A MEMORY FOR WONDERS:
a true story
by Mother Veronica Namoyo Le Goulard PCC
(Ignatius Press, 1993, 189pp, $23.90. ISBN: 0-89870-430-8. Available from Freedom Publishing)
Some converts to Catholicism have the most unlikely of backgrounds, an example being Mother Veronica Le Goulard. A Poor Clare abbess who successfully established a monastery in Africa, she was the daughter of Marxist parents. Her autobiography was written at the insistence of the Abbess of Lusaka monastery.
Born in France in 1922, Le Goulard was, ironically, baptised as a child, much to the chagrin of her father. In reflecting on her baptism in the context of her conversion, she argues that God's grace which she received then was integral to her conversion. The narrative then traces a childhood in what can only be described at the start of the 21st century as a vanished era.
Her parents accepted jobs in Morocco, then a French protectorate. As a very small child, Le Goulard became convinced of God's existence while watching the brilliant coloration of the sky during a dust storm at sunset. Other influences on her life enabled her to develop her faith.
Denied access to religion by her parents and other family members, Le Goulard was largely left to her own devices to try to discover and develop a prayer life. Nevertheless, she found ingenious ways of furthering her search for truth. For example, she used the opportunity of being a school student studying Greek to read the Gospel of John, albeit in the Greek text!
She had good reason not to raise her interest in religion with her father. So deep was his hatred of religion that the only time he physically chastised her to the extent that he injured her, was when she expressed interest in pursuing religion.
After completing secondary school, Le Goulard went to Algeria for tertiary studies - studying in France during the German occupation was not feasible - and this provided her with more freedom to explore religion. She joined the Catholic youth association, ironically also being simultaneously a member of a Marxist youth organisation. Finally, she went to confession and received Communion for the first time.
The climax of the autobiography was her decision to enter the Poor Clare monastery in Algeria towards the end of World War II, a decision which caused her parents to disown her. However, Le Goulard had received an intimation in prayer that her parents would return to the faith, her father doing so on his deathbed, and her mother shortly afterwards.
A Memory for Wonders is a beautifully written account of the workings of God's grace; a reminder that God can touch the hearts and minds of anyone. This is an engrossing read, one which this reviewer found hard to put down.
Michael Daniel teaches at a Melbourne secondary school.