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Marie Martin de l'Incarnation, Bl.


The first woman missionary to the New World; b. Tours, France, Oct. 28, 1599; d. Quebec, Canada, April 30, 1672. The daughter of middle-class parents Florent and Jeanne (Michelet) Guyard, Marie acceded to her father's wishes and in 1617 married Claude Martin, despite her own attraction to religious life. When her husband died less than three years later, she became housekeeper for her sister, Madame Paul Buisson. Shortly after, Marie received revelations concerning the Incarnation, the Sacred Heart, and the Blessed Trinity. Influenced by the unusual caliber of Marie's interior life, her spiritual director, Dom Raymond of St. Bernard, agreed to her desire for religious consecration. On Jan. 25, 1632, she entered the Ursuline monastery at Tours, leaving her 12-year-old son in the care of her sister. During her novitiate Marie wrote a full account of her spiritual life in obedience to her Jesuit director. Known as the Relation of 1633, this account, along with that written later from Canada as the Relation of 1654, provide the most important documents for a study of her mystical life.

In 1635 Marie received in a dream the first hint of her missionary vocation. Four years later she finally set sail, accompanied by two other Ursulines and Mme. Madeleine de la Peltrie (160371), their lay foundress and chief financial support. Arriving in Quebec on Aug. 1, 1639, the missionaries immediately opened their first school in the Lower City. Despite sickness, poverty, and persecution by native tribes, the school grew, and in 1642 the Ursulines moved to a larger monastery. In 1648, when Iroquois hostilities endangered Quebec, Marie was advised to return to Europe, but she and her nuns chose to remain in New France. Her letters to her son Claude, a Benedictine monk, were collected and published by him in 1681 [2d ed., 2 v. (Paris 1876), 3d ed. by Albert Jamet, 4 v. (Paris 192939)] and provide a valuable source for 17th-century Canadian history. She also composed catechisms in Huron and Algonquian and a dictionary of French and Algonquian. She was beatified on June 22, 1980.

Feast: April 30 (Canada).

Bibliography: Écrits spirituels et historiques, ed. a. jamet, 4 v. (Paris 192939). The Autobiography of Venerable Marie of the Incarnation, tr. j. j. sullivan (Chicago 1964). d. mahoney, Marie of the Incarnation, (Garden City, N.Y. 1964). d. deslandres, "L'éducation des Amérindiennes d'après la correspondance de Marie Guyart de l'Incarnation," Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses 16 no 1 (1987) 91110. g. m. oury, "Le recueil des Retraites des Ursulines de Québec," Église et Théologie 9 (1978) 271289. a. bÉlanger, "Une éducatrice d'hier pour aujourd'hui: Marie Guyart de l'Incarnation," Société Canadienne d'Histoire de l'Église Catholique v. 39 (Ottawa, 1973) 5564.

[d. mahoney]

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