Carmel 24th May 1921
Beloved little sister,
I’m writing to recommend myself to your prayers, because I’m beginning my annual retreat this very evening. Pray also for our little Sr Louise of Jesus, a Lay Sister who is taking her profession on 5th June.
I’ll quickly reply to your question. We were not paid a visit by Cardinal di Belmonte, fortunately! I was dreading it.
Sr M. of the Trinity [Marie of the Trinity] must tell Sr Marguerite afterwards that we went to Les Buissonnets, and I assure you, it was a worthwhile visit. It would take too long to give you the reasons for it, and they wouldn’t interest you anyway, but what a trip it was! I thought I was going to suffocate in the car because Sr M. of the S.H. [her sister, Marie of the Sacred Heart] had to half-stand, half-sit on us. She was crushing us and we were crushing each other! Then we had to go up the path on foot! Fortunately, we were wearing Turn Sisters’ veils over our own and very loose black cloaks! Otherwise, we would have been lost! I met a lady who said something to me about taking advantage of our arrival to visit Les Buissonnets because she had found the house closed. Boldly, I said, “Madam, we are strangers and the door will open for no one but us, because we cannot come back.” etc. and the lady left saying, “Oh, I understand!” Had she but known!
The Mother Superior of the Refuge and her assistant along with Sr Scholastica and Miss Mikaëlle welcomed us with open arms. It was thanks to the Mother Superior of the Refuge that we had the car and a very discreet person to drive us.
This was at about 4 o’clock. We stayed until about 6 o’clock, and didn’t waste a moment, as Sr Geneviève [her sister, Céline] had to take measurements for the altar in Thérèse’s bedroom and for putting the bed that Jeanne [Jeanne Guérin, their cousin] is giving back to us in the alcove, etc., etc. There will be a railing in front of it to stop pilgrims from cutting it into little pieces. Since then, we have been advised to arrange things as they are currently, with the altar in the alcove and the bed with the keepsakes.
The path leading to Les Buissonnets was absolutely filthy! You have no idea, and apparently the Mayor is expecting us to pay to clean it up. I assure you, it’s scandalous and we’re going to seek His Lordship’s advice to find a clever solution, one that spares us a flogging. The house is very well kept. What memories! Truly, I wasn’t lying to the lady when I said that we were strangers. Yes, we really have become strangers to things here below. Nothing moves us and nothing interests us other than God’s glory.
This visit was a blessing for the three of us and made us feel that through God’s grace, we were indeed detached from everything.
When we arrived back at the Carmel, the Community was waiting for us in the garden, wearing long veils because the car came into the enclosure through the workers’ entrance (we had our faces uncovered of course).
And when the entrance closed again after the car left, there was an eruption of joy as though we had come back from China!
I was very touched by this welcome.
Goodbye, much-loved little sister. This letter is bound to make you laugh. I send my love and our little sisters do the same. Your little sister and mamma
The Mother Superior of the Refuge was very discrete and left us alone after a while. Sr Marie-Emmanuel was with us. There were 5 of us with Sr M. of the S.H. and myself. Sr M. of the S.H. and I looked at ourselves in the bedroom mirror. We laughed out loud at the transformation that has been wrought over the last 40 years!!!! It was before this very mirror that we gazed at ourselves as young girls!
The garden looks delightful.
Letter to her sister, Léonie
24 May 1921
This letter from Sr Agnes of Jesus (Pauline Martin) to her younger sister Sr Françoise-Therese (Léonie Martin) at the Visitation Monastery in Caen tells the story of the trip the three sisters of St. Therese in the Carmel of Lisieux — Pauline, Marie (Sr M. of the S.H.), and Céline (Sr Geneviève) — took to Les Buissonnets to prepare their childhood home to become a place of pilgrimage.
Note Pauline’s comment, “Sr M. of the S.H. and I looked at ourselves in the bedroom mirror. We laughed out loud at the transformation that has been wrought over the last 40 years!!!!” It was the custom among Discalced Carmelites prior to the conciliar reforms of the 20th c. not to keep any mirrors in a monastery, a custom that is still observed in many monasteries today. This appears to have been the first time that Pauline and Marie had looked at themselves in a mirror in 40 years.