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Archive Visit Number Two: “We were once, but very, very long ago, small like you…”

Cassie Bendel

Posted on October 18 2020

Archive Visit Number Two: “We were once, but very, very long ago, small like you…”
In 1946, the Mount was approaching her 98th birthday. By then, the school had been well established and families were doing what they could to contribute to the last of the war effort. In support of their fellow Visitation sisters in Europe, the sisters of Mount de Chantal used that time to send much-needed supplies to monasteries that had become unwitting victims on the European front lines.

               

Polgardi is a small town in Hungary popular with German tourists. In early 1945, the town found itself embroiled in one of Hitler’s last offensives as Panzer tank units used Polgardi as a throughway to attempt to secure oil deposits before the Soviet army could stop them. A small monastery of Visitation sisters lied within that town.

Though it is difficult now to find information on this “sister house”, a letter was written in 1946 to “the children of Mont de Chantal” thanking them for their combined efforts to help Polgardi through care packages. As with other letters we’ve encountered so far on our visits to the archives, the Sisters’ words are at attempt to share their experience of life on the front lines. What makes this one unique is that it’s directed specifically at Mount de Chantal’s students and frames the experience in a childlike way.

                The following is a transcript of that letter…

 

From our Monastery of Polgardi

Sunday, the 27th, of October 1946

 

Very dear Children,

                Very dear Mother Mary-Joseph Aloysius was so good as to acquaint us – in a sort of wireless way – with the dear children of our dear Mont de Chantal’s School.

                Now the way between us is a very long one, and although there are now a days several ways of journeying everywhere quite comfortably and quickly too, either through the air, water or land, after having weighed the matter well over, and in spite of our wish to come nearer to you, dear children, we have had to give up all sorts of wishes on our part, and trust our greetings and chat to an old acquaintance of ours, that will speak for us, better than we should do ourselves perhaps! So, you won’t be offended, won’t you?

                Through our old friend – the one that speaks to you now – you will hear that “Polgardi” is a small Monastery, in a small village, lost in a small land surrounded with lots of small countries, the whole forming a small patch in our small world – because the world is very small as you know – although one speaks always of the big world! What is the world in the big universe?

                Knowing perfectly well the size of the world, viewing from far the size of Polgardi, can you imagine now the size of the people living in it? Small! Will you say. Very small!

                And you are right! We were once, but very, very long ago, small like you have the great luck still to be, then, we had to grow…

                (We wish) fatherly blessing on all the dear children of the Mont de Chantal, and their dear parents and relatives because really, they had been good to us. What the Father has done, we don’t know, but we know, that we still have time and possibility to thank you to-day from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you, dear children, you have made us happy!

                During the war, this sad nightmare through which we had to go too, we heard about many little stories concerning other little friends here in Hungary. These are true stories too!

                It was during a heavy bombardment period, early in 1944, in Budapest. Little children had made their first communion on Palm Sunday. The morrow after, a raid was announced. Bombs came down like rain. Houses were made into ruins. On the following Thursday, workers found among the ruins, a little boy of eight years old. He gave still a few signs of life, and after much care, he was brought to life again. He was not at all hurt, was only unconscious, and had been in this state for two days long. On seeing him coming slowly to himself, many questions were put to him. Then one asked: “But child, were you not afraid alone, down below, so long among the dead?” – “Ah,” answered the little one. “How could I have been afraid? Jesus came in my heart but yesterday!” He didn’t know he had been two days under the earth, he meant Palm Sunday.

                During the Summer, the raids were raging. People went daily in their cellars and nearly lived there altogether. In one of these undesired visits, many people were assembled in an underground room. Several prayed aloud; a group of men kept themselves apart unwilling to join in the prayers. A very little girl holding the skirt of her mama, looked, amazed at them. She prayed too, then, stopped suddenly. “Mama!” No answer. Her mother prayed. “Mama!” said the little one louder, covering the voiced with hers, bird like, “Why don’t they pray with us, those there?”.

                In another cellar, under the same circumstances a young mother had a big baby in her arms. People used to entertain themselves, or to pray or to sing religious songs. The approach of the machines was heard. They started praying aloud again altogether. It was the Rosary. Everybody prayed. An alternative of thundering was heard. The heads were bent. Everyone felt death hovering above him. All of a sudden, a horrible crash was heard nearby. The prayer stopped in the middle of an Ave Maria. They all sank on their knees. The silence of the grave followed. For a while, no one dared to raise the eyes. In this awful moment an angel-like voice broke the silence: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners…” It was the big baby in arms of the young mother, resuming his prayer.

                Now dear children, are not these little stories very interesting? We are sure they are. They pleased us very much too as we heard them, so we thought this will be good for our little friends of Mont de Chantal!

                Very dear Children, before we close our letter, may we ask you to thank in our name, your esteemed families who shared your caritative troubles. May we also beg of you to pray the Lord for “small Polgardi”? We will also put the name of our little benefactors among the others on the big list. Our Father in heaven will have us poor, He loves us so you know, but He delights to see His little Ones helping one another.

                Good By! Dear little friends, think of us by Jesus in the Crib, tell Him we also want to be good children. Ask Mary and Joseph to bless your dear Mother of Mont de Chantal, all our dear Sisters there and all of us here.        

                In sincere gratitude we are yours very affectionately,

                The Sisters of the Visitation Saint-Marie of Polgardi, D.S.B.

 

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