Mary Potter, a native Londoner had an extremely pressing meeting with Pope Leo XIII. She was a 35 year-old nun with a glowing peachy complexion, cornflower blue eyes and a smile that imparted peace and joy to all who met her, as well as informing them as to her sparkling personality. When she was in the marble halls of the Vatican, she presented the smiling Pope with a Constitution for a radical new religious order. Back in England, she had founded The Little Company of Mary which aimed to care slavishly for the sick and dying. She was consumed by a calling to lead a movement of sisters who would tend to body and soul of those who were in the throes of death and most especially the souls in danger of losing out on Heaven. Mary Potter wanted sisters who wanted their hearts re-made in the mould of the Virgin Mary's Maternal Heart and who would serve the dying with the same tender loving care as Mary served Christ when He was on the Cross.  A high ideal to care for every single dying person as the Queen of Heaven did for her Son, but Mary never flagged in her passion to give her heart to every dying person at whose bedside she served. 

That day in 1882, Pope Leo XIII welcomed Mary with open arms, dipped his quill in ink, and with great delight he signed her decree, and gave papal blessing to her burgeoning community of sisters. With great delight, the Pope told the fragile Mary Potter, "The doors of Rome are always open to you" and there and then he bade her to stay in Rome and found the Mother House of her order so that the sick and dying of Rome - through Mary Potter's influence - could know something of the same loving tender care that Our Lady gave Our Lord. Mary Potter never returned to England. Not that she didn't want to; but her frail health meant that the long ship journey could hasten her death. She'd had breast cancer and a double mastectomy with no pain relief because her failing heart could not have coped with morphine. So zealous had she been in caring for the dying in their hovels that she'd contracted typhoid, something that also wreaked havoc in her weak lungs. Yet, she'd risked the trip to Rome in the first place because her scheming bishop had been so meddling she needed the Pope's backing so that the order could grow. 

To found the first convent, Mary Potter had actually run away from home. She'd been in her 20s and her mother had been so adamantly against her plans that once when Mary was visiting relatives, she decided against going home and instead took a train to Nottingham and beseeched the bishop there for permission. He granted it and Mary and four other women started out in an abandoned stocking factory that had once been a hive of industry earlier in the Industrial Revolution, but was surrounded by destitute people who had given their best years and worked their fingers to the bone in the same sweatshop which was her base. The area around her cried out with despair and disease. Mary and her sisters had a pot of soup on the boil and gave a cup to any person who had fallen on hard times often going without themselves. Mary took to begging to get some meagre essentials from anyone who could spare a crust. 

This had not been the life her mother had wanted for her.  Her mother had raised Mary and her four older brothers in lower-middle class Bermondsey, in a rented house, and she'd needed money from her relatives to keep up the standard of living she wanted for her brood of five. Her husband had been an inept businessman, very nearly bankrupt when he absconded to Australia, and was never in touch again. He left when little Mary was only a baby. Then when Mary was in her twenties, and her mother heard of her deep, flaming desire to be at the side of the poor who were on the doorstep of death and especially cultivating in them contrition for their sins, she became like a Victorian lady who needed smelling salts. As a charitable metaphor to symbolize her mother's discouragement, Mary said this was the devil's fire brigade coming to douse her in cold water.  

But her mother's reaction seems all too contradictory because when Mary was a newborn, her mother put a Miraculous Medal on her, gave her the name Mary expressly in honour of the Mother of Christ and actually gave her to the Lord to be a nun. To be fair, Mary was extremely sickly, born with a congenital heart defect and a dreadful lung ailment, and so she may have made this promise as a plea of desperation so that her first and only daughter would live. Still, Mary's mother was quite the outlier, because she'd been raised an Anglican, and had come to the Catholic Faith, which wasn't the popular, social -climbing club to be in, but she'd made the swim across the Tiber nonetheless.  Mary didn't find out until much later in life that her mother had promised her to the Lord as His Bride. 

There were a few twists and turns, before her calling, Mary had attracted a young chap who proposed marriage. The photo below is Mary's engagement photo. He had reservations though, he thought Mary was too frivolous and "shallow", so he gave her Louis de Montfort's Total Consecration to Jesus Christ Through Mary, and perhaps he could scarcely have imagined that this was to ignite the furnace of charity that made Mary want to give up everything so as to give everything to the dying. She broke off their engagement. 

Mary wanted a pale blue veil for her and her sisters, it certainly matched her eyes, but it also was in honour of the Mother who had stood, while her Child's Blood wet the wood upon which He was nailed. Mary saw the poor die on basic wooden planks, yet they had her as Jesus had Our Lady as He breathed His last. As Our Lady's dowry is England, Mary Potter is an asset from that same special inheritance. It's not a bequest of pounds and pence, rather it's one that keeps on giving in souls saved, just as we pray in every single Hail Mary that she without sin pray for us at the hour of our death, she sends people in her name, who are the living embodiment of the dowry, who will stop at nothing to be the intercessor who helps those dying to be at peace, to be as comfortable as can be, and to be without the malady of sin, like Our Lady, as they prepare to meet her Son.

* * * 
I wrote this column for Mass of Ages, the magazine of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, you may read the entire magazine here for free. All the pictures used are in the public domain. 


  1. Extraordinary. I love that they are working on Mary Potter's canonization. Thank you!

    1. Me, too, I hope that we can call her Saint Mary Potter asap. I did it in quotation marks because she was called a Saint in her life, especially by her own sisters.

  2. I wonder what this truly wonderful saintly foundress would do or say if she were alive today and witnessed what use is being made of her hospitals by those annihilating and enslaving the human race with medical violence. Surely she would not remain silent. Would she stop at mere words? Sometimes I think we lionize these holy figures too much and too often when we should siege upon their collective integrity and act with heroic virtue NOW, in our time and in our ghastly circumstances.

    1. Thank you for your courageous comment. I agree that Mary Potter is probably looking down with dismay on the medical system, that as you rightly put it, is visiting violence on the sick and the dying.

      I don't, however, think we make a mistake by lionizing these holy figures who did heroic acts of charity, surely we cannot take to task those who are in a bad system and at the same time lessen the memory of someone as great as Mary Potter. She is deserving, many today in the medical profession are not. First, I believe we need to ask her prayers for those who have come after her, and then make her known to them, that by her example, they may make better decisions and turn to the Faith that was her bedrock.

      Yours in Christ, Mary


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