“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.
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….
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.
Saint Zélie Guérin Martin Letter CF 108 to Saint Louis Martin (excerpt) Lisieux, 31 August 1873
Explore more of the correspondence of Louis Martin and Zélie Guerin 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 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.
I have come to bring you news of our sick, and it is quite satisfactory. Uncle is having great difficulty recovering from his last attack. His breathing is very heavy at times like someone out of breath, then there are two minutes when he has no air to breath at all. He has been looking very exhausted and despondent since his last attack, so his condition is still very precarious….
Your little sister
Marie Guérin Sister Marie of the Eucharist (1870-1905)
On 5 June 1894, St. Louis Martin suffered the first of two serious heart attacks that ultimately led to his death on 29 July 1894 at 70 years of age. Read the account of his heart attack here and the rest of Marie’s letter here.
You make me feel that it’s not impossible
To follow in your footsteps, O Queen of the elect.
You made visible the narrow road to Heaven
While always practicing the humblest virtues.
Near you, Mary, I like to stay little.
I see the vanity of greatness here below.
At the home of Saint Elizabeth, receiving your visit,
I learn how to practice ardent charity.
~ ~ ~
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Why I Love You, O Mary (PN54, Stanza 6)
Saint Thérèse’s first draft of the poem is featured in the image above. Stanza 6 is the second stanza on the right side of the page. Lines 5-6 and 7-8 of the stanza appear in brackets.
View the complete image of St. Thérèse’s first draft of the poem, an image of her second draft, details of her corrections, and images of the finished poem and its full text in English or French at the website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
I’m writing to recommend myself to your prayers, because I’m beginning my annual retreat this very evening. Pray also for our little Sr Louise of Jesus, a Lay Sister who is taking her profession on 5th June.
I’ll quickly reply to your question. We were not paid a visit by Cardinal di Belmonte, fortunately! I was dreading it.
Sr M. of the Trinity must tell Sr Marguerite afterwards that we went to Les Buissonnets, and I assure you, it was a worthwhile visit. It would take too long to give you the reasons for it, and they wouldn’t interest you anyway, but what a trip it was! I thought I was going to suffocate in the car because Sr M. of the S.H. had to half stand half sit on us. She was crushing us and we were crushing each other! Then we had to go up the path on foot! Fortunately, we were wearing Turn Sisters’ veils over our own and very loose black cloaks! Otherwise, we would have been lost! I met a lady who said something to me about taking advantage of our arrival to visit Les Buissonnets, because she had found the house closed. Boldly, I said, “Madam, we are strangers and the door will open for no one but us, because we cannot come back.” etc. and the lady left saying, “Oh, I understand!” Had she but known!
The Mother Superior of the Refuge and her assistant along with Sr Scholastica and Miss Mikaëlle welcomed us with open arms. It was thanks to the Mother Superior of the Refuge that we had the car and a very discreet person to drive us.
This was at about 4 o’clock. We stayed until about 6 o’clock, and didn’t waste a moment, as Sr Geneviève had to take measurements for the altar in Thérèse’s bedroom and for putting the bed that Jeanne is giving back to us in the alcove, etc. etc. There will be a railing in front of it to stop pilgrims from cutting it into little pieces. Since then, we have been advised to arrange things as they are currently, with the altar in the alcove and the bed with the keepsakes.
The path leading to Les Buissonnets was absolutely filthy! You have no idea, and apparently the Mayor is expecting us to pay to clean it up. I assure you, it’s scandalous and we’re going to seek His Lordship’s advice to find a clever solution, one that spares us a flogging. The house is very well kept. What memories! Truly, I wasn’t lying to the lady when I said that we were strangers. Yes, we really have become strangers to things here below. Nothing moves us and nothing interests us other than God’s glory.
This visit was a blessing for the three of us and made us feel that through God’s grace, we were indeed detached from everything.
When we arrived back at the Carmel, the Community was waiting for us in the garden, wearing long veils because the car came into the enclosure through the workers’ entrance (we had our faces uncovered of course).
And when the entrance closed again after the car left, there was an eruption of joy as though we had come back from China!
I was very touched by this welcome.
Goodbye, much-loved little sister. This letter is bound to make you laugh. I send my love and our little sisters do the same. Your little sister and mamma
The Mother Superior of the Refuge was very discrete and left us alone after a while. Sr Marie-Emmanuel was with us. There were 5 of us with Sr M. of the S.H. and myself. Sr M. of the S.H. and I looked at ourselves in the bedroom mirror. We laughed out loud at the transformation that has been wrought over the last 40 years!!!! It was before this very mirror that we gazed at ourselves as young girls!
The garden looks delightful.
This letter from Sister Agnes of Jesus (Pauline Martin) to her younger sister Sr Françoise-Therese (Léonie Martin) at the Visitation Monastery in Caen tells the story of the trip the three sisters of St. Therese in the Carmel of Lisieux — Pauline, Marie (Sr M. of the S.H.), and Céline (Sr Geneviève) — took to Les Buissonnets to prepare their childhood home to become a place of pilgrimage.
Note Pauline’s comment, “Sr M. of the S.H. and I looked at ourselves in the bedroom mirror. We laughed out loud at the transformation that has been wrought over the last 40 years!!!!” It was the custom among Discalced Carmelites prior to the conciliar reforms of the 20th c. not to keep any mirrors in a monastery, a custom that is still observed in many monasteries today. Was this the first time that Pauline and Marie had seen a mirror since they entered Carmel? A question that may remain unanswered…
«Tu corazón está hecho para amar a Jesús, para amarlo apasionadamente. Pídele que los años más hermosos de tu vida no transcurran entre miedos quiméricos. No tenemos más que los breves instantes de nuestra vida para amar a Jesús. El diablo lo sabe muy bien, y por eso procura consumirla en trabajos inútiles…» Santa Teresa de […]
They tell me that I’ll be afraid of death. That could happen. There isn’t anyone here who doesn’t trust her feelings more than I don’t. I never rely on my own thoughts; I know how weak I am, but I want to enjoy the feeling that God is giving me right now. There will always be time to suffer from the opposite.
I only have to cast my eyes on the holy gospel, all at once I breathe in the fragrance of the life of Jesus and I know where to run… It isn’t the first place, but the last place that I aim for; instead of moving ahead with the Pharisee, I repeat, full of trust, the humble prayer of the tax collector; but above all I imitate Magdalene’s behavior, her astonishing or rather her loving audacity that charms the Heart of Jesus seduces my own. Yes, I feel it, even if I’d have on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I’d go — my heart, broken from repentance — to 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 Lord in his prevenient mercy has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I rise up to him through trust and love…
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Manuscript C 35 recto – 37
Learn more about St. Thérèse’s boundless trust in God’s merciful love here
Manuscript C translation is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission
All of a sudden the Blessed Virgin appeared beautiful to me, so beautiful that I never had seen anything so beautiful; her face radiated an ineffable tenderness and goodness, but what penetrated to the depths of my soul was the “ravishing smile of the Blessed Virgin.”
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Manuscript A, Folio 30 recto
Manuscript A translation is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission
All of a sudden the Blessed Virgin appeared beautiful to me, so beautiful that never had I seen anything so beautiful; her face radiated an ineffable tenderness and goodness, but what penetrated to the depths of my soul was the “ravishing smile of the Blessed Virgin.” Then all of my pains faded away, and two large tears flowed from my eyelids and rolled silently down my cheeks, but they were tears of pure joy. Ah! I thought, the Blessed Virgin smiled at me, how happy I am…
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Manuscript A, Folio 30 recto
Describing her miraculous healing 13 May 1883
Letter from Sr. Agnès de Jésus, O.C.D. (Pauline Martin) to St. Thérèse May 14-15 (?), 1883
J. M. J. T.
Long live Jesus!
What a joy to see you well! How good the Blessed Virgin really is! I offered her your beautiful bouquet, and she seemed to be all radiant with her little daughter’s flowers. . . . Along with the flowers, I expressed a big “thanks,” which was as tender as it was big, and I begged her to continue her work and to complete it soon.
Poor darling, how eager I am to see your little face so dear to my heart. I can see it from here, that’s true, but for some time my telescope is no longer any good; when you were so sick, I let a tear fall on the lens and suddenly it became blurred.
Well, the Blessed Virgin keeps us together under her mantle; she is watching over us in her heart, blessing us, loving us and caressing us with the same hand!
How can you say that Thérésita is far from Agnes, and Agnes far from Thérésita?
How beautiful the weather is today! Look, how blue the sky is! From time to time, I see little swallows passing by, gay and light, just like a little girl in good health, and I think of my Benjamin, and I pray to the dwellers of this very blue heaven to have a little pair of wings fall down from on high for my own swallow. With this pair of wings she would run through the fields, she would play in the beautiful sun, she would come and rest from time to time in her Agnes’ very sweet nest, up there high on the mount of Carmel where the weather is so good, so good! and where one breathes in heaven’s air and is always able to see, even during the winter, the sun and flowers….
Little child, let us ask our dear Mother not to allow her month to pass by without reuniting us.
Adieu! Let us love the Blessed Virgin, let us love her; she is a Mother, and beneath her glance, beneath her hand, the little [ship] of her heart is safe and is sailing peacefully toward heaven.
I kiss your little [ship], my cherub; always keep at the bottom of its hold the love I know you have for me. I need it just as a little mother needs to be paid in return for the love she has for her child,