Tough Times

Olivia Taaffe was now widowed and childless. To the pain and bereavement was added the pain of financial embarrassment. Though not extravagant in her tastes she was often generous to the point of foolishness. The humiliating result of all this was that furniture, family heirlooms, jewels and other articles of value had to be sold. She believed the sale to be unnecessary and to be due to a misunderstanding. But the fact remained and the fact humiliated her; for she was sensitive and proud of nature. "God’s ways are not our ways, nor God’s thoughts our thoughts." He was testing Olivia, purifying her in the crucible of pain, preparing her for a great mission.

In order to understand the origin and nature of this mission it is necessary to go back some years. Maranville, a small town South East of Paris in the Department of haute-Marne and in the Diocese of Langres. In 1865 the parish priest of this town, Canon Joseph Roy, erected a shrine to St. Joseph, Protector of the Souls in Purgatory, and with the approval of his bishop established a Confraternity in connection with it. The devotion grew at a phenomenal pace, so that in 1870 the number of associates was twenty-five thousand. Seven years later Pius IX erected it into an Archconfraternity. who enriched it with many indulgences. Devotion to St. Joseph as Patron of a Happy Death and devotion to the Holy Souls are common in Ireland; but devotion to St. Joseph, Protector of the Holy Souls, is not common – or at least was not common before Olivia Taaffe began to champion the cause of Maranville.

Her interest began when she visited Maranville and joined the Confraternity. She was thus a member almost from the beginning and throughout her long life was probably it’s most ardent and apostolic member. She carried its devotion to Ireland and became a tireless propagator.

In answer to a request for Episcopal sanction the Primate, Archbishop McGettigan wrote to her. "If a line of approbation from me can contribute the spread in honour of St. Joseph, it is idle to say that I hereby give it most cordially." Having secured an Episcopal approbation in the diocese of her married life (Armagh), Mrs. Taaffe next applied for approbation in the diocese of her birth (Tuam). This also was readily granted by Archbishop MacEvilly, who wrote thus to her: "It is, therefore, with far more than ordinary satisfaction we are informed that an Archconfraternity has been established and approved of in honour of St. Joseph and we cordially desire to see it’s advantages extended."

One branch of the Maranville work calls for special mention, because it was evidently the germ of St. Joseph’s Young Priests Society. Though there was no college or seminary at the shrine, there were always a few boys under-going preparatory training for the priesthood. These boys lives at Maranville, assisted by acolytes at the various devotions in connection with the shrine, and in return received instruction in Latin and other subjects from Canon Roy and his assistant, Abbe Lalin. They were sometimes adopted by pious benefactors, who financed their higher education for the priesthood, and from a letter regarding the ordinate form one of them it is clear that Olivia was such a benefactor. This sponsorship of a French boy set her thinking. If she had helped a French boy to become a priest, were there not stronger reasons for rendering a similar service to Irish boys? If Maranville was a nursery of young priests, why not find a similar nursery in Ireland?



Charity Number: CHY 1508 -