Print

Witness 2 - Thomas Nimmo Taylor

Witness 2 - Thomas Nimmo Taylor

Mother Agnès’ deposition was interrupted to allow Scottish priest Thomas Nimmo Taylor to testify without further delay. He had just arrived in Lisieux with a group of pilgrims from Great Britain.

Born in Glasgow on 16th December 1873 to James Taylor and Rosa Nimmo at the end of the same year that St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was born, Thomas studied theology in Paris, first at the seminary of Saint-Sulpice (1891-1896), then at the Catholic University (1896-1897). Ordained the same year Thérèse died (1897), he rapidly became familiar with Story of a Soul and immediately became a staunch apostle of its spiritual message. In 1908 he published in a newspaper a series of articles that represented an accurate biographical sketch of the Carmelite of Lisieux, which would providentially contribute to Presbyterian Pastor F. Grant feeling called by the Catholic Church (1911). Right from the beginning, he came on pilgrimage to Lisieux and, apparently, it is he who first had the idea of introducing the cause for Thérèse’s beatification. He spoke about it to Mother Marie de Gonzague who was not enthusiastic and replied to him in approximately these terms: “But in that case, what a lot of Carmelites we would have to canonize!” (Cf. Stéphane Joseph PIAT, art. quoted in the bibliographical note, p. 10). And when he spoke of his project to the Carmel of Blackrock in Dublin, he provoked a similar reaction which he himself recounted in these terms: “She (the Prioress) began to laugh and told me that we may as well canonize all the Carmelite nuns in the monastery” (f. 184r). The trial was opened and was as successful as he had expected. Responsible for the souls in Carfin (diocese of Glasgow), and Canon of the cathedral, he zealously spread the cult of the little saint around him. It was with full knowledge of the facts that he was able to write near the end of his life the article St. Teresa of the Child Jesus and Scotland (in St. Peter’s Magazine) 18 [1947] 61), where the main line of action of one of his most cherished apostolates can clearly be seen*.

Referring exclusively to reports of Thérèse’s reputation for holiness and the prodigious healing of Mrs. Dorans (who herself would later come and testify at the Trial), Thomas Taylor’s deposition took place during sessions 10-12 from 20th – 26th August 1910. Pp. 179v 206v of the acts. Pp. 190r-202v relating to Mrs. Dorans’ healing have been omitted.

[Session 10: - 20th August 1910, at 8.30am and at 2pm

[179v] [The witness answers the first question correctly].

[Answer to the second question]:

My name is Thomas Nimmo-Taylor. I was born in Greenock, in the diocese of Glasgow (Scotland), on 1st December 1873; my father’s name was James Taylor, from Saint Helens, in the diocese of Liverpool (England); my mother’s name was Rose-Anne Nimmo, from Greenock. I am a priest; I did my ecclesiastical studies at the Saint Sulpice seminary in Paris (1891-1896), then at the Catholic University of Paris (1896-1897). I have a bachelor’s degree in theology. I was ordained in Paris by Cardinal Richard, remembered as a man of saintly disposition, on 12th June 1897. On returning to my diocese I was vicar there for three years, and for 10 years I have been a professor at Glasgow’s Major Seminary where I teach Holy Scripture, History of the Church and also, on occasions, the French language.

[Correct answers to questions three to seven inclusive]. 

[Answer to the eighth question]:

I did not know the Servant of God personally. What I know of her life, I learnt first around 1901 through reading “Story of a Soul”. Much moved and enlightened by this book, I began to correspond by letter with the principal Carmelite nuns of the monastery in Lisieux who had known Sister Thérèse. In addition, I came four times to Lisieux and I then talked face to face with these same nuns about the life and virtues of the Servant of God. Even though I don’t know anything directly involving the Servant of God’s story, I have, however, myself observed what [180v] I might say about her reputation for holiness and the graces obtained through her intercession after her death, especially in Great Britain and America (the United States). I have collected a great deal of information on this subject, either by personal observation, or by an exchange of letters or personal conversations. 

[Answer to the ninth question]:

I have, with regard to the Servant of God, a most particular devotion. It is based on the virtues she was reported to have in her life and on her power, the effects of which I have witnessed. I desire, ex toto corde (with all my heart), the success of this Cause, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, by means of the way of sanctification, which she taught in her writings and which she called “her little way of confidence.” I have devoted my time to making the Servant of God known, either by copying and distributing her pictures, or by distributing the book about her life, particularly in Great Britain, in the English Colonies and the United States.  

[181r] [Answers given to questions ten to twenty-two inclusive]:

Not having known the Servant of God during her lifetime, all I am able to say about her story and her actions is drawn from the book entitled “Story of a Soul” that everybody can read.

[Answer to the twenty-third question]:

I have often written and spoken in person to the nuns in the Carmel of Lisieux, who lived with Sister Thérèse. These nuns were namely: the Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzague, prioress; the Servant of God’s three sisters: Sister Agnes of Jesus, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face; lastly with her cousin, Sister Marie of the Eucharist. They expressed, on different occasions, during my “pilgrimages”, their thoughts on the Servant of God’s holiness during her life. They particularly insisted on her purity, her tireless patience in suffering, her trust in God, her devotion to frequent communion. 

[181v] [The judge asks whether all the nuns shared this view on the holiness of Sister Thérèse of the C. J. in equal measure, and especially whether Mother Marie de Gonzague, who was not related to the Servant of God, thought and spoke like her sisters did. Answer]:

I spoke to Mother Marie de Gonzague in 1903, I remember that she seemed different in character to the Servant of God’s sisters: she had a colder and less enthusiastic temperament; she was less womanly. There were no exclamations in her language. I knew from “Story of a Soul” that she had been strict with the Servant of God during her novitiate. Despite this, her judgment was fundamentally the same, on Sister Thérèse’s virtues and character, she considered the Servant of God as an extraordinary soul in terms of her holiness.

[182r] [Answer to the twenty-fourth question: He said he didn’t know anything other than what was written in “Story of a Soul”]. 

[Answer to the twenty-fifth question]:

Everybody knows she is buried in the public cemetery of Lisieux, in the area reserved for the Carmelites.

[Answer to the twenty-sixth question]:

I go on pilgrimage to her tomb every time I come to Lisieux, to ask her for graces for myself and for a great many souls, and to thank her for graces already received. I have always, except on the first occasion, been accompanied on these pilgrimages by several priests and members of religious orders who joined me in my devotion. During my last visit, which lasted about half an hour, I noticed the presence of two priests; and several other people arrived while I was there. I learnt in Lisieux that it was common knowledge that more and more people visit her tomb every day; a great many priests are seen including missionary priests from the Foreign Missions.  

 

[182v] [Answer to the twenty-seventh question]:

In my country, “Story of a Soul” was translated into the English language in 1901; the publication of this book was the starting point of the Servant of God’s reputation for holiness in English-speaking countries, even as far as America. This reputation developed slowly at first, perhaps because of the relatively high cost of the publication. But since 30th October 1908, following a prodigious event which took place at the Convent of the Good Shepherd in London and which I ensured was made known, the Servant of God’s reputation for [183r] holiness has greatly developed, especially in Scotland. Sister Thérèse’s reputation stems from her enormous power of intercession before God, which has meant that more and more people have been calling upon her intercession. Since April 1909, a weekly Catholic newspaper (The Glasgow Observer) has been publishing a list of messages of thanks for favours received. This list has appeared every week and the number of messages grew until the editor introduced a publication fee. The number of messages then fell, although they never stopped appearing. The 16th July issue includes 6 of them. Within the space of three months (from April to July 1910), I counted 87 graces mentioned in the paper. Among nuns and priests, the Servant of God’s reputation is also based on her heroic virtues, which are related in the “Story of her Life” in particular. Among common people, her reputation is above all based upon extraordinary events. Not only is she invoked for temporal favours, but also very often in order to obtain  the conversion of protestants and indifferent ca-[183v]tholics. 

 

[Do you know this simply from reading the newspaper you have just mentioned?]:

I know it above all from my connections: I have a very wide correspondence in that respect. I am informed notably through the connections I have with numerous religious houses in Glasgow and throughout England, Ireland and the United States, at least twenty establishments, Very especially with the Little Sisters of the Poor, they have a passionate cult for and trust in “little Sister Thérèse”; they invoke her for every difficulty they encounter. Every day, I receive several letters from the afore-mentioned countries relating favours that have been received, asking for souvenirs to be sent and demonstrating in many different ways people’s feelings of devotion with regard to the Servant of God. Several of these letters come from superiors of religious houses.

 

[Answer to the twenty-eighth question]:

I remember two occasi- [184r] ons relating to this question. The first concerns the Carmel of Blackrock in Dublin. When I spoke to the Reverend Mother Prioress of this convent about Sister Thérèse’s life, she began to laugh and said that we may as well canonize all the Carmelite nuns in her monastery. That was in about 1904, and, in any case, before the great movement of devotion that has developed since then, as I said (Preceding interrogation). This Prioress has since died, and I know for a fact that before she died she changed her mind. I go to this Carmel every year; the current Prioress, who was Subprioress in about 1904, told me herself of this change which came about when she learned of graces that had been received through the Servant of God’s intercession. The second occasion on which I heard a remark that was rather contrary, is the following. In the Carmel of Lourdes, I spoke a few days ago to an Irish nun whose name I have forgotten, but who is the only Irish sister in the monastery. She told me that reading the “Story of a Soul” had left her wary. Her principal reason is, that having been mistress of novices herself, she knew a novice, of Spanish origin, who said and wrote such lofty things, to the extent that she herself felt unworthy and incapable of [184v] guiding her; now, this novice left the monastery and didn’t persevere in her fervour. The Irish Carmelite nun has since then mistrusted poetic souls.      

 

[Session 11: - 24th August 1910, at 2pm]

 

[186v] [Continuation of the answer to the same question]:

I asked for His Excellency Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster, to concede an indulgence with regard to the reading of the English translation of “Story of a Soul”, following the example of several Portuguese dioceses. The priest who was my intermediary brought me a favourable promise at first, but when the Archbishop took a long time sending me the actual concession, I asked the intermediary priest if he knew the reason for the delay; he replied that His Excellency the Archbishop had heard that perhaps we were being too hasty in this affair of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus; he had also heard that the role of her family in this affair could compromise its success in Rome. Consequently, the Archbishop thought it would be more sensible to wait.  

 

[187r] [Do you know whether by saying “the role of her family”, the Archbishop was implying that it was the sisters or other family members of the Servant of God?].

I am not certain, but I have the impression that he had the Servant of God’s Carmelite sisters in mind.  

[Do you know what the Archbishop now thinks about the Servant of God’s reputation for holiness?]:

I saw the Archbishop very recently (on 8th August) and I talked to him about this matter, he demonstrated sincere admiration for “this extraordinary soul” and promised me he would write the preface to the new English edition of “Story of a Soul”, once he had read the manuscript.

 

[Do you personally think that there has been any exaggeration, particularly on the part of the Carmelite nuns of Lisieux, in terms of what has been done to promote this reputation for holiness?].

Since I didn’t know the Servant of God and am not a relative of hers, I am very interested in her Cause and am working hard to make her life, virtues and power of intercession known, it is in no way surprising that her Carmelite sisters are putting their whole hearts into it.

 

[187v] [Does your zeal for this dissemination stem from a certain “enthusiasm”, and couldn’t you even be accused of exaggerating it yourself to a certain extent?]:

My enthusiasm has lasted for eight years; it is above all based on my observation of numerous graces being obtained through Sister Thérèse’s intercession and also on my conviction of her virtues which has lead me to study her life. During these eight years, never have the nuns from the Carmel of Lisieux sought to stimulate my activity. When, three or four years ago, they copied pictures and other souvenirs of Sister Thérèse, I felt surprised at first; since then, seeing the extent to which these objects were desired by believers and the many graces that accompanied the use of these objects, this impression has disappeared. Whatever this propaganda is, I feel that it doesn’t claim anything relating to the Servant of God’s virtues and power of intercession that doesn’t entirely conform to the reality of the facts. Nothing is exaggerated; it would be truer to say that we have rather been [188r] understating the truth.    

 

[Answer to the twenty-ninth question]:

I have, since Sister Thérèse’s death, heard attributed to her intercession a host of graces, healings, conversions and so on. For the moment, I would like to relate to you one of the prodigious graces that seems to me to have been well-certified and a most extraordinary one. It is the instantaneous recovery of a cancerous tumor at the moment when the patient (Mrs. Dorans, from Glasgow) was going to die.  

[There follows the detailed narrative of the healing – pp.190r-194v, with the corresponding documentation – pp. 194v-202v]. -

 

[Session 13: - 26th August 1910, at 8.30am and at 2pm]

 

[202v] [Can you recount any other graces or miracles?]:

The graces that are attributed to Sister Thérèse in Great Britain, spiritual or temporal graces, are countless. Especially in the diocese of Glasgow, the Servant of God answers limitless trust with favours that can no longer be counted. A remarkable series of messages of thanksgiving was published in the newspaper “The Glasgow Observer”; these demonstrations of gratitude come for the most part from the diocese of Glasgow, but there are also some from other dioceses, from Scotland, and Ireland, England, the United States and even New Zealand. Since 24th April 1909, [203r] over 550 spiritual and temporal favours have been attributed to her. I have also received personal letters indicating that a great many spiritual and temporal graces have been received after invoking the Servant of God. I will quote two or three by way of example: the Reverend Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor for Scotland and Ireland, wrote to me: “I would like to bear witness to a number of graces and favours that have been granted to me and to others. I am trying to make her powerful intercession known to all those I can help. She brought me back a poor nun who had left the convent suddenly. She has operated the conversion of several of our old people who had abandoned all their religious duties many years ago. But it is impossible to recount all the wonderful graces of all kinds that have been received through her intercession.”  

I also received a letter telling me that in order to reconcile an old man to the idea of death, he was given, at the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a picture of Thérèse. In a dream, he saw that everything was prepared for his death, then Sister Thérèse appeared and, raising her hand, said that his time had not yet come. After that, his fervour grew extraordinarily. His devotion to Mary was very touching. “Can’t you see this beautiful woman?” he said to the Little Sister of the Poor, the day before he died. He died like a saint.

I have drawn this account from another letter: “A poor worker went mad with religious mania. Several doctors declared that he was a very difficult case. When his illness had lasted a year with no signs of improvement, a novena was said to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus; at the end of the novena, his condition greatly improved and since then he has fully recovered.”

I know a great many similar facts which establish for certain, at the very least, the Servant of God’s reputation for miraculous intercession.

 

[Answer to the thirtieth question]:

I would like to add some details to interrogation 27 so as to complete and clarify my deposition, de fa-[204r] ma sanctitatis post obitum.

I was asked in which religious houses I was able to observe Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus’ reputation for holiness. Here is a more precise nomenclature of these houses:

A) Religious houses for men: firstly in Glasgow’s Major Seminary and especially the Superior and his colleagues. Then in the Redemptorists’ Scholastic Institute and the Rector of this house in Perth (Scotland). A reliable source told me that Sister Thérèse is much loved in the Foreign Missions, Millhill (London), founded by Cardinal Vaughan. She has a devoted follower in the Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Ampleforth, near York. Two Fathers from this region with a postulant came with me on pilgrimage to Lisieux. In the Lazarist novitiate (a novitiate in Great Britain), I have learnt from my brother, a friar of this house, that devotion to Sister Thérèse has developed: many of the students promote her and report that she is warmly loved in many convents and families.  

 

[204v] [Continuation of the answer to the same question]:

B) Religious houses for women: the Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor (a Province of Ireland encompassing Scotland and part of England) has an extraordinary devotion to her. I can personally vouch for four of her twelve houses; but Sister Thérèse has followers among these simple and active sisters everywhere. Then, there are the Sisters of Mercy in Glasgow: they are very devoted to her and it was one of the nuns [205r] of this Congregation who suggested praying the novena that led to Mrs. Dorans’s healing. A strange thing happened! At first, the Mother Superior didn’t allow the novices to read the life of Sister Thérèse. But later on, faced with serious difficulty, she promised Sister Thérèse she would put her portrait in the community room, if she helped her; and when the matter was sorted out a few days later, she kept her promise. Permission to read the Story of a Soul was also granted. Among the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, in Glasgow, Liverpool, and London, she has many devoted followers. She is also well-loved in the Carmel of Scotland; in the Carmel of Dublin (Blackrock). After that it is in the Franciscan convents as well as in the convent of Our Lady that devotion has greatly increased following the healing of Mrs. Dorans. I know from my connection with the mother-house of the Sisters of Loreto (Dublin), a teaching congregation very much in the public eye in Ireland, that Sister Thérèse is very much loved there and that they pray to her; same thing for the mother-house of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in York. In the United States, the Emmitsburg novitiate of the Sisters of Charity is devoted to her; [205v] as is the Carmel of Philadelphia. One letter from this Carmel talks about “the devotion towards sister Thérèse, among the rich and the poor, priests and bishops”: characteristics of this devotion are described. The same goes for the Carmel convents of Boston and San Francisco.    

 

[206r] [This marks the end of the interrogation of this witness. After reading the acts, he completed his reply to the twenty-third question as follows]:

1st I said that the Carmelite Sisters of Lisieux particularly pointed out to me Sister Thérèse’s “purity”. In that conversation, the word “purity” wasn’t used in the specific and limited sense of “chastity”, it meant “moral beauty and candour of soul.”  

2nd I remember from a conversation I recently had with two of the Carmelite nuns, the Servant of God’s sisters (Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart and Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face), that the Servant of God was said to have had and revealed, near the end of her life, a prediction of what would happen to her after her death; namely that people would come here on pilgrimage and that every single object she had used had to be kept.  

 

[206v] [Were the phrases “that people would come here on pilgrimage and that every single object she had used had to be kept” reported to you by the Carmelite nuns in question as having literally and exactly come from the lips of the Servant of God?]:

 

That’s what I understood concerning the words “that every single object she had used had to be kept”; as for the words “that people would come here on pilgrimage” I am not so sure, it could be the two sisters’ interpretation of a phrase which had the same meaning, but which the Servant of God proffered in different terms.

 

[After having added these corrections, the witness confirmed his deposition which he signed as follows] -

Ita pro veritate deposui, ratum habeo et confirmo.

Signatum: THOMAS Nimmo TAYLOR