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Ven. Jeanne Chézard de Matel

Ven. Jeanne Chézard de Matel by Julie Lonneman

Artwork Narrative:

Jeanne Chézard de Matel was a French mystic who founded the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, whose rule and constitution were approved in 1633 with the principal objective of youth education.

“Jesus is entirely ours; let us be entirely His.”
–Ven. Jeanne Chézard de Matel

Her feast day is September 11.

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Jeanne was born on Nov. 6, 1596, in Roanne, in the Diocese of Lyons, in France. She was the daughter of Jean Chézard, a French army officer and nobleman, and his wife, Jeanne Chaurier, whose first four children were stillborn or had died as infants. Jean was baptized the same day in St. Stephen's Church. Two small children who came to the door begging were her godparents. As she grew in her spirituality, she was drawn especially to Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word, to St. Joseph and to Michael the Archangel.

In 1608, at the age of 12, Jeanne was permitted to make her first Communion. In her teens she lived an active social life, loving parties, dancing, fun and laughter.

In 1616, her father wanted her to marry, but Jeanne felt that God was calling her to religious life, but she was not clear. At one time, she thought she had a Carmelite vocation, and she later considered joining the Ursulines. It also appears from her writings that she pondered becoming a member of the Visitation and Franciscan orders. During her twenties, she spent six years trying to discern her vocation. Jeanne was endowed with the gift of infused contemplation and had vivid experiences of God’s presence. 

On July 2, 1625, at age twenty-nine, guided by her spiritual directors, Jeanne began the work of founding the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament with two companions in Roanne, but soon moved to Lyon. At the early stages, she thought of naming the Order after the Lamb of God, whose peace would bring about “a gentle, peaceful relationship between God and our soul.” Yet in prayer and discernment, Jesus is said to have revealed to her that the name of the Order was to be only “Incarnate Word, for in this is expressed all of who I am.”

Throughout her life, both personally and as a foundress, Jeanne encountered opposition, criticism, and other difficulties. She even delayed fulfilling her desire to take the habit and take religious vows to establish the Order. It was only on her deathbed that Jeanne's desire was realized. Against all odds, Jeanne de Matel received the habit of the order she had founded and made her religious profession, a few hours before her death in the early morning of September 11, 1670.