During the ceremony, I received a special grace of intimate union with my Beloved; I could no longer see anything that was happening around me. The presence of the Bishop, the numerous clergy, the crowd of people who had come in droves, everything had disappeared in my eyes, I was alone with Jesus… when suddenly I was awakened from my inner silence by the singing of Compline which continued in vibrant and lively notes. The choir sang the psalm: Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi, and I could hear the meaning of it, and every word fell upon my soul as a pledge of a sacred promise made to me by the One to whom I united my life.
On 3 February 1886, Mother Marie de Gonzague was elected to her third term as prioress of the Discalced Carmelite monastery of Lisieux. At the time of her death in 1904, she had served 6 years as sub-prioress and 21 years as prioress of the community. You can read the biography of Mother Marie de Gonzague on the website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
Translation from the French text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
The goodness that God has shown me is very touching, and the goodness that He has imparted to you is working deep in my soul, comforted by the attention that your charity inspires in me—I feel myself becoming better each time I experience a little of the piety that you experience in Carmel—and I would like to love Jesus as you love Him there—You had it in your heart, Sister, when you were composing that hymn of love that you so kindly sent me [NP 17, Vivre d’Amour]. You’re inhaling a divine breath that makes you pure and strong. The evening of the day when I had the joy of receiving it, it was the object of a long and sweet meditation, together with my Director, who was so happy to know that my soul and my work were entrusted to your care. Since then I have used it as a thanksgiving, the day before yesterday, today—I want to learn it fluently and use it as an ejaculatory prayer during the day, and at night when I wake up—I’ve put it in my New Testament, and since that holy book never leaves me, this hymn of love will always accompany me, to the ends of the earth.
I would like to be able to sing like you, my dear sister, to tell Jesus the feelings that your own feelings inspire in me—But He who is all good is only pleased with my rough and short prose. His most tender Heart doesn’t pay too much attention to the form and His Grace is always pouring down.
Oh, yes, Sister, “Let’s live in love.” It is the way to find happiness on earth—Without God, without his Love—it’s cold all around us—But as soon as a holy fervor enlivens our hearts, what serenity and sweetness there is in life—Indeed, it’s like resting on the stormy waves, it’s living the life of the Glorious King, the Delights of the Chosen Ones—to begin on earth the happiness of Heaven—Calvary then becomes Tabor and sorrow is no more—for, as the Holy One says: when we love, there is no more sorrow, or if there’s sorrow, it’s sorrow that we love.
I’m asking the Sacred Heart to give us this love that is ever greater, ever stronger, and ever more generous, and that through it He may so draw us to Himself that we may remain definitively and indissolubly attached to Him. You know then, Sister, that I must postpone my departure until October—yes, my superiors thought it better to wait; this disruption would have divided this year, which would at least have been troubled from the point of view of my studies. My Director here authorized me to leave—those over there prefer that I wait—But, next year! it will be the Novitiate, the preparation next and afterward—Onward, God, and Work.
When I baptize my first little black child, I will ask your Venerable Mother that you should be the godmother—for he will be yours, you will have drawn him to God more than I did. My dearest Sister, always pray to God for my conversion—may the Master make some progress in me—I am praying to Him often and very earnestly for you.
Forever in his Holy Heart, your miserable brother
p.s. I ask you to pray in particular for my exams that begin tomorrow, Monday and finish on the 14th.
The Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) have published an outstanding brief biography of Abbé Maurice Bellière on their website. You can read it here.
Translation from the French text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
I want to give my little daughter the only picture that is dear to me among all others… Aunt at Le Mans gave it to me, and I am attached to it, for it says much to my heart. But all for the little fiancée of Jesus!
Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart
In our Quote of the Day for 9 January, we shared Sr. Marie’s letter to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus on the eve of her clothing in the holy habit of Carmel. In the custom of Discalced Carmelite nuns, as a gift to Thérèse for the occasion, she re-gifted something that was of great value to her: a holy card that she had received from their Aunt Élise, St. Zélie Guérin’s sister Marie-Louise-Pétronille, who took the religious name Marie-Dosithée in the Visitation Monastery at Le Mans, France.
Martin Family historian Maureen O’Riordan tells us that on the back of the holy card Marie Martin had written, “Souvenir from Aunt at Le Mans; I shall keep it forever.” We can understand how Marie now says that she is “attached to it” and “it says much to my heart.”
Maureen O’Riordan notes: her generosity in giving it to Thérèse was all the greater because their aunt had died in 1877. The image shows the Child Jesus in a field of lilies, harvesting them. Across the bottom is printed, ‘Blessed is the lily that remains unblemished until the time of harvest; its whiteness will shine eternally in paradise’.
In June 1897, Thérèse will re-gift the holy card once more as a precious farewell souvenir to her three sisters, framing it and embellishing it with thoughts from St. Théophane Vénard and St. John of the Cross, such as this quote from the Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 29: For a little of this pure love is more precious to God and the soul and more beneficial to the Church, even though it seems one is doing nothing, than all these other works put together.
You can read an English translation of St. Thérèse’s inscription here and explore Maureen O’Riordan’s blogs devoted to St. Thérèse here, to St. Louis and Zélie here, and to Léonie Martin here. As always, you can explore the English website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux here.
The soul that walks in love neither tires others nor grows tired
Sayings of Light and Love, 97
If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.
Our answers may give us clues as to how we understand love: God’s love, our love for God, and how love, in all its forms—filial, erotic, and caritative—is at work in our lives. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul is talking about charity, or what some refer to as agape love (αγαπη).
And like a professor standing at a blackboard or whiteboard, Paul defines his term, including both what love is and what it is not. We can feel fairly certain that he is sketching some of the basic parameters of love… as St. John of the Cross might define it in his saying, an untiring love.
Now, nowhere in this passage of his first letter to the Corinthians is St. Paul scolding the Church for possessing a lack of love or a warped concept of love. The context of this chapter is an instruction on worship in the Corinthian church, and how any worship—no matter how glorious it may be—that lacks the spiritual gift of charity, i.e. love, is so much dust in the wind. Hence that famous verse that we so often hear at weddings: “Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away” (1 Cor 13:8)
It was in reading these chapters that St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus found her inspiration one day. “I opened the Epistles of St. Paul to find some kind of answer. Chapters 12 and 13 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians fell under my eyes… the Apostle explains how all the most PERFECT gifts are nothing without LOVE. That Charity is the EXCELLENT WAY that leads most surely to God” (Ms B, 3r-3v). Therefore, St. Paul urges the Corinthians, “make love your aim” (1 Cor 14:1).
St. John Paul II noted this inspired reading of First Corinthians in his 1997 Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia:
She discovered hidden treasures, appropriating words and episodes, sometimes with supernatural boldness, as when, in reading the texts of St Paul (cf. 1 Cor 12-13), she realized her vocation to love (cf. Ms B, 3r-3v). Enlightened by the revealed Word, Thérèse wrote brilliant pages on the unity between love of God and love of neighbor (cf. Ms C, 11v-19r).
St. Thérèse did not develop her mad love for God in a vacuum. Love was her aim from her youth, as she testified time and time again in her autobiographical manuscripts and letters. St. John Paul II explained the nature of her formation when he declared Thérèse to be a Doctor of the Universal Church:
Her doctrine, as was said, conforms to the Church’s teaching. From childhood, she was taught by her family to participate in prayer and liturgical worship. In preparation for her first Confession, first Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation, she gave evidence of an extraordinary love for the truths of the faith, and she learned the Catechism almost word for word (cf. Ms A, 37r-37v).
So what was this untiring love that St. Thérèse learned in her family? What did it look like? Who were her models?
When a Doctor of the Universal Church is born to a pair of Saints, one doesn’t have to look very far because ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’ In fact, one particular letter from her mother, Saint Zélie Guérin Martin to her father, Saint Louis Martin, provides us with an example of the untiring love that was taught by example in the Martin family home. Written during the summer of 1873 after the birth of Thérèse, Zélie takes Pauline and Marie with her to visit her brother and the Guérin family in Lisieux. Can you read untiring, selfless love in these lines?
Lisieux, August 31, 1873
My dear Louis,
We arrived yesterday afternoon at four-thirty. My brother was waiting for us at the station and was delighted to see us. He and his wife are doing everything they can to entertain us. This evening, Sunday, there’s a beautiful reception in their home in our honor. Tomorrow, Monday, we’re going to Trouville. Tuesday there will be a big dinner at the home of Madame Maudelonde and, perhaps, a drive to the country house of Madame Fournet. The children are thrilled and if the weather were good, they’d be ecstatic.
As for me, I’m finding it hard to relax! None of that interests me! I’m absolutely like the fish you pull out of the water. They’re no longer in their element and they have to perish! This would have the same effect on me if I had to stay a lot longer. I feel uncomfortable, I’m out of sorts. This is affecting me physically, and it’s almost making me sick. However, I’m reasoning with myself and trying to gain the upper hand. I’m with you in spirit all day, and I say to myself, “Now he must be doing such and such a thing.”
I’m longing to be near you, my dear Louis. I love you with all my heart, and I feel my affection so much more when you’re not here with me. It would be impossible for me to live apart from you.
This morning I attended three Masses. I went to the one at six o’clock, made my thanksgiving and said my prayers during the seven o’clock Mass, and returned for the high Mass.
My brother is not unhappy with his business. It’s going well enough.
Tell Léonie and Céline that I kiss them tenderly and will bring them a souvenir from Lisieux.
I’ll try to write you tomorrow, if possible, but I don’t know what time we’ll return from Trouville. I’m hurrying because they’re waiting for me to go visiting. We return Wednesday evening at seven-thirty. How long that seems to me!
I kiss you with all my love. The little girls want me to tell you that they’re very happy to have come to Lisieux and they send you big hugs.
O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.
O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:
mention your request.
Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem Bible.
The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.
The autobiographical manuscripts and family correspondence are found on the website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux. The English version of the website appears here and the complete French version of the website is found here.
Rejoice! it is when all seemed lost that all is gained… We went to Naples and Pompeii yesterday and the day before with Mme. Bénard. During this time, Papa went to see the superior of the Brothers, to shake his hand and to thank him for the reception he had given him two years ago with M. l’abbé Marie. The Brother was charmed. Papa spoke to him frankly; he recounted the audience we had on Sunday, Thérèse’s desires, her request, all the ups and downs, the sadness she experienced. The superior knew that Marie, Papa’s oldest daughter, had entered Carmel. He had never seen such a thing and he was very much enthused about our family. He understood this very well, and he himself—if he had not entered the Brothers when young—believes that he would not have gone, and he thanked God every day for having called him when young (he is fifty years a Brother). He was noting down what Papa was saying about Thérèse, and he offered to speak about her to M. Révérony. But listen to the very end:
Papa stood up to leave and whom did he see enter but M. Révérony!… You may judge his surprise and that of the brother. M. Révérony was very much charmed by Papa; he seemed to be repentant. He reminded Papa that the Sovereign Pontiff had spoken to him particularly, because [M. Révérony] had introduced him by telling the pope that two of his daughters were Carmelites. Papa asked him if he had heard anything regarding the bishop’s decision, and he added: “You know very well that you had promised to help me.” What a good Father! Then he recounted Thérèse’s grief at the audience and especially when he had replied that the matter was being examined by the superiors, etc. M. Révérony was touched, I believe, and he is beginning to believe that Thérèse’s vocation is extraordinary. He even said: “Well! I will assist at the ceremony; I’m inviting myself.” Papa told him he would be happy to have him and all sorts of amiable things were exchanged between them. That is what Papa told us this morning—I could not keep this in and I am writing to you immediately. To show you the promptitude with which I am writing this, I hardly waited for Papa to finish and in the office of the hotel I seized a piece of paper and a pen and here I am!….
Are you happy, dear little sisters? Perhaps even before this letter, you have some rays of hope, perhaps you even know more good news than we do. I believe we have won M. Révérony’s sympathy. Thérèse was so pretty at the feet of the Holy Father. She was kneeling at his feet, her hands joined on the pope’s knees, and her eyes were so pleading! It was beautiful to see her this way, and then I followed, in tears, asking for a blessing for the Carmel. This scene was touching, I assure you.
It could have influenced M. Révérony. So all goes well, what joy! I believe the trials are quite close to being over. . . .
Au revoir my darlings. We must go to dinner.
Your little Céline
Pisa, Hôtel de la Minerve Nice, Beau Rivage Marseille, Grand Hôtel de Marseille, you know the dates.
Letter from Céline to Agnes of Jesus and Marie of the Sacred Heart
I asked Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus to write down what I called “her little way of trust and love,” which she did during her last retreat in September 1896, after having asked our Mother for permission. This letter is now a part of the printed manuscript (Manuscript B).
After having read these impassioned pages, I told her it was impossible for me to reach such heights.
It was then that she wrote me the letter dated 17th September 1896 (Letter LT 197), in which, amongst other things, she said:
“How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love Him?. . . My desires of martyrdom are nothing; I really feel that it is not this at all that pleases God in my little soul; what pleases Him is seeing me loving my littleness and my poverty, and the blind hope that I have in His mercy . . . .That is my only treasure”.
One day when she had prayed to obtain the twofold love of angels and saints, as Elisha had asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, (cf. 2 Kgs 2:9), she added,
“Jesus, I cannot fathom my request, I would be afraid of being overwhelmed by the weight of my bold desires. My excuse is that I am a child, and children do not reflect on the meaning of their words. However, their parents, once they are placed on a throne and possess immense treasures, do not hesitate to satisfy the desires of the little ones whom they love as much as they love themselves. To please them, they do foolish things, even to the extent of becoming weak for them. Well, I am the Child of the Church and the Church is Queen since she is Your Spouse, O divine King of kings. . . . O Jesus! Why can’t I tell all little souls how unspeakable Your condescension is? I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, which is impossible, You would take pleasure in granting it still greater favors, provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to your infinite Mercy”.
Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus loved God ardently and thought about Him constantly. One day, I said to her, “How do you manage to always think of God?”
“It’s not difficult,” she replied, “we naturally think of someone we love.”
“If God were to say to me, ‘If you die right now, you will have very great glory. If you die at eighty, your glory will not be as great, but it will please Me much more,’ then I wouldn’t hesitate to answer, ‘My God, I want to die at eighty, for I’m not seeking my own glory but simply Your pleasure’”(Last Conversations, 16 July).
Recalling her memories of when she was five or six years old, she said:
“I loved God more and more as I grew older. . . I strove to please Jesus in everything I did, and I was very careful never to offend Him”(Ms A, 15v).
In the aforesaid letter written during her last retreat, this passage is also of note:
“Above all, O my beloved Savior, I would shed my blood for You, even to the very last drop. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth and this dream has grown with me within the Carmel’s cloisters. But here again, I feel that my dream is a folly, for I cannot limit myself to desiring one kind of martyrdom. To satisfy me, I would need all of them” etc.—
Note from the blogger . . .
Whereas the English translation of Sister Marie’s testimony provides written, in-text citations to her many references, we offer our readers the actual links to find the texts on the Archives website itself for the Carmel of Lisieux. Were Sister Marie to submit any portion of her deposition today in electronic format, she might include links to the various resources, also.
It is regrettable that Céline’s wonderful collection of words of advice and counsel that she gathered from her memories of novitiate, and which she later recorded in a volume called Conseils et Souvenirs, has not yet been translated into English. We will make an effort to share tidbits from her recollections in the month of October as time permits.
In the morning, I was with her during the Mass. She didn’t speak a word to me. She was exhausted, gasping for breath; her sufferings, I thought, were indescribable. One moment she joined her hands and looked at the statue of the Blessed Virgin.
“Oh! I prayed fervently to her! But it’s the agony, really, without any mixture of consolation.”
I spoke a few words of sympathy and affection and I added that she had edified me very much all through her illness:
“And you, the consolations you’ve given me! Ah! they are very great!”
All through the day, without a moment’s respite, she remained, we can say without any exaggeration, in veritable torments.
She appeared to be at the end of her strength and nevertheless, to our great surprise, she was able to move, to sit up in her bed.
“You see the strength that I have today! No, I’m not going to die! I still have strength for months, perhaps years!”
“And if God willed it, ” asked Mother Prioress, “would you accept it?”
She began to answer in her agony: “It would really have to be . . .”
But checking herself immediately, she said with a tone of sublime resignation, falling back on her pillows: “I really will it!”
I was able to gather these exclamations, but it is impossible to express the tone in which they were said:
“I no longer believe in death for me. … I believe only in suffering. . . . Well, so much the better! . . .” “O my God! . . .” “I love God!”
“O good Blessed Virgin, come to my aid! ” “If this is the agony, what is death?! . . .”
“Ah! my God! . . . Yes, He is very good, I find Him very good. . . .”Looking at the statue of the Blessed Virgin: “Oh! you know I’m suffocating!”
“God is going to aid you, poor little one, and it will soon be all over. “
“Yes, but when?”
“. . . My God, have pity on Your poor little child! Have pity on her!”
To Mother Prioress:
“O Mother, I assure you, the chalice is filled to the brim! …”
“But God is not going to abandon me, I’m sure. . . .”
“He has never abandoned me.”
“Yes, my God, everything that You will, but have pity on me!”
“Little sisters! little sisters! pray for me!”
“My God! my God! You who are so good!”
“Oh, yes, You are good! I know it. . . .”
After Vespers, Mother Prioress placed a picture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on her knees. She looked at it for a moment and said, when Mother Prioress assured her she’d be soon caressing the Blessed Virgin and the Child Jesus:
“O Mother, present me quickly to the Blessed Virgin; I’m a baby who can’t stand anymore! . . . Prepare me for death.”
Mother Prioress told her that since she had always understood humility, her preparation was already made. She reflected a moment and spoke these words humbly:
“Yes, it seems to me I never sought anything but the truth; yes, I have understood humility of heart. . . . It seems to me I’m humble.”
She repeated once more:
“All I wrote about my desires for suffering. Oh! it’s true just the same!”
“And I am not sorry for delivering myself up to Love.”
“Oh! no, I’m not sorry; on the contrary!”
A little later:
“Never would I have believed it was possible to suffer so much! never! never! I cannot explain this except by the ardent desires I have had to save souls.”
Towards five o ‘clock, I was alone by her side. Her face changed all of a sudden; I understood it was her last agony.
When the community entered the infirmary, she welcomed all the Sisters with a sweet smile. She was holding her Crucifix and looking at it constantly.
For more than two hours, a terrible rattle tore her chest. Her face was blue, her hands purplish, her feet were cold, and she shook in all her members. Perspiration stood out in enormous drops on her forehead and rolled down her cheeks. Her difficulties in breathing were always increasing, and in order to breathe she made little involuntary cries.
All during this time, so full of agony for us, we heard through the window—it made me suffer very much—the twittering of robins, and other little birds, but this twittering was so strong, so close, and so prolonged! I prayed to God to make them keep silent; this concert pierced my heart, and I feared it would tire out our poor little Thérèse.
At one moment, her mouth seemed to be so dry that Sister Geneviève, thinking to relieve her, placed on her lips a little piece of ice. She accepted it, giving her a smile which I’ll never forget. It was like a last farewell.
At six o’clock, when the Angelus was ringing, she looked at the statue of the Blessed Virgin for a long time.
Finally, at a few minutes past seven, Mother Prioress dismissed the community, and she sighed:
“Mother! Isn’t this the agony! . . . Am I not going to die? . . .”
“Oh! I would not want to suffer for a shorter time!”
And looking at her Crucifix, the prioress replied: “Yes, my poor little one, it’s the agony, but God perhaps wills to prolong it for several hours. “
She answered with courage:
“Well . . . All right! . . . All right!”
“Oh! I love Him! …
“My God … I love you! . . .”
Suddenly, after having pronounced these words, she fell back, her head leaning to the right. Mother Prioress had the infirmary bell rung very quickly to call back the community.
“Open all the doors, ” she said at the same time. These words had something solemn about them, and made me think that in heaven God was saying them also to His angels.
The Sisters had time to kneel down around her bed, and they were witnesses to the ecstasy of the little, dying saint. Her face had regained the lily-white complexion it always had in full health; her eyes were fixed above, brilliant with peace and joy. She made certain beautiful movements with her head as though someone had divinely wounded her with an arrow of love, then had withdrawn the arrow to wound her again…
Sister Marie of the Eucharist approached with a candle to get a closer view of that sublime look. In the light of the candle, there didn’t appear any movement in her eyelids. This ecstasy lasted almost the space of a Credo, and then she gave her last breath.
After her death, she had a heavenly smile. She was ravishingly beautiful. She was holding her Crucifix so tightly that we had to force it from her hands to prepare her for burial. Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart and I performed this office, along with Sister Aimée of Jesus, and we noticed she didn’t seem any more than twelve or thirteen years old.
Her limbs were supple right up to her burial, on Monday, October 4, 1897.
Sr. Agnès of Jesus, r.c.i.
(unworthy Carmelite religious)
Words that I found in my notes
… All my little desires have been fulfilled… Now this great one (to die of love) should be fulfilled!
In the afternoon:
Ah! I have such strength today!… I’ve got enough for months! And tomorrow, every day, it will still be worse!…
… Oh well! So much the better!
I can’t breathe, I can’t die!…
(Mother Agnès adds in the margin, “she never had oxygen, I believe that it wasn’t popular back then.”)
…I will never know how to die!. . . . . . . . . . . . .
… Yes, my God!… Yes! . . . . . . . . . .
… I really want to keep suffering … ………….
Toward 5 o’clock, Mother Marie de Gonzague had the relics of Bl. Théophane and Mother Anne of Jesus brought down, that had been pinned to her curtain on the right-hand side. They brought them to her and she gave them a little caress.
But she was inspired by the good God to say this to me in a very particular way so that later, because of the authority that would be given to me, one might rely entirely upon that which I would say and write about her.
Sr. Agnès of Jesus, c.d.i.
(unworthy Discalced Carmelite nun)
28 August 1940
Note from the blogger . . .
We present for our readers an idea of what Mother Agnès’ yellow notebook actually looks like. Neither Father John Clarke’s translation of the Last Conversations that was published by ICS Publications in 1977 (print edition out of stock) nor the same translation that appears on the English pages of the Archives website for the Carmel of Lisieux include these images of the notebook. Only the French version of the website provides photographic images of Pauline Martin’s months of note-taking and bedside companionship.
On the English pages of the Archives website, the Yellow Notebook ends with Mother Agnès’ comment concerning the body remaining supple until 4 October. The Appendix is not included.
The entire Appendix—with photographic images—is found only on the French version of the Archives website. The translation of the Appendix for 30 September is our own. Thus, we encourage our readers to explore the links in the caption of each photo to see the complete pages of Mother’s Yellow Notebook, or to view the images for the entire month of September here. For further, in-depth analysis of St. Thérèse’s last conversations with her family and community at her bedside, as well as Mother Agnès’ record-keeping in her notebook, you can read an English translation of historian Claude Langlois’ commentary and analysis here. It is subdivided into 16 sections; click next at the bottom of each page or navigate back to the top of his analysis.
sainte petite Thérèse, pray for us!
de l'Enfant Jésus, T 1977, St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations, translated from the French by Clarke, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
The English translation of the Appendix is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission and proper attribution.
Léonie Martin—Sr. François-Thérèse, V.H.M.—was the seventh witness at the diocesan inquiry for the cause of beatification of her sister, Thérèse. In her response to the 21st question concerning the theological virtue of faith, she mentioned this incident…
Her spirit of faith allowed her to see all things from a spiritual point of view. The letters she wrote to me spoke only of God and she only ever considered events from the point of view of faith. When our father died, she wrote (20th August 1894):
“I am thinking more than ever about you ever since our dear Father went up to heaven… Papa’s death does not give me the impression of a death but of a real life. I am finding him once more after an absence of 6 years, I feel him around me, looking at me and protecting me. Dear little Sister, are we not more united now that we gaze on the heavens to find there a Father and a Mother who offered us to Jesus? … Soon their desires shall be accomplished, and all the children God gave them are going to be united to Him forever.”
Saint Louis Martin died 29 July 1894
Read more from Léonie, Witness 7 at the Diocese of Lisieux Interrogatory
“Let the just man break me out of compassion for sinners, let the oil with which one perfumes his head not weaken mine.”
I cannot be broken, tried, except by the just, since all my Sisters are pleasing to God. It is less bitter to be broken by a sinner than by a just man; but out of compassion for sinners in order to obtain their conversion, I ask You, oh, my God! that I may be broken for them by the just souls who surround me.
I ask You, too, that the oil of praise so sweet to nature may not weaken my head, that is, my mind, by making me believe I possess virtues that I have hardly practiced several times. Oh, Jesus, Your name is like oil poured out; it is in this divine perfume that I want to bathe myself entirely, far from the eyes of creatures….
Thérèse of the Child Jesus Letter 259 to Sr. Geneviève
View the original manuscript of St. Thérèse’s letter to Sr. Geneviève—her sister Pauline—at the website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
My dear Mother, now I would like to tell you what I understand by the fragrance of the perfumes of the Beloved.
Since Jesus has re-ascended to Heaven, I can only follow him through the footprints that he left, but how illuminated are these footprints, how aromatic they are! I only have to cast my eyes on the holy gospel; all of a sudden I’m breathing in the perfumes of the life of Jesus and I know on which side to run…
It’s not the first place, but the last place that I aim for; rather than moving forward with the pharisee, I repeat, full of trust, the humble prayer of the tax-collector;
but above all I imitate the conduct of Magdalene: her astonishing—or rather her loving audacity—that charms the Heart of Jesus, seduces mine.
Yes, I feel it, even if I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go—my heart, broken in repentance—throw myself in the arms of Jesus because I know how much he cherishes the prodigal child who comes back to Him.
It’s not because the good God, in his prevenient mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I raise myself to Him through trust and love…
Renowned Discalced Carmelite scholar Father François-Marie Léthel concluded Meditation 8 of the 2011 Lenten Exercises for the Roman Curia by citing this final paragraph from Manuscript C. He also notes that, “at the same moment, Thérèse writes to her spiritual brother Bellière:
“You love St. Augustine, St. Magdalene; these souls to whom “many sins were forgiven because they loved much”. Me too, I love them; I love their repentance, and especially… their loving audacity! When I see Magdalene come forward in the midst of the numerous guests, showering the feet of her adorable Master with her tears, that she’s touching for the first time, I sense that her heart has understood the abysses of love and mercy of the Heart of Jesus and that, total sinner that she is, this Heart of love is not only disposed to pardon her but still more to lavish upon her the benefits of his divine intimacy, to lift her up to the highest summits of contemplation. Ah! my dear little Brother, since it was given to me also to understand the love of the Heart of Jesus, I admit to you that has chased away all fear from my heart. The memory of my faults humiliates me, it brings me to never learn on my strength, which is only a weakness, but even more this memory speaks to me of mercy and love. How—when you throw your faults with total, filial trust in the burning all-consuming brazier of love—how wouldn’t they be consumed without coming back?”
Read Father John Clarke’s translation of Letter 247 from Saint Thérèse to Abbé Maurice Bellière (21 June 1897) here.
Nota Bene: We have elected to be as faithful to the original text as possible in our translation, avoiding a re-cast into contemporary idioms. There is the age-old question among translators of French: does avoir confiance mean to be confident, to have confidence, or does it mean to trust? As an example, again and again today, theological translators agree: the best and truest translation of Jésus, j’ai confiance en toi is, Jesus, I trust in you.
Remember that your holy will
Is my rest, my only happiness.
I abandon myself and I fall asleep without fear
In your arms, O my divine Savior.
If you also fall asleep when the storm rages,
I always want to stay in deep peace.
But, Jesus, while you are asleep,
For the awakening!
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Jesus, My Beloved, Remember!… “Rappelle-toi” (PN 24), Stanza 32
Read the full text of the poem in French here and in English here. Read this and more entries from Mother Agnès’ yellow notebook of her last conversations with Saint Thérèse during July 1897 here. You can explore the English website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux here.
Here We are with you, the Shepherd with his dear flock, the Father with his beloved Sons.
Here We are with you, in the most holy name of our Divine Redeemer, of our lovable King of the Tabernacle; in the name of Saint Thérèse who, today more than ever, is the honour and glory of Lisieux and its Carmel…
Pray, beloved Sons, that, as the Divine King of the Tabernacle has created our souls and given all His precious blood for them, He will similarly deign also to sanctify and save them, in making them, here and now, in awaiting heavenly glory, living basilicas where He will be pleased to dwell with His sanctifying grace and all His blessings: basilicas so beautiful, so magnificent, that no worldly beauty could compare with them, not even the delightful splendors of the new Basilica of Lisieux.
Pope Pius XI Radio message for the blessing of the Basilica of Lisieux 11 July 1937
Learn more about the blessing of the Basilica of Lisieux on 11 July 1937 here and here.
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, thou who hast been rightly proclaimed the Patroness of Catholic missions throughout the world, remember the burning desire which thou didst manifest here on earth to plant the Cross of Christ on every shore and to preach the Gospel even to the consummation of the world; we implore thee, according to thy promise, to assist all priests and missionaries and the whole Church of God.
Pope Pius XI through an Apostolic Brief issued 9 July 1928 accorded a partial indulgence of 300 days once a day and a plenary indulgence, on the usual conditions, if this prayer is devoutly said every day for a month.
The Blessed Virgin will never be hidden from me, for Ilove her too much.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux The Yellow Notebook 8 July 1897
On 8 July 1897 Saint Thérèse “was so sick there was talk of giving her Extreme Unction. That day, she was taken down from her cell to the infirmary; she was no longer able to stand up, and she had to be carried down.” Read more entries from Mother Agnès’ Yellow Notebook for the month of July here.
She went for the last time before the Blessed Sacrament in the oratory in the afternoon; but she was at the end of her strength. I saw her look at the Host for a long time and I guessed it was without any consolation but with much peace in her heart.
I recall that in the morning after the Mass, when the community was going to the oratory to make thanksgiving, no one thought of helping her. She walked very quietly close to the wall. I didn’t dare offer her my arm.
Mother Agnès of Jesus (Pauline Martin) Yellow Notebook, 2 July 1897
You can’t be sort of a saint, you have to be a total saint
or not at all.
This quote comes from St. Thérèse’s letter to seminarian Maurice Bellière, written 21 June 1897. Thérèse had been corresponding with the seminarian since October 1896.
Thérèse’s remark falls within the context of Bellière’s comments to Mother Agnès in his initial letter of 15 October 1895 that he had aspirations of sanctity as a seminarian, but in the awareness of his weakness, he requested that one of the nuns should pray for him.
Thérèse describes Bellière’s letter in Manuscript C and makes mention of that letter when she writes to him on 21 June:
Sometimes Jesus likes “to reveal his secrets to infants“; the proof is that after having read your first letter from 15 Oct 95, I thought the same thing as your Director: you can’t be sort of a saint, you have to be a total saint or not at all.
Mother Agnès responded to Bellière’s initial letter of 15 October with words of encouragement for his spiritual life and tells him that she has assigned Thérèse to accompany him in prayer and sacrifice.
On 23 October 1895, the young seminarian — bursting with hope and renewed spiritual energy — replied to Mother Agnès:
Now, I’m not afraid anymore, and I feel in my heart a new passion that will prevail. I will be a saint, I want to be a saint — besides that, a priest, a missionary, especially a Saint — and if I say saint, why not say martyr. What an ideal, Mother — priest, apostle, and martyr!
To cast the words of Thérèse in the 21st-century context, the translator researches the use of the modifier à demi in the previous centuries. How did André Gide and Georges Bernanos use the expression? In the examples given in the University of Lorraine’s online masterpiece, the 16-volume dictionary Trésor de la Langue Française, Gide and Bernanos evoke concepts such as somewhat, partial, tentative, and incomplete. The TLF couldn’t be any clearer when it states that the antonym is tout à fait (which was the choice of Thérèse), i.e., completely or totally.
Our desire as a translator is always to preserve fidelity to the original text by thoroughly researching the context, the setting, and the historical record of the language. Today’s tools, such as ATILF and the invaluable online Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, offer many expanded options to achieve these goals. We are grateful to our Discalced Carmelite predecessors who labored long and hard over the past century to bring the words of Thérèse to English-speaking readers. From time to time, we will continue to add our small contributions to their monumental work.
As St. Thérèse herself noted in her letter, “I sensed that you might have an energetic soul and it’s for that reason that I was happy to become your sister.” Translators need energetic souls to undertake and persevere in their work, too. Thanks for being our sister, Thérèse!
Quelquefois Jésus se plaît «à révéler ses secrets aux plus petits», la preuve, c’est qu’après avoir lu votre première lettre du 15 oct. 95, j’ai pensé la même chose que votre Directeur: Vous ne pourrez être un saint à demi, il vous faudra l’être tout à fait ou pas du tout. J’ai senti que vous deviez avoir une âme énergique et c’est pour cela que je fus heureuse de devenir votre soeur.
You can read the complete text of Letter 247 here in French and the English translation by Fr. John Clarke, OCD here. The complete text of Abbé Bellière’s 23 October 1895 letter to Mother Agnès is found here in French. Studies on the 15 October correspondence and the subsequent reply were published in the scholarly journal Vie Thérèsienne, nos. 12, 13, 14, October 1963 — April 1964; and nos. 66-69, October 1963 — April 1964.
Translation from the French is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission. This blog post is dedicated in honor of Père François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D. —sine qua non
ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS OF VIETNAM ON THEIR “AD LIMINA” VISIT
Tuesday, 17 June 1980
Last year in taking possession of his titular church, your dear Cardinal said that the Church in Vietnam has always found “a mother’s powerful hand” in Mary. I entrust to her protection your ecclesial mission and that of all the Christians in your country.
Just returning from my pilgrimage to Lisieux, permit me also to invoke the little Carmelite, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who is linked to Vietnam in many ways. Her Carmel is at the origins of Carmelite life in your homeland and, if her health had permitted it, she would have gladly gone to your country.
The third stage is… communion with the greatness of Jesus, the infinite greatness of his Divinity in the Trinity. It is the sense of the Offering to Merciful Love (9 June 1895), in the account of the final pages of Manuscript A (Ms A, 83v-84v), and in the Act of the Offering itself (Pri 6). Here the Christocentrism of Thérèse becomes explicitly Trinitarian: to the love of the Father who gave his Son to Thérèse as Savior and Spouse, and who looks upon her and always loves her through the Face of Jesus, and in his Heart burning with love in the Fire of the Holy Spirit, Thérèse responds through the total gift of herself as “victim of holocaust” for the salvation of all: she offers herself to the Father through Christ in the Spirit, through the hands of Mary. This Offering is central within the doctrine of Thérèse. It is her fundamental proposition of holiness for all the baptized. We also can say that it is at the heart of her theological methodology because this total gift of self to Jesus through Love is absolutely indispensable in order to know, in-depth, the Mystery of the Love of Jesus.
François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D. La Lumière du Christ dans le Coeur de l’Église
The dozens of bombardments that, between June 6 and August 22, 1944, rained down a hurricane of iron and fire over the Normandy town have demolished 2100 houses out of 2800, beaten to the ground two parish churches out of three, razed likewise the majority of the religious houses, and caused to perish, together with sixty religious, more than a tenth of the population. Historic Lisieux was nearly annihilated. Spiritual Lisieux remains standing.
May the powerhouse that is Spiritual Lisieux always remain a beacon of hope for peace: that God’s merciful love and the message of St. Thérèse’s infinite trust in his love may prevail in our hearts, in our homes, and in our world.