Eve Lavalliere

Penitent (1866-1929)
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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 her 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.” She died on July 10, 1929.  

“O my Redeemer, give me especially holy humility.” —Eve Lavalliere 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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