SPIRITUALTY - Thanksgiving


When speaking of the origin of a spirituality of thanksgiv­ing in Délia Tétreault, it is fitting to mention two essential aspects: the ecclesial context of the time and the important landmarks of this spirituality in Délia Tétreault.

Ecclesial Context of the Time

Délia Tétreault was born in 1865. Daughter of the Church, she inherited an ecclesial spirit marked by the missionary dimen­sion of the Christian commitment as an expression of gratitude for the faith received. She also drew from this source a great love of Mary, whom she even credited with the very existence of her reli­gious family. (Cf. Letter, May 3, 1912)

A quick overview of the writings of that time concerning the Church as missionary enables one to collect more than one text referring to thanksgiving. Others speak eloquently of the Marian devotion of the Church of that period. There is no doubt that the spirit of these texts, if not the letter, influenced Mother Délia. We shall limit ourselves to a few examples.

The Missionary Work of the Holy Childhood gives them [the children] the opportunity of expressing the gratitude owed to God for the gift of faith. (Brief of Pius IX, 1856)

Today more than ever before, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is like the sun, which must dispel the fog of error besetting the spirit of nations. The more we speak to people of this glo­rious privilege 'granted to the Mother of the entire Church, the more graces we shall have. (Letter of Archbishop Bourget to his priests, March 10, 1858)

What better way [collaboration by the faithful in Pontifical Missionary Works] of showing God your gratitude for so many graces given you by Him in Baptism. (Pastoral Letter of the Fathers of the 4th Provincial  Council of Quebec, May 14, 1868)

Every adult Catholic should practice the true devo­tion to Mary, i.e. the one proposed by Blessed de Montfort, the holy slavery to Jesus in Mary. (Letter of Bishop Duhamel, April 25, 1904)

We owe our salvation.... to God alone, to God's Church... Nobleness obliges... we must bring to other peoples the superabundant and choice graces showered upon us by God. (H. Bourassa, Le Canada apostolique, 1919, p. 163-164)

A tributary of the evolution of Christian spirituality, this spirituality of thanksgiving has been and will continue to be influ­enced by every age and every environment in which it is lived.

Important Landmarks of a Spirituality of Thanksgiving in Délia Tétreault

Though she left no treatise on spirituality and no special essays on the subject, Délia Tétreault bequested her spiritual heri­tage through numerous writings [more than 2,000 letters], through conversations with her sisters and, especially, through the authenticity of her life. She is like an open book reflecting a lumi­nous, intense, fruitful and contagious life. She unveils her interior richness, her manner of living her Christian life and her response to God's plan for her.

A life marked with an imprint... springing from a source...
over-flowing with thanksgiving...
consecrated to the Mission with Mary.

A Life Marked with an Imprint

From her tenderest years, Délia Tétreault recognized, as though by instinct, the caring presence of the Father in nature and in people, whose faces, voices and hearts He takes pleasure in making His own.

While still in her teens, following the movement proper to thanksgiving and to the extent of her spiritual intuition, she sought to respond through an unconditional gift by making a per­petual vow of chastity.

At eighteen, one day, as she was in her father's garden, she became aware of being filled with the Holy Spirit. He made her understand that He would direct her. Marked with this imprint, Délia accepted to go deeper into the heart of the mystery. The Spirit gradually revealed to her what would become her way of being, her particular features within the Church and her specific understanding and expression of the Christian life. (From memoirs dictated by Délia Tétreault to Canon J.A. Roch, October 1, 1933)

Her desire was to consecrate herself totally to God, and at first she thought about entering the Carmel. In her search, she spent a brief time as a postulant of the Grey Nuns of Saint-Hyacinthe. Later she devoted herself to the poor, while carrying a call deep down within herself.

Springing from a Source

In her personal notes and in her vast correspondence, Mother Délia allows the clear and transparent source which is ever in her heart to flow out. She thus writes to Sr. Marie-Immaculée, M.I.C. God has given us everything, even His own Son. (Letter, Sept. 4, 1916)

She sees all things as gifts in Jesus Christ. Being con­vinced of God's love for her, she recognizes its imprint every­where. She dreams of consecrating herself, one day, to the "deli­cious duty of thanksgiving" and of persuading to go along this way anyone wishing to follow her.

Ah! How many things I would like to tell you about this important and delicious duty of thanksgiving. (Ibid.)

Further on, she specifies: Let each of our lives then be, through prayer, sacrifice and work, a perpetual hymn of thanksgiving for ourselves and for all those who forget to thank the One to whom they owe everything. Let us be so permeated with the idea, let us live by it, let us do so well that we leave it as a heritage to those who will replace us.  (Ibid.)

Overflowing with Thanksgiving

Faithful to the spirit of her vocation and becoming ever more deeply aware of it, Délia Tétreault stated her profound con­viction: The more Our Lord makes me penetrate into the spirit of our vocation, the more it seems to me that the main raison-d’être of our Society is really thanksgiving, in union with our Immaculate Mother and all the blessed in heaven. (Ibid.)

Everywhere in the writings of Délia Tétreault there are outbursts of gratitude. Like Mary, she is aware of receiving all things from her God. Everything is a gift, even suffering. In all cir­cumstances, Délia appropriates for herself and her community the words of Mary quoted by Luke. The Magnificat is our favorite hymn. Let our life be a perpetual Magnificat. (Letter, April 2, 1924)

Already in 1902, in her Draft of the Constitutions, Mother Délia called her daughters to "offer their lives as a hymn of perpe­tual thanksgiving."

Energized by the certitude that nothing is impossible to God, Mother Délia believes, like Mary, that she can move moun­tains. This certitude strengthens her, making her capable of the most audacious as well as of the most painful "yes". She is sure of her God and she lives out with amazing depth the freedom and transparency which are proper to thanksgiving. God may fill her with His own fullness and multiply His graces and calls, He always finds in Délia both receptivity and self-giving. He meets a heart that listens and knows no such thing as half measures, a being always ready for service, no matter what, no matter where.

Consecrated to the Mission with Mary

The fruitfulness of thanksgiving appears only in the gift of oneself. The illustration of this is in the mission of the Son of God, in that of Mary and of the Church. The mission of Délia Tétreault also illustrates that fact. She herself noted it: It seems to me that the apostolate among the infidels was given to us by the Blessed Virgin as an exterior means of manifesting our gratitude. (Letter. Sept. 4, 1916)

The inspiration of Mother Délia goes back to the source of all good, to God who "gave us all things, even His only Son" in an act of immeasurable gratuitousness. Conscious of such a tremen­dous richness, Délia aptly identified it as grace, from which a surge of thanksgiving flows, inspiring one to give oneself in action.

Giving ourselves is our life! It is not enough to thanks God in words (…) we must also translate our gratitude into actions. (Conversations, M.I.C. Archives).

For her, the missionary commitment flows out of the awareness of God's gratuitousness: it is a return, a reciprocal exchange, an interior demand and an answer to the call of an offered grace. Thus, the grace of faith which she recognizes leads her to give thanks personally and to share: "The one and only aim of the Society is the propagation of the faith among heathen nations." (Draft of the M.I.C. Constitutions, 1902)

Finally, Mother Delia's life is a hymn of praise to the Lord and of thanks for His incessant blessings; it is an invitation to others to do the same and a yearning to give a voice to so many who forget to thank the One to whom they owe everything; it is a life consecrated to the Mission in the footsteps of Mary, a life of happiness and fulfillment because God is LOVE, because He is faithful and because EVERYTHING is GRACE.