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.).


* to be continued *