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Meet the concert pianist who gave up a promising career for God

PIANO PLAYING
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Blessed Dina Bélanger experienced a powerful mystic life, entirely turned towards Christ.

At the end of December 1923, Dina Bélanger (1897-1929) wrote in her autobiography: “I found the motto for which I had sought so long, and which corresponded to my every aspiration and summarized all my sentiments: ‘Love and let Jesus and Mary have their way.’ This was an expression that satisfied me. ‘Love,’ that meant unto folly, even to martyrdom … ‘Let Jesus have his way’ meant let the God of love act freely; ‘let Mary have Her way’: this was to entrust blindly to my Mother the task of realizing Jesus in me, cloaked and hidden by my outward being.”

The author of these lines was just 26 years old. She was completely in love with Jesus; He was the joy of her heart, her reason to live. She laid herself open to His light from the moment she was born. “Jesus put me on Earth to only look after him,” she said. Dina radiated Christ; her life was simply a pure openness to God with the confident abandoning of everything she was. In her, the ardent words of St. Paul are borne out: “It is not I who live, but the Christ who lives in me.” (see Galatians 2:20)

The work of the Holy Spirit

Dina was born in Quebec, April 30, 1897. As the only child of Séraphia Matte and Olivier Bélanger, she had a happy childhood. She went to primary school at Saint-Roch, then to boarding school at Bellevue College of the Sisters of the Congregation of the Notre Dame. Starting from her early youth, the Holy Spirit oriented her will toward the desire to become a saint, giving her a burning love for God and neighbor.

The young Dina started hearing the voice of Jesus in 1908. She points out in her autobiography, “I’ll explain once and for all the expressions that I employ such as: I saw … Jesus told me … and similar ones. This means: I saw in my imagination; Jesus told me, through an inner voice, everything which the soul listens to in the depths of the heart during the divine consolations.”

At 14 she consecrated herself to God by making a vow of virginity. She loved Jesus so much that she asked for the grace of martyrdom. It was at this point in time that she read The Story of a Soul by Thérèse de Lisieux, who wasn’t yet a saint, but who would become her patron, along with St. Cecilia. She wrote in 1923: “Thérèse of the Child Jesus, through her intercession, opened the garden of trust to me. So I tasted the true fruit of abandonment. And all her acts, needless to say, bear the stamp of love.”

In 1914, Dina asked to enter religious life, but without success. At the beginning of World War I, she offered herself to Jesus in the spirit of love and reparation in order to console Jesus and to save souls. She lived with her parents until 1916, then she went to the Conservatory in New York to study two years of piano. However, she experienced an inner turmoil of spiritual aridity that would last six years. A young woman with an upright and sensitive character, she became an elegant concert pianist at the age of 24.

A hymn of thanksgiving

Breaking away from a potential artistic career, Dina chose the hidden path of prayer by entering the novitiate of the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Sillery. On February 15, 1922, she received the name of Marie Sainte-Cécile de Rome. This congregation suited her well, as it was centered around the Eucharist, the effusion of love where Jesus gives Himself totally to satiate us. Jesus called Dina: “My little Me.” Dina understood that, as the Son is united with the Father by love, as the heart of Mary is also united with the heart of Jesus, Christ is united to each of us in the Eucharist, where he offers himself, with us, to the Father.

In 1923, while teaching at a school run by her congregation, she contracted scarlet fever from a student she was nursing. Her health never fully recovered, and in 1929, she died of tuberculosis after a long illness. In 1993, St. John Paul II beatified her.

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