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Narrative of the foundation of the Carmel of Lisieux

by the hand of Mother Geneviève

 

unpublished text translated by Juan Marrero

 decret Robin 1 petit  acte de fondation petit  acte installation petit
Foundation Decree
February 26, 1838
Act of Foundation
March 15, 1838
Act of installation
August 24, 1838

 

Presentation of the founder of Lisieux

                                                                                                                  to the right : Father Sauvage Sauvage-lt
[In 1835,] Reverend Father Pierre Sauvage was at the Seminary of Bayeux surrounded by his peers and by the affection of his students, almost all of whom possessed distinguished merit, many were to be elevated even to the status of bishops and some were to occupy the principal prelatures of the Dioceses. Bishop Brault, then Bishop of Bayeux, appointed Fr. Nicolas Sauvage to succeed Fr. Giret as prelate of Saint Jacques of Lisieux after the latter’s death. He became then the first curate of that parish. Fr. Sauvage was prompted by this assignment to reach out to his own nephew, Fr. Pierre Sauvage, in order for him to leave his own religious congregation to assist his estimable uncle at St. Jacques in Lisieux. He made this proposal in the most flattering terms. After some reflection, Fr. Sauvage gave in to his uncle’s request. It was then, not long afterwards, that the Seminary of Bayeux sought to move Fr. de Rochemonteix. He left the congregation of Saint Sulpice after receiving a request from his relative, Bishop de Bouille of Poitiers. Fr. Sauvage and Fr. de Rochemonteix would always conserve for one another the most tender feelings of affection. The parishioners of Saint Jacques received with eagerness and kindness the nephew of their Pastor.

 

Of young women in search of Carmel

Among the penitents who looked towards the new vicar of Saint Jacques for direction, Miss Caroline Gueret, cousin of Rev. Abbot Boudard, felt the effects of his paternal solicitude. Her holy director, recognizing in her the signs of vocation to Carmel, solicited and obtained from Reverend Mother Pelagie, prioress of the Community of Pont-Audemer, her admission to the monastery. He himself desired to present her to the Reverend Mother. It was then that the two sisters, the Misses Désirée and Athalie Gosselin, entered the novitiate. These sisters, belonging to a respectable family from Le Havre, had made their education in that Community where they were so tenderly loved. However, their frail health made it clear to them that they would not be able to follow the strictures of the Rule. It was decided that they would seek to obtain a style of life that would be less austere. Mother Felicite, who had succeeded Mother Pelagie, did so well knowing the pain that this proposition would cause the sisters. In effect, the attraction that Carmel had for them was so strong that a proposal from the Order of the Visitation [for them to join them] would not be able to console their sorrow enough for them to lose their desire to become Carmelites. Madame Saint Charles suggested to them the project of founding a new monastery in the city of Lisieux. This religious had been their teacher when they were boarding students and had for them the affection of a mother. It was this affection that would give rise to the idea of the project of a foundation.

 

The meeting

Madame Saint Charles, being the niece of the deceased Bishop Giret, who had been the late curate of Saint Jacques of Lisieux, was familiar with that city and the piety for which it was known. This made her believe that Carmelites would be well received there. But, she first wanted to confide in a cleric of zeal about this project. She thought then of Fr. Pierre Sauvage, who was familiar to her Community, and would offer the chance of a happy success. Mother Pealgie, as prioress of Pont-Audemer, had had contacts with this worthy cleric; also, she had had excellent rapport during the revolution [of 1848] with the other prelate Nicolas Sauvage, his uncle, then the curate of Saint Jacques. She, therefore, approved the choice of Lisieux together with the new Mother Prioress Felicite. Rev. l’Abbe Lambert, the Superior of the Community, and Rev. l’Abbe Thorel, who was the chaplain, were of the same opinion. It was then on the Feast of the Assumption, 1835, that Madame Saint Charles made the proposition to Fr. Sauvage. She immediately beseeched him to come to the Community to examine the two prospective founders and to listen to them so to be able to give them both the authority for this important matter.

Upon reading their letter, Fr. Sauvage hesitated, not believing that such a great enterprise was likely to succeed. He so informed his uncle, the senior prelate, who, as it turned out, did not share his fears. On the contrary, he tasked him with taking charge of this good work and promised him his cooperation. It appeared then that it was within God’s designs that this good priest should found a Carmelite Convent in the Diocese of Bayeux. The illustrious Sainte Teresa would have held him as another Elijah communicating his spirit in the cover of her coat - before becoming a priest, Monsieur Sauvage had placed on himself the coat of this great Saint Teresa of Avila that the Community of Carmelites, rue d’Enfer [in Paris conserves in a case]. He would by her example triumph with patience and perseverance over all the obstacles that would rise from all sides. These troubles would surge but fail to rattle his courage. Fr. Sauvage left for Pont-Audemer and had a long conversation with both the Misses Gosselin. He was most satisfied with their dispositions because they enjoyed a good vocation linked to strong characters that would be necessary in order to rebut those difficulties that they all could foresee. The Sisters offered quickly all that they possessed; first, their revenue that added up to fifteen hundred francs and later the capital totaling forty-five thousand francs. Miss Athalie Gosselin was then 27 years of age and her sister, Miss Desiree, was 25. It was decided together with Fr. Sauvage that they would become boarders with the lady Benedictines of Lisieux.

 

Consultation of Bishop Dancel

After this conference, Fr. Sauvage wrote to Rev. Abbot Michel, Vicar General, to ask him his advice and to become an interlocutor with Bishop Dancel of Bayeux.  Here is the response that Fr. Michel made to Fr. Sauvage’s letter:Dancel-lt

Monsieur and dear confrere,
The prelate will be absent until September 4 or 5.  Upon his return, if you will allow me until then and I do not foresee any inconvenience, I will communicate to him the two letters that you have sent me.  In anticipation, here are my reflections:
1.       I personally desire that a Community of Carmelites may be established in our diocese; it is nearly the only one that is missing.
2.      I think that, with nothing more than an ordinary income, it will be assured a residence.                                  
3.      It will be necessary for one to be assured that a community of Carmelites will consent to donate or lend at least three religious to commence and direct this new establishment.
4.      I believe that under these condition, the Bishop will agree and favor the foundation that these pious ladies who appear to me to be animated with a pure vision.
5.      Lisieux or Caen, but above all Caen, where there was once a Carmelite house, seems to me suitable.
Have the goodness to assure us that one can expect to realize the conditions that I have listed, especially that marked number three, and also provide us your further reflections before the return of the Bishop.

This response was most favorable, and it also filled joy and hope in the hearts of those to whom it was addressed.  He communicated this information to the Misses Gosselin who, holding the same sentiments, hastened to go to Lisieux.   

 

The family of the founders

Mrs. Saint Charles took charge of informing the family of the two Gosselins of this new project.  It was easy for her to fulfill this mission.  She had been a fellow school pensioner with Miss Flore Gosselin and maintained strong ties to his respectable family.  Unfortunately, she did not present the project quite as it was.  She filled the minds of the ladies with visions of the title of founders before she had authority to offer such a privilege.  These ladies, who at most hoped for an expansion of their friendship, were flattered, although the convent grill left them with an unpleasant impression.  From another corner, there was nothing but talk of giving the sisters their revenue, they were thus assured that they would not be disinherited. It also appeared that the Community of Port-Audemer would be founded by Madame Saint Charles.  Their Sisters also made the best possible portrait of she who they already regarded as their Superior.  All was thus arranged to most favorable advantage.  Mrs. Gosselin and her young [daughters] assisted with satisfaction the effectuation of this new project.  Mrs. Adelaide Gosselin promptly made the voyage to be able to embrace her Sisters.  Fr. Sauvage was then absent, which was a privation for the young ladies.  She wrote him a letter expressing the following, giving his good and conciliatory heart the greatest pleasure.

“Rev. Father,
The interest that you have had the goodness to bear for my sisters makes me desire to have the honor of you visiting me.  They will be able to tell [you] how I was saddened in finding you absent knowing how devoted they are to you.  I have the need to converse with you. If you would be so kind, Sir, I pray that you will excuse the liberty that I have taken for the reason that it has been entrusted to me.  Before I was entirely up to date of the reasons why they left Pont-Audemer. I rejoiced as long they would enter a less austere Order, and, above all, one without a grill.   But, when they had informed me of all, I saw that it was a path I had wanted too much.  Later, I had pushed egoism to the point that I desired that they would fall sick so as to see them return to us, but when later I saw these poor children so changed, so beat down, I had then the courage to be generous and to form interiorly the wish that their project would succeed since it appeared to be attached to a greater good.  Your devotion, Monsieur, is too well known to me for me not to know the need for you to advise them.  I will relay your solicitude to them.  Their health has suffered much from the torments of their spirits.  I hope that when they become tranquil in body they will get better.  Nevertheless, my dear Desiree will be in need of distraction, exercise, watch her well, I pray, in the same way as my poor Athalie whom I have found much changed.  These poor children have been deprived of their good friends.  They have such a good Mother and Sisters; it is for us a very great consolation.  May you, Monsieur, for your [loved ones] may you  find less bitterness in their absence than that of the hope of all my heart for it to be of short duration (if what I said above is all for the better.)
Receive, I pray, Monsieur, all my gratitude.”


Informal approach to a first Carmel : Pont-Audemer
Fr. Sauvage was happy to see that his project had been endorsed by the family of the founders.  The support of the Vicar General gave hope that the Community of Pont-Audemer would provide nuns, above all Madame Saint Charles whom all so wanted.  For the place of establishment, Fr. Sauvage preferred Lisieux to Caen.  He had exercised with great success the holy ministry in that city; it was only just that he would seek to have the benedictions of Heaven through the prayers of the daughters of St. Teresa beseeched from it.  He also had a temporal reason, that being the hope that the Bishop, his Uncle, would provide access to a benefactor who would liberally provide support for this foundation.  Nothing seemed to arise to oppose the project of Fr. Sauvage.  Nevertheless, he was at the eve of encountering the greatest of obstacles.  It was the work of God.  It was necessary that it should be overcome.  The Carmel of Lisieux would need to overcome quite similar obstacles to those that Rev. Abbott Bretigny had had to confront in the establishment of the French Carmel.  However, Fr. Sauvage, faithful imitator of the invincible patience and the constant perseverance of this great servant of God, would triumph like him over all that sought to oppose this pious design. 

 

A first obstacle

The first obstacle that arose came from the bishop. Bishop Dancel had obtained information about the convent of Pont-Audemer, learning that it had boarding students.  This innovation made him worry that this proposed community would not be in keeping within the regulations.  He did not want it to be so founded within his Diocese.  This is how he explained it in a letter to Fr. Sauvage in a letter dated October 30, 1835.

I have read with increasing interest, Sir and worthy Abbot, your letter of the 5th of this month and the 12th concerning establishing of a convent of Carmelites in my Diocese.  In each page of your report, I blessed Divine Providence for having entrusted me with realizing a vow that I formed long ago and I cannot thank you enough for the powerful means that your piety and your zeal offers me to make it succeed..  It is necessary, I dare say to have the courage, to delay this beautiful process and instead to take certain precautions before giving my full consent to such a good work such as acquiring some information about the religious personnel destined to form the core of this community that is soon to be born in order to ensure that it is fashioned in perfect regularity with the rules.  Yet, this information is far from reassuring.  So, I await a new occasion to integrate these daughters of Saint Teresa into my Diocese, like I had the happiness of drawing the English Carmelites into the Diocese of Coutances when I was the Grand Vicar there.  It was I who received them in London forty-one years ago upon their leaving…in Holland.  The Catholic bishop of London who had his Sister as a member put me in charge.  Returned to France and being the cure in Valognes, I received them for a second time.  They established themselves in Thorigny, then in Valognes itself where they still remain and are flourishing.  Concerning the French, it is an open question.  What do I know?  If the Misses Gosselin should present themselves and again test their vocation, it could be that they will find what they seek…It could be so that these ladies [might still] prepare themselves a new colony of religious for us.
Receive, sir and worthy Abbott, the assurance of my high esteem and my sincere attachment. Ch. Bishop of Bayeux.

Fr. Sauvage communicated the contents of this letter to Misses Gosselin on All Saints Day.  All three of them vividly felt the blow. Nevertheless, Fr. Sauvage concluded that it would be necessary to place new information before the Archbishop of Bayeux and so he interviewed anew the two young people, amply documenting the sentiments that animated them in their mission during this examination.  He declared in their name to the Prelate that they were at his disposition to go to the convent that would be pleasing to him in order to make the project succeed.  Here is the response from his Highness:

Sir and dear abbott,
You have well appreciated the reasons developed in my last letter on the subject of the establishment with which you have flattered my imagination and that I therefore regret to abandon, at least for the time being.  It will be possible to revisit the project that is so close to my hear, above all, if in forming a convent in my dioceses, the convent of Valognes could and would give or lend, at least for several months, three or four good religious, who will propel the effort on its march forward.  And what happiness for me, who was the father of these good English women in London forty years ago, if in Bayeux, I could offer a hand to those of Lisieux without having to leave my diocese. Their chaplain Fr. Marest, who knows them in France is a man with a good head and who has done all for them.  See, if by sending a first letter to Bishop Marest, there is a possibility of success.

 

Intervention of Fr. Marest

Fr. Sauvage quickly wrote to Fr. Marest about the bishop’s desires; the worthy cleric did not have to wait long for his response: the response was negative giving as a reason that the exercises would be in English.  The Misses Gosselin would be obliged to learn that language.  This new difficulty would pose a new bar to adopting the project.  Then, wishing to settle the question, the bishop decided to call Fr. Marest to Bayeux as well as Fr. Sauvage and the prospective founders [the Misses Gosselin] as well.  It was there that he would hear the concerns of all and decide which side to take.  The meeting would take place on December 15, 1835.

On the scheduled day, Fr. Sauvage ascended to the bishopric where the Misses Gosselin and he were received with most special affection by the Community of Charity.  Fr.  Marest had already arrived.  This true protector of the foundation came to see for the first time the vision of Fr. Sauvage.  He became familiar with all the documents concerning the interior and temporal aspects of the proposed Carmel Community.  The bishop, who seemed extremely indecisive in the first instance, indicated for the next day the course that he would take.  Frs.  Marest, Michel and Sauvage would draft it.   The demoiselles Gosselin, who already had had an interview with Fr. Marest, would present themselves before the cabinet of the Prelature where their future would be decided.  “Are you disposed”, asked His Grandeur, “to make all kinds of sacrifices?”  Based on their positive response, the bishop recounted to them a little story relative to their position, questioning the younger of the two ladies about her view:  “She is not blind”, answered the older one, “but she will supplicate [and obtain] through prayer what she herself cannot do.” “I quite agree” responded the Prelate, “prayer will be for her a great consolation.”

Nevertheless, after having weighed all with a truly paternal goodness, he decided to take advice from those upon whom he relied.  The first and the most decisive was that of Fr. Marest.  It was favorable.  Fr. Michel thought the same.  There was no doubt about Fr. Sauvage’s opinion.  The bishop did not even bother to ask for it.  “Now,” declared the prelate, “we are in need of Mothers.”  He asked Fr. Sauvage to write letters to the three neighboring convents: Paris, rue d’Enfer, Rouen, and Le Mans.  The bishop blessed the future founders and they left joyously, rendering glory to God.  It was decided that on the next day, the bishop would offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in union with prayers of Prince Hohenlohe [Prince Alexander of Hohenhole, a German priest and reputed miracle worker - 1794-1849].  It was an edifying spectacle to see the venerable Prelate embrace the future Carmel and to call upon it the succor of God and the protection of Mary.  Those who already wished to be its daughters received Holy Communion at the Mass officiated by his Highness, the bishop, while Fr. Sauvage filled the office of Episcopal Chaplain.


Official approach to a second Carmel: Paris rue d'Enfer

This was the letter from Bayeux that Fr. Sauvage wrote to the Mother Prioress at the rue d’Enfer in Paris:

 The Spirit of zeal and charity that reigns in all of the communities of the Order of Carmel inspires me with the confidence to address you in order to ask to take into consideration my request, and to weigh before God the reasons.  There are no Carmelite Communities in Bayeux.  Our Venerable Prelate desires with fervor to found one in order to more and more draw the Lord’s blessing upon his flock.  I have come from presenting to his Highness, the bishop, two Sisters who after exercising the Rule of Saint Teresa have formed a project to establish a foundation in the diocese of Bayeux.  The bishop wished to examine for himself their vocation, the goal which they propose, the means that they will employ to that end, and after having seen and listened to this young pair of sisters, ages 28 and the other 25, he has judged that one could go forward with this important affair.  But to commence, we need experienced religious who can form our young Sisters.  They reach out to you, Madame, with a supplicating hand and they address you in the name of our Lord and St. Teresa to come to their aid, so that they will be able to execute their pious designs.  Their voices, I am sure, will go directly to your maternal heart and you will help them with all your might for the glory of God and his Church, these who already are happy to call themselves your daughters.

You will understand, Madame, the objective of my letter:  It is to ask you with the permission and the authorization of my Bishop for three or four subjects capable of forming the practice of the Rule for these two first postulants who I dare to hope will be joined by others.  Permit me to anticipate the only difficulty that might lead you to oppose my request… your small number of Sisters…But if you are able to surmount this it would make your charity greater and even more meritorious.  In any event, if you cannot give three, you may give two, or even only one, because my intention is to knock on many doors of the Carmel and to make with perseverance the necessary subjects for this foundation that has already faced with hope many great obstacles.  If you cannot donate, at least you might lend such subjects and our Lord will recompense you with some gift that will be agreeable to Him.  One proposes to make the foundation in Lisieux where one benefactress will temporarily join the two demoiselles with a revenue from a capital of 40,000 Francs that will later be dedicated to this good work.  Would you, Madam, at your convenience examine this enterprise and when St. Teresa will make you know if it is your place, you will greatly honor me with a response?  I hope that you will accept my thanks in advance.

The bishop added this postscript to the letter:  “I approve and ratify all that is expressed in this letter by the pious ecclesiastic Rev. Abbot Sauvage, vicar of Saint Jacques of Lisieux, who has well expressed my sentiments and vows that are in perfect conformity with his own.  I add therefore my warmest regards to his.”

It was at the feet of Notre Dame de la Delivrande that this letter was placed, together with two others, by the postulants, but the eldest of these demoiselles was so worried about presenting them to  Mary, that she dropped the letters [accidently] and fell off her feet. Fr. le Bedel, missionary, in replying to Fr. Sauvage wrote him:  “It appears that through this small incident that the Blessed Virgin has occupied herself with your affair, and without doubt you will not be upset.” Nevertheless, the time of triumph was still far from arriving.  Mary wished to lead her faithful servant by the way of the cross, and ,to sustain him on this painful route, she would provide ineffable consolations during the time he spent before her miraculous image.  This saintly priest was thus fortified in his resolve to employ greater ardor to establish a new sanctuary that he proposed to place under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception.

On December 30, the Mother Prioress of Paris acknowledged receipt of the letter.  Her response was filled with charity, zeal and wisdom.  After having noted that she would need to coordinate with her Superior whom she would not see for another month, she added:  “if God permits that we will be able to make this foundation, we will wish to send a sufficiently great number of religious, having the certitude that those who were formed in many houses will not refuse even if they are offered the most difficult assignments.”

Both Misses Gosselin entertained the presentiment that their project would suffer from long delays.  It was then that they conceived the plan of leaving the Abbey because the charge from that establishment was dear.  They wished to economize.  It was for this reason that they instead became boarders at the l’Hospice General, so that instead of paying 1,000 francs as they had been doing at the Abbey they paid only 600 francs at their new lodging.  Their desire to save as much as possible for the foundation prompted them to reduce their own expenses to only what was strictly necessary.

 

Response of the Carmel of the rue d’Enfer in Paris

The second letter that Fr. Sauvage received from the Mother Prioress of Paris arrived at last on January 25, 1836.  This is what it contained:

I do not wish to delay in having the honor of responding immediately to your letters on the subject of the proposed foundation.  I do not really know if it is our Lord who inspires in you the confidence that you have firmly held that it will be us who will take on this enterprise.  As far as we are concerned, we are always in his hands, disposed to do as he wishes, as you do, Sir, for his greater glory and to accomplish his divine pleasure.  We have consulted with Rev. Abbot Boudot, our Superior, who has had the goodness to share with us his reflections rendered with the liveliest interest, as we have shared with him our own thoughts in which you play a part.  It has  been decided that we will not commence anything without first having a positive assurance concerning the following articles.  These are only prudent measures that, in no way, nullify or contradict our complete confidence and abandon in the powerful assistance of divine Providence.  You will understand, Sir, that it would be painful to commence this holy work without the means to continue it. The custom of our Saint, Mother Teresa in establishing a new foundation was to lease a new site and not to buy it until she was sure of the place.  That way, it was much easier for her to judge if a house was appropriate for religious observances.  Following the advice of our Reverend Superior , we wish to evaluate the suitability of the property.
1.   In this leased house, there should be an area for and to say the Mass because the sisters will not go out of the monastery except for the prioress and one of the sisters who will concern themselves with the purchase of a house or to visit the construction.  It is necessary that this house will be sufficiently large for each of the sisters to have her own cell.
2.   However much we wish to think that these young ladies are filled with candor and simplicity, and being called to the life of Carmel; however, sometimes our divine master gives the desire of a vocation but does not wish to see its execution.  And it is only through examination that one can judge the case.  If in case it were like this for the young ladies, what would become of the foundation?   Would there be anyone else to step in and continue the enterprise?  Should they not succeed in safeguarding the good that they are attempting?
      3.   Our house is poor and will lose subjects that will leave here a great void; it cannot form but five religious without their having a revenue [dowry].
         4.  Who will it be who will furnish the house with what is absolutely necessary?
      These, Sir, are the list of articles that the Reverend Superior and us judge to be necessary.  We pray at this very minute to our Adorable Savior and to His Most Holy Mother, the august Mary, to bless the zeal and the Devotion that you have placed in raising a house that will be totally consecrated and that it will serve with fervor.  We expect that our saint Mother Teresa will aid you in this holy enterprise.  We will not be able to give you a final decision until after we have received your response.

This letter filled Fr. Sauvage and the Misses Gosselin with joy and confidence, prompting them to respond without hesitation to the concerns of the Mother Prioress that, if they were not admitted to the chapter, they would nevertheless continue to support the foundation, and, in case one of them should retire into another  Order, then she would be satisfied with a modest pension.  For his part, Fr. Sauvage addressed the other issues and wrote about the house that he intended to lease which was situated in an area known as New World".  The Bishop of Bayeux also weighed in, writing to Bishop Boudot, Vicar General of Paris and Superior, as previously stated of the convent on the Rue d’Enfer, to recommend the establishment of the foundation.  This venerable clergyman responded that there was a possibility of providing the subjects and that he was very ready to correspond with Fr. Sauvage about this important subject.  All seemed then to be on the road to success when suddenly, through the impenetrable designs of God, the Mother Prioress suffered  a blow of apoplexy and paralysis.

 

How an unfortunate illness stops everything

This incident occasioned a delay that Rev. Abbott Boudot explained in a letter of February 3, 1836, written to Fr. Sauvage:

You may well be astonished that I have not responded immediately to the letter that I had the honor of receiving from you.  I had believed that I should postpone my response, awaiting  the Mother Prioress to provide you with the explanations that you have awaited.  But, yesterday, a most painful incident occurred that hampers your projects and ours.  This excellent Mother finds herself in as state that causes us the greatest worries, suddenly struck by apoplexy and paralysis.  The physician has little hope of being able to save her.  If we happen to lose her,  we would face the impossibility of responding to your wishes.   If to the contrary God returns her to us, we would immediately pick up the thread of our correspondence, but I believe in such a case two of our ladies should appear at the place and see things for themselves.  If they find things to be as they wish, they would render an account to the entire community.  This course appears to me to be very short and most expeditious.  Pray that God will arrange all for his greater glory.

The Mother Sub-Prioress wrote in the same vein as her Superior, soliciting the prayers of Fr. Sauvage and the postulants to obtain the healing of the worthy Mother Prioress.  She directly canvassed the most minute details of all that concerning the distribution and furnishing of the house.  So many details in a time when the illness of Mother Marie Thérèse would appear to contradict the likelihood that the project  would not be able to come to fruition.  This seemed to convince Fr. Sauvage that he should expect any day the two religious mentioned by Fr. Boudot in his letter.  The most fervent prayers were addressed to Jesus and to Mary to obtain the conservation of her who gave every appearance of being the one to give birth to the Carmel of Lisieux.   But if God granted the pleas to allow this Reverend Mother to stay on earth, her health was so fragile that it prompted Fr. Boudot to reach the resolution that she should withdraw from her leadership of the Paris Carmel and the project to establish a new Carmel in Lisieux.

Rev. Abbott:
The unfortunate illness that the Mother Prioress of our Carmelites has suffered appears to have frustrated our project.  This good Mother is, of course, in a very delicate state of health and her frail existence will need much care in order to hope to prolong it.  One fears now, and this is a well placed fear, that she will not be able to carry out for a very long time the responsibilities of her previous duties.  We have in this community only one religious who would be able to replace her and she was precisely the one that we were to send you to be at the head of your establishment.  Her companions would never consent to her departure.   I would never have the right to impose this obligation [upon them].  You will see that after this, Sir, that we are in an impossible position to contribute to the execution of your project.   He have here two communities of Carmelites, but neither one nor the other, can fulfill your request.  Do not renounce because of all this the desire that the Holy Spirit has formed within your heart.  It is wise and Christian to expect sooner or later the accomplishment of His desires.  Be assured, Sir, that you have our regrets.

The Mother Sub-Prioress wrote at the same time a similar letter to that of her Superior.  The Mother Prioress herself thanked Fr. Sauvage for his prayers for her healing, expressed her regrets and urged that he persevere in approaching other Prioresses of other houses of the Order.  Suddenly, all was again in a state of reversal.  The Calvary situated on the route to Rouen was the place where Fr. Sauvage  brought his sorrows.   Then he went to relay the sad news to the Misses Gosselin who amidst their surprise and sorrow resigned themselves to the will of God.   Fr. Sauvage nevertheless remade inquiries to this same community that could not result in success because, as was learned by a friend of Fr. Sauvage who had visited Rev. Abbott Boudot, this worthy Superior confided that the Sister who would have come to found [the new Carmel] viewed with repugnance taking on the charge of establishing a new community while the Mother Superior underwent her physical recovery. 

Approach to another Carmel: Rouen
Nevertheless, the encouragements provided by Fr. Boudot and Mother Marie inspired Fr. Sauvage to knock on the door of a second convent.  The second letter, also approved by Bishop Dancel, was addressed to the Community of Rouen.  He first sent Madame le Benier to the Carmel in Rouen, whose confessor Fr. Sauvage was, and whose father-in-law was counselor to the administrator of the department of the lower Seine region.  This faithful and zealous Christian went directly to the monastery to test the waters.  The verbal response of the Mother Prioress filled Fr. Sauvage with hope that this monastery that had previously  prevailed in founding the Carmel in Caen to take charge of the proposed foundation in Lisieux.  Accordingly, so as not to see matters in prolonged abeyance, he travelled himself to the Capital of upper Normandy on Monday , the eighth day after Easter (April 11, 1836).  On the following day, he was kindly received by Rev. le Bernier and the Mother Prioress .  Rev. Sauvage brought with him two letters from the Bishop of Bayeux , one for the Mother Prioress and the other for the Rev. Abbot Libert, the Superior General of the Community.

After many meetings with the Reverend Mother, Fr. Sauvage returned to Lisieux to announce to his Postulants that matters were on a good course and that the Reverend Mother  hinted that she was prepared to provide two religious and one novice, but that she had to consult with her Superior Libert beforehand.  Fr. Sauvage was so convinced of the success of his efforts  that he leased for 500 francs a house in the “Nex World” section of Lisieux. This hope for a successful resolution was shared by Bishop Dancel and Rev. Michel.  The latter wrote the following on April 17 to Fr. Sauvage: 

“Compose a proposal for the foundation and send it to the bishop.  I will submit it for the bishop’s signature.  But it is necessary that  before I do so the Madame the Prioress of the Carmelites in Rouen must officially respond that one can count on the loan of  a specific number of religious from her Community; and that her superiors formally consent whether as a donation or as a loan for a given number of years, or based on a listed number of conditions, for a given period of the foundation’s development.   I believe that this foundation can succeed despite any misfortune that might occur before the signing of the acts of foundation. But, under any circumstances, the house should be leased on the minimum suitable commitment, that is to say leased for the minimum number of years.  The bishop hesitates on this point and wishes to anticipate any possible loss.”

Fr. Sauvage had anticipated the advice of Fr. Michel to lease what has already been described as a house in “New World.”  He embarked in providing this letter from the worthy cleric [Michel] to the Mother Superior in Rouen.  Here is the response that she made on April 21, 1836:

Sir,
I do not have the consolation to provide you with the decisive response that you have so much reason to await with saintly impatience.  Our Reverend Superior will be here next week and he intends to examine this matter with us.  We are not discouraged by this short delay.  In attending the orders of the bishop that will be given to us through Our Reverend Superior, receive, etc.

This delay did not prevent Bishop Dancel from forming the sweet hope that this Carmelite convent that he so much desired would be one that he would see established.  He spoke to his friend, Rev. Abbot Marest, about the matter through great outpourings of his heart.  Yet, God would call him to Himself at the very moment that he expected to sign the act of foundation that Fr. Sauvage had sent to Fr. Michel.  Rev. Abbot Marest wrote to the Misses Gosselin to console them about the loss that they and their saintly director had just experienced.  “Alas”, he wrote, “I often thought about you and the good Fr. Sauvage upon learning of the illness and then the death of our illustrious and very venerable friend.  Together, we have lost a good and generous friend, a friend the likes of which one seldom finds on earth.  We have wept with you and the only thing that can console us in our profound sorrow is to think that he has received the recompense of his good works and that he will pray for us in his sojourn to glory.  What sweetness, what kindness, what concern towards all, but particularly towards you and your holy conductor during your short sojourn to Bayeux; what an ardent desire he had to see established  a community in his diocese.  He spoke to me about it with all fraternal affection on the eve and on the very day of his departure when he extended his arm while I thanked him for his kindness towards me.  He told me with the tenderness of a true father, of a sincere friend:  ‘Ah, my good friend, it is I, it is I that should thank you for having come so far to comfort me at this season in which we find ourselves. No, I will never forget it and if those good young women never succeed in establishing their community you will come and we will install it together. ‘ And a little while later he was no more…”  In effect, Fr. Sauvage shared the feelings of affection that Rev. Marest had felt [for the deceased bishop].   Like him, he had lost a friend, a protector, a father because it can be seen that he was all for the foundation that Fr. Sauvage so ardently wished to establish.  This venerable father in an unusual step had himself promised to authorize a collection within the diocese to sustain this holy establishment.  So much devotion could not have made the sacrifice of his loss less bitter to withstand. 

Referral of the Carmel's response to the Cardinal

However, this loss did not discourage Fr. Sauvage.  Strong in his confidence in God, he pursued with liveliness his correspondence with the Convent of Rouen.    He presented to the Mother Prioress his view that the [present] state of indecision essentially nullified the work.  She responded to him by means of a letter dated May 24, directed to her Superior Fr. Libert.   “If there are reasons,” she added, “we are not aware of them.  His Eminence the Cardinal has expressed himself in a very forthright manner.  Allow us to remind you that when we had the honor of being approached by you concerning this affair we felt the need to let you know of the necessity of collecting the gifts and alms from all those persons well disposed in favor of the foundation project.  So much as possible, we encouraged your zeal and gave you assurance of our good will, if our Superiors would agree.  When it comes to acting for the glory of God, we rarely foresee the obstacles [to come].   I am not at all surprised that our Superiors are taking their time in carefully examining this matter.  Let us stop talking to the world as it is again only God alone that will be able to obtain this.  I do not know if you disapprove of seeking to know if our Superiors have any particular reason for differing or refusing.  It is thus His Eminence the Cardinal that you should address.”

This response did little to sustain Fr. Sauvage’s hopes.  Nevertheless, he wrote to Rev. Abbot Libert and later to the bishop, Prince de Croi.  He expected to add a postscript forwarding this letter to Fr. Jumel, pastor of St.Desir and Vicar of Bayeux, but this respectable cleric believed that he did not have the obligation to grant the request.  He lauded the commendable zeal of Fr. Sauvage, but he could not be counted in favor of the enterprise.  This sentiment was shared by many very recommendable priests and members of high society who regarded the project as no more than a chimera.   So much opposition, however, did not diminish Fr. Sauvage’s determination.

The positive effect of the arrival of Bishop Mgr Robin

 ROBIN-ltSuch hope was rekindled in his heart when he learned of the nomination of Rev. Robin, pastor of Notre Dame du Havre, as Bishop of Bayeux.  This worthy pastor had served as a [spiritual} guide to the Misses Gosselin.  He had carried out his studies with his older brother who later became the justice of the peace in Ingouville.  He had taught the youngest students and showed an interest in the [spiritual] path taken by the entire families he directed.  He knew the intentions, the reasoning, and the sorrows of his long-time parishioners.  Fr. Sauvage concluded that a trip to Havre to pay his respects to his future Bishop would benefit the future foundation.  He left on May 31, 1836.

He went first to the home of Madame Gosselin and then in the afternoon went to the home of Fr. Robin where he was introduced to him by the younger Mr. Gosselin.  The reception went very well.  Left alone with the future bishop, Fr. Sauvage informed him of the overtures that had been made to the Convent in Paris and those that were currently being made to the Community of Carmelites of Rouen to obtain religious to establish a Convent of this Order in Lisieux.  “I can do nothing at the moment,” responded Bishop [to be] Robin, “I do not have any authority in the Diocese.  You have come from Notre Dame de Grace; you can also invoke [Mary] here.”  On the following day, His Highness stated at table to Bishop de Nancy (Bishop de Janson) that he himself should preside at the First Communion scheduled for June 3, the Feast of Corpus Christi.  In taking leave of Bishop Robin, Fr. Sauvage had the consolation of hearing these words that served to sustain his courage :  “Your cause has become my concern”.  After receiving the warmest regards of the entire Gosselin family, Fr. Sauvage left le Havre and returned to Lisieux on the afternoon of June 3, 1836.  Upon arriving, he briefed the postulants [the Misses Gosselin] about these developments and they were delighted to hear of their parent’s warm reception of Fr. Sauvage.  At this time, Fr. Sauvage received a letter from the Rev. Superior of the Carmel of Rouen, stating: 

Sir,
I have received the letter that I had the honor of being addressed by you on May 26.  I ask your pardon for not having responded to the other letters that I received from you.  I am on a canonical visit with His Highness the Cardinal, and am always so busy that I asked Madame the Prioress of the good Carmelites to respond to you on my behalf.  I wish I could say to you: have hope.  I admire your zeal and it would have been very pleasing to me to assist you, but we have only a few subjects that it would have been most difficult to acquiesce to your desires and reduce our number. I have spoken to the Cardinal about this.  His Highness thinks as I do, that the good Carmelite Mothers are already overburdened  and they would be even more so if they acquiesced to your request.  However, you should not lose all hope.  You have Fr. Robin as Bishop.  He is close to His Eminence the Cardinal.  It would be easier for him than for all others to obtain this favor from His Eminence.  My good Mothers appear well disposed to make sacrifices for you when you have given them and me all the guarantees that they have requested.  As their Superior, I will do all that is in my power to help complete a work so agreeable to God and so advantageous for the salvation of souls.

Fr. Sauvage could not furnish other guarantees other than those he had already given the Mother Prioress.  Guarantees, he must confess, would be quite precarious because conceivably the Misses Gosselin might not persevere and, in that case, it would have been painful for their Superiors to see them divested of their patrimony to enrich the foundation.   The other guarantees could not be based on anything but speculation.   Fr. Sauvage then saw himself deprived of all human means and had to take sole consolation in prayer.  Prince Hohenlohe offered his [prayerful] support.  The Communities of Lisieux and others in the diocese joined themselves to him.   Madame Saint Marie (born with the last name d’Osseville), Superior and foundress of the Community of the Delivrande, wrote to him on this subject in the following letter:

Rev. Abbot:
It is with the sweetest satisfaction that I promise you of our unworthy prayers.  We have united ourselves wholeheartedly to the good Prince who will raise his hands to heaven for the success of your pious enterprise.  Have confidence that, if God wills this new community, He will make success come out amidst of all obstacles.  As you have said it so well, I have faced all manner of obstacles, and the Virgin who wanted a House that would be consecrated to her, leveled out all difficulties.  It is necessary to pray and pray even more.  It is enough to work with Divine Providence [and] that will bring success when one believes all is lost and He will set all for the success of the work using all the means that otherwise might have made it fail.

The letter from this worthy Community reanimated Fr. Sauvage’s courage.  Moreover, the approaching arrival of Bishop Robin who seemed to be so favorably disposed to the foundation, gave him all the more reason to hope.  Fr. Michel , who had learned from Fr. Sauvage  of the warm reception that this worthy Prelate had given Fr. Sauvage during their first interview, would write to him on the subject as follows:  “The more ordinary a first impression is the more durable it becomes... immediately that we have him among us,” added this true friend of Fr. Sauvage, “I will find it my duty to testify concerning the vivid interest that the late Bishop Dancel felt for the success of this work because he was sure that this Diocese suffered essentially from the absence of a Carmelite community.”  Therefore, the new Bishop became a Protector of the project by virtue of precedent and by his own promises and acts.

From their corner, the Misses Gosselin worked on a small task meant to focus the new Bishop’s attention consistently on their proposed enterprise.  They made a very pretty “prie-dieux” [traditional kneeler used for private prayer] for which Madame Saint Charles provided a tapestry, all offered as a gift to Bishop Robin.  On the arm rest was placed a closed medal with an image of St. Teresa of Avila.  This image would remind him of what was being sought.  The Bishop was most pleased with the mark of attention and delicacy shown by the Misses Gosselin and Madame Saint Charles.  The prie-Dieu arrived in Bayeux almost at the same moment when the Prelate took possession of his seat.  He was installed on his feast day, August 25, 1836, and on the 31st, he wrote to thank Fr. Sauvage:

Rev. Father:
I beg you to forward to the Misses Gosselin the attached letter and to assure them that I have a heartfelt desire to complete promptly, in accordance with your desires, the beautiful work for which you have already worked so much.  Be assured of the invariable attachment to this work of he who…etc.

 

News from Pont Audemer and a refusal from Rouen

This most welcome letter caused great satisfaction for Fr. Sauvage.   During this same time, he had already received one from the Mother Prioress of Pont-Audemer, who informed him that her Community had finally,  according the spirit of the [order], relinquished the boarding of students to adopt solely the work and practice of Carmelites.  She offered Madame Saint Charles to come to Lisieux as the head of the postulants upon learning that it had been possible to obtain religious to lead the new community.  Mother Felicite compared the small congregation of Lisieux to the Congregation of St. Geneviève directed by Madame Acarie (Sr. Marie de l’Incarnation, founder of the French Carmel).  This Reverend Mother would make of herself a volunteer before Bishop Duchartelier of Evreux in order to obtain for Mother Saint Charles the needed permissions to fill this role.  Fr. Sauvage presented this development to the Mother Prioress of Rouen who responded on August 30 that she could not promise to provide any opinion [on the matter] without first listening to her Superiors’ pronouncement and then to follow their will.  “Abandon,” she added, “yourselves to divine Providence who will never fail us.  If this good Sister Saint Charles is chosen and called to work together with you in the founding of the new establishment, then God will give her the opportunity to be useful whether sooner or later, in one manner or in another”. 

Although the Mother Prioress again rejected completely his proposal, Fr. Sauvage would not let the matter drop.  In view of the great desire he had to have Madame Saint Charles participate, he wrote the following letter to His Highness: 

Sir:
The Carmelites of Pont-Audemer have decided to relinquish their boarding establishment.  There, we find a lady by the name of Saint Charles, who will be very helpful to us and who seems very willing to assist us.  I have thought that a means of economizing would be to have a religious who would enter the house with the Misses Gosselin to dispose of everything because we are not nearly close to being prepared and it would be necessary to pay both the boarding fees for the Misses Gosselin and for the lease of the house, and this would notably diminish our resources.  It would be for us a great advantage to have Madame Saint Charles who already has rendered great services to us, but the Carmelite sisters of Rouen appear not to have been pleased with my plan.  I had to consult with them; I did so and their response is that they must await the decision of their Superiors that I am sure will be a most sage one, assuming we have the assured means of self-support.  Please, Sir, let me know your will on this subject—a word written by you on the margins of this letter will suffice for me to comprehend your will”.

His Highness soon sent back this same letter to Fr. Sauvage with words written in marginalia; “you ask but for only a word, my dear Abbott, and I cannot really give too much; the word is that one must wait.  Moreover, I hope to be in Lisieux within 10 or 12 days and I will then be able to tell you personally what I should not confide in a letter.”  Fr. Sauvage and the Misses Gosselin shared a strong presentiment that His Highness’ intention was against admitting Madame Saint Charles as part of the founding circle, but they did not know the reason for this anticipated refusal and this was precisely the motive that the Bishop did not wish to communicate  except in person.   Fr. Michel, ever zealous to achieve the foundation, wrote to Fr. Sauvage:  “I have not lost sight for a single instance of the mater for which you carry such a vivid interest and one which I share with all my heart.  I have often spoken with the Bishop who appears well disposed to the work, but who nevertheless wants to see the matter for himself before reaching a final decision.  You know that he will soon go to Lisieux and will stay there for several days.  I should accompany him there.  It would be a pleasure to confer with him and with you again, and together we can approach His Highness on this important project.  Prepare in advance our documents above all those concerning personnel and worldly goods”.

 

Clarifying the status of the project of foundation

Following this suggestion by F. Michel, it was necessary to prepare a new memorandum on how to proceed.   Fr. Sauvage took charge of this project.  This memorandum, summarizing what had transpired under Bishop Dancel, contained the following:
1.      The motif was continual perseverance in pursuing the project.
2.      The means of the execution were grounded upon reliance on the kindness of Divine Providence that relies on the weakest human methods to reach its goal; the examples of saints who never had any hope other than to expect to find the greatest obstacles, the perseverance, the generosity of the founders amidst obstacles of all kinds.  In sum, Fr. Sauvage invoked for himself and his small community the application of the inscription placed at the head of the coat of arms of the Prelate:  “Asylum and Protection from Misfortunes.”  He implored His Highness to write to Rouen asking for religious.

This memorandum was presented to the Bishop on the third of September 1836.  On the very afternoon of his return to Orbec, he justified all their hopes by declaring that he would adopt the project.  On the following day, Fr. Sauvage presented [the Misses Gosselin] to His Highness.  This first interview took place in the presbytery of the cathedral of St. Pierre.  The Bishop spoke to them with much affection.   It was then that he responded to Fr. Sauvage’s  letter, stating that he had received a letter from Miss Adelaide Gosselin, who had confided her discontent concerning the promises that her sisters had made to give the community the assets that belonged to them, and that Madame St. Charles, upon hearing [from her] about the project of a foundation, had never spoken about abandoning revenue that she well knew would have “broken” the family financially.  The Bishop said that he had responded that he knew nothing about this matter, that it had been arranged under his predecessor.  In speaking about Madame St. Charles, [Miss Adelaide Gosselin] had added that the affection that she and her family had for her had rendered them bitter over her lack of frankness.  She begged His Highness never to allow her to be admitted as part of the community that her sisters wished to found.  The bishop said he would keep his word on this promise. Fr. Sauvage and the Misses Gosselin thanked the Bishop for the kindness with which he had treated Miss Adelaide Gosselin, and they gave no further thought to have Madame St. Charles come.   This lady had without doubt thought that she had not been obliged to write to Mrs. Gosselin to tell her the whole truth.  On this subject,  she wrote to Fr. Sauvage who had informed her of Miss Adelaide Gosselin’s  complaint to the bishop:  “’The storm has burst,’ you say,  “it was a long time in coming; sooner or later, but it seems that it was providential that it was not sooner.  Let us bless God for this new cross.  I would like to be blamed alone rather than to have you suffer this unintended consequence”.

The bishop of Bayeux [Robin] was set to write to the archbishop of Rouen to ask for religious to help with the founding, but an unexpected development complicated matters.  This was the resignation of Rev. Abbot Libert, who in order to retire to rejoin his family, left his two posts as Vicar General and as the Superior of the Carmelites.  This resignation, nevertheless,  was not yet made when His Excellency the Cardinal responded to  the Bishop of Bayeux that Fr. Libert was absent.

It was necessary to wait for his return in order to conclude this affair.   This state of stagnation that had persisted for so long was most tiresome.  Fr. Sauvage had believed that all was ready to go forward when he learned that the Bishop proposed to make a trip to Rouen.  He took this occasion to recommend once again the enterprise to His Highness who responded to him that he did not know the new Superior of the Carmelites.  This would not prevent the Bishop from adopting the means to reach his goal of speaking to Rev. Abbot Fayet, the Vicar General, whose hands were involved in such matters.  Fr. Sauvage learned of the results of the Bishop’s initiative by means of a letter from Fr. Michel, dated October 13:  “Having,” he wrote, “accompanied the Bishop to Rouen, I myself spoke with the Grand Vicars of our future Carmelites and of the ardent desire to have three or less on loan.  He has responded to me as well as to the Bishop that he had only one available, and that after considering all the information that had been provided the Mother Prioress could not so agree.  We then proceeded to knock on another door and it could be that your perseverance will at last be rewarded, and I do not doubt it if God truly wanted the work to succeed.”

However, Fr. Sauvage believed that he had the obligation to inform Reverend Mother St. Francoise de Ste. Croix of what had been said without naming anyone.   Together with this letter, he sent his notes and other papers.  The Reverend Mother was ill when she received this letter.  She directed Sister Marie Joseph to respond and to ask Fr. Sauvage if he had received a definite decision and from what source he had been informed that the available religious could not agree to join the fledging foundation, and Sister Marie Joseph added that our Reverend and very good Mother would never think again of this sister.  It could well have been that Fr. Fayet was not the immediate Superior of the Carmelites.  He did not have comprehensive knowledge of matters concerning this Community.  Nonetheless, to answer questions, first, the permission of Fr. Michel was required.  This worthy prelate did so under these terms:  “You can respond positively to the prior in Rouen that it is Fr. Fayet who has told the Bishop of Bayeux that he has but one religious available and that this is the sister that he has designated for us.  If the Mother Superior has others that are appropriate to the important work of establishing the foundation, she herself should notify Fr. Fayer and His Excellency the Archbishop. Once she has consulted with the diocesan authorities and they agree, you will not face any more difficulties from our side.”

This letter was communicated to the Mother Prioress of Rouen, who then resent the papers of F. Sauvage with a note that Fr. Libert had commenced; she needed to demonstrate that her Carmelite house house in Rouen had good intentions, but could not recommend taking on the foundation of Lisieux; without doubt because there were insufficient guarantees of success and stability for the foundation.

 

Approach to the Carmel du Mans - refusal and referral to a fourth Carmel

All being  finished on the part of Rouen, Fr. Sauvage  retraced the steps of the late Bishop Dancel.  He, therefore, sent the third and last letter bearing a postscript from this worthy Prelate to His Excellency Bishop Bouvier of Le Mans.  Fr. Sauvage would have been well pleased if the matter were to become successful, if it were at all possible.  He personally knew this worthy Bishop whose zeal he had witnessed while he had been the Superior of the seminary in Le Mans.  Bishop Bouvier responded to Fr. Sauvage:  “Our Carmelite house is very recently founded, the prioress and the sub-prioress are still strangers to those who could be lent to you and we do not have the resources to render this service to you right now.  The Mother Prioress has written to Nantes, the house to which she belonged to find out whether they could render the service you are seeking…I am sending you the letter that they have just written to me on this subject so that you yourself will be able to read what they have told me.  The consolations that our nascent Community gives me make me regret very much that we cannot provide you for the moment the means for the same consolations to be afforded to my worthy colleague in Bayeux.  I remember with interest having seen you and I would have been happy to have been able to render the service that you ask, but, as you know, you can’t make bricks without straws.”

 

Refusal of a fourth Carmel

The Mother Prioress of Le Mans expressed her regrets and those of the Mother Prioress of Nantes to find themselves unable to contribute to the good work that was being proposed. “We ask God with all our hearts”, she added, “that He will furnish this holy cleric with the aid needed for the execution of his projects.  It is the only means that we have to prove the interest that we have in the work that has already been one that has caused so much pain for him.” Fr. Sauvage, seeing that this third letter had no more of a success than the first two, wrote to His Excellency, the Bishop of Chartres (Claudel de Montale).  The venerable Prelate responded in the following terms:

Sir:
The Superior of our Carmel was absent [from here].  I have waited for his return to respond with much awareness of the letter with which you honored me by writing to me.  This ecclesiastic whose arrival I awaited has told me that it would be impossible to cede to you any of the subjects placed under his direction.  A development that he reports compels me to insist on his desires and request.  Our Carmelites have an essential obligation towards Madame de Soyecourt and therefore they have had had to refuse numerous times to grant the same type of request that you are now making.  By this, you will be able to conclude that I have no means to grant your desire, however estimable those desires may be and worthy of praise.
Receive, Sir, the assurance of my regrets.

 

Request in Connection with the well-known Carmelite, Mother Camille de Soyecourt

This letter as we have seen was not a success any more than those that had preceded it.  It would seem that Fr. Sauvage would have been justified in putting off further useless attempts.  After 16 months during which he was in charge of this holy missions, he had already knocked on the doors of the convents on the rue d’Enfer, Rouen, Le Mans and Chartres.  The first two had made the prior year pass in a state of suspense; the last two had formally refused quickly.  The zeal of the holy priest, however, was too pure, his intentions too straight and his love of God too great to abandon this enterprise that God Himself had ordained through His holy inspirations and through the voice of his Superior, His Highnesses, the Bishop of Bayeux.

He thought then of addressing the Mother Prioress of Vaugirard, persuading himself that such an influential person would give him direction where to find more easily religious for the foundation.  It was by the intervention of Madame, my countess of Pardieu, friend of Madame, the Countess d’Hinnirdal, niece of Mother Camille de Soyecourt, that his request was presented.  He flattered himself that the affection that Madame de Soyecourt had for her niece would make her more favorably disposed.  But he had again from that side to experience another disappointment.  Here is what the Nuns and the Mother Prioress de Vaugirard would write to him; Madame D’Hinnidal told Madame de Pardieu in her letter of January 23, 1837: “I find myself very happy, Madame, to understand your situation to be good and to be able to support your noble intentions.  Unfortunately, I have only a sterile good wish to offer you.  Madame Soyecourt suffers from great regret that she cannot come to the aid of her co-sisters in Lisieux.  There is in her house a sad impossibility of replacing those who are needed, many previous, successive ‘loans’ have left her without further subjects at her disposal.  She also lacks converse [extern] sisters and she is distressed that she cannot make an additional sacrifice. Pardon, Madame, my having only such words to transmit.  Our Saintly aunt, havingherself founded a convent of Carmelites in Compiegne, has already furnished all kinds of support and can provide no more.  Heaven will discover other resources for your holy abbot that will fill me with sadness, I so hope, along with you Madame, to have been merely a ‘back seat coach driver’ in this pious enterprise…”

To the copy of this letter, Madame de Pardieu added her own reflections:  “One lacks subjects,” she wrote, “ why don’t]four or five persons from Lisieux, having the vocation, not then go to a convent of Carmelites where they will be formed and then return to found the new house?  Before success for your work, the Lord is sending you many contradictory signs.”  In effect, the Lord, who knew the generosity of his minister, would not leave him in a state of want.  He would mark his hidden divine favor on the work.  Nevertheless, Fr. Sauvage, who waited for a letter from Mother Camille, expected that her knowledge of all the houses of the Order would let him know what she believed would be the best way to bring success to the project.  He was taken aback from this conjecture when he read her response:  “Despite the desire that I have to assist you, I cannot, Sir, give you a favorable response concerning the interesting project of which you speak.  Certain conditions have required me to take a part in the foundation of Compiegne (but my faculties do not allow me to partake as much as I would wish).  I am not a founder, the generosity of the inhabitants of Compiegne, the work of many hands and the donations of a small number of persons sustain it.  At my great age of almost 80, the weakening of my eyesight and hearing joined to other physical problems and the few contacts other than those in our house  prevent me from engaging in any exterior matters or to serve you through the hands of one of my daughter.  As far as my community is concerned, it is far from numerous.  One would run the risk of doing harm by dividing it up more.  I believe, Sir, that this simple and direct ‘expose’ will serve to remove your thoughts from us who do not lack zeal in so proceeding.  It is very difficult to find subjects who have a good vocation and often they lack good physical health, intellectual powers, the refusal of parents, and these are often almost insurmountable obstacles.  There are, nevertheless, some entrants in the middle of France where there are more of such subjects, but having few economic resources, being from far away makes for a new difficulty.”

On can see that the contents of this letter was far from realizing the hopes that Fr. Sauvage had conceived.  So many drawbacks ended up producing a fear that Our Lord did not desire such a foundation.  In this state of perplexity where his soul was plunged, he felt more than ever the need to solicit the protection of Mary.  He informed [the Misses Gosselin] that he had formed the project of going on pilgrimage to the small church of Notre dame de Grace in Honfleur.  He did so on January 13, 1837. After Fr. Sauvage had fulfilled this duty before the august Mary and implored for her powerful protection, he dedicated his evening in writing many letters to be sent to Orleans and Blois, deciding to present them on the following day ( the feast of St. Hilaire) in Notre Dame de Grace in order to obtain her efficacious aid.

    Bishop de Beauregard - courtesy of Archives départementales de la Vendée

Fr. Sauvage contacts Nantes anewDe Beauregard lt

From the side of Bishop Sauzin of Blois, Fr. Sauvage took hope.  He knew that this venerable prelate loved the city of Lisieux very much.  He had been the Grand Vicar there before the revolution.  As far as Bishop de Beauregard of Orleans, Fr. Sauvage had the advantage of having met him in 1817 during a visit by this worthy prelate, then bishop of Montauban, to the seminary of St. Sulpice.  He had had the chance to appreciate the kindness, the zeal, and the charity of this venerable Prelate.  It was then that he was received in the bishop’s arms when he suffered an episode of syncope.  The first letter that Fr. Sauvage posted was to the Bishop of Orleans.  St. Hillaire, patron saint of the town where this worthy prelate had been born, surely wanted that Fr. Sauvage would not forget the day of this feast in giving this letter, written the same day and addressed to one of his compatriots, the happiest success.  But as Rev. Sauvage did not know of this at the time, he resolved as a consolation to take the advice to write to the Mother Prioress of Nantes.  The voyage of a postulant linked to the Misses Gosselin furnished the opportunity.  This young lady, named Miss Lerebourg, came from Brittany, She wanted before entering a community to say a last goodbye to her family.  She gladly took charge of this letter intended for the Mother Prioress.  The response that she brought back to Fr. Sauvage is so full of interest in the good work and filled with such sage advice that the reader will be glad to have it transcribed here: 

“I have had, Sir, as you have learned, knowledge of the steps that you have taken regarding the Bishop of Le Mans and Reverend Mother Aimee de Jesus.  I have wished that it were possible for me to give you the subject that she asks from me in order to facilitate your projects.  It is with pain that I have had to refuse based on circumstances.  I fear that at the moment it is not easy to find subjects as needed to found a new community.  Orleans has given many Prioresses to different monasteries.  For our part, we have given one Mother and one Sister to Les Mans.  We were prepared to make new sacrifices. Despite our desire to do so, Our Lord has taken from the world again last year an extraordinary number of daughters of St. Teresa, all young, all capable, all filled with virtues and of means.  This has impoverished our monastery and enriched Heaven.  We have not been spared of this harvest that the Lord has made, while it is necessary that our numbers be sufficient to fill our ranks.  If we are tested by great difficulties for the founding now, you will have very zealous and capable postulants to be the followers of the worthy sisters of St. Teresa, it seems to me that it will be advantageous for them and for the execution of your belated, pious project to allow them to enter into one of our houses where they would be received under the conditions that you would set.  In a house where order reigns and the rule is observed in all its vigor, one would understand better and more rapidly the spirit of regularity.  This thought that has come to me while before the Holy Sacrament. 

I permit you to make this idea known without revealing that it is advice that I have dared to give.  But I believe that it would be advantageous for you, while God places these roadblocks before your foundation, that your postulants be formed in the religious life, that they start the novitiate together in the same house, under the same mother because I think that it is very convenient that they not be separated, that is, to enter different houses only to be later reunited.   The rule and the constitutions are everywhere scrupulously observed, but there are certain usages that vary somewhat based on the location of the house, depending on the country where it is situated, for experienced religious such experimentation and these variances would not produce any special effect.   But, for young persons who often observe more the letter than the spirit, it could result in inconveniences.  I tell you all this, Sir, to prove the true interest that I take in your work that will occupy my time before God in asking Him to make known to you His holy will and to provide you with the necessary means to make successful your pious desires if a new house of Carmelites should give Him glory in your diocese.  I commend you for the charitable zeal that animates you, for undertaking the struggles that you do not shrug off, for the devotion that you have for our Seraphic Mother so filled with the love of God.  I am sure that she will fail to reward you for this devotion to St. Teresa.  And, I am sure that you will feel the great credit she has before God.  This saint is great, so courageous and a warrior for the Lord.  She also faced nearly invincible obstacles as you do now.  She will sustain you and you will be victorious at one moment or the next. That is, until the time arranged by Jesus and about which you are still uncertain.”

This admirable letter from Mother Marie de Saint Pierre was in effect a consolation that God gave to Fr. Sauvage.  The advice contained in it had been dictated by the Holy Spirit just about the same time that the divine Spirit communicated the same inspiration to the Mother Prioress that would make bloom this flower of Carmel amidst many thorns.  The response of the Bishop of Orleans having preceded that from the Mother Prioress of Nantes, the heart of Fr. Sauvage began to expand without, however, having the certitude of success because this venerable prelate had not yet indicated the means [of success].  Here is what he said:  “I had not been able, Sir, to respond sooner to the interesting letter that I had the honor of receiving from you; the subject is interesting.   I have wanted to share it with the Superior of the Carmelites of Orleans and similarly with that community, and after having reflected on the question that you have made the result has been that we are unable to detach any of our good daughters.  This Community is not stingy in sharing the surplus of its subjects.  It is full of charity towards other houses and, as proof of this, it has given, after I became Bishop, four Prioresses and three religious to Blois, Nantes, Le Mans, Reims and the Community is [now] reduced to fifteen.  This is a very small number and we do not find here in our house the proper souls to establish a house.  I know of one well populated house—it is that of Poitiers.  You can knock on that door, but refrain from mentioning me.”  This was a ray of light for Fr. Sauvage, who had known very well Rev. de Rochemonteix, then the General Vicar of this diocese, Rev. de Rochemonteix, and failed to understand  how he had not already made this request suggested by [the Bishop of Orleans].  But, as Bishop Michel knew Rev. de Rochemonteix particularly well, Fr. Sauvage thought that the letter should best come from the Bishop.  “I have received this instant your letter of January 30 and I write today to Poitiers in line with your desires.  God wishes to ratify our intention.  I will inform you of any response that I should receive.”

 

Overture towards the Carmel of Poitiers

Fr. Sauvage also wrote to Poitiers, placing a letter for the Mother Prioress of the Carmelites with that addressed to Rev. de Rochemonteix.  This worthy ecclesiastic was the superior of this admirable community.  He found the proposal to be one that satisfied his zeal to work for the glory of God.  He resolved to do everything he could to work for the success of the holy work.  It was time for him to share his views with the community and a retreat given by canon de la Rochelle (Rev. Vicardiere) gave the opportunity to announce the news to the Carmelite Community of Poitiers.  He forwarded the letter from Fr. Sauvage to the Mother Prioress.  This proposal saddened the Mother Prioress in its suggestion that she might lose some of her dear daughters.  The Community as a whole felt the same sorrow as they were a closely knit group.  Then, Rev. de Rochemonteix laid out for them the advantages of propagating the order to a new locale.  But as he did not want to nor could he force anyone to accept this holy enterprise, he asked all the religious to ask God during the retreat to make His holy will known.  They should discern whether the Holy Spirit stayed silent, or responded negatively, or, instead, if he assented, He would provide them with the means to accomplish this holy work.

Diverse opinions were then manifested by the community.  The venerable older nuns wanted to take into account the infirmities and poor health of the young religious, concluding that the proposal was impossible.  The ardent character of the Mother Sub-prioress asked her Superior, based on his sole authority, to designate those he judged as appropriate for this establishment.  But Rev. de Rochemonteix reiterated what he had said: that it would be God alone who would manifest His will, and only after the community had communicated that to him or to their confessor, he would choose those who would embark to begin this new foundation.  To console those daughters who foresaw a painful separation, he said that for every loss God would reward the Community with six new postulants.  He recalled the words of the King-Prophet David:  “all the earth belongs to the Lord.”  He praised Fr. Sauvage and the priests from the Bayeux diocese, assuring the sisters that they would find them to be very good Directors.  And because he had a very merry character, he added that they should not be sad since the same sun that shone in Poitiers shone in Normandy.

The recreation conversation centered on the foundation in Lisieux.  The majority experienced consternation; the remainder favored the proposal.  All were willing to await the end of the retreat to discern the will of God.  But they were surprised not to see Rev. de Rochemonteix present at the end of the retreat.  They were again most surprised when they heard during recreation the Mother Superior interrupt conversations that the nuns were having on the subject to ask them to cease their discussions.  She said that this important matter required prayers and not words.  It was forbidden to say even one more word on the subject until Easter.  On that day, the Mother Superior would let the sisters know her intentions and give her daughters leave to resume their discussions.

 

At last a response filled with hope

But let us return now to Lisieux and we will see Fr. Sauvage forming with the postulants the saddest conjectures. What were they to think of such a long silence because it had already been a month since the letters had been sent without a reply.  At last, during the first days of March, Fr. Sauvage received a letter from Rev. de Rochemonteix and the Mother Prioress.  This sincere friend of Fr. Sauvage wrote to him thus:

My warmly regarded colleague:
You must have been most surprised at my silence.  You must have concluded that I was dead or, at least, that I was not in favor of granting your request or that I had locked it up in a safety deposit box.  Fortunately, you are not a prophet, a seer or a sorcerer.  You well know that I am much fatigued by my rheumatism but still I have forgotten nothing about the subject of your letter.  It is in the interest of your cause that I have exposed myself to rash judgments, even calumnies.  When I had just had the pleasure of receiving your letter, the good Carmelites were about to enter the retreat under the direction of a canon from another diocese.  I was glad to take part in your wishes. The canon exhorted them to focus on this project during their prayers.  On the day of cloture, I had seen the Superior who offered me means and terms that favored your good work, as she laid out in her letter in response to yours.  I will not go into any detail.  I will only tell you that it seemed to me to be wise.  I will add that if you accept, we will send subjects to you by lending two of our very capable religious to form and direct your community.  Of all the religious houses over which I have served as Superior, it is those of the Carmelites that are the most regular and most fervent.  Indeed, you have proposed a very great enterprise.  On other matters, a proper house is needed that would be appropriate to receive cloistered religious.  Secondarily, they must have the means to live, that is , around 300 francs per religious.  These are human calculations, but it is good to think ahead a little.  I know well that we must rely a great deal upon Providence, but also we must aid ourselves.  If the Holy Virgin, even if only St. Teresa wishes it, we do well to abandon ourselves to His will.  I would count myself most fortunate if I am able to render you some small service towards this holy enterprise.  The thought of being agreeable to a colleague who is so dear to me and to the diocese that I have always loved fills me with such satisfaction that I have the need to be restrained by the wise admonitions of the good mother prioress not to expedite the sending of three religious.  After this retreat, the [community] is most fervent, having a large number wishing to leave to discover this new world!
Accept, my dear confrere, all the sentiments of your old friend, and know that you have always have preserved a place in my heart.  Offer my most humble respects to the His Highness your uncle, my regards to the M.M. du Petit Seminaire that I knew in Bayeux.

This letter filled Fr. Sauvage with joy.  He had recovered a friend and in this friend found a devotion produced by genuine amiability.  The letter from the Mother Prioress was no less consoling.  “Sir,” she said,”the requests that you have made of me have deeply touched me.  These questions arrived at the very moment when a respectable priest from la Rochelle came to us to lead a retreat and during the eight days of the retreat we occupied ourselves before Our Lord and more than once I have recognized that it was nearly impossible at this moment to give in to your demands.  I will simply describe the position of our community and at the same time present for you a way that, I hope, could make your project succeed in a favorable manner.  Our community is made up of many who are ill and elderly.  Their virtues and experiences would make them most appropriate to form candidates but their condition does not allow for their displacement from here.  The other religious are too young and also do not have the experience needed to go to found a community and form religiouss.  But, if you wish, you may send us three or four [of your] young people. We will [first] form them as best we can and then later they will make their profession.  They themselves can then return to found the new community in their own country, having the advantage of first hand experience of a Carmelite community that lives in full regularity keeping all the observances of our Holy Order.”

“The different duties that we could assign them would allow them to learn what they will need in forming the community that they wish to procure in Lisieux. Another advantage which is by no means less important is that we are strict followers of reciting the Divine Office.  So, they will be in the midst of a large group that will give them an opportunity to observe all the ceremonies.  It will be very easy for them to learn them just as they should be carried out, so they will not be limited to a small group that would be insufficient to learn them well.  The pension will be 300 francs.  There will be another charge for the habit and the profession.  Here are, Sir, the propositions that I make to you.  If they are accepted, it will be necessary to inform us as soon as possible so that we can order the fabric so that we can ensure against a delay in their taking the habit.  Tell your fervent postulants, on my behalf, that if they come to us they will find in each of us Mothers and Sisters who will be most devoted to them. Believe me, Sir, that we are prepared to assist in your pious enterprise in all ways that depend upon us.”

Fr. Sauvage received during the same time a letter from Bishop Michel that reaffirmed what Bishop de Rochemonteix had written.  This letter contained the same things expressed in that of Fr. Sauvage and he attached the proposal made by the Mother Superior.

 

Proposal to travel to Poitiers

This proposal was received with joy by Fr. Sauvage and the Misses Gosselin.  Miss Lerebourg did not feel bold enough to make the voyage and was replaced by Miss Gueret, who had left the community of Pont-Audemer awaiting in Lisieux the results of Fr. Sauvage’s efforts in order to seek admission in the new community.  Another postulant named Miss Mouchet very much wished to make the trip. Fr. Sauvage, seeing that the postulants were strongly determined to make all the sacrifices required by Reverend Mother Pauline, wrote to the Bishop of Bayeux asking him for permission to accept the new plan. His Highness who was aware of the letter from Bishop de Rochemonteix adopted it wholeheartedly in a letter by Bishop Michelin:

“The Misses Gosselin can leave whenever they and you deem convenient. This departure is the surest way to learn.  They will be able to obtain much precious knowledge during their stay in this house of the practice of the holy rules that they endeavor to honor.” All were so disposed.  Fr. Sauvage wrote to the Mother Prioress that he and his postulants accepted with joy and gratitude all the conditions that they asked, and that, after Easter, the little cortege guided by himself would go en route to render themselves closer to them.  He begged the good Mother to be well disposed in giving him the consolation to see dressed in their habits his dear daughters during their stay in Poitiers, and in their name he made this humble request.

So it was on Easter day itself that Mother Pauline made known to her Community all that she and her Superior had arranged on the subject of the foundation.  She informed her community concerning the letters of Fr. Sauvage which contained the postulants request to take the habit.  All, except two, heartily approved the actions of their superiors and expressed a most impressive desire and a lively joy to become acquainted with such a worthy prelate that they compared to Bishop de Bretigny.  And, they were filled with admiration for his sisters for their courage and generosity.  They, therefore, became dedicated enthusiasts of Fr. Sauvage’s project.    The Mother Prioress was filled with consolation to see his project adopted by her Community.  She set herself to inform the holy priest of this in her letter dated March 27, 1837:

“Sir,” she wrote, “I have the opportunity to testify to you how we are all so satisfied that you have accepted the proposal that I made to you.   If you can stay here long enough so that we can make habits for your most fervent and most willing postulants, we foresee that they will be able to take these habits before your departure.   We think that ten to twelve days will suffice.  If according to this idea that I have presented, you foresee that the taking of the habits by your postulants can be made during your stay here, I request that you prepare a sermon for the day of this ceremony as is appropriate in such cases.  In this circumstance, there is no one more appropriate than you to preach it.  It would be good if one of the postulants would write to me to let me know their desires and, if in this same letter, the others could include a few lines that would express their sentiments.  Ask them, I beg you, to write to me as a mother who will read the letter with interest and from that moment on will regard them as her daughters.  What are your plans in arriving here?  Would our good daughters, before entering the cloister, wish to avail themselves of the pleasure of seeing our city?  I request that you do not delay too much in responding to me.  I fear that your friend will not be here yet when you arrive.  The Bishop will be making a visit to his diocese and it will be Bishop de Rochemonteix who will accompany him as customary.  All according to the holy will of God and for his glory.  We must not look or desire for anything but that.”

The proposal made by Mother Pauline could not but please Fr. Sauvage, who accepted it with delight.  The delicacy of these sentiments penetrated his heart with gratitude.  He was filled with an outpouring of pious longing that this holy priest was happy to fulfill.  Moreover, he found it quite easy to fulfill the task to prepare a sermon and, it could not fail to satisfy his listeners.  We will see a report of the sermon that the Mother Prioress would have the occasion to applaud and that was in response to the request that she had made.

Fr. Sauvage also satisfied other questions from this good Mother and fixed the date for their arrival to her house on the Friday of the second week after Easter, April 14, 1837.  Each one of postulants set upon responding to the desires expressed in her letter by the Reverend Mother to receive a letter from them.  These letters were read to the religious in Poitiers so that they would themselves be able to judge how these young people were so happy to be admitted to make their novitiate among them.  Fr. Sauvage stayed a short time to put in order all that concerned the foundation.  It suffices, therefore, to see the great poverty to which the foundation had been reduced.  Poverty that would be made known to all when the Mothers and the sisters arrived in Lisieux.  Before leaving, the little family had a debt of thanksgiving to pay to the August Mary.  It was decided that they would make a pilgrimage to Notre Dame de Grace in Honfleur. 

Recalling the poor widow of the Gospels, they wanted to offer their all to the Queen of Heaven and to prepare from flowers her crown animated with a great spirit of faith.  They proposed to ask the Queen of Carmel to bless the voyage to Poitiers and each postulant solicited the special graces to persevere in their vocations in order to make a success of the holy enterprise.  It was on April 4, 1837, that Fr. Sauvage offered for this intention the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Chapel of Notre Dame de Grace.  All his daughters had the joy of receiving Communion.  After saying an act of grace with the greatest fervor the pilgrims returned to Lisieux.  This happy journey was concluded with the recitation of the “Te Deum” (great prayer of Thanksgiving). The confidence that Fr. Sauvage had always demonstrated to Mrs. Saint Charles would not allow him to ignore that the success had been obtained through the Carmelites of Poitiers.  He, therefore, informed Mrs. Saint Charles]of this happy news.  “I will accompany you in spirit,” she responded to him, “I count on your extreme kindness to send me the news about our dear daughters each time you receive such information.  I will always be the same to them and to you, Sir, my soul will be filled with the most lively thanksgiving, accompanied by a respect that inspires veneration.”

 

On their way to Poitiers!

The moment of departure at last had arrived. A coach of Lafitte that returned from Cherbourg without any passengers made the occasion most enjoyable.  Fr. Sauvage and his small company travelled alone to the capital.  They were at this for eleven hours one evening.  They arrived in Paris the next day, April 12, 1837, around 5:00 PM.  Mr. Benjamin Gosselin, who had received advance word of their arrival, came to see his sisters.  He had lunch with them and had the chance to renew his acquaintance with Fr. Sauvage.  It had been he who had introduced Fr. Sauvage to Bishop Robin upon the latter being named bishop of Bayeux.  He saw clearly that the voyage to Poitiers signaled that the project that he had presented to His Highness was at the point of fruition.  On the 13th, the travelers boarded the coach and sat in their seats, finding the space somewhat too small for all of them.  It was most uncomfortable, but the small community, attending to their religious exercises in perfect order, saw it as only fitting that they should experience this mortification.  They descended upon Orleans with only enough time for dinner and arrived in Tours at 4:00 AM, after having paid too much for a very frugal meal.  They walked through the city and attended Mass at the Metropole.  At 8:00 AM, they veered towards Chatellerault, the first city of Poitou. 
Again, the travelers were most satisfied that the voyage was underway and, despite the physical inconvenience, it did not seem a long trip to them.  Their common prayers, the exhortations of their good superior and the recreations that were most joyful and friendly made this a journey that was abundantly agreeable.  Nevertheless, they were most happy to glimpse at last the clock towers of Poitiers. After having crossed its boulevards, they entered its narrow and battered streets.  Yet, if the streets of this old city had an unfortunate aspect, one could say that its inhabitants had a most polite and affable demeanor that compensated strangers passing through.  Fr. Sauvage and his postulants would have been convinced of the delicacy of the inhabitants of Poitiers in finding awaiting them a coach car sent by the Carmelite Mother Prioress to take them to the monastery itself.

The convent porters also waited for their arrival.  They received them with such affability that the travelers thought themselves to have arrived in a place already familiar to them.  Moreover, they were most pleased when they spoke to the Reverend Mother.  Her truly maternal heart took in her new daughters with kindness beyond words and from their first meeting the hearts of Fr. Sauvage and of the worthy Mother understood each other, each having for the other complete confidence and the highest esteem.  Upon entering the parlor, they entered a room where Rev. Abbot Pouiller, chaplain of the Community, awaited Fr. Savauge and his future religious with an amiability that was most kind.  He had the honor of presiding at the dinner that had been prepared by the good Carmelites.  On the following day, Fr. Sauvage celebrated Mass for the Community.  Afterwards, together with the postulants, he went on pilgrimage to the Church of St. Radegonde, visiting the tomb of this great saint.  They also visited the Churches of St. Pierre (the Cathedral), Notre Dame, St. Porchaire, and St. Hilaire.  They saw in passing the chapels of the Visitation of the Ladies of Perpetual Adoration.

 Carmel Poitiers-petit

Discovering the Carmel of Poitiers

At last, on that day, which was the eve of the feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph, the doors of Carmel opened and Fr. Sauvage had the consolation of presenting his dear daughters to the assembled Community.  The Community awaited them with some impatience wanting them to cross the threshold to be able to extend them sisterly embraces.  The Reverend Mother gave them the names that St. Teresa had given to the first four novices of the reform.  The name of St. Joseph having been given to the first novice by St. Theresa and, in this case, would be preceded by the name of the great saint.  Henceforth, we would call the eldest of the Misses Gosselin by the name of Sister Thérèse de St. Joseph; the younger Miss Gosselin would be Marie de la Croix; Miss Mouchet, Sister Ursule des Saints; and Miss Gueret, Sister Antoinette du Saint Esprit.  On the following Sunday, Fr. Sauvage, accompanied by Dr.  Pouiller, visited the monastery.  In entering the heated room (chauffoir), he was surprised to see the religious covered by long veils and sitting on the floor on their heels.  That was the first impression for him; the second one was of admiration in considering the old religious on whom the weight of years and infirmities had not dampened their kind gaiety.   

In walking through the house, an elderly religious named Sister Elisabeth, who accompanied the Reverend Mother, commented to him upon the replacement of the convent that the community had inhabited from 1802 until 1818.  The house was very small, she said, but it was very regular.  One could also comment upon the area where St. Hilaire’s room was located.  This great saint had lived in this house with her daughter, St. Abre, who died before St. Hilaire.  This house was turned into an abbey in memory of the saint who had sanctified it and made it her residence with the name of abbey of the Cell. After the revolution, the Carmelites had purchased a small portion of the building.  But, in 1816, having received as as a postulant Miss d’Ulys, the Carmelites took possession of the entire abbey that this young lady had purchased.

In visiting this beautiful monastery, Fr. Sauvage was interiorly afflicted in thinking of the sacrifice that the foundation would impose upon the religious who, in exchanging it, would only have a very poor place to lodge in Lisieux. He had no doubt that Sister Elisabeth who had provided him with such interesting details concerning her convent would work with him to establish with him the same regularity in Lisieux, embracing with joy the poverty that awaited them.  Because the sentiments of the religious arranged by God for the holy work were not known to him, the beauty of the house made him feel very sad.  All the while, the Community worked hard in preparing habits for the postulants.

 

Walks by the priest about whom nothing was “Savage” except his name

Fr. Sauvage parted for Loudun where the Bishop de Bouille and Bishop de Rochemonteix were then to be found.  It was a true happiness for these two friends to visit together.  Bishop de Rochemonteix presented Fr. Sauvage to the venerable Prelate de Bouilee with an amiability and kindness that inspired in him  genuine confidence.  Bishop de Bouille and his Grand Vicar gave Fr. Sauvage many sincere expressions of interest that revealed their belief in the importance that the enterprise should succeed.  His Highness invited Fr. Sauvage to accompany him in his visits to numerous country parishes.

It was in one of these parishes that Fr. Sauvage made a pilgrimage to a chapel dedicated to the Holy Virgin. It was a modest oratory where the country folk came to pray with fervor before the Queen of Heaven.  He commended her again with the work that was so dear to him.   Shortly after receiving the bishop’s blessing and having said good-bye to his friend, Fr. Sauvage reprised the same route to Loudun, accompanied by a hospital chaplain from the same city who had received him most cordially.  Fr. Sauvage quickly returned to Poitiers to prepare the sermon for the taking of the habit by his postulants.  This beautiful ceremony took place on April 26, 1837.  The Mother Prioress had had the delicacy of inviting a great number of ecclesiastics, among them was the Grand Vicar, the Rev. Abbott Samoyeau.  It was, nevertheless, Fr. Sauvage who conducted the ceremony, which he carried out with great dignity.  His sermon left upon the broad audience a most vivid impression.

The air of sanctity and goodness that emanated from the physiognomy of the preacher, the touching accent of his voice penetrated the hearts of the audience that inspired a profound veneration for his person.  It is a second "St. Francis de Sales", they said.  Even the most distinguished ecclesiastics found themselves happy to have come to know this holy priest.   Grand Vicar Samoyeau and Bishop Garnier, the pastor of the Cathedra,l expressed their admiration during meals.  If he had not been so occupied with the great affair of the foundation, Fr. Sauvage would have passed many a pleasant moment with the clergy of Poitiers.  Being solely occupied with the holy enterprise, he paid only polite attention to these Gentlemen.  To direct his beloved daughters, to take the advice of the Reverend Mother, to take down important notes requiring him to enter the monastery for a second time, these were the important tasks that fully occupied his days spent in Poitiers.

His tender compassion for afflicted souls made him consecrate much time to console religious tormented by interior sorrows.  One holy daughter, knowing that Fr. Sauvage had received permission from the Bishop to hear confession, found much relief for her troubles at his feet.  In this manner, this holy priest continually forgot himself, giving his time for this act of charity instead of agreeably passing time with his pious colleagues.  Fr. Pouillier, chaplain of the community, was aware of how Fr. Sauvage gave away all his free time.  This worthy cleric was most edified by the spirit that animated Fr. Sauvage, writing, “Oh, what a beautiful soul! What admirable simplicity!”

Fr. Sauvage had the desire to visit the church of Migne that had become famous for the apparition of a luminous cross that shone brilliantly in the air on October 26, 1826, at the very  moment that a cross was installed to mark the closure of the jubilee  This solemn ceremony had attracted an immense crowd who had the consolation of being witnesses to this prodigy.  Fr. Sauvage, accompanied by Fr. Pouillier, had then the consolation of visiting the Church of the Holy Cross of Migne.  The venerable pastor of this parish, Fr. Beaupre, hosted the two pilgrims with great cordiality.  He showed them the magnificent reliquary containing a parcel of the true Cross that the Sovereign Pontiff Gregory XVI had sent to this church to commemorate this miracle,  They also saw many other gifts made by numerous Bishops of France.

 

Return of Fr. Sauvage to Lisieux
After this visit, Fr. Sauvage thought only of returning to his own country.  He left behind in Poitiers a treasure that he loved dearly and recommended that the Mother Prioress and Sister Geneviève, the novice mistress, take special charge of them.  All having been arranged with the Reverend Mother and the novices, Fr. Sauvage left Poitiers on Friday afternoon, April 28, 1837.  He returned to Lisieux passing through Loudun, Saumur and stopping at Angers where he had once been director of the seminary.  There, he took the opportunity to meet at the Bishop’s home (Montault Desilles) the celebrated Jewish convert, Bishop Drack, who had become secretary of Propaganda in Rome.  After listening to Fr. Sauvage’s account of the project of foundation of a Carmelite convent, Bishop Drack promised to send him an article about a young Protestant convert who had become a daughter of St. Teresa.  He kept his word from Rome. In passing through Mans, Fr. Sauvage visited the Carmelite convent and had the consolation of a conversation with the Mother Prioress (Aimée de Jesus) who learned with happiness about the success of his voyage.  It was in Gace that Fr. Sauvage wrote to the Bishop de Beauregard of Orleans to thank and inform him of all that had happened in Poiters.  This venerable Prelate replied on May 5, 1837, in a most cordial manner:

“The good God, Rev. Abbott, blesses the courage and the perseverance of those who work for his glory.  It is a good thought to raise a house in your own region where one day pure and penitent hearts will be gathered.  It is such holy houses that distance the calamities warranted by the common sins committed in our France.  Follow, Sir, your worthy designs.  I vow to you my commitment in assuring it success.  Our good Carmelites of Poitiers are much inspired, and the method in which their charitable prudence has informed their response corresponds well with your thoughts and your holy desires, that is. to have agreed to allow one or two religious that will remain in Lisieux for what could be a long time.  When they return to you the pious deposit that you confided with them,and they give you a good prioress, your family in Carmel will be found to be well formed.  I dearly love the Poitiers house; it contains many persons whom I conducted on the first steps along the good way.  I communicate many times with them.  I wrote, in fact, to them just today, but I did not speak of your affair. I leave it to my good daughters to so inform me, and it will be a good occasion to strive towards perfection.  Moreover, Madame the Prioress has dutifully informed you how attached I am to that house and how there I feel a great consolation.  You have placed your plans into the hands of our saintly Patrons; you have visited the temples built in their honor.  I so do wish that you had been able to know the saintly pastor of St. Radegonde, the best of my friends, like the other ecclesiastics of Poitiers, meritorious people.  Yet, you have been in that city only for a short time which is a pity.  I ask that you forgive me for sending a letter with scratched out errors, but I have written so much today that I cannot re-write the letter.  I am writing you with a trembling hand.  At this moment, the storm and the thunder can be felt by my hand and my head.” 

This venerable prelate was then 88 years old.  What he said in this letter concerning his feelings for the community of Poitiers was completely true; his letters were received there with indescribable satisfaction.

 

Nomination of the Abbot as Superior; a Sauvage at the head of the Carmel of Lisieux

It was on the eve of the Feast of the Ascension that Fr. Sauvage arrived in Lisieux.  He set forth to apprise the Bishop of Bayeux about the history of his trip to Poitiers.  Then, the Bishop, in order to establish a new connection between the future Carmelites and their spiritual director, named him in advance, per letter dated May 11, 1837, as Superior of the Carmel of Lisieux.  The wholly paternal letter of His Highness provoked a vivid joy for Fr. Sauvage and he sent a copy to the Community of Poitiers.  This was the shortest means to inform the religious of the sentiments of the venerable prelate.  It is with pleasure that we transcribe it here:

“Sir and dear Abbot: 
I cannot express how satisfied I was to learn of the interesting details that you gave me concerning your future Carmelites. Your admirable zeal working towards this holy work is too active and pure for divine Providence not to crown it with complete success.  It is with real pleasure that I name you in advance as Superior of the Carmelites of Lisieux of which you have been for a long time a protector, the founder and the Father.  When you write to the dear daughters, would you tell them that my best wishes accompany them, that I call upon them all the blessings of the Lord, and that I ask them to be the interpreters of my thanksgiving before the Community that assists them with such sure safekeeping.”

 The Community of Poitiers sincerely shared in the joy felt by the novices upon learning that their holy director had been named to be their superior.  “It is necessary,” wrote the Reverend Mother to Fr. Sauvage, “I do not doubt it that it is in the best interest of the foundation.  I thank you for having, despite your numerous other duties, written to us so soon:  it has brought calm to your dear daughters, who could not help but have some worries on the subject.  I confine myself to saying to them that your trip was pleasant and that you arrived safely.  Since we will not have recreation until Pentecost, it will not be until then that I will furnish the Community with all the details that you have furnished me.  The first visit from Bishop de Rochemonteix to his new daughters went very well.  He gave them good advice.  I can tell you that they have assured me that they are happy.  Their gaiety and appetite make me believe that what they say is true.”

 

Progress of the novices in Poitiers and tribulations for Fr. Sauvage
The letters from the novices soon confirmed what the Mother Prioress had written.  Their novice mistress also wrote a letter filled with interest in the good work.  “I believe,” she told Fr. Sauvage, “that we both show the same desire to see our young sisters reveal a zeal for perfection.  So, it seems to me that God is so good that He will fulfill this desire and that one day our poor daughters will be the spouses after his own heart.”  Mrs. St. Charles did not fail in congratulating Fr.Sauvage for the happy success of his trip: thanking “our holy Mother whom you have loved,” she wrote, asking that he would write more when he had the time.  “At last, after so much fatigue and work, you have reached the point of seeing your efforts crowned with success. God has blessed you thousands and thousands of time.  I cannot fully express the joy that I feel.”

Such a happy start should, in effect, presage a happy ending.  However, it was necessary to await the cross before seeing this enterprise crowned with full success.  From experience, it is the sure seal of God’s work.  The history of the foundation of the Carmel of Lisieux can furnish proof of just that, showing that almost invariably where the glory of God is advanced difficulties are often encountered. The holy priest whose life story we recount repeated that one only reaches heaven after passing through a multitude of tribulations.  One can well say that this difficult road was one that he was on all throughout his life.  The encouraging first steps in the founding would have made the inhabitants of Lisieux come to believe that at last Fr. Sauvage’s project would have the most happy result.  All to the contrary, while blaming no one or being blamed, the project collapsed upon the poor founder.  His sensitive heart was afflicted while not being disheartened.

We now need to read what Mother Pauline wrote to Fr. Sauvage in responding to him on this subject.  “It does not surprise me,” she wrote, “but all is turned around, to the profit of those, like you, who know how to take hold of the tests that God sends.”  This good Mother was trying to explain to him something that he had difficulty grasping.  In proposing the foundation to the Carmelites of Poitiers, Fr, Sauvage had presented the younger of the Misses Gosselin to be received in the capacity of religious benefactress.  Her poor health did not permit her to follow the rule.  Her elder sister, filled with confidence that her strength would suffice, did not ask for any type of dispensation.  The proposal was accepted without difficulty, but the health of the elder one of the Misses Gosselin became so altered to the point that the Mother Superior had no hope in seeing her follow the rule.  She became convinced that it would be better for the two sisters to found a convent of the Visitation.  Mother Pauline made this new proposal to Fr. Sauvage: “Never,” she added,” think that after all I do not desire that the foundation of Carmelites in Lisieux take place.  I would be quite upset to divert this purpose if it were the will of God.  However, I also believe that you should share with me the reflections needed to ascertain God’s will.  Come now, Sir, full of courage, I do not propose not carrying the cross with you, but let us act in concert for the sole glory of God without any human considerations.  Let us forget ourselves.  Your daughters have received the little ticket.  We began the novena yesterday, Saturday.  God wants to listen to us favorably.  I leave you with the divine hearts of Jesus and Mary.  It is in their holy refuge that one finds true consolations.”

The novena that Mother Pauline referenced was preceded by the prayers of Prince Hohenlohe.  His secretary wrote in these terms to the Community of Poitiers:  “The Prince will pray for the happy success of the enterprise of Fr. Sauvage, for his novices, as well as for your holy community between June 5 to 13, 1837.  Invoke St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, so that they will smoothen everything that could be an obstacle to the prompt execution of the designs of Fr. Sauvage that you partake.”  The prayers that this holy miracle worker addressed to the holy founders were heard because, without coordinating their responses, Fr. Sauvage and the Sisters Thérèse and Marie de la Croix agreed that, despite their affection for St. Francis de Sales, they did not feel called to found a convent of that Order, but one of St. Teresa’s.  This unanimous response was for the Reverend Mother the proof that made evident the will of God concerning this work.  She never thought again other than to do whatever was within her means to accomplish this end.

 

Leasing a house in Lisieux
This common resolve moved Fr. Sauvage to think about buying the house that he had leased but before doing so he asked Monseigneur Renier, a pastor from Surville, to work on the notes that he had brought from Poitiers in order to draw the plans for a house in the New World Section of Lisieux. Following these plans, this house would be transformed into a monastery, having the furniture that would be absolutely necessary.  Yet, it did not have sufficient floors of elevation.  Fr. Sauvage informed Mother Pauline of this deficit, and she responded that St. Teresa had relied on elevated buildings to defend her daughters.  This worthy ecclesiastic did not want to go against the wishes of this great saint and so renounced this proposed acquisition.  However, in order to “catch’ more easily the next favorable opportunity to buy a house, he asked that the two sisters who would be involved in the acquisition be made available as soon as possible.  It was in her response that the Mother Prioress wrote: 

“Regarding the procuring of a house, our dear Sisters Thérèse and Marie de la Croix give you full power to act freely.  They can arrive whenever you make the acquisition.  In this regard, I have a suggestion to make—that you sign in your private capacity and reserve making the act final when our Sisters have returned to Lisieux.  Then you can, if they are by then professed, incorporate the names between all three in the document; the property would pass to the last survivor, so by this means there would  be a long time before the rights of succession would have to be paid.  This is the advice of Bishop de Rochemonteix, and my sisters Thérèse and Marie de Croix like this proposal very much. I ask you not to commence building a monastery before the arrival of the two daughters and that you limit your efforts to prepare for them a place of lodging in the house that you lease.  That way you can decide together concerning a new building, just as Mr. Charton, one of our first visitors, has said.  He has concluded that buildings that are raised in the absence of the religious often do not end up serving them as needed or result in not being practical.  This leads to the building being resold in order to acquire another one.  Pray, pray that God will enlighten us and that his holy will shall be accomplished.  You can judge how solicitous we are of your well-being.”

After receiving these observations, Fr. Sauvage contented himself with cultivating a garden and a pious widow, about whom we will speak more later, added her care and work for free in the garden and the selling of fruits and vegetables.  Through the money so earned as well as money received as offerings from charitable persons devoted to his good work, Fr. Sauvage was able to pay the rent on the house, buy different objects for the sacristy and pay for the expenses of the voyages. Fr. Sauvage, from a distance, continued to direct his daughters by letters.  His precious advice was received by them with most lively gratitude.

 

The founders are identified: a “shock” troop! 
Yet, alas! His paternal heart would not have the consolation of seeing all four of the original novices arrive at their desired goal.  One of them would be deprived of receiving the honor of the crown.  This was Sister Ursule des Saints, who was judged by her superiors not to be adequately prepared for the religious life, or so they wrote to Fr. Sauvage.  This news was so painful for him that it took all of his resolve to carry out the directive excluding her from the foundation.  However, God did not wish that this young woman would become a Carmelite.  Fr. Sauvage applied all the means suggested by his charitable nature to lessen the blow of this sacrifice for her. 

Fr. Sauvage at this same time wrote to the Bishop of Bayeux to inform him, without identifying the novice, that one of them had been dismissed indefinitely.  Bishop Michel, who had the greatest interest in the two lady founders responded, ”I hope,” he said , “that it is not one of the two Misses Gosselin that has been dismissed indefinitely.”  For his part, Fr. Sauvage had the consolation of seeing the first two of his dear daughters preserved with courage in the sanctity of their vocation.  For the good of the new establishment, he had the time to become acquainted with the superior charged with leading and then sharing in their life of work and solitude.  The Reverend Mother had already told him:  “we are doing all that is possible to give you two religious.  That will be a lot for us and little for you who is in need of three or four.”  Finally, two religious were designated for Fr. Sauvage in a letter by Mother Pauline dated November 23.  “I want you to know,” she said, “it will be our two sisters Elisabeth and Geneviève, you know the latter and my Sister Elisabeth is the one who gave you the description of our little house.  You may have perceived from the way that she spoke to you that she knows something about buildings.” 

These two religious understood each other perfectly having for years worked in the same employ.  Sister Elisabeth was endowed with great capacity and possessed eminently the religious virtues.  The Reverend Mother Victoire, who received her during the time of the [French] revolution, had for her the most tender affection.  She applied herself in forming her as a worthy daughter of St. Teresa and she had the consolation of seeing her make great strides along the path of perfection.  Her virtues and her long experience rendered her most appropriate to establish a nascent community.  Sister Geneviève, as mistress of novices, had acquired knowledge of the characters and dispositions of novices, making her useful to the foundation, so the choice of these religious was seen as a good omen.  For the two who had been selected, they saw in the choice of their Superiors an expression of the will of God and they thought only of accomplishing it.

 

Again about lodging: logistical hesitations 
This important matter, having now been addressed, Mother Pauline pressed Fr. Sauvage to arrange lodgings for the Community.  “Up until now, “ she wrote, “you have not written to me anything about the arrangements, for our part, I pray for your project because it is absolutely necessary that our little troop will have lodging upon arrival.  It is most imperative because Carmelites are not lodged as easily as other people.  It is necessary to shield them from the secular view as much as can be and to place as soon as possible a separation between them and the world.”  Fr. Sauvage noted that, after hard and long reflection, he had decided to buy a house and a garden that had been pointed out to him by a pious widow (Mrs. Leboucher).  He offered the advantages, particularly regarding capital that would not be demanded until the death of the person who had guaranteed the property and had set until then a rent of 600 francs.  He also noted that Mrs. Leboucher had offered a small part of her house to lodge the religious provisionally.  From Mrs. Leboucher’s house, the Carmelites could easily visit the new establishment because it was so nearby and see with their own eyes what would be necessary before they could move there. 

This proposal raised several problems:  Mother Pauline and those scheduled to travel still had to choose for themselves the plot.  Yet, Fr. Sauvage had informed them of the arrangements that he had reached with the sellers, and his two new daughters did not think of anything but to acquiesce to his will.  “Sir,” Sister Geneviève wrote to him on the subject,”we do not hesitate to respond to your latest letter in order to avoid any awkwardness.  I assure you that we are perfectly comfortable with the steps that you have had the kindness to take; if the steps are concluded, we bless divine Providence.  If on the other hand , they fall through, we will be equally content.  Our intention is to submit in all to the will of God.  In the event the vendors do not keep their side of the agreement, we will gratefully accept the offer that this respectable lady has made to us.  We will see the advantage presented by the fact that her house is so close to ours.  I will tell you, Sir, for your consolation, that the heart of Sister Elisabeth and my own heart are as one and are but weak instruments which seek only to procure the glory of God.”  

All seemed to be settled when a letter from Mother Pauline came to apprise Fr. Sauvage that, after advice was received from a group meeting on the affairs of the foundation, a worry arose again that it might not contribute to the Glory of God.  Assuredly the subject was commendable and the good Mother asked him for a prompt response.  He did not make her wait.  The reason for his perseverance was founded on his having taken into account all the concerns of others.  This was the response that Bishop de Rochemonteix had written to his friend: “Your confidence is greater than all the obstacles and, in the end, you will succeed.  Make sure that as a rule you never accept any religious except those in whom virtue is solid, strong, humble and obedient, It is better to have two good ones than ten mediocre ones, especially in the case of Carmelites.”

 

The profession of novices will be in Lisieux; vows or no vows, that is what God wants… 
At last, again, a proposal arrived that Fr. Sauvage and his dear daughters were far from expecting.  It was made by Mother Pauline: “it is I”, she wrote to the worthy Superior, “who have the honor to converse with you, despite what I had previously announced to you that my Sisters Elisabeth and Geneviève would write to you after you have responded to me.  You will have a letter from them after I have received a response to the letter I send you today.  It is not difficult for me to forgive the alleged torment that you believe you have caused me.  Nothing happens except through the permission of God and those works that are for his sole glory show themselves to be laden with great difficulties. But rather than becoming disconcerted and to feel beaten down, one must find the way to succeed and act prudently.  That is what brings me to make you part of the reflections that we have had and the determinations that we have taken.  This determination is to send back the little colony before the profession of novices.  For the good of the establishment, the delay would be too long, for to follow the custom of the Order, it would be necessary that we make up following the novitiate the three months of postulancy that we suppressed in order to give you the consolation of seeing them receive their Holy habits.”  Bishop de Rochemonteix wrote along the same lines on January 23, 1838.

Later, Sister Geneviève added the following: “the novices would have fewer concerns, obliged to spend less time in the world if they had not yet made their vows before going to Lisieux.  Withdrawn from the world, they may be able to prepare in peace and solitude for the inestimable grace of profession on which depends the happiness of their lives, without worrying that losing  time would make them waste the fruit of the graces that Divine Providence would have made known to them. We will arrange the ceremony of taking of the veil.  It is true that we were only entrusted with the vocation of novices, but hope, my God, that the Holy Spirit will enlighten us and that protection of Mary Conceived Without Sin, who will be our titular patroness will guide us in acting in a manner agreeable to God.  This is the desire of our good Mother who has a loving and sincere attachment to our dear daughters. The wisdom and prudence with which this worthy Mother has guided all things until the present is self-evident proof of this.  She has informed our daughters of this new plan that I have just explained and they have evaluated the merits of this approach and are thus satisfied.” 

Fr. Sauvage decided that he should provide notice to the Bishop of Bayeux that the novices would return to Lisieux ahead of taking their vows. The venerable prelate responded through Fr. Michel that he desired that the novices should make their profession in Poitiers, and that he wanted, if he had more time, to make this observation known to the Mother Prioress and Bishop de Rochemonteix.  Fr. Michel added: “the Bishop presumes that there will be no change in the number and choice of professed religious who will accompany the Misses Gosselin and form with them, in making a debut, the chapter of the community of Lisieux.  He furnishes from the commencement of the establishment and for the house of the good widow all the permissions that you hope for.  It would be for me a great pleasure to go to Lisieux for the arrival of the small colony. Yet, I worry that my occupations and other obstacles will not prevent me from doing so.  Is it possible that one may pray quickly about Rev. Abbott Paysant.” 

Fr. Sauvage shared the desire of the bishop. Like him, he wanted to see the return of the filial religious, but things were too advanced and the delay of three months after a year of novitiate excessively long to be able to make any observation on the subject.  This was the response that Fr. Sauvage made to His Highness:  one should go along with the proposal arranged by the Superiors of Poitiers.  Immediately, Fr. Sauvage, who knew the feelings of his daughters, understood only too well the depth of the sacrifice of not making their profession within the community that had become so dear to them. He wrote to console them in the following letter:

“My dear children in Our Lord:
The Reverend Superior, your reverend Mother Prioress and the worthy religious who should direct you in Lisieux, constantly occupied by all that would be of advantage to the foundation, have proposed your departure for the city where one day you will be an ornament through the sanctity of your lives.  There you will achieve your novitiate.  I cannot but applaud this project for several reasons.  Those are the same reasons given by Sister Geneviève and I will not repeat them, after having explained them, this very holy Superior added:  ‘From another source, I have reason to believe that the Bishop will come at the moment that you pronounce your vows.  His presence and the solemnity of the ceremony will not help but to add to the advantage of the poor dwelling in Bethlehem.
What can I say my dear and poor children, in your learning that it will be necessary to leave the earthly paradise where you have had the good fortune of conversing with God and his angels.  It is for you to resign yourselves in your work to imitate the bee that goes from flower to flower to gather the juice with which it will compose the honey.  Examine in the most fervent religious with whom you share the present environment the virtues that you lack or that you do not possess except to a lesser degree, and hasten to put them into practice, so that I will be able to find in you what I always have wished: that is to say a solid virtue, strong, humble and obedient.  Happily, the religious that will be your mothers in Lisieux will be your models and you will trace in their conduct all that I have just laid out, therefore, courage —  is the moment arrives from whence you should never omit the least circumstance to advance along the path of perfection.  I come from offering you to Our Lord and to His Holy Mother.  I must now finish my letter, I finish it on the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Be all for Jesus and I am all for you.”

 

Hastening in view of the expedited departure
Mother Pauline, observing that her proposal had been fully accepted, thought nothing except of accelerating the moment of departure.  Bishop de Rochemonteix came to make known to the community the names of the two religious who would head up the new establishment.  In the presence of the Chapter Members, he named Sister Elisabeth as prioress and Sister Geneviève as sub-prioress.  “Since we did not lend you to the Foundation, you will always belong to us.” These last words caused great joy among all in the community.  Nevertheless, the love charity that united all the hearts rendered this separation so painful that for the good of all, one desired to make the sacrifice as quickly as possible.  The Mother Superior then asked Fr. Sauvage to have the departure take place during the month of March, but since this was the time of Lent her maternal solicitude was such that she wrote to Fr. Sauvage:  “If you could come before mid-Lent, my Sister Jean de la Croix is no more than around 21 years old.  She would not be required to fast.  As far as my Sisters Thérèse and Marie de la Croix, they have been dispensed in the case of fasting.  Please examine your calendar, Sir, as to the time when you would be most free to come and find your little colony; you will inform of us the manner in which they will travel to Lisieux.” During January, Fr. Sauvage had written most cordially to Fr. Pouiller, the chaplain of the Carmelites of Poitiers.  This worthy ecclesiastic, who had shown so much appreciation for Fr. Sauvage during the latter’s sojourn in that city, addressed him in a letter in early February 1838: 

Sir and worthy colleague:
What must you have thought of my long silence, after myhaving received such an amiable letter from you?  You must have thought that such delicacy was not a distinctive trait of those from Poitiers.   But the Normans are such good people that they always find the charity of excellent excuses for the shortcomings of their brothers.  I admit my negligence, and I appeal to your good heart.  I always had, Sir and amiable colleague, the desire and hope to have written to you last month.  I want to thank that, in your charming epistle, you asked for my best wishes for the success for your holy enterprise, but the bad state of my health and my work kept me from the pleasure of writing to you.  Today, I had a break from my obligations and my pains and have been able to write you a little letter.  I hope you will welcome it with the goodness that characterizes you….Bishop de Rochemonteix and the dear pastor of the Cathedral do not know that I have written to you; nevertheless receive from them the very best.  I am sure to join them in their sentiments.  I give you the most tender thanksgiving for the interest that you have taken for my miserable health.  Think most of all for the greater needs of my soul. I ask you in the name of the Divine Master, that your daughters and mine will find there their reckoning and Jesus His glory.  Is that not the object of all our wishes?

 One sees through this letter that Fr. Sauvage’s character had gained for him the heartfelt friendships of all the ecclesiastics of Poitiers.  We had already mentioned this in connection with his stay in Poitiers, a city that was soon to receive him again.  It was during the course of this month that Fr. Sauvage received a letter from the secretary of Prince Hohenhole that said:  “The works of God are always garnished with difficulties and challenges, filled with contradictions, according to the permission of God, towards the pious, take the example of St. Teresa.  In essence, when such a good cause triumphs, there is the hand of God.  Perseverance obtains the crown.  His Highness, the Prince of Hohenhole will pray for your Carmelite establishment from February 22 until March 2, 1838. Let us pray that we may remain and persist oremus ut stemus et persistamus.”  On the subject of this novena, Mrs. St. Charles wrote to Fr. Sauvage:  “I have united with you there, believe me that I would not forget, just as you would not forget, about the work that your devotion is about to see accomplished.  This foundation absolutely recalls those made by St. Teresa, such as having good widows share a part of their home.”  Fr. Sauvage, seeing that all the obstacles had become lighter, made himself busy in ensuring that Mrs. Leboucher’s house had the essential elements needed to receive the members of his small community.  He rented a room and a bathroom that was contiguous to the property.  He needed only to break down a dividing wall for there to be one single structure.

He also took pains in not neglecting the vocation of Miss Adele Fromage, praying to draw God’s graces upon her.  He permitted her to make a retreat in the community de la Delivrande with Miss Lerebourg, her friend.  Fr. Sauvage asked the Mother Superior (Madame St. Marie) of this community to receive both these proselytes warmly. This request was granted in a most obliging manner.  Fr. Sauvage used this circumstance to go there himself to commend to the Mother Superior his own voyage and that of his little colony.  He arrived in Delivrande at the end of the retreat attended by the future Carmelites.  After rendering homage to the good Our Lady de la Delivrande that he had invoked at the start of his project, he asked her to obtain from her divine Son a happy conclusion.  These young women returned joyously from their retreat , but this was tempered by an accident that befell Miss Fromage.  The streets of Caen were covered with black ice.  This young lady took a tumble and dislocated her foot.  Upon returning to her mother’s house, it was necessary to take precautions for the wounded girl.  For many months thereafter, she could not walk without crutches.  The Holy Virgin, however, wished to heal her daughter completely.  The following year, she entered the new community and took the name of Aimée de Jesus.

 

A holy Prioress and a saintly Confessor
Before his departure for Poitiers, the Bishop named Fr. Sauvage ordinary confessor for this small community and the Pastor of St. Jacques as the extraordinary confessor.  This worthy superior, in announcing the news to his dear daughters, asked that they send him the authentic Act of Obedience towards their two Mothers of the new Carmel.  This Act of obedience, which he desired to have executed, before establishing the Act of Foundation in Bayeux, was sent to him by Mother Elisabeth, Prioress of the future convent.  We will recite here that letter so filled with beautiful sentiments:

Sir and respectable Father:
It is with consolation that I take up my pen to acknowledge to you the thanksgiving that necessarily arises in us with regards to the work that you have carried forward and that we have followed for some time—to be carried  out to perfection as I dare to hope.  I will not hide from you that I find myself afraid of the responsibility before God and before men whom we should edify. What virtues, what wisdom, what prudence is asked from us on behalf of this establishment that is made solely for the glory of God! That is where we should fix our views and intention, of this I have no doubt.  Sir, this should be more than your goal; it is mine too, albeit a poor second to yours.  I warn you that will find in me only feeble resources that will only be capable of offering you small doses of frankness and good will.  I dedicate myself without reserve to doing God’s work that already has been made known to me by my superiors.  I have nothing more to ask than a blessing for the work  for which I have been designated as a co-worker in this holy task.  Then, aided by your counsel, I have confidence that our good Master will make my sacrifice agreeable, that is to say departing from our holy community and the good and respectable Sisters.  I will find again myself in the ducal milieu of the world that I had left so many years ago.  It is enough, leaving behind all for Him that is all, let Him always be blessed.  It is the greatest desire of my heart, as it is also the desire of our dear Sister Geneviève.  We are in agreement in all matters.  Like her, my Father, I have confidence that that all will go in our poor house along the path of sanctity and perfection; we have that as our greatest desire. We wish that Fr. Michel wouldl be in Lisieux upon our arrival.  This would result in a good impression on the authorities as well as on the inhabitants. The article in your letter about the confessors has been consented here with a unanimous voice. We, therefore, accept the extraordinary confessor. As for the ordinary confessor, we are more than happy that you consented to accept this charge and we thank the Lord.  We will do everything possible to give you as little sorrow and trouble as possible.  I thank you in particular for your immense charity.  We will have a very poor dwelling in Lisieux.  We have made it the subject of our recreations.  We have been amused by it and that is all; there is no state of disquiet in this regard.

 

Act of Obedience 
The Act of Obedience was in such a manner conceived; here is an exact copy:

Jean-Baptiste, by the mercy and grace of the Holy See, apostolic bishop of Poitiers. Aware of the request that has been made by our most dear Sister in Jesus Christ, Prioress of the Ladies Carmelites of Poitiers in our diocese, to offer My Ladies Geneviève Geoffroi, in religion known as Sister Elisabeth de Saint Louis, and Claire Bertrand, in religion known as Sister Geneviève of Ste. Thérèse, both religious of that community, the obedience to leave their cloister and to proceed to Lisieux, diocese of Bayeux, to found in that city a community of their Order.  Considering that the reason for this request is laudable and that the community of Poitiers has flourished and is willing to cooperate in the establishment of the project in Lisieux without compromising its own viability.  We hereby by the present document permit that said Sisters Elisabeth de Saint Louis and Geneviève de Sainte Thérèse leave their current monastery to proceed with the least possible delay to Lisieux, there to establish a community in religious conformance to the statutes, rules, and customs of their holy Order.  We permit them to wear while outside the cloister secular habit, but solely during the time of their voyage.  Done in Poitiers, with our signature, our seal and the witness signature of the secretary of the Bishop, February 6, 1838. 
Signed:
 
+ J.B., Bishop of Poitiers, by pastoral order of His Highness the Bishop: Heline, priest-secretary.

Fr. Sauvage sent this Act of Obedience to Bayeux in order to obtain as soon as possible from the Bishop the authentic Act of the Foundation of the convent of Carmelites in Lisieux.  The matter became so urgent that the Mother Prioress and the sub-prioress of the foundation petitioned for this act with the worry that they would be assuming privileges that would not be forthcoming without this necessary action being first taken by the bishop.  Sister Geneviève said: “Mother Elisabeth in her letter of February 8 shared my own point of view, we wish the best for the foundation, It would be too bad for us if we began this holy work in a manner that entertained a disregard for regularity…We are daughters of our ancient Mothers, we desire to retrace their steps and we have love of regularity and fidelity to all our small observances, the restoration of Carmel in France.  God blessed them and will bless us also if we are faithful in following their advice that will tender us to the highest perfection.”

The two Mothers had no reason to worry.  It was far from the thoughts of the Bishop or the Superior to found a community in any manner that would oppose the rules of Carmel.  Accordingly, Fr. Sauvage assured them in affirming that the Bishop would accept the Carmelites in his diocese only in a manner that would conform with the institutional practices of St. Teresa.  Moreover, Mother Elisabeth returning to this topic added, “Our Mother Pauline has told me that she finds my style a bit severe; please, I beg you, do not take any offense, and do not pay attention except to my intention which is the love of my situation.”  Nevertheless, upon making preparations to depart, Sr. Thérèse de St. Joseph wrote to her Superior on the 13th of the same month: “I will speak to you about the great change in our position, two days before the community, we have been informed about our sudden departure and the name of the Mothers who have had the generosity to go and found the poor Bethlehem of Lisieux; regarding Sister Geneviève, you have for a long time known what I have thought.  Since God has given her as our Mother, certainly she will be a treasure for the foundation;  she is a holy religious who has an admirable demeanor; I could not list all the talents that she possesses; in my prayers, I do not cease in asking God for a Superior in line with her heart and the most capable of working for His glory.  I have no doubt that He has granted my request, so I thank Him with all my heart.  I had wanted to make my profession in Poitiers, but God has not agreed to this, may His holy name be blessed.  Our good Mother Pauline has always had an admirable zeal for the foundation; also you will see arrive two famous crates…But do not imagine that they are filled with great treasures, you would be committing a great error.  All will be set to go, I believe, this morning.  About the Mothers that come with us, I need not say anything of their zeal, or the generosity with which  they make their sacrifice ad of the great praise one may pay in recognition of their devotion.  You will learn with pleasure that Mother Elisabeth runs a very orderly infirmary.  Many small boxes have been sent to Lisieux because she says these appropriately pertain to an old woman like me and are what we will need in order to work; the Mother Superior’s permission is also sought and she often provides her insights.”

 

D-Day (le jour J)
These opinions of Sister Thérèse were shared by Sisters Marie de la Croix and Jean de la Croix. The latter had changed her name from Antoinette to that of Jean de la Croix.   At last, the date of departure from Poitiers was set for March 12.  It was Sister Geneviève who advised Fr. Sauvage on February 20, 1838:

“It falls upon me, my Father”, she told him,“ to speak about our voyage that is definitely set for March 12.  We will leave from here four hours after noon.  We will have lunch at Tours, dinner at Orleans, where we will have the honor of receiving the visit of His Highness the Bishop who will come (so he has promised) to give his blessing to this new Carmel that he will found with two of his daughters.  We will arrive in Paris at six in the morning and we will take the first stage coach around eight in the morning to take leave for Lisieux.  Since we have wanted to do all that depends upon us to follow the observances that are prescribed to us for the blessings of Heaven upon this work that we have undertaken, we have retained a place for you in the cross-section and in the interior for us.  Our good Mother, who has admirable prescience on all things that concerns us, asks you not to forget the overnight bag that my Sister Saint Jean de la Croix has made for you.  It will be very useful for your voyage.  We pray every day to the Holy Virgin so that she will protect you and preserve you from accidents.  From our end, my Father, remember every day your daughters in your prayers before the holy Communion vessels paten.  This, our Mother has charged me to ask you to agree.  Pray much, please, for the Mother of the large and small communities.  We will feel deeply the separation from so good a Mother and Sisters whom we love with all our hearts, but we hope that the will of God and the desire to procure his glory will encourage us to make all the sacrifices that the good Master asks.  I finish this letter in order to go to sleep, as it is a bit late; Yet, I do not regret taking time away from my sleep to converse with you for the last time.  I do not expect that one or the other of us will be able to write again before your arrival.  Awaiting that day that does not seem so distant, receive, etc.”

This letter that announced to Fr. Sauvage that the desired voyage, so long awaited, had at last been irrevocably been fixed on a date certain filled his heart with joy; he informed the Bishop of the news.  Fr. Michel responded to Fr. Sauvage on February 26, 1838:  “His Highness has charged me to transmit the episcopal ordinance and the two attached letters that you wish to take to Poitiers.  Following the request made by the Mother Prioress and the reasons she has given you, you can be certain that a great Vicar will travel to Lisieux to receive in the name of the Bishop your dear colony of Poitiers. Would you offer my humble homage to the Bishop of Poitiers, my respectful regards to your dear daughters in Jesus Christ and recall me to Bishop de Rochemonteix. I do with all my heart wish you the happiest of voyages.”  Fr. Sauvage thought that the religious might lodge in a monastery of their Order that they would come upon en route.  But they responded that they wished to arrive as soon as possible to their destination based on their  concern not to burden the Mother Prioresses with temporarily housing six persons.  Thus, they preferred not to stop except when absolutely necessary.  This intent and the response that preceded the letter from Sister Geneviève, wherein she detailed the itinerary, indicated that there was no mention of using monasteries as stops along the voyage.

 

Act of foundation of a Carmel in Lisieux 
As mentioned, the Bishop of Bayeux forwarded the Act of Foundation.  This important document is presented here: 

Louis Francois Robin, through the divine mercy and grace of the Holy See, Apostolic Bishop of Bayeux:In view of the declaration, dated August 15, 1836, by Bishop Dancel, our predecessor, Athalie Gosselin and Louise-Desiree Gosselin, her sister, of the City of Le Havre, each having reached their majorities, lived for many years in Lisieux, a city within our diocese and are engaged in the objective to dedicate themselves to God in the Carmelite Order and to found in the aforementioned city of Lisieux a monastery of said Order. To do so, they dedicate their revenue of around fifteen hundred francs to said foundation.  In view of the report addressed to us on September 22, 1836, by Rev. Abbott Sauvage, First Vicar of St. Jacques of Lisieux, about the project to establish a community of Carmelites in this city; having viewed the letters of obedience, dated the sixth of this month, agreed upon by Monseigneur de Bouille, Bishop of Poitiers, upon the request of Sister Pauline, Superior of the community of Poitiers and My Ladies Geneviève Geoffroi, in religion known as Sister Elisabeth de Saint Louis, and Claire Bertrand, in religion known as Geneviève de Ste. Thérèse, religious in that community, asking for the latter two to be allowed to leave their cloister to come to Lisieux to found a community of their Order.  Considering that on December 15, 1836, Bishop Dancel had approved the project that had been submitted by the Misses Gosselin.  Considering that we sent these two sisters to Poitiers to test their vocations and to be formed in the religious life and having received the Holy Habit and that they have persevered in their pious design and are disposed to making their profession.  Considering that Father Sauvage has secured a proper house to receive the sisters from Poitiers, the novices, and postulants for the purpose there to commence the initiation of the foundation.

Considering that before the first revolution , there existed in the city of Caen a community of Carmelites and that we mightily desire, as did our predecessor, that such be reestablished within our diocese.  Considering in accordance with the Council of Trent that monasteries founded with piety and governed with wisdom contributes singularly to the glory of God and for the good of the faithful that the bishops, without whose authorities cannot be established within their dioceses, are especially charged with supervising the direction, to ensure that the rules and constitutions that are proper to such monasteries are observed; and to ordain all that they believe contribute to the spiritual wellbeing of these communities.  We rest upon the wisdom of the ecclesiastic who has well desired to engage in the reestablishment of this Order that for many years edified our diocese. Counting on the pious largesse of those who have promised to interest themselves in this work in the capacity of founders and benefactors, and filled with confidence in the Providence of God, and after invoking the Holy Spirit, we have ordained and ordain as follows:

First Article:  We have approved and approve by these present the establishment of a monastery of Carmelites in the city of Lisieux, in our diocese, according to the rules and constitutions of the Order and to be observed by all concerned, and we accept with thanksgiving Sisters Elisabeth de Saint Louis and Geneviève de Sainte Thérèse whom Bishop de Poitiers has seen well fit to send to us for this effect.
Second Article:  Wishing that from the date of the receipt of our ordinance, means will be taken to ensure that the religious of this monastery will observe exactly the cloister according to the statutes of their orders and that they will not breach it except by virtue in obedience of a directive from us or from a vicar general.
Third Article:  We permit for the consolation and sanctification of our daughters in Jesus Christ that the most holy Sacrament be conserved in the provisional chapel or oratory of said monastery.
Fourth Article:  We name Mother Elisabeth de Saint Louis as Prioress and Rev. Abbott Sauvage, the current first Vicar of Saint Jacques de Lisieux, as Superior of said community.
Fifth Article:  Fr. Sauvage, Superior of the monastery, is charged with the full execution of this ordinance.
Done in Bayeux, under our signature, the seal of our coat of arms, and the witness signature of the secretary of our Diocese on February 26, 1838.
Signed +  L.F. Bishop of Bayeux through Monseigneur
Counter-signed: Guerin

 

The incredible voyage of Abbott Sauvage to Poitiers
Fr. Sauvage, not wishing to travel on Sunday, set the date of his trip to Poitiers for Thursday, March 1, 1838, but an unforeseeable circumstance forced him to leave on the day after the originally set date.  He arrived in Alençon on Friday evening.  From there, he did not know how to proceed on his journey. There was no coach going to Poitiers. He then decided to travel towards Beauge since his Norman status qualified him for a passport.  However, when he explained to officials that he had been born in Normandy, they did not demand that he present his papers.  This proved (so said the holy priest) that, at least in this country, Normans enjoyed a good reputation.  The vehicle would be in Loudun the following Sunday.

Fr, Sauvage considered and calculated the hour to know when he would be able to celebrate the holy Mass.  He received the answer that he would arrive in Migne at midday.  This was all he had wished for because it also gave him the opportunity to renew his acquaintance with a venerable parish priest that he had visited the prior year accompanied by Fr. Pouillier, the chaplain of the Carmelites of Poitiers.  Great was his surprise when the good priest showed no signs of remembering him.  Trying to stir a recollection, Fr. Sauvage brought up a number of incidents, for example, having viewed a relic of the True Cross in the presbyter.  But the priest, with some degree of coldness, responded:  “I saw a good many other people.”

Fr. Sauvage showed his credentials, but he did not have the specific permission of His Highness the Bishop of Poitiers to say the Holy Mass and the venerable priest did not appear inclined to give permission for him to celebrate it there.  It was already after midday.  In brief, it was the Carmelites of Lisieux that had caused their Superior innocently to cause an affront to the dominical law.  The more he travelled the greater his regret grew that he could not stop along the way to so sanctify the day of the Lord.

He, nevertheless, stopped at a parish church along the way. When the Vicar of the Parish de la Paroisse made a favorable judgment, based on the traveler’s exterior appearance, he allowed Fr. Sauvage to celebrate Mass.  However, another difficulty presented itself.  When he arrived in the sacristy, he wore lay clothes and was informed that in that diocese he could not say Mass without wearing a soutane.  "Just as in any of ours", responded Fr. Sauvage.  “But would the Reverend Father lend me one?”  The hour was growing late and the traveler was running out of strength.  In any event, all was agreed.  The reverend priest remained in the church during the Mass and he went away edified by the piety of Father Sauvage.  When the Mass was ended, he graciously invited him to dinner.  This good man would not make his prayers twice.

It was during this meal that he learned of the true reasons prompting the difficulties that he had experienced.  The venerable priest who seemed to have treated him so coldly in Migne had suffered an attack of paralysis since he had last seen him and lost his memory of their first meeting.  Moreover, the parish priest told Fr. Sauvage about an adventurer, who came armed with letters of priestly standing, and who had presented himself at the presbyter in a dubious fashion.  This man had rendered himself in a most defiant manner when confronted by other priests who questioned his lack of authorization to celebrate Mass from the Bishop of Poitiers.  As a result, this parish priest praised the zeal of the priest from his own diocese who had been so careful and zealous in dealing with Fr. Sauvage’s own request.  After this explanation, the Parish priest of Migne and Fr. Sauvage took leave of each other, content in having clarified these matters.  Fr. Sauvage, such a worthy cleric, reached the community in Poitiers that same day.  There is hardly a need to say what a pleasure it was for his novices to see him again.  He hastened to place in the hands of the Reverend Mother Prioress Pauline the authentic Act of Foundation that he had brought with him as well the letter from the Bishop of Bayeux that had been addressed to himself.

 

Meeting with the Bishop of Poitiers; agreement for the loan of religious
On the following morning, Fr. Sauvage went to render his respects to Bishop de Bouille to whom he presented the letter from his own bishop.  The venerable prelate invited him to dinner that same evening.  It was on this occasion that Fr. De Rochemonteix recalled for his friend the difficulties that had attended the project of foundation.  But now it was all done.  It was its ultimate success that was the measure of it having been conceived with wisdom.  Only Providence knows the secrets of how it came to be done. 

Fr. Sauvage could stay in Poitiers no more than eight hours before the departure.  Firstly, the Act of Foundation was read to the entire Community consonant with acknowledging the Act of Obedience.   It was clear that the Act of Foundation contained all the formalities necessary to satisfy it validity.  The Acts by two prelates the Bishops of Bayeux and Poitiers had been made without restrictions or conditions.  It was not necessary for this document to be subscribed by Fr. Sauvage or the Community represented by the Mother Prioress, the subprioress and the trustee of the property to be purchased.  Bishop Rochemonteix clearly declared in the name of the entire community that the religious would not be lent for more than three years.  It was then that Fr. Savage made the point that, since he was lending to the Lisieux Community Mother Elisabeth and Geneviève, it might still be necessary to prolong the loan beyond the three years and that, without being able to do so, it could ruin the base of the foundation.  Bishop de Rochemonteix himself believed that three years might be too short to consolidate the foundation. That is why he responded to Fr. Sauvage that prudence demanded that a time limit be set, but one that could be easily prolonged.  So, he made the concordat that we hereby relate:

“ In the year 1838, the 10th of March,  the present agreement is made by the undersigned, Fr. Pierre Nicolas Sauvage, Vicar of St. Jacques of Lisieux, in the diocese of Bayeux (first party), and My Ladies Marie Calixte Bonnefont (prioress) Madeliene Anastaise de Charteigner (sub-prioress) and Emilie Regnault (trustee) from the Carmel of Poitiers (the second party) have made the present agreement.  The said Sir Abbot Sauvage having the desire to found a convent of Carmelites in the city of Lisieux with the authorization of My Lord the Bishop of Poitiers, having promised two of his religious Geneviève Geoffroi, known in religion by the name Sister Elisabeth de Saint Louis, and Claire Bertrand, known in religion as Sister Geneviève de Sainte Thérèse, the former to fill the position of Prioress, the second as sub-prioress and mistress of novices of the future monastery of Lisieux.  The contracting parties agree to the following:
First Article:  The two religious designated to found the establishment will continue to belong to the monastery of Poitiers that will lend them just for three years.
Second Article:  With the consent of the contracting parties, the two religious will be authorized to prolong their stay at the monastery of Lisieux as long as necessary for its consolidation.
Third Article:  In case the establishment cannot be maintained, the furnishing mentioned in the annexed inventory list shall be returned to the community of Poitiers if they should still exist at the time of dissolution of the establishment.
Fourth Article:  The two religious, previously mentioned, shall return to their house in Poitiers with expenses to be paid by the establishment in Lisieux. 
Done and executed in double form at Poitiers on the day and year previously stated.
Signed: P.N. sauvage, superior of the Carmelites of Lisieux
Sister Marie Calixte Pauline Bonnefort
Sister Anastasie, sub-prioress
Sister Emilie, trustee”

 

Exchange of “spirits” and other pieties…
During conversations between Fr. Sauvage and Mother Elisabeth, he did not hide the fact that she and Sister Elisabeth would have to undergo many privations.  He tried above all to paint accurately the sad situation concerning the temporary housing that awaited them in Lisieux without being able to assure them positively concerning the acquisition that he had bought in the name of the sisters Gosselin through an informal agreement for the price of 15,300 francs.  There were some minors among the group of sellers of the house and a definite sale could not be effected before Easter when it could then be brought before the tribunal.  Nothing could diminish the zeal of the two religious; the glory of God being their only motivation.

The novices had wanted to arrange a moment of recreation for the Community in asking F. Sauvage to bring along with him several bottles of Norman cider.  It was, in effect, somewhat unusual for residents of Poitiers to enjoy “apple juice”. To please them, Fr. Sauvage accepted this commission.  The Community reciprocated this small pleasantry by filling with good wine bottles intended to go to Lisieux with the small colony.  Fr. Sauvage, after having fulfilled his religious devotions at the tomb of Sainte Radegonde where he touched a number of pious relics, went to render his respects to Bishop de Bouille and to take leave of His Highness and to recognize with all his gratitude the Bishop’s fulfillment of all his promises to the Foundation.  The venerable prelate once again invited him to his dinner table on the eve of the departure of the little colony.  (It was the second Sunday of Lent, March 11, 1838.)

The Bishop imparted his blessing and he asked Fr. Sauvage to inform the Community that he would visit them the next day to celebrate Mass for the intention of a good and safe voyage for their daughters.  In effect, His Highness the Bishop of Poitiers, on March 12, the day of departure, went to offer the holy sacrifice in the chapel of the Carmelites.  He asked that the religious and novices go together to the parlor.  There, he said a few words and then imparted his blessing upon them.  They had a need of this new grace to help break the ties that united the Mothers and sisters to the departing sisters, whom they loved tenderly and who for their part felt keenly the blow that this separation would cause for the.  Although they all wanted nothing but the glory of God, they nevertheless felt sad in seeing the departure preparations.

The hour approached.  Fr. Sauvage went to the stage coach ticket office to pay the tariff of 217 francs for the trip fare up to Paris.  The reverend director de Rochemonteix, according to the wish of the Reverend Mother Pauline, as manifested through Madame de Ballatier, sister of the Mother Sub-Prioress of Poitiers, had written to the religious directors in the towns where the stage coach would have to make stops along the way to Lisieux.  He also wrote to ask hotel managers to procure specific lodgings for the religious such that they be modestly served.  Already, the poor furnishings had left the cloister.  Mother Elisabeth asked that the bed pallet that she had used for many years in Poitiers accompany her to Lisieux.

 

The painful goodbyes
The Mothers Elisabeth and Geneviève, whose work obligations had prevented them from having a last supper with the Community, took their meals quickly and then went to join the Community at recreation.  Sorrow was displayed on every face.  After recreation, the Mother Prioress asked all of the religious to remain in place so that each Sister could reciprocally say goodbye to the departing religious.  During this time, each maintained a mournful silence interrupted only by sobs brought forth by these last goodbyes.  This sad scene lasted about six minutes, after which each left promising a reciprocity of prayers for their common divine assistance. At the third hour, the Reverend Superior de Rochemonteix and the Reverend Almoner and also confessor and friend of the Community, Fr. Pouiller, asked the two daughters for their blessings and to be on the alert for a message telling them that it was time for a last farewell.  This was the last, in effect, of Fr. Pouiller.  He died three months later.  While the religious remained in the parlor, the novices wanted to express their gratitude and their submission in asking for permission to embrace as their mothers those for whom they would always remain to be docile children.

The private coach that had come to pick up the religious was entering the cloister grounds.  The moment of departure quickly hastened to appear.  However, the new Prioress and her assistant and their company went first to the choir to pledge obedience and to ask Jesus Christ, in order to accomplish His will, for His blessing upon the work they had set to accomplish.  After having asked the blessing of the Divine Master and to be placed under the protection of Mary conceived without sin, they embraced their well beloved Mother Superior for the last time and got into the coach.  Although, the religious had received permission from the worthy Bishop to wear secular garb during the duration of the voyage, they preferred to keep on the vestments of their Order.  They placed themselves under the protection and care of Divine Providence.  The novices did the same with the exception of Miss Mouchet.  This young woman, who the good God had not chosen for Carmel, devoted herself with great zeal to serve the religious during the entire voyage. 

Even so Bishop de Rochemonteix, Bishop Pouiller and Madame de Balatier, whom we discussed above, together with her venerable Mother waited upon the little colony with diligence.  These two ladies upon the arrival of the coach asked Bishop de Rochemonteix for permission to be allowed to embrace the Mother Prioress who was their friend and to give a similar sign of attachment to their sisters.   The final goodbyes finished, the little family entered the conveyance without delay, all inside had been reserved.  Fr. Sauvage took his place in the convoy.  Reverend Mother Elisabeth asked Bishop de Rochemonteix for his blessing.  She and her daughters were much moved by the paternal manner in which he gave his blessing.  The two friends said farewell for the last time with the most tender affection.

 

The start of a surprising voyage
It was so that on the 12th of March, 1838, at around four hours past noon, the Reverend Mother Prioress lost sight of the city of Poitiers, a place where she had taken on sacred commitments that now followed her to Lisieux.  The Mother Sub-Prioress bade adieu to her own country and to her parents in order to go to a place that they did not know and where they were not known.  They left behind a beautiful monastery, a holy community and an agreeable company of Sisters.  God would lead them.  One and all expected to find that which Jesus Christ promised to souls that gave up all for Him.  They expected to receive precious indemnification for their sacrifices in the charity of their new Superior and in the union of hearts of their new family,  As far as lodging, they knew that the divine Spouse was born in as stable.  They expected to share in his poverty and humiliations.  They would not fail.

On the first relay, Fr. Sauvage approached the porter to know how the religious were faring.  Since the religious were then reciting their breviary, nothing was said, but, from what reached the Superior’s ear, it could be said he heard from Jesus, “I am content at last, they are mine.”   Fr. Sauvage was far from anxious to arrive in Lisieux, knowing that the arrival in Lisieux would be for him sadder than the departure from Poitiers.  By a particular act of providence, the cold that was particularly acute on the days preceding the departure ceased to be so.  The temperature became quite pleasant and the moonlight made the first evening most agreeable.  By its glimmer, the religious were able to enjoy the view of the pretty bells towers around Tours.  Only the Mother sub-prioress and Sister Thérèse were able to see this charming spectacle.  The good Mother Superior and her daughters all slept profoundly.  At four in the morning, the little cortege arrived in the city of Tours.  A private chamber had been reserved for them at the hotel.

Fr.Sauvage like the other passengers was in need of a little repose.  On the next day, when they re-mounted the stage coach, it was too early to view the local curiosities, something that would have to await their arrival in Blois.  It was necessary during the voyage to take time to order food.  In the morning, they made light meals and it was later in the vehicle that they took their frugal repasts.  The two novices, two because of poor health and the other because of her youth, were excused from fasting, and also took some nourishment in Tours.  But the two other religious, who had had but a little meal and taken nothing during the evening but a light snack, felt the pangs of hunger powerfully.  It was eleven when they entered into the city of Blois.  This hour was assuredly not an appropriate one to change inside the vehicle in full view of those who had encircled it.  The mistress of the hotel came to receive the religious with warm civility and guided them to a room made brilliant by much gold gilding. To enter this room, they had to cross a dining salon where many gentlemen where taking their meals.  At the very moment they entered, the entire company rose up and greeted them most respectfully.  During the entire time that they maintained neighboring chambers, this same society made as little noise as possible, seeming to reflect the same type of silence that the Carmelites took such care to preserve.  For his part, Fr. Sauvage hastened in taking a light meal in a small salon.  He conversed with the mistress of the hotel about His Highness the Bishop.  She lauded the Bishop, saying, “He has aged much, if I could preserve his life by cutting off my little finger, I would gladly do so.”

Meanwhile, the secretary to the local bishop Sauzin came on his behalf to offer a gift of one hundred francs for the foundation.  The venerable Prelate feared that the press of time would not allow Fr. Sauvage to go the Bishop’s Palace.  However, since Fr. Sauvage had one quarter hour at his disposal, he wished to make use of it to render homage to the Bishop and to personally convey his thanks.  When he arrived in the Palace, he found the holy Prelate on his knees reciting his office.  His reception was most affable.  After addressing some questions about Lisieux and about persons known to the Bishop, Fr. Sauvage ask him to, please, give him his blessing. The words from the Bishop were most touching,  It semeed that all the affection  he had for the city where he had been Vicar were renewed.  “I bless you,” he said, “I bless your parish, I bless all the city of Lisieux.”  The Bishop’s secretary accompanied Fr. Sauvage back to his coach and to bring to the religious the benedictions of his worthy Bishop.  He expressed his regret that the Carmelites of Blois would be deprived of their visit. Time was too short to procure such further consolation.

 

Orleans and its Bishop with a heart of gold 
The stage coach marched towards Orleans, the small family ardently desiring to arrive in this city where they would stop for two hours, so as to be able to rest a while and have dinner that would sustain them until they reached Paris.  All was well arranged, but, according to the old proverb, “Man proposes and God disposes.”  Perhaps the weight of the stage coach was too much for the horses who struggled through the route littered with pebbles and stones. The travelers were obliged to descend from the vehicle for a time in order to disengage the wheels stopped by the stones that had rolled in front of them.  So, they arrived in Orleans one and a half later than scheduled.  It was five-thirty when they entered the city.  Bishop de Beauregard had sent Miss Curzon, his niece in his coach, to receive the cortege at the end of their travel and to conduct them to the episcopal palace.  This good lady waited for a long time.  There was a crowd there.  It was a curious spectacle for the multitude to observe the poor religious take their places in the pretty episcopal coach.

The Carmelites could have experienced a small moment of satisfaction at the honor they had received if the interior of the coach had not been too narrow for them and the niece of the Bishop.  It was necessary for one of the novices to stand near the doorway that had to be left open.  It is so true that there are no roses without thorns.  However, the stage coach assistants who had travelled with Fr. Sauvage in the cross-section of the stage coach began to murmur of the delay that they had encountered and recommended to him expressly not to be too late to the Epicopal Palace where, in the event, he arrived on foot sometime after the religious had already arrived.

The venerable Prelate had been kept in bed for some time due to a chest congestion.  He had left that day at one to receive his dear daughters. Hearing the noise of the vehicle, he left his apartment to arrive ahead of them. His age of 89 years and his malady had not removed his fine appearance.  The greatest joy was apparent on his face.  “Ah, there are my dear daughters,” he said the moment he saw them.  “There is my little red shawl.”  It seemed that he was once again seeing the Mother Sub-prioress at the age of 16, although she was at the moment 32.  “Ah, it is now that I will recite the “Nunc Dimittis” “Now, dismiss your servant, Lord”.  Then with a truly tender and paternal manner, he blessed the Mothers and the daughters, as soon as they entered his chamber.  Fr. Sauvage arrived at that very moment, making with his presence the joy complete.

It seemed that this venerable Prelate had renewed his energies to converse for a few moments with his dear daughters.  The Mother Prioress, who he had directed her to make, as he liked to day, her novitiate under an umbrella at the end of the revolution appeared to become young again in seeing her old Father.  The Mother Sub-Prioress, who he had always directed and led, remembered with thanksgiving all that she owed to this sage and venerable Ananias.  Fr. Sauvage, who had known as noted above all the goodness and virtue of Bishop de Beauregard even before he became a bishop, could not have failed to recognize all the services that he had rendered to the foundation such as indicating that the house in Poitiers might provide Mothers for the young postulants.

In sum, all the novices were overcome with admiration in observing with what simplicity the venerable Prelate displayed the sentiments of his soul in the milieu of this small family.  All contemplated the old man sitting near the fire and could read on his face the joy that penetrated his heart upon seeing all around him the new Carmel.  They listened to his words most attentively, words that communicated with tender piety and vivid faith and of his conversation that was only of God.  It is impossible to describe with what great devotion he spoke of the love of Jesus Christ in the Sacred Eucharist, annihilated to the appearance of a little bread to nourish his children.  “Your Superior,” he said, “will explain to you over a long period the profound humility and immense charity of the divine Savior in this august sacrament.”  These were his words for this small audience, the subject of his benevolence.  Afterwards, he spoke to the two mothers whose life circumstances had shown that time and distance had not led them to forget him.

“Do you remember, My Lord,” said Fr. Sauvage, “a young seminarian that you received in your arms in the St. Sulpice, country d’Issy, in a moment when he was fainting?”  “Very well,” responded the Prelate.  “It was me.”  Fr. Sauvage answered gratefully.  It is true that in the course of life there are incidents that appear trivial, but later appear to be moments of grace.  Fr. Sauvage continued his conversation, speaking of poverty and the deprivations that the small family would face in the Carmel. ”Rejoice,” said the holy Prelate to the daughters of St. Teresa “if poverty reduces you to seeing snow fall on your beds.  Better so to see displayed the care of Providence for the poor.”  He then placed in the hands of the Mother Superior a small box containing 1,000 francs in gold.  Calling one of the novices, he handed to her a packet of beautiful images, telling her that her Mother would later distribute them.  The small family was sad to see the few minutes with him fly by, but since joys here below are all passing, it was necessary, after a visit of only around twenty minutes, to say their goodbyes to the venerable Prelate.  Before separating, he gave with emotion a heartfelt blessing to the small Carmel.  Then, he said to the Mother Sub-Prioress:  “I ask you to write to me about all that concerns your foundation and do not fail to do so as your visit has given me much joy.  I ask you to keep me current on everything and do not stop writing, but remember that I need to use reading glasses.”  at 89 years!  The task assigned by the Bishop of Orleans to the Mother Sub-Prioress was carried out by her worthy superior.  And so, this history, in which he is a major author and that he has so enriched, is one in which we borrow many pages of his life regarding the establishment that was always so dear to this heart.

Leaving the Episcopal Palace, the religious were reminded that their stomachs had reclaimed their rights.  They hastened to remount the vehicle to return hastily to the hotel.  It was acceptable as the assistant coachmen were disposed to give Fr. Sauvage and the religious time to address their great famishment.   They turned a deaf ear to the first clamors of opposition from the other travelers.  The religious promptly entered the salon where they found a magnificent dinner laid out.  But, since it is necessary that mortification always accompany the Carmelites, their eyes were satisfied, although their stomachs very little.  The clamors of the other travelers redoubled.  This forced the coach conductor to hasten to the religious and frankly ask them to leave the table. Fr. Sauvage hastened to pay for the dinner that he had hardly time even to taste.  And, since it was for the good of the Master, they had no scruples in taking with them what food they could store in their travelling basket.  This was a prudent act, said the good Superior, for which Normans should not be blamed.

After having been so informed of the travelers’ complaints, the religious expected to hear some disagreeable words upon remounting the stage coach.  They were agreeably surprised to hear instead the voyagers say:  “Here are the ladies!”  Word that were repeated by two lines of people along the passage way.  Fr. Sauvage then heard certain complaints and threats against the director that travelers coming from Brodeaux had been unfairly deprived of better seats that they were due.  Fr. Sauvage was too kind to think of responding.  Soon, peace was reestablished. To underline this, the quarrelers offered him several biscuits that he sampled, said the good Superior, with good grace.  This shows with what goodness of heart he always spoke.

That night, just like the preceding one, was most agreeable.  Several of the sisters anticipated the charms of Paris through the sweetness of sleep.  Those who did not sleep or who woke up suddenly were assured that they were in the suburbs of Paris.  The conversation woke up the good Mother when they were ten leagues from the capital.  At last at five in the morning, the small family arrived in Paris where Mother Prioress Elisabeth had been born.  In descending from the conveyance, Sisters Thérèse and Marie de la Croix received the visit of their sister, Miss Adelaide Gosselin.  The religious proceeded to the hotel that had been designated for them.  There, they employed their first moments for the reading of their breviary.  Upon finishing this holy task, they felt so weak that their Superior was obliged to order dinner for 9:00 o’clock.  If there was ever a reason to dispense with the Lenten fast, it was this one.  This became even more the case when they learned that their stage coach would not be stopping in Nantes for dinner as the Director in the travel office in Poitiers had thought.  The Director, as has been stated, had given the orders for the route that the religious would take from Poitiers to Lisieux.

 

A Convoy of Carmelites to Paris 
Above, we have said that the Convent of Carmelites of the rue d’Enfer, had been involved in the origins of the project of the foundation to the extent of being in charge of this good work.  This Community had always been on the closest terms with the Community of Poitiers.  The Mother Prioress had a great desire to make the acquaintance of these worthy Mothers.  It was also for her daughters a great joy in conversing for an instant with these Carmelites who had so well conserved the precious heritage of the first Mothers who had come to France and whose eldest daughters they were. 

That is why, with the agreement of Fr. Sauvage, they took advantage of those free hours that they had in Paris to go to the convent of St. Jacques .  In order to arrive there as soon as possible, they took two horse drawn carriages.  The colony was received with the greatest pleasure as was displayed by the Reverend Mother Prioresses, the Sub-Prioresses and Marie-Thérèse.  Fr. Sauvage would have celebrated Mass if the lack of time had not prevented it.  Fr. Sauvage, together with his daughters, had the consolation of venerating the mantel of Saint Teresa.  Before becoming a priest, he already had had this privilege, but then the mantel had not been taken out from its reliquary.  The Reverend Mothers of Paris had ardently wished to have the Sisters enter inside the Community.  This was a privation they endured because time was running out for one side as well as for the other.  It was a necessary constraint that they had to terminate promptly this agreeable visit.

They went back into the carriages to return as quickly as possible to the hotel in order to eat as hastily as possible the meal that had been prepared for them.  The Carmelites did not have to complain because the meal was too sumptuous.  It was frugal enough and expensive enough.  The small meal having been finished, the conductor of the carriage arrived:  “Sir,” he said to Fr. Sauvage, “you had agreed with me and I ask for the money, you have not given to me your piece of five francs.”  And, to emphasize his poverty he displayed his few coin pieces.  The charity of this saintly priest compelled him in relating this story to add that distractions are for all times and all places.  He then with much good grace gave the coin that had been requested; from there, the cortege went directly to the place of Notre Dame des Victoires.

It was indeed a very curious thing to see five Carmelites, two under the large black veils and the three novices with their little white veils, among such a great crowd that was to be found at this place at 6 o’clock, the hour appointed for the departure of vehicles.  Nevertheless, no one said anything.  One can testify to the respect shown to the religious throughout.  It was, as if God, who had sent them, always watched over them.  The conveyance did not stop until it arrived at Mantes.  There, as we have said, a dinner, according to the arrangements made by the travel director from Poitiers, had been prepared for them.  This was assuredly not suitable for the religious who had been fasting.  It would have been an embarrassing thing if the stage coach had remained there, as it usually did, and it would have been necessary to pay for the dinner and risk having to take the food with them.  Fortunately, a year before, the rest stops had been changed and the conductor of the stage coach had no permission to make a full stop in Mantes that day.

This was, as we have seen, a providential circumstance.  One was able to hear the hotel manager express his grievances.  If he had pressed his claim more formally, assuredly, Fr. Sauvage would have had to satisfy them by paying for the unnecessary dinners; however, he saw that it was a market day and reasoned that the manager would have no difficulty in disposing of his dinners.  One passed over this incident and it was not spoken of again.  In readinguntil now the story of the trip in relation to Fr. Sauvage, the reader has been able to appreciate, as did the sisters, his great consideration.  Heaven itself seemed to favor the voyageurs’ progress.  They enjoyed sweet, calm and serene weather.  The arrival in Lisieux should have had, according to what the Superior said, the same advantages.  Thus, as with the other cities where they had stopped, a most convenient coach awaited the small colony to take them to their provisional habitation.  But God who wished his spouses to come to Normandy in order to imitate his poverty and participate in his humiliation, through a series of circumstances that only He understands, changed entirely the plans of Fr. Sauvage.  It is because of these reversals that we say when we speak of it now that for him the arrival in Lisieux was sadder than the departure from Poitiers.  The Lord revealed his will from the moment that we set foot in Normandy.  The weather changed abruptly and it was dark and rainy.  At 8:00 in the evening, the religious arrived in Evreux where little attention was paid to them in the hotel where they took a very small meal.  Fatigue had also diminished their natural gaiety.

 

Eventful Arrival in Lisieux
Those who pass three nights without sleep note that the places that they are going through are not as beautiful as those that they had already seen.  In sum, that last night would have no charm for them, each of the nights seemed longer than the previous one.   It was not even 4:00 AM when the little colony-- always protected by Providence-- arrived without accident in their new country, saying, “we are in Lisieux”-- words that rejoiced and consoled every heart.  They set out descending from the stage coach to the vehicle that would transport them to their new domicile.

The Widow le Boucher , who had offered her home, and Miss Lerebourg, who had worked to prepare the residence, were present and a vehicle was called and then appeared a large cart covered with a cloth attached to rings.  The Superior was disconcerted and humiliated.  He had arranged for the father of Sr. St. Jean de la Croix to arrive in a coach before the religious had reached Lisieux… and here was a cart…an illness on the part of the coach driver had prompted this change, and there was no time to think of changing the plan.  Without a doubt, it must have seemed that the Carmelites, who had were to make a profession of poverty, would find themselves very well situated in a cart where the bumps would give a type of elasticity to the voyageurs’ fatigued extremities.  It was therefore necessary to have a good laugh at the bad fortune, excepting the good Mother and Fr. Sauvage.  They would laugh only as not to cry, as is proverbially said.  The group entertained themselves calling out the places that they saw on the way to the house.  The good Mother sat on a lose chair, worrying that she would fall to the right or to the left or fall on the ground.  She could see nothing but the famous cart as she leaned to both sides.  The wind that lifted the cloth at times allowed her to see the outside and it was difficult to persuade her that unless the cart overturned she would not be thrown on the pavement.  It was impossible to load all the packages onto the cart and it was necessary for Miss Lerebourg to stay condemned behind as a guard  until the return of the cart.  This poor young lady trembled with all her force.  Fr. Sauvage knew that she had nothing to worry because he particularly well familiar with the people at the hotel where the stage coach had stopped.  But this was not enough to calm her amidst the trembling that shook her completely.

Nevertheless, the cortege arrived at Mrs. Le Boucher’s home on that March 15, 1838.  Miss Lerebourg had given this good lady the advice not to say a word to those whom she had given hospitality because Carmelites kept silence at that particular hour.  This was true but, if in this particular circumstance this good lady had considered the spirit as well as the letter of the rule, she would not have given this particular bit of advice.  She would have thought, to the contrary, that these poor strangers needed all the affability that their charitable host could provide in order to make them forget their fatigue and the loneliness that their new position placed upon them.

If Fr. Sauvage laughed so as not to cry in the cart, there was something else concerning the great apartment belonging to this lady that brought on a mournful silence. If Miss Lerebourg had not kept in her possession the keys to the rooms where the religious would stay, the good Superior would have had the subject of a distraction in showing his new daughters to their poor lodgings. So, while he waited for her to arrive, not knowing the reason for Mrs. Le Boucher’s silence, their host appeared to have an extremely cold manner.  It was not possible then to figure out the reason for such a reception.  Fr. Sauvage did not have the courage to stay for long in such a difficult position and he took leave and retired from the scene.

Here below: the first house 

Batiment-initialpetit

 A temporary monastery: monastery or stable?

The small family stood before the fire, noting the novelty of fish that had been suspended within the chimney.  They did not know that this “plate” of smoked scent would serve as their only dinner.  Miss Lerebourg arrived at last and the Mother Prioress requested that she take her to the room assigned to the novices, wanting her dear daughters to take some rest.  The lock to this room was in such poor state that Miss Lerebourg spent at least a quarter of an hour trying to turn the key with all her might until she finally was able to open it. Finally, introduced into the room, the religious could see what they had long meditated in their prayers concerning the stable in Bethlehem.  It was an even poorer arrangement than the attic room that had been used in Poitiers as a room for the novices.  The clay ceiling was not at all stable so that in passing through the attic loft pieces would fall on the pallet beds.  The old curtains all around—of all different colors—had been rented from a thrift store.

 

There was no door to use to go from one room to another.  The first room visited by the little colony was the oratory where the most Holy Sacrament was to be found.  The pastor of Saint Jacques Fr. Sauvage, had, on the evening of his arrival, come to bless the oratory and to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  That was the greatest consolation that could be given to those who had given up all for the love of the divine Savior. So, it was there, at His feet, that the two Mothers sought to find repose.  The thought that their sweet Jesus was the first to rest in this poor dwelling filled them with a joy that made it easier to undergo all discomforts.  The Holy Sacrament reposed within a copper ciborium held up by a second goblet of vermeil mixture of silver and gold.  The Community would benefit for a long time from the permission to use this object given by Rev. Abbot Michel on October 19, 1837.

Rev. Abbot Sauvage’s piety propelled him to take all precautions to inform the small chapel  with a devotional character where one might celebrate the Holy Sacrifice during the time during which the religious would use this place as their monastery.  It was easy to make an inventory of the chapel’s contents.  Three chasubles:  one made of green wool that had once belonged to an old cleric; the other red and white with a silk braid; the third of purple velvet made with very good taste; two or three albs,  some surplices; a small number of amices and girding belts.  The diverse objects had been donated or bought from the sales of the personal property of old priests.  Moreover, a copper monstrance with a glass lense  and gilded interior had been donated by the Hospitalier Ladies an order of religious that took care of the sick; a very old incense burner donated by Fr. Jumel, the pastor of saint Desir of Lisieux,  poor wooden chandeliers that came from the Church of Saint Jacques.  The tabernacle had once been owned by the old Church of Saint Hyppolite; near it was placed a painting of Our Lord among the doctors which had been a gift to the Pastor of Saint Denis.  It made the altar piece appear beautiful.   It had been donated by the Pastor of Saint Jacques. These were the objects to be employed in divine worship.

Very little time was necessary to go through the new monastery.  The choir was separated from the chapel by a very narrow corridor that led to an apartment measuring eighteen square feet that was separated in three sections.  The first was the kitchen, the second was the refectory that also served as a recreation room, and the third was the cell of the Mother Sub-Prioress.  She had to take great care not to upset the stove or the cooking bowls.  The Mother Prioress occupied a small den that opened into this same apartment. The chapel was very poor, definitely small but decent.   These places were all on the first level. A door with a grill in the hallway formed the parlor.  It was most inconvenient.  The religious had no other way to get to the puny attic room where the novices slept.  What was also annoying was that people who came to work in the house would run into those religious who were in the parlor because the grilled door also served as the turn.  One would have supposed that such a place dispensed the religious from the rigors of the cloister.  It was a good place, nevertheless, to see people from the world, but this presented the Carmelites with the challenge of maintaining their privacy relative to the eyes of visitors. 

The furnishings corresponded to the lodging.  A fireplace screen placed in a corner served as a “garde-manger” a well-ventilated area suitable for serving cold dishes.  A box served in place of a sideboard table.  A pair of bellows and a green box tested the patience of whomever cooked.  The  refectory was so narrow the religious could hardly sit around the table.  Because they hardly had a food service, the first ones to eat their soup would give the tableware over to be washed by those serving the portions.  Six weeks before their departure, they took down the wall dividers, thus making it most spacious.  But, as a result, the novice mistress, who lost through this arrangement her private cell, was obliged to go to the attic when she needed to speak to the novices.  One must say in passing that they bore these diverse privations most cheerfully.  The reader could be convinced by the description we have made that Fr. Sauvage spoke strictly the truth to the Reverend Mother Pauline and the Mothers destined to Lisieux that “the provisional lodgings that I propose will be very poor.” So did the good Mother of Poitiers who wrote to him on May 5th of that same year:  “We have been happy to learn that our sisters have left their narrow and uncomfortable cubby-hole.”  Each time we wrote to them they were amused and even we could not help but laugh in sharing these examples of privations of heart and affection despite all the solicitude of the charitable Father and Superior. 

The Act of Foundation:  A Prophetic Speech 

Rev. Abbot Falize, the Vicar general of the Diocese of Lisieux, was the ecclesiastic chosen by His Highness the Bishop of Bayeux to receive in his name the religious and to install the Community in their provisional home.  This worthy priest had accepted with joy this function that he carried out with as much zeal as charity for this small troop.  He came especially from Bayeux and established his residence at the Seminary.  He came to the new monastery to say the Mass for the community, which he preceded with a chant of Veni Creator (“Come, Creator”).  The Father Superior Sauvage could not come because the fatigue of the voyage required him to take some rest. That evening, Rev. Abbot Falize, accompanied by Fr. Sauvage, returned to the community to give the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament after which he chanted a “Te Deum.”  Afterwards, he addressed the small Carmel in the choir making a touching exhortation.  He based it on the text from a passage from the Prophets where the community is represented by a light cloud that appears in the distance, indicating the increasing size of the family that will soon grow but not without trials and sorrows.  After the ceremony of installation, the Reverend Arch-deacon recited the verbal process that had been signed by many ecclesiastics.  It is hereby restated:

We, Canon of the Cathedral Church of Bayeux, Vicar general of the diocese, Archdeacon of Lisieux, act in the name and by special commission of Rev. Louis Francois Robin, Bishop of Bayeux, after having issued an episcopal ordinance dated the 26th of February 1838 that approved the establishment of a Carmelite monastery in Lisieux that was proposed and prepared by the care taken by Rev. Abbott Pierre Nicolas Sauvage. first vicar of the Parish of Saint Jacques and the letters of obedience dated the 6th of February 1838 accorded by His Highness Bishop Bouille of Poitiers and based upon the request of Pauline, Superior of the Community of Poitiers to the Ladies Geoffroi , in religion known as Sister Elisabeth de Saint Louis, and Claire Bertrand, known in religion as Sister Geneviève de Sainte Thérèse, to leave the cloister to come to Lisieux in order to found a monastery of their Order.  Having moreover declared said monastery founded and established on this same day, 15th of March of the year 1838 in the presence of Fr. Sauvage, Vicar of Saint Jacques and Victor Hebert, second Vicar of said parish, and of the Sisters Elisabeth, Geneviève de Sainte Thérèse, sub-prioress and novice mistress as so named by the Mother Prioress.  In faith of which we have signed all this on the 15th of March 1838.
             Signed:  S. Falize Vicar General, P.N. Sauvage, Superior of the Carmelites of Lisieux and V. Hebert, Vicar de Saint Jacques. 

Moreover, we have declared Rev. P. N. Sauvage, first Vicar of Saint Jacques, to be Superior of said community and we have conferred upon him the ordinary powers and also he will be provisionally the chaplain and confessor of these Ladies and also Rev. Jacques Sauvage, Pastor of Saint Jacques to beconfessor extraordinaire, equally provisionally.  We hereby give and confirm by these presents power to the Mother Prioress Sister Elisabeth to touch the sacred vessels and relics and to delegate the same power to any of the Sisters and novices; in sum, we dispense with rigorous cloture so that may able to leave the house and its dependents for any grave reason and with the permission of the Superior.

 Poor but Joyful Beginnings

 Another view of the first house

Batiment-initial-cote jardin petitIt is in these same circumstances that all the blessings of the Sacred Sacrament were authorized and that the Sacred heart and Immaculate Conception were given as titular heads to the new monastery.  If humanly speaking this journey had started badly, the end was very consoling.  Also, the Superior of this new Community, those who composed it and the charitable hostess who received them were all joyful and filled with thanksgiving towards God and his Most Holy Mother. That same day, the Mother Prioress received a postulant of the white veil.  It was a young person, aged 22, named Olympe Montier.  She was from Saint Georges du Vievre.  She had been a cook at the house of Mrs. de Saint Wulfran.  Her worthy pastor, Fr. Mulot had asked his friend, Fr. Sauvage, to place her in the community of Providence in Lisieux.  No sooner had she entered that she realized that his was not the Order that God wished for her.  She then spoke to Fr. Sauvage who promised to make it possible for her to enter his new Carmelite community.  He informed her of the community’s arrival in Lisieux and she arranged to arrive the prior evening.   She was received with much cordiality by Mrs. le Boucher.  The Reverend Mother gave her the name of Radegonde du Couer de Jesus.   Four days later, on the feast of Saint Joseph, Miss Lerebourg was also admitted as part of the Community.  She took the name of Saint Joseph of Jesus.  On the 25th of that month, Mrs. Saint Charles, still filled with ardent zeal for the foundation, wrote in these terms to Fr. Sauvage:

 

“If you only knew how happy I am that the good God has crowned all your solicitudes with the success of such a great enterprise.  I pray that your recompense will be quadrupled in your heavenly glory.  Ah!  Pray from your corner that I may not be separated from you, nor from those generous souls who have made so many sacrifices.  For the rest of this great work, God will come to your aid.” Through the same post, her Mother Prioress (Felicite - from the Community of Providence) wrote to Fr. Sauvage: 

“Tuesday, the 20th day of the current month in making my spiritual reading, our good Father Saint Joseph has asked me to share our [food] provisions for Lent with your good and fervent Mothers.  Already, I feel a strong affection for them.  I am completely devoted to them.  My poor heart suffers as much from not being able to help them as [from not having had] the experience of a foundation.  I admire their courage for such an enterprise and beg our Divine Master to crown such a holy work and to you, Sir, that you may be recompensed for your immense efforts. Will you, I beg, have the kindness to give to the worthy Mothers this small offering since I am chagrined from not being able to offer more.”

The small Carmel of Lisieux received with lively thanksgiving this gift that had been made with so much cordiality.  The Community, while small in number, persisted in seeking the constant care of its so worthy Superior who had at all times to carry out the role of Almoner and also to take charge of all its temporal affairs. He was happy to find in Rev. Abbot Gaultier, almoner from college, a devoted friend and deputy.  This charitable and selfless priest gladly took on the obligation of celebrating Mass for the Community on work days.  As far as Sundays and Feast days, Fr. Sauvage carried out this function whether by himself or with other priests.

Because the chapel was so small, one could only receive a few people from the neighborhood.  This little monastery breathed an air of devotion that made the soul rejoice.  All there was calm and peaceful.  It was a small family hidden in God and from the eyes of men.  Many times, people who resided on the other side of the hill were pleased to note that they lived in the same area as the Mother Prioress and near the annex buildings of Mrs. Le Boucher’s garden.  This good lady found her happiness in accompanying the Prioress in the promenades that she took only on Sundays.  She was most resolute in keeping company with this small troop. Her respectable pastor was aware of her poverty and came to say his prayers in the Carmelite chapel and to leave there an offering on the altar.  Fr. Sauvage rejoiced in noting the thoughtfulness with which the neighbors surrounded his dear daughters, although his heart suffered in seeing their straightened circumstances.

It was, therefore, for him a great consolation when on May 14, 1838, he saw them take possession of the Dumoulin house.  The property deed was issued in the names of the Misses Gosselin and Madame Bertrand, sub-prioress of the monastery for the sum of 15,300 francs.  This most worthy Superior also experienced a most tender satisfaction in reading the response from His Highness of Bayeux addressed to the Mother Prioress of the Carmelites:

“I have received with a real pleasure the first news that you have sent me of your interesting establishment. You have nothing for which to thank me; and you are lacking no merits before God in view of the courage that you have showing in achieving an exemplary and solidly established community and the generosity that you have brought to Lisieux where you have realized [this work]!!! I applaud the confidence that animates you.  Your efforts are too noble not to be supported by Divine Providence whose blessings correspond to your sacrifices.  I wish to assure all the members of your small community that I have vowed to maintain my most lively interest and carry for you the most sincere sentiments possible.  My Reverend Mother.
Your most humble and most obedient servant.  L.F. Bishop of Bayeux.” 

If this letter caused joy to Fr. Sauvage and to his dear daughters, all were worried about the silence maintained by the venerable Bishop of Orleans despite the three letters sent to him since the arrival of the small colony in Normandy.  At last, on May 28, Fr. Sauvage received the following letter:

“Reverend Superior, Do not be surprised or upset over my silence.  The day after your visit, I entered into my sick bed that I left [only] for a few days to receive seven persons from my family.  Then, I relapsed, weighed down by a number of maladies.  But God has not wanted anything from me except patience for three months of bed rest and it from my bed that I write to you with an unsteady hand.  I have received a long letter from Geneviève, [but] I have not yet been able to read it.  I will respond [to her] with a few lines. At last, there it is, you have found a house.  It is a great thing and they will be able to sanctify the place with their silence.  I thank you for your charity to my long-standing daughters and I ask you to continue.  I expect that Divine Providence will continue to support you.  Sir, my hand is again a little feverish.  I recommend myself to your good prayers and beg you to believe in my most respectful sentiments.  All yours. J.B. Bishop of Orleans.”

From his sick bed, this venerable benefactor of the little Carmel of Lisieux sent an iron for the altar breads and two molds to cut them.  This was to give this community a means of subsistence.  Also, this worthy superior began to inform the many reverend ecclesiastics that the Carmelite would begin to produce and sell Mass bread.

 

Works Led by Providence…a skillful Prioress
The house that was purchased was nearby the religious’ temporary housing.  The road that led to it was very deserted and, since there was a park with a door that opened onto this street, it was no more than a five minute walk to reach this new property.  This is why Mother Elisabeth made it a custom often to visit the new house to inspect the work and to turn this secular home into as regular a monastery as possible.

She would leave from the house belonging to the Widow le Boucher accompanied by Fr. Sauvage, the Mother Sub-Prioress and Sister Thérèse and go directly to the future monastery.  The first care taken by this good Mother upon arrival was to place the image of St. Teresa in one of the rooms in the house.  She wanted, through this act of faith, to have the Saint and founder of the Reformed Carmelite Order to take possession of the monastery that had been raised under her auspices.  The Reverend Mother fully justified  the idea that her Superiors had had in recognizing her abilities to deal with temporal matters and to arrange the house in accordance with the holy needs of Carmel. She arranged all in concert with a brave and honest man that Fr. Sauvage had chosen as architect.  His name was Mr. Chouquet.  Meanwhile, although occupied with all these matters, it crossed Fr. Sauvage’s mind to erect a monstrance altar in the hallway of the new monastery in order  to receive the procession of the octave of the Holy Sacrament.  Thus, did Our Savior deign to enter the new monastery for the first time to sanctify it with His adorable presence.

An act of Providence developed in favor of a young person who is today a Carmelite religious:  Miss Desiree Roques, known as Sister Adelaide de la Providence.  She believed that she had heard an interior voice say to her, “it is here where you shall be a religious.”  It was while contemplating a picture of St. Teresa that had been placed to adorn the altar that she had had this salutary thought.  A similar procession was made every subsequent year after the dedication of the Chapel.  There was only one room in the house with finished floors. For uniformity and to deal with the humidity, it was necessary to cover the other floors, as well as cancelling several chimneys.  The house was in its original form practically a dungeon. In sum, it was an astounding challenge that was thrown before the Carmelites.  The Community had no funds; they had to tear down and then rebuild relying wholly upon Providence.

The work being done to the Carmelite house announced little by little the presence of the new Community to the residents of Lisieux.  The authorities of the city were not alarmed by the new establishment.  Only worldly people had concluded that they would not carry out some “practical” occupation within society.  They asked, “how will they make themselves useful?”  To this question a member of the municipal council responded, “they will pray for those who see no point in prayer.”  “Ah!” said on another occasion a young Christian lady to Fr. Sauvage: “If you had taken care to establish a house of religious to care for the sick, you would have the entire world with you.  But for the Carmelites, you will find no help.”  “I did not have,” he responded, “a vocation towards the work that you have proposed to me.  It is no more than helping to carry out the goal of two young people the Misses Gosselin who wished to consecrate themselves and their fortune in order to establish a haven for all those daughters who would be called to live in a perfect retreat.”

 

Inauguration of a new Carmel, at last!
His Highness the Bishop of Bayeux had announced that he would arrive in Lisieux towards the 20th of August 1838 to visit his new monastery.  This was a motive to press the workers to hasten the completion of their tasks because it would have been impossible to receive His Highness in such a humble place that served as the retreat of the poor Carmelites.  The Bishop fixed the date of his visit for August 24.  This day posed a happy coincidence since it was the epic anniversary of the first convent founded by St. Teresa in Spain after she established her reforms.  Fr. Sauvage preferred that the installation of the religious in their new house would be public and solemn, desiring for that purpose that the date be delayed until 26th of November 1838.  The Bishop did not feel obliged to defer to the preference of the holy priest on this question.  For that purpose, the small chapel was decorated.  The religious came from their provisional home at the appointed hour, around seven in the morning.  The builders were gathered in the chapel and when His Highness entered one of them while kneeling presented him with a bouquet that the bishop accepted kindly and which he took with him.  To contain the considerable crowd that had formed, Fr. Sauvage called upon two security officers from St. Pierre and St. Jacques.  Nevertheless, many people went inside the corridor and the sacristy.  The religious were cloistered within the choir.  We report here the act of installation:

“In the year of the Incarnation, 1838, the 24th of August, feast of St. Bartholomew, anniversary of the reform of St, Teresa, My Lord Louis Francois Robin, Bishop of Bayeux, has arrived at seven in the morning at a new monastery to receive in person and install the community of Carmelites that had provisionally been housed in the house of Mrs. Le Boucher on the road named Beuvelliers.  After blessing the chapel while invoking Mary conceived without sin, the venerable Prelate complimented the religious in a paternal and moving speech whose text was “egredere de domo tua et veni in terram quam monstravero tibi” (‘come out of your house into the land that I will show you”).  After finishing his remarks, His Highness celebrated for the first time the Holy Mass in this chapel and gave the benediction of the Holy Sacrament.  Afterwards, he blessed the monastery.  Present were: M.M., Abbot Michel, Vicar General; Sauvage, pastor of St. Jacques; Lefevre, pastor of Saint Denis; P.N. Sauvage, Superior of the Carmelites and first vicar of Saint Jacques; Fremont, Superior of the minor seminary; Boudard, director of the Seminary of Bayeux; and Hebert, vicar of St. Jacques.”

After the ceremony, His Highness, accompanied by his clergy, went to the heated parlor where he conversed with the religious and visited the garden.  There a man of local tastes had raised in the row of lime trees a sort of hermitage where our Lord was represented in the Garden of Olives together with his apostles.  The hermitage brought forth admiration in all who saw it particularly the Bishop himself.  Before leaving the house, the worthy prelate promised the two founders that he would return as soon as possible to give them the veil.  That same day, the pastor of Saint Jacques, a friend and protector of the Carmelites, gave a splendid lunch for the Bishop and a party of clergymen from Lisieux.  Mr. Chouquest, the architect for the Carmelites, was also invited.  His Highness was pleased to have all of them by his side.  This feast day, however, was not the definitive day of installation in the new house for the religious.  The location was not yet ready to receive them.  There were still plenty of essential work left to be done and the paint on the walls had still not dried.

Nevertheless, it was the occasion of a small trial for the daughters of St. Teresa.  On a day on which they were filled with zeal to leave the provisional house, they obtained through holy importuning of the Mother Prioress her permission to pack their boxes for the move.  All was done.  Unfortunately, their Superior Fr. Savage, who did not share the same opinion as his daughters on the healthiness of the paint that was still fresh on the walls, would not give his formal approval.  He gave a definite no and they had to unwrap the boxes and wait.  Like them, however, he wished ardently for them to take the long view.  As the good Father said, in his experience, prudence is a beautiful virtue that makes one sacrifice all of one’s desires even the most legitimate ones. He bestowed great praise on those who possess this virtue to an eminent degree.

 

Epilogue: and so begins the lengthy and grand history of the Carmel of Lisieux 
At last, the 5th of September 1838 arrived, it was the day that had been set to give thanks to the Widow le Boucher for her most welcomed hospitality.  It was decided that on that day there would take place a pilgrimage to Saint Jacques.  That early morning, that is to say four o’clock, while the rest of the world rejoiced in the sweetness of repose, the religious took to the road.  The Reverend Pastor of Saint Jacques waited at the altar for the small cortege.  The Reverend Superior had illuminated the church so that the pilgrims could form an idea:  they would retire into the chapel dedicated to St. Philomene immediately next to the altar of Mount Carmel where the Mass was to be celebrated.  The Reverend Pastor gave them Communion, and after a moment of thanksgiving, the religious retraced their steps, making their last goodbyes to the Widow le Boucher. Then, they entered definitely into the cloister.  It was then that they had the consolation of having what they had for so long desired, to see themselves behind the grill of the enclosure.  Although the small Community had had to suffer inconvenient lodging and also the deprivation of enclosure that is the happiness of a Carmelite, they had only praise for the Widow le Boucher and her servant.  This respectable widow showed so much sadness in departing from the religious that everyone in attendance was greatly touched.  For their part, the religious demonstrated such obvious gratitude that could not be mistaken.  The Chapel had not yet been opened to the public.  The work there that still needed to be completed required the religious to request the Bishop to allow them to have the Mass celebrated in the chapter room.  Only a priest, the sacristan and the religious could attend.

[second narrative] 
On September 16th, eleven days after the religious had entered the monastery, Sisters Thérèse de St. Joseph, Marie de la Croix and St. Jean de la Croix, had the great satisfaction of making their profession of vows.  Moreover, because the construction work had been completed by then, on September 18, 1838, Mass was celebrated in the Chapel and the neighbors could also attend.  On that day, Sister St. Jean de la Croix received her veil from the hands of her cousin Fr. Boudard, director of the Seminary of Bayeux.  The Bishop had authorized this ceremony since August 24, upon the request of the Reverend Superior… One can say that there was nothing missing from this Chapel in terms of grandeur that took away from the solemnity of this taking of the veil.  This was the first public ceremony.  The religious were filled with joy.  The local attendants who could be accommodated in the space were attentive and devout.   Nevertheless, it was an occasion that lent itself to the curiosity of casual onlookers.  They became most silent at the moment when the preacher said words that were most appropriate to the circumstances:  “What is the role of a Community of Religious Carmelites in relation to the world, particularly in relation to the city where they live?  What is the religious state in relation to the person who embraces it?”  Thus, he was most eloquent, particularly in raising the first question, in addressing the many errors maintained by those who saw contemplative religious as practically useless.
  

THE END

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Monsieur and dear confrere,

The prelate will be absent until September 4 or 5.  Upon his return, if you will allow me until then and I do not foresee any inconvenience, I will communicate to him the two letters that you have sent me.  In anticipation, here are my reflections:

1.       I personally desire that a Community of Carmelites may be established in our diocese; it is nearly the only one that is missing.