Dear little Jeanne and dear Francis,
It is amid tears that I write to you and I don’t know whether I’ll be able to finish my letter, because I’m having great trouble holding my pen.
Our dear Uncle [Isidore Guérin] has gone, then, to swell the ranks of our beloved family awaiting us in heaven. The rest of us weep, but our Aunt [Céline Fournet Guérin] is extremely happy, as is little Marie and Thérèse and Papa and Mamma. Ah, what a warm welcome he must have received up above!
These past days and nights, I’ve thought about nothing but him, and, going over all his good deeds in my mind, I envisaged him preceded by all these good turns and I was religiously proud. They included Nocturnal Adoration [established in France by the Servant of God Hermann Cohen], the little lamp beside the Holy Face that he kept alight for so long at the church of St Pierre, the newspaper he looked after so devotedly at the expense of his respite, the schools, the poor, and all the deprived orphans and widows whom he helped by managing their money [view Uncle Isidore’s notebook in French]. I can still remember the problems he had with Mrs. Renier, Fr. Catel, etc., etc. Nothing tired him and nothing deterred him. Oh, how the dear Saint is being rewarded for all of that now!
Then there’s the devotion and fatherly affection he showed to us and to Papa. In short, there’s no end to his good deeds. And now it’s time for his reward. And to think that [we wanted to keep it from happening….]
O Jeanne, O Francis, my love for you has been so very strong these past few days, and I’ve been one with you because you represented us before our father, the one whom I dearly love and cherish in my heart. But if only you knew how anxious we’ve been, and how cruel the Rule seems at moments such as these. No, I’ll take that back, nothing of what we do for God is cruel, but it’s very difficult at times.
My brother and little sister, I’d like to comfort you, but I need comforting myself and I don’t know how to go about it. You can be certain that, in us, you’ll always have affectionate and devoted sisters in every sense of the word, and you in turn are now the only family we have here below, and are all that we love on earth.
May God bless you. You, too, are worthy children of such a father, because you showed admirable devotion by leaving Caen to be near him and by bringing him joy every day. I send you a heartfelt kiss. Your poor and very distraught little sister.
Geneviève of St. Teresa, r.c.i.
[unworthy Carmelite religious]
Céline Martin (Sr. Geneviève of St. Teresa)
Letter to Dr. Francis and Jeanne Guérin La Néele
28 September 1909
Earlier in the day, the following message arrived at the Carmel of Lisieux from Jeanne Guérin’s husband, Dr. Francis La Néele, probably addressed to the Prioress, Mother Agnès of Jesus (Pauline Martin):
My dear little sister,
Mr. Guérin is before God. He left very quietly at about 10:45 a.m. without suffering. It is the death of the righteous man.
Will you take care of the messages for Léonie, Rome, Ninette, [and the] superior of the Augustinians.
He didn’t suffer anymore since last night when he had an atrocious [heart?] attack and offered all his sufferings to God.
Your sad older brother,
Father Marc Fortin, O.C.D., who directed the 2021 Carmelite Online Retreat for Advent, has written an interesting historical profile of “Our dear Uncle” Isidore Guérin, the youngest sibling of Marie-Louise and St. Zélie Guérin. The Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux have done a marvelous job of translating Father Marc’s sketch of “the righteous man,” as his son-in-law Francis La Néele described Uncle Isidore.
Featured image: The Old Cathedral of Saint-Pierre in Lisieux is the church attended by St. Thérèse with her family for more than ten years. And as Céline mentions in her letter to Jeanne and Francis above, Uncle Isidore Guérin kept a vigil lamp burning in the church next to the image of the Holy Face “for so long”… perhaps for decades?!
It was here in the old cathedral that Thérèse made her first Confession; she prayed here often for the conversion of the murderer Pranzini. In 1887 at the end of Mass in this church, Thérèse understood that her mission would be to save souls through prayer and sacrifice.
The church has a centuries-long and storied history. And like the Carmel of Lisieux and the Basilica, it was miraculously spared during the Allied bombing campaigns in Lisieux during the summer of 1944. | Image credit: Adobe Stock.
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