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The Spiritual Formation of Bl. Dina

DM 101: Week 39

By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Apr 14, 2006)
Dina was gifted with natural musical talent. She advanced rapidly in piano and in musical composition, so that even her spiritual guides encouraged her to glorify God by pursuing a music career. At the age of 19, therefore, her parents sent her for musical studies to a conservatory in New York, where she lodged with two friends from Quebec at a convent of the Religious of Jesus and Mary. All the while, Bl. Dina was deepening in prayer and growing in virtue. She would go to the convent chapel often to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote:

"How often, late in the evening, by the pale flickering of the sanctuary lamp, have I come close to Jesus and there, leaning against the altar rail, listened to His voice and poured forth the secrets of my heart!"

Dina also became a promoter of the Apostleship of Prayer, deepening her devotion to the Sacred Heart, and her desire to make reparation to Him for all the evils of the world. She wrote:

"At the outbreak of the World War, in 1914, I offered myself to Our Lord entirely, body and soul, in a spirit of reparation and love to console Him and to save souls. I was especially distressed at the moral evil threatening the world. The light that illumined me was so vivid that I could not see Jesus suffer and not wish to dry His tears by every means at my disposal."

Besides the virtue of piety, Bl. Dina also excelled in the virtue of humility. She relates one humorous incident which Canadians especially will appreciate. It occurred at the end of one of her many concerts for Charity:

"Once [at a recital] I was granted the joy of a slight failure. In a crowded hall I was supposed to close a literary and musical entertainment by playing the national hymn, 'O Canada.' The last line should have been repeated, but by some slip I played it only once. Everybody noticed my mistake. I was very grateful to God for this small humiliation. It was something better to offer Him than the beautiful bouquets with which I had been presented."

Bl. Dina also learned the art of turning her daily work into prayer, and a loving offering to God. She wrote:

"Before each one of my exercises in harmony, from that far off day to this, before reading a single line or writing a single note, I have recited a Veni Sancte and a Hail Mary. I do not recall ever having omitted this pious practice. Consequently, if my poor musical compositions have no value from an artistic point of view ... they are a real chain of prayers."

In addition to piety and humility, Bl. Dina was schooled by God in complete surrender, abandonment to His divine providence. Such abandonment was especially needed when she first asked permission of her parents and her spiritual director to enter the religious life. Much like St. Th鲨se, the Little Flower, and St. Faustina, this desire of Dina's heart to enter the convent would have to wait some time for its fulfilment. And yet, in retrospect, she saw in this delay the loving plan of God. She wrote:

"God enlightened my superiors and according to their judgement I was to remain in the world. It was too soon for me to leave my devoted parents whose sole joy was to have their only child with them.... Our Lord saw fit to leave me to their affection several years more.... My God, I thank Thee for the happiness granted my parents, I thank Thee for having clearly revealed to my soul Thy ineffable designs."

Dina's heavenly Father continued to nurture and sanctify her soul and her work. At the same time, Jesus began to give her extraordinary graces and consolations to draw her even closer to His Heart. Just one example will suffice. On Christmas night, at the age of 21, Bl. Dina was given an intimate union with the Christ Child. She wrote:

"On Christmas night during my thanksgiving after Holy Communion, I was inundated with divine consolations.... After receiving the Sacred Host, I was suddenly transported to Bethlehem like the Shepherds on the first Christmas night. Our Lady held up to me the Infant Jesus who gave me a kiss of loving tenderness and His Heart communed with mine, oh! How sweetly. This intimate colloquy with the Holy Family filled me with an inexplicable happiness. The joys of Heaven of which God sometimes gives us a foretaste can be felt, but they cannot be described."

Once again, Bl. Dina's experiences here were so very like those of St. Faustina, who also enjoyed the most intimate union with the Christ Child. As Faustina wrote in her Diary, entry no. 1442:

"After a while, I was left alone with the Infant Jesus who stretched out His little hands to me, and I understood that I was to take Him in my arms. Jesus pressed His head against my heart and gave me to know, by His profound gaze, how good He found it to be next to my heart."

Dina Belanger was admitted into the postulancy of the Religious of Jesus and Mary in 1921 at the age of 24. As she stepped through the door of the convent, she heard the words in her soul "This is Home." And home it would be for the rest of her short life.

The religious order she had joined was a teaching order, and Dina's primary role in the community was as a music teacher. She wrote:

"I still continued my teaching. How I loved my pupils! It has been the same for all the children who have since been confided to my care. I loved them with an affection which sought their welfare.... I identified Jesus personally with each one of my pupils and pictured Him at their age, coming to me for a lesson."

During her postulancy and novitiate, Jesus continued to deepen His relationship with Dina's soul. At this time she experienced something known in the Catholic tradition as a spiritual "exchange of hearts" with Christ. She described the experience like this:

"It was the second night of [a] retreat. During our free time before the preparation for the morrow's meditation, I went to chapel. Darkness was falling and deep silence pervaded the sanctuary. Jesus made me hear the sweet tones of His voice and I felt myself enraptured. Peace, love, and confidence enveloped me. Then, the dear Lord removed my poor heart as easily as one picks up something and puts it elsewhere, and, O joy! Replaced it by His own, and that of His Immaculate Mother. This was symbolical also, but there certainly took place in me a mystical operation that no pen can describe."

More and more, Jesus began guiding Dina with His own voice, through inner locutions, the authenticity of which, in part, she learned to recognize by the deep peace and silence which accompanied His words in her soul. She wrote:

"The Saviour makes Himself heard only in hours of deep recollection, peace and silence. His voice is soft, so soft that in the soul all must be hushed; it is a melodious voice, while that of the devil is noisy, abrupt, and discordant, and his words are uttered in the midst of agitation and tumult."

One time, Bl. Dina received a prophecy from the Lord—a prophecy which took her by surprise. She recorded it as follows:

On a first Friday, while Our Lord was communing with my soul, I asked Him the following question: "What can be the object of my musical studies?" For I had always retained the intimate conviction that I should never excel in them, yet I was urged by some irresistible power to labour persistently at my music. Jesus said "...you will do good particularly by your writings." These words filled me with amazement: "Do good by my writings!" Had I understood alright? Jesus continued: "Yes, in the convent you will devote yourself to literary work."

From the testimony of her superiors, we know for a fact that Dina believed this prophecy referred to the poems and other pious compositions that she wrote for her sisters in religion. Dina had absolutely no idea that the prophecy might refer to the autobiography she was writing under obedience to her Mother Superior.

(This series continues next week on the Mercy spirituality of Bl. Dina Belanger. Quotations are taken from Autobiography of Dina Belanger. Canada: Religious of Jesus and Mary, 1984 edition.)