“It is always harder to be left behind than to be the one to go.”

  [Brock Thoene]

 Guilt and grief were like dark clouds hanging over the Barbier household, even though Adele and Louis had now, albeit reluctantly, agreed to allow Euphrasie to go to the convent.  It was days before anyone could broach the painful subject of her leaving home.

One evening, Louis asked, “When are you leaving us?”

“At the beginning of October,” Euphrasie answered.

“So soon?” cried Adele, “we must get ready then. What do you need to take with you?”

Over the next couple of weeks Euphrasie, with her parent’s help, gathered and packed her trousseau.  It was during these weeks that she became more aware of her parent’s goodness, generosity and love; of the sacrifices they were willing to make in order to help their beloved daughter follow God’s call. However, they were still broken hearted at the thought of losing her as were her younger brother and sisters!

At last the day of her departure came.  Adele insisted that they have an early dinner together and set about preparing a particularly nice meal but none of them really enjoyed it for all had heavy hearts and stomachs that were turning somersaults!

After the meal, Euphrasie  went to her room for the last time and put on her bonnet and cloak.  She then kissed and hugged each member of her family for the last time.

“Be good to mama and papa, take care of them”, she whispered to her young brother Louis.  She picked up her little sister, Marie and hugged her close. There was so much she wanted to say but before she could do so, her father, not wishing to prolong the sad goodbyes, and fighting back his own tears, announced gruffly, “Come, come everyone, to the coach stop!”  The whole family hurried after him

Soon they heard the clattering of hooves and the rumble of wheels as the coach that was to take Euphrasie away, rounded the corner and stopped in front of them.  While the horses stood stomping and snorting, the coachman loaded Euphrasie’s box onto the coach.  With a another hug for each of her loved ones, she turned away quickly to take her seat.  As she fumbled for her handkerchief tears streamed down her face but she did manage to give her family a final watery smile.  This should be the happiest day of my life, she thought.  She did not feel very happy!  One phase of her life was now over a new one was about to begin! She was just nineteen  years old!

All through that long day the coach rumbled through lonely country roads, through villages and busy towns.  By evening they arrived in a large town called Evreaux where she would board a train for Paris.  Euphrasie had never seen a train before so she was absolutely terrified when she heard a loud shriek, a piercing moan and felt a rumble that seemed to shake the very ground she stood on.  Then a huge machine appeared rolling along metal rails.  – a monster of black iron, shining brass and bright green paint that seemed to belch out clouds of steam in angry protest. This ‘monster’ was to bring her to Paris which was said to be the most beautiful city in the world.

The train was incredibly fast, faster than any horse could gallop she was sure and it was amazingly comfortable.  As the train chugged along there was so much to see and how she wished that her family could have shared her experiences with her.

In Paris she transferred to another train which would carry her to Chaumont.  As she approached her destination the countryside changed.  There were great stretches of wastelands and pine forests with small shabby villages dotted among the hills and rocks.  The country grew wilder, rougher and more mountainous.

At Chaumont she had to leave the train and find a way to get to a small village called Cuves.  The only means of transport was a country cart and so, precariously seated among crates, kegs and clucking hens and  holding tightly onto her bag and her luggage , she watched the fields and hedgerows roll slowly by. This last stretch of the journey seemed endless. At last the cart crested a hill and in the valley below she saw a tiny stone church with two tall lime trees standing like sentinels on either side of it. Nestling around the church she could see many small houses.

“Cuves!” said the driver gruffly and, drawing to a stop in a courtyard behind the small church, he pointed to a building beyond the boundary wall and said, “ This is the Hermitage where the Sisters of Calvary live!”

She had arrived at last. She had come to the end of her journey or was this just the beginning?


Next time: Delays and decisions.