The motto Totus Tuus was the main theme throughout the life of Karol Wojtyla, the “Marian thread” woven in a long and continuous path to holiness.Totus Tuus! Two words that are a prayer addressed to Jesus through Mary, in her Immaculate Heart. In the same sense, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux defined Love in her final poem to Mary: “Love means giving everything, and giving yourself” (Why I Love You, O Mary, PN 54:22).
“I love you” means: “I give myself to you, I am yours forever.”
The Totus Tuus is the short and essential prayer that animated the entire life of Karol Wojtyła, a life totally given to the Lord, to the Church, and to all men and women, continually lived with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. Louis-Marie de Montfort and Thérèse of Lisieux are in effect like two “lighthouses of holiness” who illuminated the pontificate of John Paul II in a special way, in the great perspective of the Second Vatican Council traced by Lumen Gentium, in chapter 8 on Mary in the Mystery of Christ and the Church and chapter 5 on the universal call to holiness. Louis-Marie is the saint who had the greatest influence on the entire life of Karol Wojtyła, while Thérèse of Lisieux is the only saint declared by him to be a Doctor of the Church.
François-Marie Léthel, OCD La Lumière du Christ dans le Coeur de l’Église
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
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,
O beloved Mother, despite my littleness,
Like you, I possess The All-Powerful within me.
But I don’t tremble in seeing my weakness:
The treasures of a mother belong to her child,
And I am your child, O my dearest Mother.
Aren’t your virtues and your love mine too?
So when the white Host comes into my heart,
Jesus, your Sweet Lamb, thinks he is resting in you!…
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Why I Love You, O Mary! PN 54, Stanza 5
On 8 May 1884, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux made her First Holy Communion; on that same day, her sister Pauline professed her Carmelite vows in the hands of the saintly foundress of the Carmel of Lisieux, Mother Geneviève of St Teresa.
Of that day Saint Thérèse wrote, “Ah! how sweet was that first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love; I felt that I was loved, and I said: “I love You, and I give myself to You forever!” There were no demands made, no struggles, no sacrifices; for a long time now Jesus and poor little Thérèse looked at and understood each other. That day, it was no longer simply a look, it was a fusion; they were no longer two, Thérèse had vanished as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean. Jesus alone remained; He was the Master, the King.” (Ms A, 35r)
Later, Pauline (her religious name was Mother Agnès of Jesus) recalled: “At the end of the afternoon,” she says, “I saw my little Thérèse in the parlor, with her veil as white as my own. She gazed at me with so profound and gentle a look. What a moment for us both! I went out quite comforted, a little like the apostles when they descended from Mount Tabor: a heavenly atmosphere surrounded me. Oh, my God, if the sight of an earthly angel could so fortify me, what will it be to see in eternity the very fountain-head of goodness, from whence proceeds all the beauty of the saints!” (Circular letter, Carmelite death notice for Mother Agnès of Jesus)
But in Jerusalem a bitter sadness
Comes to flood your heart like a vast ocean.
For three days, Jesus hides from your tenderness.
That is indeed exile in all its harshness!…
At last you find him and you are overcome with joy,
You say to the fair Child captivating the doctors:
“O my Son, why have you done this?
Your father and I have been searching for you in tears.”
And the Child God replies (O what a deep mystery!)
To his dearest Mother holding out her arms to him:
“Why were you searching for me? I must be about
My Father’s business. Didn’t you know?”
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus Why I Love You, O Mary! (PN 54), Stanzas 13-14
Apostolic Letter Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus Virgin, Carmelite of Lisieux
Secondary Patron of All of France
As the very noble French nation already, for several centuries, has had for principal patroness the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and for secondary patroness, Saint Joan of Arc, since her canonization, the bishops, by mutual agreement considered it opportune, especially in these times of distress, to arrange for the faithful of France to have another special intercession with God, that of the holy Carmelite of Lisieux who, so that the Catholic faith may always and firmly be preserved among her compatriots, has testified to her country a great love by commending it to God as much as possible…
Given at Rome, near St. Peter, under the ring of the Fisherman, the third day of May in the year 1944, the sixth of Our Pontificate.
Read the original text of the Apostolic Letter in Latin here
Read a French translation of the Apostolic Letter here
Learn more about Cardinal Pacelli’s 1937 visit to the Carmel here
The best thing to do is to put everything in the hands of God and await the outcome in peace and abandonment to His will.
I’m happy to see, my dear sister, that your little girl is your pride and joy. I, too, was so happy with my first child. To my eyes, there had never been a child like her. I hoped that it would go as easily for all the others. I was mistaken. What I’ll learn for another time is not to dream of lasting happiness, something quite impossible here below!
So, you can’t imagine how frightened I am of the future, about this little person that I’m expecting. It seems to me that the fate of the last two children will be his fate, and it’s a never-ending nightmare for me. I believe the dread is worse than the misfortune. When misfortunes come, I resign myself well enough, but the fear, for me, is torture. This morning, during Mass, I had such dark thoughts about this that I was very deeply moved. The best thing to do is to put everything in the hands of God and await the outcome in peace and abandonment to His will. That’s what I’m going to try very hard to do.
Saint Zélie Guérin Martin Letter CF 45, excerpt to Madame Guérin (Céline Fournet Guérin) 28 February 1869
Marie Céline Martin was born on 28 April 1869, the seventh child of Saints Louis and Zélie Guérin Martin. Her two older brothers, Joseph Louis (20 September 1866 – 14 February 1867) and Joseph Jean-Baptiste (19 December 1867 – 24 August 1868) had both died in infancy. One can understand Saint Zélie’s emotions and admire her practice of heroic faith despite her fear.
Read more correspondence from the family and friends of Saint Thérèse here
Dear Céline, you who used to ask me so many questions when we were little, I wonder how it happened that you had never asked me this question: “Why did God not create me an angel?” Ah, Céline, I shall tell you what I think. If Jesus did not create you an angel in heaven, it is because He wants you to be an angel on earth; yes, Jesus wants to have His heavenly court here below just as up above! He wants angel-martyrs, He wants angel-apostles, and He has created an unknown little flower, who is named Céline, with this intention in mind. He wills that His little flower save souls for Him; for this, He wills only one thing: that His flower look at Him while suffering her martyrdom. …
Oh! Céline, let us love Jesus to infinity, and from our two hearts let us make only one so that it may be greater in love!…
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Letter 127 (excerpt) to her sister, Céline Martin 26 April 1891
NDLR: The original French text, il a créé une petite fleur ignorée qui se nomme Céline, is clearly a reference to the close relationship between Thérèse who referred to herself as une petite fleure blanche (literally, little flower white), and to her sister, to whom she ascribes here the title, une petite fleure ignorée (literally, little flower unknown). With all due respect to the Rev. Father John Clarke, O.C.D. for his monumental work as the U.S. translator of the letters of St. Thérèse, we think there was a missed opportunity to show this intimate relationship in the rendering of the title in this translation. As you will see in the full text of the letter, Fr. Clarke elected to translate Céline’s title as a little unknown flower. We believe that the order of the adjectives could easily be interchanged and the fullness of the relationship between the two little flowers would be more apparent and better appreciated by the reader. We have indicated this above by editing his translation: “unknown little flower”. As we are the first to admit, traduire c’est trahir (the translator is a traitor).
Since Wednesday, there’s a noticeable improvement. Marie is no longer delirious. However, she still has a fever. She’s still eating nothing but broth. She’s very weak and sleeps a lot. We hope that soon her convalescence will start. I’m waiting for it very impatiently.
The wet nurse brought our little Thérèse today, who’s in good health and very strong.
I thought I wouldn’t have time to write you. I’m taking advantage of a moment of rest. I hope to hear from you soon, and I’ll write to you again as soon as Marie is a little better.
Saint Zélie Martin Letter CF94 to her sister-in-law Céline Fournet Guérin
At the birth of St. Thérèse, her mother St. Zélie was unable to nurse the baby due to lifelong breast health problems. A wet nurse in the nearby farming village of Semallé had assisted Zélie in the past with feeding her babies. However, in January 1873 the wet nurse, Rose Taillé, had a newborn of her own and hesitated to make the trip from the farm to the town of Alençon. At the crack of dawn after Thérèse’s late-night birth, Zélie traveled to the farm and pleaded with Rose to come with her into town to feed Thérèse. Her persistence paid off: Rose Taillé, with her own baby in her arms, traveled to the Martin home with St. Zélie. After much drama — Rose solemnly pronounced that it was “too late” — Thérèse began to take nourishment. She spent roughly one year on the farm with Rose and her family in Semallé.
Learn more about her difficult birth and infancy from Discalced Carmelite Father James Geoghegan here. See photos from and learn about a 2013 pilgrimage to Alençon here. View a video of the farmhouse with an English explanation here. Discover more about St. Therese from expert and speaker Maureen O’Riordan here.
Explore the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux here.
Comme la veille toute la famille se trouva réunie pour entendre la Ste Messe et y communier. Aussitôt que Jésus fut descendu dans le coeur de mes parents chéris, je n’entendis autour de moi que des sanglots, il n’y eut que moi qui ne versai pas de larmes, mais je sentis mon coeur battre avec une telle violence qu’il me sembla impossible d’avancer lorsqu’on vint nous faire signe de venir à la porte conventuelle ; j’avançai cependant tout en me demandant si je n’allais pas mourir par la force des battements de mon coeur… Ah ! quel moment que celui-là ! Il faut y avoir passé pour savoir ce qu’il est…
Mon émotion ne se traduisit pas au dehors : après avoir embrassé tous les membres de ma famille chérie, je me mis à genoux devant mon incomparable Père, lui demandant sa bénédiction ; pour me la donner il se mit lui-même à genoux et me bénit en pleurant… C’était un spectacle qui devait faire sourire les anges que celui de ce vieillard présentant au Seigneur son enfant encore au printemps de la vie !…Quelques instants après, les portes de l’arche sainte se fermaient sur moi et là je recevais les embrassements des soeurs chéries qui m’avaient servi de mères et que j’allais désormais prendre pour modèles de mes actions… Enfin mes désirs étaient accomplis, mon âme ressentait une paix si douce et si profonde qu’il me serait impossible de l’exprimer et depuis 7 ans et demi cette paix intime est restée mon partage, elle ne m’a pas abandonnée au milieu des plus grandes épreuves.
From Marie Martin (Marie of the Sacred Heart) to her father, Saint Louis Martin 9th April 1888
What Céline tells us is worthy of you! Ah! What a remarkable father we have! He truly is unique… Also, I’m not surprised that God is taking all the children away from this incomparable father! He is too dear to his Heart for Him not to look upon him and his family with a very special love. How our dear mother must be smiling down upon you, she must be rejoicing to see her darling boat being so well directed by you towards Heaven.
O best of fathers, how accountable we would be if we didn’t become saints, and if we didn’t follow in the footsteps of your generosity… Ah! How Jesus will have to repay you a hundredfold for the lily barely in bloom, the lily, filled with freshness, that you are offering him today. Oh, your crown in heaven! Darling Father, how radiant and beautiful it will be. Ah! Pray that your diamond may not be too pale beside so many beauties.
I can’t continue any longer, my heart is too full of affection for you and is all yours.
Our Mother couldn’t help crying as she read Céline’s account. Ah! What a remarkable father you are!!
M. of the S. H.
O best of fathers, how accountable we would be if we didn’t become saints
N.B. — St. Thérèse entered the Carmel of Lisieux on the Feast of the Annunciation, which was deferred to Monday, April 9 in the year 1888 because March 25 was Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. “Our Mother” refers to the prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague. You can read a brief biographical sketch of Mother Marie here; as Sr. Geneviève (Céline) remarked at the end of her life to another younger member of the community, “But we loved her! But you would have loved her! Only…” she continued with an appropriate facial expression “she was feared as a storm is feared when you have no umbrella … “
Read an outstanding essay concerning Thérèse’s entry to the Carmel of Lisieux on April 9, written by St. Thérèse expert Maureen O’Riordan and illustrated with 19th-century photos, published on her blog Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway.
The letter from Marie of the Sacred Heart to her father, Saint Louis Martin, all correspondence by family and friends, and other texts and sources concerning St. Thérèse are found on the official website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux