St Marguerite Bourgeoys

(entered heaven this day in 1700)

Dear Marge,

It’s OK to complain about problems, as long as every complaint comes accompanied by three possible solutions.  I’m not kidding.  Your last note overflowed with eloquent and legitimate complaints, but it stopped there.  That’s only the beginning.  It’s a sign that God has given you an adept mind that perceives problems; but adept minds can also come up with solutions.  And if you don’t start forming the habit of coming up with solutions, you will gradually degenerate into a bitter old woman who always finds fault with everyone and everything, the kind of person no one wants to be around, not even yourself.  So take a lesson from today’s saint; it will help you avoid such a drab destiny.

St Marguerite was born in France in 1630, but her heart to serve God and his people brought her to the newfound French colony of Montreal in Canada in 1652, responding to an invitation issued by the governor of the colony, who was looking for teachers.  She came to the rough settlement and immediately began her work of teaching and training young colonial and Native American girls.  Soon she saw that the progress of the settlement depended on a morally sound and capable class of women who could form and maintain solid home lives, so she returned to France to gather some fellow workers, then expanded her efforts back in Montreal.  She rebuilt the religious monument on Mount Royal that the Natives had destroyed; she opened the very first school in Montreal; and she formed her group of teachers into a new kind of religious congregation – and that’s the point I want to make.

At the time, religious congregations of women were all cloistered.  But St Marguerite recognized that the needs of colonial life were such that she and her sisters could be much more useful if the were allowed to work at large (not inside a convent), promoting Christian charity, education, and everything else a new settlement required.  She insisted on moving forward with her vision, though it entailed an endless round of arguments and discussions before she received the necessary approval from the King and proper Church authorities.  Her efforts only prevailed in 1698, two years before her death.  But prevail they did, and so she is considered by all one of the co-founders of the great city of Montreal.  And her sisters (the Congregation of Notre Dame) are still at work today, all around the world, following in her footsteps, finding creative solutions to new problems, without abandoning the timeless principles of the gospel.

I think that if you apply the same method, turning every complaint into a problem-solving opportunity, you too will make a memorable contribution to the advance of Christ’s Kingdom, and be a lot happier as well.

Your devoted uncle,


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