Friday Book Pick: A Memory for Wonders a true story by Mother Veronica Namoyo LeGoulard, PCC
A Memory for Wonders is a tale of pursuit—God relentlessly seeking His beloved child. It is an autobiographical account of a child born to Marxist, atheistic parents, who, even though reared and educated to reject God and religion, would ultimately become a cloistered, contemplative Poor Clare nun. By a stroke of unorthodox providence, the protagonist, Luce, was baptized in a Catholic Church at the initiative of her Catholic, paternal grandmother without her parents knowing it. As she writes, “We would probably not approve of this procedure; but it was inspired, I believe, in its uncanonical way.” She writes that she attributes all the exceptional graces she received through life to a development of Baptism, the greatest grace of her life. A Memory for Wonders is like a diary of truly remarkable graces, of which the covert baptism is only the beginning.
A second massive grace comes at the age of three. Infuriated by the Baptism, Luce’s parents move the family from France to Africa, in part to separate from the influence of the grandparents. Relocated to the Moroccan frontier, far from the sea and likened to the “wild west,” the author vividly describes a sandstorm of intense heat, power, and destruction. She explains that during a sirocco, the strong, burning wind from the Sahara desert carries northward thousands of tons of fine red grains of sand, and the combination of searing heat, brutal winds and invasive sand results in no one, not even the Arabs, venturing outside for days. And if one did venture out, the clothes could be blown clean off his back. Roofs suffered separation from homes, and sheep carried away from homesteads also as a result of this fierce wind from the south. No school, store, or bar could be open during a sirocco. The effects could not be entirely kept outside, she explains: “Even with drawn curtains, locked shutters and windows framed with cotton or wool, everything was still covered with sand. We ate it, breathed it, were powdered or whipped by it. We had a choice of being steamed inside or roasted outside.”
It was during a storm such as this that Lucette, as she was called, had a profound experience of God. One afternoon during a sirocco, the wind suddenly stopped—a reprieve. People could leave their homes for a breath of fresh air and to assess the damage, at last. The nurse caring for our little protagonist waited until the evening and then ventured out with her small charge. Commanding Lucette to remain on a small mat, where they were situated on a hillock, little Lucette was to have a perfect vantage point for the dramatic scene that would mark the rest of her life. Suddenly the sky, and even the air, was all afire. The innumerable sand particles that hung in the air reflecting the crimson sunset provided a kind of living sunset that would not be neatly contained on the horizon. She writes, “It was like an immense feathery flame, all scarlet from one pole to the other…. I was caught in limitless beauty and radiant, singing splendor. And at the same time, with a cry of wonder in my heart, I knew that all this beauty was created, I knew God. I made my first act of adoration.”
“This does appear dramatic,” writes Mother Veronica (for little Lucette would later become the superior of a Poor Clare monastery in Algiers), and she continues, “It was. And in more than sixty years, it is still in me. Not once could I dismiss this experience.” She declares that this experience (at age three) along with her baptism (before memory) would be the whole source of her spiritual life.
Perhaps conveying this gripping scene from the early pages of A Memory for Wonders will entice you to get a hold of this dramatic and inspiring story for yourself, which I hope you do! This is a time when hope needs rekindling and remembering the good God has done in the chapters of our own lives is a worthy spiritual exercise. As the unlikely graces unfold in this remarkable story, you might be prompted to ponder your own litany of graces. St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans that “all things work for the good for those who love God.” And as we begin to emerge from our homes and assess the damage caused by our sirocco, we would do well to not only survey the wreckage (cultural, social, economic) that looms large before us, but to look back over the blessings of a lifetime and call to memory all the ways the hand of God has been stretched forth in benediction, protection and timely aid—remembering our own personal experiences of Him “working good all things.”
May we all become people with a “memory for wonders.” As we remember, let us give praise and thanks to God and rekindle our conviction that He is good and He works all things for the good.
Mother Clare, CFR