With Thérèse and Faustina, a trifecta of apostles of Divine Mercy.
Canada has been blessed with many saints (14) and blesseds (11) since the 1640s when the heroic North American Martyrs were tortured and slain. Some of Canada’s finest, like these martyrs, won renown for their zeal for the conversion of souls.
Other Canadian saints are known for tangible accomplishments. In the 17th century, for example, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys founded the Congregation of Nôtre-Dame and, with her sisters, willingly set out to live in remote huts to bring education to children who were widely dispersed throughout the territory of New France. In the 18th century, St. Marguerite d’Youville founded the “Grey Sisters” (Sisters of Charity) and established hospitals in Montréal and, through the order, eventually across the breadth of Canada.
Others are renowned as workers of miracles, like St. Brother André, the force behind St. Joseph’s Oratory.
Bl. Dina Bélanger (1897-1929) did none of these things in her brief life. If she was known for anything in Québec City, it was for being a concert pianist (trained at a NY conservatory) and a gifted composer prior to entering the order of the Religieuse de Jésus-Marie at the age of 24. Even today few Americans know of her.
What sets Bl. Dina (in religious life, Mère Marie Sainte-Cécile de Rome) apart and makes her especially worthy of our esteem was her interior life. Like Thérèse of Lisieux immediately before her and Faustina Kowalska after her, Bl. Dina was privileged to be a mystic, a bride of Christ in whom he confided the depths of his merciful love for every human being.
In a book I heartily recommend, Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI, author Robert Stackpole draws numerous similarities among these three women religious whose lives on earth overlapped in time though never geographically.
Each was blessed to have been raised by devout parents who instructed them in the faith by their lives as well as their words.
Each chose a life of obscurity, simplicity and self-renunciation to the point of offering themselves to Jesus as victim souls.
Each quietly rejoiced in their humiliations as a means of remaining little and meek for love of Jesus.
Each were ordered by their superiors to keep a diary of their mystical experiences: The Story of a Soul by Thérèse, The Autobiography of Dina Bélanger and The Diary of St. Faustina.
Each died at a young age: Thérèse at 24, Dina at 32 and Faustina at 33 years—all three of tuberculosis.
Each was an apostle of Divine Mercy: Thérèse, a Doctor of Divine Love; Dina, known as the “Little Flower of Canada”; and Faustina whose name is forever linked to Divine Mercy. As Dr. Stackpole illustrates, many passages from Dina’s autobiography are echoed in Faustina’s Diary. Here’s just one example.
Bl. Dina wrote: “If the angels could desire anything, it seems to me that they would envy us our privilege of suffering, as well as the priceless gift of the Eucharist” (Autobiography, p. 106).
St. Faustina wrote: “If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: One is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering” (Diary, no. 1804).
Jesus asked Dina to console his heart in reparation for the outrages he receives in the Blessed Sacrament. He would also tell her how many souls he wanted her “to win for him” each day. She wrote: “Our Redeemer longs to pardon and forget. He often awaits only a gesture or a thought of love on our part to grant to some sinner the extraordinary grace that will snatch him from Satan’s toils.”
Faustina repeated the words Jesus gave her: “The greater the misery of a soul, the greater its right to my Mercy.”
Jesus requested that Dina not put her name on the record of their conversations, explaining: “this work is Mine, not yours; you no longer exist, you can do nothing. Inspiration and facility in writing are My resources. I was your hand, which is My property, to tell souls that I love them with a love they do not understand, and to beg for their love, to quench in some measure the thirst of My Heart.”
On another occasion he told her:
There is so much we can learn from Jesus through Bl. Dina’s Autobiography and from her extraordinary interior life of grace.
On a personal note, when I was diagnosed in February 2012 with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) based on a bone marrow biopsy, friends asked me to whom they should pray to intercede for my recovery. I chose Bl. Dina (whom I’d love to see canonized) and sent out links to articles on her life and where they could find her autobiography. In the first week, Amazon ran out of every new and used copy of the Autobiography. That summer, one of my sons and I made a pilgrimage to the Province of Québec to visit her tomb and the resting places of eight other saints and blesseds we’d come to admire, including St. Kateri, just months before her canonization. Since then, with each round of bloodwork, the hemeoncologist has reported a steady deterioration in my condition and told me that—although the more aggressive genes in my CLL’s profile had not activated—I’d probably need to start chemo within the year. This January, I was inspired to change my diet and to exercise more. When my blood was checked again in April, the doctor could not believe that the sample was mine. The CLL seemed to have disappeared. The faithfulness of my dear friends in praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for Bl. Dina’s intercession is the only plausible reason for what appears to be a cure. I don’t know if or how often CLL resolves spontaneously, but I do know that it’s a great blessing to have faithful, persevering friends and an intercessor like Bl. Dina. Her memorial is celebrated on September 4.
Susan E. Willsis Spirituality Editor of Aleteia’s English edition.