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Witness 13 - Sister Saint Francis de Sales O.S.B.

 

Sister Saint Francis de Sales testified in the first Process. Born in Lisieux on 15th March 1848, Marie-Joséphine-Amélie Pierre was professed on 17th May 1871 at the Benedictine Abbey of Lisieux, where she fell asleep in the Lord on 25th February 1933. Thérèse’s class mistress from 1881 to 1883 and her religious education teacher from 1883 to 1886, she was in a position to give us a precious testimony as to Thérèse’s studies.

Confirming what Mother Saint Andrew, the Abbey Prioress, had already stated, the witness said of Thérèse, “As far as intelligence is concerned, she was very gifted, although she had followers in her class who equalled her. She was even a little weak when it came to maths and spelling. Yet in all respects, she was very diligent: with regards to work she was a model pupil... In religious instruction, she was always top of the class. She had a very avid mind for learning all things relating to religion: she had a passion for this subject and asked questions constantly, proving her great desire to learn and demonstrating that matters of God already meant everything to her” (p. 974).

On the subject of Sister Thérèse’s reputation for holiness, the witness implicitly responded to a widely held view: “I believe that the spread of her reputation for holiness is first and foremost due to providential intervention, and that no human means can suffice to explain it” (p. 977).

The testimony was given on 16th September 1915, in the 49th sitting (pp. 971978 of the public transcription).

[Sitting 49: 16th September 1915, at 9 o’clock.]

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

[972] [Answer to the second question:]

My name is Aurélie Pierre, in religion Mother Saint Francis de Sales. I am a professed nun of the Order of Saint Benedict in the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Pré in Lisieux, where I was professed on 17th May 1871. I was born on 15th March 1848 in Lisieux, Parish of Saint-Désir, to Edouard Pierre, a salesman, and Alexandrine Etienne.

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

 [Answer to the sixth question:]

I believe I placed myself in the presence of God in order to prepare my testimony, and was moved by no sentiment other than a desire to obey and to tell the truth. I have spoken about my testimony to nobody and nobody has mentioned it to me.

 [Answer to the seventh question]:

When the Servant of God joined our school in October 1881, I was her class mistress for a little over two years. In 1883, the state of my health obliged me to stop teaching, but I was tasked with religious instruction, and I therefore continued to have young Thérèse Martin under my direction until she left the school in January 1886.

I knew her family well, too, since two of her elder sisters, Léonie and Céline, had attended our school. Moreover, I was tasked with [973] the day to day running of the abbey; Mr Martin assisted us in this respect and I was quite often in contact with him. When the Servant of God joined the Carmelite convent, I lost contact with the family.

 [Answer to the eighth question]:

Even from the time when the Servant of God was my pupil, I recognised in her an innocence and piety that inspired me with respect. Now I pray to her every day in faith, although perhaps with less enthusiasm than some others.

I sincerely hope that her Cause will be successful, because I believe she has been called to exert a very redeeming influence upon souls through her “way of simplicity and surrender”. This way powerfully draws souls to God.

 [Answer to the ninth question]:

I know of events relating to this question only by reading her biography.

 [Answer to the tenth question]:

I remember that the Servant of God joined our school at the age of 8 and a half. As far as intelligence is concerned, she was very gifted, although she had followers in her class who equalled her. She was even a little weak when it came to maths and spelling.

WITNESS 13: Sister Saint Francis de Sales O.S.B.

Yet in all respects, she was very diligent: with regards to work she was [974] a model pupil.

As far as docility and behaviour are concerned, she was perfect. I never saw her break the rule in any way.

She was always full of deference and docility towards her teachers. As for actual affection, she sought this first and foremost from her family.

An example of her virtue that I noticed at the time, and which greatly edified me, is that she would meet criticism with an amiable smile, even when harsh and even hurtful comments were made by one teacher regarding the education the Servant of God received at home.

In religious instruction, she was always top of the class. She had a very avid mind for learning all things relating to religion: she had a passion for this subject and asked questions constantly, proving her great desire to learn and demonstrating that matters of God already meant everything to her. When I read Story of a Soul, I discovered her attitude in the Carmel, and found that her early childhood dispositions had developed with remarkable uniformity.

Regarding her relationships with her schoolmates, she was always of good character, and never showed ill-will to anyone, not even to those who gave her reason to complain. She also [975] demonstrated a desire to help her companions, and proved particularly affectionate to a child who came from a particularly difficult family background. However, her influence for good was not in fact very strong because of her shyness and dislike of games. This prevented her from mixing with her schoolmates.

I have heard it said in some quarters that Thérèse suffered bullying from her schoolmates. In truth, one such schoolmate who was devoid of good judgement was sometimes hurtful to her, and at times her class followers grew jealous of her success, as frequently happens in schools... but that is all: it would be exaggerating to call this bullying.

Piety was as though innate in the child, and her every deed, even the most childish one, was imbued with the thought of God. Her characteristic feature was her customary desire to “bring pleasure to God,” and she did so with the simplicity of a child that dotes upon their father.

I always knew her as simple and humble and I consider this a true miracle considering all the attention, affection and admiration she received from her family.

To speak of her First Communion is, in a sense, to leave this earth. Her preparatory retreat was very fervent. On the actual day of her First Communion, she looked heavenly, truly [976] angelic, and this struck even those who did not know her. She wept after receiving Holy Communion and her tears stemmed from a deep inner happiness.

The description in her autobiography of her dispositions on the day she was confirmed is perfectly accurate. She prepared for her Confirmation more fervently than any other child I’ve seen. When the retreat was inadvertently prolonged for a day, we thought we ought to give the children some recreation, but Thérèse played little, preferring to continue her preparation. She was confirmed on 14th June 1884.

The Servant of God left the school in January 1886 because the state of her health did not allow her to attend classes regularly.

She would come back, however, once or twice a week for lessons in manual tasks. I noticed that when this lesson was over, she did not stay and talk to her companions or teachers. Very often she would go to the chapel rostrum and pray to God.

She was admitted into the association of the Children of Mary, and was the jewel in its crown.

 [Answer to questions eleven to fifty-six exclusively]:

I know nothing about any of this except for what is published in her biography or public knowledge: I have no personal or direct knowledge.

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

I do not know whether the Servant of God’s reputation for holiness developed during her lifetime.

Since her death, we have had several hundred people come here, to our hostel, every year for the sole purpose of demonstrating their devotion to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, whom they regard as a saint. People constantly request to visit our chapel, where she took her First Communion, and the small chapel where she joined the Children of Mary, and also where we display all the keepsakes we have of her.

I believe that the spread of her reputation for holiness is first and foremost due to providential intervention, and that no amount of human means can suffice to explain it.

 [Answer to the fifty-eighth question]:

I have heard some people criticise the commotion being made over this Cause, but I have never heard anyone question the Servant of God’s holiness in any way whatsoever.

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

In the community, there are very few nuns who have not received spiritual favours after praying to the Servant of God, especially blessings of personal progress, deliverance from inner troubles, and so on.

Pilgrims who stay with us and people [978] I meet in the visiting room have often told me about favours of a more temporal nature, such as healings, and heavenly protection in family matters. However I myself have not verified any of these miracles.

 [Answer to the sixty-sixth question]:

I believe I have said everything.

WITNESS 13: Sister Saint Francis de Sales O.S.B.

 [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 FRANCIS DE SALES O.S.B.