11 Nov HOLY SOULS – Day 11
Sr Esther of Jesus (Esther Mathieu) was born in London on July 9th 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War. She was the second of four children and remained always deeply devoted to her sister and her two brothers. She attended Virgo Fidelis school in Norwood and then the Sacred Heart Training College in St Charles Square, of which the boundary on one side was the high wall of the Carmel. Esther was considered to show great promise as a pianist but while still at College she became aware of her call to Carmel. On her first visit she said to Mother Mary of Jesus, “I am looking for the Order where I can come closest to God in this life.” This directness of purpose was to be an abiding characteristic. Those who knew Sr Esther at the early Association of British Carmel’s meetings will remember her invariable intervention, in perplexed and slightly weary tones, when discussions were prolonged, – “What we are in Carmel for is union with God”.
She entered Carmel on September 8th 1934 and her Mother was so opposed to her vocation that she too left home, declaring that she would not return until Esther did. Only after many years she eventually returned. She paid stormy visits to Carmel, to the Cardinal, to the Magistrate in a desperate effort to have her daughter restored to her. The rest of the family heroically supported Sr Esther’s vocation. Their bond with Carmel remained exceptionally close. She held the office Depositrix (Bursar) for many years. She was a very careful and efficient manager of financial affairs. She was held in high regard by the regular workmen, who sometimes brought their wives and families to meet her in the parlour. In July, the year of her Diamond Jubilee, she suffered a slight stroke. On the 7th September, the eve of her big day, her health deteriorated. After Vespers we gathered to say the prayers of the dying. She was still fully conscious and utterly contented. After Compline, it was evident that she would not last through the night. We renewed her vows for her, within hours of her 60th anniversary, and as we were saying the final prayers she gently stopped breathing and lay as if she had just fallen asleep.