After fifty years of eremitical life, to find yourself suddenly displaced and thrown into the middle of the world, with the veil lifted, for me, someone who is so untamed, this is a real martyrdom. It seems to me that I am in a railway station where everyone is rushing around, mingling. We are sleeping on the benches, fully clothed; we are eating our meals standing up, in haste, in the darkness; we are looking with astonished and saddened eyes at the ladies’ fashions, which are devoid of all dignity.
But that’s not what makes my life so hard; it’s the visits! Everyone wants to see the Sisters of St. Thérèse and they come to greet us one by one; they point at us. Oh, this one and that one! Little Mother, I can’t stand it anymore. It seemed to me, these days, that the annoyance I felt would make me sick, and I called upon the good Lord to help me.
For a moment, I rebelled, and then, during the Office, I thought with tenderness about this passage from the Holy Gospel: “Several Gentiles who had come to Jerusalem to worship approached Philip and asked him, ‘Lord, we would like to see Jesus! Philip went and told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip told Jesus” (Cf. Jn 12:20–22). This is what happens to us all the time, they come and tell us the same thing!
So I have resolved to do as Jesus did and not to avoid those who wish to see me, even if they are intrusive. This will not prevent me from repeating after Him: “Father, deliver me from this hour” (Cf. Jn 12:27). But I am convinced that, like Him, this is the reason “I have come to this hour.” Yes, I am certain that I needed this ordeal at the end of my life.
Céline Martin (Sr. Geneviève of the Holy Face)
Obituary Circular of Sr. Geneviève of the Holy Face
Chapter 5, Lights and Shadows on Carmel
Excerpt from a letter by Céline to Pauline, 7 July 1944
Note: From 6 June to 22 August 1944, dozens of bombardments demolished 2100 out of 2800 buildings in Lisieux and destroyed most of the religious institutions and two churches, killing more than one-tenth of the population, including 60 religious men and women. On the evening of June 7, fire consumed the residence of the Carmelite chaplains and the Office Central de Lisieux pilgrim center, thereby threatening the Carmelite monastery and its chapel. A less precarious shelter was required—the crypt of the Shrine of St. Thérèse in Lisieux. The Carmelites settled at the top of the crypt in the right-hand chapel, which is dominated by a reproduction of the Virgin of the Smile. A hundred people, more or less, shared the rest of the shelter in the shrine.
Translation from the French text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
Featured image: The Shrine of St. Thérèse in Lisieux, seen atop the hill in the background of this photo from June 1944, was the last stronghold and shelter amid the Allied bombardments of the town. In the crypt of the basilica, the Carmelite nuns took refuge against what one called “the storm of iron and fire.” Image credit: Médiathèque de Lisieux, PhotosNormandie / Flickr (Some rights reserved)
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