Witness 7 - Sister Françoise-Thérèse Martin, Ord. Visit. B. M. V. (Léonie)
This sober and simple deposition, which reveals Thérèse’s extremely evangelical spirit even before she entered the Carmel, belongs to her sister Léonie, whose religious name was Sister Françoise-Thérèse Martin, and who was a professed nun of the Order of the Visitation.
The third child in the family, Léonie was born in Alençon (Orne) on 3rd June 1863. She was always a cause for concern and worry to everyone due to her weak and sickly nature, but she had a very good heart. She began her arduous education with the Sisters of Providence of Alençon, and then joined her sisters Marie and Pauline in 1871 at the Visitation Convent of Le Mans, where she stayed only a few months, owing to her inability to adapt to discipline. She returned to the Sisters of Alençon in 1871 and attempted Le Mans again in January 1874 with a view to prepare her first Communion, but she was already back home in Alençon by the following 6th July. Her mother revealed her concerns for her daughter in her letters. However, on 10th May 1877 she wrote that she was beginning to have hope for the difficult child’s future and took her on pilgrimage to Lourdes the following month in order to implore Our Lady for mercy on them both. Mrs. Martin died on 28th August the following year, while Léonie reverted at first to her hypersensitive character with its ups and downs before gradually starting to improve.
While boarding at the Benedictine Convent of Lisieux from 1878 to 1881, she joined the Poor Clares of Alençon as a postulant on 7th October 1886, but left them as early as 1st December. She then tried the Visitation Convent of Caen: she entered on 16th July 1887, and left on 6th January 1888. From her Carmel, Thérèse followed the twists and turns of her sister’s troubled vocation and on 8th September 1890, when kneeling during her profession, implored the Lord to give her sister the grace to return to the Visitation convent. Léonie did in fact go back to the monastery in Caen on 24th July 1893, but although she was admitted into the novitiate on 6th April 1894, she didn’t persevere and went to stay with her uncle Isidore Guérin in Lisieux on 20th July 1895.
Thérèse nevertheless did not lose hope and before she died declared to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart: “after I die, I will have her enter the Visitation convent and there she will persevere.”
Her prophecy came true: Léonie was once again admitted to the Visitation Convent of Caen on 29th January 1899, becoming Sister Françoise-Thérèse. She finally made her Profession on 2nd July 1900 and remained there for a little over forty years.
There she followed in the footsteps of Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the more known and glorified her sister became, the more the Visitation nun hid herself, repeating: “Noblesse oblige; I am from a family of saints; I mustn’t tarnish our reputation.” She made an authentic spiritual ascension. Her health began to decline in 1927; she was frequently ill, and suffered from rheumatism and arthritic pains. She died on 16th June 1941*.
To testify in the Informative Trial she had to go to Bayeux. She stayed with the Benedictines of the Blessed Sacrament where she testified in sessions 41-44, on 29th-30th November and on 1st-2nd December 1910, pp.470v-504r of our Public Copy.
[Session 41: - 29th November 1910, at 8:30am and at 2pm]
[470v] [The witness accurately answers the first question].
[471r] [Answer to the second question]:
My name is Marie-Léonie Martin, in religion Sister Françoise-Thérèse. I’m a professed nun of the Visitation Monastery of Caen, I was born in Alençon, in the Parish of Saint Pierre de Montsort (Diocese of Séez), on 3rd June 1863, to Louis-Joseph-Stanislas-Aloys Martin, and to Marie-Zélie Guérin; I am the Servant of God’s blood sister.
[The witness accurately answers questions three to six inclusive].
[Answer to the seventh question]:
Although I love my little sister very much, I am aware that I am only testifying for the glory of God and in accordance with the truth. My affection in no way blinds me with regard to the Servant of God.
[Answer to the eighth question]:
From the Servant of God’s birth up until her entrance into the Carmel, I lived with her in my parents’ home for about two thirds of the time. For the other third, I was [471v] absent at various intervals, either at boarding school in Le Mans or Lisieux, or preparing my definitive entry into religious life. I also learnt about certain details of her life through talking and writing to members of our family, particularly my three sisters (Marie, Pauline and Céline), who are Carmelite nuns in Lisieux. I also received letters written to me personally by the Servant of God. I don’t remember having drawn any information from outside the family circle. Lastly, reading the “Story of a Soul” also helped me prepare my testimony. It reminded me of many traits I had forgotten and I recognized the perfect truth of them on reading the book. I even discovered many details about her spiritual life, not only for the periods of time we were separated, but also for the years we were living together. Thérèse was in fact, even then, a very private soul, and because of my relatively young age, she opened up less to me than to our older sisters, who were like mothers to her.
[472r] [What do you think about the objectivity of “Story of a Soul”? Isn’t there a certain amount of imagination in it?]:
I am totally convinced it is all true. Thérèse was very sincere and had the simplicity of a child. In her book, and her letters for that matter, there is certainly nothing but the true expression of her thoughts.
[Answer to the ninth question]:
I want her to be beatified, because I believe it will contribute to glorifying God and inspire souls to love God. But if Holy Church didn’t deem the beatification appropriate, I would think that we must only peacefully adhere to Holy Church’s judgment; that is what’s best and I would certainly prefer that to the glorification of our little sister.
[Answer to the tenth question]:
The Servant of God was born on 2nd January 1873, in Alençon, in the Parish of Notre Dame. She was born on the New Year’s Day bank holiday, and I was at home with my other sisters. She was our parents’ ninth and [472v] last child. She was the only child to be born in the Parish of Notre Dame. All the other children were born in the Parish of Saint Pierre. My father owned a jeweler’s shop in the Parish of Saint Pierre. In about 1871, if I remember correctly, he sold the house to his nephew and we went to live in the Parish of Notre Dame, in the house that belonged to my grandparents on my mother’s side. Out of the 9 children in the family, 4 died very young; two little boys and two little girls. When Thérèse was born there were therefore five of us children, who were all to enter religious life later on: Marie, the eldest, who was 13 at the time, then Pauline, then myself, Léonie, and lastly Céline and Thérèse. My father’s business was successful; when he sold it, he helped my mother with her Alençon lace business, and the family’s position was then that of “wealthy merchants”. Thérèse was first educated by our mother who unfortunately was taken away from us too early: she died when Thérèse was four and a half. When our mother died, Thérèse and her young sisters were brought up by our elder sisters under our father’s surveillance. This [473r] education took place in Lisieux, where our father went to live when our mother died, in order to be closer to our aunt and uncle Mr. and Mrs. Guérin.
[Answer to the eleventh question]:
Our family was what was called a patriarchal family. Our parents, who had both dreamt of entering religious life when they were young, continued to practice Christianity very fervently in their married life. My father made it an absolute rule to close his shop on Sundays, despite the contrary practice of other traders in the same profession, and despite his friends’ insisting that he was losing the custom of many passers-by who preferred to shop on Sundays. Moreover, he was completely devoted to religious practices and actively sought the company of clergymen. Out of respect for the priesthood he would bow to all the priests he passed, even if they were strangers. Our mother was very pious and belonged to the Third Order of Saint Francis. She devoted herself, in the education of her children, to training them in the practice of piety and [473v] Christian thoughts.
[Answer to the twelfth question]:
The Servant of God was baptized on 4th January, I think, in the Church of Notre Dame in Alençon by Father Dumaine, who was then the parish vicar, and is now Vicar-General to the Bishop of Séez. Her godfather was a young man of about 14, who was the son of one of my father’s friends and has since died; his name was Mr. Boule; her godmother was our eldest sister Marie.
[Answer to the thirteenth question]:
The elder children were educated for the most part in religious boarding schools, either at the Providence School in Alençon, or at the Visitation Convent of Le Mans in the case of my elder sisters Marie and Pauline, and with the Benedictines of Lisieux for Céline and myself. At home, the education our parents gave us was good and affectionate, but attentive and careful: “we were not spoiled.” As for Thérèse, she undoubtedly received, from our father and even [474r] from our mother, particularly special affection. But we were not at all jealous. On the contrary, we all showed special affection to our little sister. She was the “Baby” of the whole family. She was such a charming child! For her part, Thérèse didn’t abuse this affection in the slightest; she was as obedient as all of us if not more so, and I never noticed in her any attitude of superiority towards us.
[Answer to the fourteenth question]:
In Lisieux, our little sister was first educated [474v] by her eldest sisters Marie and Pauline. At that time, I myself was at the boarding school of the Benedictine nuns of Lisieux. I left that school at the end of the academic year of 1881 (August); and the following October, my little sister Thérèse was sent in my place to the school as a half-boarder. Every evening she therefore came home to “Les Buissonnets”, which was our family residence. She stayed at this school for four years; she took her first Communion there in 1884 and was confirmed there in the same year. While at the Abbey (the house of the Benedictines), my sister Thérèse constantly suffered from moral pains. She was already very thoughtful and meditative for her age and she suffered because of the contrast between the state of her soul and her surroundings at boarding school, which was so different from her family surroundings at Les Buissonnets. Furthermore, her elder sister Pauline, who mothered her, entered the Carmel in 1882, when Thérèse was nine and a half, and this separation was very difficult for her. I am led to believe that the sorrow she felt contributed to a certain extent to the serious illness she contracted the following year. Lastly, after her first [475r] Communion she was beset by a crisis of scruples which added to her other troubles. I must mention that in the midst of her physical and moral suffering she was never rebellious or worried. She cried easily, especially after our mother died, but never resisted or complained in the least when we asked something of her. I think it is appropriate to mention that her extreme sensitiveness was the product of the shock that our mother’s death caused. This is because I myself noticed a sudden contrast between the cheerfulness that was characteristic of her nature before her bereavement and the customary and excessive sensitiveness that followed and which she learnt to control only later on through practicing virtue.
It is worth mentioning a few details with regard to her illness that I mentioned earlier. It started with violent headaches, and these symptoms occurred almost immediately after Pauline left for the Carmel (October 1882). By the end of March 1883, she was suffering from fits of deliria and convulsions. Her pain, as if by some providential disposition, stopped for 24 hours the day Pauline received the Habit at the Carmel. Thérèse was alone in insisting she was fit to go to the ceremony; [475v] my family and I energetically fought against this idea that seemed impossible to us. However she came, and for the few hours we spent at the Carmel, Thérèse was perfectly calm and showed a lot of affection and tenderness for “her little mother” who had become Sister Agnès of Jesus. After that good day, the pain returned immediately and continued relentlessly until 10th May, the day she was miraculously healed. Her attacks followed one another almost without stopping. They seemed to us to be almost continual fits of delirious fright that were often accompanied by large uncoordinated movements. She gave out awful cries, her eyes had a terrified expression and her facial features were painfully contorted. Nails in the wall took on horrible shapes in her eyes, frightening her. Often she didn’t recognize her own family; on one particular evening, she was terribly frightened by our father who came towards her with his hat in his hand; to her he appeared to be a horrible beast. When these convulsive attacks began, she would want to jump over the railing of her bed, and we were obliged to hold her down. One Sunday, I stayed home alone to look after her during High Mass. Seeing she was very calm, I risked leaving her for a few moments. [476r] On my return, I found her sprawled on the floor; she had leaped over her bed head and fallen between the bed and the wall. She could have killed or seriously hurt herself; but, thanks to God, she didn’t even have a scratch. She wrote – MS A 28.2 – that while sick she was never unaware of what was happening around her. I only learnt this from the testimony she wrote of herself. If she hadn’t said this, we would have believed, judging by appearances, that her delirium was more or less total and almost continual. On 10th May 1833, she had an attack that was perhaps more violent than the others; she didn’t recognize her sister Marie holding her in her arms. Her sorry state, which no show of affection could remediate, plunged us into despair. It was then that Marie and I fell to our knees at the foot of a statue of the Blessed Virgin, our hearts filled with hope, and prayed to our heavenly Mother to heal our little sister. Suddenly Thérèse was perfectly calm, smiling at the statue, in full possession of her faculties and with her features at rest; she had been fully cured. Sister Thérèse wrote in her Life Story that she had been [476v] favoured with a vision of the Blessed Virgin, - MS A 31.1 – and she said this again on her death bed – SS 12 -; but she said nothing about it to me, neither at the time, nor since.
[Did the Servant of God ever have symptoms of this sickness again?]:
The doctor who treated the sickness with hydrotherapy, but without any success, advised us to spare the patient from violent emotions once she was recovered. In the month following her recovery, I twice wrongly angered her. She fell to the floor and remained sprawled there for a short space of time (several minutes); her limbs became rigid and her body stopped moving. There was, however, no state of delirium like during her illness, or any violent movements. Those two symptoms were the only ones that occurred. After that, there were no further traces of the illness.
[Session 42: - 30th November 1910, at 8:30am and at 2pm]
[481v] [Continuation of the answer to the fourteenth question]:
After she was cured, Thérèse went to school at the Benedictine Abbey. She took her first Communion there on 8th May 1884, aged eleven and a half. The rule of the time dictated that in order to take first Communion within the year, one had to be a full 10 years old on 1st January. Thérèse, being born on 2nd January, was put back an entire year. She had shown a desire to take Communion very young. I remember when Céline took her first Communion, Thérèse, who was only 7, was eager to go to the preparatory lessons that Céline took from our elder sisters. Sometimes, they sent her away to play, saying she was too young. It was only with deep disappointment that she would accept to leave. Every year, at the time when first Communions took place, her vehement desires returned. I remember a touching incident relating to this. Thérèse was, I think, nine years old. Walking down one of the town’s streets, in her sisters’ company, she saw our Bishop going to the station. She said to us: “and what if I asked permission from his Lordship to take my first Communion next year? Since it’s hard being put back a year for having been born on 2nd January!” I then became very aware of the anguish in her heart. We discouraged her from taking this course of action, arguing that it was contrary to propriety; and that she would be refused anyway. But I am not afraid of saying that the Servant of God was perfectly capable of taking her first Communion well before she was even 7, given her precocious piety and her already enlightened intelligence on all things divine. The day she so desired finally came; on 8th May 1884 she took her first Communion. She only lived and breathed for Jesus [482v] the Host, who had delighted her soul. She was hungry for the bread of angels and a few days later (15th May) I saw her beaming with happiness at having taken her second Communion between our venerable father and our eldest sister Marie, who today is a Carmelite nun under the name of Marie of the Sacred Heart. My Carmelite sisters showed me some notes written by the Servant of God in a little notebook that contained the resolutions she took for her first Communion. They read as follows:
- I will never grow discouraged.
- I will say a Memorare every day.
- I will try to humble my pride. – Retreat Notes, May 1885 -
She fully followed through with these resolutions, because what made her character distinctive was her strength of will that prevented her from ever becoming discouraged and led her to surrender herself completely and trust blindly. She received the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Benedictine Abbey on 14th June that year, on a Saturday. I was in a better position than anyone to judge her attitude, which was more angelic than human on this occasion; having the honour of being her godmother at her confirmation, [483r] I followed her every step to the altar, with my hand on her shoulder. I could see that she was deeply rapt in the great mystery that was about to take place in her soul. Usually at that age, children don’t understand the significance of this sacrament, and treat it very lightly. On the contrary, Thérèse was completely filled with the love that was already consuming her. I had trouble containing my emotion, accompanying this cherished child to the altar.
[Answer to the fifteenth question]:
After the renewal of her first Communion (in May 1885), our father decided it would be better to keep Thérèse at home. This is what happened as from the end of the school year (August 1885). Her leaving the Benedictines was not advised by the teachers of the Institution; on the contrary, they would have liked to have kept our dear sister very much. But the precarious state of her health, since she suffered from frequent ailments, was what principally motivated my father’s decision: this delicate flower couldn’t blossom away from her family. Once out of boarding school, she was taken to lessons in town several times a week, to finish her education. [483v] Her teacher thought highly of her and was very proud. Thérèse improved her knowledge above all through reading, which she loved passionately. Even as a little child, her diligent and thoughtful mind found there was nothing more delightful than to read books.
At that time, as she was constantly at home, Thérèse really was the joy of the family. Even the servants loved her, because everything about her breathed peace, kindness and condescension. She would always forget herself to please others and would put happiness in everyone’s hearts; this was who she was. Her even-temperedness was so simple and seemed so natural that you would have thought the perpetual sacrifices she made cost her nothing. She was amiable and gracious; people felt at ease with her. Everything about her was appealing. Pride and vanity had no hold whatsoever over this innocent soul. She was very pretty, but only she seemed to be unaware of it; when we were living together in the house, I never saw her look at herself in a mirror. She was attentive not to humiliate or aggrieve anyone. I noticed this especially on [484r] occasions when she helped me. Although I was 23 at the time, I was very behind in spelling and my studies, as I had always found learning difficult. Thérèse, who was 10 years younger than me, went to a lot of trouble filling in the gaps in my education. On these occasions I admired her unfailing patience and the delicate way in which she helped me without humiliating me. She was very spiritual and very cheerful; she had a particular ability to imitate other peoples’ tones of voice and mannerisms, but never to my knowledge did this little amusement degenerate into mockery or become even the slightest bit uncharitable: she knew when to stop, perfectly tactfully.
Little children delighted Thérèse’s pure heart. I’ll never forget her angelic smile and the caresses that she lavished upon them, especially poor children, whom she loved most of all. She never let an occasion go by to talk to them about God, using a language they could understand and with relevance and charming grace. One notes that the children’s unkempt and dirty clothes never prevented her from caressing them or showing them her love in any way; as [484v] she liked beautiful things as a rule and was herself dressed very cleanly and immaculately, her choice to seek the company of the poor could only have resulted from solid virtue.
As she was very young, my sisters didn’t always take her to church, which was quite far from Les Buissonnets, despite her desire to take part in all religious ceremonies, especially those for Saint Mary’s month, and these took place in the evening. She took Communion as often as she was allowed, which was at least once a week, and she wished she was allowed to take Communion more often, even every day I think. She ardently desired to become a member of the Congregation of the Children of Mary at the Benedictine Abbey, and so she resolved to go and spend two afternoons a week at the boarding school. It was on this condition that she obtained permission to join the association.
[485r] [Answer to the sixteenth question]:
I don’t remember the Servant of God confiding to me her plans for religious life; I’ve already said that she opened up less to me than to her elder sisters who were like mothers to her, and to Céline who was almost the same age as her. But her announcement of her intention to enter the Carmel didn’t surprise me in the slightest. It wasn’t hard to see, through her attitude and virtues, that she was made for religious life.
[Do you know whether the presence of her sisters Pauline and Marie at the Carmel of Lisieux had any influence over the Servant of God’s vocation?]:
I don’t think so; her only thought was that of loving God. If Pauline and Marie hadn’t been in Lisieux, she would have entered the Carmel anyway. Moreover, notwithstanding my own observations, several details reported in her “Life Story” [485v] reveal the purity of her intentions, like when she said that failing the Carmel, she would have gone to a “refuge” and hidden herself amongst “penitents” - Counsels and Reminiscences –.
I was at home for Pentecost 1887, when she told my father she desired to enter the Carmel, but she didn’t tell me about this, and I was completely unaware of it. When she went to Bayeux and Rome, I was in a religious house, in the Visitation Monastery of Caen, and my only knowledge of these events came from letters that were written at the time and from reading her “Life Story” later.
[Answer to the seventeenth question]:
I saw my little sister leave for the Carmel. I didn’t actually enter the Visitation convent definitively until 1899, after two attempts at religious life, one of six months in 1887, and the other of about two years from 1893 to 1895. When Thérèse said goodbye to us, I was at home after my first attempt in 1887. I was particularly struck by her strength of will on this occasion. She alone was calm. Only silent tears told of the pain she felt at leaving our father whom she loved so much and whom she [486r] comforted in his old age. I told her to think carefully before entering religion, adding that my experience of it had showed me that this life required many sacrifices and that it was a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The answer she gave me and her facial expression made me realize that she was ready for all the sacrifices and would joyfully accept them. When she entered the Carmel, she knelt at our remarkable father’s feet to receive his blessing; but he, as far as I can remember, only wanted to give it to her kneeling down. God alone was able to measure the extent of his sacrifice, but, for this great and generous Christian, knowing what God’s holy will was, and accomplishing it, was one and the same thing.
In the years that followed and up until my second entrance into the Visitation convent (in 1893), I went quite often to the Carmel’s visiting room to see my three sisters. I went there again after I left the Visitation convent for the second time (1895-1899). In these interviews I noticed our younger sister’s virtues for myself and I heard from my elder sisters’ lips different details revealing the same fervour that can be found in her “Life Story”. For one thing, I was greatly [486v] edified by her punctuality. The Carmelite nuns have a thirty minute sand timer in the visiting room. She was so faithful that as soon as the last grain of sand had fallen, she gracefully said goodbye, drew the grille and curtain closed, then disappeared definitively. When she came with my other sisters, this true nun was always the first to leave. Even in the visiting room, her humility kept her small and hidden. She voluntarily remained silent when my other sisters were there, and the Servant of God’s profound humility was all the more remarkable given that she possessed all the gifts of the mind and heart.
[Answer to the eighteenth question]:
I learnt through my conversations in the Carmel’s visiting room that the Servant of God had the role of directing the novitiate to a certain extent. She was never officially given the title, but she was kept with the novices even once her novitiate was over to serve as an example of a perfect nun to the others. Being their elder Sister, she could influence them through giving good advice and in the end the Reverend Mother Prioress effectively, [487r] if not nominally, entrusted her with the functions of novitiate director.
[Answer to the nineteenth question]:
My sister Pauline (Mother Agnès of Jesus) said to me one day in the visiting room, during her priorate, that she felt compelled by some inner force to order Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus to put the story of her life into writing, but that it should be written for her alone and entrusted only to her. I know that Thérèse carried out this order and that, on her deathbed, she continued writing in pencil in order to finish the manuscript. But I never had access to these notebooks, which Reverend Agnès of Jesus kept. I only became familiar with them on reading “Story of a Soul”. Studying the book taught me many things about her life I didn’t know. I knew she was very virtuous, but, as I hadn’t been living with her, and moreover had never been particularly privy to her private life, I hadn’t imagined that her heroism had risen to that level. However, I have no doubt that the report is absolutely truthful.
[Session 43: - 1st December 1910, at 8:30am and at 2pm]
[489r] [Answer to the twentieth question]:
The Servant of God’s virtue was never to be seen in extraordinary actions. With her, everything was simple and natural [489v] and she avoided calling attention to herself. So the heroic nature of her life could easily have gone unnoticed. But thinking about it, and remembering her habits and actions, it seems certain to me that, even before she entered religious life, her piety and above all her even-temperedness and the care she took to please others presupposed a constant generosity and a delicateness of conscience that were of a higher degree than one comes across in other young girls, even very Christian ones. My visits to the Carmel’s visiting room and the letters she sent me once she had entered religious life showed that she had risen to a very high level of perfection. What is most remarkable is that this sublimity of virtue showed itself when she was still fairly young, since she was no more than 15 or 16 years old.
[Answer to the twenty-first question: A. De fide [Faith]:
Her spirit of faith allowed her to see all things from a spiritual point of view. The letters she wrote to me spoke only of God and she only ever considered events from the point of view of faith. When [490r] our father died, she wrote (20th August 1894): “I am thinking more than ever about you ever since our dear Father went up to heaven… Papa’s death does not give me the impression of a death but of a real life. I am finding him once more after an absence of 6 years, I feel him around me, looking at me and protecting me. Dear little Sister, are we not more united now that we gaze on the heavens to find there a Father and a Mother who offered us to Jesus? … Soon their desires shall be accomplished, and all the children God gave them are going to be united to Him forever.” - LT 170 -. On 11th April 1896, she wrote: “I have nothing to offer you on this your feast day, not even a picture; but I am mistaken, I will offer you tomorrow the divine Reality, Jesus-Victim, your Spouse and mine… Dear little Sister, how sweet it is that we can, all five, call Jesus ‘Our Beloved’! But what will it be when we see Him in heaven!... Then we shall understand the value of suffering, and, like Jesus, we shall repeat: ‘It was really necessary that suffering should try us and have us come to glory’ (cf. Lk. 24:26). Dear little Sister…[490v] I love you more than a thousand times more tenderly than ordinary sisters love each other, for I can love you with the Heart of our celestial Spouse. In Him we are living the same life” - LT 186 -. These letters are not the result of any exceptional bout of fervour: they reveal the constant state of her soul.
B. [Hope and trust in God]:
What I can do, to better express the dispositions of her soul, is to quote passages from the letters she wrote to me and in which she puts herself across much better than I could. It was common that she thought about heaven. On 20th May 1894, she wrote: “I cannot, dear little Sister, tell you all I would like, my heart cannot translate these intimate feelings in the cold language of this earth, but one day in heaven, in our beautiful homeland, I shall look at you and in my look you will see all I would like to say to you, for silence is the language of the blessed inhabitants of heaven! In the meanwhile, we must merit the homeland of heaven. We must suffer, we must fight” - LT 163 -. In January 1895: “The year which has just passed away has been very fruitful for heaven: our dear Father has seen what ‘the eye of man cannot contemplate.’… Our day will come also… Oh! how sweet it is to think we are sailing towards the eternal shore!” - LT 173 -. I know from reading her Story that she was familiar with inner turmoil, but her trust in Jesus was unfailing and helped her to endure everything with immense calm and perfect stability. This calm surrender seems to be the very characteristic of her inner life. She describes it in a letter she wrote to me on 12th July 1896 as follows: “If you only knew how happy I am to see you in these good dispositions!... I am not surprised that the thought of death is sweet to you since you no longer hold on to anything on earth. I assure you that God is much better than you believe. He is content with a glance, a sigh of love… As for me, I find perfection very easy to practice because I have understood [491v] it is a matter of taking hold of Jesus by His Heart. At the time of the law of fear, before the coming of Our Lord, the Prophet Isaiah already said, speaking in the name of the King of heaven: ‘Can a mother forget her child?... Well! even if a mother were to forget her child, I myself will never forget you.’ - *Is. 49:15 -. What a delightful promise! Ah! we who are living in the law of love,… how can we fear Him who allows Himself to be enchained by a hair fluttering on our neck! - * Cant. 4:9 -. Let us understand, then, how to hold Him prisoner, this God who becomes the beggar of our love. When telling us that it is a hair that can effect this prodigy, He is showing us that the smallest actions done out of love are the ones which charm His Heart… Ah! if we had to do great things, how much we would have to be pitied!... But how fortunate we are since Jesus allows Himself to be enchained by the smallest things” - LT 191 -.
C. [Love of God]:
I previously mentioned her great desire to be united to God through Holy Communion. Living for God, avoiding that which displeases him, and seizing opportunities to please him, were the continual objects of her thoughts. She wrote in April 1895: [492r] “I have only one desire, that of doing His will. Perhaps you remember how in the past I used to love calling myself ‘Jesus’ little plaything’. Even now I am happy to be this; however, I have thought that the divine Child had many other souls filled with sublime virtues who call themselves ‘His toys’. I thought, then, they were His ‘beautiful toys’ and my poor soul was only a ‘little toy’ without any value. To console myself, I said: Often little children are more pleased with ‘little toys’ that they can leave aside or take up, break or kiss at their whim than with others of a greater value which they almost dare not touch. Then I rejoiced at being poor, I wanted to become this more and more each day, in order that Jesus may take more delight in playing with me” - LT 176 -. The Servant of God put her effort into winning souls for Jesus, by offering sacrifices daily. She wrote in 1896: “I take delight in seeing that it is not little sacrifices you lack and especially when thinking you know how to profit from it, not only for yourself, but for souls. It is so sweet to help Jesus by our light sacrifices, to help Him save souls that He bought at the price of His blood [492v] and that are awaiting only our help in order not to fall into the abyss” - LT 191 -.
D. [Love for one’s neighbour]:
I’ve already said that when Thérèse was a young child, she loved and sought the company of poor people. She was very happy that our father ordinarily entrusted her with the distribution of alms. She would put aside money she was given for the poor, and store it in a piggy bank instead of affording herself little pleasures. I witnessed her constant charity to our cousin who was very sickly as a child. Thérèse, although she was still small and younger than her cousin by about three years, liked to entertain her, and would very readily amuse her, without being put off by her tantrums and annoying moods that were caused by her illness. On these trying occasions, which occurred often, the Servant of God demonstrated admirable forgetfulness of self and patience which were well beyond her years. Once, while playing, Thérèse called her aunt (Mrs. Guérin) by the name of “Mamma”. Her little cousin corrected her sharply, saying that her mother was not Thérèse’s mother, and that Thérèse didn’t have a mother any more. On hearing these words, the Servant of God couldn’t hold back her tears, but she didn’t answer [493r] back, or grow angry at all and continued to show her little cousin the same affectionate solicitude.
The same cousin was later trained in religious life by Thérèse herself. She became Sister Marie of the Eucharist at the Carmel of Lisieux, where she died a holy death in 1905. I could mention many other traits of Thérèse’s charity, but they are accurately reported in “Story of a Soul”.
- [Cardinal virtues. Concerning prudence]:
Her prudence was above [493v] all visible in the excellent advice she gave to souls so as to guide them in God’s way. Several have remarked upon the perceptive and correct use she always made of Holy Scripture and the Imitation of Christ. To show how wise her direction was, I will quote the following passage from a letter she wrote to me on 22nd May 1894. Alluding to the name of Thérèse, which was my religious name and also hers, she said: “Which of the Thérèses will be the more fervent? The one who will be more humble, more united to Jesus, more faithful in performing all her actions through love! Ah! let us pray for one another in order to be equally faithful. Let us wound Jesus by our eye and by a single hair - *cf. Cant. 4:9 – that is to say, by the greatest thing and by the smallest. Let us not refuse Him the least sacrifice. Everything is so big in religion. To pick up a pin out of love can convert a soul. What a mystery! Ah! it is Jesus alone who can give such a value to our actions; let us love Him with all our strength- LT 164 -.
B. [Justice and its components]:
Her religious attitude in prayer, and her respect and love for [494r] religious ceremonies were remarkable even when she was a child, when I was living particularly close to her. There was nothing affected in her attitude, and instead we rejoiced to see this young soul so filled with God’s presence, with her little hands clasped together, kneeling straight and still on her right knee, either in church where she dearly loved to be, or in the evening with our venerated father, whose attitude in prayer was deeply edifying for us. I’m incapable of describing her happiness. The first time Thérèse went to Midnight Mass, she must have been eight years old at most. The mystery of a God being a little child and laid in a manger for our love captivated her innocent and pure heart. I can still see her beautiful face take on a wholly celestial expression when contemplating Jesus in his manger. In the processions on the Feast of Corpus Christi, Thérèse would be the best-behaved and most reverent girl in the children’s party. It was the same in church, during the longer services. The young lady in charge of looking after the little girls in the chapel, where the children gathered, never tired of admiring her. She spoke to me and my sisters about her in the most laudatory terms. There’s no doubt that in the Carmel her spirit [494v] of religion was a similarly edifying example to others, but my Carmelite sisters witnessed more of this than I did.
I noticed that as a child Thérèse never asked for sweets to delight her taste buds as most children do. She proved very brave in suffering hardships, which she didn’t lack. Later on, she opened up her heart to me in her letters and told me how important it is to esteem suffering highly, which she certainly did, as the death of our father revealed, which I explained when I talked about her spirit of faith. In August 1893, she wrote: “I know, dear little Sister, that sacrifices do not fail to accompany your joy. Without them, would the religious life be meritorious? No, certainly not. On the contrary, it is the little crosses that are our whole joy: they are more common than big ones and prepare the heart to receive the latter when this is the will of our good Master” - LT 148 -. In January 1895, she wrote: “I rejoice when seeing how much God [495r] loves you and is granting you His graces. He finds you worthy of suffering for His love, and it is the greatest proof of affection that He may give you, for suffering makes us like Him” - LT 173 -.
My little sister was gentle, very affectionate, demonstrative even, always seeking to please others at her expense. I never saw her lose her temper or show the least impatience. Even in her early childhood, I can’t remember seeing her angry, but she could sometimes be a bit stubborn. Yet this fault disappeared very quickly, and at Les Buissonnets she was very obedient.
[Associated virtues and religious vows].
She held religious vows in high esteem, especially the vow of chastity. Convinced that my vocation was religious life, she would worry about the vices that several times brought me back from the cloisters into the world. She would then correct me of any trace of worldliness that to her seemed capable of compromising my religious future. She was overjoyed when finally all her sisters [495v] belonged to the divine Spouse. It’s true that I only entered the Visitation convent after her death, but she knew that I’d already made my vow of chastity. She wrote in 1893 (5th November): “How good Our Lord is to our family! He has not permitted any mortal being to become the spouse of any of us” - LT 151 -. And on 28th April 1895: “I understand the delay of your Profession must be a trial for you, but that is such a great grace that the more time we have to prepare for it, the more we rejoice too” - LT 176 -. On 27th December 1893 -: “We are reading, in the refectory, the Life of Saint Chantal… I see the intimate union that has always existed between it and Carmel. This makes me bless God for having chosen these two orders for our family. The Blessed Virgin is truly Our Mother since our monasteries are dedicated particularly to her” - LT 154 -.
Even before she entered the Carmel, the Servant of God faithfully avoided pushing herself to the fore and getting herself noticed. She wasn’t aware of the great spiritual and physical qualities that God had [496r] given her. She does say in her notes that she had a proud nature, but she controlled it so well that if she hadn’t written this, I believe I’d never have known it. At the Carmel, practicing humility was one of her principle objectives. She wrote (27th December 1893): “Dear little Sister, do not forget to pray for me during dear little Jesus’ month; ask Him that I remain always little, very little!” - LT 154 -. And in 1895 (28th April): “Jesus wills that no one help me (in my task) except Himself, so with His aid I am going to set myself to the task, to work with fervour… Creatures will not see my efforts which will be hidden in my heart. Taking care to be forgotten, I shall want no one else but Jesus to notice… What does it matter if I appear to be poor and lacking mind and talents? … I want to put into practice this counsel from the Imitation: ‘Let this one take glory in one thing, another in something else, but as for you, set your joy only in contempt of self, in My will and My glory.’ - Imit. Bk. 3 ch. 49 - Or: ‘Do you want to learn something that will help you? Love to be unknown and counted as nothing!’ Imit. Bk 1, ch 2-3 – When thinking this over, I felt a great peace in my soul, I felt that here was truth and peace!” - LT 176 -.
[Answer to the twenty-second question]:
I didn’t personally witness any extraordinary events during the Servant of God’s lifetime, and she didn’t share any with me. I was away from home, at the Benedictines’ boarding school when she had the prophetic vision, so to speak, of our father’s last illness. I learnt from reading her Life Story that the Servant of God had experienced marvelous transports of love several times. Lastly, my sisters in the Carmel informed me that a Benedictine nun from the Convent of Lisieux had heard the Servant of God make in early 1888 this prophetic remark concerning my future: “You mustn’t worry about Léonie’s unsuccessful attempts at religious life. After I die, she will enter the Visitation convent, she will succeed and will take my name and that of Saint Francis de Sales” – Primary source -. Everything happened exactly as she predicted. I don’t know the name of this Benedictine nun, but I believe it would be easy to prove what she said by means of an inquiry in Lisieux.
[497r] [Answer to the twenty-third question]:
I often heard people express their admiration for Thérèse’s “celestial appearance” when she was a child. Later on, her simplicity meant she went unnoticed. Nevertheless, I can confirm that our Superior, Mother Marie de Sales, when she read the letters my sister Thérèse had written to me from the Carmel, said it was extraordinary that a nun so young could conceive such elevated thoughts. She admired her and said so to the community and the novices.
[Session 44: - 2nd December 1910, at 8:30am and at 2pm]
[499r] [Answer to the twenty-fourth question]:
I was in Lisieux when she suffered her last illness and died; but I didn’t see her in the visiting room from July 1897 onwards: her condition kept her in the infirmary, where I couldn’t go. I received news of her through my sisters. In my last interview with her, in about June 1897, when I couldn’t hold back my tears at the prospect of her imminent death, she had me understand that there was no reason to be sad. Two letters from her admirably express her attitude in the face of death. In one of them, written on 12th July 1896, she said: “You ask me for some news about my health. Well! dear little sister, I am not coughing anymore. Are you satisfied?... This will not prevent God from taking me when He wills; since I am putting forth all my efforts to be a very little child, I have no [499v] preparations to make. Jesus Himself will have to pay the expenses of the journey and the cost of entering heaven” - LT 191 -. The other letter is very precious to me; it’s the last she wrote to me on her deathbed. It dates from 17th July 1897, and is written in pencil: “Jesus! Dear Léonie, I am very happy to be able to speak with you again. A few days ago I was thinking I no longer had this consolation on earth, but God seemed willing to prolong my exile a little. I am not disturbed by it, for I would not want to enter heaven one minute earlier by my own will. The only happiness on earth is to apply oneself in always finding delightful the lot Jesus is giving us. Your lot is so beautiful, dear little sister; if you want to be a saint, this will be easy for you since at the bottom of your heart the world is nothing to you. You can, then, like us, occupy yourself with ‘the one thing necessary,’ that is to say: while you give yourself up devotedly to exterior works, your purpose is simple: to please Jesus, to unite yourself more intimately to Him. You want me to pray in heaven to [500r] the Sacred Heart for you. Be sure that I shall not forget to deliver your messages to Him and to ask all that will be necessary for you to become a great saint. A Dieu, dear sister; I would like the thought of my entrance into heaven to fill you with gladness since I shall be able to love you even more. Your little sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus” - LT 257 -.
[Answer to the twenty-fifth question]:
She died on 30th September 1897. She was laid, according to the custom, in front of the choir screen. Meanwhile, many of the faithful came to have her touch their rosaries and other objects. I saw her in her coffin myself and she appeared remarkably beautiful to me. The burial, which I attended, took place in the cemetery of Lisieux. She was buried in a very deep grave in the piece of land reserved for the Carmelite nuns. She was the first to be buried in the new burial plot. I noticed nothing extraordinary about the ceremony other than the crowd’s immense reverence.
[Answer to the twenty-sixth question]:
During the 18 months I [500v] spent in the world after her death, I went to her grave many times; but I didn’t notice crowds of pilgrims there at that time. Since then, having been cloistered, I haven’t been able to return to the cemetery. But I know, from letters my sisters have sent me and from reports that have been made to me in the visiting room of the Visitation convent, that it’s a well-known fact that the number of pilgrims who go there has gradually grown and is now very considerable.
[Answer to the twenty-seventh question]:
I don’t receive anywhere near as many letters as my Carmelite sisters do. However I receive some from France and also from abroad (Portugal, Italy, England, and so on), and all these letters testify to the Servant of God’s renown for holiness. Many of these letters come from nuns of our Visitation Order, and indicate that in all our monasteries there is great devotion to Sister Thérèse. This is not surprising, for the spirit of her piety is exactly the same as ours and our holy founder, Saint Francis de Sales. Several of these letters come from people living in the world and express the same sentiments. [501r] In our monastery of Caen, admiration and trust in Sister Thérèse knows no bounds. Our very Reverend Mother Superior, as well as our former Superior, hold the Servant of God’s holiness in the highest esteem. One of our Sisters (Sister Marie-Pauline, a Visitandine) told me that through Sister Thérèse’s intercession she obtained everything she asked of her. In the monastery, we almost continually pray novenas to the Servant of God at the request of the faithful.
[Answer to the twenty-eighth question]:
I’ve never heard anyone say anything to that effect outside our monastery. Inside, several of my Sisters in our house of Caen esteemed, in the years following the publication of “Story of a Soul”, that enthusiasm played a role in all this. But since then, they have seen the events that have taken place and observed the graces that have been obtained, and have completely changed their minds, and today we all think the opposite, unanimously.
[Answer to the twenty-ninth question]:
[501v] I witnessed the extraordinary healing of our Sister Marie-Bénigne on 2nd July 1909. This extraordinary healing is related in “Shower of Roses”, which is annexed to the most recent edition of “Story of a Soul”, headed n° C. The same event is reported in the Vice Postulator’s “Articles”, n° 136. I myself encouraged the patient to pray a novena to the Servant of God. I felt compelled to ask our Mother for permission to give the patient one of the rose petals that Thérèse of the Child Jesus had scattered over her crucifix. In giving her the water in which it had been dipped to drink, I prayed to the Servant of God with great insistence and fervour, saying: “You cannot refuse me this healing, because today is the silver anniversary of our Novice Mistress and the anniversary of my profession.” I was so sure she would answer my prayer that I recited the Laudate and Gloria Patri even before observing whether or not the miracle had taken place. As it is told in “Shower of Roses” and the “Articles”, the young novice Sister Marie-Bénigne was promptly cured of a serious stomach ulcer that had caused her to cough up blood very frequently and had made it impossible for her to eat.
[502r] It is correct that immediately afterwards, the patient drank a significant amount of milk without any difficulty. According to “Shower of Roses” and the “Articles”, the very next day the patient would have liked to have eaten omelet, peas, lettuce, etc. She did indeed ask for this food, and it’s very probable that nothing would have come of it. But the doctor objected out of caution, and it was only five or six days later that she gradually took up the community’s diet again. It would perhaps be worthwhile rereading her handwritten testimony, which must be kept at the Carmel. Our very Reverend Mother keeps the original medical certificate at Caen, and if the judge deems it useful, he can ask our Reverend Mother to send it so that it can be annexed to my testimony. I know a lay sister (Sister Louise Eugénie) who, while praying a novena with confidence, was cured of a gastric complaint that the doctor had been treating for over six weeks in vain. In our community, people are generally confident that the Servant of God’s intercession is powerful for obtaining exceptional graces for the soul or body, and we pray to her constantly. I know, from conversations in the visiting room [502v] and from letters, that this trust is shared by many of the faithful; that she is considered a most powerful “thaumaturge” and that people pray to her for that reason, not only in France, but also in various countries the world over. In particular I can report that in the visiting room, we saw a child of ten who, last Pentecost, was promptly cured in Lisieux from bone tuberculosis which had kept him in a wheelchair for three years. His whole family, who now live in Caen, came (father, mother and four children) to tell us about the miracle. His father and mother, who didn’t practice religion, were converted following these events. I think that other witnesses would be able to give the court a more direct and precise account of this miracle. I will plainly recount something which happened to me. I can’t remember the exact date, but I think it was in the winter of 1900-1901. That evening I was at Matins feeling sad and annoyed in my heart, for a sort of revulsion had taken hold of me. Shouldering this tedious burden I was sloppily reciting the Divine Office, when suddenly, quicker than lightening, a luminous shape appeared on the book of Hours. It completely [503r] dazzled me, but didn’t frighten me at all. It was only a second later that I realized it was a hand I had seen. The hand was so beautiful that all other lights on this earth were pale in comparison. “It’s my guardian angel coming to call me to order”, I thought at first. “But it can’t be” I then said, “my angel doesn’t have any hands: it can only be my little Thérèse.”
Anyway, I firmly believe that it was in fact her, for I felt perfectly consoled: a delicious peace flooded my soul. How much I’ve wanted, since this heavenly visit, to see that blessed and darling hand again! But to my great regret I haven’t. About two or three months ago, as I was asking her to deliver me from a scruple, I opened a copy of the book of the Imitation that had belonged to her. I then noticed, for only a second, a very strong smell of incense, and I considered that it was in answer to my prayer.
[503v] [Answer to the thirtieth question]:
I would like to add two details I forgot. The first alludes to her love of the Holy Eucharist (Interrog. 21, C. De charitate in Deum); I learnt in the visiting room of the Carmel from my sisters, who were present, that the Servant of God, in her capacity as a sacristan, had noticed that a piece of the Host had remained on the corporal. She was extraordinarily happy to have in her possession the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. The second detail I forgot pertains to the virtue of humility. My sisters also told me in the visiting room that she bore a very humiliating remark made by a nun with immense gentleness and without appearing angry. As [504r] the Servant of God was arranging flowers on a coffin, putting aside some that she thought didn’t look pretty, the nun said to her: “you’d certainly find a way of including those flowers if your family had sent them.” To which the Servant of God replied, without any bitterness: “Since it pleases you, I will arrange them how you want them” -SS 12-.
[Concerning the Articles, the witness says she knows nothing other than what she has already deposed in answer to the preceding questions. - Here ends the interrogation of this witness. The Acts are read out. The witness makes no amendment to them and signs as follows].
I have deposed according to the truth; I ratify and confirm it.
Signatum. Sister FRANÇOISE-THÉRÈSE MARTIN, of the Visitation of Holy Mary, B.B.G.