Beatified March 20, 1993
task throughout eternity, and until the end of the world, is and
will be to radiate,
through the most Holy Virgin, the Heart of Jesus on all souls.”
- Bl. Dina Bélanger
Blessed Dina Bélanger was born to the young couple, Octave and Séraphia, on April 30 1897, in Quebec and was baptized the same day. During her pregnancy, Dina’s mother offered her unborn child to the Lord at Mass praying that she might “accomplish something good in…life” and that the child, boy or girl, might be a religious if it be according to the Lord’s will. When Dina was a year and a half old, she became the older sister of Joseph Simeon who died after only three months. Her small family was well-to-do and was known by their neighbors and friends for being deeply religious and active in works of charity.
As she grew, it was evident that Dina was blessed with special relationship with Our Lady from an early age. She writes that “God wrapped the protective cloak of the Blessed Virgin around me.” Her mother recounts that she began to make the sign of the cross when she was still in her cradle and was kneeling beside her mother praying the “Hail Mary” before she was two. This disposition to spiritual things was aided by her temperament: she was timid but very honest, sensitive and well ordered, although she had a strong will which her father quickly addressed before it became troublesome.
Her parents raised her to be generous and charitable—especially since she was an only child in an affluent family. They encouraged her to share her toys and sweets with her playmates and she accompanied her mother in her charitable works with the poor and sick. Dina quickly grew into a generous and social child after her parents’ example. As she grew, she grew also in love for God and the things of Heaven—so much so that while on retreat at the age of seven she yearned and prayed to be taken to heaven and was disappointed when she awoke the next morning to realize she was still on earth.
As a girl, she attended school at the convent at her parish where she consecrated herself to Our Lady. Already at eight years old, her classmates and teachers recognized her virtue. Although the teasing of her classmates was a source of suffering for her, she nevertheless acknowledged her great desire to be a saint. This desire was manifested in her “little sacrifices of love” by which she secretly mortified herself. She chose not to eat sugar or to season her food, she slept without a pillow, and would not cross her feet. These are just a few of the choices her parents noticed, although she undertook them silently, that she made out of love for the Lord before she had reached the age of 10.
Dina, in her love for the Lord, longed to receive Him in Holy Communion. She went with her mother to petition their pastor if she could receive her First Holy Communion early, at the age of nine. He denied permission, which deeply hurt young Dina, but she allowed her desire to receive the Blessed Sacrament to grow in her heart over the following year. After much anticipation and preparation, Dina received her First Holy Communion on May 2, 1907. She experienced a profound joy and from this moment her craving for Holy Communion grew each time she received the Body and Blood of our Lord. It was on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, of the following year that she interiorly heard Our Lord’s voice for the first time. She describes His voice as “a soft, melodious voice which overwhelmed me with happiness.”
When she was 14, she began boarding school at Bellevue College of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. Being away from her family and the home she had always known was a great trial for her. Her parents offered to take her home, but Dina set her will to become accustomed to her new environment. The boarding school was a training ground for Dina in her social relationships. As an only child, she was used to quiet and solitude and so, in her desire to be kind to everyone, she had to practice self denial in participating in her class activities. It was during these years at Bellevue College that she consecrated all of her love to the Lord in a vow of virginity. During her schooling, her intelligence and dedication to her studies placed her at the top of her class. Despite this ability, she always shied away from recognition and praise.
She continued to grow in virtue during her time at Bellevue and her relationship with the Lord continued to blossom. She came to feel the sentiments of the Lord Himself—His burning desire for souls and His great thirst for His creatures. On one occasion she had the opportunity to visit the Convent of Jesus and Mary with her class. The visit greatly impacted her and her desire for religious life grew, yet she did not know that it was to this very convent that the Lord would call her.
Having completed boarding school at the age of 16, she returned home and asked permission to enter the religious life. To her disappointment, her spiritual director and pastor recommended that she wait for several more years. Although hurt by the decision, she surrendered in obedience to their will. In light of this, she participated in the activities that were typical of a girl of her age. She was invited to social events and outings, but as her heart was reserved for God alone, she took little enjoyment out of such worldly pleasures. She made an effort not to appear more pious than other “excellent” girls her age while not falling prey to vain pleasures. During these same years, she actively involved herself in various ministries at her parish.
Three years later, at the age of 19, Dina boarded a train bound for New York with two other young women to advance her skill at the piano at the New York Conservatory. While she was convinced of her own mediocrity, her talent at the piano was soon more evident than ever. She used this opportunity, as well, for self denial. She was genuinely surprised when her playing met with success and it took much mortification for her to play in public.
Young Dina continued her growth in virtue during this time at the Conservatory and she continued to hear the voice of Our Lord that she had first heard at age 11. He spoke to her about suffering, the cross, and about her mission to give herself as an offering for the world. She was constantly guided by “the Host” and “the Star”—Our Lord and the Blessed Mother. She soon heard the Lord’s explicit call to the religious life and received permission from her spiritual director to enter within the following six months. She promptly requested entrance into the convent she had visited with her class as a young adolescent, the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Quebec.
On August 11, 1921, Dina finally entered through the convent doors. Her parents accompanied her and willingly gave her over to the Divine will. As she began her postulancy, she became homesick for her family and her childhood home. Yet she resisted this impulse in order to fulfill the will of the Lord. She encountered struggle in the common life with her religious sisters as she had at the boarding school, but again she embraced it in love. It was in the midst of this struggle that she received the great grace of an exchange of hearts with Jesus and Mary. Because these Two Hearts are so united in purpose and love, Dina received the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in exchange for her own.
During her novitiate, she worked writing texts for liturgical feasts and teaching piano. Her mystical experiences and conversations with the Lord continued and she often asked for sufferings to unite with His. Our Lord, in answer, presented the fervent novice with a chalice adorned with the instruments of His Passion. At her profession of vows, He would present her with a greater chalice in anticipation of her desire. As a sign of His desire to betroth her, Our Lord also presented her with a ring.
After she made her first vows, Mary Saint Cecile of Rome, Dina’s religious name, was sent to teach music at another convent for five weeks. During her time there, she had caught scarlet fever while tending to a sick child. This illness, along with the interior trials she was suffering at this time, just fed the flames of her love. As she improved slightly, she began teaching music lessons again. This assignment too, lasted for a short time until her health required that she be placed in the infirmary again. At the request of her superior, she wrote her biography during the spring and early summer months of 1924.
Over the next few years, her illness steadily progressed. The scarlet fever she had contracted had given way to tuberculosis. By July of 1929, she was too weak to write and her condition deteriorated until her death on September 4 of that same year. She was fully conscious when she died peacefully after nine years of religious life. She died gazing upon an image of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993.
Information and quotations taken from: In Dina’s Footsteps…by Ghislaine Boucher, R.J.M and translated by Florestine Audette, R.J.M., 1990.
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