Overtaken by grace
In this state of uncertainty Pierre Bienvenu, armed with letters of recommendation, went to Paris to study Law. At least, that is what he told his many friends. But his intimates knew well that he was inwardly struggling with his vocation. He wanted to meet people capable of enlightening him. The Law, however fascinating, was not sufficient to satisfy his aspirations.
On arriving in Paris he was once more overtaken by grace. It was in the church of Saint Sulpice that Pierre Bienvenu’s last resistances were overcome. There, too, Mary was at the heart of the event. For that reason he had a lifelong devotion to her and did nothing with having recourse to her help.
“My eyes rested suddenly on a statue of the Blessed Virgin holding the divine child in her arms. She seemed to be presenting him to those who were praying. It was the final act of grace. I heard her voice, she called me, showed me the way. I understood all.” he tells us.
An irresistible impulse made him kneel in a confessional into which a priest had just gone. He laid bare his soul and told him of the state of indecision in which he found himself. A meeting was fixed for the following day but inwardly his decision had been taken. He went back to his hotel convinced that God was calling him to his service. Three days later on 13 October 1816 he registered at the Major Seminary of Issy near Paris. Some weeks later his young brother, Amand, entered the Major Seminary of Bordeaux.
It was on the 10 October 1816 that Pierre Bienvenu Noailles received the grace to give himself totally to God for the service of his brothers and sisters in the church and the world as a priest of Jesus Christ. He had been granted a powerful experience of the presence of God and of God’s infinite love. This new grace conferred on him qualities of discernment, detachment and decisiveness to answer the unambiguous call of God. If God had, in a way, come to look for him, love required him to respond to the invitation.