In France, in the XVI century and in Bordeaux, the port at the mouth of the Garonne which became an important centre for Humanism, we approach Jeanne de Lestonnac's life.
Entering her home, we meet Richard de Lestonnac, her father - a counsellor in the Parliament of Bordeaux - and Jeanne Eyquem de Montaigne, her mother. Perhaps Montaigne's name is familiar. You will have heard, maybe, about Michael de Montaigne, the philosopher who wrote the "Essays" and created a new literary genre. He was Jeanne's uncle; they were great friends and his influence can be seen in her work.
Jeanne, the eldest of the Lestonnac - Eyquem de Montaigne family, was born in 1556. During this century a sharp political and religious conflict was raging. The advance of the Protestant Reformation, led by Calvin's followers, clashed with Catholic tradition, and the effects were felt everywhere. While still a child, Jeanne experienced the consequences of the religious differences between her parents. Her father - a fervent Catholic -wished to share his faith with her and had her baptized. Her mother "was convinced that the greatest benefit she could bestow on her daughter was to educate her in the religion of Calvin."
The girl's faith was put to the test and eventually gained from the struggle. Jeanne opted for her father's faith. Her first spiritual experience was as if an interior voice confirmed her choice and left an impression on her for the rest of her life.
"Be careful, daughter. Don't let the fire that I have enkindled in your heart, to serve me so fervently, ever die out."
Her desire to serve the Lord made her search for models of great women, such as St. Scholastica, St. Clare, St. Catherine of Siena, St.Teresa of Avila... but, considering the situation of religious life in France, it was difficult for her to pursue her ideal. When her father proposed that she marry, she took it as a clear sign of God's will.
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By Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.
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