards canonization, or the declaration of sainthood). On 3 April 2014, Pope Francis declared all three saints, using a process known as “equivalent canonization,” which does not require the verification of miracles made through the saint’s intervention. The canonization was celebrated on 12 October 2014 during the Thanksgiving mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Québec, led a delegation from Québec which attended the ceremony.
J. Marshall, ed, Word from New France: The Selected Letters of Marie de l'Incarnation (1967).