And what shall I say about the Holy House? Ah! how deep was my emotion when I found myself under the same roof as the Holy Family, contemplating the walls upon which Jesus cast His sacred glance, treading the ground bedewed with the sweat of St. Joseph, under this roof where Mary had carried Jesus in her arms, having carried Him in her virginal womb. I beheld the little room in which the angel had appeared to the Blessed Virgin. I placed my rosary in the little bowl of the Child Jesus. What ravishing memories!
I was delighted to hear that today all three of you are in the little House of the Blessed Virgin [Loreto, 12-13 November 1887)… One must no longer feel outside one’s Homeland there. It’s the Homeland in exile. When shall we be reunited in the other Homeland that we can never leave?
On a hillside, the Santa Casa [of Loreto] is entirely covered with marble, but not on the inside. Statue of the Blessed Virgin in cedarwood [carved] by St Luke. Madonna’s bowl. Altar where St. Peter said his first Mass after the Ascension of Our Lady.
– To reach Loreto by rail we saw Imola at the foot of the hills, Senigallia home of Pius IX. Gastelfidardo a historic memory.
It was on the Gospel side that Thérèse and I received Holy Communion, in the little corner, very close to the altar. In the Basilica, we avoided placing ourselves under the staff of the Grand Penitentiary!
Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face, O.C.D. (Céline)
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.
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.
On Wednesday, the 25th of February 1959, at 9:25 a.m. Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face died at the age of 89 years and 10 months, and 63 years of religious profession.
With her Sisters continually and prayerfully keeping watch by her bedside, she had a peaceful night, happy with the deliverance drawing nigh. At dawn, she was a bit restless, but without any suffering.
“It really is today,” said the Mother Prioress.
“Today!” she repeated, as if she was savoring her joy.
“Yes, you fight, it’s a hard fight! But you will have the victory because Jesus is with you.”
In a tone of triumph, a blurry look in her eyes, but extremely lucid, Sister Genevieve continued: “Jesus!”
That was her last word. She expressed the tenderness of her entire life.
Today! — Jesus!
Read the complete account of her final day on our post, Adieu Céline