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Witness 21 - Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

WITNESS XXI

SISTER MARIE OF THE TRINITY AND THE HOLY FACE, O.D.C.

The 17th witness in the Ordinary Process is reintroduced here as the first witness of the “Continuitive” Process, and the 21st of those who had to testify in the Apostolic Process. It has already been said that she was the best qualified and the only truly important witness in the “Continuitive” Process, and she gave one of the most valid testimonies of the whole Process.

She was, of course, Thérèse’s favourite novice. Her name before joining the convent was Marie-Louise-Joséphine Castel. Born in Saint Pierre sur Dives (diocese of Bayeux) on 12th August 1874, she joined the Carmel of Lisieux in 1894 after a failed attempt at the Parisian Carmelite Convent in Avenue de Messine, and was professed on 30th April 1896. She died at the Carmel of Lisieux during the Second World War, on 16th January 1944.

Her testimony, which is one of the longest of the Apostolic Process, is sincere and detailed. Even if she reiterates information, quotations, and events already reported during the first Process, she strives to do so in a new way, and her testimony is so fresh that it gives the impression she is revealing unprecedented information.

As she herself states at the beginning of her testimony, Marie of the Trinity lived “very closely” with Thérèse for three years and a few months (cf. p. 1216). This is why she can claim to know firsthand that she was “faithful in every way at all times” (p. 1218), “and so reverent that you would think she never lost God’s presence” (ib.). Witnessing Thérèse’s close union with God was the basis and secret behind the efficacy of the spiritual training that Thérèse gave to her novice, and it gave her teaching significance and power. Marie of the Trinity’s testimony can be considered as a veritable presentation of this pedagogy, which is one hundred percent spiritual, yet based on principles and experiences that demonstrated a “prudence and maturity of judgement that was well beyond her years” (p. 1248).

The witness’ testimony is dotted with amusing anecdotes and quotations from the already known text “Counsels and Reminiscences” that was published in the first edition of Story of a Soul. Marie of the Trinity wrote it immediately following Thérèse’s death, “well before there was word of even the Informative Process” (p. 1235).

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

And this gives particular value to the nun’s words, for she knew well that when Thérèse spoke to her, she was revealing her soul, religious experience and knowledge, which she put into practice herself before teaching it to others (cfr. pp. 1221, 1230, 1255).

It is a pleasure to see the witness highlight the ordinariness of Thérèse’s life, save the charismatic features that saints’ lives almost always offer to be admired: “Her life here below was not out of the ordinary, which is precisely what renders her spirituality imitable and accessible to all” (cfr. pp. 12731274). However, this “ordinariness” is heroic virtue. Marie of the Trinity sublimely summarises the characteristics of this day-to-day heroism in two pages, and these pages are among the best in the Process (cfr. pp. 1272-1273). She accurately underlines how difficult continuous faithfulness was at a time when, in the Carmelite Convent of Lisieux, everything seemed conducive to destroying it. Division, plus the character of Mother Marie de Gonzague, and a recent slackening of spirit certainly did not encourage the nuns to sustain their fervour. Thérèse went against the current with humility, charity and strength, putting into constant practice her advice to the witness: “Even if everyone should fail to keep the Rule, this is not a reason to justify ourselves. Each should act as though the Order’s perfection depended on her own conduct” (p.1219).

Marie of the Trinity’s testimony depicts, with realism, a holiness consisting of simplicity and strength in line with the Gospel. This holiness is perfectly accessible to people of any class or background. This is why this witness’ statement is one of the most valuable and most relevant of the whole Process of Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

The last pages speak of Thérèse’s ever increasing renown for holiness, explaining that she “promoted her own cause” (p. 1290).

The witness testified on 23rd to 28th September 1916, in sittings 61-65, and her testimony can be found on pages 1215-1300 of the public transcription.

[Sitting 61: 22nd September 1916, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.]

[1215] [The witness answers the first question satisfactorily.] 

[Answer to the second question]:

My name is Marie Louise Castel, in religion [1216] Sister Marie of the Trinity. I was born in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives on 12th August 1874 to Victor Castel, a primary school teacher, and to Léontine Lecomte. I am a nun of the Carmel of Lisieux, where I was professed under the name Sister Marie of the Trinity.

 [The witness answers questions three to five satisfactorily].

[Answer to the sixth question:]

I give my testimony perfectly freely, and I don’t think I am under the influence of any inner feeling or outward pressure that could prevent me from speaking the truth.

[Answer to the seventh question:]

When I joined the Carmel as a novice, on 16th June 1894, the Servant of God, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had already been there for six years. Mother Agnes of Jesus, who was then Prioress, assigned her as my “angel” according to the custom of our Order, so that she could initiate me in the outward practices of the Rule. At the same time, she encouraged me to take the advice she offered for my training, as though she were Mistress of the novitiate. I followed her advice and lived very closely with the Servant of God until she died, that is to say for three years and a few months.

 [Answer to the eighth question]:

I have much affection, much gratitude and a great devotion to the Servant of God.

My gratitude and affection are a result of all the [1217] good she did me; I have devotion to her because I saw her practise the virtues as would a saint. I very much hope she will be beatified so that she might become officially recognised by the Church as a model for souls who are called to serve God in simple and ordinary ways.

 [Answer to questions nine to eleven inclusively]:

I did not directly witness the Servant of God’s life before 1894, when I joined the convent. However, for the three years we lived together, the Servant of God would, at my request, often speak about her childhood, her youth before she joined the convent, and her first years in the Carmel. What she said can be found in her autobiography, Story of a Soul, to which it is entirely conform.

 [Answer to the twelfth question]:

When I joined the Carmel in 1894, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had been professed for four years. She should therefore have left the novitiate the previous year, because according to our rules we stay in the novitiate for three years following profession. And yet she was still living among the novices. Mother Marie de Gonzague, who was then Novice Mistress, explained to me that out of humility Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had asked to remain in the novitiate. Furthermore, Mother Agnes of Jesus, the Prioress, readily accepted her request because she thought Sister Thérèse might have a very beneficial influence on the novices. In 1896, Mother Marie de Gonzague was re-elected Prioress, [1218] but also kept the title of Novice Mistress. She kept Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus in the novitiate, so Sister Thérèse’s situation remained rather exceptional until she died in 1897.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

She held the duties of portress and then sacristan, but this latter responsibility was removed from her a few months before she died. She was also, as I’ve just explained, the equivalent of Novice Mistress. Without going into detail as to her virtues, I can say that she edified me greatly through the attentive perfection with which she carried out her different tasks.

 [Answer to the thirteenth question]:

I can say, in a word, that I never saw the Servant of God commit the slightest fault.

 [Answer to the fourteenth question]:

In response to this general question, I can only reiterate what I’ve just said, which is that she was always faithful in every way.

 [Answer to the fifteenth question]:

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus acted so perfectly in every way, and with such reverence, that you would think she never lost God’s presence. What made her spirit of faith heroic was the disarray in which the community lived at that time. Having no other stimulant but her faith and love for God, and living in a rather slack environment, she was truly [1219] worthy of the praise addressed to the righteous man in Ecclesiastes: “He who could have broken the law and did not, done evil but did not” [Eccles. 31:10].

She said to me, “Even if everyone should fail to keep the Rule, this is not a reason to justify ourselves. Each should act as though the Order’s perfection depended on her own conduct” [Primary source, as are the other witness quotations].

I admired her faith in her superiors. Whatever they did, she acted towards them as towards God Himself. When Mother Marie de Gonzague was Prioress, Sister Thérèse corrected me whenever I criticised her conduct and called her “the wolf” (nickname given to her by us novices): “It was fine when she wasn’t prioress,” she said, “but now that she has the sacrament of authority, we must respect her. If we act towards her in a spirit of faith, God will ensure we are never mistaken. Even without knowing she will give us the divine answer.” 

One day when she met me going to see Mother Marie de Gonzague for direction, she said, “Have you thought to recommend your direction to God in prayer? It’s important to ensure that Mother Prioress’ words are the instrument of God’s Will.”

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus endured terrible temptations against the faith. One day she told me of the spiritual darkness she was in. Astonished, I said, “The beautiful hymns you write contradict what you’re saying!” She replied, “I sing what I want to believe, but it is without any feeling. I do not even want to tell you the extent to which it is dark in my soul, lest you share my temptations.” Had she not told me this, I would never have imagined her suffering, for she spoke and acted as though she was rich in spiritual consolations.

[Answer to the sixteenth question]:

The Servant of God strove to train her novices in the same spirit of faith that drove her. In this respect, she refused to tolerate any negligence on my part. One day, she severely scolded me because my bed wasn’t well made. “This is proof that you are not closely united to God. If you had made the bed of the Child Jesus, would you have done it in this way? Why did you come to the Carmel, if it was not to act with your inner spirit? You would have done better to stay at home, and be of some use doing manual tasks.” Yet as soon as she saw my repentance, her tone softened, and she spoke in saintly terms of the merits of faith, of the souls we save by being faithful, and of the tokens of love we can give to God.

I always drew great spiritual benefit from our heart-to-heart talks. She once said, “The main cause for your suffering is that you tend to see things from an earthly perspective and not with a spirit of faith: too often, you seek your own satisfaction. Do you know when you’ll find happiness? When you [1221] are no longer looking for it. Believe me, I know this from experience.”

[Sitting 62: - 25th September 1916, at 9 am and 2 pm]

 [1227] [Answer to the seventh question:]

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had a very special devotion to the Adorable Face of Jesus. She saw it as the mirror of the humiliations and suffering that Jesus endured during His Passion. The sight of His Divine Face kindled an ardent desire in her soul to resemble Him, according to what she told me. Very pleased to see her two novices, Sister Geneviève and myself, share this devotion, she wrote a consecration prayer to the Holy Face for the three of us. She also wrote me a hymn on the same subject. The two texts were published in the complete edition of Story of a Soul, page 308 and 381 (1914 edition published in octavo) [PN 20]. The Way of the Cross also held a spiritual attraction for her; she liked to walk it as often as she could, explaining that she did so “as much for the personal gain she drew from it as for its power to deliver souls from purgatory.”

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

Her spirit of faith came through particularly in her duties as sacristan. I was sometimes with her when she would prepare the vestments and sacred vessels for Mass the following day, and I was edified to see the faith, respect and care that she put into it. She told me of her joy to share with priests the privilege of touching the sacred vessels, and of readying the cloths of the Child Jesus as Mary had done. She would kiss them lovingly, as she would the big host to be consecrated.

[1228] [Answer to the eighteenth question]:

Her desire for Holy Communion was ardent. She envied those who took Communion daily, because at that time the community did not have such a privilege. To compensate for this deprivation, she prayed that Jesus would remain in her heart from one Communion to the next. “Ah!” she wrote, “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” [Prayer 6].

 How did you become aware of the Servant of God’s prayer? Do you think the Servant of God firmly believed that this presence continued? Did the Servant of God ever explain the mode of this presence? Answer]:

In her Self-Offering to God’s Merciful Love, the Servant of God formulated this prayer explicitly. She wrote it in June 1895. She showed it to me at the end of November that same year. She told me that nothing was impossible for Almighty God and that He would not have inspired her with the request had He not wished to grant it. In her hymn, “I thirst for love”, which she wrote for my profession (30th April 1896), the following lines express the same thought:

 “You, the Great God whom all Heaven adores,

You live in me, my Prisoner night and day” [PN 31].

She explained that she deliberately wrote, “You live in me, my Prisoner” and not, “You live for me, my Prisoner”, as suggested by the presence [1229] of the Divine Prisoner in the tabernacle, and her intention to express her faith in the realisation of the prayer to which it referred. She also said at that time, “For His little Victims of Love, God will work wonders, though these are usually wrought in faith, otherwise we could not live.”

She never explained the mode of God’s presence, and I don’t believe she ever sought to find out what it might be.

 [The witness resumes the eighteenth question]:

One day when the Servant of God was very weak, Mother Marie de Gonzague wanted her to take some medicine before Mass. Upset at the thought of losing her Holy Communion, Sister Thérèse tearfully begged her to let her postpone drinking the medicine until after Mass. She pleaded her case so well that her request was granted, and from that day onwards, the old custom of losing one’s Communion under such circumstances was abolished.

One day I encountered the Servant of God in the cloisters. Her reverence struck me. She seemed to be carrying something precious and was carefully sheltering it with her scapular. When I approached her, she said in a hushed voice full of emotion, “Follow me, I’m carrying Jesus!”  From the Communion table, she had just removed the little gold plate on which she had found quite a sizeable piece of host. I followed her to the sacristy where, after placing down her treasure, she had me kneel beside her and pray until she [1230] was able to give it back to the priest, whom she had sent for.

 [The witness states they know nothing particular on this point].

[Answer to the twentieth question]:

She delighted in reading Holy Scripture, and particularly the Holy Gospel. Its hidden meaning would become clear to her, and she interpreted it admirably. In our conversations and in spiritual direction, a passage from these divine books would always come effortlessly to support what she was telling me. You would have believed she knew them by heart.

The Servant of God had a great devotion to the Divine Office. Her reverence during services was such that meditation, she said, sometimes came to her more easily than during meditation time itself. Her behaviour was irreproachable. She often gave me advice on this subject and attached great importance to it. I must point out that, on this point, as on all the others, her advice was merely the description of her own conduct. For instance, she said, “If you had an audience at a king’s court, all your movements would be studied. How much more reserved you must be in the presence of the King of kings! Refraining from moving in His Divine presence, and from touching our face or clothes, pleases God because He sees we are paying Him attention and that we love Him.”

 [Answer to the twenty-first question]:

[1231] The Servant of God had a touching devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Her relationship with her was one of a child with a much-loved mother.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

She said cheerfully, “I choose to hide my troubles from God because when I’m with Him I always want to appear happy with all He does. But when I’m praying to the Blessed Virgin, I hide nothing, I tell her everything.”

During her last illness, she suffered a veritable martyrdom. After an hour or so of calm, Mother Agnes of Jesus said, “You have been suffering less, have you not?” She replied, “Oh no, just as much, but I directed my complaints to the Blessed Virgin.”

When she was giving me direction and I had difficulty telling her certain things, she would lead me to the miraculous statue that had smiled upon her in her childhood, and say, “You will say what is causing you difficulty not to me but to the Blessed Virgin.” I would do so and she would listen. Then she would have me kiss Mary’s hand, give me her advice, and peace would be restored to my soul.

The Servant of God worshipped the holy angels and particularly her guardian angel, to whom she prayed often. She said that, out of respect for him, she strove to behave in a dignified manner at all times and to avoid furrowing her brow or tensing her face. She would correct me if I did not do the same. “Our face is the reflection of our soul,” she said. “It must always be serene, like that of a small child who is always happy, even when [1232] you are alone, because you are in constant view of God and the angels.”

She had a filial love for our Mother Saint Teresa and our Father Saint John of the Cross. The latter’s writings delighted her particularly. She would meditate from memory on long passages from the Spiritual Canticle and Living Flame. She told me that, in difficult times, these books had comforted her and done her much good.

She told me she had prayed to all the saints to adopt her as their child and to grant her their two-fold love for God. In return, she had promised them the glory that they would have her merit. She told me her favourite saints included Saint Joseph, the Holy Innocents, Saint Agnes, Saint Cecilia, Blessed Théophane Vénard and Blessed Joan of Arc. She liked telling me about the characteristic virtues of each, to encourage us both to imitate them.

 [Answer to the twenty-second question]:

Never did the Servant of God envisage earthly consolations or interests to incite her to suffer or to work. Nor did she ever propose the same reasons in order to encourage us in our effort. The reasons she usually evoked, and which incited her to generosity, were winning souls for God and pleasing God. She also aspired to going to heaven, but said often that she did not consider heaven as a place for repose and enjoyment, but rather as a place where she could love God perfectly and [1233] do greater good on earth: “I can't rest as long as there are souls to be saved” [DEA (Mother Agnes’ Notebook) 17-7].

To me it seemed impossible to have greater trust in God than she. She would say that we obtain from God as much as we hope from Him. She also told me she felt immense desires to love God, to glorify Him and to make Him loved, and that she firmly hoped these desires would be met and exceeded. She said to curb our desires and hopes was to misunderstand God’s infinite goodness. “My immense desires are my wealth,” she said, “and these words of Jesus will come true for me: ‘Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance’” (Mt. 13:12) [MSB 4,1].

 [The witness resumes questions twenty-three, twenty-four and twenty-five]:

Her hope in God never faltered, even when her soul was in deepest darkness, when her prayers went unanswered, and when everything went against what she wanted. [1234] “God will tire of testing me sooner than I will doubt Him,” she said one day. “Even were He to kill me, I would still hope in Him” [DEA 7-7].

She never said she would suffer unless she was obliged to do so. “God sees everything,” she told me. “I surrender myself to Him: He will inspire Mother Prioress to call the Doctor if it is necessary.”

Burning with fever one day, the nurse believed she was bringing her relief by placing a hot water bottle on her feet. She told me afterwards that she had endured the ordeal without saying a word, but couldn’t resist complaining to Our Lord: “Jesus, I’m burning up and they bring me yet more heat! Yet I am glad to have the opportunity to forego what is needful in order to resemble You more and to save souls.” The nurse returned shortly afterwards with a cold drink. “Oh,” she said, “Jesus is so good! It is so sweet to confide in Him” [DEA Last Conversations with Mary of the Trinity, April].

 [Answer to the twenty-sixth question]:

The Servant of God took care to teach her novices to trust God in this way and to entertain perfect hope.

In my first year as a novice, I faced many obstacles to my vocation. Just when everything seemed lost, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus asked me, “Do you trust you will succeed all the same?” “Yes,” I replied, “I’m certain [1235] God will grant me this blessing and nothing will persuade me otherwise.” “You are right to have trust,” she said firmly, “God is sure to answer your prayer, for His gifts are always proportionate to our trust.”

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

“However, I will admit that, should your hope have wavered, I myself would have doubted, so much does hope seem humanly lost.”

 She also said to me, “When you are sick, simply tell Mother Prioress so, then surrender yourself to God without thinking more upon it, whether you are treated or not. You have done your duty by speaking, and that is enough. The rest is not up to you, but to God. If you lack something, it’s a blessing. It proves He trusts you are strong enough to suffer for Him.” 

 [Why do you quote these recollections word-for-word as you did at the Informative Process? -Answer]:

Well before there was word of even the Informative Process, immediately after the Servant of God died, I wrote down the advice she had given me, for my own edification. Therefore I know them by heart and would be unable to express them differently.

 [The witness resumes]:

When I had family troubles, she said, “Entrust them to God and think no more upon them: everything will turn out well for your family. If you worry about them yourself, God shall not worry, and you will be depriving your relatives of the blessings you [1236] would have obtained for them by being surrendered.”  

When I told her I was afraid God was angry with me because of my endless imperfections, she said, “The One whom you have chosen as your Spouse – dare I say it? – has one infirmity; He is blind! And He knows nothing about addition! Were it necessary for Him to 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.”

 [Answer to the twenty-seventh question]:

The whole of the life of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was but an act of love for God. She perfectly accomplished this recommendation of Saint Paul: “Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it for love of God.”

On 29th July 1894, the community drew some pious sentences from a ballot. The note that fell to her read: “If you were asked at any time ‘What are you doing?’ Your answer should be: ‘I love!’ In the refectory? ‘I love!’ At work? ‘I love!’ etc.” The note brought her great pleasure, and she kept it until she died. She told me, “It finds an echo inside me. For a long time now, this is how I have understood love and how I strive to practise it.”

[1237] I said to the Servant of God one day, “If I were unfaithful to grace, I would not go straight to heaven!” “Oh, it’s not that!” she said, “But God would be without your love.”

 [Answer to the twenty-eighth question]:

I told the Servant of God one day of the strange phenomena produced by magnetism on those who surrender their will to the hypnotiser. She said to me the following day, “What you told me yesterday did me much good. How I long to be hypnotised 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 human, but Divine – inspired and guided by the Spirit of Love.”

On another occasion, she said, “At Sext Office, there is a line I am always reluctant to recite: ‘Inclinavi cor meum ad faciendas justificationes tuas in aeternum propter retributionem’; Inwardly, I hasten to add, ‘O sweet Jesus, you know well that it is not for reward that I serve you, but only because I love you and wish to save souls.”

 [Answer to the twenty-ninth question]:

The Servant of God often quoted these words of Saint John of the Cross: “It is of the upmost importance that the soul should practise love often, so that, when consummate, it will not stop here below but promptly encounter God face to face” [Living Flame st. 1,v.6].

Shortly before she died, she herself admitted [1238] that she never lost sight of God’s presence, and it was clear from her reverent bearing and from the care with which she undertook all her actions, that truly her thoughts were always turned to God. Furthermore, she spoke of nothing but God’s love or of the resulting perfection of our deeds.

 [Answer to the thirtieth question]:

The Servant of God was mindful to share with us her dispositions with regards to God’s love. Whenever she urged me to do something, it was with such gentleness that she would often move me to tears. She liked to recite these words of Saint John of the Cross: “In the evening of this life, we will be judged by love. Learn then to love God as He wishes to be loved, and give up all that is your own” [Maxims and Counsels].

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

Her entire spiritual doctrine, which she called her “little way”, revolved around love, trust and humility.

The Court will have heard of her Self-Offering to God’s Merciful Love. She suggested that, like her, I offer myself to God as a victim of love and she prepared me to do so.

 [Answer to the thirty-first question]:

Her love for God gave rise to an ardent zeal to save souls, and particularly priests. It was to save priests that she embraced Carmelite life. She told me that by praying and [1239] making sacrifices for their sanctification, we simultaneously worked towards the redemption of the souls in their care.

She called other souls “her children”, and loved them as a mother. She thought about them continually and worked tirelessly to “win their eternal life”, to coin her expression.

One washing day, I was walking to the laundry room without rushing, admiring the flowers in the garden on the way. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was on her way there also, but at a brisker pace. Soon she caught up with me and said, pulling me along, “Come along, come with me and let’s hurry, because if we amuse ourselves our children shall die of hunger.”

Another time, gazing heavenward, I said to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, “How happy we shall be up above!” “You are right,” she said, “and I do wish to go to heaven soon, but do not believe that I mean to rest! I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth until the end of time. Only then will I enjoy God and take rest. If I did not firmly believe that my desire will be answered, I would prefer not to die but to live until time is no more in order to save a greater number of souls. 

 [Answer to the thirty-second question]:

The charity of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus for her neighbour always [1240] struck me. She demonstrated charity at all times. This virtue was entirely spiritual and stemmed from her love for God. The same was true of the tender affection she held for me. Our relationship was very spiritual. She was mindful to correct me of all my faults: “I owe you the truth,” she said to me. “Hate me if you wish, but I will speak the truth until I die.”

In turn, my affection for her was also entirely spiritual. I noticed with surprise that the more I loved her, the more I also loved God, and when my love for her grew colder, I was forced to admit that I was in less than perfect dispositions. One day she gave me a picture, on the back of which was written these words of Our Holy Father 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 1, ch. 4].

She taught me to transcend my affection for others. Noticing that I was self-seeking in my relationship with Reverend Mother Agnes of Jesus, she told me one day, “Do you believe you love Mother Prioress? Well, I shall prove to you that you are entirely mistaken: it is not Mother Prioress whom you love, but yourself. When we truly love someone, we make all manner of sacrifices to make that person happy. If you loved Mother Prioress with a disinterested love, you would rejoice to see her take pleasure at your expense. And, since you think she procures less satisfaction from speaking with you than with another, you should not be upset when she appears to [1241] abandon you for that other person.”

On 13th June 1897, she wrote these words on the back of a picture showing the birth of Jesus: “May the divine little Jesus find in your soul an abode perfumed with the roses of Love, may He find there the burning lamp of frater­nal charity, which will warm His little cold members and which will delight His little Heart by making Him forget the ingratitude of souls who do not love Him enough” [LT 246].

[Sitting 63: - 26th September 1916, at 9am and 2pm]

 [Answer to questions thirty-three to thirty-five]:

Due to our spiritual closeness, I was in a position to see her hidden acts of charity better than anyone. Therefore, when it came to community chores, she always chose the most difficult and least appealing tasks. One day I asked her whether it was better to go to rinse in cold water or to stay in the laundry room to wash with hot water. She replied: “That’s not difficult! When you have no desire to put your hands in cold water, it’s a sign that others feel the same; 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 practise both self-sacrifice and charity.”

She told me to go to recreation with a view to amuse not myself but others: “There, perhaps more than anywhere else, we find opportunities to be selfless and to practise charity,” she said. “For example, if someone tells you a boring story, listen with interest to bring them pleasure; [1245] make yourself agreeable to everyone. You won’t succeed, I tell you, unless you renounce yourself.”

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

 I noticed that she put into practice every word of advice she gave me, and with unaltered perfection. She was always prepared to go out of her way to be of service to others, and she did so with such an amiable smile that you would think you were obliging her by enlisting her assistance. She never complained we were bothering her if we came at a bad time and interrupted her work, even if it was for no reason at all. She would do what was requested of her immediately. She was so obliging that I saw a number of Sisters take advantage of her and take her assistance for granted. I felt appalled by this sometimes, but she thought it only natural and, in her charity, she was always finding new ways to please everyone.

Whenever the feast day of Mother Prioress would draw near, nearly all the Sisters would bring their gifts to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus so that she could paint them. The Sisters would vie to be served first, and instead of gratitude, the Servant of God often received criticism: “You took more care over so and so’s painting..., you did hers first, etc....” Some were brazen enough to demand very complicated paintings. She would overexert herself and wear herself out trying to please them, but she rarely succeeded. However, all these blows and harsh reproaches did not seem to affect her. She said, “When you work for God, you don’t expect others’ gratitude, and their criticism fails to trouble [1246] your peace.” At recreation or in community chores, she would choose the company of Sisters who looked sad and would strive to cheer them with her enthusiasm and by assisting them. When she failed, she would pray for them, she told me.

For two or three years, she was assistant to the most exasperating Sister you could meet: her numerous obsessions would try the patience of an angel. You would need heroic virtue to bend to all her demands. This is the opinion of all those who know her. All day long, she would bore us with her sermons and speeches, which were nothing but a charade. I happened to let my impatience show one day when she was giving me one of her speeches. “Oh, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus has never spoken to me like that!” When I related the event to the Servant of God, she replied, “Oh, be gentle with her, she is sick. What’s more, it’s charitable to let her think she does us good, and it gives us an opportunity to practise patience. You’re already complaining and yet you spend little time with her. What would you say if you were in my shoes and had to listen to her all day long? Well, you can do what I do; it’s not very difficult. You must mind to not grow annoyed inside, and to pacify your soul with charitable thoughts; after that, patience comes naturally.”

I will admit I was edified by the consistent patience and charity of Sister [1247] Thérèse of the Child Jesus for this Sister to the extent that, in my opinion, she deserves to be canonised for this reason alone. I don’t think such constant mildness is possible without heroic virtue.

The Servant of God requested to be the assistant of a Sister whom no one could abide. The Sister in question, who has now left the convent, was susceptible to dark melancholy and was of a violent nature. She gave the Servant of God good reason to suffer through her unfairness and cruel words. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus bore it all without ever complaining, and, in her mildness, pacified her companion to the point that the latter ultimately acknowledged her wrongdoings and grew humble. The Servant of God took advantage of such moments to cheer her. Her success was such that the Sister said no one in the world had benefitted her as much as Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

Lastly, I will speak about the charity she showed me. It is thanks to her that I succeeded in becoming a Carmelite. My lack of virtue, poor health, and also the lack of sympathy that I found in the community because I had come from another Carmel, created hundreds of almost insurmountable difficulties. In these trying times, only the Servant of God comforted me and ably seized opportunities to plead my cause before the Sisters who were against me. She said, “I would willingly give my life for you to succeed in your vocation!” She told me she considered [1248] the day of my profession as one of the best days of her life. It was in memory of this day that she wrote the poems “Commentary on the Divine” and “I thirst for Love”, which were published in Story of a Soul.

 [Answer to the thirty-sixth question]:

The Servant of God told me that, through our prayers and sacrifices, we needed to obtain for souls so much love from Go that they can go straight to heaven without passing through purgatory. However, she did not forget the dead who suffer in this place of atonement. For their benefit, she would walk the Way of the Cross as often as she could. She would have liked to do it every day, but was sometimes prevented by the chores imposed upon her by obedience. She strove not to waste a single opportunity to win indulgences on their behalf. She advised me to try and do the same.

 [Answer to questions thirty-seven and thirty-eight inclusively]:

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus always revealed a prudence and maturity well beyond her years.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

Very often at that time, there were disagreements, sometimes violent ones, due to the mentality of Mother Marie de Gonzague and to certain mindsets in the community. When things degenerated too much, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus would always restore peace to the community with extraordinary tact and skill.

Due to her astonishing wisdom, I consulted her [1249] as I would an oracle; she would clear up any doubts I had unhesitatingly and with precision; she would tell me what I should do or avoid. I would always feel glad I had followed her advice, and when I went against it, I regretted it.

One day, I wrote to her saying that, to punish myself for being unfaithful, I had decided to deprive myself of Communion the following day. She replied, “Dear little flower of Jesus, you must no longer desire to eat earth; the forget-me-not must lift its corolla so that the Bread of Angels may come like a divine Dew to strengthen it and to give it all that it is lacking” [LT 240].

One day I meant to skip meditation to devote myself to some work that needed doing. She said, “Unless it is absolutely necessary, never ask permission to miss pious exercises for any manner of work: work is a devotion that cannot please Jesus! True devotion is not wasting a minute in times allotted for working.” 

My sensitivity meant I wept often and over trivial things. Realising that this weakness was an obstacle to my spiritual progress, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had the clever idea to ask me to collect my tears in a shell every time I wept in order to cure me. This inventive method worked perfectly for me.

Her prudence was most noticeable to me when she gave me spiritual direction. She wouldn’t ask any prying or embarrassing questions under the pretext of helping me. She would listened to me with interest, but was [1250] not curious. I noticed for myself at that time what she later wrote in her autobiography: “When I interview a novice, 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 32,2].

To comfort me in the face of temptation, she said, “Look at how brass is made to shine: it is coated in mud and other dirty substances that make it dull; afterwards, it is as bright as gold! Well, temptations are like mud for the soul; they serve only to bring out in us the virtues that are contrary to these same temptations.”

The Servant of God used methods that appealed to me to lead me to Jesus. She told me she would never force someone to follow her way unless the person felt inclined and wanted to do so, because God guides souls along various paths, and all must walk them in accordance with divine will. For instance, as I was very childlike at that time, I used quite an original and perhaps puerile method to practise virtue. I strove to delight the Child Jesus by playing all manner of spiritual games with Him. As I made great progress with this method, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus encouraged me to continue and, humouring me, she wrote me the letter dated Christmas night 1896 that was published in Story of a Soul (Edition published in octavo, 1914, page 292), and which begins as follows: “To my darling little spouse, the skittle player on the mountain of Carmel” [LT 212]. Failing to take into account that this letter was [1251] written only by condescension to correspond to my spiritual needs in particular, some people wrongly interpreted this childish spirituality as a general lesson that was applicable to all.

 [Answer to questions thirty-seven and thirty-eight continued]:

I was able to hear from her lips an important explanation as regards what she called “her little way” of love and trust. I told her I intended to share the spiritual doctrine with my family and friends. “Oh, you must be very careful!” she said, “For our ‘little way’ ill-explained or misunderstood could be taken as Quietism or Illusionism.” She then explained these false doctrines to me for they were unknown to me. I remember her telling me that Mrs Guyon was a heretic. She said, “People must not think that [1252] 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 surrender ourselves unreservedly to God’s divine pleasure; it is to accept to share with Jesus His humiliation and His bitter cup.” 

On another occasion, I said, “Who taught you the ‘little way of love’ that delights the heart so?” She replied, “Jesus alone. No book or theologian taught it to me, and yet I feel deep down that it is the truth. I have received encouragement from no one, save Mother Agnes of Jesus. When the opportunity presented itself to give voice to my soul, I was so misunderstood that I said to God, in the words of Saint John of the Cross, ‘Send me no more a messenger who cannot tell me what I wish’” [Spiritual Canticle st. 6].

One day she asked me if, after her death, I would abandon her “little way of trust and love”. “Of course not,” I said. “I believe in it so completely that I think even were the Pope to tell me you were mistaken, I would not believe him.” “Oh, you must above all believe the Pope. Yet do not fear he will tell you to change course. I won’t give him the time to do so, because if when I arrive in heaven I discover I have led you astray, I will obtain permission from God to come and tell you so immediately.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

Until then, believe that my way is right and follow it faithfully.” 

 [Answer to questions thirty-nine and forty]:

 [1253] Justice shone particularly brightly in Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Her novices turned to her in complete faith because she was never self-seeking in her attitude towards them and showed no favouritism, even though her own sister and first cousin were among her novices.

She was faithful in her duty and nothing could sway her from it. Whenever I wanted to remind myself of the Order’s rules, I needed only to observe her behaviour.

She loved the truth and only reluctantly accepted the need for certain untruths as a result of the ruefully jealous nature of Mother Marie de Gonzague. On one occasion she couldn’t help but protest aloud in front of a significant number of the community (about fifteen nuns) against an act of blatant injustice committed by Mother Marie de Gonzague, who was then Novice Mistress.

 [Can you quote her words of protest exactly? - Answer]:

She said, “Mother Marie de Gonzague is in the wrong! It’s disgraceful to behave in this way towards one’s Mother Prioress and what pains me more is to see God offended by this.” One nun replied, “Mother Marie de Gonzague is Novice Mistress; she has every right to humiliate her novices!” “She does not,” replied the Servant of God. “This is not among the humiliations that may be inflicted.”

 [1254] [What was this blatant injustice? -Answer]

Mother Agnes of Jesus was then Prioress and was soon to step down. As the noviciate period for Sister Geneviève and myself was over, Mother Agnes suggested receiving our profession vows before the end of her office, as was customary. The ecclesiastical superior had also expressed this wish. Envisaging her imminent re-election as Prioress, and eager to receive the vows of the newly professed nuns herself, Mother Marie de Gonzague, Novice Mistress, violently objected to the plans of the Prioress and Father Superior in front of the whole community, in words that were very hurtful for Mother Agnes of Jesus. This is what prompted the Servant of God to protest.

 [The witness continues]:

It pained Sister Thérèse to see Mother Marie de Gonzague live in ignorant illusion vis-à-vis her faults, and she tried to open her eyes to the truth by any means. She therefore often exposed herself to the ill-will of the poor Mother, who was blinded by her jealous passion. This said, the Servant of God sought only to do good to the unfortunate soul, for she loved her despite everything.

[Answer to the forty-first question]:

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus lived a very austere life, yet her austerity was amiable and went unnoticed. She called upon others only when necessary in order to accomplish her duty or out of charity, without ever seeking her own satisfaction.

I particularly admired her detachment from [1255] her blood sisters. She showed them no more affection than the other nuns. Recently I told her eldest sister (Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart) of my surprise that, during the Servant of God’s lifetime, she rarely sought her company. “You’re right!” she replied. “Yet what could I do? I dearly wished to talk to her, but out of faithfulness, she refused to speak to me.”

In the refectory, I sat at her table, and despite my efforts, I could never discern what she liked or disliked. She ate everything indifferently. When she was very ill, and the nurse obliged her to say what she liked, she admitted that some foods had always disagreed with her. Yet I had seen her eat them with the same indifference as the other food.

From the advice on self-sacrifice she gave me, it was easy to see her practices, for she never gave me a piece of advice that she did not put into practice perfectly. For instance, she advised me not to mix up my food to make it taste better; not to lean my back against the wall (this is very difficult, because the pews, which are quite narrow, are attached to the wall); to end my meal with something that does not flatter the taste buds, such as a mouthful of dry bread. “These trifles do us no harm,” she said. “They go unnoticed and they maintain the soul in a state of spiritual fervour.” She also advised me to move the little pew away [1256] from the wall when I was sitting in our cell so that I wouldn’t lean against it. In short, she encouraged me to self-sacrifice in everything I did, which proved to me how much attention she paid to sacrificing herself.

By her own admission, suffering from the cold was the hardest corporal mortification she endured at the Carmel. She bore it heroically without complaining or seeking relief. She would scold me when I showed signs of feeling cold, by either walking hunched over or shivering. One day, I had put our sandals to dry on a foot heater 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 a life of austerity 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 practise mortification” [Idem].

Our families and other monasteries offered many gifts to our most senior nun, Sister Saint-Stanislaus, for her golden anniversary.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

One such gift won everyone’s admiration, and was later given to our chaplain, Father Youf. The latter mentioned the gift to Sister Thérèse and asked her what she thought of it. The Servant of God looked embarrassed and was forced to admit that, as she had very much wanted to see the object, she had deprived herself of looking at it, to mortify herself. Father Youf found this so edifying that he expressed his admiration to the Prioress, Mother [1257] Marie de Gonzague, saying she had a real saint in this young nun.

 [Answer to the forty-second question]:

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus raised the virtue of strength to a heroic level.

When I joined the convent, her blood sister Mother Agnes of Jesus was Prioress, and I was very edified by the Servant of God’s strength of character when she witnessed the disgraceful displays of jealousy that Mother Marie de Gonzague inflicted upon her beloved “Second Mother” on a daily basis. She was extremely sensitive and affectionate at heart, especially with regards to the sister who had been a mother to her. And yet her serenity was never troubled during such outbursts: she remained ever gracious and amiable. She said to me, “God will bring good of this evil. Our Mother is a saint; this is why God spares her not.” She also told me it was our duty to pray for the conversion of Mother Marie de Gonzague, and that she was more pained to see God offended than to witness her ‘second mother’ suffer.

I’ve often heard the senior members of the community praise the even-temperedness of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus when her father fell ill and a series of strokes obliged him to be taken into a home. Speaking of those family hardships, she herself told me, [1258] “These trials represent for me a perpetual source of thanksgiving.”

One day she said, “I strive to suffer joyfully. For example, when we take discipline I imagine 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, “Mother Prioress 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 immense grace!” 

One day, when I was in tears, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus told me to avoid the habit of allowing others to see the trifles that worried me: “You are indeed right,” I answered. “Henceforth my tears will be for God alone.” “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... Would you then be like the common run of people? Our Lord loves the glad heart. When will you learn how to hide your troubles from Him, or tell Him gaily that you are happy to suffer for Him?” 

She also said, “While in the world, [1259] 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 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.’”

The Servant of God was matchless in terms of strength. She followed the rule relentlessly until her strength was completely exhausted. She began suffering from a very sore throat three years before she died, but no attention was paid to it. At the end of Lent 1896, which she followed in all the austerity required by our Order, she coughed up blood, which she mentions in her life story. As I was assistant-nurse she told me about it the following morning (Good Friday): her face was beaming with happiness. She added she was pleased that, despite what had befallen her in the night, Mother Marie de Gonzague had unhesitatingly allowed her to practise all the exercises of penance that were prescribed for the two last days of holy week. She made me promise to refrain from informing Mother Agnes of Jesus so as not to upset her. She therefore fasted with the rest of us all day on that Good Friday, eating nothing but a bit of dried bread and drinking water at midday and at six-o’clock that evening. Moreover, between the Offices, she constantly carried out tiring cleaning work. In the evening she took discipline for the duration of three Misereres. [1260] When she returned exhausted to her cell, she once again coughed up blood as she had done the previous day.

From then on, although there were some better days, her health gradually worsened, but this did not stop her from attending all the community exercises and from being constantly smiley. She told me that during Divine Office, she often felt faint from forcing herself to sing the psalms and to stand. But she shook off her tiredness with the words, “If I die, then we’ll see.”

When I realised she had no strength left, I asked Mother Marie de Gonzague to dispense her from attending Matins, but to no avail. The Servant of God begged me not to interfere, assuring me that Mother Prioress was aware of her condition, and that, if Mother Prioress paid no attention to it, it was because God had seen fit to answer her prayer and to let her carry on unaided until her strength was exhausted. This is what happened. On the last day she was to rise from her bed, she came to evening recreation.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

At the time, she admitted that the night before, it had taken her over half an hour to reach her cell. She had been obliged to sit down on almost every step of the staircase. It had taken a tremendous effort to undress herself alone. Despite her forbiddance, I informed Mother Marie de Gonzague and also Mother Agnes of Jesus, and from then on, greater care was taken of her health.

[Sitting 64: - 27th September 1916, at 9am and 2pm]

[1264] [Answer to the forty-third question]:

Everything in the Servant of God breathed purity. I cannot describe the good she did me with regards to this virtue. She taught me to see all things in a pure light. “To the pure all things are pure,” she would say. “Evil is found only in perverse intentions.” She humbly told me she had never been tempted against purity. One day, she said, “I always take great care when I’m alone, when I’m dressing or going to bed, to have the same reserve as I’d have in front of others. And in any case, are we not in the constant presence of God and His angels? This modesty has become such a habit that I wouldn’t be able to act otherwise.”

 [Answer to the forty-fourth question]:

WITNESS XXI

[Answer to the forty-fourth question]:

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus practised poverty in all its perfection. I noticed the care she took to never waste anything and to reuse everything to avoid the least expense. She would lower the wick in her little lamp so that it gave out only the necessary light. [1265] She darned all her clothes and everything else she used as many times as possible, to avoid renewing them. In the same spirit of poverty, she always wrote in very narrow lines to use up less paper. In the refectory, whenever she took more salt than was necessary, instead of throwing it away, she would keep it aside for another time. She often encouraged me to practise the virtue of poverty, assuring me that it was desirable to lack what is needful because then we could call ourselves truly poor. She said that when I needed something bought, and was given a choice, I should unhesitatingly choose the least expensive item, as the poor do.

Out of love of poverty, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus chose the most worn clothes to wear. In recreation one day, the linen supervisor was darning some very old and misshaped wimples. She told the Servant of God she was keeping them as spares for the Lay Sisters because they were not presentable. This is why she gave them to only her close friends, whom she knew were not difficult. “Oh,” begged Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, “please consider me as one of your close friends.” The laundry supervisor accepted, and from then on, she [1266] was given the most worn out and uncomfortable wimples.

 [Answer to the forty-fifth question]:

The Servant of God was heroic in terms of obedience. Although she admitted she did not always feel understood when she spoke to the ordinary or extraordinary confessor, she would still speak all her thoughts and followed their advice unconditionally. For instance, when she wrote her “Self- Offering to God’s Merciful Love”, she would not show it to me until it had been approved by a knowledgeable priest. When the priest in question had her change one word, and a rather insignificant word at that, she hurried to correct the few copies that had been made.

In order to be more dependent, she asked to remain in the novitiate longer than was customary, and stayed there until the end of her life. The request was all the more remarkable given that, at the time she made it, Mother Marie de Gonzague was Novice Mistress, and she would therefore become dependent upon her, which surely went against her natural inclination.

She would never have done something without permission for the entire world. When she had forgotten to ask for permission for something one day, I told her she could go ahead and justify herself afterwards. She immediately replied, “No I couldn’t! I would never take that liberty unless [1267] it was an exceptional case. Little acts of submission such as these help us to practise obedience to perfection. If we avoid them, what is the point of having taken the vow?”

She proved the heroic nature of her obedience in the exemplarily faithful way she unquestioningly obeyed every rule that Mother Marie de Gonzague established. Cancelled upon a whim, these rules were unstable and the community took little notice of them.

Not only did she obey every order of her Mother Prioress to the letter, but she also obeyed all the Sisters in the community with the same promptness. I experienced this on more than one occasion, and it both edified and disconcerted me. One day when I told her to do something, she immediately stopped what she was doing even though she would certainly rather have continued, and went where I sent her. And yet, she was my Mistress and nothing obliged her to do what I asked.

Our rules recommend picking up the smallest scraps of wood we come across in the convent for the fire. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus went so far as to carefully gather the shavings from her pencils.

Following her reception of the Habit, Reverend Mother Agnes of Jesus taught her to sit on her heels, as is customary in the Carmel, and told her to sit on the right side. She took this piece of advice as an [1268] order, and followed it until she died, never allowing herself to change side even for a moment to relax.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

To encourage me to obedience, she told me of the heroic deed she had done as a postulant and novice: “Our Mistress, Sister Marie of Angels, ordered me to inform her every time I had a stomachache. At that time I had them every day and obeying the order was nothing less than torture for me. I would have preferred to be beaten a hundred times than to admit to having a stomachache, but I told her every time out of obedience. Our Mistress, who couldn’t remember giving me the order, said, ‘My poor child, you will never have the health to follow the Rule, you are too weak!’ Or else she would request some remedy from Mother Marie de Gonzague, who would reply crossly, ‘That child is always complaining! She came to the Carmel to suffer. If she cannot bear her ills she should leave!’ Yet for a long time, out of obedience, I continued confessing my stomachaches at the risk of being sent away until God finally took pity on me and had me dispensed of the obligation.”

During her last illness, when asked why she sought permission for insignificant things that she could have done without scruple, she said to Mother Agnes of Jesus, “Mother, I do everything out of obedience” [DEA 11-9].

[1269] [Answer to the forty-sixth question]:

The humility of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was truly heroic. She sought humiliation as though a treasure. She often begged me to tell her any unpleasant remarks I had heard about not only herself but also her dear “Second Mother” and her other sisters, even though it must have been very distressing for her to hear them. In Story of a Soul, chapter 10, she herself recounts the joy she felt to hear such remarks. “Ah, truly, it is more than pleasure, it is a delightful banquet which fills my soul with joy. I cannot explain how a thing which is so displeasing to nature can cause such great happiness” [MSC 27,1].

Not only was the Servant of God visibly filled with holy joy when I repeated any malicious comments about her, but I also noticed the same serenity when Sisters indiscriminately directed harsh and unpleasant words towards her. One elderly nun failed to understand why Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had been put in charge of the novices so young. She told her she needed to learn to direct herself before directing others. I witnessed the conversation. With angelic sweetness, the Servant of God replied, “Ah, you are right, Sister. I have more imperfections than you know.”   

She told me that if she had not been admitted to the Carmel, she would have joined a Refuge and lived there unknown and despised among the poor penitents. “My joy,” she said, “would have [1270] been to pass for one, and I would have become an apostle among my companions, telling them my thoughts on the Infinite Mercy of God.” I asked her how she could have hidden her innocence from her Confessor. “I would have told him that while still in the world I made a general confession, and that it was forbidden me to repeat it.” 

She constantly taught me how to practise humility. What she called her “little way of spiritual childhood” was frequently the subject of our conversations.

Once, she said, “Imagine that a bountiful feast has just been served in your honour. As would a mother for her child, I have greedily taken from these choice dishes; I have brought them to you because I think they will do you good and would bring pleasure to myself.” These dishes were the humiliating remarks and unfavourable opinions that had been spoken about me. Lastly, she said, “Promise me that you will treat me as I treat you. You see, I bring you proof of true love. Since you love me, give me similar proof.”

When I was discouraged by my imperfections, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus said, “You remind me of a little child that is learning to stand but does not yet know how to walk. In his desire to reach the top of the stairs to find his mother, he lifts his little foot to climb the first step. It is all in vain, and at each renewed effort he falls. Well, be like that little child. Always keep lifting your foot to climb the ladder of holiness, and do not imagine [1271] that you can mount even the first step. All God asks of you is good will. From the top of the ladder He looks lovingly upon you, and soon, touched by your fruitless efforts, He will Himself come down, and, taking you in His arms, will carry you to His Kingdom never again to leave Him.”

On another occasion, when I had once again let my faults dishearten me, she said, “You have once again strayed from the ‘little way’. Sorrow that breaks you stems from self-love, whereas holy sorrow steels courage. We should be glad to feel weak and wretched because if we recognise these faults, relying on God for everything when we deserve nothing, then God will descend to us and pour out His gifts in abundance.”

 [Answer to the forty-seventh question]:

I am asked if I know what heroic virtue is. I believe it consists of a degree of perfection that is in excess of what is ordinarily seen in [1272] even fervent souls, and especially, in this case, in the life of an edifying nun.

I have no doubt as to the heroic character of the virtues of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. What I saw her practise exceeds what can be seen in even the best nuns. Among other examples of heroism, I noticed:

1stly that even the best nuns have moments of forgetfulness, slips of nature, and some slackening of fervour. There was nothing of the sort with Sister Thérèse.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

Although I lived in constant closeness to her, I never saw the slightest dip in faithfulness or in the generosity of her conduct.

2ndly What seems to accentuate the heroic nature of her virtue further, is that she lived in the Carmel at a time when the community was in some disarray. Cliques had formed under the influence of Mother Marie de Gonzague. The community was very much wanting in charity. Regularity and silence were poorly observed. In order to stay constantly faithful in such an environment, as Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus always did, you had to swim upstream, and go against the general flow, which required truly exceptional virtue.

3rdly With three blood sisters and a first cousin in the community, and the most beloved of these sisters being Prioress, at the head of the community, it would have been very easy and only natural for her to grant herself some satisfactions without breaking the Rule. However, she never did [1273] so to my knowledge; on the contrary, she appeared to prefer the company of other nuns. However, her entire biography shows the immense sensitivity of her love for her own sisters and particularly for her “Second Mother”, Mother Agnes of Jesus. Therefore she did not behave out of indifference, but out of spiritual and truly heroic detachment given the circumstances.

4thly When asked in which virtues her heroic nature seemed more pronounced, I must reply that the heroic nature of her virtue appeared particularly remarkable:

1stly In the continuity and intensity of her reverence and loving union with God. I think what she said in her book is very true: she thought about God uninterruptedly.

2ndly In the generous faithfulness with which she seized every providential opportunity to make sacrifices in order to please God and win souls for Him.

3rdly In her charity for the others Sisters, as I explained previously.

4thly And finally in her humility.

 [Answer to the forty-eighth question]:

Serenity and moderation were the prominent characteristics of the Servant of God.

 [Answer to the forty-ninth question]:

Gifts of a spiritual nature, miracles, raptures, etc., which we usually admire in saints’ lives, were not [1274] a feature the Servant of God’s life. Her life here below was not out of the ordinary, which is precisely what renders her spirituality imitable and accessible to all. She felt that God intended her to be this way, so that she could be a model for the many ordinary souls who walk in the night of faith. She would speak about this sometimes in her usual simple terms. I can remember saying she might have the blessing to die after receiving Holy Communion. “Oh,” 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. They should be able to imitate all I do.”

Her high level of perfection, her close union with God and also her natural intelligence made her very perceptive, to the point that I thought she had a gift for reading thoughts. When I told her this, she said, “I do not have such a gift, but here is 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 received prompt and wondrous blessings in the face of temptation more than once simply by the power of the Servant of God’s prayer.

Something quite extraordinary happened to me one day: upset that she had [1275] refused to see me when I had called on her at an untimely moment, I decided to punish her by not speaking to her all day. When she came to me that evening, I was about to criticise her when I suddenly felt a spiritual change of heart; I was as though under the influence of a higher power gently compelling me to apologise to her and making me realise I was not in the presence of just anybody, but of a saint loved by God. From then on, I could not help but regard this angel of virtue with respect mingled with admiration, and this feeling grew with every passing day.

 [Answer to the fiftieth question]:

To my knowledge, the Servant of God did not perform any miracles during her lifetime.

 [Answer to the fifty-first question]:

The Servant of God wrote down her life story out of obedience. She also wrote various poems, particularly for feast days in the convent. Lastly, she wrote her sisters some letters on spiritual matters. These writings have been published and are accessible to the public. To my knowledge, nobody has found anything in them that might go against holy doctrine or perfection, far from it; reading her writings has proved beneficial and encourages souls to virtue and perfection.

[1276] [Answer to the fifty-second question]:

Following the two incidents of haemoptysis at the end of Lent 1896, the Servant of God’s health declined rapidly. Doctors La Néelle and de Cornière stated that her condition was nothing serious, for the time being at least. They prescribed rubbing and cautery treatments. The Servant of God found the former particularly gruelling.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

When she awoke every morning, Sister Geneviève would rub her entire body with an exfoliating glove, yet instead of helping, it exhausted her, and left her aching all day. The cautery treatment was also very painful. Once, the doctor applied as many as 500 cautery points in one session. However the Servant of God did not complain and complied with every treatment. She even attended all community exercises, and, as I said with regards to her strength of virtue, she continued to do so until her strength completely left her in June 1897.

I rarely saw Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus after that, because I was removed from duty as assistant nurse and it was forbidden for novices to speak to her so as to avoid tiring her. I never spoke to her alone again. I missed our conversations terribly. I told her of my sorrow in a letter, and here is her reply:

“6th June 1897,

Dear little sister, your letter delights my soul. I really see I am not mistaken in thinking God is calling you to be a great [1277] saint while you remain little and become more so each day. I understand very well your sorrow at not being able to speak to me, but be assured I am suffering also at my helplessness, and never have I felt so keenly that you hold an immense place in my heart. You want to know if I feel joy at the thought of going to heaven? I would feel very joyful (if I were going there), but I don’t count on my illness; it is taking too long. I no longer count on anything but love (to bring me the blessing of death). Ask of Jesus that all the prayers offered for me may serve to increase the fire that must consume me” [LT 242].

The two sets of brackets that I had inserted are an addition of mine as witness to explain the Servant of God’s thoughts.

Unable to bear being kept apart from her any longer, I went to the infirmary one day and complained aloud in front of one of her sisters. My complaint pained the Servant of God, and she sent me away, scolding me severely for my lack of virtue. That evening, she had this note delivered to me: “Dear little sister, I do not want you to be sad; you know what perfection I dream of for your soul. That is why I spoke harshly to you... I would have consoled you gently if you had not expressed your sorrow aloud and had kept it in your heart for [1278] as long as God saw fit” [LT 249].

I went to the infirmary another time, feeling in great need of her comfort, but a Sister rather forcefully prevented me from entering. I therefore went and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, and there my sorrow was replaced by holy joy. I was glad to see all my earthly supports fail me. A few days later, I had an opportunity to see Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus: “Do not worry about me. I am no longer suffering. Jesus is indeed sweet for answering my prayers for you.”

On 12th August, which was my 23rd birthday, she wrote on a pious card in a trembling hand, “May your life be all of humility and love, so that soon you may follow me to where I am going... into the arms of Jesus” [LT 264].

Having found an illustrated book of amusing stories, I took it to the infirmary thinking it would entertain her, but she did not accept it, saying, “How could you think this book would interest me? I am too close to my eternity to be distracted from it.”

Doctor de Cornière came to see her very often. He said she was suffering a veritable martyrdom but that there was nothing to be done.

Three days before she died, I saw her in such agony that I felt frightened. She said, “Ah, if I didn’t have faith, never would I be able to bear so much suffering! I am surprised that more atheists do not kill themselves.” [1279] Witness to her heroic perseverance, I dared to tell her one day that she was an angel: “Oh,” she replied, “angels are not as fortunate as I!” By this, she meant that angels could not have the pleasure of suffering for God.

On the day she died, at about three o'clock in the afternoon, I went to see the Servant of God. She was in terrible agony at that moment. She cried out in pain, her words clear and audible, “O my God! How I’m suffering! The cup is full to the brim... Never shall I know how to die!” “Courage,” said Mother Prioress, “it is nearly over.” “No mother, it’s not yet the end... I feel I shall suffer like this for months.” “And if it was the will of God to leave you for a long time on the cross, would you accept it?” In a tone of extraordinary heroism, she said, “I would.” I left the infirmary at that moment and did not return until that evening when the community was summoned. I was witness to her final ecstatic gaze at the moment she died. Everything happened as it is related in the twelfth chapter of her biography [SS 12]. This took place on 30th September 1897, at seven in the evening.

[Sitting 65: - 28th September 1916, at 9am and 2pm]

[1282] [Answer to the fifty-third question]:       

In death, the Servant of God’s face took on great beauty. A heavenly smile played on her lips. She had not appeared so beautiful [1283] in life. Her features radiated peace and beatitude.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

She had said that the weather would be fine on the day she died, but the whole of 30th September was cold and rainy. No sooner had she drawn her last breath, however, than the clouds disappeared and a myriad of stars appeared. You would have thought that the whole of heaven was in celebration.

When the body of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was laid out in front of the choir grate (as was customary), many people came to pay their respects and to touch pious objects to her body. At that moment, something strange happened to me. Despite what the Servant of God had asked of me, I began to weep and could not contain my grief. When I drew near to her, to touch a rosary that someone had just given me to her body, she held it in her fingers. Very carefully, I lifted her fingers to release it, but as soon as I removed it from one finger, it was immediately held by another. I repeated the procedure five or six times, in vain. Little Sister Thérèse said to me inwardly, “I won’t give it back to you until you give me a smile.” I inwardly replied, “No, my grief is too great. I would rather weep.” However, the people at the grate were wondering why I was taking so long (I had been gone for about five minutes), and I was becoming very annoyed and begged little Thérèse to let me remove the chaplet; I even pulled on it in an attempt to remove it by force, but it was pointless. It was as though her fingers were made of iron, and yet all her [1284] limbs had remained very supple. In the end, unable to take it any longer, I began to smile. This was her wish, for she immediately let go of the chaplet of her own accord, and I found it in my hands without needing to pull on it.

 [Did your interpretation of the event come to mind at that very moment or when you looked back upon it? - Answer]:

It was at that very moment that I made the observation and interpreted it in this way.

 [Why did you not declare this event in your first testimony? - Answer]:

I was a little intimidated then, and what is more I thought there was no reason to point out a trivial and very personal occurrence when there were so many other, much more significant ones.

 [Answer to the fifty-fourth question]:

The funeral took place outside the convent, in the town cemetery. I therefore did not attend, and nobody told me that anything out of the ordinary took place.

 [Answer to the fifty-fifth question]:

I noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

 [Answer to the fifty-sixth question]:

Numerous pilgrimages are made to the Servant of God’s burial place, especially since her Beatification Process began. I know this from the letters [1285] we receive at the Carmel and from reports we hear in the visiting room. Instead of dwindling, the number of pilgrims is increasing. These pilgrims are not only ordinary people, but also serious and educated people, army officers, priests, bishops, and so on. His Lordship the Archbishop of Aix came a few days ago for the second time, etc., etc. To my knowledge nothing was done to prompt this movement.

 [Answer to the fifty-seventh question]:

I personally have always considered the holiness of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus as heroic, ever since I joined the Carmel. I would observe her conduct with admiration, and I can remember writing to my family and friends outside the convent about her. I wrote that I was astonished such perfection could exist on earth, and that because of this I was convinced my holy companion would soon go to heaven.

In my conviction, I treasured as relics everything she gave me. When I obtained permission to cut her hair, I kept the locks instead of burning them, sure that they would work miracles after her death.

The Servant of God’s three sisters, who also knew her closely, shared my veneration. Sister Thérèse tended to go unnoticed by the rest of the community on account of her simplicity and humility. However, whenever the nuns’ [1286] attention was drawn to the Servant of God’s conduct, everyone, or almost everyone, acknowledged the exceptional perfection of her virtues.

What further prevented the heroic virtues of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus from being appraised correctly was that several nuns extended to Sister Thérèse the ill-will they felt against the group of four Martin sisters, as they scornfully called her and her sisters. This feeling of antipathy had been aroused and maintained by Mother Marie de Gonzague. The latter had nevertheless been entirely favourable to the admission of the four sisters to the community, yet her jealous character made her bitterly regret her decision. The superior qualities of these elite souls overshadowed her and she did everything in her power to prevent the community from appreciating them. As a result, her conduct was often unjust, and Reverend Mother Agnes of Jesus, as Prioress, was often the target of her obsession. And yet Mother de Gonzague had assisted her election, convinced that Mother Agnes’s very sweet nature would allow Mother de Gonzague to dominate her entirely. When the latter saw that this sweetness hid a firmness of character which commanded authority over the community, her feelings towards Mother Agnes changed.

The Servant of God overshadowed her to a lesser extent, because she was very young and remained dependent on her as a novice. This is why, although she treated her harshly, Mother de Gonzague noticed her [1287] virtues and said admiringly that she had never come across such maturity and holiness combined in such a young nun. Deep down, this is what the whole community thought, apart from two or three antagonists who are no longer in the community and who in fact changed their minds following the Servant of God’s death.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

Mother Marie de Gonzague spoke these favourable appraisals in my presence. She even told me several times, “If I was to choose a prioress out of the whole community, I would unhesitatingly choose Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, despite her young age. She is perfect in every way; her only fault is that she has her three sisters with her.”

The Servant of God’s biography was published only a few months following her death, in 1898. The effect it had on those who read it was wondrous. Letters we have kept prove this. Trust in the new little saint (as she was called) soon spread widely; we were asked for relics of her (clothing, material, and so on), and to pray novenas of prayers to request her intercession; others were already testifying to her credit with God by relating blessings they had received.

As her biography became more widely known, devotion to her grew. In 1910, the Carmel would receive on average a hundred letters a day. By July 1914, this number had risen to three hundred and fifty to four hundred letters a day. Since the war, this number has remained approximately stable, even [1288] though we receive no correspondence from invaded countries. The contents of some of the letters that we received up to 1913 inclusively were published in four books entitled: “Shower of Roses.” These four volumes published in octavo form a total of 1365 pages, and contain 1488 significant blessings obtained through the Servant of God’s intercession. Since the end of 1913, we have published no such volumes due to the Apostolic Process, and even so, our silence has not slowed the devotion of faith towards Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

Since the Sovereign Pontiff’s approval of a medallion of the Servant of God, 1,002,300 medallions have been sold in the space of 13 months. From July 1915 to July 1916, we had to have 4,118,500 pious cards printed.

 [Question fifty-seven continued]:

We have received 460 marble votive offerings, which [1289] we stock inside the convent.

As tokens of gratitude to the Servant of God, soldiers have sent us 14 Legion of Honour medals, 33 war medals, and so on.

When the media company “Bonne Presse” launched a campaign to finance portable altars for military priests, 240 of the altars offered made mention of donors’ gratitude or prayers to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, even though the appeal made no mention of the Servant of God.

Up until recently, we received donations for candles to be lit before the statue of the Bl. Virgin that smiled miraculously at Sister Thérèse. We had to have a notice printed to stop such requests for they were becoming too numerous and we couldn't satisfy them all. In just a month, we received up to 780 Francs for this intention.

The number of requests we receive for Masses to be said for Sister Thérèse’s beatification grows every day, even though we have done nothing to prompt them. Between January this year and today (28th September) we have been requested 87,500 Masses.

The Vice-Postulator, who was obliged to subscribe to the “Argus de la Presse”, recently sent us 600 newspaper and magazine cuttings on Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

[By distributing so many pious cards and medallions, was it the convent's intention to supply bookshops in order to spread the Servant of God’s renown for holiness? - Answer]:

[1290] I am in fact in charge of relations with the editors of these pious cards and medallions. I can confirm in all truth that we produce them only to meet the existing demand, which we actually fail to satisfy.

Many times, editors and individuals have requested us for authorisation to sell these pious cards and medallions and to provide them with the means to do so, for example by giving them leaflets to distribute, and so on. I have had to reply that Sister Thérèse is promoting her own cause, and as we ourselves cannot satisfy the unsolicited requests being made to us, we do not need to have recourse to other means.

[Why does each copy of the Life of the Servant of God come with a catalogue of these pious cards and medallions along with their prices? - Answer]:

It is not to make these catalogues a means of propaganda, but to dispense us of the need to reply individually to the mass of requests that relate to items produced surrounding the Servant of God.

 [The witness resumes]:

It is not only in faraway places that our dear little Sister is carrying out her promise to spend her heaven doing good on earth. The community is the first object of her tangible protection. It can be said that she has truly transformed the community. Each of us strives to imitate her, to walk in her “little way of spiritual childhood” of “trust and [1291] self-surrender”. You will no longer find in our Carmel any trace of the irregularity or partisanship of which it used to suffer. On the contrary, regularity, charity and fervour reign in a most edifying way, and this is precisely due to the influence of our devotion to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

 [Answer to the fifty-eighth question]:

I know of no particular objection to the Servant of God’s reputation for holiness and miracles.

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

I consider that I myself am in debt to the Servant of God for a certain number of favours relating to my perfection and which seem to suggest a wondrous intervention on her part. I sewed a large, strong fold in our robe so that I wouldn’t have to make the fold every morning.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

I did not have permission to do this, and yet remained reluctant to remove it. I asked Sister Thérèse to come and unpick the fold herself if it displeased her. To my astonishment, the next morning I found that the fold had been unstitched and no trace of thread was left.

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus has also favoured me with mysterious perfumes on various occasions, and they are almost always to mark personal spiritual blessings. The most remarkable event of this nature that I can relate here is a scent of incense that came from a rotten bit of wood. I did not know the origin of the wood but it was discovered later that it was a fragment of the Servant of God’s coffin which had come away when it was exhumed in 1910.

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus is continuing to protect my soul above all. In my spiritual life, I feel her helping me at all times. She is constantly in my thoughts and I try to imitate her in every way, convinced that she is truly the embodiment of perfection.

A few days before she died, the Servant of God promised me she would look after my family. My parents visibly felt her assisting them in the various hardships they were given to endure. I’m certain she helped my father and mother at the moment of their death. My father died on 30th October 1912. A few days previously, I had entrusted Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus with the task of replacing me at his bedside. I was told that he found prompt relief in intense bouts of suffering two or three times just by pronouncing the Servant of God’s name. The night preceding his death, my eldest sister went to ask him if he needed anything. He thanked her, saying, “I don’t need anything; I have the company of Sister Thérèse.” My mother died on 23rd June 1915. On this occasion, too, I had tasked little Thérèse with replacing me at her bedside, and with granting her the blessing of dying in a perfect act of love. On 23rd June, at about 2 or 3 o’clock, I was awoken by what sounded like a very painful sigh. I felt that Mama was in great suffering and in need of prayers. I therefore began praying very [1293] ardently until about 5 o’clock. I was perfectly awake at that time and prayed to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus to have my mother pronounce the perfect act of love I had requested. At about 5 o’clock, I distinctly heard a splendid and triumphant rendering of the Magnificat, and among children’s voices I recognised that of my father. I felt convinced it marked the death of my mother and her birth in heaven. A few hours later, at about 8 in the morning, I was informed that my mother had died a few minutes before five o’clock.

In our community, Sister Jeanne-Marie of the Child Jesus observed a wondrous instance of the Servant of God’s intervention. To reward an act of charity the nun was performing, Sister Thérèse miraculously finished the difficult task she had assumed. This task was filling the reservoir of water in the kitchen. I did not witness the event myself, but I heard an account of it a few hours later from the two firsthand witnesses of the wonder.

Our sacristan, Pierre Derrien, received manifest blessings from the Servant of God. I know this from reading an account he wrote to Mother Prioress. His testimony is to be believed, for he is a virtuous and edifying man. This is the unanimous opinion of all who know him.

It would be impossible to mention all the wondrous occurrences related by the letters we receive daily. In this time of war, particularly, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus is showing increasing evidence of her powerful [1294] intercession. I will limit myself to presenting to the Court just two accounts among many.

Monsignor Bonnefoy, Archbishop of Aix (France), came on a pilgrimage three years ago to the burial place of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. He was prompted by one of his acquaintances, and had no particular devotion to her. Visiting the Servant of God’s cell, he distinctly felt her presence, and from that moment on, Sister Thérèse became his friend and favourite saint.

He made a second pilgrimage to Lisieux a few days ago. During his visit, I am told he said to Reverend Mother, “Mother, I cannot better convey my own feelings on Sister Thérèse than by affirming that for three years I have lived closely with her: I feel her true presence, and she never leaves my side.”

In January 1916, the same Monsignor Bonnefoy, Archbishop of Aix, wrote to Reverend Mother telling her of a miraculous instance of protection that he had been shown. I present the Court with the handwritten copy of this account.

 [The witness presents to the Judge and Sub-Promoter the original handwritten document, that is to say the letter from the Archbishop, handwritten and signed by him, as well as the envelope addressed to the Mother Prioress of the Carmelite Convent of Lisieux bearing the stamp and postmark. After checking the document’s authenticity, the Judge and Sub-Promoter ordered me to copy it immediately, as follows, omitting any passages irrelevant to the question]:

 “Archbishop of Aix.

Aix, on 16th January 1916.

Reverend Mother,

You desire a note from me describing the instance of protection that I instinctively attributed to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and here it is:

I had bought a former priory school to stop it from being put to secular use to turn it into an Episcopal Home, and I was overseeing the modification work. The staircase is narrow and steep, particularly between the first and second floors. This set of stairs does not spiral but has square landings. There was as yet no handrail between the first and second floors. I was descending this staircase to the first floor, looking at the ceiling thinking about how it might be painted, and was convinced that at the first landing I had to turn right and not left. My foot was hovering over thin air, above a 40 to 50 foot drop, when the feeling of a finger on my shoulder made me look to the side.

WITNESS 21: Marie of the Trinity O.D.C.

This allowed me to see that to avoid the drop I needed to turn left and not right. I heard a voice inside me [1296] say clearly: “It’s her.” I pray to her every day after Communion, after the Sacrosanctae at the end of Complines, and at evening prayer. It was therefore only natural to attribute the gesture to her, for it seemed characteristic of her; the feeling of a finger touching my left shoulder drew my attention to the ground I was about to leave. Of course, this cannot have any real influence on the cause and glory of Sister Thérèse, but my conviction remains, as does my gratitude. - Signatum: + FRANÇOIS, Archbishop of Aix.”

We were informed of the other event by means of a series of letters which were written by Captain Edouard de la Tour to either to his family or the Carmel. They are about the gunboat the “Suzanne Céline” that was saved from sinking by Sister Thérèse on 17th March 1916.

 [The witness presents the letters to the Court. With the approval of the Judge and Sub-Promoter the following passages were extracted]:

“Captain Edouard de la Tour had consecrated his ship the ‘Suzanne Céline’ to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and had thought to place a portrait of her in pride of place. [1297] Off the north-west coast of Spain, near Cape Ortegal, the Suzanne Céline was caught in a frightful storm and almost swallowed by waves ‘as high as a house’. Water was coming in on all sides, they had no lights, the melinite shells had come out of their cases and were crashing into each other as a result of the rocking movement, making an explosion almost inevitable, etc. Her captain promised to pray a novena to Sister Thérèse if she saved his ship from this imminent disaster. In a letter to his aunt and mother, dated 17th March 1916, Captain de la Tour wrote, ‘she saved everyone, and guided me, as though by the hand, in the difficult strait I had to sail through.’

The following morning, which was the 18th, he had to urgently leave the small Spanish port of La Coruna where he had taken refuge, and he resumed his account as follows: ‘I immediately boarded supplies, and launched myself alone, without a navigator, into the strait. It’s true I had the best possible navigator on board, in the person of Sister Thérèse. We would never have managed without her. Everyone must have prayed hard with me, for without her we would all be at the bottom of the sea.’ Signatum: Captain EDOUARD DE LA TOUR.

Once back in Morocco on convalescence, Captain de la Tour sent the enclosed letter on 26th September 1916 to the Carmel, together with the war flag that flew on the main mast of the Suzanne Céline when he was its captain, in memory of the storm of 17th March.

[1298] ‘Castle of La Hamerie, Saint Pavace, near Le Mans.

 (post stamped 26th September 1917).

Reverend Mother,

I have just arrived in Morocco, on recovery leave, and I am taking this opportunity to send you, with this letter, as a token of gratitude to dear little Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, the war flag that flew on the main mast of the gunboat the Suzanne when I captained it. Before leaving on campaign, I placed my ship under the protection of the dear Sister, to whom I had a great devotion. Her protection was evident on many an occasion, but particularly during the storm we endured on the night of 17th March. I know that my relatives have sent you the letter in which I told them of the storm and our anguish in this battle against the raging sea. It is a strictly accurate copy of the facts noted in my logbook.

I consider that, without the blessed intervention of our little protectress, we would be lost, for the pumps had stopped working, and my ship was filling up with water, which was gradually creeping towards the engines. I was dreading the wave that would engulf us any minute, and it’s a miracle we were able to prolong the fight in those conditions and reach the [1299] port of call. In memory of that day, I gave all my men medallions of the little Sister, and I placed another on the captain’s bridge.

I would be glad if this poor token of gratitude, combined with those of many others who have also been shown great blessings, might serve the cause of the little saint, Sister Thérèse. Yours faithfully,

Signatum: E. DE LA TOUR, Ocean Navigator’”

[Answer to the sixty-sixth question]:

I think I have said everything I am able to recall, and I can think of nothing to add or to change.

 [1300] [As regards the Articles, the witness claims to know nothing other than what they have already declared in response to the preceding questions. - Here ends the questioning of this witness. The Statements are read out. The witness makes no alteration to them and signs as follows]:

Signatum: SISTER MARIE OF THE TRINITY, unworthy carmelite nun, witness,

I have testified as above according to the truth. I hereby ratify and confirm my testimony.