The apple has a bad reputation in Christianity. Wrong moreover, because Genesis never designates it as the famous fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. In fact, you have to wait for the VIe century so that Irish monks assimilate it to the object of temptation. There are two reasons for this: in Latin, apple tree is said malus, the same word which means Evil, and, in Celtic mythology, the country beyond the ocean which awaits the souls of the deceased promised to a blessed eternity is called Avallon, “the island of apple trees”, this tree being symbol of life and immortality. The shift from then on was easy and imposed itself: it was an apple that led Eve into temptation, even though it was more probably an apricot, a peach or a pomegranate … said, it is indeed an apple, a brave pippin of the most ordinary, and cooked in addition, which, in December 1876, will fail to cost Sister Catherine Labouré her reputation for holiness.
On that date, aged seventy, which is old for the time, Sister Catherine has not been in good health for a long time; she has worn herself down to the task, without complaining, when she is crippled with rheumatism, tired, fragile, and her heart is playing tricks on her. This exhaustion, she valiantly concealed it, in order to remain active as much as possible, not to weigh on the community which is still unaware, for she wanted to, that she is “the sister who saw the Blessed Virgin in 1830 ”,“ the privileged one of the miraculous medal ”. On December 8, as every year, for the Immaculate Conception, Sister Catherine obtained permission from her superiors to leave her convent in Reuilly to go to rue du Bac. On her return, in the dark, she injured herself while getting into the horse-drawn carriage and suffered a bad wrist sprain which handicaps her a lot. To her companions who see her come back crippled, she says, laughing: “I have my bouquet!” The Blessed Virgin sends me this way every year! ” And that’s true. At all the Marian feasts, we suddenly realize that Sister Catherine is the victim of health problems or of an accident. “Well, it suits you nicely, the Blessed Virgin! Exclaim the others. And Catherine to correct: “When the Blessed Virgin sends you suffering, She gives you a grace. “
The others look at her dubiously. Unaware of the mystical journey of the one they call “the sister of the henhouse” and whom some, from good families, take for an old peasant woman without interest, they do not care much about her since she was relieved. most of her functions and replaced, as responsible for the asylum for the elderly, by Sister Angélique Tanguy, a young, dynamic woman with a whole character who persecutes this former with a disconcerting good conscience.
Even after Catherine’s death and the public revelation of the graces of which she had been the channel, she will pursue her with her resentment and will spread, in time and out of time, on the supposed sins of gluttony of the deceased.
Catherine impotent, in his eyes, it is a burden that we could do without, that’s all. Annoyed to see her dragging herself, weakened, through the house, she orders him to stay in her room, on the top floor, and not to move. Sister Maria will go upstairs to take care of her, bring her her medicines, her meals, keep the fire going and light the lamp at nightfall. That way, Sister Catherine will be able to rest in the warmth. Nice program. The trouble being that Sister Maria, the sacristan, is not a workaholic and that having to add this chore to her ordinary tasks bores her. In the morning, she goes up to bring Catherine, toothless, suffering from violent stomach aches and who cannot eat anything solid, a bowl of milk or broth, then, having made this effort, she forgets the patient until the next day. . And Catherine, in the middle of winter, remains alone the whole day in a garret without heating or light, without eating anything either.
To solve the problem, as suggested by her friend, sister Joseph, a grumpy Breton woman, it would suffice to complain about Sister Maria’s behavior, which would force the lazy girl to carry out her duties, but Catherine, charitable, did. refuse. And we forget it more and more.
Sometimes, when she is left like this all day long, or even longer, unable to stand it any longer, she goes down to the kitchen and asks the sister cooks for a piece of sugar, which she melts in a glass of water, or a piece of sugar. little raisin. These are fairly expensive foodstuffs and Sister Angélique, who counts even the smallest penny, notices it, she who does not see that Sister Catherine is no longer being fed. She growls, in public, against this old woman who is pampering herself, while the “old woman” does not have enough to eat through the negligence of the director.
The anecdote, magnified, distorted, will long serve to justify the refusal of the Daughters of Charity to introduce the cause for the beatification of a sister ridiculed.
One day, Sister Angélique almost suffocates: she surprised the cook, outside of community meal times, preparing a “special dish”. In this case, a baked apple. Again, this is the basic version: no butter, no sugar, no spices, no jam. Asked about this fantasy, the cook explains that it is a request from Sister Catherine. Without teeth, she can no longer bite into an apple, poor thing… Sister Angélique does not look any further, does not question, does not find out. For her, anyway, Sister Catherine is always wrong. Perhaps she would discover, if she wanted, that the “gluttonous” had been fasting for more than forty-eight hours …
The gluttony of the deceased
On the stairs, she crosses paths with one of the confessors of the community, Father Chinchon, and tells him about the incident, concluding: “How does a sister who is said to have seen the Blessed Virgin allow herself to go to desire such sweets? “Father Chinchon, who knows Sister Catherine and Sister Angélique well, looks at her and retorts:” Sister, I could quote you such a great saint duly canonized who asked for strawberries on his deathbed! Sister Angélique will not understand the lesson. Even after the death of Catherine, which will occur on the evening of December 31, 1876, and the public revelation of the graces of which she had been the channel, she will pursue her with her resentment and will spread, in time and out of time, on the sins of gluttony. supposed from the deceased. The last straw is that many people will believe her, and will peddle with jubilation this ridiculous baked apple story supposed to prove how little the old nun was mortified, despite the privileges she had enjoyed …
The anecdote, magnified, distorted, will long serve to justify the refusal of the Daughters of Charity to introduce the cause for the beatification of a sister ridiculed, mocked for its simplicity by a few intellectual priests unable to see all that he is doing. There was something profoundly evangelical in this life given over to the service of God and neighbor, perfectly faithful to the ideal desired by Saint Vincent de Paul. It took a personal intervention from Cardinal Masella, a great devotee of the miraculous medal and a great admirer of Sister Catherine, in 1895, to decide to open the informative process on life and the virtues. Even so, it will be dragged out and only an outbreak of miracles due to the intercession of the servant of God will force the pace to be accelerated. Catherine Labouré will be beatified in 1933, and canonized in 1947. Baked apple or not!
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Catherine Labouré’s baked apple which almost cost her dear