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Witness 17 - Marie of the Trinity and of the Holy Face, O.C.D.


Sister Marie of the Trinity was Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus’ favourite novice.

Marie-Louise-Joséphine Castel was born in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives (Diocese of Bayeux) on 12th August 1874, and was the thirteenth of nineteen children. She grew up in Paris and thought about religious life early on. She joined the Carmelite convent in avenue Messine, in Paris, on 30th April 1891 under the name Agnès of Jesus and received the Habit on 12th May 1892, but had to leave on 8th July 1893 for health reasons. Her home environment being more favourable, she applied to the Carmel of Lisieux, which she entered as a postulant on 16th June 1894. She kept the name Marie-Agnès of the Holy Face, and then became Marie of the Trinity in 1896, for the feast day of the Holy Shroud.  

“Her rather nonconformist tone, her roguish appearance and, above all, the first failure she endured” wrote Fr. Piat, “lent her a certain aura of defiance in the community. For this reason she was put under the direction of Sister Thérèse, who took her in hand, to the point of considering her at one time as her ‘unique novice’…Her [Thérèse’s] task… was hardly… easy. She had to overcome her overly lighthearted and painfully emotional nature, and a disconcerting instability and vivacity. Yet Thérèse could see that a temperament such as hers offered her the opportunity of putting her little doctrine to work. Her pupil would not be ungrateful.” (Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux à la découverte de la voie d'enfance, cf. 7, p. 172.) Sister Thérèse was particularly fond of her and, as Marie of the Trinity would later say during the Trials, Thérèse confessed to the novice that she personally counted the day of her Profession (30.IV.1896) “among the most beautiful days of her life.”

Marie of the Trinity’s testimony reveals in a natural and spontaneous style how the Saint trained the novices and how she was able to interact with the witness appropriately, exercising true spiritual wisdom.

The text “Conseils et souvenirs” (“Counsels and Reminiscences”), which appeared for the first time in the second edition of Story of a Soul (1899), was for the most part written by Marie of the Trinity (cf. p. 1070v). “The player of ninepins on the Mountain of Carmel” was Marie, as was the novice who, on Thérèse’s order, had to collect her tears in a shell every time she wanted to cry, which was not rare.

In Thérèse’s encouraging presence, Marie of the Trinity offered herself as a victim to Merciful Love on 30th November 1895, increasingly confiding in the Saint who trained her to follow her way of trust and surrender, as the note written on 12th August 1897 shows: “May your life be one of humility and love so that soon you can follow me where I’m going… into the arms of Jesus!” This assistant nurse, too young to assist Thérèse on a regular basis in her last illness, was nevertheless able to approach her frequently and therefore listen to and take in her teachings up until the very end.  

Of a positive nature and good at sums, she proved to be a precious aid when it came to organizing the sale of books about her former Mistress, and she became her first archivist at the monastery.

During the last years of her life, she admirably endured a painful illness and continued to work as much as she could. She died on 16th January 1944.

The witness testified on 13th-15th March 1911, in sessions 64-66, pp. 1066-1101r of our Public Copy.

[Session 64: - 13th March 1911, at 8:30am and at 2pm]

[1066r] [The witness answers the first question correctly].

[Answer to the second question]:

My name is Marie-Louise Castel, in religion Sister Marie of the Trinity and of the Holy Face. I was born in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives (Diocese of Bayeux) on 12th August 1874, of the legitimate marriage of Victor Castel and Léontine Lecomte. I am a professed nun of the Carmelite convent of Lisieux, which I entered on 16th June 1894 and where I made my Profession on 30th April 1896.

[The witness correctly answers questions three to six].

[Answer to the seventh question]:

I testify in the presence of God [1066v] and as my conscience dictates. My heart is free from all human sentiment, as is my mind.

[Answer to the eighth question]:

I personally knew the Servant of God for the last three years of her life, that is to say from the moment I entered the Carmelite convent of Lisieux until 1897. Our relationship was very close, because she was given to me as an “angel”. Her advice helped me enormously and I sought her conversation. She, in turn, was very good to me and very communicative. In preparation for my testimony I took into account my personal memories from those three years. Reading the “Story of a Soul” taught me all but nothing, because the Servant of God shared many details of her spiritual life with me.

[Answer to the ninth question]:

I have a very great devotion for Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. My devotion is the result of her holiness. I hope and ask God that she will be beatified because I’m confident that she will be an example to [1067r] simple souls and that she will make God further known and loved.

[Answer to questions ten to seventeen inclusive]:

I didn’t know the Servant of God during the years preceding her Profession at the Carmelite convent.

[Answer to the eighteenth question]:

When I entered the Carmelite convent in 1894, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had already been a professed nun for about four years. However, at her request, she remained in the novitiate where the Holy Rule was more strictly applied. Mother Agnès of Jesus, who was then Prioress, knew that the Servant of God’s advice and example would be very useful to me, and therefore tasked her to direct us and above all to correct our faults. The title of Novice Mistress then belonged to Mother Marie de Gonzague, the former prioress. Reelected prioress in 1896, Mother Marie de Gonzague kept the title of Novice Mistress and left to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus ther role of assistant in training the novices.

[1067v] [Answer to the nineteenth question]:

I didn’t know that during her lifetime the Servant of God, out of obedience, wrote the “Story of her Soul”. The only written works I knew about were the poems and short plays she wrote for our feast days. When she died, I read “Story of a Soul” and I was struck by how perfectly conform this work was with what she had told me and with my personal observations of her life.  

[Answer to the twentieth question]:

Having done no studies whatsoever, I wouldn’t be able to explain what heroic virtues are. Yet I think I understand the term without being able to explain it. It’s pushing the practice of virtues beyond the normal limits. I sincerely feel that Sister Thérèse’s holiness exceeded what we see in even the most fervent of nuns. What people say about her now, even her own blood sisters, seems to me to always understate what I noticed. Since she corrected me of my faults, I in turn wanted to find [1068r] some imperfection in her to reassure myself; but I never succeeded.

[Answer to the twenty-first question]:

ON FAITH. – It was easy to see that God’s presence never left Sister Thérèse. It was easily visible from the perfection and care she took in all her acts. She deserved all the more credit for acting the way she did, for the community was in a state of confusion at the time on account of Mother Marie de Gonzague’s regrettable management. She could have let herself go like the others, and done things any old how. I very often thought how largely she deserved the praise we offered to certain saints during the Divine Office: “Blessed are those who were able to transgress the law and did not do so” - *Ec. 31:10 -. She couldn’t bear me being the slightest bit negligent. On one particular day, seeing that our bed cover was completely askew, she criticized me severely, saying that to do such things I could hardly have been united to God. She corrected me as follows: “Then what are you doing in a Carmelite convent, if you can’t act with inner spirit…?” – Primary source -'. Yet [1068v] as soon as she saw I recognized my errors, her tone softened and she spoke to me, as might a saint, of the merits of faith, and of the faithfulness Jesus expects from our love after all the signs he has given us of his own love. In all her dealings with me during my novitiate, she never  sought my affection in a human way. However, my heart always belonged to her entirely, and I felt that the more I loved her, the more I also loved God, and if on certain days my love for her grew colder, I felt my love for God do the same. I thought this strange and couldn’t find a reason for it, until one day she gave me a picture, on the back of which she had written the following words of Saint John of the Cross: “When the love that someone has for an individual is purely spiritual, and born of God alone, as it grows, so too does the love of God in the soul…” - The Dark Night, book I, ch. 4 -. I couldn’t help but believe she had read my thoughts in copying such an appropriate passage. Not once did I share my troubles with her and not make great spiritual progress as a result: “The principal cause of your suffering, and your struggles” she said, “comes from you seeing things too much from an earthly [1069r] angle and not enough from spiritual viewpoints. Too often you seek satisfaction in all things. And yet, did you know, you’ll find happiness when you’re no longer looking for it.”

Her faith in her Superiors, God’s representatives, was remarkable. Whoever they were, she respected them and trusted them. “When we act with them in a spirit of faith” she said, “God never allows us to be mistaken.” When Mother Marie de Gonzague was Prioress, she forbade me to criticize her. I sometimes called her “the wolf”, but Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus always corrected me in the same spirit of faith. Coming across me one day as I was on my way to see our Mother for spiritual counseling, she stopped me and said: “Have you thought to recommend your Superior to God? It’s very important to renew one’s spirit of faith when meeting them, and to pray that our Mother Prioress’ words may be for us the instrument of God’s will. If you haven’t done this, you’ll be wasting your time.” – Primary source -

 

While she was sacristan, I witnessed the spirit of faith with which she performed her duties. She told me how happy she was to have, like priests, the privilege of touching the sacred chalices. She would kiss them respectfully and make me kiss the large Host that was to be consecrated. She was overjoyed the day when, on removing the little golden paten from the communion table, she saw that a sizeable piece of it had fallen off. I met her in the cloister carrying her precious treasure which she carefully protected. “Follow me” she said, “I’m carrying Jesus.” Once in the sacristy, she solemnly placed the paten on a table, and told me to pray beside her until the priest she had called for arrived. She had an ardent thirst for Holy Communion, and her greatest trial was not being able to take it every day. She would have suffered anything rather than miss a single Communion. On one day chosen for Communion, as she was very ill, she received the order from our Mother Prioress to take some medicine. Now, it was usual that in such cases Communion was dropped. On hearing this decision, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus dissolved into tears and pleaded her case to the Mother Prioress so adeptly, that not only did she obtain permission to take her medicine after Mass, but also, from that day on, the custom to drop Communion in these circumstances [1070r] was abolished.  

ON HOPE. – Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus made the following words by Saint John of the Cross her own: “You obtain from God as much as you hope for” – St. John of the Cross, poem -, and she often repeated them to me. I asked her one day whether Our Lord was not displeased at the sight of my many failings. This was her answer: “Be comforted, for He Whom you have chosen as your spouse has every imaginable perfection; but – dare I say it? – He has one infirmity too – He is blind! And there is a science about which he knows nothing – adding up!... Were it necessary that He should be clear-sighted, and familiar with the science of figures, do you not think that, confronted with our many sins, He would send us back into nothingness? But His Love for us makes Him positively blind. If the greatest sinner on earth should repent at the moment of his death, and draw his last breath in an act of love, neither the many graces he had abused, nor the numerous crimes he had committed, would stand in his way. Our Lord would see nothing, count nothing, but the sinner’s last prayer, and without delay He would receive him into the arms of His Mercy.” – Counsels and Reminiscences -.

[1070v] [Do you know why and how it is that your testimony corresponds word for word with the text in “Story of a Soul”, published in 8 000 copies, under the title “Counsels and Reminiscences”, pages 275 etc.]:

What was added to the complete edition of “Story of a Soul” under the title “Counsels and Reminiscences”, was for the most part taken from the notes I myself wrote based on my memories, and which I am using again today in my deposition.

[Continuation of the answer]:

On one occasion, the Servant of God tested me when talking about the “little way of spirituality” she had taught me, by saying: “When I’m dead, and you’ve no one to encourage you to follow ‘my little way of trust and love’, you’ll abandon it no doubt?” “Surely not” I replied, “I believe in it so firmly that I think if the Pope told me you were mistaken, I would be incapable of believing him.” “Oh,” she replied sharply, “you must above all believe the Pope! But you needn’t fear him coming to tell you to change path, I won’t give him enough time, for if I learn on entering heaven that I’ve mislead you, I’ll obtain permission from God to immediately [1071r] come and inform you. Until that happens, believe that my way is right and follow it faithfully.”

[Continuation of the answer to the twenty-first question]:

One day I asked the Servant of God how she prepared for her Communions. She replied: “At the moment of Communion I sometimes liken my soul to that of a little child of three or four, whose hair has been ruffled and clothes soiled at play. This is a picture of what befalls me in my struggling with souls. But Our Blessed Lady comes promptly to the rescue, takes off my soiled pinafore, and arranges my hair, adorning it with a [1071v] pretty ribbon or a simple flower.... Then I am quite charming, and able, without any shame, to seat myself at the Banquet of Angels.” - Counsels and Reminiscences -. “When you’re ill” she said, “simply tell the Mother Prioress, then surrender yourself to God, without worrying whether you’ll be treated or not. You have done your duty by telling someone, that’s sufficient; the rest is not up to you, but to God. If He lets you lack something, it’s a grace, and means He trusts that you are strong enough to suffer a little for Him.” As I was an assistant nurse, I observed that she followed that line of action to the letter. She would never have said she was suffering, if we didn’t press her. Nothing cost her more than seeing us nurse her. She entrusted her condition to God, and that was enough. “One evening,” she said, “the nurse placed a hot-water bottle on my feet, and some tincture of iodine on my chest. I was consumed with a fever, and a burning thirst was devouring me. Whilst submitting to these remedies, I couldn’t resist complaining to Our Lord: 'My Jesus, You are my witness, I am burning, and they bring me still more heat and fire! Oh! if only I had in place of all this a glass of water, what a comfort it would have been!. . . My Jesus! your little child is very [1072r] thirsty! However she’s happy to find the opportunity of lacking what is necessary in order to resemble You better and to save souls.' The nurse soon left me, and I did not expect to see her again until the following morning, when to my surprise she returned a few moments later, bringing me a refreshing drink… Oh! how good Jesus is! how sweet it is to confide in Him!" – SS ch.12 -. When I had family difficulties, she would say: “

Entrust their sufferings to God and worry no longer: everything will turn out for the best. If you yourself worry, God won’t, and you will deprive those dear to you of graces you would have obtained for them through your surrender.”

ON CHARITY TOWARDS GOD. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus transformed all her actions, even the most trivial ones, into acts of love. She constantly urged me to do the same and suggested I offer myself, as she had, as a victim to God’s merciful love. I often saw her shed tears telling me about Jesus’ love for us and about her own desire to love Jesus and make him loved. [1072v] I caused her much pain one day by not wanting to acknowledge my faults when she reproached me. Since the bell was calling us, we hurriedly parted company to go to a community gathering. I then began to regret my behaviour and, nearing her, I softly said: “It was most malicious of me earlier…” Before I could say anything else I saw her eyes fill up with tears. Looking at me very tenderly, she said: “Never have I more clearly understood the love with which Jesus receives us when we seek His forgiveness. If I, His poor little creature, feel so tenderly towards you when you come back to me, what must pass through Our Lord’s Divine Heart when we return to Him!” - Counsels and Reminiscences -.

 

She had a gift for taking advantage of everything to nourish the fire of divine love in her heart. I told Sister Therese of the strange phenomena produced by magnetism on those who surrender their will to the hypnotizer. The next day, she said to me: “How I long to be hypnotized by Our Lord! It was my waking thought, and verily it was sweet to surrender Him my will. I want Him to take possession of my faculties in such a way that my acts may no more be mine, or [1073r] human, but Divine – inspired and guided by the Spirit of Love.” - Counsels and Reminiscences -.    

One day, I told her I was going to explain her “little way of love” to all my relatives and friends, and have them make her “Act of Oblation” so that they could go straight to heaven. She said: “If you do, you must be very careful! For our little way ill-explained or misunderstood could be taken to be quietism or illuminism.” I was surprised to hear these words that were unknown to me and I asked her what they meant. She therefore told me about a certain Madame Guyon who had strayed onto an erroneous path, adding: “People must not think that our 'little way' is a restful one, full of sweetness and consolation. It's quite the opposite. To offer oneself as a victim to love is to offer oneself to suffering, because love lives only on sacrifice; so, if one is completely dedicated to loving, one must expect to be sacrificed unreservedly.”

I will always regret not having taken notes of all the enlightenments that she received in prayer and then told me about when directing my soul. It was with unprecedented ease that she interpreted the books of Holy Scripture. You would have thought that these divine books had no more secrets from her if you saw her ability to [1073v] discover all the beauties within. One day during quiet prayer she was particularly struck by this passage from the Canticle of Canticles where the Bridegroom says to his beloved: “We will make you chains of gold, studded with silver” – *Sgs 1:10 -. “Isn’t it strange?” she said, “we would understand it if the Bridegroom said: we will make you necklaces of silver, studded with gold, or necklaces of gold, studded with precious stones, for valuable jewelry is not usually decorated with a metal of inferior quality. Jesus has given me the key to the mystery: He made me understand that the gold necklaces were love, charity, but that the gold necklaces didn’t please him as much as when they were studded with silver, that is to say, with simplicity and a spirit of childhood. Oh!” she added, completely enthralled, “who could say the value that God puts on simplicity, for it is only simplicity that is considered as worthy to enhance the shine of charity?”

“I used to want to be very wealthy,” Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus said to me one day “so that I’d have the joy of sacrificing all the pleasures I’d have been able to buy myself. God, who grants all my desires, fulfilled this one too: When I was taking my Profession, I learnt that a company in which my father had placed a large sum of money was about to become   successful. I can’t describe how happy I was to be able, in offering [1074r] myself to Jesus, to sacrifice the fortune I could have expected at that time.”

Her love of God conferred her with an ardent zeal for saving souls, and particularly those of priests. She offered all her merits for their sanctification and urged me to do the same. She called sinners “her children” and took her title as “their mother” seriously. She loved them passionately and worked for them with tireless dedication. One washing-day I was sauntering towards the laundry, and looking at the flowers as I passed. Sister Thérèse was following, and quickly overtook me: “Is that,” she said quietly, “how people hurry themselves when they have children, and are obliged to work to procure them food?” Pulling me along, she said: “Come along, come with me and let’s hurry, because if we amuse ourselves our children shall die of hunger” - Counsels and Reminiscences -'. She also said: “While in the world, I used, on waking, to think of all the pleasant and unpleasant things which might happen throughout the day, and if I foresaw nothing but worries I got up with a heavy heart. Now it is quite the reverse. I think of the pains and of the sufferings awaiting me, and I rise, feeling all the more courageous and light of heart [1074v] in proportion to the opportunities I foresee of proving my love for Our Lord, and of gaining my children’s livelihood. Then I kiss my crucifix, and laying it gently on my pillow, I leave it there while I dress and I say: ‘My Jesus, Thou hast toiled and wept enough during Thy three-and-thirty years on this miserable earth. Rest Thee, to-day! It is my turn to suffer and fight.’” - Counsels and Reminiscences -.

In her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus asks our Lord to always stay in her heart in the sacramental form, as in the tabernacle. These are her words: “I know, O my God! that the more You want to give, the more You make us desire. I feel in my heart immense desires and it is with confidence I ask You to come and take possession of my soul. I cannot receive Holy Communion as often as I desire, but, Lord, are You not all-powerful? Remain in me as in a tabernacle and never separate Yourself from Your little host” - Pri 6 - . I personally am of the intimate conviction that her prayer was answered. On this subject, she said: “If God inspired me to say this prayer, it’s because He wants to answer it… God will accomplish wonders for His ‘little victims [1075r] of love’…but it is in faith that they shall be worked, otherwise they can’t live.” In the canticle she composed for my Profession and which was printed with her poems under the title “I Thirst for Love”, there is a stanza which begins as follows:

Thou, the great God Whom earth and heaven adore,
Thou dwellest a prisoner for me night and day; - PN 31 12 -

One Sister remarked that she must have made a mistake and that she had meant to say “you live for me, etc.”, but she replied: “No, I said it right” and threw me a glance as if to say: “we understand one another.”

ON CHARITY TOWARDS ONE’S NEIGHBOUR. – Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had a very compassionate heart when it came to her neighbour’s suffering and demonstrated it on every occasion. She said to me: “When I see one of our Sisters suffering, and I don’t have permission to speak to her, I pray that Jesus console her Himself.” She invited me to do the same, assuring me that it pleased Jesus. More than once I noticed that when doing communal work, she would prefer to work alongside Sisters who looked a little sad. As she wasn’t allowed to speak, she smiled [1075v] affectionately at them and sought to assist them any way she could. There was one Sister who was afflicted with the blackest melancholy (she has since left the monastery). Nobody was ever able to work with her. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus took compassion on this poor soul, and discovering in her a magnificent opportunity to immolate herself for God, beseeched our Mother to assign her to the Sister so that she could help her in her duties. This heroic act cost her much suffering but she bore it with unflagging humility and gentleness.  

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was second Extern Sister for two or three years. Her first Extern Sister was an elderly albeit very good nun, but whose temperament was enough to make an angel lose patience, and who was desperately slow and on top of that had a lot of quirks. One day when I’d lost my patience with her, she said that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had never spoken to her like that. I went to inform the Servant of God of this, who replied: “Be gentle with her, she’s sick. What’s more, it’s charitable to let her think she’s helping us, and it gives us an opportunity to practice [1076r] patience. If you are already complaining after just a few words, what would you do if like me you had to listen to her all day? Well! You can do what I do, it’s really easy: all you have to do is pacify your soul with charitable thoughts; after that, you’re so full of peace that you no longer feel any annoyance.”

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus said: “during recreation, more than at any other time, we should find opportunities for practicing virtue. If you wish to draw great profit, do not go with the idea of it being a time of relaxation for yourself, but rather with the intention of entertaining others.” - Counsels and Reminiscences -. She put absolutely everything she told me into practice, and I noticed that she sought only to be pleasant to others, which she did so amiably that you might have thought it was for pleasure. When a Sister was needed for a tedious and tiring task, she always volunteered. She was particularly ingenious at putting herself forward for washing duty. One day I asked her which was better, going to rinse in cold water or staying in the laundry room to wash with hot water. She replied: “That’s not difficult! When it’s hard for you [1076v] go to the cold water, it’s a sign that it’s also hard for others; so go ahead. If, on the other hand, it’s hot outside, it’s better to stay in the laundry room. By taking the worst places, we practice both mortification and charity, since we leave others with the best.” After that, I understood why when it was hot I would see her go to the laundry room, and to the precise spot where there was the least air. I witnessed the heroic acts of charity she performed for the holy nun that she talks about in her Life Story (page 172) - MSC 13,2-14,1 and who had a gift for thoroughly displeasing her. She showed her such great affection that one would have thought she was particularly fond of her.      

She wanted me to have a purely spiritual love for our Sisters and particularly for our Mother Prioress. On one occasion, I had seen Mother Prioress showing, as I thought, more confidence and affection to one of our Sisters than she extended to me. Expecting to win sympathy, I told my trouble to Sister Thérèse, and great was my surprise when she put me the question: “Do you think you love our Mother very much?” “Certainly!” [1077r] I replied, “Otherwise I would be indifferent if others were preferred to me.” “Well. I shall prove that you are absolutely mistaken, and that it’s not our Mother that you love, but yourself. When we really love others, we rejoice at their happiness, and we make every sacrifice to procure it. Therefore if you had this true, disinterested affection, and loved our Mother for her own sake, you would be glad to see her find pleasure even at your expense; and since you think she has less satisfaction in talking with you than with another Sister, you ought not to grieve at being apparently neglected.” As she was talking to me, I began to understand, for the first time, what selfless love was, and I realized that until then I had never known how to love.

[Session 65: - 14th March 1911, at 8:30am and at 2pm]

[1079r] [Continuation of the answer to the twenty-first question]:

ON PRUDENCE. – One might have said that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had years of experience, for she was of the most consumate prudence. And yet there were often delicate situations, because of the precautions that had to be taken to avoid provoking Mother Marie de Gonzague’s touchiness, and also because of certain troublemakers who at the time prevailed in the community. [1079v] She had a sound and right answer to all my difficulties, and she would unhesitatingly show me clearly what I had to do to accomplish the will of God. One day, I intended to deprive myself of Holy Communion owing to a fault that I deeply repented. I wrote to her telling her of my resolution, and this is the note she sent me: “Little flower cherished by Jesus, it is amply sufficient that by the humiliation of your soul your roots feed of the earth… You must open a little, or rather raise on high your corolla so that the Bread of Angels may come as divine dew to strengthen you, and to give you all you are lacking of." – LT 240 -.

At the end of a long retreat, I spoke to her about my resolutions and the new fervour that was stirring within me. But she said: “Be careful. I’ve always noticed that hell is furious with souls who emerge from retreats. The demons… unite to… make us fall as soon as we take our first steps, in order to discourage us. Then, once fallen, we say: How can I keep my resolutions if already… I have been wanting in them? If we reason like this, the demons have won. You must therefore, every time they topple you, pick yourself up again, unsurprised, and humbly say to Jesus: Even if they have made me fall, I [1080r] am not beaten, here I am standing again, ready to wage battle afresh for your love. Then Jesus, being touched by your goodwill, will himself be your strength.” One day, I intended to deprive myself of quiet prayer to devote myself to a pressing duty. She said: “unless there is an extreme urgency, never ask for permission to miss community activities for whatever duty. This type of devotion cannot please Jesus. True devotion is not wasting a minute and dedicating yourself entirely to your duties during the hours reserved for work.” My excessive sensitivity meant that I often cried and mostly for trifles. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus waged a constant war with this impressionability, seeking any means to make me strong and virile.    

One day, I was anxious she should congratulate me on what, in my eyes, was a heroic act of virtue; but she said to me: “What a shame you acted in this way! When I think of all the wisdom, all the graces that Jesus grants you, you would have been very wrong to act differently. Compare this little act of virtue with what our Lord has the right to expect of you! Rather should you humble yourself for having lost so many opportunities of proving your love.” – Counsels and Reminiscences -. Her sharp reply taught me a valuable lesson. Even now she prevents me from becoming proud when I do something right. One feast day, in the refectory, they had forgotten to give me my dessert. After dinner, I went to see Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus in the infirmary and, finding my neighbour at table there, I made her understand in no uncertain terms that I had been forgotten. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, having heard this, made me go and tell the Sister in charge of the food, and when I begged her not to impose this on me, she said: “No, this shall be your penance; you’re not worthy of the sacrifices God is asking of you. He was the one behind your being deprived of dessert, for it was He who permitted them to forget. He believed you were generous enough to make this sacrifice, and you aren’t measuring up to His expectations when going to claim it.” I can say that her lesson bore fruit and forever cured me of any desire to do it again. In the interviews I had with her, I couldn’t help but admire her tact and delicacy. She never asked me any embarrassing or probing questions, even under the pretext of doing me good. I’ve more than once noticed the truthfulness with which she wrote her Life Story [1081r] (page 184): “When I speak to a novice, I try to do this as a mortification and I refrain from asking questions simply to satisfy my curiosity… for it seems to me we can do no good when we seek ourselves” - MSC 32v -.      

ON JUSTICE. – Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had a particular devotion for the Divine Office. One recommendation she insisted upon was good conduct in the choir. She never tired of repeating that when in the presence of the King of kings, I couldn’t be the slightest bit sloppy. And I noticed how irreproachable her conduct was. She would move as little as possible and touch neither her face nor clothes. “These little acts of submission” she said, “move God tremendously. It pleases Him to note that we are mindful of Him and respect Him.” Her devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus was immense. She constantly spoke to me about her desire to resemble him. Very happy to see the same devotion in me, and also in Sister Geneviève, my companion in the novitiate, she composed a consecration to the Holy Face for the three of us, as well as a canticle on the same subject. These two works were published in the complete [1081v] edition of “Story of a Soul” (pages 304 and 375) - Pri 12 and PN 20 -. She loved praying The Way of the Cross. “The soul draws so much profit from it, and souls in purgatory so much relief” she said “that my devotion would be, if I could, to say it every day.”        

Her devotion to Mary was touching; she appealed to her in all difficulties and urged me to do likewise. When I went to her for counseling and had burdens I was reluctant to share, she would lead me to the miraculous statue that had smiled at her in her childhood and say: “It is not to me that you will say what is weighing you down, but to the Blessed Virgin. Come along, tell her quickly!” She stood next to me listening to everything I said, and when I had finished, she had me kiss Mary’s hand, gave me her advice, and I felt peace return to my soul. She had a filial affection for our Mother Saint Teresa and our Father Saint John of the Cross. The latter’s works especially inflamed her with love. Yet, above all else, it was the Holy Gospel and Holy Scripture that she constantly quoted and with such accuracy that you would think her conversations were but a commentary on the Holy Books. [1082r] The Servant of God had a special cult for the Holy Angels and she said that out of respect for them we always had to have a dignified appearance. She couldn’t bear to see the slightest tension on my face, such as a furrow in my brow. “The face is the mirror of the soul”, she said, “and yours, like that of a contented little child, should always be calm and serene. Even when alone, be cheerful, remembering always that you are in the sight of Angels.” As far as she was concerned, all the saints deserved special affection. She thought of herself as their child and liked asking them for “their twofold love” - *Cfr. 2 R 2, 9 -, as she states in her Life Story (page 215) - MSB 4r -. Those whom she loved the most were: the Holy Innocents, Saint Agnes, Saint Cecilia, Blessed Théophane Vénard, and Blessed Joan of Arc. She often quoted their examples and encouraged me to imitate them.    

ON STRENGTH. – Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had unparalleled courage. She followed the Holy Rule unto exhaustion without the Prioress Mother Marie de Gonzague even noticing. Even though it is painful to relate these truths that are [1082v] almost incredible, I must nevertheless do so to demonstrate her virtue and how much she suffered. We can already infer a great deal from the book about her life, notably in the passage where she describes the joy she felt on Good Friday 1896 when she so easily obtained permission from Mother Marie de Gonzague to continue practicing the penances prescribed for Holy Week, even though she had just, for the first time, coughed up blood (page 157) - MSC 5r -. Therefore, on that Good Friday, she fasted all day, only eating like us a piece of dry bread and drinking nothing but water. Moreover, she kept cleaning all day. Seeing her washing tiles with her pale and haggard face moved me so deeply that I begged her to let me do her duty, but she didn’t want me to.  

That evening, like us she took the discipline for the duration of three Misereres. This treatment did her so much good that she coughed up blood again. From that day on, she grew more and more ill, but this didn’t detract from her customary gentleness. As assistant nurse, I can’t tell you how much I suffered not being able to alleviate her pain as I would have wanted to. When I went, without her knowing, to ask [1083r] Mother Marie de Gonzague for permission to let the Servant of God rest during Matins, she turned my request down saying: “never have I seen young people going on about their aches and pains as you do!

 

We would never have missed Matins in the past!... If Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus can’t bear it any longer she can come and tell me so herself!” There was no risk of the Servant of God going to complain, and when I saw how tired she was, she begged me not to say anything: “Our Mother knows I’m tired,” she said, “it’s my duty to tell her what I feel, and if she is happy to let me follow community practices, it is because she’s inspired by God who wants to grant my desire not to stop but continue to the very end.” She did indeed continue until all her strength was drained. On the eve of the day she would never get out of bed again, she still came to the evening recreation.

It wasn’t only in illness that the Servant of God proved her strength. No distressing event was able to disturb the serenity of her soul. While Mother Agnès of Jesus was prioress (1893-1896), Mother Marie de Gonzague’s constant hurtful conduct revealed her irritable and jealous temperament. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus didn’t lose her usual composure despite the painful repercussions she felt upon seeing “her little mother” so unhappy. “She will certainly have the martyr’s crown in heaven” she told me, “she’s a saint, that’s why God doesn’t spare her.” We were talking one day about the joy of martyrdom and about our hope of becoming martyrs as a result of the religious persecutions. She said to me: “Personally, I already practice suffering joyfully; for example, when we take discipline I imagine that I am taking the executioner’s blows as a Confessor of the Faith. Then, the more I hurt myself, the more joyful I appear. I act in the same way for all other corporal sufferings: instead of letting my face crease up in pain, I smile.” Another time, with her face beaming, she came to tell me: “Our Mother has just told me that persecution against religious communities is tightening everywhere. What joy! God is going to make my greatest dream come true! When I think that we’re living in an age of martyrdom! Ah! Let us not bother any more with life’s little problems, let us endeavour to bear them generously so that we might deserve such an [1084r] immense grace!”  

One day, as I was in tears, Sister Thérèse told me to avoid the habit of allowing others to see the trifles that worried me, adding that nothing made community life more trying than an unevenness of temper.. “You are indeed right,” I answered, “such was my own thought. Henceforward my tears will be for God alone. I shall confide my worries to one who will understand and console me.” “Tears for God!” she promptly replied, “that must not be. Far less to Him than to creatures ought you to show a mournful face. Our Divine Master has only our monasteries where He may obtain some solace for His Heart. He comes to us in search of rest – to forget the unceasing complaints of His friends in the world, who, instead of appreciating the value of the Cross, receive it far more often with moans and tears. Would you then be like the common run of people? Frankly, this is not disinterested love. . . . It is for us to console our Lord, and not for Him to console us. His Heart is so tender that if you cry He will dry your tears; but thereafter He will go away sad, not having found in you a resting-place for his divine head. Our Lord loves the glad heart, the children that greet him with a smile. When will you learn how to hide your troubles from Him, or tell Him gaily that you are happy to suffer for Him?” – Counsels and Reminiscences -  

[1084v] [Continuation of the answer to the twenty-first question]:

ON TEMPERANCE. - Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus kept her mortification very hidden and yet she practiced it continually. She went about community life with such simplicity that she never drew attention to herself. But I, who was still living with her and received her advice, couldn’t help but admire her in all circumstances. Never did I see her commit the slightest imperfection and I always saw her do what she believed was the most perfect. In the refectory she ate everything indifferently, and sitting next to her, even though I paid [1085r] great attention, I could never distinguish [1085r] what she liked or didn’t like, or what could upset her. It was not until shortly before her death, when the nurse forced her to say what suited her best, that she admitted that certain foods always upset her, and I’d seen her eat them every time she was served them with the same indifference as any other dish. She advised me not to mix foods to make them taste better. “We must act as the poor do” she said. She also advised me not to lean against the wall: the tables are so close to the wall that unless we pay great attention we naturally lean against it. She also urged me to end my meals on something that doesn’t delight the taste buds. “These little trifles don’t attack your health” she said, “they don’t draw attention to us and they have the advantage of not allowing our souls to relax and of keeping them in a spiritual state.” It is needless to repeat at this point what I should say on every page of this testimony, which is that the Servant of God never gave us any advice without practicing it herself very precisely.

She admitted to me that the corporal [1085v] mortification she had found most trying in the convent was the cold. “I suffered from it so much” she said, “that I thought it wasn’t possible to suffer more.” Yet it was without allowing herself the slightest solace that she bore it. I had evident proof of this one day: I had put our “alpargates” on a foot heater to dry and had then put them on my feet while they were still warm. Having seen this, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus said: “If I had done what you have just done, I would have thought it was a most serious lack of mortification; what use is it our having embraced an austere life if we seek to relieve ourselves of everything that can make us suffer, we therefore must not, unless by order of obedience, refrain from taking the least opportunity to practice mortification… We mustn’t even let it show that we’re cold, or hunch our shoulders when walking, or shiver, etc.”

ON OBEDIENCE. – The Servant of God’s obedience was heroic. When Mother Marie de Gonzague was prioress, she set a host of little rules that she would abolish or change on a whim, so that we often took little account of them. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus abided by them all [1086r] scrupulously and obliged me to do likewise. She was exemplarily faithful to the smallest of regulations. Our rules recommend us to pick up the small pieces of wood we come across in the house, because they can be used to light the fire. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was faithful to the point of carefully collecting the bits of wood from her pencil sharpener. She was so obedient that our Mother had to be very careful about what she said to her, for she blindly obeyed. After I’d taken the Habit, when she taught me how to sit on my heels, which was a custom in the Carmelite convent, she told me which was the most convenient way of doing this, and to change sides when I grew tired. I asked her to teach me her method; she seemed a little embarrassed and said: “You mustn’t follow my method, it is most unusual: after I’d taken the Habit, our Mother told me to sit on my right side, which I’ve always done. I wouldn’t allow myself to change sides without permission; when I find I’m too tired, I relax by kneeling.” One day when I had a violent head-[1086v]ache, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus wanted me to inform our Mother. When I objected, alleging that it would be a way of asking for solace, she said: “What would you say if you had the same obligation I had when I was a postulant and novice? Our Mistress commanded me to tell her every time I had a stomachache. I had them every day and her order was torture for me. I would have preferred being beaten a hundred times with a stick than report to her; but I told her every time out of obedience. Our Mistress, who could no longer remember the order she’d given me, said: ‘My poor child, you’ll never be sufficiently healthy to follow the Holy Rule, you’re not strong enough!’ Or she would ask for some medicine from Mother Marie de Gonzague, who would discontentedly reply: ‘Really, that child is always complaining! We come to the Carmel to suffer; if she can’t stand aches, she should leave!’ I nevertheless continued to confess I had stomachaches out of obedience for a long time, until finally God took pity on my weakness and allowed me to be relieved of making this admission.”  

[1087r] ON POVERTY. – Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus would only make use of objects if they were strictly indispensable, and the uglier and poorer they were, the happier she was. She would say that there was nothing as sweet as lacking what’s necessary, because we could then say we really were poor. She advised me to never ask for anything to be bought before being quite sure that there was no way of getting around it, and to then not hesitate to choose what was least expensive, as real poor people do. It was in the spirit of poverty that she’d choose narrowly-lined paper: despite the impracticality, she would write on all the lines, to use less paper. It was in the same spirit of poverty that she would turn down the wick of her little oil lamp, so that she would have just enough light. Likewise, in the refectory, I noticed that if she took a few grains of salt too many, instead of throwing them away, she would carefully keep them under her napkin for the next meal.  

ON CHASTITY. – In my close relationship with Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, I had the opportunity of gleaning some [1087v] characteristics of her angelic purity. At that time, our chaplain was Father Youf, who suffered from cerebral anemia and couldn’t stand us asking for any guidance outside confession. Furthermore, the character of our prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague, hardly inspired me with the confidence to turn to her. Caught between these two extremes one day when I was somewhat troubled on the subject of purity, I decided to open my heart to the Servant of God: “I fear,” I said, “you won’t understand anything about what is troubling my soul!” She smiled and said: “Do you believe that purity consists in ignoring evil… Don’t worry, you can share anything you like with me, nothing will surprise me.” So after having consoled me and restored peace to my heart, she admitted: “There’s only one thing I’ve never experienced, and that’s what people call pleasure in this matter.” This pure soul said to me on another occasion: “I’m always extremely careful when I’m alone, either getting up or going to bed, to be as reserved as I would before other people. And am I not always in the presence of God and his angels? I have become so used to [1088r] this modesty that I wouldn’t be able to act otherwise.”

ON HUMILITY. – Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was continually urging me to become more and more humble and little. “What a grace humiliation is!” she would say; “if we knew how substantial this food is for our souls, we would seek it avidly.” Very often at recreation or elsewhere, when I asked her: “What are you thinking? Tell me”, she would reply with an angelic expression on her face: “What am I thinking? Ah! that I would like to be unknown and counted for nothing, that my face, like Jesus’, could be hidden from all creatures, so that nobody here below could recognize me.” One day, I told her I felt I’d been treated unfairly. She said: “It’s very right that we should be scorned, that we should be shown a lack of consideration, for that’s how we deserve to be treated.” She never boasted about her work, or spoke about her difficulties. To help me accept humiliation she confided to me as follows: “If I [1088v] had not been received into the Carmelite convent, I would have entered a Refuge, and lived there unknown and despised among the poor ‘penitents.’ My joy would have been to pass for one of them, and I would have become an apostle among my companions, telling them my thoughts on the Infinite Mercy of God.” As I asked her how she could have hidden her innocence from her Confessor, she replied: “I would have told him that while still in the world I made a general confession, and that I had been forbidden to repeat it.”

An elderly nun couldn’t understand how someone as young as Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had been put in charge of the novices, and she made no effort to hide her resentment. One day, at recreation, she said some bitter words to her, such as “she should start directing herself instead of directing others.” From afar I attentively studied the scene: the Servant of God’s gentle angelic look was in stark contrast to the nun’s impassioned appearance, and I heard the Servant of God reply: “My Sister, you are indeed right, I am so much more imperfect than you think.” I notice that in the poems she wrote for me, she always offered [1089r] Jesus’ humility as an example to me, for instance in this one:

“What scorn did you not receive
For me, on the foreign shore?...
On earth I want to hide myself,
To be the last in everything
For you, Jesus!” - PN 31 - .

On 30th November 1895, she introduced me to her “Act of Oblation as a Victim to Love” which she talked about in her Life Story (page 148) - MSA 84r° -. I explained my great desire to imitate her. She approved of my resolution, and it was decided that I would make my offering the following day. Yet once I was alone and thinking about my unworthiness, I concluded that I needed more time to prepare. I therefore went back to see Sister Thérèse and explained my reasons for wanting to differ my offering. Her face immediately lit up with joy: “Yes” she said, “this act is even more important than we can imagine, but do you know what preparation God demands of us? Well! it’s to humbly recognize our unworthiness. Since he has granted you this grace, surrender yourself to Him without fear.” What she described as her “little way of spiritual childhood” was the subject of all our conversations: “Jesus’ privileges are reserved [1089v] for the tiniest of souls” she would repeat.

She talked endlessly about trust, surrender, simplicity, righteousness, and always offered the humility of a little child as an example. One day when I told her I desired more strength and energy to practice virtue, she replied: “If God wants you weak and powerless like a child, do you think you are any less worthy? Accept therefore to stumble at each step, or even fall, and weakly carry your cross. Your soul will draw more from this than if, carried by grace, you easily accomplish heroic feats that will fill your soul with self-satisfaction and pride.”

I am going to relate an incident proving she only wrote the story of her life out of obedience. Shortly before she began writing, I said to her: “The story of my vocation is so interesting that I’m going to write it down so as not to forget it; reading it later could do me good.” “You must do no such thing” she said; “furthermore you cannot do so without permission, and I advise you not to ask for it. I myself wouldn’t want to write anything about my life without receiving a special order, [1090r] and I wouldn’t seek that order. It is humbler to write nothing on oneself. The great graces in life, like those of one’s vocation, are impossible to forget; it will do you more good to run them through your mind than reread them on paper.”  

[Session 66: - 15th March 1911, at 8:30am and at 2pm]

[1092r] [Answer to the twenty-second question]:

There was one thing about Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus that particularly struck me, which was that she could read what was happening in my soul. When I came here, after having spent two years in a Carmelite convent in Paris, I found it difficult to adapt to the different customs. The comparison I constantly made between the two Carmelite convents made me very unhappy. The Servant of God clearly saw that my thoughts would destroy my vocation and fought them with all her might. When I entertained these thoughts, I was sure to be reprimanded by her without me having said a word. When I asked her how she knew what I was thinking, she replied: “I will tell you my secret: I never make any observations to you without first appealing to the Blessed Virgin. After that, I admit that I am often surprised by certain things I unthinkingly say to you. I only feel, as I talk to you, that I’m not mistaken and that Jesus is talking to you through me.”  

I have been promptly and wondrously [1092v] consoled more than once simply by the power of her prayer. One day before my Profession, I was worn-out with fatigue and harassed with spiritual worries. That night, before meditation, I wanted to speak to her, but she dismissed me with the remark : “That is the bell for meditation, and I have not time to console you; besides, I see plainly that it would be useless. For the present, God wishes you to suffer alone.” I followed her to meditation so discouraged that, for the first time, I doubted of my vocation. I should never be able to be a Carmelite. This life was too hard. I had been kneeling for some minutes when all at once, in the midst of this interior struggle – without having asked or even wished for peace – I felt a sudden extraordinary change of soul. I saw the sweetness and priceless value of suffering, and I came away from my meditation completely transformed. The following day I told my Mistress what had taken place, and, seeing she was deeply touched, I begged to know the reason. “God is good,’ she exclaimed, “last evening you inspired me with such profound pity that I prayed incessantly for you at the beginning of meditation. I besought Our Lord to bring you comfort, to change your dispositions, and show you the value of suffering. He did indeed hear my prayers.”

[1093r] Before leaving her post in 1896, Mother Agnès of Jesus was supposed to oversee the Profession of Sister Geneviève and myself, for our time in the novitiate had come to an end. The concerns raised by Mother Marie de Gonzague were so great that I had to wait until after the elections. I dreaded this trial. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, whom I’d told about my apprehensions, urged me to no avail to accept this sacrifice. One evening, I couldn’t stop crying, filled with this sad thought, when suddenly my thoughts changed. I imagined myself on the last day, and I saw that God wasn’t asking me whether I had taken my Profession before such and such a Sister, but whether I’d loved him and taken advantage of opportunities to prove it to him. The following day, I asked the Servant of God if she had prayed for me. “Yes, I did!” she said, “I felt strongly compelled to do so yesterday evening, during the time of silence.” The moment she had prayed for me was precisely the moment the grace flooded my heart.  

Sister Thérèse intuitively knew she would become an example for a whole legion of “little souls”. She expressed it often with delightful simplicity. I said to her one day: “Perhaps you’ll die tomorrow after you have received Holy Communion.” “Oh,” [1093v] she replied, “that wouldn’t resemble my little way… Dying after receiving Holy Communion would be too beautiful for me; little souls couldn’t imitate this” LC 15-7-.

She often spoke to me about her desire to “spend her heaven doing good on earth.” In her last “Play”, which she wrote in January-February 1897, she had Saint Stanislaus Kostka express her thoughts on the subject: “What I like the most about this play,” she later told me, “is that I was able to express what I’m convinced of: after we die we can still work on earth for the redemption of souls. Saint Stanislaus gave me the perfect opportunity to express my ideas on the subject.”

Here is a copy of the text (Saint Stanislaus addresses the Blessed Virgin who has just announced his imminent death):

My Well-Beloved Mother . . . . I regret nothing on earth, still I have one desire . . . a desire so great that I'm not sure I could be happy in Heaven if it were not fulfilled . . . . Ah! my dear Mother, tell me that the blessed can still work for the salvation of souls . . . if I can't work for the glory of Jesus when I'm in heaven, I'd prefer to stay in exile, still fighting for Him!

(The Blessed Virgin): [1094r] You would like to increase the glories
Of Jesus, your only Love.
For Him, in the Heavenly Court,
You will win victories . . .
Yes, my child, the Blessed
Can still save souls.
The sweet flames of their love,
Draw hearts to heaven.

(Saint Stanislaus): Oh! how happy I am . . . Sweet Queen of heaven, I beg you, when I am with you in the Fatherland, let me come back to earth, to watch over holy souls, souls whose long career on earth will complete my own; then, through them, I'll be able to bring the Lord an abundant harvest of merit.

(The Blessed Virgin): Dear Child, you'll protect
Souls struggling in the world.
The more fruitful their harvest,
The more in Heaven you will shine. - RP 8 (Her last pious recreation) -.

Another time I said to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, looking up at the sky: “How happy we shall be when we’re up there!” “It’s true” she replied, “but if I desire to go to heaven soon, do not think it will be to rest! I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth [1094v] until the end of time. Only after that will I enjoy it and rest. If I didn’t firmly believe that my desire could come true, I would prefer to not die and live until the end of time and save more souls.” She seemed inspired and thoroughly convinced as she pronounced these words. In about 1895 or 1896, before writing the manuscript, the Servant of God told me when we were alone about the prophetic vision she’d had in her childhood of the trials that would signal the last years of her father’s life. She also told me about how the Blessed Virgin had miraculously healed her of a strange illness, and how on this occasion the statue of the Blessed Virgin had disappeared before her eyes to be replaced by the distinct vision of the Mother of God herself.

 

[Answer to the twenty-third question]:

During her time in the Carmelite convent, the Servant of God went about almost unnoticed in the community. Only four or five nuns, and I was one of them, came to know her more intimately, and realized what perfection was hidden under her humble and simple exterior. [1095r] In the community she was considered a very punctual nun, and nobody could find any reason to reproach her. She had to endure a certain amount of jealousy from a good many nuns who were against the group of the “four Martin sisters.” Nevertheless, even those who didn’t fight this feeling of antipathy thought the Servant of God was different from her sisters. As prioress, Mother Marie of Gonzague did everything she could to obtain dispensation of the rules and gain permission from the bishop to accept the four blood sisters. Once that was done, Mother Marie de Gonzague was the first to experience the feeling of antipathy I mentioned. She even told me on several occasions, speaking for all the others: “If I had to choose a prioress among the community members, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, despite her young age. She is perfect in every way; her only fault is having three sisters here.” As for the little group of nuns who observed her better and appreciated her without prejudice, I can summarize their impressions by stating mine. I’ve always considered Sister Thérèse’s holiness as heroic and I’ve had no reason to modify my opinion since her death. Right from early 1896, when [1095v] I saw her suffering, I began to carefully collect keepsakes of her and particularly her hair. It was neither for me nor out of ordinary affection that I gathered these keepsakes, but out of a conviction that we would need them as relics after her death.

[Answer to the twenty-fourth question]:

As I was no longer a nurse when Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was taken to the infirmary, I could rarely approach her during her last months. I asked her one day in a letter if she felt joy at the prospect of her imminent death. She wrote me this note: “You want to know if I feel joy at the thought of going to heaven? I would feel very joyful if I was going, but… I don’t count on my illness; it is taking too long. I no longer count on anything but love. Ask of Jesus that all the prayers offered for me may serve to increase the fire that must consume me” - LT 242 -. On 12th August 1897, on my 23rd birthday, she sent me a picture on which she had written in a trembling hand: “May your life be one of humility and love so that soon you can follow me where I’m going… into the arms of Jesus” - LT 264 .  

[1096r] After we had finished cleaning up in the house for the last time before she died, I went to see her; she had been suffering more than usual. Smiling, she said: “I am very pleased to have been so ill today, it compensates for the weariness of the washing that I haven’t been able to share with you.” Seeing her so ill, I exclaimed: “life is sad!” “Life is not sad!” she replied, “If you were to say ‘exile is sad,’ I would understand you. We make a mistake in giving the name of life to what must come to an end. It is only to the things of Heaven, to what must never die, that we must give this real name; and, under this title, life is not sad but happy, very happy” – Counsels and Reminiscences -. Three days before she died, she was in so much pain that it broke my heart to see her. I neared her bed, she tried to smile and, struggling to breath, she said: “If I didn’t have faith, I would never have been able to bear such suffering.” Seeing her so calm and so strong amidst this martyrdom, I couldn’t help saying that she was an angel. “Oh, no!” she replied “they are [1096v] not as happy as I am.” What she meant was that unlike her they didn’t have the privilege of suffering for God.

On the day of her death, after vespers, I went to the infirmary where I found the Servant of God sustaining with invincible courage the final struggles of the most terrible agonies. Her hands were blue, she joined them with anguish and cried out in a voice which the over-stimulation of a violent suffering made clear and strong: “O my God… have pity on me!... O Mary, come to my aid!... My God, how I am suffering!... The chalice is full… full to the brim!... never will I know how to die!” Mother Prioress was saying: “Courage, you’re coming to the end, a little while and everything will be finished!” “No Mother, it’s still not finished!... I feel that I’m going to suffer in this way for months.” “And if this was the will of God to leave you for a long time on the cross, would you accept it?” With an accent of extraordinary heroism, she said: “I would.” And her head fell back upon the pillow with so calm, so resigned an air that we couldn’t hold back our tears. She was absolutely like a martyr awaiting new tortures. I left the infirmary, not having the courage to bear such a sad spectacle [1097r] any longer. I didn’t return except with the community for the last moments, and I was witness to her beautiful and long ecstatic gaze at the moment when she died, Thursday, September 30th 1897 at seven o’clock in the evening. - LC 30-9-.       

[Answer to the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth questions]:

[1097v] I know nothing else about her tomb or the flow of faithful to the cemetery, except for what we are told here in the letters or when people come to the visiting room. I have learned from these exchanges that the flow of pilgrims to the Servant of God’s grave is common knowledge.    

[Answer to the twenty-seventh question]:

I am amazed by the letters we receive every day at the Carmelite convent. They come from all over the world. I am obliged to read them being tasked to collect this mail and to have orders for books and pictures sent off. I would say that on the whole it is striking to see how the devotion people have for the Servant of God is growing and spreading further every day: I can see it by the always growing number of letters. At the moment, the average is one hundred per day. Each person appeals to her with touching trust and nobody’s hopes are disappointed. If certain people observe that their prayers haven’t been answered in the way they expected, they admit that the spiritual graces they received exceed the material graces that were refused them. Everyone wishes for her prompt glorification; many priests dedicate the Holy Eucharist to this cause; in short, it is rare to see a saint so universally loved. And this love isn’t the result of enthusiasm, since, instead of slowing down, it is steadily increasing. There are even some people who didn’t appreciate Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus at first, disdainfully describing her as “a child”, “a little sentimental saint”, but, after studying her life and her little way of childhood more carefully, they have become her warmest admirers and most fervent friends. In the letters I receive from my relatives and friends, there are often messages of thanksgiving addressed to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus for favours received.    

My former director outside the monastery, Father Charles, the curate of Bagnolet (Diocese of Paris), wrote on 1st July 1908: “Two precious treasure caskets provide me with spiritual reading: “Story of a Soul” and “Pensées de soeur Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus” (“Thoughts of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus”) where we find pearls of great value, and from which I draw great benefits for my soul. Our praise, however great, will always fall short of the truth. We have here, perfectly exhibited and within everyone’s reach, the simple practice of evangelical counsels, etc….”

[Answer to the twenty-eighth question]:

[1098v] I know of no significant opposition to this universal reputation for holiness.

[Answer to the twenty-ninth question]:

Remembering the virtues that I saw the Servant of God practice is always truly motivating. When I want to encourage myself to do good, all I have to do is ask myself what she would have done in my place, and I immediately know the course of action I must take to attain the highest perfection. My trust in her is so great that every day I say this prayer to the Child Jesus: “Imprint your childlike graces and virtues within me, so that on the day I am born in heaven, the angels and saints recognize in your little bride, the faithful image of my little Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.” I pray for her intercession in all circumstances, and I observe with thanksgiving that it is never in vain, for she helps not only me, but also all those I recommend to her. If her power is not always conveyed in temporal favours, she makes her presence felt through spiritual graces which are much more precious.  

Here are some favours I’ve received [1099r] personally. For convenience, I sewed a large, strong fold in our robe, in backstitch, so that I wouldn’t have to make the fold every morning when putting on the belt. A few days before the Servant of God died, I spoke to her about it; she immediately told me to unpick the fold, because it went against our customs. Nevertheless, I left it, postponing unpicking it until later. The day after Sister Thérèse died, I couldn’t stop thinking about that wretched fold, and I said to myself: “She can see I still have it, and perhaps it’s troubling her.” At last I addressed her with this prayer: “Dear little Sister, if this fold displeases you, take it out yourself, and I promise to never make it again.” Surprisingly, the very next day, I noticed that the fold had disappeared. I felt frightened, but at the same time immensely consoled. It was a warning to me that I must correctly put into practice her advice and recommendations. On 28th February 1909, she healed me of a dilated stomach that no treatment could defeat. I had been suffering from it for over two years and the pain had been progressively worsening. I could see that the moment when I would have to abandon the penance of the Holy Rule was drawing near. In my distress and filled with faith, I anointed my stomach with the oil that [1099v] burns before the Virgin who smiled at the Servant of God in her childhood, begging my little Sister Thérèse to have pity on me and to heal me so that I could follow the Holy Rule. All pain immediately disappeared, and this grace lasted until 15th March 1911.    

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus has also favoured me with her perfumes on various occasions: the scent of violets, especially on one day when I had just practiced an act of humility; the scent of roses, that emanated once from the cupboards where her books and pictures are kept; the scent of incense on occasions when I helped her in some way. On 15th September 1910 I went to the main entrance at about 6 o’clock to collect a parcel that had come from Bar-le-Duc. On the table I saw a damp and worm-eaten plank. As I got nearer, to pick up the parcel that was under the table, there came from this piece of wood, which I thought was a discarded plank, the most delicious smell of incense. I suddenly realized it was a fragment of the coffin that had been exhumed nine days earlier. I went to inform our Mother Prioress so that she could experience this wonder, but she couldn’t smell anything. A novice informed of this recognized the smell of incense. Seeing this, our Mother went to fetch another Sister, but [1100r] this time without notifying her: as she approached the main entrance the Sister was met with the same        

WITNESS 17: Marie of the Trinity O.C.D.

smell of incense. Our Mother carried the precious relic to recreation to show it to the community, but our Sisters couldn’t smell anything but damp and mould, even though they had been told it was a plank from the Servant of God’s coffin. This plank had come from the head of the coffin that had fallen away and couldn’t be found. Doctor La Néele, the expert witness at the exhumation, had perfectly recognized the fragment when we showed it to him. It is worth noting that these perfumes don’t necessarily occur when we expect them: for instance, when, on the day of the exhumation, the entire coffin cover and fragments of clothing was brought to the community, not one of us could smell any perfume coming from the objects.

I also clearly felt the Servant of God’s help when immense trials befell my family. She didn’t take away any of the suffering or humiliation from my relatives, but she granted them the ability to bear the trials in a Christian spirit, and all their souls profited from this. I also attribute to the Servant of God’s protection my youngest sister’s complete and [1100v] very necessary conversion, as well as her vocation at the Carmel. She wrote to me last year: “Even I can’t believe how much I’ve changed. Were I to wish to live in the same indifference as before I wouldn’t be able to do so. To think that all this came about following a novena said to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Little by little, I grew to love God, and felt loved; that is the mystery of my conversion etc….”

The letters we receive at the Carmelite convent and that I read every day, as I said before, are not only full of testimonies of admiration for the Servant of God’s holiness, but also a great many of them contain stories about temporal and spiritual graces that have been obtained through her intercession. In 1909, I counted 1830 of these messages of thanksgiving that had come from many different countries. In 1910 and 1911, I gave up counting them, due to the huge amount of work that sorting this correspondence represented.

[Answer to the thirtieth question]:

I am not aware of any oversight or of any error in my deposition.

[1101r] [Concerning the Articles, the witness says she knows other than what she has already deposed in answer to the preceding questions. – Here ends the interrogation of this witness. The Acts are read out. The witness makes no amendment to them and signs as follows]:

I have deposed as above according to the truth, I ratify and confirm it.

Signatum: Sister MARIE OF THE TRINITY AND OF THE HOLY FACE, unworthy Carmelite nun.