Print

Witness 1 - Armand-Constant Lemonnier

 

The inchoative Process “ne pereant probationes” (“lest the proofs should perish”) opens with the testimony of Father Armand-Constant Lemonnier (1841-1917). He was first a missionary of the Congregation of Our Lady of Deliverance in Bayeux, then, following the dissolution of this Congregation when the Church and state separated in 1904, he became chaplain to the Sisters of the Holy Family in La Délivrande.

He had testified in the Ordinary Trial Process in the capacity of First Officially Appointed Witness on 7th April 1911 (cf. vol. I, pp. 580-584).

He met Thérèse only at the retreats he gave at the Carmel of Lisieux in 1893, 1894 and 1895, so his recollections of her are therefore necessarily limited. However, his sober testimony suffices to reveal her apostolic zeal and value as a spiritual director.  The witness makes a point of highlighting Thérèse’s gifts as an educator. “The novices who were under her direction,” he explains, “and to whom I spoke at the time, told me that they had great trust in the wisdom of her direction” (p. 219). “Spiritual thoughts were far from unusual for her and constituted, I believe, the main motive for both her personal actions and the advice that she gave to the novices” (p. 221). He learnt from her superiors that “when souls were being tried by suffering, they would turn to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, sure that she would give them advice and solace” (pp. 223-224).

Father Lemonnier is also a valuable witness for other reasons: he examined Thérèse’s Self-Offering to God’s Merciful Love during the retreat he gave in October 1895 (pp. 217, 225); he related the positive appraisal that Father Youf gave of Thérèse despite the former always being very discreet and reserved in his praise (pp. 217, 224, 233); he confirmed that although Mother Marie de Gonzague “certainly had objections with regards to Mother Agnes, she actually professed only high esteem for Thérèse’s religious virtue” (p. 236); he underlines the apostolic dimension that Thérèse gave to her Carmelite vocation (p. 223) and the deep interest that she took in the work of priests and missionaries (p. 221).

Father Lemonnier testified on 9th April 1915 in the third sitting (pp. 215-237 of the Public Transcription).

 [Sitting 3: - 9th April 1915, at 8:30 and at 2 in the afternoon]

[215] [The witness answers the first question satisfactorily].

 [Answer to the second question]:

My name is Armand Constant Lemonnier. I was born in Vassy on the first of November 1841. I am a priest and a member of the Congregation of Diocesan Missionaries [216] of Our Lady of Deliverance, which has been dispersed by the civil law.  I currently live in La Délivrande where I act as chaplain to the Sisters of the Holy Family.

 

 [The witness answers questions three to five satisfactorily].

 [Answer to the sixth question]:

I am compelled by no feeling of fear, affection, interest or other human reason. I have in my sights the glory of God and the beatification of Sister Thérèse should this serve to bring God glory. I have been influenced by no one with regards to my testimony.

 [Answer to the seventh question]:

1stly I became acquainted with the Servant of God on the three annual retreats that I gave at the Carmel of Lisieux in 1893, 1894 and 1895; on those occasions I offered her spiritual direction and confession.

2ndly On those occasions, I heard several of the Carmelite nuns of Lisieux speak of the Servant of God when they came to me for spiritual direction and expressed their thoughts on personal matters and the state of the community.  I notably spoke to two of her Carmelite sisters [217] (Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart and Mother Agnes of Jesus).  I also spoke to her two other sisters (Céline and Léonie), who were then living outside the convent.  At that time, the chaplain of the Carmel, Father Youf, with whom I was in daily and very close contact, made special mention of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

At a later date, on a retreat I gave at the Benedictine Abbey of Lisieux in about 1898, the chaplain of that community, Father Domin, also spoke to me of the Servant of God, telling me that she had studied at that abbey.

Lastly, a professed nun of the congregation of the Holy Family in La Délivrande called Alice Dumoulin told me that she had been a pupil at the Benedictine Abbey of Lisieux at the same time as the Servant of God, and praised her in terms which I shall later quote.

3rdly Concerning her writings, I was asked to examine her “Self-Offering to God’s Merciful Love” towards 1895 to ascertain whether the prayer was admissible.

I have read at least a part of Story of a Soul and a few of the poems that followed, but I will make no mention of these texts in my testimony.

[Answer to the eighth question]:

I have trust and a devotion to the Servant of God,

 

WITNESS 1: Armand-Constant Lemonnier

 

because I believe that with God she concerns herself with [218] of the glory of the Church and the good of souls.  Yet these feelings bear no influence whatsoever upon the verity of the facts that I will relate.

 [Answer to the ninth question]:

I know nothing on this point, other than what everyone knows from reading her autobiography.

[Answer to the tenth question]:

I know by Sister Alice Dumoulin, a nun of the Holy Family in La Délivrande, that the Servant of God completed part of her education at the Benedictine Abbey of Lisieux.  She was twelve or thirteen years old when five year old Alice Dumoulin was herself entrusted to the Benedictines.  Because she was very young, Alice was commended to the care of the Servant of God in particular.  Alice Dumoulin kept the following memory of her elder companion: “She was very intelligent, and extremely charitable as to the care she showed to her young protégée.”  Furthermore, as Alice remained a boarder at the abbey until the age of seventeen or so, she often heard her teachers express their high esteem for their former student, the Servant of God.

[Answer to the eleventh question]:

I heard from the Servant of God herself that when she wished to join the Carmel at the age of 15, the Superiors [219] were opposed to it 1stly due to her young age and 2ndly because two of her sisters were already nuns in that Carmel.  She told me how, to obtain permission to join, she approached first his Lordship the Bishop of Bayeux and then, on a trip she made to Rome, the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII; she told me how she presented her request to the Sovereign Pontiff, despite the intervention of Father Révérony, Vicar General, who did not think it opportune to reveal the matter to the Sovereign Pontiff.

All that I have just said is related in Story of a Soul, but I heard it from the Servant of God’s lips.

 [Answer to the twelfth question]:

When I preached the above-mentioned retreats at the Carmel, the Servant of God, who was about 20 years of age in 1893, was a professed nun of the convent.  Conversations that I had with both herself and the other nuns convinced me that she was fulfilling the vocation to which she had been called.  I discovered that she was Novice Mistress, in an auxiliary capacity.  The novices under her direction, and to whom I spoke at the time, told me that they had great trust in the wisdom of her direction.

 [220] [Do you know why the Servant of God was not given the title of Novice Mistress and was only second in command, so to speak? - Answer]:

I believe it was because she was rather young.

 [Answer to the thirteenth question]:

I know through my conversations with the Servant of God and other members of the community that at the aforementioned time, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had a particularly good and simple conscience, was free from scruples and mindful of all her obligations.

 [Answer to the fourteenth question]:

My conversations with the Servant of God left me with the impression that Sister Thérèse was exceptional in terms of her practice of virtues, even compared with the most fervent of nuns.  This opinion was then confirmed by both the chaplain, Father Youf, and the nuns to whom I spoke.

[Can you give the names of the nuns who shared this opinion? Answer]:

I cannot give you any names, because on the retreats, I heard the nuns successively without asking them their names.

 [The Vicar General asks him whether he had heard any nuns express reservations as to the Servant of God’s virtues. - Answer]:

I do not remember having ever heard [221] anyone express an unfavourable opinion of her.

[The witness continues as follows]:

As for saying whether the Servant of God persevered in her faithful practice of virtues until she died, that I do not know directly, because I was in contact with Sister Thérèse only for the retreats of 1893, 1894 and 1895; I heard that this was the case through public opinion, which widely confirms the holiness of her life and death.

[Answer to the fifteenth question]:

It is my conviction that the Servant of God’s faith was very deep and very ardent.  Spiritual thoughts were far from unusual for her and constituted, I believe, the main motive for both her personal actions and the advice that she gave to the novices.  I found this to be true through my conversations with both her and the nuns, particularly the novices.

 [Answer to the sixteenth question]:

The Servant of God was certainly preoccupied with spreading the faith.  This is the reason for wishing she had a brother priest, and why in her prayers she was concerned for the work of priests and especially missionaries in faithless countries.  I was told these particulars either by the Servant of God or her companions, the other nuns.

[222] [Answer to questions seventeen to twenty-one]:

I know nothing particular as regards these points.

WITNESS 1: Armand-Constant Lemonnier

 [Answer to questions twenty-two to twenty-seven exclusively]:

I remember that her disposition was characterised by a great trust in God and a childlike surrender to Providence, and that she strove to inspire the same sentiments in others.

 [Answer to the twenty-seventh question]:

Having been her confessor, I do not think I am required to give a detailed and precise account of them.  However I believe I can say that she professed to being of a very delicate conscience and she abhorred the slightest fault.

 [223] [Answer to the twenty-eighth question]:

I know nothing.

 [Answer to the twenty-ninth question]:

I know from speaking to the nuns of the community that the Servant of God was considered a model of regularity and peace.

 [Answer to questions thirty to thirty-two]:

I know nothing in particular.

 [Answer to the thirty-third question]:

Converting sinners and saving souls were one of her customary intentions when performing her pious exercises and penance.  As a matter of fact, she told me that this was one of her reasons for joining the Carmelite Order.

 [Answer to the thirty-fourth question]:

I have nothing to say.

[Answer to the thirty-fifth question]:

I learnt from the Servant of God herself at the above mentioned retreats, and from my conversations with the Superiors and other nuns, that when souls were being tried by suffering, they would turn to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, sure [224] that she would give them advice and solace.  I even heard these details from the lips of nuns who themselves had benefitted from her charity in this way.

 [Answer to questions thirty-six to forty-six]:

I know nothing in particular.

 [Answer to the forty-seventh question]:

I heard from the nuns of the community at that time, and from Father Youf, the chaplain and confessor of the convent, that Sister Thérèse was doing much good in the convent on account of her elevated virtues and also her customary enthusiastic and good-natured disposition.

 [Answer to the forty-eighth question]:

I know nothing.

 [Answer to the forty-ninth question]:

I do not know.

 [Answer to the fiftieth question]:

It has not come to my knowledge that she performed any miracles during her lifetime.

 [Answer to the fifty-eighth question]:

I was brought to closely examine [225] the consecration prayer that the Servant of God wrote entitled “Self-Offering to God’s Merciful Love”.  This was at the retreat of 1895.  The Mother Prioress of the convent submitted the prayer to me and asked me whether it could be given to the other community members.  I examined it myself and also submitted it to the Reverend Father Superior of our Congregation in La Délivrande.  We shared the opinion that this sort of consecration could only be beneficial to the Servant of God and the other members of the community alike.

As for the Servant of God’s other writings: Story of a Soul, poems, letters, etc., they are widely known.

 [Answer to questions fifty-two to fifty-five]:

I was not able to observe these events.

[Answer to the fifty-sixth question]:

Yes I have been to pray at the burial place of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus five or six times over the past few years.  The first time was towards 1902, long before the Investigative Process was initiated; the last time was in September 1913.  I made these pilgrimages out of devotion and trust in the Servant of God’s intercession.  On the last two or three visits in particular, I was struck by the continual stream of visitors. [226] Within the space of half an hour, I saw about twenty pilgrims come to her grave.  There were not only ordinary civilians, but also priests, nuns and soldiers.  I believe that this pilgrim movement began a few years following the Servant of God’s death. Since that time (that is to say from about the year 1900 or 1902) the movement has gradually grown, and it is public knowledge that today it is becoming increasingly substantial.

No evidence, to my knowledge, suggests biased propaganda with a view to increasing the number of pilgrims; those who believe to have obtained blessings speak out and consequently cause the frequentation to grow greater every day.  Reading “Shower of Roses”, which contains accounts of blessings received, has no doubt also contributed to the growth of this movement.

 

[Sitting 4: - 12th April 1915, at 9 o’clock.]

[233] [Answer to the fifty-seventh question]:

During her lifetime, she was viewed, both by the nuns in her convent and the pious people who normally frequented the Carmel, as being particularly favoured.

WITNESS 1: Armand-Constant Lemonnier

This was due to the exceptional blessings that she had received during her childhood and her religious life alike.  It was also said that she was favoured with special spiritual insights, either in terms of knowledge of Christian perfection or in terms of advising others.  I heard the community chaplain Father Youf say that he considered the lucidity, depth and theological solidity of the Servant of God’s teachings as extraordinary, and also humanly inexplicable in a young nun who had never had any specific training in spirituality.  This opinion in fact conformed to the community’s sentiment as it was expressed to me by several nuns.  She was also considered as a particularly fervent [234] nun, and as a true model, one whose faithfulness contrasted with the behaviour of even the most conscientious of nuns.  But as for saying that, at that time, she was considered “a saint” in the strict sense of the word, that is to say, worthy of being raised to the altars, I would not dare say.

 [Questioned as to the renown of the Servant of God’s virtues and miracles following her death, the witness replies]:

I am utterly convinced that the Servant of God is viewed throughout the world today as a saint, for both the heroic nature of her virtues and the efficacy of her intercession.  People are eagerly awaiting the Church’s verdict on her beatification and are in no doubt that this decision will be favourable.  This opinion is particularly widespread. I have heard it expressed not only by ordinary people but also by priests who are very enlightened on matters pertaining to spiritual life.

 [Do you know how, following the Servant of God’s death, the opinion as to the heroic nature of her virtues came into being? - Answer]:

Concerning her reputation for miracles and powerful intercession, those who have benefitted from such favours themselves noticed the efficacy of her protection and have spread renown of them.  As for the favourable appraisal of the heroic nature of her virtues, I believe that the basis for this opinion stems in part from conversations had with the Carmelites and those in contact with [235] the Carmel; but this reputation is above all based on the knowledge gained from reading the nun’s writings, especially Story of a Soul.

 [Do you think that this “Autobiography” is a document that genuinely expresses the truth? - Answer]:

I believe that this document truly expresses the Servant of God’s inner feelings.  I know that she wrote it only out of obedience; what is more, she was such a simple, righteous soul that I believe her utterly incapable of deception.

 [Did any form of tireless zeal intervene in favour of the Servant of God’s renown for holiness, or in order to hide her faults? - Answer]:

In terms of efforts taken to hide unfavourable traits of the Servant of God, I am very sure that there were none.  I know the Carmelite nuns and how pure their intentions are in all aspects of this matter.  They are incapable of acting of the sort.  As for the spread of the favourable reputation of virtues and miracles, the books that have been published have certainly heavily contributed to making the Servant of God known.  Yet as the substantive truth of these publications is, in my view, certain, it follows that what they divulged is true and although it could have remained hidden, no “artificial reputation” for holiness was created by this means.  Similarly, it was through the circulation of his books that Henri Lasserre, for example, largely contributed [236] to making known the miracles of Lourdes.

 [Answer to the fifty-eighth question]:

1stly I was not aware of there being any difference of opinion among the Carmelite community as regards the Servant of God’s merits during her lifetime.  It is true that I was in contact with the Carmel only at the time of the retreats.  I therefore cannot know all the details of what was said there, unlike the chaplain, for example, who lived in daily contact with the community.  However, from my conversations with Former Prioress Mother Marie de Gonzague, I can conclude that although the latter certainly had objections to “the Martin family” in general, and to Mother Agnes (Pauline Martin) in particular, she in fact professed only sentiments of high esteem for Sister Thérèse’s religious virtue.

2ndly I have heard nothing unfavourable said as to the Servant of God’s reputation for holiness since her death.

 [Answer to questions fifty-nine to sixty-five]:

I have indeed heard, from various sources, of numerous blessings and even miraculous favours having been obtained, but I have not had the opportunity to study any of them directly. Any observations on my part would be too vague and too indirect.

[237] [Answer to the sixty-sixth question]:

I have nothing to add.

 [As regards the Articles, the witness claims to know nothing other than what they have already reported in response to the preceding questions. - Here ends the questioning of this witness.  The Acts are read out.  The witness makes no alteration of them and signs as follows]:

Ita pro veritate deposui. ratum habeo et confirmo.

Signatum: A. LEMONNIER