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Name That Saint: Jeanne de Lestonnac

Closer to God

Especially given the era in which she lived, St. Jeanne de Lestonnac led a very unique life. Her faith journey shows us that God always uses our daily circumstances to bring us closer to Himself and the poor.

St. Jeanne was born to a wealthy family in Bordeaux, France, on December 27, 1556. This was a period of great religious conflict in France, and while her mother joined the Calvinist faith, her father remained a Catholic. Within the household struggle, she earnestly prayed and sought God’s will and truth.

At the age of 17, she married Gaston de Montferrant, with whom she had eight children. Three of them died in infancy, and when she was only 41 years old, she suffered the loss of her husband, and shortly afterwards, her father, uncle, and oldest son. These were years of great trial, and St. Jeanne instinctively turned to our Blessed Mother, who had also suffered the loss of a husband and Son.

Five years later, when her children were grown, she entered the Cistercian Monastery of nuns, where she found great joy in the life of prayer, silence, and poverty. But her body was not able to withstand the rigor, and in six months, she became so ill she had to leave. Returning to her home to recuperate, she prayed for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. In a vision, she saw a large number of youth who were in danger—and our Blessed Mother asking for her assistance. Gathering other like-minded women around her, they prayed and distributed food and alms to the poor.

In 1605, the plague hit Bordeaux. St. Jeanne and her companions went to the poorest areas of the city to help people who were most affected by it. After the plague, she talked to her brother, who was a Jesuit, and he arranged for her to meet with two other Jesuit priests. They had schools for boys and strongly encouraged her to create something similar for girls. Using her Cistercian foundation and the Jesuits’ Ignatian spirituality, she created a cloistered congregation of sisters who had the ability to leave the monastery to teach. In 1607, Pope Paul V approved the community, which had taken the name Compagnie de Notre-Dame (Companions of Our Lady). They started their first school in Bordeaux in 1610, and by the time St. Jeanne died in 1640, there were 30 schools in France.

During the French Revolution, St. Jeanne’s congregation, and many other religious orders, fled France as the government seized churches and monasteries, exiled more than 30,000 priests, and killed hundreds of religious. The Companions of Our Lady started monasteries and schools throughout the world, including Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

St. Jeanne was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1900 and canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1949.

She is the patron saint of abuse victims, people rejected by religious orders, and widows.

Her feast day is May 15.

St. Jeanne de Lestonnac, pray for us.

Photo Credits

Top Photo Source: MariaAna 00 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0):  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lestonnac3.jpg

Photo: AnonymousUnknown author / Public domain: Nheyob / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

ODN Emblem: AnonymousUnknown author / Public domain: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Lestonnac1.jpg