Saint Therese of Lisieux also lived through a sudden and deadly pandemic in 1891-1892. In 2020, what can we learn from how she responded?
In every Discalced Carmelite monastery the senior members of the community are silent mentors to the youth on a daily basis. The Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux talk about “the good old sisters”. There were four senior nuns in the community who were a bit like grandmothers; they were a cherished, precious font of knowledge and wisdom to one and all.
In the Carmel of Lisieux at the close of 1891, the four senior nuns were:
- Mother Geneviève of Saint Teresa, the foundress
- Sister Saint-Joseph of Jesus, the first postulant
- Sister Fébronie of the Holy Childhood, the subprioress
- Sister Madeleine (Magdalene) of the Blessed Sacrament, the oldest lay sister
Saint Thérèse mentions the passing of Mother Geneviève and the great trial of the influenza pandemic in Manuscript A of her Story of a Soul, beginning on folio 78 verso and continuing from there. Saint Thérèse is blunt when she describes the scene:
“My nineteenth birthday was celebrated with a death, and this was soon followed by two other deaths.” #StThereseofLisieuxTweet
We turn to historian, blogger, and St. Thérèse and Martin family expert Maureen O’Riordan to provide us with the details of the lives and deaths of Sisters Saint-Joseph, Fébronie, and Madeleine that occurred in January 1892.