Birds flying from trees
Franciscan Spirit Blog

Seven Followers of St. Francis: Eve Lavalliere

Oct 27, 2021
Eve Lavalliere, Follower of St. Francis

Third Order Franciscan
(1866–1929)

For years, Eve Lavalliere was the toast of Parisian society, a famous beauty, and the most popular actress on the French stage. While performing for royalty across Europe, she enjoyed the favors of numerous lovers. “I had everything the world could offer,” she noted, “everything I could desire. Nevertheless, I regarded myself as the unhappiest of souls.” Unhappiness ran deep in life. Her abominable childhood had ended the day her father, in a drunken rage, shot her mother and then killed himself. Her later fame and wealth could not fill the void.

And yet Eve’s life took a dramatic turn in 1917 when a priest gave her a biography of Mary Magdalene and challenged her to read it. At first defiantly, and then with tears of remorse, she read the book, and when she had finished, she resolved to make her peace with God. “My resolution is made,” Eve wrote. “From now on, only Jesus has a right to my life, for He alone gave me happiness and peace.”

Abandoning her glittering life, Eve first sought to enter religious life, but she was rejected by a number of convents on account of her notoriety. Instead, she became a Third Order Franciscan. For several years, until ill health overtook her, she volunteered with a lay-missionary nursing order in Tunisia.

She spent her last years alone, penniless, and in great suffering. Yet she insisted she was the “happiest person in the world.” In her notebook she wrote, “I thank You, O my God, that You have given me shelter beneath your roof. Abandonment, love, trust—such is my motto.”

She died on July 10, 1929.


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Questions for Reflection

  • Eve Lavalliere only found spiritual wealth when she embraced poverty. How can we ourselves scale back on material goods for the common good?
  • In our humble way, how can we emulate Eve's penitential life?
  • In what ways did Eve's life mirror St. Francis of Assisi's? How did she bring the charism of St. Francis into her daily life?

“I left everything for God. He alone is enough.”
Gravestone inscription of Eve Lavalliere



Comments

Arlene B. Muller
Wed, 10/27/2021 - 08:15 AM
Arlene B. Muller
She died 2 days before my Mom was born! I wonder why she had to die penniless, alone & in great suffering--certainly not what most of us--even as faithful Catholic Christians-- would want from a human perspective. My human nature would prefer that she died peacefully in bed at the end of a day of fruitful service in her ministry or at the end of a brief illness, surrounded by the love of the sisters with whom she had served. But what a contrast & a paradox! Having everything from a worldly perspective she realized she had nothing, but when she had nothing from a worldly & even human perspective but having the LORD, she had everything!
K.P. Williams
Wed, 10/27/2021 - 08:57 AM
K.P. Williams
Thought-provoking story. May God bless all who listen and hear it.
Rose Kamerer OFS
Fri, 10/29/2021 - 11:50 AM
Rose Kamerer OFS
Very inspiring story as I am a Secular Franciscan too! I try to help the homeless daily.

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