Whispers from Carmel to encourage and inspire | Susurros del Carmelo Teresiano
Tag: St Therese of the Child Jesus
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
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.
Louis Martin was born in Bordeaux, on August 22, 1823. While he was master-watchmaker in Alençon, he met Marie Azelie (Zelie) Guerin, a lace maker, born in Gandelain (St-Denis-sur-Sarthon), on December 23, 1831. They were married on July 13, 1858,and had nine children, including the future Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus. Model spouses, devoted parents, workers, attentive to the poor, always nourishing a missionary spirit, they found their strength and hope in regular attendance at Holy Mass and in a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin. After a long illness Zelie died in Alençon on August 28, 1877. Louis, in retirement, went to Lisieux near his in-laws to ensure a better future for his five children (the other four having died in infancy). This patriarch of the family, after offering all his children to God, knew suffering and illness. He died near Evreux on July 29, 1894.
From the Common of Holy Men, with the psalms of the day.
Office of Readings
The Second Reading (Zelie et Louis Martin, Correspondance Familiale [1863 – 1885]. Paris, 2004, L1, 72, 130, 81, 110, 147, 179, 204)
From the Letters of St. Zelie Martin
We must be willing to accept generously the will of the good God
My dear friend, I am really worried about you. Every day my husband makes sad prophecies. He knows Paris and told me that you will be exposed to temptations that, because you are not pious enough, you will not be able to overcome. He told me that he experienced them himself, and that he needed a lot of courage to come out victoriously from all the battles. If you only knew what trials he had to go through … I beg you, my dear Isidore (Zelie’s brother), to do as I did; pray, and you will not be carried away by the current. If you succumb once you will be lost. On the road to perdition as on the road to salvation the first step is all important; afterwards you will be carried away by the current.
When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I really felt the pain. It is a pain to which I have always been resigned. I do not regret the pains and the anxieties I have had to endure on their account. Many people have said to me: “It would have been better if you had never had them.”I cannot tolerate these words. The pains and anxieties of this life cannot be compared to the eternal happiness of my children. After all, they have not been lost forever, life is short and full of suffering, we shall find them in heaven.
Little Therese is always well and looks very healthy. She is very intelligent and we have very amusing conversations. She already knows how to pray to God. Every Sunday, she goes for some part of Vespers and if, by mistake, the family forgets to bring her there she cries uncontrollably.
My sister has spoken to me a great deal about your business… I told her not to break her neck because of this, that there is only one thing to do, pray to God, because neither she, nor I, can help you in any other way. However, He, who is never embarrassed, will rescue us from all this when He sees that we have suffered enough, and then, you will recognize that your success is not due either to your ability or to your intelligence, but to God alone, as it happens with my lace making; this conviction is very beneficial, I have experienced it myself. You know that we are all inclined to be proud and I notice often that those who have made their fortune are, for the most part, unbearably self-important. I am not saying that I would have been like this, nor you either, but we would have been somewhat tainted by pride; it is a fact that constant prosperity leads one away from God. He never led his chosen ones along this path, they had to pass first through the crucible of suffering in order to be purified. You are going to say that I am preaching, but no matter I don’t wish to. I think of these things very often and I share them with you; now, call that a sermon if you like!
My dear children, I must go to Vespers to pray for the intention of our dear deceased relatives. The day will come when you will do this for me, but I must make sure that I do not have so great a need of your prayers. I would like to become a saint but this will not be easy; there is a lot of wood to burn but it is as hard as stone. It would have been better if I had begun earlier, when it was less difficult, but anyhow “it is better late than never.”
Today is then Wednesday, the feast of the Immaculate Conception which is a great feast for me! On this day, the Blessed Virgin truly gave me many very special graces… This year, I will go again to find the Blessed Virgin early in the morning… my only prayer will be that those that she has given me will all be saints and that I shall not be too far behind, but they must be much better than me.
Doctor Notta is very sorry that they did not operate at the beginning, as by now it is too late. However, he seems to be saying that I can go on for a very long time like this. But more than that we put ourselves in God’s hands, who knows better than us what we need, “it is He who wounds but also heals.” I will go to Lourdes on the first pilgrimage, and I hope that the Blessed Virgin will heal me, if that is what is needed. Let’s remain calm while we wait.
Before leaving, I will assist at the first Mass here, arriving in Le Mans at nine o’clock, still in time to attend the High Mass, after that I will come for you… At the beginning, your father was not happy that I took all three of you, but he wishes it now, and says that we cannot make enough sacrifices to obtain so great a miracle. Even if I do not obtain it, I will never regret taking you there. We must be willing to accept generously the will of God, whatever it is, because it will always be what is best for us.
R/. Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, * So that you may be able to discover what is God’s will,
what is good, pleasing and perfect. V/. You must be renewed in mind and spirit, and put on the new man. * So that you may be able to discover what is God’s will,
what is good, pleasing and perfect.
O God, who gave to Saint Louis and Marie Zelie the grace to lead a life of holiness as Christian spouses and parents, grant that, through their intercession and example, we may be able to love and serve you faithfully, living worthily our own vocation.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
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
The motto Totus Tuus was the main theme throughout the life of Karol Wojtyła, 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.
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)