I was very pleased to hear the good news about your little Jeanne. You must be happy to have such a lovely little girl; I was also very happy when I raised my first [Marie], she was so healthy. I was too proud, the good Lord didn’t want it to last, all the other children I had afterward were difficult to bring up and gave me a lot of trouble.
The youngest, little Joseph is still among them, he is still sick. For three months now he has been suffering from bronchitis which has left him in a sad state; last week we thought he was going to die. The doctor put a vesicant between his shoulders and left it on him for several days.
Just think how much this poor little boy must have suffered! And with that, a continuous cough and a tightening of the chest that was choking him. I went to see him twice a day; in the morning, I left at five o’clock, and in the evening at eight o’clock, and I always came back with a heavy heart.
He has been better since Saturday, he is beginning to take a little food and coughs less, but he is far from being cured, I am sure that your little one is much more resistant than him because he is reduced to nothing and has no strength. I would have been very happy to have a strong little boy, but I can’t be pleased now, maybe that’s for later, I console myself with that hope.
I am happy that you have decided to come to Alençon this year; it is about time after not having seen you here for two years! Since I will have the pleasure of having you here, I will not go to Lisieux, as I had thought. If you only knew how valuable I am here and how difficult it is for me to be absent. I cannot trust my father’s servant, I can only compare her to the one I sent you, they are not more serious than each other and are only good for watching passers-by and giving a bad example to children.
I am glad that your business is doing well, it reassures me, mine is going badly, quite badly, it could not be worse. I believe positively, that I am at the end of my reign, however, it is against my will, because I would have liked to work until the end for my children. We already have five of them, without counting those who may arrive, because I do not despair of having three or four more!
My father has been ill for several days, he was sick yesterday, he complained a lot about every part of his body, he thinks he is going to die. I am very sad to see him like this. He doesn’t want to see a doctor, but if this continues, I will go and get one.
Saint Zélie Martin
Letter CF 32 to her sister-in-law Céline Guérin
Note: St. Zélie Martin’s niece, Jeanne Guérin, would marry Dr. Francis LaNéele on 1 October 1890. We recall that Dr. LaNéele was called to the monastery infirmary to examine St. Thérèse in her final illness; his first visit was on 30 August 1897. At that time he told Thérèse that her death “will be soon, my little sister, I’m sure.” In fact, she died one month later.
And poor little Joseph Jean-Baptiste Martin (19 December 1867 – 24 August 1868) suffered nearly four months more after his bronchitis, followed by gastrointestinal problems. Vesicant therapy was used to create a blister on the skin near the diseased organ so as to extract or draw to the surface of the body all that may be harmful to the preservation of health, such as Joseph’s life-threatening respiratory infection (cf. D’Alembert 1751).
On the day he died, St. Zélie wrote to her brother Isidore Guérin, “My dear little Joseph died this morning at 7:00. I was alone with him. He had a night of cruel suffering, and I begged with tears for his deliverance. My heart was relieved when I saw him breathe his last” (cf. CF 36).
In the oil painting Le sommeil de l’Enfant Jésus, Céline depicts a grouping of cherubs that feature the faces of her four deceased siblings, Hélène, Joseph-Louis, Joseph Jean-Baptiste (mentioned in St. Zélie’s letter above), Mélanie-Thérèse, and cousin Paul Guérin.
We always refer to the website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux for the vast majority of our quotes concerning Saint Thérèse, Saint Zélie, and Saint Louis Martin. If you would like to purchase English translations for the collected works of St. Thérèse, please visit the website of our Discalced Carmelite friars at ICS Publications.
Translation from the French text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
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