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Witness 12 - Sister Saint‑Andrew O.S.B.

SISTER SAINT-ANDREW (EUGÉNIE BARBÉ), O. S. B.

As it has already been said (vol. I, p. 542), Sister Saint‑Andrew had nothing particularly significant to tell the court. When she arrived at the Abbey of Notre‑Dame du Pré in 1882 as a replacement lay school mistress, she had the opportunity to meet Thérèse, but never had her under her direct or immediate surveillance.

Born in Les Chapelles (Diocese of Laval) on 21st January 1863, she joined the Benedictine nuns in 1884 after having worked with them for over two years. She was professed in 1886 and elected prioress ten years later, on 18th August 1896, a position she occupied for almost forty years until the end of 1933 and in which she distinguished herself for her wisdom and prudence. She died on 24th August 1942, two years before the abbey was destroyed in the 1944 Lisieux bombings.

To encourage Sister Marie of the Trinity to trust boldy in God’s infinite mercy, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus dared to say to her, “God, Whom you have chosen for your Spouse, undoubtedly has all desirable perfections, but, if I may say so, He also has a great weakness, that of being blind! And there is one science to which He is a stranger, and that is maths...” O.P., f. 1070r, vol. I, pp. 453‑454). At this point it is appropriate to quote the passage from the testimony below: “(Thérèse) had a very open mind when it came to the majority of school subjects, except mathematics, which did not appeal to her. She was otherwise very studious and worked hard in general, even when studying maths, which she disliked. Every Sunday at least, I would personally attend her Catechism lessons, where she appeared to be absolutely in her element. It was very interesting to observe her, so captivated was she by the teaching...” (p. 960). There could be no better introduction to Father Domin’s “Little Doctor” of Catechism.

The witness testified on 15th September 1915, in the 48th sitting (pp. 958‑964 of the Public Transcription).

[Sitting 48: ‑ 15th September 1915, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.]

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

 [Answer to the second question:]

My name is Eugénie‑Virginie‑Marie Barbé, in religion Mother Saint-Andrew. I am a professed nun and Prioress of the Abbey of Notre‑Dame du Pré in Lisieux, which is a Benedictine Abbey, and was professed there on 22nd June 1886.

I was born on 21st January 1863 in La Chapelles, in the Diocese of Laval, to Michel Barbé, a farmer, and Anne Bigot.

 [The witness answers questions three to five inclusively satisfactorily].

 [Answer to the sixth question:]

I am driven by no sentiment that could sway me from the truth, and no one has exerted over [959] me any influence that could have me testify in one way rather than another.

 [Answer to the seventh question]:

The Servant of God joined our school in October 1881. I myself arrived, as a replacement mistress, in January 1882. I knew the Servant of God from this date until she left the school in January 1886. I was not her class mistress and, strictly speaking, never had her as a pupil, but as a result of the abbey rules, I often met her between classes, in the refectory and at recreation. The year after the Servant of God left our school, she would come back once or twice a week. Then she stopped coming to the abbey, and I lost contact with her.

 [Answer to the eighth question]:

When the Servant of God was with us, I did not strictly speaking have a particular affection for her, but I did admire her for her piety and faithfulness to duty. Today, I have a sincere devotion to her because I think she is pleasing to God. I dearly hope that her Cause will succeed, because I believe she loved God deeply.

[960] [Answer to the ninth question]:

I know nothing particular as regards the Servant of God’s early life.

 [Answer to the tenth question]:

The Servant of God was aged 8 and a few months when she came to us. She was a day boarder, which is to say she would come in the morning and go home in the evening. I therefore joined her at the school, as I said, when I myself arrived three months after her admission.

I do not have any personal knowledge as to her intelligence, because she was never in my class.

WITNESS 12: Sister Saint‑Andrew O.S.B.

I know only what I heard from the other teachers, which is that she had a very open mind when it came to the majority of school subjects, except mathematics, which did not appeal to her. She was otherwise very studious and worked hard in general, even when studying maths, which she disliked. Every Sunday at least, I would personally attend her Catechism lessons, where she appeared to be absolutely in her element. It was very interesting to observe her, so captivated was she by the teaching, and when questioned, her answers were always very pertinent.

Concerning faithfulness to the rule and obedience, she was truly heroic. Surveillance was difficult, especially [961] in the staircases and corridors, and her young schoolmates would often break the rule of silence and get up to mischief, as children do. She was so reverent and meticulously faithful that I reached the conclusion she must be scrupulous, but I realised later that she was acting out of sensitivity and heroism.

In her relationships with her school companions, she was very gentle. She did not enjoy noisy games very much, and at recreation she would give them little sermons or tell children’s stories.

Her piety was always very great, but I was particularly struck by her attitude on the day she took her First Communion, the 8th May 1884, when she looked truly angelic.

The Servant of God’s father withdrew her from school in January 1886, announcing that it was for health reasons. In any event, her departure was certainly neither desired nor provoked on our part. Besides, her acceptance into the association of the Children of Mary that was established in our school proves that she had given no cause for dissatisfaction. In order to obtain the title “Child of Mary,” she came back for lessons in manual tasks once or twice a week the following year. I noticed her immense piety on these occasions: when the lessons finished at half past 3, instead of staying to talk or play with her schoolmates while waiting for her parents to fetch her, she would go to the chapel rostrum, in a place where no one could see her, and stay there praying for an hour, sometimes two.

Admitting a pupil who had left the school into the association of the Children of Mary was contrary to convention. The chairwoman of the council said on this occasion, “I do not believe we shall regret having made an exception for Thérèse,” and the council voted unanimously in favour of her acceptance.

[Answer to questions eleven to fifty-five inclusively]:

As I said in answer to the seventh question, I was able to observe the Servant of God only for the five years that she attended the school; I know nothing personal with regards to the rest of her life.

 [Answer to the fifty-sixth question]:

I have heard from the people who stay in the convent hostel that the Servant of God’s burial place is rapidly becoming a pilgrimage site. Today, a considerable number of people can be seen there, at all hours of the day. The people who stay at the hostel are in general educated and very pious people.     

 [Answer to the fifty-seventh question]:

I have not heard that the Servant of God’s [963] renown for holiness spread beyond the convent walls during her lifetime. Yet since her death, there is no denying her reputation for holiness. All the pilgrims that stay in the hostel (about 200 a year) and who come from France, England, Belgium, etc. are of the conviction that she is a saint and pray to her as such. In the community we venerate her, pray faithfully to her, and follow her example. We are proud to have had her as a pupil.

 [Answer to the fifty-eighth question]:

I have never heard anyone express an opinion that was contrary to the Servant of God’s holiness.

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

Several of our nuns claim to have received spiritual favours through her intercession. These include insights, blessings of personal progress, and so on. I also hear accounts from outside the convent of spiritual graces, healings, and favours of all kinds, but I have no means of verifying them.

 [Answer to the sixty-sixth question]:

I have nothing to add.

[964] [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 to them and signs as follows]:

Signatum: SISTER SAINT-ANDREW O.S. B., witness. I have testified according to the truth. I hereby approve and confirm my statement.