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Witness 4 - Genevieve de Sainte Therese (Celine)

 

Lively, very spontaneous, and rich in detail, the testimony of Céline, then Sister Geneviève of Saint Teresa, is, after that of Mother Agnes, the most extensive in the whole of the Ordinary Informative Process.

Céline Martin was born in Alençon in 1869. She studied at the Benedictine Abbey of Lisieux and left in 1885 after Thérèse joined her there in 1881. In 1887, she placed herself under the spiritual direction of Father Almire Pichon, who would thenceforth guide her life. In May of the same year, Mr Martin suffered his first stroke, marking the beginning of his long martyrdom. Generously accepting Thérèse’s entrance into the Carmel, Céline remained alone with her father from 9th April 1888 onwards and really was his guardian angel. She experienced many hardships, and while she could have made her way through the world, she pronounced a vow of chastity in 1889, which she then renewed year after year. She finally joined the Carmelite convent on 14th September 1894, less than two years after Mr Martin died at La Musse (in Eure) the preceding 29th July.

She first took the religious name of Marie of the Holy Face, but became Geneviève of Saint Teresa on the day she took the Habit on 5th February 1895, in memory of the revered foundress of the Lisieux monastery who had died on 5th December 1891.

Her novitiate was spent under the direction of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who gave her strong guidance and, with the permission of Mother Agnes, associated her in the Act of Oblation to Merciful Love that she made two days after 9th June 1895. Céline was professed on 24th February 1896 and received the Veil the following 17th March, the same day that her cousin Marie Guérin received the Habit at the Carmel of Lisieux, under the name of Marie of the Eucharist. Shortly afterwards, Sister Thérèse was struck by the illness that would lead to her death, and Mother Marie de Gonzague assigned Sister Geneviève to be her second nurse, which meant she was a privileged witness to the Saint’s last moments.

Fortunately Céline took her photographic camera with her when she joined the Carmel, and there are more authentic photographs of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus than of any other saint, the collection of photos alone constituting a most precious testimony.*

Céline was the principal author of The Little Catechism of the Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, which she wrote together with Mother Agnes. Then, in the following years, she worked on The Spirit of Blessed Thérèse of the Child Jesus, drawing on the latter’s writings and eyewitness accounts of the saint’s life (Lisieux, 1923). The book was published in numerous editions and translated into all major languages, and in 1946, she produced a revised edition. Lastly, she published Counsels and Reminiscences in 1952.

Although she was still implacably opposed to many critical exigencies, she collaborated on editing Thérèse’s letters, a work that Monsignor Combes finalised in 1948. Before she died, Mother Agnes entrusted Céline with the task of fulfilling a desire that friends of the saint had often expressed, which was to own their own personal copy of her writings in their original form: “After I die, I task you to do this in my name,” Mother Agnes had said to her. This meticulous work was successfully completed in 1956 by Fr François de Sainte Marie, O.C.D., whose photocopied edition of the Autobiographical Manuscripts is, as such, definitive.  

Céline provided Fr Piat with first hand information for his publication called Story of a Family (Lisieux 1946) and she also wrote two works in memory of her parents, one about her father (Le père de Sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus, 1953) and the other about her mother (La mère de Sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus, 1954). In 1957, she had the pleasure of testifying at the beatification and canonisation processes of them both **. Sister Geneviève of Saint Teresa died fully lucid on 25th February 1959 after a long period of agonising pain.

She testified at the Process in sessions XXVII-XXXV on 14-28th September 1910. fol. 333v-415v of our Public Copy.

[Session 27: - 14th September 1910, at 9:30 a.m. and at 2 in the afternoon] -

[333v] [The witness answers the first question positively.]

[Answer to the second question]:

My name is Marie Céline Martin. I was born in Alençon, Parish of Saint Pierre, Diocese of Séez, on 28th April 1869, of the legitimate marriage between Louis-Joseph-Aloys-Stanislas Martin, a jeweller, and Marie Zélie Guérin, maker of Alençon lace. I am therefore the Servant of God’s sister, and older than her by three years and eight months. I am a professed nun of the Carmel of Lisieux, and my religious name is Sister Geneviève of Saint Teresa.

[The witness replied appropriately and correctly to questions three to six inclusive.]

[Answer to the seventh question]:

I love my little sister dearly, but I’m testifying in complete freedom and I feel I would say the same things even if she wasn’t my sister. My only intention in coming to testify is to obey Holy Church, who asked me to do so.

[334r] [Answer to the eighth question]:

I was only parted from her for six years, that is to say between her entrance to the Carmel (1888) and mine (September 1894). Outside of that time, I lived with her either with the family during her childhood or in the Carmel from 1894 until she died.

As children, Thérèse and I were inseparable. We thought of our eldest sisters (Marie and Pauline) as mothers, whereas Thérèse and I, being much younger, considered ourselves more like sisters. What I will present to the court is mainly the result of my personal observation. While it is true I have read the story of her life, it did not really teach me anything new. At most, it reminded me of details I would otherwise have forgotten.

[Answer to the ninth question]:

I would like this cause to be successful, because I consider it desirable to see on the altars a soul who became holy by ordinary means, without doing anything extraordinary or wondrous, and because I can visualise how much good can result from her examples and doctrine becoming better known. I don’t think that my desire is determined [334v] by family affection; I believe she has deserved this honour, and this is why I hope her process will be successful. Nonetheless, that doesn’t stop me from being very happy to be the Servant of God’s sister.  

[Answer to the tenth question]:

Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin was born on 2nd January 1873 in Alençon, Parish of Notre Dame, at half past eleven in the evening. I have already given the names of her father and mother. By then, my father had left his jeweller’s business, and no longer lived in Rue du Pont-Neuf, Parish of Saint Pierre, where I was born, but in Rue Saint Blaise, Parish of Notre Dame. Our mother continued making lace. At that time, we weren’t wealthy, but our family’s situation was well off. My father had been born in Bordeaux on 22nd August 1823, so he was 50 when Thérèse was born. My mother had been born in Gandelain (Orne), on 23rd December 1831. Thérèse was the ninth child to be born, but four out of the nine died. At the time (1873), the survivors were: 1st Marie, who was 13 years old; [335r] 2nd Pauline, aged 12; 3rd Léonie, aged 10; 4th Céline, aged 3 years and eight months; 5th Thérèse, who had just been born. Thérèse was fed by her mother for a few weeks, but when, after two months, she had become so weak that her life was in danger, my parents were obliged to entrust her to a wet nurse who was more robust. She stayed with the wet nurse, who was a very honest woman, for a year, and was taken back by my mother in March 1874.

[Answer to the eleventh question]:

What struck me about my parents’ characters was their detachment from all earthly things. Life at home was simple and patriarchal. We avoided the turmoil of worldly relationships and tended to stay alone as a family. My parents’ main preoccupation was eternal life. In a letter that I copied out, my mother wrote, “I wanted to have a lot of children, in order to raise them for heaven” (CF 192). When my little brothers and sisters died, her spirit of faith gave her such courage, and she was so comforted by the thought that her little angels were in heaven, that people around her [335v] would say, “There’s no need to feel sorry for Mrs Martin; she isn’t upset by the death of her children.” Every day, my father and mother went to the earliest Mass of the day. They took Communion as often as they could. Both of them fasted and practiced abstinence throughout Lent and said that the recently introduced mitigations weren’t for good Christians. My father was admirably charitable towards his neighbours and never said a word against them. He forgave all their faults and wouldn’t hear anyone criticise them. Above all, he had great veneration for all priests. People said he was a saint.  

[Answer to the twelfth question]:

The Servant of God was baptised in Alençon, in the church of Notre Dame, on 4th January 1873, 36 hours after she was born. Although this wasn’t a long delay, it was very difficult for our mother. Thérèse’s godmother was her eldest sister Marie.

[336r] [Answer to the thirteenth question]:

The Servant of God was brought up by my mother until the age of four and a half. Then our mother died, and our two eldest sisters, Marie, who was 17 years old, and Pauline, who was 16, found themselves responsible for raising us. After my mother’s death, our father left Alençon and took our family to Lisieux where my mother’s brother Mr Guérin lived. Our aunt, Mrs Guérin, and our two cousins, her children, would become our family. Our father loved his children very much. He showed us a lot of motherly affection. As for us, we had a fond reverence for him that was not dissimilar to worship. He especially loved cuddling Thérèse, whom he called “his little queen”, but we found this only natural and weren’t jealous. Moreover, we could tell that deep down, our father loved us all equally. As for Thérèse, she never boasted about the special treatment she received.

[Answer to the fourteenth question]:

As a child, and before my mother died, Thérèse was full of energy, lively, [336v] outgoing, and naturally proud and stubborn. At least, she was so when there was no risk of displeasing Jesus, because even then, as she says herself, she took great care to appear agreeable to him in everything she did and to never offend him. With a temperament like hers, had she been uninhibited, she might have headed for eternal ruin, as she says herself. But her love for doing good, combined with her extraordinary strength of will, was enough to keep her from harm. I saw her practice heroic acts of virtue at this tender age. She was able to conquer herself perfectly, having already acquired full self-control over all her actions.

When my mother died, Thérèse’s joyful character changed. She was only cheerful in our company at Les Buissonnets (our house in Lisieux). Everywhere else, she was excessively shy and, finding her awkward in their games, other little girls despised her. She nonetheless readily played with them, though without succeeding in winning them over, and she was very hurt by their unfeeling behaviour towards her. From then on, she liked hiding herself away, remaining unseen, believing she was inferior to others. First, she was schooled at home under the direction of Pauline, whom she called [337r] “her little mother”. At the age of eight and a half (October 1881), she became a day boarder at the Benedictine Abbey of Lisieux, where I was already at school. The change of teacher was very difficult for her, as was having to be with children who had neither the same tastes nor aspirations as she did. She was very successful in her studies. Although learning by heart didn’t come easily to her, she was very good at remembering the meaning of things. She was in a class of children who were all older than she was, and yet she still won all the prizes, which meant she became the butt of jealousy. One girl who was 14 years old and not very intelligent made her pay for her success by being very spiteful to her. As I was in a different class to Thérèse, I was never witness to this bullying. As for Thérèse, she contented herself with crying in silence without telling me anything, because she knew very well that I would have sorted things out. She would rather suffer in secret, first of all for God, and secondly to avoid causing others pain. She told me about this only much later on, and then I understood why her time at boarding school had been so hard for her.  

[337v] [Continuation of the answer to the fourteenth question]:

She loved learning, particularly Religious History and Ecclesiastical History. She would have enjoyed Catechism, because the textbook spoke about God, only the way we had to recite it word by word cost her heroic efforts. However, she succeeded perfectly. She always obtained very good marks. Sometimes, when she was given a low mark, which was exceedingly rare, the poor little one would be inconsolable because, at that time, she wasn’t at peace and she got upset over everything. On such occasions, [338r] she couldn’t bear the thought that, in the evening, our father would be slightly less happy than usual on hearing her marks. In Religious Instruction, she never missed an answer, to the extent that Fr Domin, the chaplain of the boarding school, called her “his little doctor” (MSA 37,2). In fact, she managed to answer even the trickiest questions for a child of her age with great precision. Her reasoning and judgment never failed her, and the precociousness that we had noticed in her as a tiny child only grew, especially on all things heavenly. At about the age of 10 and a half, she fell prey to a strange sickness, which came to an end when she saw a vision of the Blessed Virgin and was miraculously healed. As requested by the court, I will give a detailed account of this event later. If Thérèse was successful in her schooling, she was also extremely well-behaved. She was a member of the Association of the Holy Angels, which only model children could join. She put great care into preparing for her first Communion, offering Jesus a whole host of sacrifices every day. Every evening, she was given [338v] private tuition by our eldest sister Marie, and as a result, her heart grew to love suffering. She took her first Communion on 8th May 1884. Coming back from the Holy Table, I saw tears streaming down her cheeks; her face and whole body reflected peace and a deep union with Jesus. She received the sacrament of Confirmation on 14th June that same year. The few days leading up to her Confirmation remain particularly vivid in my memory. Ordinarily so calm, Thérèse was no longer the same. A sort of enthusiasm and euphoria radiated from within her. During her preparatory retreat one day, I told her how surprised I was to see her in that frame of mind, and she explained to me how she considered the virtue of the sacrament as the Spirit of Love taking possession of her whole being. There was such vehemence in her words and such fire in her eyes that even I was filled with an entirely spiritual energy, and I left her feeling deeply moved. The scene struck me to such an extent that I can still see her movements, her posture and the presence she commanded, and the memory of that moment will never fade from my mind.

[Answer to the fifteenth question]:

[339r] During the retreat prior to her second Communion (May 1885), the Servant of God was victim to the terrible sickness of scruples. It caused her such suffering that we were obliged to take her out of boarding school when she was 13. Moreover, I had just left the Abbey, having finished my schooling, and the obligation of leaving her alone in a place that was not her home, coupled with her inner trials, caused us to seriously worry for her health. So she continued her schooling at home, receiving lessons from a tutor. It was then that she made the great sacrifice of asking to return to the Abbey twice a week so that she could be a “Child of Mary”. This decision was a very tough one for her to make, as she says herself, because she hadn’t been happy in boarding school. The reason for this had been “the contact with students who were distracted, and unwilling to observe regulations” (MSA 37,1). This, as she later admitted, made her very unhappy. “Ah! It was really for the Blessed Virgin alone that I kept going to the Abbey. Sometimes I felt very alone, as in the days of my life as a boarder” (MSA 41,1).

Eighteen months before her first Communion, our sister Pauline, whom she called “her little mother”, left us to join [339v] the Carmelite convent. This trial had a devastating effect on Thérèse. Four years later, a second trail added to the pain already caused by her scruples. Our eldest sister Marie left us in turn, also to join the Carmel (October 1886). Since Pauline had left, Marie had been Thérèse’s indispensable confidante. So Marie’s departure caused her more pain than she could bear. Not knowing who to turn to for help on earth, she trustingly prayed to the little brothers and sisters who had preceded us to heaven, and she suddenly found herself completely freed of her inner troubles. She told me this to incite me to pray to them in times of difficulty. At Christmas in 1886, there was a remarkable change in her state of mind. To understand her character and disposition well, it is worth comparing what her behaviour was like before and after this date:  

lst) Before Christmas 1886. From the age of four and a half, that is to say from when my mother died, until Christmas 1886, that is to say the age of 14, Thérèse went through a period of growing darkness. It was as though a veil covered the qualities that the Lord had granted her. Her school teachers recognised her intelligence, but [340r] out in the world she was seen as incompetent and clumsy. This opinion was justified above all by her excessive shyness, which made her hesitant and paralysed her in all situations. My uncle, Mr Guérin, said that her tuition had been cut short and her education incomplete. It is true that she left herself open to unfavourable interpretations, saying almost nothing and always leaving others to do the talking. Contrary to appearances, her life had been fraught with hardship since her early childhood. She was suffering a real martyrdom at heart and a great deal in body. She had almost continual headaches, but the greatest causes of her suffering were her extreme sensitivity and her delicate sentiments. She endured everything without ever complaining, but it made her unhappy. It is important to note that, even at that point in her life, she really was strong deep down, despite the apparent weakness that her hypersensitivity represented. Her remarkable strength became apparent to me when her sadness never deterred her from her duties in any way. For my part, even at that time, I never caught an uncharacteristic response, a harsh word, or a weakness [340v] in her virtue. Her self-sacrifice was continual and for the smallest of things. It seems to me that she never let go an opportunity to offer God sacrifices. Moreover, she later admitted to being faithful in times of trial, because one day, wishing to encourage me in my novitiate, she said to me that up until the age of 14, she had practiced virtue without feeling the rewards. Also, on her deathbed, she said to us, “Since the age of three, I have never refused God anything.” She considered the trails she experienced during that part of her life as God’s way of teaching her humility. “I needed this harsh education all the more,” she wrote, “for otherwise I would not have been indifferent to praise” (MSA 38,1). The Servant of God’s most notable fault at that time was her extreme touchiness. She would cry over the slightest of things and once comforted, she would cry for having cried. She herself recognised that this was a great weakness, and she called the sudden changed that took place within her on Christmas night 1886 “her conversion” (MSA 45,1). From that day on, she appeared brave and in full control of herself. “Jesus made me strong,” [341r] she says, “and since that night, I have never been defeated in any combat, but rather I began, so to speak, to run as a giant” (MSA 44,2).  

2nd) After Christmas 1886. In the ‘story of her soul’ (pages 74, 75, MSA 44,2), Thérèse relates the circumstances surrounding the change that took place in her that Christmas night. I witnessed this sudden change and thought it was a dream when, for the first time, I saw her completely triumph over a setback that would have upset her before and cheer up my father with charming grace. It was a decisive change. After that, never again was she overwhelmed by her sensitive feelings. The transformation was not only limited to her self-control; at the same time, we saw her soul blossom, and she applied herself to duties with zeal and charity. She dreamed of saving souls and ardently and generously devoted herself to converting sinners. Within a short space of time, God had led Thérèse out of the narrow circle in which she lived. Freed from her scruples and hyper-sensitivity, her mind grew; she was filled with an immense desire for knowledge. But this desire did not dominate [341v] her completely, because her heart was turned towards God. Spiritual books were her daily nourishment, she knew the Imitation of Christ by heart. Jesus was her spiritual director. As our two eldest sisters had joined the Carmel, Thérèse and I grew closer and closer. Every evening, by the windows in the belvedere, we would share our thoughts and talk about eternity . . . The words of St John of the Cross, “To suffer and be despised for you, Lord” (MSA 73,2) were often on our lips and set our hearts on fire. Contempt seemed to be the only thing on this earth that held appeal for us and suffering the only enviable virtue.    

[Session 28: - 15th September 1910, at 8:30 am]

[343v] [Answer to the sixteenth question]:

I had become Thérèse’s only confidante, so she couldn’t hide her desire to join the Carmel from me. Her interest in religious life had revealed itself when she was very young. Not only did she keep saying that she wanted to be a nun, but she also dreamt of a hermetic life and sometimes hid herself away in a corner of her room behind her bed-curtains to talk to God. She was 7 or 8 years old at the time. Later on, at the age of 14, after what she called “her conversion”, religious life appeared to her above all as a way of saving souls. With that in mind, she even thought of becoming [344r] a nun in the foreign missions, but the hope of saving more souls through mortification and self-sacrifice persuaded her to shut herself away in the Carmel. The Servant of God told me that what fuelled her determination was her desire to suffer more and, by the same token, win more souls for Jesus. She esteemed that, for human nature, it was harder to work without ever seeing the fruit of one’s labour, to work without any encouragement and without any kind of distractions, and that that hardest work of all was that which we undertake in ourselves in order to conquer our natures. Consequently this living death, which was more lucrative than any other life in terms of saving souls, was the one she wanted to embrace, wishing, as she says herself, “to become a prisoner as soon as possible, in order to grant souls the beauty of heaven” (MSA 67,2). Finally, once she had joined the Carmel, her main purpose was to pray for priests and sacrifice herself for the needs of Holy Church. She called this type of ministry ‘wholesale trading’ because, through the head, she could reach every limb. And so, out loud in the canonical examination preceding her profession, she expressed her personal goal as follows: “I came to save souls and especially to pray [344v] for priests” (MSA 69,2). This answer was unique to her, because every Sister is free to respond how they wish on that occasion.  

[Was it under the influence of her already religious sisters that the Servant of God was drawn to the Carmelite monastery?]:

That thought has never crossed my mind. God could have used the situation to lead us wherever he desired, but Thérèse’s determination, like mine later on, was entirely spontaneous. It must also be noted that our Mother Agnes of Jesus (Pauline) was quite in favour of her joining. Our eldest sister (Marie of the Sacred Heart) however, was very opposed to it.

[Do you know what influence the Servant of God’s spiritual director might have had on her decision to join the Carmel?]:

Strictly speaking, she didn’t have a spiritual director. She saw what she had to do so clearly that she didn’t feel the need to ask. Putting her plan into action proved extremely difficult. As we had the same aspirations, I promised [345r] to help her in every way I could. She then revealed her plans to our dear father, which was a very hard thing for my little sister to do. All day long, at her request, I joined her in praying for a positive outcome to the discussion. It was a complete success, but the same could not be said with regards to our uncle, Mr Guérin. He prohibited her from joining, saying it would create a public scandal, and be the only case of a 15 year old child joining a Carmelite convent in the whole of France. However, after a few anxious weeks and much praying and suffering on Thérèse’s part, our uncle suddenly changed his mind and gave her his consent. Thérèse saw this victory as God compensating her for the three days she had spent in anxiety, during which, she says, “I felt I was all alone, and I found no consolation on earth or from heaven; God Himself seemed to have abandoned me” (MSA 51,1). The opposition put up by Fr Delatroëtte, the Superior of the Carmel, was more difficult to overcome, so difficult in fact that she would join the convent without having succeeded in convincing him. And yet she tried: I accompanied her and my father to Fr Delatroëtte’s house. I admired how Thérèse, who was normally [345v] so shy, dared to explain herself and expound the reasons behind her desire to join the Carmel immediately. But she was met with a resounding “no”. So my father took her to Bayeux. She relates this new attempt of hers in her manuscript (pages 88 onwards, MSA 53,2-55,2). As the Bishop’s answer was evasive and under the condition of Fr Delatroëtte’s consent, Thérèse believed her cause was all but lost. She therefore decided to take advantage of her upcoming trip to Rome to ask the Holy Father for the permission she desired. Throughout the trip, she never lost sight of what had now become her principal objective. She received an audience with the Holy Father on Sunday 20th November 1887 with the pilgrims of the dioceses of Coutances, Bayeux and Nantes, and overcame her natural shyness to express her request. The Holy Father replied that she would join the Carmel if it was God’s will. The evasive nature of this answer deeply upset Thérèse, but she bore it with calmness and surrender, convinced that she had done everything in her power to respond to the Divine Master’s call. Back in Lisieux, she resumed her pleas to the Bishop, who finally gave his consent [346r] on 28th December 1887. Her wish had been to join the Carmel without delay as soon as she received this authorisation. She was, however, obliged to postpone her entrance until after Lent 1888. The main reason for this delay was no doubt to placate the Superior, Fr Delatroëtte, who remained opposed to her entrance. The Servant of God found this last delay particularly agonising. The devil, wanting to discourage her no doubt, inspired her with thoughts of becoming lax in her spiritual life. Far from listening to him, the Servant of God led a serious and mortified life during these last months. These mortifications consisted of doing helpful deeds without any recognition, refraining from answering back, and breaking her will. Having witnessed all this, I myself was greatly edified.

[Session 29: - 19th September 1910, at 8:30 am and 2 in the afternoon]

[348r] [Continuation of the answer to the sixteenth question]:

Thérèse joined the Carmel on 9th April 1888 and left me alone with our father. Her departure represented an immense sacrifice for all of us, because she loved her father more than anything in the world. However, she left us without shedding a tear. Just as she entered the convent, the Superior Fr Delatroëtte said, “You can all sing your Te Deum. I am merely the delegate of his lordship. If you are disappointed, don’t blame me.”

[348v] [Answer to the seventeenth question]:

From the moment she joined the Carmel (1888) to the day I joined in turn (September 1894), I was separated from the Servant of God, so there is little more I can share with the court. However I saw her in the visiting room every week, as I did my other Carmelite sisters. In these conversations, I learnt that my little sister had much to suffer in the novitiate. In particular, my sister Pauline (Mother Agnes of Jesus) would tell me how upset she was to see our little sister poorly cared for, up against the opposition of several sisters, and scolded indiscriminately. Thérèse, in that angelic way of hers, would comfort her and assure her that she wasn’t unhappy, and that she had quite enough to live on. I can still see her pale face, but she seemed filled with holy joy to be suffering for God. I was able to gather from such conversations in the visiting room that her principal causes for hardship were these: 1st She experienced an almost uninterrupted state of spiritual dryness in her prayers; 2nd She was the victim of the indiscretion of a few nuns who abused her heroic patience. Seeing the child was so mild and uncomplaining, people passed her all the food leftovers instead of trying to fortify her as they should have been doing. Several times, she had [349r] nothing on her plate but a few herring heads or some warmed up remains several days in a row; 3rd The community was fairly poorly governed by Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzague, whose changeable and strange character caused the nuns great suffering. Everything depended on the whim of a moment; a good thing didn’t last long and it was only by dint of diplomacy and subtlety that they managed to benefit from the same conditions for a few weeks. When I myself joined the Carmel (1894), this information was confirmed by what nuns told me. Thérèse was professed on 8th September 1890, and I assisted at her reception of the Veil on 24th September of that same year.

[Answer to the eighteenth question]:

When I joined the Carmel on 14th September 1894, after our father died in July, I found the Servant of God still among the professed novices, despite her six years of religious life. Out of humility and in order to continue enduring the subjugation of the novitiate, she had asked to remain there. Reverend Agnes of Jesus, who was then prioress, had assigned her as chief companion [349v] to the novices. She had all the rights of a novice mistress but only on an unofficial basis, because it was important not to step on the toes of Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzague, who held the title of novice mistress. When she became prioress in 1896, Mother Marie de Gonzague held on to all the novice mistress’s authority. Yet when her occupations grew too numerous, she designated the Servant of God as her assistant and to stand in when necessary. Yet it cannot be said that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was ever, strictly speaking, novice mistress. Due to Mother Marie de Gonzague’s fickle nature, Sister Thérèse was never safe for a moment in her so-called responsibility, because it was taken away and then reassigned to her every fortnight. She always had to start from scratch, and the little peace that was had by the novices was owed only to the Servant of God’s prudence. If it appeared that the Servant of God was interfering too much, Mother Marie de Gonzague would grow angry, saying that Sister Thérèse didn’t have the right to give us advice, and that she was overstepping the orders she had been given. We, the novices, had to use cunning to avoid conflict, and we relied on a whole host of tactics. [350r] However, amid these difficulties, God’s work was being done, if not among the novices then at least in Sister Thérèse. I say this because Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus wasn’t fortunate in the choice of her novices. They were far from almost perfect, unlike those that the Servant of God sends us today through her intercession. One of them was very unsociable, withdrawn, and would flee her advice. Another, rather intelligent novice who had no vocation for the Carmel exhausted the Servant of God’s zeal and strength, apparently to no avail. A third novice was so difficult to train that she would not have been allowed to stay at the Carmel had it not been for our young mistress’s patience, etc. Such were the uneducated candidates she had to work with. She gave sound spiritual direction; she had an answer for everything. She never shirked from her duty. She was not afraid of battling against the novices’ faults, but she was gentle and compassionate when she needed to be. She couldn’t bear it when we attached importance to puerile suffering. Although the Sisters didn’t always admit it, even to themselves, everyone liked her direction, and although she was neither tender nor soft, we appealed to her out of a natural need for truth. Wanting advice for themselves, a few senior nuns would, like Nicodemus, go [350v] to her in secret. The Servant of God told me that she had asked God to never allow her to be humanly loved, which came to pass, because although the novices loved her deeply, they never felt any natural affection towards her. All our young mistress’s strength lay in her self-detachment: she would forget herself completely and always make sure she was practicing mortification. Never did she ask a question out of curiosity, because her motto was that no good can ever come of self-seeking. Concerning tasks, I must mention that neither Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus nor I ever voted at the Chapter, because our Constitutions didn’t allow for more than two blood sisters to be in the Chapter.    

[Answer to the nineteenth question]:

The Servant of God didn’t “publish” any writings at all, but she produced some that were published after her death. These compositions included: 1stly the manuscript of her life story; 2ndly letters that were almost all addressed to her sisters; 3rdly poems on pious subjects; 4thly dialogues [351r] or “pious recreations” for our community feast days. The most important of these is Story of a Soul. She wrote it on the order of Mother Agnes of Jesus, who was then prioress. She had no hidden agenda when she began her manuscript. She wrote it solely out of obedience, striving however to relate certain events that were unique to each of her family members, in order to please everyone in these memoirs of her youth. Her manuscript was indeed a “family memoir”, solely intended for her sisters. This explains not only the informal and carefree way in which she wrote it, but also certain childish details, which her pen would have evaded had she intended this writing to leave the family circle. She wrote it in fits and starts, during the rare free moments left to her by the Rule and her occupations with the novices. She made no draft, letting it run off the pen, and yet her manuscript doesn’t contain any crossings-out.

[351v] [Continuation of the answer to the nineteenth question]:

When the Servant of God had finished the story of her early childhood, which formed the first 149 pages of Story of a Soul (MSA), she gave it to Mother Agnes of Jesus, then prioress. The latter carelessly put it down without dreaming of reading it, thinking it was simply a family memoir for later. The second part of the manuscript, MSC, was written when Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzague was prioress. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was already very sick (1897). At that time in her life, the Servant of God realised that this composition would be a form of ministry and, in view of the work’s publication, she gave instructions to Mother [352r] Agnes of Jesus to erase or add anything that she esteemed useful, with the aim of bringing glory to God. Mother Agnes of Jesus actually made no significant changes to this part of the manuscript. The third part, from page 207 to page 221, was the account of her last retreat (1896), and was addressed to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart (MSB). The Servant of God therefore wrote the story of her soul to three different people and at different times. After her death, the manuscript was submitted for revision to the Premonstratensian Fathers of Mondaye (Reverend Father Godefroy Madelaine, Prior, and Reverend Father Norbert), who strongly urged us to publish it and obtained the necessary “imprimatur” from his lordship the Bishop of Bayeux. Mother Agnes of Jesus then set about publishing it, convinced that by doing so she would be working for the glory of God. Her aim was to issue the writing to the monasteries of our Order in place of the circular letter that is usually distributed after the death of a Sister. In order to obtain the authorisation to publish the book from Mother Marie de Gonzague, she had to make some slight changes to the manuscript, to give the impression that all three parts had been addressed to Reverend Mother [352v] Marie de Gonzague, whereupon the latter gave her signature. The corrections were carefully incorporated into the original text by Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart.

[Answer to the twentieth question]:

The Servant of God always practiced virtues with heroism, because she stood out for being incredibly courageous by the degree and the continuity of her efforts in the practice of all virtues. Her courage was unfailing. She didn’t practice virtues for one occasion, one day, or one month, but persisted throughout her life without ever flagging. I’ve never seen this to such a high degree in anyone, because however determined one might be, one always betrays oneself at one time or another. Moreover, before reading (in the Reverend Vice-Postulator’s Articles) that I was to separate the different virtues I witnessed her practice into categories, I grouped them all into one category, namely ‘strength’, for the Servant of God really lived by what she wrote and what she taught me. Yes, to prove her love to God, I saw her “allow not one little sacrifice to escape, not one look, or one word, and profit from all the smallest things and do them out of love” (MSB 4,1-2).

[353r] [Answer to the twenty-first question]:

The Servant of God nourished her soul by reading the Holy Scriptures. The book of the Imitation also delighted her, even very young; she knew it by heart. But what occupied her most of all during prayer was meditating the Holy Gospels. She even decided to carry the New Testament against her heart and she spent a great deal of time looking out the Holy Gospels that had been published separately, in order to bind them together and give us the pleasure of reading them. She would scrutinise the Holy Scriptures in order to “discern God’s character”. The differences between translations frustrated her: “If I had been a priest,” she said, “I would have studied Hebrew and Greek in depth, so as to discover divine thought as God deigned to express it in our human language” (DEA (Her Last Conversations) 4-8).

Everything contributed to increasing her faith, even the most commonplace of things, and secular objects represented an opportunity for her to recall thoughts of faith. Prior to our cousin Jeanne Guérin’s wedding, which was to take place a week after she received the Veil, she was struck by all the consideration that the future bride showed her fiancé, and immediately drew the following conclusion: she shouldn’t [353v] pay any less attention to Jesus. She even sent me, in the style of my cousin’s wedding invitation, a letter inviting me to her spiritual wedding: Story of a Soul, page 135 (MSA 77,2). Seeing the beauty of nature and masterpieces of art also elevated her soul. During her trip to Rome, for example, she was unable to express her admiration as she took in the beauty of the landscapes, the splendour of the buildings, and the finish of the paintings and sculptures, not forgetting the lyrical quality of the language: “The country of Italy is very beautiful,” she wrote to her cousin Marie Guérin, “I would never have thought we would see such beautiful things” (LT 31). In her manuscript, she adds, “When I saw all this beauty, very profound thoughts came to life in my soul. I already seemed to understand the grandeur of God and the marvels of heaven” (MSA 58,1).

The faith that motivated her life was submitted to a severe trial of temptation. She recounts it in the story of her life, page 158 onwards (MSA 5,2-6,2). These attacks primarily concerned the existence of heaven. She mentioned it to no one, for fear of spreading her indescribable torment to others. Sometimes however, in our private conversations, I would hear her say, “If only you knew . . . Oh! If only, [354r] for five minutes, you could experience the trials I’m enduring!” (CSG (Counsels and Reminiscences) p.139) She would reveal her temptation to the confessors she spoke to. One of them made her troubles worse by implying that the state she was in was very dangerous. On the advice of one enlightened director, she copied out the Credo and constantly carried it on her; she decided to write it out in her own blood. She told me she had pronounced a great many acts of faith in protest against this temptation. Her trial lasted until she died.

The Servant of God’s spirit of faith revealed God’s divine will to her in all hardships, making them dear to her. When our father was sick, she wrote to me (26th April 1891) saying, “Jesus cast a glance of love upon us, a glance veiled in tears, and this glance has become for us an ocean of suffering, but also an ocean of graces and love” (LT 127). This spirit of faith allowed her to see the hand of God even in what appeared to be the most human of circumstances. She wrote, “God alone arranges the events in our life of exile. We do not see Him, for He is hiding and we can see only creatures . . . Creatures are means, instruments, but it is the hand of Jesus that [354r] conducts everything. We must see Him alone in everything” (Letter of 1893, LT 149). Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus put what she taught me into practice. She was very sad that, contrary to our hopes, our father wasn’t able to attend her reception of the Veil ceremony. She wrote to me about it (23rd September 1890), saying, “You know the extent to which I wanted to see our dear father this morning. And now I see very clearly that it’s God’s will that he is not here. God has permitted this simply to test my love . . . Jesus wants me as an orphan. He wants me to be alone with Him alone . . . It’s Jesus alone who has arranged this matter; it’s Him, and I recognised His touch of love” (LT 120).

The Servant of God always had a holy ambition for the eternal treasures and sainthood. No one could attenuate this desire in her heart, or her conviction that it would be fulfilled. She hoped to become a saint, not because of her merits, which she confessed to not having, but due to Jesus’ infinite merits, which were, she said, “her property”. She revealed her desire to become a great saint to a retreat preacher. The confessor thought her very bold, and tried [355r] to lower her sights. The moment was not yet right for God to allow another spiritual director to “launch her full sail upon the waves of confidence and love.” Nevertheless, she prevailed in her desires and hopes. In May 1890, in a letter to me, she wrote (she was aged 17), “As for myself, I shall tell you not to aim for St Teresa’s seraphic sanctity, but rather to be perfect ‘as your heavenly Father is perfect’! (*Mt. 5;48) Ah!Céline,ourinfinite desires are not, then, either dreams or fancies, since Jesus Himself gave us this commandment!”(LT 107) She even hoped to see all her sins wiped away by Jesus’ merits. On one of the last days she was still able to recite the Holy Office, when I was beside her, I suddenly saw that she was very moved. She pointed to one of the matin lessons and said to me, “Look what Saint John says: ‘My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ’”(*1 Jn. 2;1. CSG p.?). As she pronounced the last words, her eyes filled with tears. 

[Session 30: - 20th September 1910, at 8:30 a.m. and at 2 in the afternoon]

[357r] [Continuation of the answer to the twenty-first question]:

The communion of saints was [357v] a source of great hope for her. Seeing her so perfect and so faithful in bringing glory to God in all things, I said to her one day, “What I envy about you are your good deeds. I, too, want to do good, create beautiful things, poems, paintings, etc., to make God loved.” “Ah!” she replied, “you mustn’t set your heart on that. Oh, no! We must not grow discouraged by our helplessness, but apply ourselves to love alone . . . However, if we suffer too cruelly from our poverty, we must offer God the deeds of others, for there lies the benefit of the communion of saints. Tauler says, ‘If I love the good that is in my neighbour as much as he loves it himself, then that good is as much mine as it is his.’ Through this communion, I can enrich myself with all the good there is in heaven and on earth, in the angels, the saints and all those who love God. You see,” she added, “you will do as much good as me, more in fact, with the desire to do good and by accomplishing the most insignificant of deeds out of love, for example by doing a small kindness when it costs you dearly” (CSG p.56). She believed we should not be afraid of wanting too much, or of asking too much [358r] of God: “You must say to God, ‘I know very well that I will never be worthy of what I hope for, but I hold out my hand to You like a beggar and I’m sure you will fulfil my desire, for You are good!’” (Esprit (The Spirit of St Thérèse) p.145)  

Her hopes for eternal life and sainthood brought about, in the Servant of God, a great detachment from the whole of creation. She wrote to me saying, “I was thinking we should not become attached to what is around us, since we could be in a place other than where we are” (LT 65). One day, I revealed to her my wish that other creatures took into account my efforts and noticed my progress. She said to me, “It is such vanity to want to be appreciated by twenty people who live with you! I myself want to be loved only in heaven, because only there will everything be perfect” (CSG p.28). Even in life’s difficulties, her hope was invincible. She hoped that God would bless her efforts if she had done everything in her power to respond to the Lord’s call. When our father was sick, she boosted our courage by means of her words and example. She said to me at the time, “Life is nothing but a dream. Soon we’ll awake, [358v] and what joy there’ll be! The greater our suffering, the more infinite will be our glory” (LT 82). Discouragement never settled over her soul. If she felt her weakness, if spiritual dryness weighed upon her heart, her faithfulness to virtue only became greater. In a letter dated September 1893, she described her dispositions to me: “Even if it seemed that this fire of love had gone out, I would still throw some straw on the embers, and I’m sure Jesus would relight it” (LT 143).When her fervent prayers to God and the saints were left unanswered, she thanked them all the same, saying, “I believe they want to see how far I will push my hope” (DEA 7-7). 

          

By a strange contrast, even in her great temptation against faith, which primarily concerned the existence of heaven, she constantly displayed hope for that same heaven, expressing a continuous desire for it. Having heard the doctor say that only two percent of people in her state recover, she told me pleasantly, “If I was one of those two percent, how unfortunate it would be!” (Primary source) When one Sister asked her, “So are you not afraid of death, then?” she replied, “I am. It frightens me very much when I see it represented on pictures as a spectre, but that is not what death is; that idea of it isn’t true. To chase it away, I need only remember what I learnt in catechism: death is the separation of the soul from the body. And I’m not afraid of a separation that will unite me forever with God” (DEA 1-5). When she was healthy, she once said that whenever she wanted to know whether she had equal amounts of love and hope for heaven, she would ask herself whether death still held so much appeal for her. On a particularly happy day, her immense joy was burdensome, because it would tend to weaken her desire for death. In a word, I can say that I never saw her hope waver. I never saw a sentiment of human fear in her, only ever that of blind hope.

Her love for God the Father went so far as to become filial affection. Concerning the Spirit of Love, she prayed to Him incessantly. As for “her Jesus”, he meant everything to her. When she wrote about Our Lord, [359v] she would use capital letters for “Him” and “He”, out of respect for his adorable person. It was through Jesus that she went to God. She had a particular devotion for the mystery of the Incarnation, which she would observe devotedly every 25th March. She loved to contemplate Jesus in his childhood. She once said, “I should like to die on 25th March, because it was on that day that Jesus was the smallest” (P.S.). Her devotion to the Sacred Heart also ran very deep. She believed it was impossible for you to go astray with that particular love in your heart, and I noticed she had admirable faith in this respect. When discussing a person whose misdemeanour was of concern to everyone, she said, “I tell you that God will have pity on her, because of her devotion to the Sacred Heart” (P.S.). On the subject of someone else who was at risk of losing salvation, she said, “Due to her devotion to the Sacred Heart, she will be saved, even though only as one escaping through the flames” (P.S.).

When I was away in Paray-le-Monial in 1890, she wrote to me saying, “Pray to the Sacred Heart. You know that I don’t see the Sacred Heart in the same way as everyone else. I think very simply that the Heart of my Spouse is mine alone, just as mine is His alone, and I speak to Him then in the delightful solitude of this heart to heart while waiting to speak to Him face to face one day” (LT 122). [360r] Her devotion to the Sacred Heart reached its culmination and complete fulfilment in the devotion to the Holy Face. For her, the Holy Face was the mirror in which she could see the soul and heart of her beloved. The Holy Face was the book of meditation from which she drew the science of love, as she explains on p.120 of Story of a Soul (MSA 71,1).

Even as a young child, the Servant of God took great care never to displease God. Her vigilance went so far as to avoid not only the smallest of venial sins, but also the slightest imperfection. Her love prompted an ever-increasing desire within her to sacrifice herself and prove her love to God by doing good deeds. Moreover, she spent her whole life “unpetalling the flowers of sacrifice for Jesus” (HA 12) and, just before she died, she was able to give this fine testimony: “Why would death frighten me? All I have ever done has been for God” (CSG). She would have liked her generous love to find its consummation in martyrdom, for it was her life’s dream. All the sentiments of divine love that burned in her heart were the subject of the secret conversations [360v] we used to have by the windows in the belvedere at Les Buissonnets when we were little girls. They later became the subject of those unforgettable conversations in the visiting room, where we would speak about nothing but God: “He is the One we speak about together. Without Him, no discourse has any charm for our hearts” (15th August 1892, LT 135).  

She had a pronounced taste for silent prayer; her soul would find reasons to think about God everywhere. She advised me to constantly sing a hymn to the Beloved in my heart, whilst she put this advice into practice. One day, at the Carmel, I asked her whether she sometimes lost the feeling of God’s presence. She replied simply, “Oh, no! I don’t think three minutes have ever gone by that I haven’t thought of Him” (CSG), and this, despite her almost continual spiritual aridity and trial of faith. Love for God really motivated all her actions; she breathed for him, and thought of nothing but him. On the doorframe of her cell, she wrote the following words with a pin: “Jesus is my only love.” Contrary to other mystics who practice perfection in order to reach love, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus took love itself as the path to perfection. At the age of 19, in a letter to her cousin Marie Guérin [361r], she wrote “I know no other means of reaching perfection but love” (LT 109).

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

The Servant of God expressed her understanding of a life of love in a song entitled “Living on Love”, Story of a Soul, page 371 (PN 17). This poem conveys all her thoughts on the subject. She wrote it in one sitting as she did her hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. This was on 25th February 1895. On 9th June of that same year, the day of the feast of the Holy Trinity [361v], she received a manifest grace during Mass, and felt an inner urge to offer herself as a victim of holocaust to Merciful Love. At the end of the Mass, she dragged me after her in her search for our Mother. She seemed beside herself and didn’t speak to me. At last, having found our Mother, who was then Agnes of Jesus, she asked her for permission to offer the two of us as victims to Merciful Love. She gave her a short explanation. Our Mother was in a hurry, and didn’t seem to quite understand what this was about, but she granted her full permission, such was her confidence in the discretion of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. It was then that Sister Thérèse composed her “Act of Oblation to Love”, which she always carried on her heart from then on (Story of a Soul, page 301, MSA 84,1).

The charity that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus showed to the poor was touching to see. Very young, she liked having the honour of giving them alms. She looked upon them with affection and respect, to the extent that you would have thought it was the poor person who was doing her a kindness. At the Carmel, she would have liked to have been nurse, because it is the duty that demands the most devotion. She said to me, “The duty I would enjoy the most is that of being nurse. I would not ask for it, because I would be afraid of being presumptuous, but if it was given to me, I would think myself very privileged” (DEA 20-8). As I myself was assistant nurse, she often urged me to care for the sick with love, to avoid going about the task as I would any other, and to do so with care and tact, as if I were treating God himself.

When she noticed her novices’ tendency to withdraw into their shells, she actively fought against it. One day she told me, “Withdrawing into one’s shell sterilises the soul. We should be rushing to perform charitable deeds” (CSG), which is what the Servant of God did. I had just joined the convent when an elderly lay sister, Sister Saint Pierre, told me in detail about the charitable care that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus provided her. She added solemnly, “Such acts of virtue shouldn’t remain hidden under a bushel.” The Servant of God’s virtue must have been particularly heartfelt to have made such an impression on the coarse and rather unfeeling elderly Sister. What particularly struck her was the angelic smile [362v] that her helper always wore as she performed her acts of kindness. She liked to help and please others constantly, to the detriment of herself. During the “silences” and on Sundays (free time at the Carmel, with which everyone was very sparing), she would most often write poems at the request of other Sisters. She never refused anyone. Her time was so taken up by these acts of charity that she had no time left for herself. Her charity took on very diverse forms. When she was sick, she would, with invincible patience, let others administrate her with extremely repugnant medicines again and again, whilst recognising that they were completely ineffectual. She told me that she had offered all these gruelling and pointless treatments to God so that they might help an abandoned and sick missionary who lacked necessary medical treatment. She extended her charity to souls in purgatory. She had performed “the heroic act” and placed all her daily merits in the hands of the Blessed Virgin so that the latter could use them for suffering souls. She did likewise with the prayers that would be said for her after her death.    

Her charity inspired her with zeal [363r] for the salvation of souls. This flame was kindled in her heart at the moment she described as “her conversion” (MSA 45,1), that is to say on Christmas Day in 1886. One Sunday, when she had closed her book at the end of Mass, an image of Jesus on the cross was sticking out of the pages, revealing only one of his hands, which was pierced and bloody. She felt a pang of great sorrow at seeing the blood fall to the ground, without anyone hastening to gather it up, and she made a resolution to stand at the foot of the cross and catch it so that it could help poor sinners. At about that time, she dedicated her zeal to a notorious criminal named Pranzini, who had been condemned to death for committing frightful murders. Hearing about him from newspapers, she decided to convert him (she was about 14 years old). With this in view, she doubled her sacrifices and told me her secret, begging me to help her convert his soul. She had the holy sacrifice of Mass offered for him. I watched with surprise as, contrary to her habits, she read the papers in search of an article announcing Pranzini’s conversion. She had asked God to give her a clear sign simply for consolation, because she didn’t doubt that her prayer would be answered. Pranzini did indeed convert, and in a totally [363v] unexpected and significant way. In the visiting room recently, I spoke to Father Valadier, the former chaplain at La Roquette (jail for prisoners sentenced to death) and successor of Father Faure, who in turn assisted Pranzini. He confirmed the truth of this unexpected conversion, having heard the details of it from Father Faure himself. Pranzini had refused the help of religion until he was on the scaffold. With his hands already tied, and in a voice that was panic-stricken yet full of repentance and faith, he cried out, “Father, give me the crucifix.” He kissed it profusely, and exchanged a word or two with the chaplain as the executioner seized him. The Servant of God called Pranzini “her child” (MSA 46,2). Later on, at the Carmel, when she was allotted a little money for her feast day, she obtained permission from our Mother Prioress to use it to have a Mass said for her intentions. She said to me in a low whisper, “It’s for my child. After the tricks he has played, he must be in need of it! I mustn’t abandon him now” (CSG). After this memorable victory, the Servant of God’s zeal spread like wildfire. She set about converting [364r] a very impious maid who sometimes came to work in the house. She also gave lessons to two little poor girls. It was charming to hear her talk to them about God; they listened to her avidly. Later on, in the Carmel, once the workers had left, I saw her furtively slip medallions in the lining of their habits. Having photographed the novices, I also wanted a portrait of Thérèse. She wanted to be holding a scroll bearing our Mother Saint Teresa’s words, “I would give my life a thousand times to save a single soul” (St Teresa of Avila, The Way of perfection, Ch.1). Even during her last illness, when she was suffering cruelly, she said, “I ask God that any prayers said for me do not go towards relieving my suffering, but might all be for sinners” (CSG). She even desired to work for the good of souls after her death. She told Mother Agnes of Jesus, in my presence, that she wanted “to spend her heaven doing good on earth” (DEA 17-7). Two months before she died, on 22nd July 1897, as I was reading her a passage about the beatitude of heaven, she interrupted me, saying, “That is not what appeals to me.” “And what does?” I replied. “Ah! Love! To love, be loved and come back to earth to make Love [364v] loved!” (HA 12)

During her life as a Carmelite, she focused much of her attention on the sanctification of priests. In a letter written to me on 14th July 1889 (she was 16 years old), she said, “O Céline, let’s live for souls, let’s be apostles . . . above all let’s save the souls of priests, which should be as transparent as crystal. Alas! There are so many priests who are bad or not saintly enough. Let’s pray and suffer for them . . . Céline, do you understand my heart’s cry?” (LT 94) She repeated this sentiment in numerous letters written in 1889 and 1890, just as she conveyed it again in her manuscript and poems.

Her charity proved consistent towards those who gave her reason to complain, though she never complained about anyone. Even at boarding school, when older pupils jealous of her success were offensive to her, she contented herself with crying in silence, without telling me anything. At the Carmel, her charity took on many forms. If she had any preference, it was for the most disadvantaged Sisters, and at recreations I would always see her sit with those who were the most [365r] unpleasant to her. She asked the Mother Prioress to let her assist a Sister in a task that no one could bring themselves to do due to the unpleasant temperament of the Sister concerned, and this, in order to try and do her a little good. One day, to encourage me to overcome my antipathy, she told me how she had fought against her nature in this respect for a long time. This was a revelation for me, because her self-control was such that her efforts were invisible on the outside, and I was even more astonished when she told me the name of the Sister who was the source of these daily struggles. I found the Servant of God so kind and thoughtful to this Sister that I would have believed she was her best friend. When you were on the wrong side of her, it seemed she was only more thoughtful, kind and gentle, in an attempt to heal the bitter heart that she could feel suffering. She wanted me to follow her example, but I said to her, “It’s too hard, I’ll never succeed! I make good resolutions, and can see clearly what I need to do, but then I let myself be beaten at the first hurdle.” “If you are easily discouraged, it’s because you don’t soften your heart in advance. When you are exasperated with someone, the way to [365v] recover your peace of mind is to pray for that person and ask God to reward them for having given you an opportunity to suffer” (CSG). When she was sick, she also brought it to my attention that the morning nurse always used very soft linen, choosing it with exquisite care to give her a little relief. “You see,” she said, “we must treat souls with the same care . . . Oh! Often we don’t think of souls and we hurt them . . . Several souls are sick, many are weak, and all are suffering. We must show such tenderness towards them!” (CSG) She said to me, “We should always show others charity, because very often, what appears as negligence in our eyes is heroic in the sight of God. A Sister with a migraine, or who is suffering in spirit, does more by accomplishing half of her work than someone who is healthy in body and spirit and completes it all” (CSG). She held absolutely everybody in equal regard, and I always saw her appear just as happy in the company of a certain rather unintelligent and difficult Sister as with the others.  

[Session 31: - 21st September 1910, at 8:30 a.m. and at 2 in the afternoon]

[367v] [Continuation of the answer to the twenty-first question. The Promoter asks the following question: With regard to this charity, do you know only of its splendour? Does it not have a single flaw, however small?]:

No matter how hard I look, I cannot [368r] find any faults, despite my desire to be utterly honest. She sometimes appeared severe in her direction of the novices, but I can’t really say that this was a fault. It was a righteous anger, and did not cause her to lose her self-control and disturb her inner peace.

[And what can you say about prudence?]:

The Servant of God practiced the virtue of prudence at all times. She never acted on an initial impulse; only after reflection. All her thoughts, actions, and conversations converged towards God. If she behaved with consummate prudence herself, without ever wasting her energy on anything besides the goal she sought, she strove to guide her novices down the same path by teaching us how to avoid any pitfalls that could slow our progress. Her guide along this path of prudence was the Blessed Virgin, whom she never ceased to admire. She cited her as a model in terms of her reserve with the angel Gabriel, her silence towards Saint Joseph, and also when, faced with joys and sorrows, “she faithfully treasured all things in her heart,” as [368v] the Holy Gospels tell us (Lk. 2;19).

As a tiny child, she was already prudent. She said little, but she observed a great deal and made mature remarks about everything. Towards 1883, when I was almost 14 years old and she had just turned 10, we were on very close terms. We never left each other’s side and shared the same bedroom. However, she exercised the greatest discretion where I was concerned for several years and, regarding a certain delicate subject, she acted with the most tactful reserve on account of our difference in age. Four or five years later, she spoke to me about it, saying “I could see that there was something people wanted to hide from me, so to please God and to mortify myself, and also to avoid embarrassing you, I made no effort to find out what it was” (P.S.).

 

Her prudence also came through when the question as to whether the door to the convent should be opened to her at the age of 15 was under negotiation. The circumstances were particularly difficult, as I explained previously (Question 16). The numerous arguments to her project were such that, without the spiritual prudence she displayed, it would certainly have failed. Her great asset in the difficulties was prayer. She did not lose patience in the face of the obstacles, and never grew angry or spoke bitterly [369r] about those who thwarted her plans. Instead she looked to other means to fulfil what she considered to be God’s will.

 

Strictly speaking, the Servant of God never had a spiritual director. For matters concerning both her vocation and, later, her inner conduct, she let herself be guided by Our Lord. However, she never hurt anybody and, in all her contacts, showed marks of utmost deference.

 

[Did she abstain from consulting spiritual directors intentionally?]

 

No, whenever retreat leaders or extraordinary confessors came to the Carmel, she would solicit their opinions at length. Yet Our Lord saw to it that she rarely found the insight she sought. In this respect, when novices asked her how they should behave in front of spiritual directors, she replied invoking a passage from the Song of Songs: “With great simplicity, without relying too heavily on a support that might leave you at the earliest opportunity. Afterwards, you would say, in the words of the Bride in [369v] Song of Songs, ‘The watchmen took away my cloak; they beat me.Only when I passed them did I find the one my heart loves!’ (Sg 5:7; 3:4). If you ask where your Beloved is with humility and detachment, the watchmen will show you to Him. However, most often, you will not find Jesus until you have passed all creatures (CSG).”

 

[Continuation of the answer]:

 

The Servant of God’s advanced maturity and her prudence were appreciated at the Carmel, where she was given responsibility for the novices at the age of 21, though without receiving the title of “novice mistress.” These difficult and abnormal circumstances made her rare prudence stand out all the more. She defined her responsibility in a letter she wrote to me in July 1894 as follows: “I’m a little hunting dog: I’m the one who chases the game all day long. You realise the hunters (novice mistresses and prioresses) are too big to slip into the bushes, but a little dog, it has a sensitive nose and can slip in everywhere!... So I am watching closely, and the hunters are not displeased with their little dog” (LT 167). Yet her prudence was visible not only in the way she managed to avoid the pitfalls inherent to her situation; it particularly stood out in the advice that she gave to her novices (I myself [370r] was one of the novices entrusted to her). The supremacy of her leadership was not so much the result of a purely human prudence as the effect of her abnegation, love for souls, and constant recourse to God. I often noticed that, during our meetings, her heart would be turned to heaven in prayer. I also noticed that she never sought to satisfy her own interests. She may well have been very kind, but she was also very firm and let us get away with nothing. As soon as she saw the slightest sign of imperfection, she fearlessly sought out the guilty party, and even though she found it very hard, she would let nothing stop her from doing her duty.

 

The doctrine that she taught us was also full of wisdom. Here are a few of its traits. She told us that in a community, everyone should try to be self-sufficient. One needed to do everything as perfectly as possible, but whilst conforming to customs, because sometimes overzealousness could harm oneself and others. She also said, “Since persevering in something can be tiring in life, it is better, in practice, to embrace only that which we think ourselves capable of persevering in” (SCG). In a letter to me in 1889, during [370v] our family’s ordeal, she wrote, “Let us see life as it really is.It is a moment between two eternitiesLet us suffer in peace!I admit that the word peace seemed a little strong to me, but the other day, when reflecting on it, I found the secret of suffer­ing in peace.He who says peace does not say joy, or at least, felt joy.To suffer in peace, it is enough to will all that Jesus wills. Holiness does not consist in saying fine things; it does not even consist in thinking them; it consists in being willing to suffer” (LT 87). She in fact summarised all her teachings in what she called “her little way of spiritual childhood and complete self-surrender” (DEA 13-7; 17-7).

 

[Can you give a fuller explanation of the doctrine that the Servant of God called “my little way of spiritual childhood and complete self-surrender”?]:

 

This concept of “spiritual childhood and complete self-surrender” was the chief characteristic of her holiness. In the private instructions that she gave to each of her novices, things always came back to it; to humility, spiritual poverty, simplicity and trust in God.

 

The basis of her teachings consisted in encouraging us not to despair of our weakness, and, because [371r] “charity covers a multitude of sins” (*1 P. 4:8), to focus on love. She said, “It’s easy to please Jesus and delight His Heart. All one need do is love Him, without considering oneself, and without examining one’s faults too much” (LT 142). She conveyed this idea quite well when she said to me, “You are tiny; remember that, and when one is tiny, one does not think fine thoughts. God is more proud of the work He does in your soul, of your insignificance, and of your willingness to accept your poverty humbly than He is of having created millions of suns and the vast expanse of the skies” (CSG). One day when she shared a fine thought with me, I told her that I regretted not having any such thoughts. She replied, “A little baby suckles his mother instinctively, so to speak, without sensing the utility of doing so and yet he grows and develops.” She added, “It is true that it is good to collect ones thoughts often and redirect one’s intentions, but free from spiritual constraint. God can tell what fine thoughts and ingenious intentions we would like to have.” “That being so,” I said, “you are profound in Godly matters, whereas I am not. And I’d so love to be so! Perhaps my desire makes up for it?” “It certainly does,” she replied. [371v] “If you accept it humbly, and go so far as to rejoice in it, you will please Jesus more than if you had never lacked profundity. Say, ‘My God, I thank you that I do not have a single profound sentiment and rejoice to see them in others” (CSG). She often said, “You do not need to understand God’s action within you; you are too small” (CSG). She also said, “We should strive not to become saints, but to please God” (CSG). Her “Little Way” consisted in rejoicing in one’s weakness and utter powerlessness. The parable of the workers that worked for only one hour and were paid as much as the others (Mt. 20:1-16) delighted her. “You see,” she said, “if we surrender ourselves to God and put our trust in Him, doing everything we can and placing all our hope in His mercy, we’ll be rewarded and paid as much as the greatest of saints” (CSG).        

 

[372r] [Continuation of the answer to the twenty-first question]:

 

Her “little way of self-surrender” also entailed seeing all things in a positive light, and curbing our tendency to hurry things. This virtue of utter self-surrender, which she constantly instilled in us, was one she faithfully practiced herself. One day during her illness, seeing her looking very poorly, Mother Agnes of Jesus said to her, “Oh, poor little thing, you are upset to see that you are not going to heaven any time soon, aren’t you?” She immediately replied, “Dear Mother, do you still not know me? Look, all my sentiments about death are expressed in one of my poems:

 

“Lord, I'm willing to live a long time more, if that is your desire.

 

I'd like to follow you to Heaven if that would make you happy.

 

Love, that fire from the Homeland, [372v] never ceases to consume me.

 

What do life and death matter to me? Jesus, my joy is to love you!” (DEA 2-8; PN 45) 

 

One day, having read the following passage from Sirach: “All mercy shall make a place for every man according to the merit of his works, and according to the wisdom of his sojournment,” (* Sir. 16:15) I asked her why it said, “according to the merit of his works,” because Saint Paul talks of “being justified freely by God’s grace” (*Rom. 3:24). She explained to me with passion that if we really had the spirituality of a child and that this spirituality was filled with self-surrender and trust in God, it was also filled with humility and sacrifice. She said, “One must do one’s best, give unreservedly, practice virtue in all circumstances, deny oneself constantly, prove one’s love by showing utmost kindness and affection, in a word, perform every good deed possible out of love for God. Yet in truth, since all this means little, it is imperative to put all one’s trust in the only One who sanctifies deeds, and who can sanctify even without deeds, because He begets children for Abraham even from stones (cf. * Mt. 3:9). Yes, once we have done everything that we think we should do, it is necessary to recognise that we are worthless servants (cf. * Lk. 17:10), whilst nevertheless hoping that in His grace, [373r] Jesus will give us all that we desire. That is what the ‘little way of childhood’ is all about” (DEA 17-7). The Servant of God’s piety was so far from being vague and indolent that she made the love of the cross the basis for it. She appreciated the hard work involved in suffering so much that she did not believe she could live on love without it. In her poem, she says,

 

“Living on Love is not setting up one's tent at the top of Tabor.

 

It's climbing Calvary with Jesus, it's looking at the Cross as a treasure!...

 

In Heaven I'm to live on joy. Then trials will have fled forever,

 

But in exile, in suffering I want to live on Love.” (PN 17)

 

The Servant of God always worshipped God and His saints faithfully. She esteemed religious exercises very highly. As a young child, she loved pious ceremonies and receiving the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. She spent four years preparing for her first Communion and when, being a few years older than her, I received the Eucharist for the first time, she regarded me with reverent respect and hardly dared touch me. She [373v] delighted visiting the Blessed Sacrament. Before joining the Abbey, that is to say before she was 8, she would go out every day with our father and never fail to enter a church. She would not return home without having visited God. At school, she continued performing this pious practice. At half past one every day, she would use her free quarter of an hour to visit God instead of going to recreation like most of her classmates. After leaving school, she went to Mass every day and took Communion as often as her confessor would let her, that is to say four or five times a week. She would have liked to take Communion every day, but did not dare ask for permission at that time. Whenever her confessor gave her an extra Communion of his own accord, she would be delirious with joy. For her, church celebrations seemed to radiate beauty. Similarly, reciting the Divine Office at the Carmel brought her great joy; she was pleased to have an act of obedience to perform during the liturgical ceremonies. Her modesty on these occasions was edifying and she advised us, her novices, to pay particular attention to our outward composure during ceremonies, because of the place we were in. She advised us to remain dignified at all times [374r] out of respect for our guardian angels. Among the duties that she performed for God, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus attached great importance to giving thanks for blessings received. She said to me, “What draws the most blessings upon us is gratitude. I know this by experience. Try it and you’ll see. I am pleased with everything God gives me, and I prove it to Him in a thousand ways” (CSG). When I joined the Carmel, I thought that God owed me for the great sacrifice I was making for Him, and, to encourage me in my effort, I begged Thérèse to write me a hymn that would summarise everything that I had left behind for God and end with the word, “Remember”.   She did compose it, but not at all in the way I had hoped, because the soul in the poem reminds Jesus of all that He has done for her. The soul is the one who is indebted and Jesus is the benefactor (PN 24).

 

The Servant of God dearly loved decorating the altars, especially the altar where, on certain days, the Bl. Sacrament was exposed. She was sacristan for a long time. It was edifying to see the respect and pleasure with which she handled holy objects, and her joy when she spied a little piece [374v] of the Sacred Host that the priest had forgotten. I witnessed some sublime scenes of piety on these occasions, such as when once she discovered an insufficiently purified ciborium. She handled the corporals and purificators with great care. She told me that it felt like she was handling Baby Jesus’ swaddling clothes. When preparing for the following day’s Mass, she liked to look at herself in the chalice and paten; after seeing her face reflected in the gold, she imagined the divine species resting on her.

 

She always venerated the Bl. Virgin with great trust and tender devotion. Even at a very early age, she considered her as her Mother. But her devotion grew when, at the age of 10, the Blessed Virgin cured her of a sickness that doctors thought was incurable. The statue before which she was restored to health always remained dear to her. Shortly before she died, the statue was taken to the infirmary and placed in front of her bed. The Servant of God entrusted Mary with all her prayer intentions and all her evangelical projects. When she wanted to encourage her novices in the [375r] practice of virtue, she would write them little letters in the name of the Bl. Virgin. The Servant of God was already seriously ill when she said to me, “I have one last thing to do before I die: I’ve always wanted to write a song that expresses all my thoughts about the Blessed Virgin” (CSG). And she composed her poem “Why I love you, O Mary!” (Story of a Soul, page 418 – PN 54)

 

The Servant of God’s devotion for St Joseph went hand in hand with her love for the Bl. Virgin. When she went to Rome, she told me that she had no fear of her purity being tainted by anything she came across on the trip, because she had placed herself under St Joseph’s protection. It was then that she taught me to pray with her every day to “Saint Joseph, Father and Protector of Virgins” (see the end of the Roman Breviary). At the Carmel, she often recited this prayer in the hope of obtaining the freedom to take Holy Communion more often. Leo XIII’s emancipating decree (1891), which took the right to regulate Communions from Superiors and gave it solely to the confessor (Process p.152), brought her immense joy. She attributed this result to St Joseph, to whom she was forever grateful.

 

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus honoured the angels, particularly her guardian angel, [375v] and she had a statuette of him in her bedroom as a child. She attributed her preservation from sin to this angel, as proves a letter that she wrote to me from the Carmel on 26th April 1894 (LT 161). She honoured all the saints, but among them she had choice protectors and friends. These included her patron saints: St Martin, Saint Francis de Sales and St Teresa. She also loved Saint John of the Cross, because she had relished his writings. Her choice friends among the saints were Saint Cecilia, whom she called “the saint of self-surrender” (LT 161), Blessed Joan of Arc, Blessed Théophane Vénard, because, according to her, “He is a very simple little saint who loved the Bl. Virgin and also his family very much, but most of all because he lived a life of loving surrender to God” (HA 12). Lastly, she honoured the Holy Innocents, in whom she saw a model of the virtues of Christian childhood.  

 

[Session 32: 22nd September 1910, at 8:30 in the morning and at 2 in the afternoon]

 

[377v]. [Continuation of the answer to the twenty-first question: the virtue of strength, etc.]:

 

The Servant of God experienced no lack of hardships, and she had many opportunities to demonstrate her generous courage. The most poignant of these hardships was our father’s brain condition. She also suffered, though less acutely, from the harsh character of certain people around her. Her constant graciousness towards them is another indication of her heroic strength of character. Lastly, she also had exceptional courage [378r] to bear, without ever diminishing in fervour, a whole life of spiritual dryness and inner struggles, to which was added a very difficult trial of faith at the end of her life.

 

I can now also give a few examples of the way the Servant of God behaved on such occasions, having witnessed them. Even when very small, she displayed self-control in her actions. At that age when sorrows assume gigantic proportions in children, she was, despite her hypersensitivity, able to control her sorrow and comfort others. She never complained about her childhood sorrows, always bearing them in silence. It was with surprising energy that she took the necessary steps to enter the Carmel at the age of 15. She needed heroism to overcome her shyness in this case. When she wrote about the trip that she took to Bayeux to ask the bishop for permission to join the convent, she said, “Ah, what that trip cost me! God had to give me a very special grace to overcome my timidity. It’s also very true that love never meets impossibilities, because it believes everything is possible, [378v] everything is permitted” (MSA 53,2). But the most surprising display of courage was when she dared approach the Holy Father. “I had both longed for and dreaded that day!” she wrote. “My vocation depended on it. What I suffered before the audience, only God knows, along with my dear Céline” (MSA 62,1). “I don’t know how I’ll go about speaking to the Pope,” she wrote to her aunt. “Truly, if God were not to take charge of everything, I don’t know what I’d do” (LT 32). She was indeed brave and intrepid when making her request, despite opposition from Fr Révérony, the Vicar General of Bayeux. Yet she was even more heroic when, discouraged by the Holy Father’s vague answer: “You will enter if God wills it” (MSA 63,2), she calmly surrendered herself into Jesus’ arms. That same day, she wrote to her sister, saying, “I am the Child Jesus’ little ball; if He wants to break His toy, He is free to do so. Yes, I want everything that He wants” (LT 36).

 

Her strength was again very visible when we were struggling with our father’s illness. She was the one who constantly supported us by means of her invincible self-surrender. In a letter dated February 1889, she said to me, “What a privilege Jesus is giving us by sending us [379r] such great sorrow! Ah, eternity won’t be long enough to thank Him! He is showering us with His graces, as He did the greatest saints. Why show us such predilection? It’s a secret, one that Jesus will reveal to us in the Homeland on the day that He dries all the tears from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). Ah, dear little sister, far from complaining to Jesus about the Cross He is sending us, I cannot understand the infinite love that has led Him to treat us in this way. Our dear Father must be much loved by Jesus to have to suffer this way. But don’t you find that the misfortune striking him is really the comple­ment of his beautiful life? . . . I feel that I am talking complete folly to you, but it does not matter. I think very many other things about Jesus’ love, things that are perhaps much more profound than what I am saying to you”(LT 82).

 

She was also strong during her religious life, which, right from the beginning, was paved with more than one trial. Added to the inner trials of spiritual dryness and abandonment were the severity and incapacity of the nuns responsible for her early training. She was ill-cared for in terms of food and rest, and was treated harshly by her mother prioress. Her novice mistress was a holy [379v] but indiscriminate nun. For example, she would suddenly order her to rest for a straight fortnight, without reason, after forgetting about her for several weeks. And when the mother prioress did not see the novice at morning prayers, she would grow angry and scold the poor child, who did not know who to obey. However, amidst these various trials and tribulations, the Servant of God never failed to remain even-tempered. Her strength also shone through during her trial of faith, of which she spoke to no one, so as to prevent her temptation against faith from spreading. She endured this ordeal without appearing even the slightest bit discouraged. It was again unfailingly that she strived to correct her faults and natural inclinations, for she would have been very vivacious had she not controlled herself. When the Servant of God talks of the sacrifices that she made at the age of 15 in her manuscript, she says that she “strove to break her will that was always so ready to impose itself on others” (MSA 68,2). Now, she succeeded in controlling herself so well that, even though I shared the very same life as her, I never noticed this “tendency to impose herself” about which she spoke. [380r] Out in the world and in the Carmel, she constantly practiced refraining from making remarks, helping people without drawing attention to herself, performing tasks that she had no wish to fulfil, and overcoming her natural dislikes. We, her novices, disturbed her time and time again; we hassled her and asked her tactless questions. Never, for my part, did I receive an even slightly sharp reply from her; she was always calm and gentle. In all circumstances, she accepted help and relief only when they were proposed to her, without ever asking for it. On Good Friday 1896, she coughed up blood after having followed the Lenten fast to the letter. On that day, she was left to fast on bread and water and to exhaust herself doing tiring cleaning work. She was overjoyed that no one paid her any attention. She was not spared community work (washing and so on) until the late stages of her illness. She would turn up for washing duty burning with fever, and go and peg out the washing with her back and chest ulcerated with sores from vesicants. I can still see her go upstairs to her cell, the doctor having applied over 500 cauterisations to her side (I counted them myself), [380v] and rest on her hard straw mattress. At that time, patients not sleeping in the infirmary still did not have proper mattresses, even temporarily. Her strength of character proved even greater in the days prior to her death. To summarise, I noticed the fact that, throughout the Servant of God’s lifetime, the Divine Master served her trial upon trial, tribulation upon tribulation. Everything was always going wrong, or almost everything, to the extent that she constantly needed to be patient and resigned. The strength of will that she showed throughout her lifetime is therefore only the more remarkable.

 

The Servant of God faithfully guarded herself against the excesses of passion. She was constantly calm and serene, and although she had a very vivid imagination, she never let this show. We were always sure that she would provide us with wise and well-pondered advice. She advised me never to come to her with a complaint while I was still upset. She said, “When relating a struggle, even to our Mother, never do so in the hope that [381r] the Sister causing it will hear about it, or that the object of the complaint will disappear. Speak instead with a clear heart. Should you feel that your heart is not clear, or that there is even the hint of anger in it, then the perfect thing to do is to remain quiet and wait for your soul to be at peace, because, often, harbouring anger will only make matters worse” (CSG). She always followed this line of conduct herself, and we never saw her run to our Mother in the heat of the moment. She always waited until she was in control. I noticed that she did not tell me about her attempts to be charitable towards the Sister who was unkind to her until victory was hers, for she esteemed, as I’ve just said, that discussing difficulties on the battlefield itself makes one weaker. Furthermore, she had acted this way from a young age, and recounted her school sorrows to me only once she had left the Abbey.

 

Practicing mortification had always been familiar to the Servant of God. In all circumstances, she commandeered the last place and chose what was least convenient [381v] for herself, both at home and away. As a child, she made the habit of never letting little opportunities to make sacrifices escape. For example, she would interrupt her reading at even the most interesting of passages as soon as it was time to stop. Later on, she threw herself into studying history and natural sciences in depth. She said, “I limited myself to a certain number of hours, unwilling to go beyond in order to mortify my intense desire for knowledge” (MSA 47,1). One day, our father announced that he was going to have me take drawing lessons. When he asked Thérèse whether or not she would like them, she refrained from replying because Marie said that she was not interested. And yet, she was dying to learn. She told me later that she still wondered how she had had the strength to remain quiet.  

 

At the Carmel, her practice of mortification spread to encompass everything. I noticed that she never asked for news; if she saw a group of Sisters somewhere and the mother prioress seemed to be saying something interesting to them, she would deliberately not go over to them. In the refectory, the Servant of God accepted being served the leftovers [382r] without ever complaining. She never leaned against anything, never crossed her legs, and always held herself straight. She disliked us not sitting straight, even when relaxing. She was against anything that evoked worldly convenience and ease. Unless it was necessary, she never wiped perspiration from her face because she said that to do so was to admit being too hot and a way of showing it. Concerning instruments of penance, I told her that our instinct of self-preservation meant that we naturally avoided certain movements when wearing them, and that we went stiff under the whip in order to suffer less. She looked at me, astounded, and replied, “I think that it’s not worth doing things by halves. I use the whip to do myself harm and want it to do me as much harm as possible” (CSG). She told me that, sometimes, she was in so much pain that tears came to her eyes, but she forced herself to smile so that the expression on her face matched the joy she felt in her heart to be suffering in union with her Beloved and saving souls for Him. As for the instruments of penance that were allowed but not prescribed by the Rule, she said that, out of devotion, she would have worn one every [382v] day that we did not use the whip, which she did for as long as it was permitted. In winter, despite the numerous chilblains that covered her hands, I rarely saw her keep them covered. One day when it was cold enough to freeze stone and we had no fire, I noticed that her hands were uncovered and splayed out on her knees. I pointed this out to her, because it exasperated me, but she contented herself with giving me a mischievous smile. I then realised that she was deliberately exposing them to the cold.  

 

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

 

The Servant [383r] of God practiced mortification of the spirit and heart as much as she practiced that of the senses. She deprived herself of everything that could procure her satisfaction. While Mother Agnes of Jesus (her sister and second mother, Pauline) was prioress, she would skip her turn for spiritual direction in order to deprive herself of the comfort of seeing her. I was really surprised by how detached she was. She spoke to me as “her novice” because she had the permission and duty to do so, but I often noticed that she held back from opening up to me on personal matters. In accordance with the vow that she took when she became responsible for the novices, the latter never grew humanly attached to her. I noticed that, even though we loved her very much, none of us were ever tempted to develop that crazy and thoughtless affection that characterise some young and impressionable people. If she acted in a spirit of mortification towards me, “her little childhood companion” (MSA 6,2), then I know that she practiced it even more rigorously with “her second mother” (Mother Agnes of Jesus), because the Rule governing their relationship was even more strict. When our cousin [383v] Marie Guérin (Sister Marie of the Eucharist) took the Habit, and the community accompanied her to the door of the enclosure so that she could see her family, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus held back and remained unseen. One Sister approached her and said, “Come and can see your family, too.” Yet she did not move. It is worth noting that the visiting rooms were then being built and that it had been a year since we had last seen our relatives. When, later on, I criticised her for being the only one not to have seen them, she told me that she had deprived herself out of mortification, adding that it had been a very hard sacrifice to make. Talking of mortification of the heart, shortly before she died, she said to us (her three Carmelite sisters), “When I’m gone, take care not to act like you would at home. After a visit, do not talk among yourselves without permission, and only ask for permission when it is useful, not for amusement” (DEA 3-8). The Servant of God was obedient from her earliest childhood. I do not remember her ever complaining or delaying carrying out an order either at home or at school. We had to be very careful about what we said in front of her, [384r] because she would take a piece of advice as an order, and follow it not just for one day, or a fortnight, but for the rest of her life. The same was true at the Carmel where, in her time, circumstances were most conducive for the heroic exercise of obedience. Our poor Mother Marie de Gonzague would, at a whim, issue a host of instructions that would lose validity for most of the Sisters after a few days and which she herself would forget having given. Her instructions therefore fell into disuse of their own accord, except for Sr Thérèse of the Child Jesus. I caught her taking the long way round to go somewhere, retracing her steps to close a door that everyone left open. This was because six months or two years earlier, our Mother had remarked upon it, and for her it had remained gospel truth. She did not consider whether the instruction was reasonable or groundless, or whether it still stood. If the mother prioress had said it once, then that was enough for her to follow it until she died. She obeyed every one of her Sisters, bending over backwards to please everyone, without ever betraying even the shadow of irritation. One evening during her illness, when the community went to the oratory of the Sacred Heart to sing a hymn there, she accompanied the community with difficulty and was obliged to sit down during the hymn. One Sister called her to come and sing, so she immediately stood up and joined the choir. After the meeting, I was very unhappy being the nurse, and asked her what had possessed her to act in what I considered blind obedience. She replied very simply that she had “grown used to obeying everyone out of faith” (CSG). If she obeyed everyone to the letter, then her faithfulness in observing our holy Rules and Constitutions was absolute.

 

Three years after Profession, the novices leave the novitiate and, assuming the rank of the other Sisters, are no longer subject to the same demands. For instance, novices ask for general privileges every week, whereas the others request them only every month. With her 9 years of religious life, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus could have freed herself from these ties, but she deliberately did not and constrained herself to the stricter demands of the novitiate until her death. Her principle of blind obedience cost her many a sacrifice during her long illness, [385r] for we caused her suffering thinking we were bringing her relief, and she endured the treatment that we thought she should have without ever complaining. One day, when she had been ordered to say what would bring her relief out of obedience and she was burning with a fever, she asked the principle nurse, who was then at her side, to remove a blanket. Very old and a little deaf, the Sister thought she was cold and, gathering all the blankets she could find, covered her from head to toe. When I came back, that was how I found her, with sweat pouring off her. She told me that “she had accepted all the blankets out of obedience and that, when the Sister saw her accept everything she was given with a smile, she only brought her more blankets” (Primary source). She appraised people according to their obedience to superiors and actions according to their subordination to authority. On one particular occasion, she was passed a pious magazine that was creating quite a stir and which, in reality, she liked well enough; she even had admiration for the author. Yet when she heard that the author had said something slightly rebellious to a bishop, she wanted to hear nothing more about him or his writings.

 

[385v] The Servant of God pushed her practice of poverty to the extreme, and the virtue did not take root in her effortlessly. She said in her manuscript, “I was content to have nice things for my use and to have everything necessary to me at my disposal” (MSA 74,1). With her artistic temperament, it was indeed natural to prefer things that were tasteful and not worn. I realised this the day that I left an irremovable stain on her apron, because I noticed the effort she made to leave it be and to show no trace of the sacrifice that I was unintentionally imposing upon her. Another time, we dyed a small table that she used, and the slightly wet feet left several stains on the wooden floor of her cell. Having been unable to remove them, I realised what a sacrifice she was making by bearing them. However, despite her love for beautiful things, she forced herself to choose the ugliest and most worn objects to use. If they were not unsightly and worn, she knew how to make them so. When her workbasket began to fall apart, one Sister bound it up for her with a strip of old velvet found in the loft. Although she had little time, Sister Thérèse unpicked the sewing and [386r] put the velvet on the other way around so that it would look shabbier and uglier. When she worked in the linen room, her work companion gave her a pin with an imitation pearl head to fasten her sewing to her lap. No sooner was it in her possession than she broke off the little white head to leave just the plain pin. When a novice polished the furniture of her cell with linseed oil, she immediately had her wash it off again with a brush. The Servant of God carefully rejected convenience. For the duration of her religious life, she had a little lamp that did not work properly, so that she was obliged to use a pin to raise or lower the wick. It seemed so natural to see her go to this trouble, and with perfect good grace, that we let her, convinced that she preferred that particular lamp to another. God no doubt let us believe this in order to give her an opportunity to obtain merit, because we ought to have realised that she would prefer a lamp like all the other Sisters. She took no notice of whether her tunics looked good; the more dreadful and worn they looked, the happier she was. She admitted to me that to save time, which she always devoted to others, she never made herself copies [386v] of the poems that she had written, even though she would have loved to have one for herself. To summarise these ideas on poverty, I will share with you the advice that she gave me towards the end of her life. I said to her one day, “I would like to have this picture of yours after you die.” “Ah,” she replied, “you still desire things! When I am with God, do not ask for any of my belongings. Simply accept what is given to you. To do otherwise would be contrary to the vow of poverty. Instead of bringing you joy, they would make you miserable. Only in heaven will we have the right of possession” (CSG).

 

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus always took extreme care to keep the fine virtue of chastity intact. She told me that when alone, she always acted with the same reserve as she did in someone’s presence. She was not scrupulous, however. Her upright and perspicacious spirit meant that she knew everything, and it was beautiful in her lucid eyes. Also, her heart was so pure that she was a stranger to bad thoughts. She praised God for all His works and found that all were marked with the stamp of divine purity (I am referring here to the qualms that she had from [387r] the age of 14 onwards, because I did not know what scruples she had when a little girl).

 

[Session 33: - 23rd September 1910, at 8:30 and at 2 in the afternoon]

 

[389v] [Continuation of the answer to the twenty-first question: chastity, humility, etc.]:

 

[390r] Prior to her trip to Rome, she asked St Joseph to preserve her purity, and nothing of what she saw in the museums or elsewhere troubled her. She told me that when she was small, “she was ashamed of her body,” (DEA 30-7) and that only one thing reconciled her to having one, which was that Jesus had accepted having one. From the Carmel, she wrote me several letters in which she exalted the fine virtue of purity. She often spoke of the “white lily” to signify virginity. She highlighted its immaculate beauty compared to the “yellow lily” (LT 57), which in everyday language meant marriage. Once all my sisters had joined the Carmel and I was left alone in the world with my father, she showed a very motherly concern for my soul and was deeply anxious about me being exposed to dangers that she had not experienced. It is true that when I was alone in the world, it was only proper that I should adhere to the customs of the society in which I lived. She was always worried about me, but particularly one day when she learned that I had to attend a dinner party requiring dancing. She wept, she told me, as she had never wept before, and requested that I come to the visiting room so that she could give me her [390v] advice. When I said that she was being a little excessive, because there was no risk of us of making fools of ourselves, she looked indignant and said forcefully, “You are Jesus’ spouse (I had taken a vow of chastity). Do you really want to fraternise with the modern era by engaging in risky pleasures?” (CSG) I was stunned, and convinced. I followed her advice and stuck to it, though it caused me a fair few problems. The Servant of God cherished holy purity to such an extent that when, at her reception of the Habit, she was given a reliquary that she could henceforth carry on her person, she chose to carry only the relics of virgins, casting all others aside, even the relics of the saints she loved the most. She drew my attention to this fact when she showed me her reliquary. She also admitted to me one day that she had never struggled with temptations against chastity.

 

The Servant of God always practiced humility. As a child, at the age when one wants nothing more than to grow up, she expressed the desire to stay tiny in size. Later on, on her deathbed, she joyfully pointed out that, despite her nine years of religious life, she had always remained in the novitiate, never becoming a Chapter member and always being considered as “a little one”. On the basis that she had not learnt various manual tasks, [391r] the Servant of God believed us to be superior to her. She looked at the beautiful miniatures and poems that Mother Agnes of Jesus created with a holy envy (a desire to do good). She admired my paintings, and at Prayers one day, looking at a painting that I had just finished depicting the Adoration of the Magi, she offered up her incapacity to God as a sacrifice. After doing so, she was given an insight into the power of the communion of saints, which makes us all contributors to each others’ achievements in proportion to our desires. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus felt her weakness so keenly that she was convinced that, without God’s special help, she would not have secured her redemption. “With a nature such as my own,” she wrote, “had I been brought up by parents without virtue, I would have become very bad and perhaps even been lost. But Jesus was watching over His little fiancée; He wanted everything to turn out for the best for her, even her faults, which, corrected very early, helped her grow in perfection” (MSA 8,2).     

 

This preservation, to which she attributed her virtue, seemed to her to amount to a veritable absolution. In July 1891, she wrote to me saying, “If Jesus said of Magdalene that ‘whoever has been forgiven much loves much,’ (*Lk. 7:47) then we have even [391v] more reason to say it when Jesus has forgiven sins in advance” (LT 130). It was as though all the sins committed on earth and from which she had been preserved were forgiven her in advance, because she felt capable of yielding to them.

 

During our trip to Rome, she noticed that a young traveller acted with affectionate deference towards her. When we were alone, she said to me, “Oh, it is high time Jesus withdrew me from the world and its poisonous breath, for I feel in my heart that I could easily fall for human affection, and where others perish, so too would I, because none of us are stronger than the rest” (P.S.). Similarly, she would write in her manuscript, “I have no merit in not having given in to the love of creatures. I was preserved only through God’s mercy” (MSA 38,2). The Servant of God’s humility consisted in trying to be self-forgetful instead of expressing the scorn that she felt for herself. “To find something hidden,” she wrote on 2nd August 1893, “one must oneself be hidden (Spiritual Canticle, stanza 1). Our life must therefore be a mystery. We must resemble Jesus, whose ‘face was hidden’ (Is. 53:3). ‘If you want to learn something worthwhile’ says the Imitation of Christ, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing’” (Imit. bk.1 ch. 2-3 and LT 146). Humility is [392r] the basis of her “little way of spiritual childhood”. Moreover, feeling weak and incapable of doing anything, and considering herself “too small to climb the steep stairway of perfection” (MSC 3,1), she threw herself into God’s arms and made her home there.

 

Concerning her own behaviour, the Servant of God not only put on a brave face when humbled, she also humbled herself, by always choosing the last place, obeying everyone, and remaining silent when not asked a question. She was humble even in the tiniest of things. Here are some of the things she said that taught me humility: “Sometimes we surprise ourselves by desiring shiny things. So let us humbly stand alongside the imperfect; let us think of ourselves as ‘little souls’ who constantly need God’s support. As soon as He sees us resigned to our insignificance, He proffers us His hand. If we persist in striving to do something great, even under the pretext of zeal, Jesus leaves us to our own resources, but when I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me” (*Ps. 93:18; CSG). On another occasion, she wrote, “Perhaps you will think I always do what I say.Oh, no! I am not always faithful, but I never lose heart. I abandon myself into Jesus’ arms. [392v] The little drop of dew goes deeper into the calyx of the Rose of Sharon (Sg. 2:1), and there it finds all it has lost and much more besides” (LT 143). “Yes,” she says elsewhere, “it is enough to be humble and to bear one’s imperfections meekly. That is real sainthood” (CSG). If, in falling, no offense was taken by God, then we should fall deliberately, in order to humble ourselves” (P.S.).

 

[Did the Servant of God sometimes talk about privileges that she received from God?]:  

 

I’ve heard it said, though very vaguely, that some people thought that in so doing, the Servant of God showed a lack of humility, but I do not think that such a judgment is possible, other than for those who read the life and writings of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus only very superficially. It is impossible to contemplate her for any length of time at all and not recognise that everything about her was humble and that she only ever talked about blessings received in order to express her gratitude, or to edify her neighbour. It seems to me that the candour with which she sometimes spoke about the graces given to her by God is actually the [393r] expression of perfect humility.  

 

[Answer to the twenty-second question]:

 

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was a very simple soul and became holy through ordinary means. A few times in her life, however, there were more remarkable signs of divine intervention. When she was a few weeks old, she was healed after prayers were said to St Joseph. She was dying of a fatal intestinal disorder that had already taken our two little brothers, and which the two doctors treating her had lost hope of curing. At the age of 10, the Blessed Virgin instantaneously [393v] healed her of a very serious and very strange illness. At the moment when her health was restored, she was granted a vision of the Queen of heaven. This recovery is recounted in great detail on pages 48 and 49 of Story of a Soul (MSA 30,1-2). I was witness to all stages of this illness and to her sudden recovery. What I can say about it is this: I thought I recognised the work of the devil in this highly unusual illness. This was my feeling and that expressed by others around me. I saw some frightening scenes at that time. Thérèse would hit her head against her bedpost as though to kill herself (it was a very high double bed). She would stand on her bed and, rolling herself into a ball, would do flips that, several times, threw her brutally over the bed railing and onto the ground. The room had a stone floor and she never hurt herself. One day I heard our uncle, Mr Guérin, a man of science and faith, say that human means would not cure her. Despite having been a hospital chemist in Paris and observed highly unusual illnesses, he said that he had never before seen another case like it. He said that the doctor had told him that Thérèse’s case [394r] defied all rules of science, and that if her symptoms had appeared towards the age of 14 or 15, he might have understood them, but that in a child of 10, they were unexplainable. However, unlike with illnesses caused by the devil, pious objects never frightened her. The illness lasted barely five months. She was healed suddenly and completely on 10th May. Seeing the sudden change in her behaviour and the look of ecstasy in her eyes, I was in no doubt that she could see the Blessed Virgin. I was so convinced of it that I cannot remember having insisted that she tell me so, because it seemed obvious to me, but our sister Marie wanted her to describe what she had seen.

 

At the age of 15, once she had joined the Carmel, she was tasked with decorating the statue of the Child Jesus in the cloisters. One day she regretted not being able to gather bunches of wildflowers from the country as she used to and put them at the foot of the statue. She said to herself, “Never again will I see cornflowers, daisies, poppies, oat or wheat!” (CSG) That same day, [394v] the portress of the monastery brought our Mother a superb bunch of wildflowers composed of all the flowers that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had wanted. The Turn Sister had been outside and found it lying on the window ledge, like an anonymously offered gift. What was even stranger was that, at the time, the Carmel of Lisieux was not as well known as it is now and no one ever brought flowers. Things are quite different today, because followers of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus are constantly bringing flowers.

 

In July 1894, although she claimed she had “an iron health” (LT 167), she seemed to predict her death. She wrote to me on 18th July 1894, saying, “Jesus will come; He will take one of us, and the others will stay for a short time in exile and tears” (LT 167). Among the future events that she was given power to predict, we can cite our dear father’s cerebral paralysis, which she saw in a prophetic vision as a child (Story of a Soul, pages 31 and 32, MSA 19,2-20,2). This vision materialised down to the very last detail. She said she saw him with “his head covered in a thick veil” (MSA 20,1). This detail is significant, because early on in his illness [395r] I noticed that our father always wanted to hide his face. He would take a handkerchief or another piece of fabric to hand, and place them on his head.

 

Having suffered sorely from being deprived of Holy Communion, the Servant of God predicted that after her death, we would never lack “our daily bread”, and this is true. In 13 years, there has not been a single day that we have gone without it on account of there being no priest to say Mass for us. She also told Mother Marie de Gonzague that, from highest heaven, she would change her opinion with regards to taking Communion regularly, and it happened. Mother Marie de Gonzague’s attitude suddenly changed, and the chaplains became free to administer us Communion daily. I heard the Servant of God, many times and in many ways, express her desire and determination to do good after her death and describe what she would do. She said she would call souls to God by teaching them the way of trust and absolute surrender. She no doubt foresaw the [395v] fuss that would be made over her belongings, because, with charming simplicity, she gave me her nail clippings to keep.

 

[Answer to the twenty-third question]:

 

When small, there was something heavenly about her physiognomy, attitude and approach. Our friends and acquaintances remarked upon it. From the age of 12 to 15, she mostly went unnoticed. She was shy and spoke little outside the family circle. People noticed that she was very pious, and our aunt was surprised that she knew the Imitation of Christ by heart. Yet, for the most part, she was paid little attention. During her first six years at the Carmel, I was not with her because I had stayed at home with my father. From what I heard when I joined the Carmel, I have reason to believe that during that time, her simplicity and humility meant that she mostly went unnoticed by her Sisters, who took her simply for a very assiduous follower of the Rule. During her last three years [396r] at the Carmel, which I spent with her, I noticed that a few of the more astute Sisters paid tribute to her exceptional holiness. Sister Saint Peter, a poor crippled nun, wanted us to perpetuate the love and charity that the Servant of God had shown to her. She even claimed that “people would talk about Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus later on.” Another senior sister, Sister Marie-Emmanuel, who has also died since, said to me, “That child is so mature in terms of virtue that I could see her as prioress if she wasn’t only 22 years old.” Lastly, two other senior nuns would regularly seek her advice in secret. Yet all in all, even during her last years, she continued to lead a hidden life, the sublimity of which was known more by God than by the Sisters around her.

 

[Answer to the twenty-fourth question]:

 

Concerning details of the Servant of God’s illness and death, I know of none other than those that our reverend Mother collected so carefully every day. She wrote down the words that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus said to those who approached her bedside as she pronounced them. She wrote them down word for word, changing nothing in the way that our dear [396v] patient said them. What’s more, she gathered details relating to the various stages of the illness from the health report that Sister Marie of the Eucharist (Marie Guérin) sent to her father every day during the course of the illness. I was then assistant nurse and had thoughtfully been given the task of nursing my dear little sister. I slept in a little cell adjoining her infirmary and left her only to attend the Office and sometimes assist treating other patients. I was replaced by Mother Agnes of Jesus at these times. Therefore, in full knowledge of the facts, I can attest that all the notes taken by our Mother are true and complete, to the extent that there is not a word too many nor a word too few. Nevertheless, I will give a few, more personal quotations and my opinion on certain facts that have already been recorded.

 

In the year of 1897, long before falling ill, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus told me that she fully expected to die that year. The reason for her death, according to what she told me in June, was as follows. When she fell ill with pulmonary tuberculosis, she said, “You see, God is going to take me away at too young an age to be a priest. Had I been able to be a priest, I could have received the Holy Orders [397r] at the ordination in June. Well! God has seen fit for me to be ill so that I have no regrets. I would not have been able to attend and would die before beginning my ministry” (CSG). The fact that she could not be a priest still represented a difficult sacrifice to her. Whenever we cut her hair during her illness, she would ask us to shave her scalp like a monk. She would then happily run her fingers over her head. Yet her regret did not express itself through these childish gestures alone. As it was inspired by love for God, it inspired high hopes in her. The thought of Saint Barbara carrying Holy Communion to Stanislaus Kostka delighted her.

 

She would say, “Why was it not an angel, or a priest? Why a virgin? Oh, what wonders we’ll see in heaven! I have a feeling that those who have desired the honour of the priesthood on earth will share in it in heaven” (CSG).

 

Yet her spiritual boldness did not stop there. One day she said to me, “Our Lord once said to the mother of Zebedee’s sons, ‘the places at my right and my left belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father’ (*Mt. 20:23). I imagine that these places of honour denied to [397v] great saints will be allotted to little children” (CSG). When I cited the following words of a saint, “Even when I have lived many long years in penitence, while I have breath left in me, I will fear being damned,” she immediately said, “I cannot share that fear. I’m too little to be damned. Little children are never damned” (DEA 10-7).

 

“You really are a saint,” I said to her one day. “No, I’m not,” she replied, “I’ve never performed deeds worthy of a saint! I am a tiny soul whom God has showered with graces. In heaven, you’ll see that what I’m saying is true” (DEA 4-8). She was so convinced of her powerlessness that, when our Father Superior came to see her and said to her, “Do you really believe you will soon be going to heaven? You will not, for your crown is not finished; you have only just begun it!” she replied with an angelic air, “That is very true, Father; I have not finished my crown. God has finished it” (DEA 9-7). Also, when we asked her if she had always been faithful to divine graces, she replied simply, “Yes, since the age of three, I have not refused God anything” (CSG). She was calm and serene in her desire to go to heaven, for it was based on her desire to do nothing but the will of God. Speaking about Sister Marie of the Eucharist, she said, “If I was told that I was going to recover, don’t think [398r] I would feel tricked. I’d be as happy as I would to die.” She wrote, “I am willing to be sick all my life if it pleases God, and I even consent to my life being very long; the only grace I desire is that it be broken through love” (MSC 8,1-2). She was indifferent to everything. One day when we had been discussing the purchase of the new cemetery plot in her presence, she said to me, “It matters little to me where I’m laid. What difference does it make, where we are? There are many missionaries in the stomachs of cannibals, and martyrs who had the bodies of fierce creatures for a cemetery” (CSG). And when we said, “Perhaps you will die on such and such a feast day,” she replied, “I don’t need to choose a feast day on which to die. That day will be the greatest of feast days for me” (CSG). In both the spiritual and material sense, she wanted nothing out of the ordinary for herself. When I said to her, “You have loved God dearly; He will work wonders for you. We shall find your body intact,” she replied with a note of sadness in her voice, as if my words had hurt her, “Oh, no! That wonder is not for me. That would not be in keeping with my little way of humility. ‘Little souls’ must have no reason to envy me. Therefore expect to find nothing more of me than a skeleton” (DEA 8-7). Even [398v] during her last illness, she maintained the same childlike grace that made her company so pleasant. Everyone wanted to see and listen to her. She looked forward to dying and took pleasure in watching us make preparations for her death that we would rather have hidden from her. For instance, she asked to see the box of lilies that had arrived for decorating the bed she would be laid out on. She looked at them with pleasure, saying, “They’re for me!” (CSG) She could hardly believe it; she was so pleased. To satisfy her, we finalised the purchase of the new cemetery plot in her presence, given the imminence of her death. One evening when we feared she would not last the night, we placed a blessed candle and the stoop with a sprinkler in the room adjacent to the infirmary. She guessed what we had done and asked us to place the objects where she could see them. She gazed at them contentedly, and then explained to us everything that would happen after her death. She happily went over all the details of her burial, talking about them in joyful terms, making us laugh when we should have felt like weeping. Yes, instead of us comforting her, she cheered us up. One day, she suddenly exclaimed, “To think I’m dying in a bed! I would have liked to die in an arena!” (DEA 4-8) When [399r] she began coughing up blood, she rejoiced at the thought that she was shedding blood for God: “How could it be otherwise?” she said. “I knew I would have the consolation of seeing my blood spilt, since I am dying a martyr of love” (Last Conversations with Other Sisters, July).

 

The Servant of God was not bathed in spiritual consolations; far from it. After taking Communion once, she said to us, “It’s as though two little children have been put together, but don’t speak to each another. Even though I’ve said a few words to Him, He hasn’t answered me. He was no doubt asleep!” (Last Conversations with Other Sisters, July). Her trial against faith did not diminish as she reached the threshold of eternity; on the contrary, the veil grew thicker and thicker. On top of her inner sufferings were terrible physical pains. Not only did her chest illness become particularly painful, but she also lacked treatment. Just when there were serious complications to her illness and the tuberculosis reached her intestines, bringing gangrene with it, she was deprived of seeing a doctor for a month. On top of that, her extreme thinness induced wounds that did nothing short of torture her and we could do nothing to soothe them.

 

Amid all this pain, [399v] she looked to heaven, but received no comfort. When I expressed surprise at this, she said, “It’s true; it is when I pray to heaven for help that I often feel the most abandoned!” Then, after a moment’s silence, she added, “But I never lose heart. I look to God and all the saints, and thank them all the same. I think they want to see how far I will push my hope. No, not in vain did the following words of Job settle in my heart: ‘Though God slay me, I will hopein him yet’ (*Job 13:15). I admit that it was a long time before I reached this degree of self-surrender. I’m here now. The Lord picked me up and placed me here” (DEA 7-7). However, one day, after a particularly painful struggle, we suddenly saw her grow still and her face take on an angelic expression. Wanting to know the reason for it, we questioned her, but she was too moved to reply. That evening, she gave me a note, reading, “O God, how gentle You are with your little victim of Merciful Love! Now, even as You add physical suffering to my inner trials, I cannot say, ‘the snares of death confronted me’ (*Ps. 17:5). Instead, I gratefully exclaim, ‘Though I walk through [400r] the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil: for You are with me, Lord’” (*Ps. 22:4 - “To my beloved little Sister Geneviève of Saint Teresa – 3rd August 1897” – LT 262). She begged us to pray to God to give her strength until the end. One morning in September, a few days before she died, she begged me, “Pray to the Bl. Virgin for me, Sister Geneviève. I would pray hard to her if you were sick. When it comes to praying for oneself, one doesn’t dare!” (DEA 23-8) On 21st August, when her suffering was extreme and she was groaning and finding it difficult to breath, she said with each breath she drew, as though mechanically, “I’m suffering, I’m suffering!” This appeared to help her breathe. She said to me, “Every time I say, ‘I’m suffering,’ you reply, ‘So much the better!’ That is what I want to say, but I don’t have the strength” (DEG 21-8).

 

[Session 34 – 27th September 1910, at 8:30 and at 2 in the afternoon]

 

[402r] [Continuation of the answer to the twenty-fourth question]:

 

Despite her suffering, the Servant of God was always extremely serene. One day when I saw her smile, I asked her the reason for it and she replied, “It’s because I have a very sharp pain in my chest, and I’ve developed the habit of welcoming suffering” (CSG). Although the timing of our visits was often awkward, she never showed [402v] any annoyance whatsoever. She never asked for any relief and took what we decided to give her. At night, she only rang for us when it was really necessary. She would wait until I myself came, and on the night before she died, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart and I stayed by her side, despite her insisting that we rest as usual in a room nearby. When we fell asleep after giving her something to drink, she waited, holding her little glass, until one of us awoke.

 

She was steadfast in her peace, and, although she was put in very difficult situations personally by poor Mother Marie de Gonzague, she never complained, and, through her gentleness and humility, she was the one who would resolve all the problems. The Blessed Virgin was her bright star. One day, gazing upon her statue, she said, “I can no longer look at the Blessed Virgin without weeping!” (?) And later on, on 8th September, asking to see a picture of Our lady of Victories, the one that she had decorated with the little flower that our father had given to her when he gave her his permission to join the Carmel, and which she mentions on page 83 (Story of a Soul – MSA 50,2), she wrote on the [403r] back of it, in wobbly writing, “O Mary, if I was the queen of heaven and you were Thérèse, I would want to be Thérèse so that you might be the Queen of heaven” (?). Those were the last words she wrote on this earth.

 

She would often stroke her crucifix with flowers, and when it wasn’t being used, she would fasten a little flower to it, which she would replace as soon as it began to wilt. She refused to put up with wilted flowers. Even when she was healthy and we would scatter roses over the crucifix in the inner courtyard, she always took great care to remove all the petals on the flowers, in order to strew only the freshest ones at Jesus’ feet. One day when I saw her carefully touching the crown of thorns and nails on her crucifix, I said to her, “What are you doing?” Looking surprised at having been caught, she said, “I’m removing the nails and taking off His crown of thorns” (CSG). During one of her last nights, I found her with her hands clasped together staring upwards: “What is it you’re doing?” I asked. “You should try and sleep.” “I can’t,” she replied, “so I’m praying.” “And what are you saying to Jesus?” “I’m not saying anything, I’m simply loving Him” (CSG).

 

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus did not undergo physical attacks from the devil. [403v] However, a few weeks before she died, I witnessed a strange sight. When I awoke one morning, I found her in a very anxious state. She appeared in the grip of a difficult and violent struggle. She said to me, “Something mysterious happened last night. God asked me to suffer on your behalf, and I accepted. My pain suddenly doubled. You know that the pain was particularly sharp all down my right side, but the left immediately became almost intolerably painful. I felt the devil at work. He doesn’t want me to suffer on your behalf. He is holding me with an iron grip, without giving me the least respite, so that I’ll give in to despair. I’m suffering for you, and the devil doesn’t like it!” (CSG) Very shaken, I lit a blessed candle, and shortly afterwards the devil fled and never came back. I cannot explain what I felt when I heard her words. The little patient looked pale and disfigured from her suffering and anguish. I could tell that we were dealing with something spiritual.

 

On the day she died, towards mid-afternoon, she was seized with strange pains in all her limbs. She placed one of her arms over Mother Agnes of Jesus’ [404r] shoulders and gave me the other to hold, and stayed that way for a few moments. Then the clock struck 3, and we had to fight back our emotion. What was she thinking at that moment? The way she was positioned was a striking reminder of Jesus on the Cross, and the coincidence seemed full of mystical significance for me. Then her agony began. It was long and terrible. We heard her say, “Oh, this is pure suffering, because there are no consolations; no, not one! O my God!!! And yet I love Him! . . . O Blessed Virgin, come and help me! . . . If this is agony, what is death? . . . O Mother, I assure you that the cup is full to the brim! . . . Yes, God, all You want. But have mercy on me! . . . Never would I have thought that it was possible to suffer so much . . . no, never! It will be even worse tomorrow! Well, so much the better!” (DEA 30-9) The poor little martyr’s words were halting and harrowing, but imbued with the utmost resignation. Our Mother then summoned the community. Sister Thérèse greeted everyone with a gracious smile, then, gripping her crucifix tightly in her hands, she appeared to surrender herself entirely [404v] to suffering, but said nothing more. Her breath came in pants. Her face was bathed in a cold sweat, and her clothes, pillows, and even the blankets were soaked with it. She was shaking . . .

 

Earlier on in her illness, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had said to us, “Little sisters, you mustn’t be upset if, when I die, I direct my last gaze at one of you and not the other. I don’t know what I’ll do; God will be the One to choose. If He lets me act freely, I’ll direct my last gaze towards our Mother (Marie de Gonzague) because she is my prioress” (DEA 20-7). She had said these words just a few days before she died. Now, on the evening of her death, during her agony, and just a few moments before she drew her last breath, I did her some small kindness, and she rewarded me with a delightful smile. She gave me a long, penetrating look. A shiver ran through the gathered community. Then, seeking out our Mother, Thérèse gazed down upon her, but her expression had returned to normal. A few moments later, believing that her agony might last longer, our Mother dismissed the community. Turning towards our Mother, the angelic patient asked, “Mother, is this not the agony? Am I not going to die?” And when our Mother said that the agony might be prolonged, she said in a soft, plaintive voice, “Well, alright . . . alright. Oh, I would not want to suffer for a shorter time!” Then, looking at her crucifix, she said, “Oh, I love Him! . . . My God, I . . . love . . . You!!!” (DEA 30-9)

 

Those were her last words. No sooner had she said them than, to our great surprise, she suddenly went limp, her head leaning to the right. But she suddenly straightened up again, as though called by some mysterious voice. She opened her eyes, and stared at a spot a little above the statue of the Blessed Virgin. She stayed like that for a few minutes; the time to slowly recite the Creed. I have often tried to analyse this moment of ecstasy since, to understand what it meant, for it was not only a look of beatitude; it also revealed great surprise and, in her expression, a noble confidence. I thought that we must have witnessed her judgment. On the one hand she had, in the words of the Gospel, “been found worthy to stand before the Son of God” (Lk 21:36), and on the other, she could see that the gifts with which she was going to be showered exceeded her immense desires. In fact, her expression [405v] of indescribable surprise was mingled with another. It looked as though she could not bear the sight of so much love, like someone who is assaulted over and over again and wants to fight, but, through weakness, is left the lucky loser. It was too much for her. She closed her eyes and breathed her last. This was on 30th September 1897 at 7 o’clock in the evening.

 

[Answer to the twenty-fifth question]:

 

I know through all that I’ve heard here that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus’ body was publicly buried in the cemetery of Lisieux and that her grave was the first in the plot that had recently been acquired by our Carmelite convent. I’ve also seen photographs showing the grave in that plot. Her funeral was a modest affair and nothing particularly remarkable happened. I also know that on 6th September of this year, the Servant of God’s remains were exhumed in the presence of his Lordship the Bishop and a large crowd, placed in a new coffin and buried near the first site.

 

[406r] [Answer to the twenty-sixth question]:

 

I haven’t been to the cemetery myself because I’m a cloistered nun, but I’ve heard from the many people that come to the Carmel that the Servant of God’s grave has gradually become a place of pilgrimage. Many priests go there. Following the exhumation on 6th September, the wooden cross from the first grave was brought to the Carmel. This cross was literally covered with prayers and thanksgiving messages written by pilgrims. The number of pilgrims that go there seems to grow with each day that passes.

 

[Answer to the twenty-seventh question]:

 

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus’ extremely edifying death and her moment of ecstasy when she appeared before God left a lasting impression on the Sisters of the community, even those who showed little appreciation for her while she was alive. One such Sister, Lay Sister Saint Vincent de Paul (died 1905), had upset her a great many times with her harsh words, and had even said, loud enough for the Servant of God to hear, “What can we possibly say about Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus after her [406v] death?” (HA 12) Immediately after Sister Thérèse died, the same Sister prayed to her, asking her to heal the cerebral anemia that she had had for a long time. Leaning her head against the angelic child’s feet, she asked for forgiveness for her sins, and claims that she was completely healed immediately. After that, she tirelessly set about collecting scraps of photographs of the Servant of God, and this was immediately after Sister Thérèse’s death, before her reputation had spread and influenced people, so to speak. Sister Saint Vincent told me these facts herself, for she didn’t hide her feelings, sharing them with all the other Sisters.

 

Sister Saint John of the Cross (died 3rd September 1906), one of the elder Sisters who had sometimes asked the Servant of God for advice, wrote the following prayer and kept it in one of her office books: “Little Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, I praise the Heart of Jesus for all the blessings He has given you. I beg you to associate me on earth to the love that you have for Him in heaven. Pray that the seraphim who must have pierced your heart with the arrow of divine love might grant me what he granted you.”

 

Mother [407r] Marie de Gonzague told me that she received a blessing whilst looking at a portrait of Thérèse as a child. This blessing must have been very great because, afterwards, the Reverend Mother Prioress could not look at the picture without weeping. I witnessed her emotion on several occasions, and once, she said to me, “I alone know how much I owe her. Oh, to think what she said to me, and all that she reproached me for! But she did it so gently!” The mother prioress would pick up the picture often and, as she grew older, her character improved markedly under Sister Thérèse’s gentle influence. The Servant of God’s reputation for holiness therefore spread throughout our monastery. All the Sisters pray to her, without exception, recommending their families to her prayers and rejoicing in the wonders that she is working, the news of which our Mother shares with us every day at recreation.

 

As soon as a few people read the life story of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, it was like a spark that ignited fires everywhere, fires that it would have been impossible for us to stop from spreading, even if we had wanted to. To satisfy the demand, we had to print more copies. [407v] New editions followed in rapid succession, but not rapidly enough, because we couldn’t keep up with the demand. So far we have printed seventy-five thousand copies. It is not a book that people read only once. Once people have read it, they hold on to it. “I will read my book again,” wrote one of my friends, “and not just once, but ten or twenty times. There is enough in it to nourish my soul for a long time.” We have had hundreds of similar appraisals. Just a few days ago, we received a letter from Constantinople saying that Monsignor Sardi has been lent Story of a Soul and, since July, has read it three times already. And so it was that the book became known on all five continents, and we received requests to have it translated for different countries. Letters of approbation from bishops and figures of high standing then appeared, praising it highly. Those concerning the Dutch and Portuguese editions are particularly noteworthy.

 

People requested keepsakes relating to the Servant of God right from the very beginning. We had to send them out in their thousands and, being responsible for the objects having belonged to Sister Thérèse, I am astounded to see that her sheets, bed curtains [408r] and clothes have already gone, having being cut into tiny pieces. Almost all the letters that we have received since the publication of Story of a Soul (1898) express a desire to see her Cause set in motion and quickly brought to a successful conclusion. People also often express the reason for their attachment to Sister Thérèse, putting her on a pedestal of veneration. “What I like about this Carmelite,” reads one letter, “is that she is an endearing saint; an imitable saint; a saint who does not discourage you by being fanatical or disapproving.” This is people’s general impression, and it is expressed in a myriad of forms. People are grateful to the Servant of God for thinking to strew the cross with flowers and for welcoming suffering with a smile, and also for reminding us, through her example, how to live the life of spiritual childhood that pleases Our Lord so highly. Many simple souls feel drawn to Sister Thérèse’s way of love and trust, and her example encourages them to follow it fearlessly. Very often, the letters we receive attest to these qualities and encouragements. Several religious communities admit to having been transformed by her “spirituality of childlike trust”, and everyone hopes that her glorification will accredit “her way of self-surrender and humility.” These simple souls include not only uneducated people but [408v] also scholars and doctors. Reverend Father Pichon, S. J., wrote on 11th May, “Yes, God means to glorify His humble little Spouse. Once He has, how can we not endeavour to become little children? I’ve been working at it for 66 years.”  

 

The idea that Sister Thérèse’s glorification might encourage sainthood brought her followers everywhere. Priests in particular are very devoted to her. Reverend Father Flamérion, S. J., who runs a spiritual retreat house for priests near Paris, has given us some touching examples. Sister Thérèse is well-known and appreciated in seminaries. Many priests and friars consider her as a “sister” or partner in their ministries. We have had several bishops and priests come here asking to see Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus’ cell. With pious veneration, they have knelt before the statue of the Blessed Virgin that smiled at her, feeling compelled to see all the places that she sanctified by her presence. We have had to stop showing people the objects that belonged to the Servant of God when asked to bring them to the grate. We receive so many prayer requests at the Carmel that meeting people in the visiting room [409r] and responding to letters has become extremely time-consuming. Mother Agnes of Jesus, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart and I have had to distance ourselves from these activities as much as possible, because, being the Servant of God’s blood sisters, a religious life would have become impossible for us.

 

[Answer to the twenty-eighth question]:

 

I have heard nothing serious said against her reputation of holiness. At first, a few Carmelite convents were suspicious, thinking that perhaps, due to their affection, her sisters were exaggerating the Servant of God’s merits. Yet these impressions soon evaporated on reflection and consideration of the facts.

 

[409v] [Answer to the twenty-ninth question]:

 

In answer to this question, I can mention, 1stly, several extraordinary blessings that I have received personally; 2ndly, others that have been granted to our Sisters; and 3rdly, the Servant of God’s reputation for extraordinary graces and miracles, which has been spreading all over the world since her death.

 

1stly; During the months following the Servant of God’s death, I received some striking spiritual insights, and these were often accompanied by manifest blessings. The most significant one, significant if not in terms of the magnitude of the sign, then at least in terms of the intensity of the inner blessings I received, took place in October 1897, just a fortnight after my dear sister’s death. It was the eve of the feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I was walking the Way of the Cross in the cloisters. Suddenly I saw what looked like a flame coming from the depths of the sky. At that same moment, a spiritual feeling came over me and I exclaimed, “It’s Thérèse!” The inner grace by far exceeded anything I can describe. It’s one of the greatest graces I have ever received. In a [410r] flash, I knew the answer to the problems that had so often weighed on my heart. All my vain concerns vanished; Thérèse’s little way of trust, self-surrender, humility and spiritual childhood was explained to me and became clear to my soul. One day when a Sister had taken an object that I needed, I was about to demand it back rather harshly when I distinctly heard the words, “Very humbly!” I recognised Thérèse’s voice, and my heart was immediately transformed and infused with humility. In June 1908, I was on retreat for the anniversary of my Profession and I surrendered myself to Love anew, wondering, however, how I would know if I had surrendered myself completely. The next morning, at about 4 o’clock, I was awoken by the sound of someone talking. Someone was saying in my ear, “One cannot surrender to Love without also surrendering to suffering.” I was in no doubt that the voice belonged to the Servant of God, and her words greatly enlightened my soul. I understood that a self-offering, either partial or whole, was not one single act, but required effort at every moment of every day. [410v] At the end of 1908, it seemed that the moment had come for the Servant of God to reveal herself on a larger scale. There was talk of perfumes, through which she supposedly signalled her presence. I do not know why I rebelled against the idea of these signs. I said it was tacky, because it appealed to the senses. In short, I decided that I did not believe in them. One evening, towards the end of November, walking up to my cell, the same one that Sister Thérèse had occupied, I found the oratory outside the cell filled with the scent of roses. I couldn’t help but notice it, but once the initial shock was over, I was still incredulous and said to myself, “Everything is perfumed these days. It could well be a letter sprayed with perfume,” even though I knew that that there was no such letter nearby, and I left the room without further consideration. Yet at the bottom of the staircase, quite a distance from the cell, I caught a breeze smelling of roses. Then I believed, and wanted to thank Thérèse, but the perfume immediately disappeared. I have witnessed similar occurrences about 15 times over the past two years. I should point out that no incidents involving perfumes occurred during the 11 years [411r] that followed the Servant of God’s death. They did not begin until 1908. I noticed that, apart from on two or three occasions, when the scent lingered for a very significant length of time, the perfumes would vanish as soon as I realised it was Sister Thérèse. They would always arise at significant moments, or be sent to me to comfort me at times of sadness. I also noticed that I never received the blessing when wishing for it. It always came when it was least expected, to the extent that only after a while would I realise that it was Sister Thérèse.

 

2ndly; Speaking of perfumes, there was one rather curious event that I witnessed. After Sister Thérèse’s exhumation (6th September 1910), we were told of a plank of wood that had come away from the head of the coffin, but which had not been brought back from the cemetery. A few days after the ceremony, on Thursday 15th September, our Reverend Mother sent one of the Turn Sisters to scan the debris that was left and look for the wooden plank. The Turn Sister saw a plank similar to the one we were looking for, set to one side, in a hedge. She took it, though without being certain that it was the right fragment. The Portress of the monastery [411v°] eyed it suspiciously and placed it carelessly on a table. Another Sister appeared (Sister Marie of the Trinity) to fetch a parcel and was completely unaware of the plank’s presence.      

 

She was overwhelmed by a strong scent of incense and, noticing the piece of wood, she said to herself, “Of course; it’s from the coffin.” Other nuns (Sister Marie of the Child Jesus and Sister Thérèse of the Eucharist) noticed it too, but neither I nor our Reverend Mother could smell anything whatsoever, despite having been told what was happening. As I was responsible for preserving the planks of wood from the old coffin, I compared the piece of wood in question with the original pieces and it looked identical in every way. After examining it, I was in no doubt that the stray piece had been found. Since then, our Turn Sisters have discovered that a workman had had the intention of taking the plank and had hidden it himself in the undergrowth where it had been found. Then, Doctor La Néele, who had attended the exhumation in the capacity of expert, recognised the plank as being the one that had fallen away from the head of the coffin. Several nuns from the monastery have been granted graces, some more [412r] exceptional than others. Apart from perfumes, which can be explained rationally, and which almost all of us have encountered, the most remarkable occurrences, to my knowledge, included the healing of a boil on Marie-Madeleine of the Blessed Sacrament’s skin. This healing came about during a novena to Sister Thérèse, and after touching the boil with a veil that we thought the Servant of God had worn. We were not absolutely sure that she had used the veil, so we decided this would be a means to find out. The other occurrence, which was very surprising, happened to Sister Jeanne-Marie. An empty tank, which she charitably offered to fill, even though she was very tired, out of a desire to imitate the Servant of God’s virtues, was suddenly found to be full even though she had barely filled it a quarter of the way up. 

 

3rdly; As for the Servant of God’s reputation for miracles outside the convent, it is spreading all over the world, and I know this because, every day, we are read out the letters we receive on the subject, and they relate a huge number of graces. Whether inner blessings or healings, they occur on all five continents. Several beneficiaries of these prodigious [412v] graces have come to relate them to us in the visiting room. A certain number of these wondrous accounts have been published in a booklet called “Shower of Roses”, but many have taken place since it was printed. Not a day goes by that we do not receive 60 to 90 letters relating to the Servant of God recounting several very remarkable spiritual or temporal graces. According to the instructions given to us, I store the votive offerings that pilgrims bring in a hidden part of the monastery so that they cannot be seen by the public. So far I have collected 26 marble plaques in recognition of graces that have been granted through the Servant of God’s intercession. People also bring quantities of lacework, jewels, paintings, statuettes, and all sorts of other objects out of thanksgiving. Several of these objects have no value other than as thoughtful gifts, but they no less testify to the sentiments of the faithful. Another remarkable fact that I will point out is that the Servant of God’s ardent desire to exercise an apostolic ministry seems to have been fulfilled in a most surprising way. Sister Thérèse once said that “as soon as she reached the Homeland, she would receive authority over [413r] all little children, and help missionaries in the mission lands to baptise children and convert adults” (DEA 17-7). Now, in the years immediately following her death, that is to say 1898-1899, the statistics in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, those of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and several others, showed a much higher number of baptisms and conversions than preceding years. The Annals of the Propagation of the Faith (ed. 425, July 1899, page 313) read, “The year of 1898 will be remembered in our Society’s Annals as a year of great blessings. The number of adults baptised during the year rose to the almost incredible figure of 72,700. Never in the 235 years of our Society’s existence have we recorded a result such as this. It cannot be explained by the zeal and work of the missionaries alone; we must attribute it to the Holy Spirit, which breathed on some of our missions and pushed an irresistible wave of nonbelievers towards our holy religion.” In November 1899, the same Annals said, “The throng of angels that has gone to swell the celestial ranks is almost twice the size as last year.” What is remarkable is that all missionary reports [413v] recounted the same success. Everyone here at the Carmel was very struck by this. Several of our Sisters noted down the figures, for all of us who remember the Servant of God’s predictions rejoice to see them coming true.

 

[Answer to the thirtieth question]:

 

I do not think I have omitted anything in my testimony.

 

[Concerning the Articles, the witness says she knows nothing other than what she has already said in answer to the preceding questions.]

 

[Session 35:- 28th September 1910, at 8:30]

 

[415v] [Here ends the interrogation of this witness. The Acts are read out. The witness makes no amendment to them and signs as follows]:

 

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

 

Signatum: SISTER GENEVIEVE OF SAINT TERESA u.c.n.