For an official biography of today’s home-grown Canadian saint, the youngest of fifteen children – yes, large families are quite conducive to holiness, if lived well and with joy – beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2001, here is the Pontiff’s homily on that blessed occasion:
Émilie Tavernier was born in Montreal, Canada, the 19 of February 1800, of modest parents, who were hard working and virtuous. She is the last born of the 15 children of the marriage of Tavernier – Maurice. Both of her parents died young, but they left to their children a strong Christian education marked by the presence of Providence in their life.
From the age of four, Emilie’s care was confided to a paternal aunt who early on recognized in the child a marked sensitivity towards the poor and unfortunate.
When her brother was widowed, Emilie who was 18 years old at the time went to help him out without any thought of remuneration, but with one condition, that they set a table that would always be available for the hungry people who came to the door. A table that she lovingly called: “The Table of the King”.
In 1823, Émilie Tavernier married Jean-Baptiste Gamelin, an apple grower by profession, in whom she found a friend of the poor who equaled her own aspirations. Their home was blessed with three children, but the happiness was soon overshadowed by the deaths of these children who had been welcomed with such love and devotion.
During this same period, her husband, the one with whom she had lived so happily in faithfulness to the marriage vows that they had promised, died as well.
Though confronted with these numerous trials, Émilie did not turn in upon herself in sorrow, rather she found in Mary, Mother of Sorrows, the model that would orient her entire life!
Her personal prayer and the contemplation of the Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross awakened within her a sense of profound compassionate charity towards all those who are caught up in sorrow of any kind. These are the individuals who now become as it were, her husband and children.
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