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The lady who brought Teresa's spirit to France

The spread of the Teresian Reform outside Spain is an amazing story in itself. A Frenchman called Jean de Bretigny (1556-1634) whose family had close connections with Spain became close to a Teresian Carmelite community there and was so impressed by their spirit that he wanted to implant it in France. You would think this would have been a relatively straightforward project but not at all. Politically, Spain and France were not getting along at the time, and that didn't help. The Spanish Carmelite Friars did not want to let any of the Sisters move across the Pyrenees. But a powerful impetus came from an acquaintance of Bretigny - a Parisian lady named Blessed Mary of the Incarnation (1566-1618), whose feast day is today (she is often remembered by her lay name, Barbe Acarie). This mother of seven children had eminent connections, particular with St Francis of Sales and a prominent ecclesiastic and spiritual writer, Pierre de Berulle. Deeply impressed by Teresa's writings, she pushed with all her might for nuns to be brought from Spain who had been formed by Teresa herself, and so it transpired - not without great drama, but that is another story. The Teresian Carmelites spread rapidly across France, and after the death of her husband Blessed Mary was herself professed at the Carmel of Amiens in 1615. We in the UK have cause to be grateful for all this, since we eventually received the Reform from France in 1862 with the mission of Blessed Hermann Cohen.

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