Quote of the day 31 August: Sr. Geneviève, OCD

Diocesan Process of Beatification

Answer to the Twenty-First Question (excerpt)

Her charity inspired her with zeal for the salvation of souls. This flame was kindled in her heart at the moment she described as “her conversion”, that is to say on Christmas Day in 1886.

One Sunday, when she had closed her book at the end of Mass, an image of Jesus on the cross was sticking out of the pages, revealing only one of his hands, which was pierced and bloody. She felt a pang of great sorrow at seeing the blood fall to the ground, without anyone hastening to gather it up, and she made a resolution to stand at the foot of the cross and catch it so that it could help poor sinners.

At about that time, she dedicated her zeal to a notorious criminal named Pranzini, who had been condemned to death for committing frightful murders. Hearing about him from newspapers, she decided to convert him (she was about 14 years old).

With this in view, she doubled her sacrifices and told me her secret, begging me to help her convert his soul. She had the holy sacrifice of the Mass offered for him. I watched with surprise as, contrary to her habits, she read the papers in search of an article announcing Pranzini’s conversion. She had asked God to give her a clear sign simply for consolation because she didn’t doubt that her prayer would be answered.

Pranzini did indeed convert and in a totally unexpected and significant way. In the visiting room recently, I spoke to Father Valadier, the former chaplain at La Roquette (jail for prisoners sentenced to death) and successor of Father Faure, who in turn assisted Pranzini.

[Father Valadier] confirmed the truth of this unexpected conversion, having heard the details of it from Father Faure himself. Pranzini had refused the help of religion until he was on the scaffold. [Testimony of Father Valadier at the Diocesan Process]

With his hands already tied, and in a voice that was panic-stricken yet full of repentance and faith, he cried out, “Father, give me the crucifix.”

He kissed it profusely, and exchanged a word or two with the chaplain as the executioner seized him. The Servant of God called Pranzini “her child”.

Later on, at the Carmel, when she was allotted a little money for her feast day, she obtained permission from our Mother Prioress to use it to have a Mass said for her intentions. She said to me in a low whisper, It’s for my child. After the tricks he has played, he must be in need of it! I mustn’t abandon him now”.

After this memorable victory, the Servant of God’s zeal spread like wildfire. She set about converting a very impious maid who sometimes came to work in the house. She also gave lessons to two little poor girls. It was charming to hear her talk to them about God; they listened to her avidly.

Later on, in the Carmel, once the workers had left, I saw her furtively slip medallions in the lining of their habits. Having photographed the novices, I also wanted a portrait of Thérèse. She wanted to be holding a scroll bearing our Mother Saint Teresa’s words, “I would give my life a thousand times to save a single soul” [The Way of Perfection, 1:2].

Even during her last illness, when she was suffering cruelly, she said, “I ask God that any prayers said for me do not go towards relieving my suffering, but might all be for sinners.

She even desired to work for the good of souls after her death. She told Mother Agnes of Jesus, in my presence, that she wanted “to spend her heaven doing good on earth” [Yellow Notebook, 17 July].

Two months before she died, on 22nd July 1897, as I was reading her a passage about the beatitude of heaven, she interrupted me, saying, “That is not what appeals to me.”

“And what does?” I replied.

“Ah! Love! To love, be loved and come back to earth to make Love loved!”

Sister Geneviève of Saint Teresa
Céline Martin

Henri Pranzini was executed on this date, 31 August 1887 in Paris

Therese prays for Pranzini, artist's rendering
Thérèse prays for Pranzini
Image credit: Discalced Carmelites

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