You have often asked me to speak about my youth and my vocation. I have delayed for a long time because I did not want you to be occupied with me. But there is a time to talk and a time to be silent and Our Lord has let me know that the time for talking has come.You know that I lived on the Island of Noirmoutier and that I was orphaned young. At 13 years of age, I was sent to a boarding school at Tours. The Superior was an old friend of my mother, and she promised to take good care of me. I cried a lot. I could not understand how they could send me so far away. There were no railroads in those days and to reach Tours it took us three nights and three days. I was not pious, my dear daughters. I did not like to go to confession. And I did not know why God permitted my confessor to treat me so harshly.
All my temptations seemed to be mortal sins. My teachers scolded me and vexed me with a thousand corrections which I took very badly. Fortunately, the second mistress, Mademoiselle de Lignac, who was scarcely 20 years old but an angel of piety, saw my sufferings and calling me apart, spoke to me with gentleness and kindness. She helped me to make my examination of conscience, enlightened my doubts and soon gained my affection. The boarding school was flourishing at that time. There were 90 girls there from the best families. It was an edifying sight. Most of them approached the sacraments every two weeks, several weekly.
In the evening, they had devotions as we do in the novitiate. I witnessed the greatness of that house and a little later I saw its fall. One boarder, one alone, spoiled the whole group of good hearted girls. Disorder and even corruption soon made terrible ravages. The parents, in distress, withdrew their children. Those who remained went from being angels to devils.
A religious community set up a boarding school in the city, and Mlle de Lignac went there. I could not go with her. I was obliged to remain and live with my companions who treated me very badly when I refused to be influenced by their behaviour. I was put under the care of a mistress who had been a religious before the revolution. She had escaped death through a thousand dangers. She was a good religious, but excessively severe. Being an orphan, I cried for Mlle de Lignac who had taken the place of a motherfor me. I was very unhappy.
Then I turned seriously to God and sought consolation in piety. After six months I felt a great attraction to religious life. We were often shown an old building at the back of the garden of our boarding school. They used to tell us very discreetly that some good religious had open a Refuge for young girls who have behaved badly in the world ; that these people did a lot of good there working for the salvation of souls. That thought often came back into my mind and inspired me with a desire to join the community. But how could I manage it ? I was only 15 years of age ! I wrote to my guardian that I decided to become a religious in the Refuge at Tours. He was quite displeased. He replied saying that he would never consent. I could go to the sacred Heart but was never even to think of the Refuge. However, I was not discouraged and told my teachers and companions about my idea. The teachers treated it as childishness. The girls began to persecute me terribly. They would say a thousand insulting things. In the refectory they threw pieces of bread at my head, shouting “So much for your vocation. You want to be a religious?
Then you must learn to suffer”… and many things like that. I continued to pray fervently counting on the protection of God and longing for a chance to speak to the sisters at the Refuge. At last, one evening one of my teachers, who was fond of me and had compassion, made me promise not to betray her and she would take me out secretly to the Refuge. So we went out stealthily, one winter evening. We were received with great cordiality and the superior promised to receive me as soon as difficulties could be removed.
I came back full of joy to the boarding school. But a furious storm had risen against me. In taking the roll call of pupils, my absence was noted. They looked everywhere for me and not finding me, they guessed I had gone to the Refuge about which I had been talking. My companion found a way to cover up, but I was obliged to acknowledge where I had been. The Mistress scolded me furiously. It was supper time. “Bread and water for this lady” she said sternly. I was shivering with the cold and crying bitterly. All my companions who had been so unjust suddenly took my side. They revolted against the Mistress. They were so naughty that they had no fear. They began to say all sort of things : “What… poor little Rose-Virginie, who never harmed anyone ! You condemned her to bread and water. She is a martyr for her vocation. She wants to be a religious. Then let her go to the convent.” Then bringing me near the fire, they brought me cakes and sweets… the very best they had. Never had they paid me such attention. The Mistress could only let them do as they pleased. She had no authority over the pupils who respected no one. Several months passed.
One Mistress encouraged me a great deal. She prepared me for the exercises of religious life. A Sister of the Refuge also wrote to me saying that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to her and revealed her that it was the will of God that I should enter there and that I would be damned if I did not obey my attraction. You can imagine that for a fifteen year old girl, this marvellous event was irrefutable. And so, whatever objections were made, I answered that the Blessed Virgin said I would be damned if I did not enter the Refuge. Finally, after many struggles and a lot of resistance, I got what I desired. I left my teachers who had affection for me in spite of their severity. One in particular, who had treated me most harshly, said to me some time later, “My child, you did not understand my conduct. I had to act strongly towards you because you were one of those persons who go for good or for ill, according to the direction given them. You are strong now. Go with confidence where God is calling you”. All the dear Sisters at the Refuge received me tenderly like a beloved child. I felt I was in heaven and soon forgot all I had suffered.
Translated from an autobiographical record in French (1866), par Sr M. Joseph Deegan, RGS.