St. Therese and the 1891-92 influenza pandemic: Death — Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway

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.” #StThereseofLisieux

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.

Part 4: The first postulant, Sister Saint-Joseph of Jesus

Part 5: Sister Febronie of the Holy Childhood, Subprioress

Part 6: Sister Madeleine of the Blessed Sacrament, the oldest lay sister

Book of Hours, Use of Rome
Meister des Gijsbrecht van Brederode [illustrator]
Netherlands, 1440–1460
Bodleian Libraries, Oxford University
Photo: © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
View the complete image here

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