Autobiographical notes of Celine

Story of a little soul who crossed a furnace 


[Celine Martin] Sr Genevieve of St. Theresa

To her beloved Mother Marie-Ange of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face [prioress of the Carmel of Lisieux in 1909]


16 June 1909


I wish to spend my Heaven doing good upon earth... I will plant lillies everywhere; I will make these very ones sprout from the blazing embers!


My well beloved Mother, you have to smile upon reading this title that I have given to my manuscript and you must, with reason, regret having asked me to write my memoirs. Like the gleaner who goes and returns again when the harvest has passed, you believe through an account filled with fraternal memories to read anew of a spray of beautiful sheaves ready for the praise of Therese, but I have few things to offer outside of what is written the The Story of a Soul and in my preparation for the deposition for the Process. It could also be, my Mother, that you hope to find in Celine another “little white flower.” emulating the “spring time” flower blossoming today in Heaven. And you, as you can see, are in the presence of a poor “ember” who owes, to the mercy of God, not to have been burnt into a cinder by the flames, flames of all kind, because my soul has been jealously coveted by hell, my soul being so difficult to soften, that I have had the need for marked humiliations to become what I want to be.

How can I dare to attribute to myself any other emblem? When, without ceasing, I hear in my ear this appeal of the Prophet: “Is this not a cinder snatched from the fire?” (Zac. III, 2) – Yes, my Mother, I am as such...You will not judge this at the start, but from what follows in this story where you will read my thoughts, alongside the events of my life, where you will find in contrast, the virtues of Therese and the faults of Celine, where you will touch the finger, the tender solicitude of Jesus who does not cease to snatch from the fire the miserable “cinder”: object of his love.

I will say nothing, my beloved Mother, of the exceptional family where the good God placed my crib, but I regard it as the greatest grace of my life, to have had Christian parents and to have received from them a powerful education that had no place for the pettiness of vanity. In our house, I never saw sacrifices for merely prideful considerations; there were no


altars raised except for God alone and, if sometimes the sacrifices would have seemed austere to me, always a time arrived when I was able to taste the agreable odor of holiness.


But before presenting to you these experiences, it is necessary for me, my Mother, to remark how great it was for me to have so strong and pious an education. Without it, surely, I would have been lost or, if much later, in light of my love of truth, I would have searched for it and found it only after having sullied my first steps. The first benefit from Jesus on my behalf was, therefore, to have distanced from me the dangerous flames of bad examples, even before I could flee from them on my own free will. The young plants will arrive to maturity if like me they are preserved from the contagion of vices; if the sap that circulates in their delicate stem was pure like she who gave me birth and raised me. Ah! I understand that the demon wants to damn the souls he takes from the family. Like the rodents that attack the roots, he undermines the base and corrupts the domestic foyer, spoiling at their source all the most beautiful hopes.

As soon as I was taken out for a walk in the garden, I saw the tender blossoms that could not begin to open, obstructed as they were by a considerable quantity of other parasites, I could not begin to think of the little children who go through life without even a paternal or maternal hand removing from their souls the faults, prejudices, and the illusions destined, as a result, to wither the flower forever.

I cannot say how great is my thanks for the good God to have placed me surrounded by angels who understood their mission, having surrounded my childhood with those delicate cares upon which depends


one's whole life.

And this gratitude was not sterile in me; oh, my Mother, how can I tell you the desire that I have had to see other children enjoy the same privilege! You know, after my first intention that is to pray for Priests, I did not embrace the life of Carmel except to attain this goal. I wish to save souls at all costs and it does not seem at all that there is too high a price in so consecrating my entire existence.

But I return to my first remembrances. I note in the little Celine's two emerging tendencies. One was an insatiable need for life and happiness, more than her nature could contain. The other was a great tenderness of heart. It is easy to predict if with these similar dispositions, it would be simple to conserve one's equilibrium. Alas! Fortunately, the good God placed his heart in my balances, without this divine rampart where would I have fallen!...

As a little girl, the seeds that I have just mentioned began, therefore, to grow. I had hardly begun to walk on my own when I set my strength upon the height of my mother's bureau; in this way, perched on the straight edge, one could have believed that I would have been afraid, but there was nothing of that. When charitable arms advanced to bring me back to the ground, I rejected them saying in a breathless voice, with so much lively joy: “Enco! Enco! [again]. It was the first word that Marie, my eldest sister, heard me pronounce, As one can see, I was not afraid of life or of its adventures. I was unaware of those terrible perplexities and those cruel trials that, much later would make me say: enough! enough!

Nevertheless, even at this age, Jesus had placed in my heart something stronger than the thirst for pleasure. It was a tender affection for my dear parents that made me prefer to deprive myself of the


liveliest joys than to cause for them any shadow of sorrow. Here is an example from the letter of my Mother. When I was placed in the arms of the maid, all dressed up and ready to go out, they would make a game to tempt me like this: ”You are going to leave!” said my Mama with a sad air. Then, understanding that I was going to leave her all alone, I preferred to sacrifice my walk and I would extend my little arms towards her. I did not want to leave her. But she would insist smilingly, so that I would go out and I then recovered my gaity. Alas! We had hardly returned to the hearth of the house that she would repeat: “Are you going to leave me?” This time I would respond through my tears: “I will never leave if my Mother's smile does not accompany me up to the last moment.” I was only a year and a half years old when the Prussians entered Alencon. It was surely I who was the least bewildered and I was very happy to see so many people in the house. I was exactly as tall as the Prussian soldier's boots and I ran easily between their legs under the tables. They would pick me up with affection and supported me on their knees during meals and I would playfully paddle in their plates. It seems to me that I can still see myself making a little splash with my small hands in their stews. Without question, one would say that this detail had been recounted to me afterwards. I believe that I remember it and thus it appears to me that I also recall the fright that was inspired in me by one of them when, about to leave our home, he brandished a saber and threatened to take me.

You will ask, without question, my Mother when will I begin to speak about the good God. It is that at this age I had no more piety than I had love of country. In fact, the latter was so poorly develoved in me that I considered the Prussians to be my most sincere friends! It was not the same for my sisters. For example, Leonie had established her general quarters in the basement where she passed


those days seated on a stool while Marie and Pauline cried in seeing the beautiful red doll's dress serve as a rag to scrub the Prussian soldiers' weapons.

Without the armistice, my Father would have been a partisan combatant and my Mother, a real patriot, gave, with a full heart for wiltering France, to those who hid their husbands in order to shield them from danger. She said that she did not even want to greet them anymore because in her, the principles of duty prevailed over the sentiments of nature.

For me, if I was yet a stranger to fear, I was also a stranger to the beautiful manifestations and impressions of generosity that would not be born in me until much later. Nevertheless, with the love of family, I can, despite what I have just said, affirm that it was the love of God that planted the love of family for the first time in my heart and that has served as the bases for all other loves. The example that I am going to give harks back to the age of around three years.

I went out with the maid who led me by the hand. She had without doubt spoken to me about vocations because she told me: “And you, my little Celine, what is it that you will be when you grow up?” We passed at that moment in front of the French soldiers' post, many of them mounting the guard, the rest were gathered in a great courtyard. Then, I turned myself towards them and I cried out with all my force: “I will be a religious!” It seemed to me that I would profess that in front of the entire universe, but poor Louise was not as proud as I was and, becoming red down to the roots of her hair, she fled while cursing me. As for me, I was very content and I would never have regretted having so boldly confessed my opinions.

I also remember that at that age I was very quiet at Church, much less resulting from piety rather then through natural docility or weakness, nevertheless, malice would not gather its forces until later years. I always gave my heart


to the good God, morning and evening, with great fidelity and and I did not have a need in order to do that for a temple or altar. I placed my little chair in front of a window that overlooked the garden, and so installed, I said my prayers. My prayer was not long but it was granted. I said: “My good God, make it so that it will snow and that have a little sister!” He made the snow fall during that winter of 1873 which also brought me a little sister. And you know, my Mother, who that little sister would be! Truly, you can have confidence in my prayers and see how well they are attended!...

Here begins, so to say, my spiritual life that can be inscribed between two loves: my Therese and the Holy Face...My dear Mother, you have yourself summed up these two loves in the beautiful poems that you have dedicated to me. One immortalizes the union of Therese and of Celine. The other sings about my discovery of the adored Visage of my Jesus. Oh, my Mother, it seems to me that all I need to do is to transcribe these two beautiful poems and I would say it all...But, as I have already remarked, in asking me to write down these remembrances, you hope to gather again those forgotten details of the life of Therese and you have good cause to utilize all means so as not to lose anything about this sublime existence who, in her rapid and sweet course, took only a golden path.

Nevertheless, my Mother, I must advise you again that I think that I have already related all in my intimate notes in preparation for the deposition in view of the Process, and, if you do not wish to have a disappointment, you should not expect something new in this new work, because I know myself and am certain that, given my scrutinizing and fiery character, I am going to engage in observations that will have no end touching on all sorts of unforeseen subjects, letting my pen run at the risk of really tiring you, poor Mother! with all the repetition of ideas that I foresaw as a consequence! In sum, pardon me starting now.

I return to my narrative where I left off. When I was blessed with a little sister, my life entered a new phase. I do not recall the joy that I experienced the day of her birth, but I do recall the


visits that we made to the country and those we received from her nurse when she came to our house. Already begun was that intimacy between us that, then in its morning, would never know a night. As Mama wrote, concerning one of these circumstances: “the baby does nothing but laugh: it is above all the little Celine that pleases her; she bursts into laughter whenever around her.” This lettter is from 10 July 1873. Therese was but six months old. You see, my Mother, what this promised for the future! Yes, these testimonies were a prelude to the tender affection that she would bear for her poor, little Celine, no matter how little deserved!

To prove to you, my Mother, how petulant I was, I will cite an incident told by my Mama. It is from the same period, July 1873. The incident, in and of itself, is without doubt insignificant but you will recognize there my present character that was taking shape even then with surprising clarity. I wish to speak of this great failing from its first movement, always reprehensible and always (alas!) shown to the outside.

“Yesterday afternoon,” wrote my Mother, “she said to me, 'I don't like poor people!'” I told her that the good Jesus wasn't very happy, and he wouldn't love her anymore. I answered. “I love the good Jesus very much, but I won't love the poor people, never in my life. Anyway, I don't want to love them! What does it matter to Jesus! He's definitely the Master, but I am also the mistress.”

“You can't imagine,” continued Mama, (she was writing to Pauline then at the Visitation at Mans), “how upset she was, and nobody could make her see reason. But I must tell you


the reason for this hate for the poor. Several days ago, she was standing in the doorway with a little friend when a poor child who was passing by looked at them. That did not please Celine; and she said to the little girl: 'You! Go away.' Before the little girl left, she gave Celine a well-aimed slap. She still had the red mark on her face an hour later. I have told Celine that the little girl had done right, that it was for the better. Perhaps, Zelie, who was aware that Celine had treated the poor girl unkindly, used this as an opportunity to teach Celine that most children in Alencon were far from being as privileged as she was.    But she has not forgotten that and she told me yesterday: 'You want that I love the poor who come to give me slaps so that my cheeks are all inflamed, no, no, I will not love them.'

But the night brings consolation, the first word that she told me this morning was that she had a beautiful bouquet that was for the Holy Virgin and for the good Jesus, then she added all of a sudden: 'I love the poor very much now.'”

Oh, my Mother, what an amazing picture this is! That at the age of 4 years old I am the same as today and I am soon to be 40! Always, the same impetuosity that menaces to lead me to the final extreme. Oh! If Jesus had not supported me with His pity in each instant, where would I be? But, as I have said, His divine Heart serves me as a rampart, also, when I lose my equilibrium, I may come to fall but I have never been injured..

Yes, the demon might well have raised pitfalls against me but he has not been able to trap me and, if the characteristic that I have just reported is the image of my poor life, I am going to write is also the image of the battles and temptations through which the spirit of evil might have served me up because he has obtained, so to speak, from God permission that he be found at each of my steps but without ever in the end having done me harm.


I could have been three or four years old when I was taken out for walks in the country in a beautiful place adorned with springtime flowers. I stopped before one of these flowers that was more beautiful than all the others.   Only that, however, wrapped around its elegant stem was a snake that raised its venomous head towards me. Renouncing this flower on account of something so little was not in keeping with my character that has never known how to calculate the risks of these obstacles and already I was ready to cut the stem when a loud cry made me withdraw. Someone had glimpsed me and took me in their arms and thus distanced me from danger. When the other promenaders understood the cry: “A viper!,” the place was rapidly emptied. As for us, we never returned to this place. (This property is called “La Lorgaine”. There were many narcissus flowers (trumpets) vulgarly referred to as “Porgeons”).

My Mother, was it not my Guardian Angel who had preserved me and was the one who had showed up for me and on that day? The snake was a true image of the traps that later the demon would set for me and the divine intervention that protected me there.

I read with pleasure in the letters of my Mama that she found me to be very pious It was necessary that the good God deposit this seed in my soul so as to counterbalance the influences of the faults that had begun to be revealed. “I am very happy with Celine,” she wrote in 1875, “she is a good child who prays to the good God like an angel, who is very docile, and one who will certainly do anything with the grace of God.”   And later in 1876, she added, “My little Celine is absolutely inclined towards virtue, it is the deepest sentiment of her being. She has a candid soul and a horror of evil.” In another circumstance, she remarked again that her little Celine “is of a docility without parallel and she gives great hope--if, however, the good God allows her to live.” In sum, after having much lauded


“her angelic nature and the consolations” that she expected in the future, she ended by saying that “never does she willingly commit the least fault.” This last citation is from 1877, the very year of the death of my dear mother, I was 8 years old.

I confess to you, my Mother, that I often need to re-read these testimonies that support the facts which the letters make mention to convince me, or rather to allow me to dare to hope that I have conserved my baptismal innocence.   These details bring back well my remembrances. It is true according to my recall, that I prayed without ceasing to the good God and I asked Him that I would become a saint. This desire was sometimes so vivid that it transported me. And, along side with that, I note the faults that I have often wept over, that I believed for a long time were grave, and, if they were not so, I owe it uniquely to that natural candor that prevented me from believing in evil even when I have been warned. Through this unmerited, preserving grace, has Jesus not retracted his ember from the fire?...

I do not recall having ever hidden anything in confession because I was very frank and I had lied only once to my Mother. Nevertheless, my frankness never approached my exposing myself to reproaches as did Therese. “She would stand there like a criminal who awaits her condemnation, having inside her lthe ittle idea that she would be more easily pardoned if she accused herself” and I, one day after having committed some mischief, fearing the just reproach that I had merited, I fled like Adam after his sin and I hid myself amidst a bundle of kindle wood that was deposited in the shed. After the anxious search, I was finally found there and it seems that I made no more noise that evening.


I admit now that Therese's conduct was very much finer and more noble than mine. In my case, it was the voice of nature that made itself heard and in the case of Therese it was the voice of grace that was revealed. Without doubt, that one was much more perfect than the other just as Bossuet rightly wrote: “If Adam nd Eve had been able to humbly confess their fault, who knows to what length the mercy of God would have been manifested?...” Similar to that, he asked if God would have pardoned them without demanding the tribute of penitence imposed upon the human race.

Oh, yes, she was baeautiful in each of her steps, my litle, dear sister! Also, I loved her beyond all that I can say. I had given her the knick-name “Incarnate Angel” and I could not stand being seperated from my Angel for a single minute. On her side, there was the same attachment for me, and mama said of us: “These two little ones are inseperable, one never sees children who love each other so much...” We could not, in effect, live one, without the other, all day long we played together in the garde.n We amused ourselves above all by picking the brilliant specks that we found in the sand from the granite, and during this time we spoke about the good God and our practices of virtue. This conversation would continue elsewhere as much as in solitude, because, as mama wrote: “The other day, the little ones were at the home of the grocer, Therese spoke of her practices with her sister and discussed it loudly with her. The lady asked Louise: 'What is it this that she wishes to say? When she plays in the garden, one does not hear her talk anything but about these 'practices.' This lady was a neighbor who stuck her head out of a window to attempt to comprehend what Therese wishes to say in this debate about practices.”


As you can see, my Mother, already we would occupy ourselves with serious things. Therese, who was younger than I, began her mission to me who had began posing at the same time a series of “whys?” that I have not stopped doing. This earned me the reputation of being “naive” which I still deserve.

I had much trouble in learning things by memorizing them word by word. I needed to understand the subject in order to retain anything. This resulted in my individual lessons taking too much time I did not “devour” books like so many others. Similarly, in the course of serious conversations, I found myself to be slow in grasping what was being discussed. That is why, at my uncle's house, I would be reproached for having my head in the clouds because I would all of a sudden bring up a subject that had been discussed just a few minutes before. No, I was not in the


clouds, rather I had been scrutinizing the subject that had just been discussed, and during that time, the others had moved on. Moreover, I felt no sense of shame and, in order to understand, I was not afraid to ask basic questions about a subject that I was trying to grasp with the sole goal of mastering the technical definition.

As I have already said, I employed this method with very good effect and Therese, who instructed me, had become for me a wise teacher. Nevertheless, she was not adverse to attend the lessons given to me by my eldest sister, Marie. Therese was still too little to study with me, so Marie had some difficulty in admitting her to her course, but she emplored with so much insistance and promissed to be so well-behaved that Marie at last accorded her this favor. Marie would give her a piece of fabric to sew or pearls to thread and I can still see this little angel sitting peacefully in the corner of the room without moving. Sometimes, her needle would unthread, then the big tears would run down her cheeks. She never dared ask that someone come to her aid. Finally, Marie would take pity on her and dried her tears by threading the needle again. And when I think that it was because of affection for me, so as not to leave her Celine that she would shut herself away for an entire day, my heart overflows with gratitude. Oh, my little Therese, remember those former days of our childhood and do not suffer anymore for being separated from me, take me with you!...

While awaiting for the lessons to be renewed, I would play with little Jenny, the daughter of the Prefect. She was my age and we got along well together. Because the prefecture faced our house, it was easy for her governess to call me through signs sent to find me. Therese then would always acompany us


as long as we went to the only place she was authorized to go on these visits, the park. For me, seduced already by vanity, I was proud to have such a distinguished little friend. I looked with admiration upon the splendid salons and my stays in the palace filled me with delight.

When there was bad weather, we played in a large covered balcony that was at the back of the building and led to all the bedrooms. This “corridor,” as I called it, particulalry excited my young imagination and, when we came to live in Lisieux, I asked Papa to describe our new faraway dwelling. “Oh, Papa, does it have a corridor?” This good father reflected for a second and responded, “Yes, there is one!” My first need upon arriving at Les Buissonnets” was to look for the corridor. Alas, it was a little closet that ran the length of the alcove of our bedroom!

Oh! how easy it is to adopt the vanities of the world, how seductive are appearances for the poor human heart! I surprised myself by desiring to be the lady of a manor, to have a beautiful house with front steps and verandas, a park with roads. Nevertheless, I need to testify that this desire did not just brush upon my spirit like an impression that passes without leaving a trace and, yet, Jesus will finally fulfill this wish one day to point out unquestionably to me all its vanity.

But, I now return to family life, the only amiable life, the only one capable of presenting to a heart spoiled with costly, intoxicating affections with true joys. I am not going to try, my Mother, to portray the feelings of my heart when the entire family on Sunday evenings would depart for the country. Therese has already done so and what she has said is a faithful echo of my own impressions.


These profound impressions would later inspire us the beautiful cantical, “That which I love...”— one for the elaboration of these thoughts, and the other for setting them into poetry.

I remember perfectly my Mother's illness, the last conversations she had with me. I stil see me at the sad ceremony of Extreme Unction. We were all present. There were such feelings in my heart that the smallest detail, even where the various objects were placed, were engraved in my memory, never to be eraced. During the course of the entire illness, no one could distract my little sister and me, we did not wish to play, even to the extent that we thought it was unkind to be oblied to go to the home of strangers and to share in the company of those there when we would have wished to be alone. The last kiss that I gave to my Mother and the difficult wait in the house during the funeral ceremonies are also permanently engraved in my spirit, thus the scene reported by Therese when we each chose a new mother. Because, in our distress, the good God did not abandon us...

Oh, my Mother! I have not yet spoken of my elder sisters and, nevertheless, they held a very large place in my life as a child. I loved them beyond what I can say, they were to me “my ideal.” I was four years old when mama wrote “One can have little Celine do anything when one says to her: 'If you do that, Pauline will return from Le Mans.'” And, addressing Pauline, mama similarly said: “Celine makes a huge event about seeing you, Never have I seen


a little girl as happy as she when she speaks about you.” I remember, in effect, the happiness that I experienced while she was with us for vacation and the profound sorrow when she returned to the Visitation. The train whistle vibrated in my heart in so sad a fashion that this impression has never been erased even up to today. I still cannot listen to it without a painful shudder. The impressions of childhood are so vivid because they have such a very long ago impact that one would believe that they are ever-lasting. In this way, they serve Jesus in order to exile our souls on earth and to seed a profound disgust for all that passes away.

With such sisters, as the good God had given me, I did not experience at first the full impact that a child normally feels at the loss of its mother. Now, that it is allowed for me to throw a glance to the past, I appreciate the true value of the blessings that Divine Providence had given us in deigning us to be encircled with what I consider veritable prodigies of older sisters that were endowed with so many maternal qualities towards their younger sisters. It was a constant devotion, an abnegation without parallel. I compare their hearts to that of a Mother and that of a Father. If they would had dreamed of a wordly future, it would never have been like this because only the heart that belongs undivided to God can pay immense sacrifices in the interests of others.


Ah! who could ever say to what degree our beloved sisters benefited from our filial love and to what degree they were repaid!...It is only Jesus, only He, who has probed the mysteries of this unforgettable family life. It is He who will be able to express all the gratitude of my poor heart for these dear sisters, and He will do it, or He will pay Himself these debt of the heart on the blessed day of the eternal reunion...Oh! then, they will see that their sacrifices were not pointless. Mothers of countless souls through their incomparable daughter, their dear Therese, they would not regret, I hope from the generous mercy of my Jesus, the tender care that they had dispensed me with such disinterest and so much love.

After the death of my Mother and our arrival in Lisieux, my character like that of Therese changed completely. The remark that she made is exact, I, who had been so sweet, became “an imp full of mischief,” meanwhile her noble ardor was immediately swept away outside by timidity and excessive sensibility. But her core was not changed because she was constantly the image of moral force and I of greater weakness. I will make an announcement to you, my Mother, at the right time, of my reflections on this subject, and you will see that they are well founded.

But, before relating these details of my new existence, I can already remark to you the truth that I have expressed. My little sister, for example, never excused herself, she spoke little, very little, if one said something in her presence that she disapproved, she stayed quiet and never initiated an answer. It was sufficient for her to commend the matter interiorly


to Our Lord to take notice of the injustice that had been committed. I never saw her defend herself, even when she was vey strongly in the right. She searched neither for pleasure, nor to be loved, nor to be approved. Nevertheless, because her lively and ardent nature had not changed and that, otherwise, she could not, being so young, reach the complete control of her firm character, her interior sufferings were revealed through a very inoffensive means: shedding tears in secret...

As for me, it was all to the contrary, and so being small, I allowed myself to be often defeated without resisting. My tendency towards gentleness evaporated completely with a militant ardor taking its place, with an irritability, I would say, in a class of its own. Not fearing battle in any form, I engaged willingly in discussions that I would not let go, even when these discussions became heated. On the contrary, the more difficult the struggle and the less certain the successful outcome, the more vigorous became my determination.

I do not believe that I excused myself when I was wrong because I have always had an extreme respect for the truth. But since it is rare to be absolutely wrong and that and, while one could be wrong, there are always extenuating circumstances, it follows that I would always excuse myself, being always set upon sustaining my rights and those rights pertaining to those I protected, because within my weakness, I have always had that trait to throw myself in a melee so much on behalf of others as for myself. It has been impossible for me not to respond to an invective. And I had very biting retorts that would shut up the adversary. But why do I put these faults in the past tense when this disagreeable conduct is,


alas, still present in me!..

I say, therefore, that I did not always know what is justice-- let a provocation fall to earth and immediately I throw my glove off and I enter into the arena. Oh, my Mother:how is it that the sooner one takes up a good cause and the truth, the watching world says that this could be the indication of a noble and generous character. But I am so bold as to maintain that is is an indication of a great moral weakness.   The proof of this is that I acted like this through a natural impulse, without effort, and that it requires from me an amazing effort to keep quiet; or, if it was a matter of combat that kept me quiet, victory was not, therefore, accorded but to silence and I would only appear to be be weak and vanquished if I express myself.

In the presence of this so called courage that is nothing but disorder in my eyes, I seem to understand this reproach from the prophet: “ How sick is your heart, says the Lord GOD, that you did all these things!” (Eze 16:30 NRS).Yes, how weak was my poor heart and still is, because this childish character which I have just sketched is still my own today...

Seeing clearly the truth of all this, you will not be surprised, my Mother, to hear me praise the conduct of my little Therese in saying that she was constantly for me the ideal of true virtue.   From her, I always observed her ”obedience, motification, abnegation reaching nearly to the level of heroism, not incredible feats that account for only a moment of brilliance, but in a thousand obscure details, ignored, from everyday life where self-denial becomes a perpetual martyrdom, all the more painful because they are more personal.” (Life of St. Teresa).

Yes, it is pleasant for me to establish today the comparison between Therese and


Celine, allowing the shadows of this picture that pertain to me to be emphasized so as to put into high relief the radiant light that belongs to my dear Therese.

But it still remains for me to pay homage to this hidden virtue, the only one that is true and beautiful and enviable, the only one that is truly strong. You possibly may find, my Mother, that I exaggerate, [but all] that I have said is as if nothing, and that which I am about to say is but the simple expression of my thoughts. You know [well] that my love of beauty, of the sublime and the truly noble renders me very difficult and nothing, it seems, should ever compare before my eyes to the ineffable perfection of the Virgin Mary, and well, when I wish to imagine for myself this prudent Virgin as a child and a young woman, I think of Therese and I say: the Holy Virgin must have acted like that…Yes, my Mother, even if I had not seen the model, I [nevertheless] like to persuade myself that I have seen the copy…And the copy instead of depreciating the original makes me love and understand [her even more]…

I will pick up my narrative where I had left it. Pardon me, Mother, for these long reflections that are found naturally underneath my pen and [these distractions] which I will not be able to correct myself. I am so sure of this that I dare only promise you more!

Upon arriving in Lisieux, I stopped taking the [home] courses that my dear Mother had prepared for me to enter a boarding school. This was the [Benedictine] Abbey and I was very content in finding myself in contact with religious [sisters].   I was found to be very advanced for my age and was placed in a class of older students. Despite this disproportion in age, I almost always held the first places. It was not without efforts that I succeeded like this and above all it was not without sacrifices. Upon arriving each evening at les Buissonnets, it was like a feast day for me to reunite with my family. Alas! [Time] had come for me to leave


the sweet evening reunion, the vigil around the table, where grouped under the happy reflections of the lamp all would participate in joyous diversions, only for me to leave it to climb [the stairs] to my bedroom to study the lessons under the vacillating light of a sad candle. The tears, the cries that I made almost every time I mounted the stairs testified to my always, inconsolable despair because each day it would happen all over again. Oh! How many times I cursed the boarding school and the studies, envying with all my heart the simple studies of shepherdesses.!

I would only dream of the circumstances that could have dispensed me [from going to] the school. Each morning in going to the Abbey school, I looked to see if the stream had engorged to the point of [threatening] to flood to some degree. I watched to see if there had not occurred some epidemic that would dispense the boarders [from attending] or even if some enraged dog had not terrified the town. There were many times when happily they came to find us in order to take us away from such a [potential] danger, but this pause would not last and the next morning we had to return to class because the notorious dog was once again dead!

You can see, my Mother, how “great’ was my fervor for the boarding school. I would not say this about the studies because I loved studying very much but about leaving the family nest. Regarding studies, I have always found that adults make children learn a great deal, but about many useless things. One may end up depriving young ones excessively of their liberty and of the sweet influence of family when much later, with the [use of developed] reason and informative lectures, one can arrive at the same result instead of learning [from formal] lessons that one would later never recall.   I say all this because for


my part, I learned alone more from applying myself to the practical sciences than [I had] at the boarding school where I spent more than eight years. I understand well that all the studies from those years, so to say, prepared the ground to receive the seed that [would later] produce without effort, but…yes, there is a qualifier, it is when in the intimacy of one’s soul, one does not think like the sage [who says] “all here below is vanity and affliction of the spirit” (Proverbs) [and instead] when one seeks learning based on the immoderate desire to know and to “pass for clever” (Imitation of Christ) and not out of a sense of duty. Because, for the one who reflects: Is one always certain to learn the truth? The history varies according to the spirits and the convictions of the historians, the literature is subject to the tastes of the times, the science and calculations of the savants are exposed to being [possibly] dismantled in the wake of new discoveries. Only in Heaven, shall we be initiated into the realities of all things. So, as to say, presently, learning is laudable and great, [but] it is necessary that one should place God at the base of all sciences. But, who today searches to learn [about] God!...The books that teach: Prayer and sacrifice are too difficult to read or possibly they cost too much!

My Mother, I was wrong earlier in saying to you that the moral influence of the family is superior to that of the boarding school, because I am judging this based on my family’s influence on me, but at present, apart from rare exceptions, the family has been de-Christianized, so it might be better for the child to reside surrounded by pious teachers instead of staying at the paternal home.

For me, as I have said, my time at the boarding school [as a day pensioner] was a time of trial; my heart did not expand [there]; I was ill at ease but, nevertheless, our teachers were very good and I enjoyed


their esteem, being assigned to be among the best students—the hard-working and well-behaved ones. I was not aware then of Carmel or wished to become a religious. I saw that as something for the future, my place set among them without always feeling an attraction [to enter the convent]. But, I was greatly edified by a humble converse sister named Sister Germaine, who I always observed to be sweet, always affable even in the middle of great vexations and her example, by giving me an elevated idea of the perfection that one could acquire in the convent, helped make disappear, or rather attenuate, the natural repugnance that I experienced later in considering entering the religious life.

In making this return visit to the past, I am surprised that a child so young as I was then had been able to discern and bear a conclusion about something so subtle as a simple and hidden virtue because it is easier to be fooled by noisy appearances and only natural to only esteem grand gestures. I have so concluded that the consciences of the little ones are capable of just calculations and their eyes are very clear-sighted. So, then, what a great need there is for one to approach with respect this “prepared canvas” that is destined to receive the images that should be well considered before impressing them!

With regard to this clear-sightedness, this tact pertaining to innocent souls, a particular characteristic comes to mind. Being very young, since this memory pertains to when I was six years old, I recall that one Sunday in the summer, concerning a promenade for which Therese, being too little, could not accompany me, so I brought back for her my little basket full of flowers. Her eyes shone with pleasure. She would not stop holding, looking at, and counting her treasure. Suddenly,


our grandmother arose and took a portion of the cuttings. Therese’s heart was broken, I saw the eyes that filled with tears, but I was the only one who glimpsed this, because having been asked to abandon all the flower cuttings, she let go of them without saying a word. I was so astonished to see such self-possession and such virtue that, without appreciating the entire value because I was too little myself, I, nevertheless, retained a clarity and precision of this memory that proves how profoundly impressed my childhood soul remained. This act truly showed virtue in Therese. I would witness this later in her and would find it consigned in her manuscript. I was, therefore, not mistaken, the eye of a child is not fooled…The feelings of beauty, of truth, of justice are always all fresh and new in a [child’s] heart. God comes to deposit it there and the admirable instrument rushes to sing the sublime melodies because it has not yet been touched by the maladroit hand of creatures.

Ah! If parents understood their sublime mission which celestial course would we see raising up! A course more divine than human, because our soul being infused by God, is the most noble part of ourselves, and will dominate the rest in the same manner as within our societies the noble dominates the slave. And I can understand the anathema that propels Our Lord against those who scandalize even one of these little ones because, without such bad examples, as Therese said, “many souls would achieve a high degree of perfection.”

But I return to the Abbey where, if the lessons that were given to me were useful, [I still would] rather leave them to return to Les Buissonnets on free days. There, Therese and Celine were overjoyed to see each other; they would share their games and lessons. We loved very much to


read fairy tales because these stories if chosen carefully by a maternal hand are filled with good moral lessons. They are in truth only fiction, but one clearly sees outlined there the actions of good and bad genies, virtue is exalted there, vice is punished there and young imaginations, so to say, gain a perception of the supernatural [and] are led to love [being] detached from the material. I speak in this way in view of our own proper experience because that is how it was for us.   Without a doubt, we again owe these salutary impressions to our older sisters who applied themselves without ceasing in order for us to find God in all things.

At no point, however, were our lives clouded over with sadness at Les Buissonnets. There were feasts! Each year at the distribution of prizes “for Therese”, a spectacle was mounted, all in an afternoon of fun! Our little cousins [and] the cousins of our cousins were invited to play during a reunion of our friends. The [storage] shed was emptied for the circumstances, a stage was set and places for seating were arranged for the spectators. It goes without to say that all this was done only for the little girls to be allowed to give speeches together. But, alas! The childishly simple plays were, like the fairy tales of which I have just spoken, how we addressed good and bad subject matters, vice was called to make way for virtue and…it was always I who had the defective role! It was understood that one could not give such a role to a guest. Therese was too kind, plus she was the queen of the party, so they were assigned to me, always me.   So, it resulted that many people actually had an unfavorable impression of me on this count. The [audience} would give me little praise, while the others were [highly] praised and I had a heavy heart [as a result]…Because of this I developed an instinctual horror of these sorts of amusements.


Yes, I suffered a lot from this small thing, which would take place each year, and so my sacrifice be renewed yearly. If I had been humbler I would have understood that this unfavorable opinion that some had of me had much more to do with my type of character, always on the defensive as I have described it above, [and less to do with] the roles that I played.

In effect, because of this character that appeared to be very strong, people were not used to my complaining. Judged to have “beak and nails” in order to defend myself, it seemed that one could tease me over and over again, [and] that I could put up with it all. Oh, my Mother, and I who had the same weakness that [gave rise to] the need to be consoled, encouraged, I was deprived of those sweet reassurances thanks to my misleading appearance! Do I need to say it? Still today, it is the same for me. This suffering was one of the most painful of my life because it stayed with me without ceasing, even when I had such a desire for someone to feel sorry for me!

Therese who knew me to the bottom [of my heart] had caught this nuance that would characterize our union. She would call me in the exterior [outside Carmel] “her little Valerian” [and] she was for me my “little Cecile” who I would have defended unto peril for my own life. But in the interior [inside Carmel], our souls would immediately change roles and I would become the weak and timid little girl, [and she became] my little guide and protector.

I think that this great trial of being disguised as appearing strong while really being very weak is a special challenge of divine Providence for me. And, from a very young age, having offered to the good God the sacrifices he would ask of me, I hope that he has found [my response] meritorious. With my sensitive nature, I had much to give Jesus because just the same as sharp wood hooks everything


along its passage, so do my faults entail many crosses…

Nonetheless, I reached the time for my Holy Communion. I had been prepared for this well in advance by my older sisters, but [this preparation] took place mostly during the three months that preceded this great event so that I became the subject of particular solicitude.

Our “mothers”, Marie and Pauline, each had her special attribute. Marie was the mama in title and Pauline, the spiritual mama. It was, therefore, Pauline who prepared me for my first Communion. Every evening upon returning to the Abbey I would take my place at her knees…Therese was then a little bit “dethroned” but she never complained [about this]. She was happy and proud that her sister Celine was about to make her First Communion. She would come to listen to the sweet conferences that Pauline had for me and she prepared for my great day as if it had been hers.

Oh! How ready I was when the retreat that would introduce us to the divine banquet began! I had developed for myself such an idea of the purity of heart needed that I did not wish to do anything to risk it fading.

During those days of retreat, I became a full boarding student and I did not return in the evenings to Les Buissonnets. This cost me a lot; I could not get used to living far from my relatives and the nights seemed to me particularly sad without my Therese, so much so that I would involuntarily suffer from nightmares and awaken sobbing. Alas! I was not alone upon awakening because, one time, I saw near me the head teacher who came to dry my tears with a kindness that was totally maternal. She advised me to remain very calm while being


releived by my short stay.

Therese came with Papa every day to see me. One time, she brought in her hand a bouquet of cherries that she gave to me with an expression of indefinable tenderness so that a wonderful feeling touched me to the bottom of my heart…It was 29 years ago, and when each spring the new cherries appear, I never fail, almost instinctively, to make a bouquet from which I experience a flood of memories.

My little Therese was, in effect, so absorbed in the great action that I had accomplished that she viewed me with a holy respect; she would hardly dare to touch or speak to me, so ardent was her spirit of faith.

At last, the beautiful day of days presented itself to me. The description that Therese gave of [her own First Communion] is exactly the echo of my own feelings so that to be accurate I need [simply] to copy hers. Still today, the sight of snowflakes thrills me…The singing of the morning canticle, “Oh, Holy Altar, environment of Angels!” makes my heart vibrate even now. In a word, everything that reminds me of that happy day is preserved in a unique fragrance that time will never fade. I remember that I had recited the “Act of Humility” and that I was so happy. With what heart and with what conviction, I repeated clearly: “Who am I, Lord, that You should deign to cast a glance upon me? From where comes this excess of kindness that my Lord and my God should wish to come to me, I who am less than nothing?...”

Yes, it was with an ineffable joy that I received my Well-Beloved, I waited for Him for a long time. Ah! So many things I would have told Him!...I asked Him to have pity on me, to always protect me and to never permit that I would offend Him since I gave Him my heart permanently and promised to be all for Him…I felt confident that He deigned to accept me as His little spouse and that He would send towards me the duties of a champion defender [of the faith] that I had confided in Him.   I felt that He had taken me under His protection and would preserve me from all evil. After this exchange


of mutual promises, all had been said…and, nevertheless, the heart of little Celine was again so full, that it could not fully contain the emanations of peace and celestial peace that flooded it, her prayer was accomplished in a flood of tears…

That evening, it was I who recited the act of consecration to the Holy Virgin. Oh! How happy I was to voice those words, in the presence of all the world, to give myself irrevocably to my Mother in Heaven whom I loved with an incomparable tenderness. It seemed to me that she accepted as hers the little orphan who was at her feet; she adopted her as her own child…

That day was truly the day of my engagement. From that blessed time, I corrected myself from certain faults that I had not been able [to get rid of] since the time I attained the age of reason.   Is it not astonishing that it was like this? How the Blood of Jesus ran in my own veins, his flesh merged with my flesh; had not all my being been transformed?...The fire of divine love, in penetrating [my soul] purified me of all stains, and this purification once accomplished, did not find any obstacles to its culminating action. It penetrated and embraced his poor little firebrand through a total incandescence that rendered it somehow invulnerable to the actions of the fires of hell where the demon had projected to throw her.

After my First Communion, which had taken place on May 13, 1880, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. That was on June 4 of the same year. That day happened to be the Friday of the Sacred Heart; I rejoiced over this coincidence. It seemed to me that the Heart of Jesus Himself would come to replace my heart and confer upon me his proper Spirit. I was vividly moved by this thought that one receives this Sacrament only once in one’s life and that it would render me a “perfect Christian.” That is why I prepared myself for this with piety, asking the good God that he would work all His effects in me. [It was Pauline who was my Godmother in this circumstance, but she was not able to place me under the patronage of St. Joseph, as I wished. Monsieur the Chaplain insisted that all of us take the name of Mary, even if one already had it.


Nevertheless, I was far from having the perfect understanding that my little Therese would have some years later. I anticipate here those events to report as follows the circumstances of the extraordinary preparation of my Therese for her own Confirmation.

[During] the days preceding her reception of this Sacrament, I was singularly struck by my little sister’s attitude. She, so sweet and so reserved in her countenance, appeared to be outside herself. She could not hide her deep feelings, and one day during her preparatory retreat, I expressed my surprise, and she gave me such a description of the coming of the Spirit of Love in our souls, of the Fruits of the Sacrament of Strength, that I was moved in admiration.

I can still see her, she was standing by a table in the large classroom, we were alone, her brilliant eyes had a heavenly look that made me lower my own…her words were of fire. She told me among other things, with extraordinary vehemence, that one does not prepare enough for the reception of this exceptional sacrament that happens only once and that this is very regrettable. I did not think that the Apostles themselves, awaiting the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the day of the first Pentecost, would have had more fervor than this little child, truly filled in advance with the Spirit of Love.

This spectacle made for me such a vivid impression that I bitterly regretted that the occasion of my receiving the Holy Spirit had passed and I asked the good God to compensate for the [lacking] dispositions that, through ignorance I had brought to this great act, asking


to make me receive the Holy Spirit in the same measure as Therese and at the same time as she. I have always believed that the Lord granted this desire, having taken pity of me, in favorably by welcoming this poor late-comer.

As far as first Communion, I believe that I had nothing to envy to my dear Therese. She prepared for this about three months in advance, like me, by making each day many little sacrifices that were given the name of a special flower for which the number was carefully inscribed in a pretty little notebook made by Pauline.

With regards to the graces received on that day, my beloved Mother, I believe I can say without committing a presumption to repeat the couplet from the beautiful canticle that you composed for me:

The world distinguishes between Celine and Therese;

But the good God;

Prefers to see only one furnace;

One same fire…

Yes, that day was for me one without clouds and left me without regret because it was for me the aurora of a life of a more intimate union with the Most Beloved of my heart. The fire came to be lit and I wanted to look after it. Like Therese, I lived only “in hope of a new Communion” and like her “I found the feast days to be very apart…” Ah! It was that in those times the faithful were not favored as they are now with regards to the frequency of Communion and this was a matter of very great sacrifices.

With such dispositions, it is useless to ask myself if I missed, through my fault, the opportunity to receive Communion. It will be very necessary for me to be absolved of my thefts [of opportunities to receive]! Yes, my Mother, I have stolen in my life, and stolen the greatest treasure that exists. I have stolen the good God…


But I was big when I dared to do this, I was 18 years old and I was under the direction of the good Father Pichon who gave me a number of Communions per week, plus another when a feast day took place. To be clear, there were feast days every week! I would look at the calendar and choose a Saint who pleased me a little more than the others [and] I would consider the day when [the saint] was celebrated as a feast day and I would receive my Jesus.

Also, when we went to the country during the summer, there were times when it was absolutely impossible for us to get to a church, then I would mark these missed Communions to make them up later and I deliberately made such a mishmash that I ended up confusing myself and finally, acting in good faith, I gave myself a greater number of Communions than I was due.

I would confess right away my “thefts” to my director who would say nothing. He encouraged me very much. And since he wanted without doubt to endow me with the merit of obedience, he augmented the number of my communions and I continued my system up until one obtained daily communion. Then, it was not necessary to steal anything.

May God pardon me this! But I had often tested the patience of my aunt, so sweet and so good. Having a character diametrically opposed to mine, she did not understand, despite her great piety, that I would go out every day without worrying about the time, the season or contrary circumstances, and she reprimanded me for this. But, for my part, I did not comprehend that there could exist an obstacle to reach such a goal. It seems to me that I was crossing a pool of fire.


How could I repent of this persistence to want to receive communion when I attributed my preservation to the sweet influence of this Sacrament? What would I have become? If left to my own strength, would I have had the imprudence, to set out alone on the road that I had travelled? This is not a supposition; it is a certitude. I am convinced that I would have fallen as far as one can fall.

In ordinary life, when one is exposed to a [viral] contagion, one does not wait to protect [oneself from] the danger of catching a malady. It would be a very bad method not to surround oneself with precautions while the virus of the disease is passed through the blood. Also, simple prudence demands preventative measures. One even resorts to inoculations with serums that provide some degree of invulnerability.   Yes, see how far our intelligent concerns to prevent our poor body from dying will go. But [what about] our beautiful soul?...

Ah! How many do not occupy themselves about their souls! It is an abandonment, a negligence, to let it save itself however it can! And, nevertheless, for them, it is not just a fleeting death with which they are menaced if they become corrupted [by sin], but [instead] an eternal death!...

In applying to the spiritual the beautiful discoveries of science, I am nourished by the beautiful nourishment of Heaven or, to use again the comparison that I just made, I am inoculated with the divine Serum that should protect my soul and my body from the deleterious influences of the world. I say protect, but I can also say heal, because the properties of the ineffable Eucharist are extensive [and useful] for all the needs of our souls whatever they may be.

My Mother, I have flown far from the boarding school and, nevertheless, because I am on this subject, permit me to continue my digression in recalling


a memory from my childhood that is not at all far removed from my devotion for the Eucharist, because it concerns the procession of Fete-Dieu [the Feast of Corpus Christi].

Oh! I was happy, when all dressed in white, to form [part of] of a long, supple and gracious chain that served as an advance guard for the King of kings! I cannot relate all that passed in my heart…During that time, it was rare to see someone who would not uncover [their head] before the blessed Sacrament but, nevertheless, it so happened that, upon witnessing such an exception, my heart broke and I had a hard time containing my tears. I wished that insensible nature would unite to render homage to their Creator. Houses bedecked with bunting and flags responded to my desire, but I was sad in considering that the large trees along the avenues, for which we had a passion, did not bow before the God of nature. Then, I would interiorly respond that I adored my Jesus and I loved Him for making me the bullhorn of all his creatures!

Therefore, what a sublime dignity is ours to be able to be classed among those creatures capable of knowing and loving God! To be able to conceive and contain such a thing, in a manner of speaking is to be able to be the equal of such a thing because only things that are of the same nature can have an understanding among themselves. And me, I am able to know and love God, [so] then through participation, I am a god myself! Oh! How great are the eternal truths! That the divine mysteries are ineffable because they elevate the soul of this small child who lauds and adores the eminence of the Priesthood, as say our Holy Books, Priests of the Most High. (Revelation 1:6).

The memory of these beautiful processions of the Holy Sacrament were, therefore, for me unforgettable because of the profound impressions that I then felt.


The exterior pomp deployed in these solemnities certainly played their role. My pride was great to see the military form a cortege in honor of their true King; the music of the regiments, the orders to lower arms and kneel on the ground, while all there were blessed, delighted me to a degree that I cannot fully express. [passage deleted]

At last I am back to my life in the boarding school that I hope to finish this time. Nevertheless, don’t rely on me since it was not without reason that I was compared to a wild deer who is not where we believe it is: sometimes at the summit of a rocky cliff, or at the bottom of a ravine, it does not travel but with leaps and tired those who risk to follow her. Pardon me, my Mother, in making you travel across this road and, as Therese said, ”permit me not to stop” because I do not know how to follow another way.  

About a year after the unforgettable celebrations that I have described, Therese accompanied me to the Abbey [as a day student]. From that time on, the life of a day boarder seemed to me less bitter and I became more reasonable. Each morning,


we left home together, led by the maid or by Papa. This trajectory, sufficiently long and very agreeable, allowed us to begin our day joyously. It is true that that once we arrived we had to separate in order to go to our separate classes, but we would not lose sight of each other because of that. During free times, my little sister would come to see me and we would never separate without tenderly embracing.

During recreations, we would also see each other without always being able to stay together because we would each play with children of our own age as was the custom. Therese could not run very much because of a natural sense of suffocation, a painful presage to her short existence! She would amuse herself by constructing little cemeteries for the birds that she would find dead underneath the large trees or she would tell stories that she would improvise. I recall, when making one of my casual visits, finding these narratives so appealing, that I would sometimes join her group of listeners. I admired that she could in this way carry out right away these interesting narrations. As far as I was concerned, I had no idea of how to do so because it would have been perfectly impossible for me to invent something of that kind. I already had difficulty in addressing something that I knew from top to bottom. How could I have been able to compose [mentally] an outline and vary the details and then graft them one upon the other? Thus, my little sister appeared to me like a prodigy and, not being able to follow her on her literary trails, I gave myself over to the occupation of arms.

How does one avoid choosing something that results in success? In that camp, I was always victorious and, if my poor spirit would stop suddenly when I wished to discourse, my skinny legs never let me


down when I wished to run. The game of “tag” was my favorite, I threw myself into it with enthusiasm and employed there so much valor that everyone wanted me on their team. As for me, whenever chance did not result in my being designated to be on the side of the French, I made an effort not to be a good soldier on that day, so as to give the victory over to my “adversaries.” But when, to the contrary, I represented my Nation, I put so much fire in the defense that the conquests we made were always on my side. Not all my battles were made-up ones as I have just portrayed them. From time to time, they would take on a local flavor that would give them something more of a piquant interest. If I defended my country by what I intended, I defended my little sister by action. When she was being attacked, or when someone tried to hurt her, or made her suffer, [or] no one helped her, I ran to her and there was for me “no distinction between Jew or gentile,” everyone would receive the reprimand that they deserved. To do that, despite my warring nature, I would never employ neither kicks nor fists, I wielded only the “gladiator sword of spirit” that, in these occasions, was not “the Word of God” but of a little girl filled with mischief.

Just as I defended my Therese, I would defend also the Saints of Paradise, even if they had no need of my services because they are in peace in Heaven where no human invective can reach them. But I was not stingy with my exertions and, one day when an English instructor dared to say, very loudly in class, that Joan of Arc was an adventuress, I bounded forward and, after having resolutely protested, I went to look for the mistress of the school.


No one said a word, everyone was stupefied except me: I let them mull as much as they want after I left, and having arrived at the office of the Head Mistress, I made my presentation to her. They saw me to be a bit emotional, and she began to laugh, but I did not notice this and said to her, “Madame, if you do not promise to make a reproof to the teacher and repair the fault that has been committed, I warn you that I will report all of this to Papa.” Confronted with this attitude, the good religious did not joke around anymore and she promised to do what I demanded.

As I have said, these sorties did not cost me anything, they were a product of my temperament. There was, therefore, no need to praise me if there were good results. My manner of being, nevertheless, won for me from my Father the sobriquet, “the Courageous one” that I kept up to the moment when, having at last merited that of the “Intrepid one” this last title being mine indefinitely.

Perhaps you will find, my Mother, that it would have been better for me to hide than to make my report in order to avoid hurting anyone. Nevertheless, because I wanted a reparation made about that which I considered to be an outrage against the truth, it was better that I assume all responsibility rather than allow suspicions to fall on other students. Incidentally, I have never liked to hide myself, similarly at play, from what would provoke emotions or fear, so that all that I have done I have always accomplished openly.

I do not believe that this conduct was ever deployed against anyone. I have never made enemies,even this religious of which I have spoken, loved me very much following this and I reciprocated her feelings. Yes, I was truly loved by my teachers and I always preserved for them a profound


attachment that that neither time nor distance could diminish.

My heart, so loving and so sensitive, wanted to give of itself. I attached myself, therefore, to one of my teachers. I loved her as one loves at that age; that is to say, not a real and disinterested love, but a love full of illusions. I imagined that I was loved in turn, that I was the favorite student of her whom I had thus chosen. During a malady that this religious had, I asked myself without ceasing what means I would employ to have her know what I thought of her. It was the beginning of spring. Having found through great effort some violets, I placed at the center of this bouquet a small, little note on which these words were written, “To my dear Mother”. This expression “dear” that we never used to address our teachers—we always called them “Madame”—was for me the highest form of tenderness and it seemed to me that the fortunate privileged one would understand…But I did not receive any response; and I never heard about this bouquet.

When I gained the certitude that it had been given, it led to a flood of tears…That evening, returning to Les Buissonnets, I threw myself into Marie’s arms because Pauline was not there. (She had left us to enter Carmel). My dear Marie pressed me against her heart. She explained to me what is the false love of creatures and the Lord instructed me interiorly through his grace. I promised myself not to attach myself except to


Jesus alone, who alone could pay me in return…Therese was so affected by my suffering that, without tasting this poisoned cup of love for creatures, she resolved to profit from my experience, a resolution which she carried out with her habitual strength of soul.

Jesus came to retract his firebrand. It had not been plunged for a long time, just enough to feel its fervor.

In order to avoid other such lamentable errors and to avoid herself becoming the victim of such a trap that the poor human heart tends toward, Therese asked Jesus that she never be loved on purely human terms by whomever it may be, and she was granted this request. I noticed this myself, just as much in her dealings with her novices as with other persons. And knowing that she had made this prayer, I was distinctly astonished because she possessed so much charm that it would have been completely natural for her to have been loved just naturally.

Having profited together from the lesson that had been given to us, the family joys appeared to us to be sweeter still. We were truly blessed that at Les Buissonnets we had no real pleasure except the solitude from all the noise of the world.

There we would amuse ourselves with games that would only have entertained the two of us. Children of our same age would not have found there any kind of delight and would not [even] have tried to find it. Whereas, from outside, we would not have been in our atmosphere among them. We were [socially] awkward, not quite lively,


that resulted in our occasionally experiencing small humiliations. It is important to say, even if we tried our best, that we were not enjoyable company for others. For example, we did not like playing with dolls, feeling no maternal instinct toward a piece of inert carton. Similarly, we were not attracted to organizing or taking part in dances.

I have said that we experienced some small humiliations, but we also had small sorrows. One day, someone came looking for the festive group by saying, “come, your mothers wait for you in the salon.” We followed, Therese and I, when some absent-minded person said without reflecting: “Don’t come, you don’t have a mother anymore!” But, if this [maternal] star no longer shined in the family foyer, she was resplendent in Heaven. From there, she calls to us still, and that is why we gravitate towards her so that we live, in a way, only partly on earth.

We aspired, therefore, to find ourselves alone at Les Buissonnets. There we cultivated flowers and also nursed birds; Therese had an aquarium where she raised little fish, but it was above all the birdhouse for the doves that interested us because, while we were in their cage, they posed on us and would eat their banquet from our hands. We would also organize our walks. After having measured the garden, so that we might calculate how many times we should make a tour to accomplish a league. We would set off but not without a stick in hand because we had to guard against the pursuit of a domesticated crow who followed us without giving up, with such a tenderness that it pecked our legs with its long beak.


Even if we did not like playing with dolls, nevertheless, I amused my little sister very much, and I also amused myself just as much, making a class out of a regiment of little dolls, but not to the extent that we showed them maternal tenderness. It was more in the fashion in which children play with lead soldiers. Therese did not tire of watching me and her delight augmented mine.

Regarding games, another singular story returns to me. It will be the last one that I will make because I am already ashamed of having gone into such childish details. And, if you had not said, my Mother, to write all that came to the spirit, I would be tempted to tear up these pages.

As Therese consigned to her Manuscript, we mutually gave little presents to each other that, despite their small value, filled us with joy. One day, wishing to give her a surprise, and wishing to do something different, I went to great lengths and instead of spending the usual “six sous,” I used four francs (it was my entire fortune) to buy…a little pistol! I had figured that my sweet, little Therese would share the bellicose tastes of her Celine and in anticipation I blew my own trumpet about the choice of this extraordinary gift.   She was delighted and on my part, I waited with great impatience the day of her feast day. But, alas, our joy would turn into sadness. As soon as my dear, little Therese had glimpsed the “so splendid” gift, she became frightened and began to cry. I tried hard to make a display of the famous weapon, but my enthusiasm was not shared! Then, I became sad myself.

Papa, seeing our embarrassment, wanted very much to go to the place where it was purchased to exchange it. On the following morning, he left home for the 7:00 AM mass, as was his habit, carrying his weapon preciously wrapped.

As he entered the church, he encountered a student crossing


the steps at the same time as he. “Where are you going, my little friend?” So, asked my father.

“To Mass, Monsieur, in order to prepare for my First Communion.”

“Very, good, and this is to repay you” said my father. And, the boy bounded with joy, blushing from the pleasure of receiving the little pistol!

We were well consoled by this news. Therese finally rejoiced about her extraordinary present. Afterwards, our dear, little father, in order to take this good deed to the limit, replaced the money and our joy was complete.

I will not speak to you, my Mother, of winter evenings, of Sundays that we spent en famille, and of all those memories that Therese so well depicted because my feelings are the same as hers, knowing one you will know the other. As she already recounted, our well-beloved father sometimes took us fishing. I recall that one day, after we had prepared two little lines for which the hook was a pin, he invited us to fish with him. After a moment, when he saw that we had taken our fishing seriously, knowing that we would catch no fish with such equipment, he told us: “children leave there your fishing lines, if the fish bites, I will call you.” We then left him to cut flowers. We returned sometime afterwards and, what was our surprise in seeing that our lines had sunk to the bottom! The seizure was a matter of an instant and the countryside was filled with our cries of joy when we elevated into the air our capture. My guess is that it was Papa who, while we were absent, had placed the fish at the end of the line and this small incident became [for me] a lesson from my childhood.

Much later, I made the connection between the conduct


of the good God and us and that of Papa in the following circumstance. Ah! All my life I have been that little child who fishes for souls or for virtue using the wrong equipment. I am good for nothing and, if I wait for what I can gain by myself, I risk achieving nothing. Do you know something, my Mother, you who desire to see me reach full possession of myself so that my first impulse is found to be beyond reproach.   And, I also hope for this immeasurably…my line is always pointed in that direction. I do not catch anything, it is true because my progress is not appreciable, but Jesus sees my goodwill and, I hope, on the last day of my life in a quick instance he will make my efforts bear fruit, and me, raising my little line, I will be rich with goods that He Himself will have given me!

Oh, my Mother! How good is the good God to those who love Him! How sensitive He is! In the same way that Papa let us believe that we ourselves had caught that mysterious fish, so is Jesus pleased to allow us all the glory of conquests that He Himself has achieved.

So far, He has always acted in this way towards me…Without success (I am showing myself to be an enfant terrible), “buying those pistolets” [in a manner] that may deliver me sometimes into adopting useless speculations, welcoming happily those illusions, taking me, in a word, away from what is outlined for me by Divine Providence, and Jesus, taking away the object with kindness, says to me: “it is not made for you, my Celine, you commit an error by wishing to profit from that, give it to me and I will exchange it for what is much more preferable,” As for me, handing it over to His will, I receive a hundred-fold in exchange, having the joy of seeing my mistakes become, in His divine hands, a blessing for other souls…


If our lives at Les Buissonnets passed so far calmly and sweetly in the nurturing warmth of the most precious union, we had, alas, encountered a new trial. Five years already had passed since the death of our dear mother, [and] the birds had grown, the older ones were ready to take off, leaving the nest plunged in the greatest desolation.

But before speaking to you, my Mother, of the first separation that came to break our hearts, I wish to say to you a word about the very powerful education that our dear sisters gave us.

After the description, I have made of my character, you may be able to believe that, I at least, was not reserved and, nevertheless, we were so timid, the two of us, that Marie had to scold us a number of times so as to make us get over this fault. One day, in particular, [Marie] having said that, “timidity came from pride, because it was nothing other than an exaggerated fear of doing something wrong and, as a result, of being criticized”, I took the firm resolution of correcting myself and always acting with freedom without occupying my mind with what others would think of me because I had such a worry about pride from which I wished to distance myself. This admonition influenced me very much all throughout my life and I have always remembered it.

Our older sisters also applied themselves with great care so that we would practice mortification from our earliest ages. For example, while we were still very little, morning breakfast was chocolate, but as soon as we began to grow, a humble soup replaced it. The exception was always on Sunday that, being the day of the Lord, it remained a feast day throughout. During the week, I, therefore, left for the Abbey after


having eaten a soup that Victoire never knew how to vary, onion soup…It was for me the worst that one could imagine. Sometimes this soup, consumed not very graciously, it must be admitted, turned my stomach, then someone would give me a piece of chocolate to console me and I would then set off on the road as if I had been very valiant. Apart from rare indispositions, I was never sick and in 8 years I only missed three days based on my health.

Regarding that piece of chocolate, here is an amusing story. Each morning at 10 AM, there was a period of rest in the classes and wine, biscuits, jam, and, in a word, something that each student furnished herself. Otherwise, each would have a right to only dry bread.   Since we were not spoiled, we did not take part in these sweets and we contented ourselves with dry bread when we were hungry. I should say that I was sometimes a little ashamed, there was, nevertheless, no reason for that, but when one is a child one is easily impressed by these little things.

One day, when I received as a reward of my onion soup a precious piece of chocolate, I told Therese to come find me at the hour when they passed the plate because we would then share our “spoils.”   I had taken care to break the piece almost into crumbs so as to make the greatest impression. Nevertheless, because the portion still seemed meager compared those of the other students, I was very embarrassed. My little sister arrived for our rendezvous and added her part. I said to her with indifference: “hey, Therese take the crumbs!” Therese, in effect,


took the crumbs. Therese took the crumbs that she knew to be not all the crumbs but almost the totality of the piece [of chocolate]. When we found ourselves alone, we laughed together. But we would never forget that phrase, “hey, Therese take the crumbs!” It would follow us to the Carmel where it would still make us cry with laughter.

If food was used as a means of [minor] mortification, the same was done in matters regarding vanity. My elder sisters, having been students at the Visitation with many people, did not pay much attention to pettiness.   They had seen their school companions without embarrassment wear outmoded clothing and they held on principle that one should not be trendy at the boarding school.   I, therefore, had shoes that were nailed down with tacks and used dresses and coats that were not always to my taste. [But,] I also left these in the coatroom and would use them only]at the last moment, just in time to leave.

Oh, my Mother, these are the very ordinary feelings that I confess and which comprise two examples that I have placed before your eyes of instances where misplaced pride triumph. I, who have not wanted to be subjugated by anything, how could I have been able to become a slave to the approval of any student whom [by now] has forgotten me and whose name I can’t even recall! And, nevertheless, how many grown-ups, while being fully within their “age of reason” and conscious of their independence, today sacrifice themselves to these odious idols!

Today, in glancing back at the past, I admire the strong education that the good God gave to me. And my gratitude is without limits for my dear sisters who so well knew to respond


to their mission and did not listen to the demands of nature that I made them listen. “I have suffered a few times and I have reaped wisdom and I have found for myself a great education, and to those whom have given it to me I wish to render glory.” (Ben Sirah. 41, 16.17)

Ah! If all mothers acted in this way towards their children, we would not have to deplore the decadence of which we are today terrified witnesses. There are nothing more than empty characters, pointless forcefulness, noth even health. Why, if not because their wills and their senses are weakened by their well-being? There is no way to miss this. When the gardener wants to prune a tree, when he wants to obtain a beautiful flower, he eliminates the buds that dispenses the sap. In this way, if a man does not wish to fall into degeneracy, it is necessary to suffer. It is necessary that he should mortify himself. [Should one wait until] one reaches the point of not lacking anything [or] when one does not wish to prune one’s nature in the flesh? [The time] arrives when, instead of producing beautiful fruits, this contaminated nature produces egoism and egoism is the open door to the cult of infamous, idolatrous humanity that prepares to ravage our existing society if we do not hasten to react. The Prophet has said: “according to their pasture, so were they filled, and their hearts were exalted, therefore they have forgotten me.” (Hosea 13:16.)

The departure of Pauline for the Carmel deprived us of one of the treasures that I have just praised. From that moment on when I learned her determination, I cannot describe how bitter life appeared to me. It seemed to me that happy days had finished forever. I truly asked myself how one could attach oneself to the world when one sees that which passes by. I am amazed when I consider, for example,


how little parents enjoy their children, apart from rare exceptions. So, no sooner is the infant born than the mother separates from the child and hands him over to a nursemaid.   She hardly [has the chance to] enjoy the following years that are intended to instruct the child. Once [the child’s] training is done, he settles for life.   Oh, how well the good God shows me that this life is nothing but a passage, a temporary epoch of our existence when we should focus but on one thing: we should help each other ride the current to reach the eternal side.

In order to profit from the last moments to be spent with our “little Mother,” we never left her. Those were very sad vacation days that preceded her entry…In writing down this memory, my heart breaks to recall all the sorrow that I experienced at that painful moment. And, nevertheless, you will believe me, my Mother, that once the sacrifice had been accomplished, I remember gazing upon the watch that she gave me with joy. I was 13 and a half years old at that time but my two little cousins, Jeanne and Marie Guerin, having received this [same kind of] present on the day of their First Communion, I alone lacked one and Pauline’s watch was the subject of a sentiment that brought me pain and that I detested the very moment that I felt it grow in me. It was, therefore, necessary that, all throughout my life, I, who loved beauty so much, [have] lived with a certain part of myself for which I should, without ceasing, reprove my thoughts and gestures! -- My little sister fell ill from sorrow [because of Pauline’s departure], as far as I was concerned, a trifle from the earth was sufficient to assuage my pain! I have always said, Therese is an image of grace and I am an image of nature, but Jesus does not reject this second image since he has


taken on our mantel so much so that he places on Himself the very blemishes of our sins. Ah! I am not surprised to have been able to succeed at doing the Sorrowful Face of my Jesus [In 1904, Celine had painted a Holy Face, a positive based on negative of the Shroud of Turin]. One has said, I know, that only a pure soul has the grace to replicate so beautiful a Visage and I also know that to understand such wounds it is necessary to have a soul that carries these marks…

Despite the feeling that I just expressed, the loss of my little Mother was very pronounced above all when, by experience, I saw that she was lost to us. The [speaking] parlor of Carmel became for me a veritable martyrdom; I did not know my dear Pauline anymore and it seemed to me that I had become for her almost a stranger. Not that she was less maternal towards me, but it seemed to me that she was no longer of the same nature as I and I was intimidated to open my soul to her. I believe that the cause of this difficulty was the little time that was accorded for us to speak to her.

This was, nevertheless, just the start of my troubles. I will not even try to say what I suffered when my little Therese fell ill…While I suffered much, something happened to me that was very singular: it is because the depth of my suffering kept me from feeling the full extent of my suffering. It was a kind of dulling of feeling. I seemed to have reached a firmly closed door, a limit that made me stop and that prevented me from falling into an even deeper abyss. I believe that it was the good God that arranged it in this way, so that we would not die of sorrow. But it could be that, as for me, I had a lesser capacity to suffer than the others. It could be that my limit was placed lower so that I would not fall ill of sorrow. Whatever it was, I don’t ask God to allow me to suffer even more.  


What could I say about the miraculous cure of my little sister that I was the fortunate witness, so that from the moment of her ecstasy until the moment of the vision I will not add any details already known through The Story of a Soul and in my l preparation for my deposition during the Process. This memory is ineffable for me, but you will permit me, my Mother, not to revisit it here and to refer instead to narratives on this subject that have already been completed.

After the cure of my little Therese, we resumed our close ties within our family life. The months of separation had seemed so long to me! Each evening, Celine’s little bedroom seemed very sad to her without her little companion…the boarding school so bitter…just with the evocation of this past, my heart is torn. Ah! How much is there to suffer in this miserable world before reaching the shore of Heaven!

These sorrows, so diverse and sensitive, had elevated my soul. Ah! How much I had already loved the good God at that age! He was all for me without, nevertheless, captivating my so lively nature to the point of losing herself. I have not yet reached this blessed state, and the good God still so kind, so compassionate for me, willingly puts up with the sad company of my faults and consents not to abandon me. All proceeds, therefore, with the pair, the good God and myself, but since one is much stronger than the other, and since this other does not wish to be defeated, the pair is pleasing.

I also love the Holy Virgin with all my heart, and I have invoked her without ceasing. I recall the profound thoughts that I had in dreaming of her. When I travelled, I always preferred the door of the train coach wagon, with my head sticking out and I would hum my songs of love, I would sing this canticle:

“Take my heart, there it is, Virgin, my good Mother,

It is to repose there that it has recourse to Thee,

It is tired of hearing the vain noises of the earth…”


These words transported me, only one phrase displeased me, and I protested because it was not to “repose” that I sought recourse to my Mother in Heaven, but only because I love her.

I believe that I thought of the good God almost constantly. At that time, while not understanding too much the reason, I imagined all forms of types of mortifications. I had invented a number of very hard mortifications with twisted paper and I introduced them in the evening on the cloth of my bed bolster. I wore a large crucifix next to my chest and I took care to turn the corpus towards me, so that, so to say, the corset pressed against me. There are also other little things that I do not recall exactly. Regarding going to bed, I paid extreme attention so that Therese would not notice anything, and because she never spoke of it then I can believe I achieved my intent of hiding my secret. But, in Carmel, I know that it was because of these same mortifications that she noted in her manuscript: “Far from resembling the beautiful souls who practice all manner of mortifications, I make mine consist only of mortifying my will, etc.”

I thank her for the compliment of having placed me among these beautiful souls “that do not resemble her” about which I was not too flattered. The truth is that I am completely a little soul, the smallest of the little souls. For, in the example that I relate, which is the greater, the most beautiful—to carry out material mortifications—that is to say, a totally inferior means—or to impose on one’s will, as Therese did, a sacrifice of maintaining a total discretion with regard to self, above all in an age when all is intrigue?

I am convinced, my Mother, that you are of my opinion that I may continue adhering to my list of pious practices without you considering me to be a “great soul.” By the way, I will now speak to you of the categories of


mortifications employed by Therese and her parents.

And here are some: my godfather had given me jewelry—a gold bracelet, necklace, and ring. I was proud to wear them in front of my school companions; nevertheless, I refrained almost always from doing so. I do not know if I even wore my bracelet four times in the boarding school. And, when on the occasion of a great event, I took the opportunity of wearing them, but if I should receive Holy Communion on that day, I would take care to take them off before approaching the Holy Table. It seemed to me that with those things on my arm the world would have me by the collar and I found that it was not appropriate for me to present myself before God with such an insignia of captivity--He who only wants favor from free hearts. In sum, this bracelet, product of so many sacrifices, serves to decorate, but no more for the little spouse of Jesus, but Jesus Himself celebrates in becoming a presence in His throne of gold, the beautiful Monstrance of Montmartre.

In another instance, I refrained in expressing my desire on a fabric or a style for dresses ; that cost me a great deal because I was too modish and I had a very distinct style that I had no difficulty expressing—indecision was never part of my character. If these actions are even remotely worthy of praise, I hasten to send the glory to my incomparable parents. Without speaking about my sisters who prepared themselves for the religious life through all sorts of virtues, I observed in my father a constant self-mortification. He never rested his back against a chair in a casual manner, and he never crossed


his legs. He warmed himself only rarely and did so furtively. In summer, while he worked in the garden, he would accept our offer of water to drink, but he never asked for it. And, during Lent, he deprived himself of this alleviation unless he was explicitly allowed. He was also used to eating coarse bread like that used by the poor, and it was not without difficulty that he obtained it. He rose very early in the morning. In a word, his life was marked on the side of Christian mortification that was of the most sensible and well understood. I never saw him smoke, even in the company of other Gentleman who used tobacco wholeheartedly. But I will not finish if I wish to keep recounting.

After this glimpse, you will understand, my Mother, that our mortifications were of the ordinary sort. Moreover, well before the entry of Pauline into the Carmel, while I did not know any other religious other than our Mistresses of the Abbey, I asked Leonie one day, who was well versed about such matters, to find out more about the diverse Orders and the types of life they led. She did so informing about the types of penance employed by the most austere ones. I promised myself that one day I would enter one of those.

Nevertheless, my life of studies came to a close. I had become a member of the Association of the Children of Mary and had been its “president.” Almost every year, I had carried the first prize for my class (except for arithmetic) and, above all, the most coveted of all, that of Religious Instruction. For the older students, there was only one prize, and it followed that it was very difficult to win and was the subject of a heated battle, becoming a real triumph for her whom obtained it. As for me, I had more than all the others because I considered this education to be a shield that would


preserve me from the contagion of errors that I had resolved, not only to avoid, but also to combat. So, well protected, I could, it seems, launch myself into life and engage in profitable challenges.

I returned to my family full-time at the end of the 1885 school year. Shortly after my leaving the boarding school, Therese found that she could not live apart from her Celine, who had returned to her house. She continued her education by taking private lessons. As for me, Marie initiated me into housekeeping and conducting the management of the home because she counted on flying off as soon as possible to Carmel. At that time, I did not understand these matters and I happily accepted her good advice. I also continued to take painting lessons in the city home of an elderly spinster where these courses were well-attended by the young daughters of the best families in Lisieux. There, I had charming relations with them, but, above all, I set to increase my knowledge of the art that I wished to perfect.

It was necessary for me to work hard because I had begun to learn sketching at the age of 13 and a half years old and I had not yet learned drawing from nature. As such, my ambitions were great; I wanted to obtain perfect success in capturing appearances, even to compose paintings. My teacher, a student of Leon Cognet, said, to whomever would listen, that I was an artist to the tip of my fingers, but instead of steering me through, she would not reveal secrets or techniques except parsimoniously. Similarly, I did not wish to be attached and dependent upon another human will because of the future of which I dreamed, and seeing that I did not advance at all under such tutelage, I tried to fly using my own wings. So, I carried out much studying at home in order to acquire experience on my own because the other means did not provide it to me. Thus, I created, so to say, a veritable museum of “daubings,”


Carmel encouraged my efforts in asking for numerous works that stimulated me very much to grow as an artist. Nevertheless, when I saw that the task exceeded my abilities, I took recourse in Heaven and attempted nothing before praying very much. With each new painting, I placed a candle at the altar for St. Joseph, certain that I would reach an honorable achievement. Because I did not attribute the success at all to myself, knowing full well my limitations, the good God generously extended His help. See notes about my painting studies, separate notebook, illustrated.

Another year passed in this way, indeed the last that our dear eldest sister, Marie, was still among us. It was hardly any time at all that, having left the boarding school, I was able to enjoy, without the shadow of worry, the pleasure of living with my family. The last weeks seemed to me harrowing; it was a repetition of Pauline’s departure about which we suffered so much. To assuage Therese’s sorrow about this separation. Marie would often take her with her in the evenings to sleep in her bed, and I would remain alone in my big bedroom. So, for me, sadness was dressed in a doubly somber coat.

It was in the month of October 1886 that Marie left us. But this time, it was necessary to stay very strong to lighten this particularly heavy bow. It seemed that Marie was indispensable to the homestead and that Papa would never be able to withstand the separation from his eldest child, but with his spirit of faith and his usual generosity, he valiantly accomplished this new sacrifice.

Now, there were but two left in the sweet nest of Les Buissonnets that had once sheltered such a large and united family that had resonated with the melodious tones of the elder ones and the soft chirping of the younger ones, all trying to praise the Lord. I have said that only two remained because our dear Leonie


had left us to enter the Poor Clares. It is true that she returned to us after several weeks of attempting to find a vocation in that monastery, but she did so to leave again for the Visitation. She was not left alone at home during our trip to Rome, I will speak later about that voyage. For the moment, I am going to tell you, my Mother, about our new existence in Les Buissonnets

We had made for ourselves a very orderly life, nothing was rendered to caprices. Each morning, we went with papa to the 7:00 AM Mass. We never missed Mass even when the road made it impractical to walk to church , something that happened frequently during winter. Les Buissonnets was built on high, the road that served the quarter, already in bad condition, in winter then became covered with icy glass, an iced slope. But we did not stop over something so small. The incidents on the road became moments of laughter for the happy travelers! We would go back to the garden to set off on our walk to St. Pierre and stuff wool fabric all around our shoes so as to face the peril intrepidly. And, we would return without other encumbrance to the festive dining room where the table was always set, but, alas, where so few guests presented themselves!

We also loved very much to attend to the poor. On feast days, there were delicious treats at Les Buissonnets and the children in the area knew this. From our earliest childhood, we had been carefully inculcated with a distinct respect for those unfortunates seeking alms. It seemed to us that we were actually giving these alms to God Himself. We were almost surprised that they would say “thank you” to us, so much did we believe that it was our duty, and we felt extremely honored to be able to do them some good. I recall from that time when we were big, young girls, asking for, and humbly kneeling to, receive the blessing of a poor,


old man that Papa had invited to enter Les Buissonnets to provide him lunch.

How can I describe at present the intimacy between Therese and Celine? ,,How?..” It is a closed garden.” I would add “a sealed fountain,” but it was not sealed, this fountain; it was gushing, from our hearts, flowing “with rivers of living water” that spread outside carrying our souls towards Jesus, the divine Ocean…The day when this fountain was opened consists of one of the memorable dates of my life. It was 25 December 1886. Therese recounts in detail, in the story of her soul, this unforgettable night of Noel from which she commenced “her conversion.”

From that day on, our union of souls became so intimate that I will not try to depend on the language of earth, it would be to desecrate it. This flower is the secret of the “closed garden” of which Jesus alone, the unique Well-Beloved of our hearts, knew alone these fragrance…

Nevertheless, it is not in the nature of love to stay inactive. So, the fountain of the closed garden was “opened,” as I have just said, opened by the zeal of love, an impetuous zeal that devoured our hearts…Oh, my Mother, I do not exaggerate anything in telling you this; I cannot express what were our conversations then when, each evening, “with our hands joined,” our sights, set on the immensity of Heaven, we spoke about that Life that will never end…Where were we…when, losing, so to say, consciousness of ourselves, our voices extinguished our silence?...Where were we then?...I ask myself…

Alas! Suddenly, we would find ourselves back on earth, but we were not the same and, as if we had come out of a bath of fire, our souls, breathless,


wishing only to communicate our flames…Oh, what exhilaration…Oh, what a martyrdom!...

As Therese said, these graces could not remain without fruit and Jesus was delighted to show that this desire for an apostolate was pleasing to Him through the conversion, so marvelous, of the unfortunate Pranzini. It was the very same grace that was the starting point of a more intimate union between us because it was on this occasion that she discovered in the heart of Celine the seed of the aspirations that would consume her. In the description that I have just made about the evening conversations by the windows of the Belvedere - the attic room of Les Buissonnets-, I have, therefore, anticipated events a little out of chronological order.

Here is what transpired. After the grace of strength received on the night of Noel, the thirst for souls entered into her heart and, as she herself recounted, the opportunity presented itself for her to exercise her zeal. She set herself there to employ all the ardor of her heart. With her usual humility, she did not see it possible for herself alone to obtain the grace that she sought and she asked me for the help of my poor prayers for an intention that she did not dare to specify too much. In sum, she wanted to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as her goal. Because she was very shy, she came to ask that I take charge of this commission. I then was able to let her see that I had surmised what her plan was and how laudable I found it to be. Astonished that I did not display to her any surprise to what she thought was a singular idea, she saw that she had been understood…Then, her heart completely opened to mine and it was from that time that dates our so great intimacy; as she had said, it was not a simple union but a unity…she loved for me to repeat that we had one soul for the two of us. Oh, my Mother, how sweet it was; what inexpressible


joy Therese and I enjoyed.

After this portrait, that is only a sketch of reality, you may believe, my Mother, that the prospect of departure of her that I loved more than myself, would be a trial beyond my strength. Yes, it would have been so without doubt if I had been abandoned to my own weakness to suffer alone. But the celestial favors of which I have spoken had in an instant, so to say, reinforced my strength. The love of the good God was so intense in my poor heart that, not finding anything that could relieve even a little this need to give, I became happy to sacrifice everything that I cherished most in this world…Like Abraham, I occupied myself preparing the holocaust and I helped my dear sister in all the steps she took to secure her entrance into Carmel, despite her marked youth. I shared her sorrows as if they were my very own. Ah! How true it is that the love of the good God leads only to love for others—that disinterested love that makes one desire above all things the happiness of those one loves…

What I am saying brings to mind a reflection that I entertained often long ago. It is concerning the intimacy of mothers with their little children. I have mentioned that many mothers complain of having been thoroughly removed from the confidences of their daughters. I completely empathize with their pain, without being always surprised that it be so. They know, these poor daughters, that their reading materials are monitored: what would others say upon discovering that they read the lives of the saints or books on spirituality? And if one knew they [even] had a spiritual director! Ah!


This time it would be an outrageous persecution because one would suspect suddenly the “pipe dream” of a religious vocation. How could a young girl under such conditions take her mother as a confidant and friend?

How could she expose herself for her struggles, her difficulties, her hopes to be laid bare? It goes without saying that it would be impossible to dream of such an intimacy. An intimacy that would have emerged immediately if the mother possessed within herself true love, disinterested love. No, it is not the child who commits a wrong when they make their parents suffer by maintaining a reserve that may appear exteriorly blameworthy. No, it is the parents who bring out this coldness. Poor parents, they make their children unhappy. They render themselves unfortunate by poisoning the last days that should be lived peacefully en famille. Truly pointless sufferings that are not willed by the good God because these are sufferings that are not in order. In effect, what do the mothers accomplish? To delay, it might be, for a few months the moment of separation and that is all. Oh! How bitter are sufferings where the good divine design is not found at the bottom of the chalice? As for me, I know well that I would not have had the moral strength to support such piercing sorrows.

My gratitude to the Lord is great, for love of Him I have lived through such difficult moments, through such ineffable joys… I do not dare to stop and think of what would have happened to my rapport with my well-beloved Therese if I had opposed these projects. Then, she would have


been forced to hide from me…She then would have had to suffer; I would have had to cry in secret, or rather I would have found solace in bitter grief that, instead of assuaging my torment, would have rendered my life and those of others into a hellish existence. Instead of that, I enjoyed a well-being whose sweetness I still savor. I continue to enjoy the delights of the most perfect union. What would be more desirable on earth? Yes, all delights fade compared to the union of hearts: fortune, honors, health—they all pale beside it and have value only if taken as a queen.

This union of Therese and Celine cemented by an ardent love for God would soon be confirmed in strength. It was in the very place where the martyrs had suffered—in the Coliseum—where she received this inevitable consequence. Yes, the earth could from then on separate these two existences, the wind of tribulation could blow away and destroy, piling up ruin on ruin around these two hearts; they would be ready. Have they not, in common prayer, asked for and obtained the grace of the martyrs?...

But, before the coming of the storm, there were still some months to go by. For the moment, the two sisters were in Rome, enjoying together the natural spectacles that the Creator offered them as well as the marvels produced by human genius.

For my part, this voyage served me well. It raised my soul beyond all that is created and considerably developed my artistic taste. We visited as a group museums where, it seems, women should not enter, but I never found there anything that was capable of troubling my soul. My soul, it could not be troubled except by sin and, confident in God who only created beautiful things, it was


drawn by simplicity and the prayer to avoid traps prepared by the hands of men. In the evening, after a day of constant pilgrimage, we would reunite in the lobby of the hotel to play music, recite poetry or converse. Once, there were not enough seats, so I had my sister sit on my knees. She was so pretty, my Therese, with her beautiful blond curls, that the group would glance at her and one of them said: “These two young girls never separate, see how much they love each other.” During the entire course of the pilgrimage, they constantly made this remark. We–our father and us-were the recipients of open kindness. Others sought our company; they wished to meet us. One day, a cleric learned that we were a family of nine brothers and sisters. He told us that the seventh daughter would have the gift of miracles. I exclaimed: “it is I who is the seventh.” And, Therese then rectified “that Celine was the seventh child but that Therese was the seventh daughter!” The good priest smiled, saying that the saying did not apply unless the seven daughters were consecutive. So, neither one nor the other had the right to this privilege. Oh! At that time, I did not doubt that my dear Therese would have one day in reality the gift of miracles that I happily defer to her, feeling confident that, if I could cede my right as a seventh child, I would be awarded a similar gift!

Now, my Mother, I wish to clarify an issue. Could you ever think at any time that I would be so audacious to dare counsel Therese to speak to the Holy Father, despite the official prohibition that had just been pronounced by Mrgr. Reverony? While I was called to give my advice, we were in a rush and there was no time for hemming and hawing. But, I hold a principle to apply on such occasions,


it is to follow through fully with a resolution taken in advance after long and hard reflection and that it be a good resolution, without this last condition it is not worth having. I speak of a resolution such as Therese had, like that of the Bishop of Bayeux, as counseled by the Carmel, in effect, the purpose of the voyage. Not to maintain such a resolution would be to expose oneself to bitter regrets, above all when considering that this was an opportunity that would not recur. In this case, it would be better, I find, to take a risk by following through with plans rather than to avoid committing a mistake by abstaining from taking action. One’s regrets are much less painful in the first case than those of the second because there is nothing more agonizing than to think: “If I had only said that, it could be that I could have reached my goal!” Oh, how cruel are those “could have beens” and those “ifs!” And, to avoid them in life, it is truly necessary not to allow oneself to be intimidated by diverse, unforeseen incidents that always arise in every human enterprise.

As to prohibiting her, I think that no one has the right to block someone else from speaking to the Holy Father. A lesser authority may not stop a lower ranked person from having recourse to a superior authority.

Above all, it should be recalled that this was a matter of an instant, one minute of hesitation and it would have been too late! I also think that it was the good God who inspired me to give the advice to Therese to speak directly to the Holy Father and that it was all within a divine plan, even if at the time, it did not seem to be crowned with success.

As you can see, my Mother, my little Therese had the habit of consulting and relying upon me in all encounters. Much later in Carmel, the roles were reversed and it was she who Jesus designated to conduct me. Oh! How much caring this dear sister gave back to me, more


than the little cares I had formerly given her.

Therese, therefore, allowed me to steer the small boat as I saw fit and to answer when somebody would speak to us. She knew well that in conveying my feelings I also conveyed hers. One day, on the return leg of our trip, we found ourselves in Lyons in the elevator of our “splendid” hotel. A medal-decorated gentleman with an imposing presence took his place at the same time as we. He was not related at all to our group and gave us—my sister and me—the impression that he was a “great man of government.” He wished to enter into conversation with us and congratulated us on our beautiful voyage. However, he made a restriction regarding Leo XIII, he mocked the pope, asking us with irony what that old man could have said to us of value, being so old that he was a “simpleton!”

That was too much! How could one not relieve the injury, how could one not defend the Holy Father? I seethed and I straightened up and I responded with irony, so I said: “it should be remembered, Sir, that you are of his own age, could it be that, if you had his same experience, you would attempt to speak unwisely about things that you knew nothing about?”

He became deathly quiet. This gentleman who had wanted to intimidate us was intimidated by us. He looked at me with a certain fear and then we separated as he respectfully bid us farewell.

Oh, my Mother! If I had been a man I believe that my death would not have been a peaceful death. One day or another, I would have broken my head but I would not have sold it cheaply! I could not have been able to envision righteous strides for my feet to take and seen justice demeaned without placing myself forward to fight.

This anecdote comes from our return to Les Buissonnets where we lived our family life set anew to an increasingly gentle rhythm.


And since I am on the chapter about my enthusiastic character, I will now reinforce the impression that you already have, my well-beloved Mother, by telling you about one day when there was at church a patriotic feast decorated with French flags. I told myself: “when I think that for that rag of fabric I would give up my life happily!” And, then I felt a deep desire to devote myself to my Country, whose very idea was represented by this mere piece of fabric. This desire was soon almost fulfilled because, as the result of an error at the city hall, my birth was recorded in the place of my little brother’s death. So, one fine day, I received my military roadmap and was called to serve my country underneath the national flag! The process to dispense with my “obligation” to serve in the military came to a successful conclusion and, if I did not then serve my country by leaving for the barracks, I was useful to it later in the solitude of the cloister, so dare I hope!

Another time, in passing through the city, I glimpsed two young people who slept in the sun on the benches of the public park. Immediately, I asked myself, “If it were not for the fact that I am but a miserable young woman, what number of things would I be able to do in life? And to think of those unfortunate men over there who are blessed with strength and who do not use it!” To tell you, my Mother, my indignation and my regret is impossible, so strong were my feelings.

Yes, in that epoch of my existence, the ardor that bubbled up in me became for me a true martyrdom. I felt that I had lost my Therese and I had a need for someone who would serve as a “spillway” and happily be willing to devote time to listen to me, taking, as such, the role of the seawall that would oppose the raging waves. As I have said, at the start of this story, the good God had placed too much in too small a vase and it overflowed with an impetuosity that must be kept below the limit.

The Lord, listening to my reasonable request, gave me a director according to His own heart in the person of Reverend Father Pichon of the Company of Jesus. I opened my whole heart to him and he was very willing to devote himself to this need. My Mother, if you knew to what degree I admire the humble patience


of religious savants who spend their lives studying, so as a consequence they can dispense their learning to the crowds and who also are not averse to employ a notable part of their time reading a correspondence that could not inherently interest them or only interest them through charity because the stories of all these souls are more or less the same, only varying in the details. Also, I had a great sense of gratitude for this holy religious who never displayed towards me boredom upon receiving my folios. Twenty years later, when I saw him again, having asked him what he had thought of his poor child, he responded, “what did I think? That you had enough life for four others!” This, what a perfectly accurate portrait. I later learned, that not only did my letters not bore him, but he called me his “theologian,” even to the point that he had his Superiors read them! Truly, these good Fathers are very indulgent.

I am, therefore, comforted in seeing that I possessed a support who knew, not only how to sustain me, but also to stop me before I reached the slippery slopes that I would not fail to find on my journey. Through the confirmation that I would not have anything to worry about and would be from then on enlightened--that thought would be a guarantee whose worth I would not try to describe. Yet, this assistance was a drop of water in a brazier. My soul lacking beauty, truth, justice, searched assuagement from this abyss. Where would she find it? Ah, it would be in Jesus…only He possesses the plenitude of all perfection, He alone can fill the gaping hole that He Himself deepens in us.

Like an ardently thirsty stag,

Yearning after gushing waters,

Oh, Jesus! Towards you, I unsteadily hurry to,

To calm my ardor, needed are,

Your tears…

Yes, Jesus will come with His Cross and His thorns, His visit approaches, again in several months and the passion of His little spouse will commence…


It was on the 9th of April 1888 that my dear Therese left me to enter Carmel. In giving her a goodbye kiss at the door of the monastery I should have been unsteadily leaning against the wall…and, nevertheless, I did not cry, I wanted to give her to Jesus with all my heart…and He, in turn, clothed me with his strength.

Ah! How much I had the need for this divine strength!...At the moment when Therese entered the Holy Ark, the door of the cloister that closed between us was the faithful image of what really happened because a wall had come to rise between our two existences…

In returning to Les Buissonnets, accompanied by my Father and Leonie, someone asked for my hand in marriage. This news confounded me, not because I was indecisive about what I would do, but because the divine light hiding from me left me to my own inconstancies. Without stopping, I told myself: “this offer that is being made to me just at the very moment when Therese left me, isn’t this an indication of God’s will for me that I had not foreseen?” The Lord has been able to allow that I desire the religious life until yesterday, so that in the world I would be strong woman? So many people said that I did not have the appearance of a religious; could it be, in effect, that I was not being called to that life by divine Providence? My sisters had never been formally placed in a place to choose between the two lives. It was without doubt that the good God wanted it for them and He did not want it for me! In sum, while my resolution never varied, my anguish rose, rose always…I could not then see clearly. I responded, nevertheless, just in case, that I did not want to do so, that I wished to stay undisturbed for the moment and that no one should wait for me.

Consider, my Mother, the sorrow of that first day lived


far from my dear Therese and the first evening when I found myself in my large bedroom, so alone that I took my place on my couch that I left wet with tears…

Nevertheless, it was necessary to put on a good face to make things more cheerful for my dear, little Father for the sacrifice of “his Queen.” I endeavored to find ways to make him happy and to radiate gaiety for him. Oh, my Mother! It truly was the love of God all alone that sustained me amidst all these vicissitudes and difficulties that I am going to describe for you soon. Praise be to Jesus for having placed in my heart that love that would be my Savior!...

I come now to mention my dear, little sister Leonie about whom I have hardly spoken to you, my Mother. At that moment, she had returned to the family; it truly was the good God who sent her to me. She was good, sweet and humble; she did not seek ways to show off and she happily allowed me to govern the house, even though I was 6 years younger than she. In addition, house management was not one of her aptitudes. She had been deprived very young of the company of “Marie-Helene,” who was of her own age. Afterwards, like the prophetess Anne, Leonie had then “lived her widowhood without leaving her room and served God, night and day, in the solitude of prayer.” This love of retreating did not prevent her from giving herself over to works of charity. She would help enshroud the dead from poor families from the neighborhood. One day, having in that way lent a pillow to a dying man, she returned it to us full of vermin. I was not happy. But the good God showed how he blessed the efforts of my dear Leonie because this pillow, which we simply put outside in the garden, became as clean as formerly and we did not have any insects in the house.


As for me, I renewed interiorly each day, and very often each day, the sacrifice of my Therese. It seemed to me that in this separation, I had truly taken a part in the immense sacrifice made by parents when their children leave them to enter the cloister because then I had no hope of entering Carmel due to causes that opposed my admission. I knew well that there had already been made a great exception in accepting three sisters in the same monastery and that one would never achieve the number four. I saw, on the other hand, my good Father, whose old age claimed my care. With his usual strength of soul, he said to me, it is true: “You may all leave, I will be happy to give you to the good God before dying and for my old age a cell, very simple, will suffice.”

Poor little Father! He would, in effect, die in a simple cell; however, not before having drunk the chalice of trial to the dregs…and, as for me, I felt that it was my duty to consecrate myself indefinitely to him.

As for me, I have already said that interiorly I renewed each day the sacrifice of my Therese. It was that always fresh holocaust that was always acceptable to the Lord. Exteriorly, I continued to work on my painting and there I made real progress. Papa studied them with pleasure and thought that the lessons from my teacher were not sufficient for me. He proposed taking me to Paris where we would rent an apartment [in Auteil] and there I could perfect my art under the tutelage of a Master. The offer was tempting. One could have abandoned Les Buissonnets at that time without regret because, despite my efforts, it seemed deserted.


Nevertheless, the reflection did not take long and without taking time to deliberate. I put down the painting that I had in hand and I approached my Father and I confided to him that I “wanted to become a religious.” I did not want temporal glory and if God had a need later for my artistic work He would Himself make up for my lack of knowledge. I added that I preferred my innocence to any other advantage and I did not wish to expose it in studios for mere academic studies.

My Father was very moved by my response. I had never previously openly advised him of my design to embrace the religious state and, as such, he could have doubted my resolve. Yet, in the rush of his gratitude, he pressed me to his heart and said to me: “Come, let us go together before the Holy Sacrament to thank the good God for the honor that He has done me in asking for all my children. I was Friday, 16 June 1888. I was 19 years old. Note: It was on this occasion that Therese wrote to me in June 1888: “dear, little Sister, how good God is to you! If you could only see what a grace you received on Friday. I believe really that this is the grace you were awaiting. You know, you used to say to me: “but I have not received any definite grace.” I am convinced that you have this grace. Now, you must be all for Jesus; more than ever He is all yours. He has already placed on your finger the mysterious ring of the espousals. He wants to be the sole master of your soul. Dear sister, we are truly Sisters in the full strength of the term.”


All was finished. Yet, the call to sacrifice had hardly rung and the month had yet to reach its conclusion without first revealing the terrible trial that Jesus, in His incomparable love, had from a long time before prepared for us. One morning, while passing before a superb rosebush that the evening before had been covered with flowers, I was very surprised to see that the flowers had been cleanly cut-off just below the buds that now rested on the ground—whereas the stem remained attached to the trellis of a little kiosk that was situated in the garden behind the house. No one had touched the rosebush and the event remained for me as one apparently having an unknown origin.

But before recounting for you, my Mother, what became of the roses and rosebush so mutilated, permit me to enter into some details that humanly speaking explain, in a certain manner, the injury to the rosebush and the place where it was made…human details, it is true—yet, nevertheless, circumstances that were glimpsed from afar with pride and confidence by the jealous love of the good God who placed His trust in us.


In this time period—the years 1887-88—it had been about 20 years since our dear Father had been bitten on the head by a poisonous insect. It happened during one of his visits to the country. No one paid much attention to it at first because the little bite did not seem serious. It simply formed a little imperceptible crust that would fall away to be replaced by another. This injury took place behind the right ear. In 1886, it got worse all of a sudden and Papa had to consult with a specialist who had him follow a treatment that was very painful, a treatment that noticeably enlarged the size of the wound.

Based on this result, my Father took the position of no longer following this treatment, hoping that the problem would return back to its latent status that it had in the first years. But the injury continued to worsen and we then consulted a celebrated doctor in our city who employed a treatment that was much followed, but was, nevertheless, less “energetic” than the one used by the specialist whom I have described. The new treatment consisted in applying every fifteen days on the wound a kind of reddish cream that had the effect of producing in a few hours the release of the scab on the entire surface of the affected area. I would then clean out the crust using a poultice. As one can tell, this treatment was nothing easy. After the application of the cream, made by the doctor himself, my poor, little Father suffered atrocious pains. He would go walking then to forget his discomfort that, he said, “made him lose his head.”

During the voyage to Rome, we remarked—Therese and I—that Papa tired easily. He had formerly been so robust, and this weakening left us considerably worried. Nevertheless, the winter passed without incident and Therese, upon entering Carmel, could not have foreseen that in only two


months after her departure, our dear Father would be the victim of a new paralytic attack that this time would last for a long time. The first one, a very violent one, attacking all his left side, took place on 1st May 1887. Papa experienced a remission pretty quickly, but within a few weeks he had two other similar attacks but ones a little less severe and from which his robust temperament was able to get the upper hand.

My Mother, I will stop here for an instant but it was here that began our painful martyrdom…I did not seek to describe it. To the contrary, if I give you some details because you have asked me to do so, you will also allow me to veil and to pass over in silence the most painful details. In doing so, I do nothing but imitate my Therese who touched upon this delicate subject in a most discreet fashion. Nevertheless, I have to recall this great trial in order to render glory to the good God for all the riches that he was pleased to fill our family without there being any merit on our part. You will see, my Mother, if this is not true: lately, I have heard speak of an old man of our acquaintance suffering also from cerebral paralysis. His family being very worldly, I asked myself interiorly: it is the Lord who, through humiliation, is going to enlighten their frivolous hearts and bring them closer to Him. I thought that…but the patient died at the very beginning of his malady. Then, I took myself back to that same trial that we had gone through to its ultimate limit and my heart rose in a hymn of thanksgiving. It seemed to me that that sorrow was such a distinct grace that all are not to be judged as worthy to receive His visit and that the good God, free with his gifts, gives them to whomever He wishes. Considering then that family of which I just spoke, to whom the Lord simply had shown his treasures and ours to whom He gave them, my heart melted with love for this God whom so loves us!

Nevertheless, it is for you alone, my well-beloved Mother, that I write these lines. As well as those that are to follow, true secrets of the confessional. I know it, I am excessively naïve


and I might write certain things that should not be written; so, for lack of confidence in my own judgement, I have confidence in yours to discard these pages once you have read them,

Soon after Therese’s entry, my dear, little Father lost, little by little, his memory. It became a very marked loss and I began to worry. His wound dried out, but without healing and it became inflamed. One could see that the malady wore away the interior. The precursory symptoms of the cerebral paralysis increased with distinct rapidity that soon left us without doubt of the certain outcome of the illness,

My sisters in Carmel had difficulty believing the sad truth. They could not make themselves think of it and even believed at one moment that I rendered Papa unhappy in guiding him too closely [without giving him enough space to live].

This was for me the full capacity of sorrow…My Mother, what I suffered then!...But soon, Jesus allowed them to understand the sad situation where I found myself, and they had a fully renewed confidence in me.

My Mother, for you to have some very clear idea of what we had suffered—all five of us—from this trial, it is necessary to remember that Papa was not an ordinary Father.   In the same way that the Holy Virgin suffered at the Passion of Jesus, not as an ordinary mother suffers the sufferings of an ordinary son, but according to the dignity and infinite perfection of this Son, accordingly did we suffer according to the exceptional quality of the beloved subject. My dear, little Father represented for me St. Joseph for his righteousness, his simplicity. He was like a Just Man before the eyes of God and those like him. And, for us, he added to the prerogative of Paternity those of Maternity because he always surrounded us with a tenderness that was truly maternal. Also, it was a sense of devotion that we had for him. Alas! Where would this subject of deepest devotion, twice filial, have to pass through,


becoming a voluntary victim, destined for sacrifice!..

One hears that there was custom in antiquity of covering the head of those being led to torture. This characteristic, we would note at the start of the malady of our dear, little Father.

Therese, as a child, had seen in advance that which she judged to be [his] covered brow…He covered himself, in effect, as if by instinct, and we believe that it was the violence of the disease. I would help him clean up and placed on his head compresses of iced water, but without any alleviation for him.

Ii is without saying that, if our venerable Father had suffered paralyzes in his legs, there would have been nothing more simple than taking care of him at home. The great difficulty was that, being able to walk on his own, his pronounced preference for travelling placed us in the sad perplexity of dealing with his disappearances. This is what reoccurred on various circumstances. It was during one of these that the Holy Mother Genevieve understood this celestial message: “Tell them that he is not lost, he will return…”

During these times, I, myself, searched for him along the coastline and whilst I was away with my uncle, a fire broke out at night in a rural house adjoining Les Buissonnets. It was burned down to its foundation. The wall of our home was scorched and no one had an idea how it escaped becoming prey to the flames. My aunt, who was quickly warned, came right away to aid poor Leonie and they both considered the total preservation of Les Buissonnets


as palpably demonstrating the intervention of Providence.

I really think that the demon had asked the good God to give us a trial like the one He had formerly used to test the Holy Man Job because all troubles fell upon us at the same time. One morning, before setting off on my painful search expedition (that was to Le Havre), I wanted to receive my Jesus, but the Mass had finished, [and] another had commenced and one [felt that one was] rudely enough being denied Holy Communion. Not being able to wait, I sadly left…even the good God would not come for me during such a profound anguish!...

I recall that once, while I walked alongside the canal (another trip, this one to Honfleur), I contemplated for a longtime the depth of the water. I told myself, “Ah! If I did not have faith!!!” Yes, if I did not have faith, death would have seemed sweet and I would have preferred it a million times to this torture of the heart.

We looked for three days that seemed to me to be three centuries, after which, like the Holy Virgin, I found the object of my love. Never before had I understood so well her pain while she searched for the Child Jesus—truly I can say that I experienced such a similar thing to that that had been suffered by my Mother of Heaven.

After this terrible shake-up, we had a period of relative calm that, nevertheless, did not last very long. During these moments when his illness permitted a little rest, I found my dear Father to be like he had formerly been and I attended him with caresses and sweetness. Because of these periods of improvement, my uncle had not dared to speak to him of abandoning the management of his fortune—one worried so much of making him suffer! But, unfortunately, during this time, he became particularly interested in [unwisely] allocating these considerable funds. Then, I offered the good God the sacrifice to be reduced to earning my own living if that was His good pleasure. That did not appear to me to be anything compared to the pain in my heart that was tearing me up! Ah! What is it to lose material things? The Wise Man had reason when he wrote: “[give me any] sufferings, but not those sufferings of the heart!” (Ecclesiasticus 25:12)

Such sufferings of the heart are a way of the Cross that I do not wish, my Mother, for you to travel…It was those [sufferings] that constituted the worst of our trial, it was that exactly, because our Father, beloved a thousand times, loved us too much, wanting to save us from imaginary perils or, loving the good God too much, wanting to give up everything for Him and to flee into a desert, [so] our sorrow seemed to increase tenfold.  

There were many humiliations to suffer. Yes, like Jesus during his Passion, my dear, little Father was humiliated in all manners, and so was I…

Nevertheless, the malady followed its course and the paralysis of the limbs did not recur—the chalice had not yet been drunk to the dregs and developments became more and more sad. My uncle made me understand that it had become impossible that we should hope to care for Papa at home, and that his own best interest demanded that we should not. He demanded, and he arranged, everything in order to place him in a convalescence house. It was on 12 February 1889 that our dear, little Father left us to enter the Bon Sauveur [Mental Hospital] of Caen.


The pen itself refuses to describe our agonies. The words, “Bon Sauveur,” I still avoid pronouncing. The words wound me in the heart…and, nevertheless, how good He was, our Savior, how soft have been His hands to help us carry our burden!

Up until here, we had not stopped seeing Papa whom we found ill. I attempted to distract him through all kinds of subterfuges. Whenever he complained of his failing memory, I would make light of that. I would play a little mischief with his beard that seemed not to grow back sufficiently fast and follow up on the so-called jokes he would make.

But, immediately, upon finding himself in another milieu, he understood everything…And, how could he not understand? Even when we and the good sisters who cared for him strived to hide [his mental condition] from him, strangers would then make him aware of it. Although he was never without us during this trial, nothing was spared our dear Father.

Through a regrettable misunderstanding, legal agents came to find him to make him sign papers relative to his interdiction of rights [to prevent him from managing his own financial affairs.] Upon doing so, they dared tell him there that this was being done upon the initiative of his children. Then, this poor, little Father replied sobbing: “Ah! It is my children who have abandoned me!...And he signed.

My Mother, I cannot tell you what this new wound was to our hearts. It was the most painful…This time the sword had reached its upper limits. Our hearts were torn from side to side.


Nevertheless, not wanting to abandon our dear Father as

82 (sic)

he believed we had (alas!), we—Leonie and I—went to live in Caen. We lodged in the house of the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, not far from the institution where he was. Our uncle allowed us to do so, and he consented that we also keep Les Buissonnets for a few more months. He anticipated that, following successive paralytic attacks, our Father’s state of health could change, permitting us to care for him ourselves.   But after the paralysis became fixed in his brain, his extremities remained unaffected and the desired amelioration did not take place. We lived for three months at the house of the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul. Each day we went to see Papa, but each time the religious could only give us whatever news there was.

My Uncle, seeing that the health of each of us was being altered through sorrow, without any benefit for our poor, little father, exercised his authority to make us return to Lisieux. He offered us asylum in his home and returned Les Buissonnets to its owner.

My Mother, I have come from telling you in a few pages, volumes of sorrows…these details are so little in comparison to the reality that it is better to pass over it in silence.

To these trials, there were others that joined them from outside—from the very people who should have consoled us. Our friends, by wanting to show us the interest they took in our trial, truly imitated the friends of Job through their discussions.


How to describe our parlor visits back then with my dear Therese! Ah! As she said herself, “Not even a word about earthy things mixed into our conversations and, to rejoice soon in eternal happiness, we chose here below suffering and contempt.” Like the blessed Job--whom I have already recalled-- throughout this trial--we did not sin, neither with our words nor in our thoughts, kissing constantly with love the hand of Jesus…

But, it was not enough for our hearts to give God these intimate witnesses of our faithfulness, strong even in the midst of trial, but also an ex-voto of marble was placed under the image of the Holy Face that was located in the chapel of Carmel. It bears this inscription: “May the Name of the Lord be blessed!” (Martin Family)

Ah! This time, the Lord would not restrain Himself there because He is jealous of His honor and, in the contest of generosities, He would not allow Himself to be vanquished by His creature!

My Mother! Today, when hardly twenty years have gone by after this somber trial, I can hardly retain my tears upon considering the marvels that the good God has accomplished: To the voices that spoke to us then of a “broken future” now responds the Church by getting ready to place one of us on the altars. We had given an ex-voto of marble to the good God and now we lack space to display those that are offered to His little servant Therese of the


Child Jesus… We thought with pain that the name of our dear, little Father would figure on the list of those persons found [legally] incompetent, a list that was placed on every notary’s desk. And, now his blessed name travels the world and is written alongside that of “his Little Queen” in millions of hearts.   His tomb, surrounded with honor, witnesses pious pilgrims who, coming from afar to kneel at the tomb of his little daughter, will not leave without also having saluted the one of her Father.

Ah! I would like to be able to recount this story to all souls. It seems to me that, when similarly touched by the finger of the merciful Lord, they then would understand at last its divine character…by, then, appreciating sorrow as a benefit, they would welcome it with gratitude, and the world, recognizing God to be its benefactor, would nearly collapse under the weight of His blessings.

Ah! It is time that I retake the course of my narrative. This vision of the future makes us forget that we left our venerated Father, alone, far from us…Returning to Lisieux, we installed ourselves, as I have said, at our Uncle’s house and all his family opened their hearts to us. My Aunt showed us a type of kindness and delicacy without equal and our two cousins exceeded themselves with thoughtfulness towards us to lighten this trial. Each week, without fail, we would go to Caen to see Papa.


The first time that we saw again our dear little, Father after the painful separation on 12 February, his reaction [to our visit] gave him several fairly good days.   He could, therefore, understand completely his situation in order to offer up generously his sacrifice. The good God permitted this so as to give him all the merits of his trial. The doctors at the establishment [Bon Saveur], in the course of caring for him, said to him one day that he would be cured, but he responded to them: “Oh, I do not desire it. I instead ask the good God that he not listen to the prayers that are made for this intention because this trial is a mercy. It is to atone for my pride that I am here. I have deserved the illness that has afflicted me.” The physicians could not believe their ears and the religious who recounted this conversation still cried, so moved was she, while saying “we have never seen such a thing as that here before,” she told us, “it is a saint for whom we are caring!”

She repeated to me many times that Papa was a saint and that she took care of him as if he were her Father. It is true, and as we have said, so as not to deny him anything, she made a thousand acts of kind heartedness about which Papa was much moved and he expressed his joy by sharing these treats with those who surrounded him.   He would say every day that he was being cared for too well.

At this same time (February-March 1889), I told her that we had all begun a novena to St. Joseph to obtain his cure. He then responded to me: as far as I am concerned, I will not ask for that. What I want is that the will of God be done.”


These details that I have just come from reporting are virtually the sole consolations that, appearing like a ray of sun, came to us for an instant to rejoice our Heaven. The devotion found its most important place during the visits that I made down there, often I was alone there, because my little, dear Leonie, finding that her presence was useless, took advantage of her trip to go to the Visitation. I remember that in waiting in the parlor for the arrival of Papa, my emotions were such that I suffered vivid heart pains. These manifested themselves to the degree of frightening my family, and I suffered through consultations with two physicians who recommended that I should spare myself all emotional situations. This was difficult. So, the good God took charge of me and He Himself sustained me though the arid task that I had to fulfill.

My Mother, here, I am going to pause and introduce you to another scene in order to reveal to you an interior trial and all that is personal that came to augment my sufferings already so marked by other causes.   I will also describe for you my new life in order to portray for you the milieu in which I found myself.

It may be that you have asked yourself why, in this narrative, I have compared myself to a “brand snatched from the fire” Without doubt, you have remarked that the good God, in His merciful love, has removed me up until now from real perils.


But the atmosphere of innocence in which He placed me at the dawn of my life does not completely justify the appellation that I have chosen as truly you will be able to judge for yourself.

The prior trial and the manner in which it was received palpably confirm the maxim of St. John Chrysostom: “In order to gain the greatest advantage from a tribulation, it is necessary to sustain it with thanksgiving. That is the important point.” And the trial that was to follow is the evident confirmation of this other phrase of the same saint: “It was a miracle much more worthy of admiration to conserve the lives of three children in a furnace than to extinguish the fire.”

My Mother, this is what Jesus did for me…Not content with seeing us crushed by the pain, the demon seeking that I be lost, asked at least that the vocation of one among us be forsaken. But, if he managed to obtain the opportunity to tempt, he did not obtain the loss, or rather, wishing me to lose, it was he who lost and Jesus made a great miracle in retracting his intact brand from the fire and preventing it from Satan plunging it back in this fire.

Another comparison often comes to my mind to express my thoughts about the actions of Jesus in me—I had intended to recount, according to my elder sisters, this incident, which they had witnessed in Paris: an animal tamer had decided to design one single cage for all types of animal species from the elephant to the lion. There was also a little lamb and, through the sheer force of his look, he obliged the lion to hold up, having at this very time introduced into its mouth the heads of two sweet animals, without the big cat daring to touch them. The lamb trembled, but he left the cage without suffering any harm.

In this way, Jesus, the Divine Tamer, acts often in me, allowing the danger to approach in order to augment my confidence


in his aid and [increasing] my humility in finding myself so weak-- this in order to humiliate my fierce adversary, [now] confused not to have been able to bring about my [loss of vocation.]

It is always good to say the “Our Father,” a prayer that is fulfilled to the letter. God, our Father, does not deliver us from temptation, but He does “not let us fall into temptation, but deliver[s] us from evil.”

I need to tell you, my Mother, that there have been many times in my life that I have had fairly significant dreams. I know well that Sacred Scripture says that “where there are many dreams, there are many illusions.” (Prov.)   Yet, nevertheless, it would be appropriate to admit that I have had some that are basically symbolic, or meant to console me in my troubles, or even to augment my troubles. As to the latter, I always disregard them, while, with regard to the first, they serve simply as a sort of a lecture presented to do good.

Before telling you about a dream that I had while I was in Caen during the three months that I lived there to reside near Papa, I will now confess various things that, possibly, will surprise you. At the age of 20, despite my perspicacity of spirit that searched into questions down to the depths, I was perfectly ignorant of things of nature. The Lord had thrown over them a veil that I had sought to tear.

When Jesus wishes to captivate a heart, He acts like a fiancée of earth and envelops Himself with charms. Oh! How can I describe what were for me the charms of virginity! I was captivated, seduced by the beauty that is not of


the earth because it seemed to me that man became the equal of the angels and, began in a mortal body, eternal life where “there are no husbands and wives, where we will all be like the angels of God.”

I asked myself: what is the good of undertaking on earth a type of life that must have an end? I prefer to begin now what I will do for all eternity. And I was happy to offer myself entirely to the Lord, always like a burnt offering. What are, after all, a few years in exchange for the immense advantage of possessing a free heart? Because I consider this benefit, the liberty of a free heart, to be the immediate recompense, the enjoyment [in exchange] for earthly sacrifices. And, can there exist a comparison between a good of the natural order and a good of the supernatural order? There is as much difference between them as between a bit of clay and a gold mine.

Once Jesus had raised my [aspirations] above inferior goods, He willed to release me from possessions of the heart. I had desired to love and to be loved. The family had for me many attractions, but, above all, the one that I esteemed to be the greatest is conjugal love. It seemed to me that such love was the last word on the union of two hearts. Paternal and maternal love also seemed to be ideal, but I recalled that children are destined to leave their parents and then to find for themselves other affections. And, it is because of its stability that the love of husband and wife appeared to me to be the superior love. Jesus offered Himself to be my Friend, my Companion. He became my fiancé. It was under these attributes that I always considered Him within the intimacy of my soul.   This Jesus, my Well-Beloved, has grown with me…I have always known Him, always loved Him. Was it not only natural that I should also choose Him as my Spouse?...


Recently, a saintly religious to whom I opened my soul wrote to me: “Bring delight to the One who, to win you, to obtain yourself entirely, loved so much and suffered so much.” At the very first, these words produced no effect in me; that is what is said to all souls because Jesus has suffered for all souls, and without noticing it, one is nearly tempted not to be grateful to Him, thinking erroneously that His Passion would have been the same regardless of one’s soul salvation or not.

But Jesus has deigned to instruct me, and those words [of the saintly religious] now seem luminous to me. No, it is not as part of a bloc that Jesus saves souls. It is not by generalities that divine Providence occupies Itself with us. It is a personal ransoming; it is a personal watchfulness. To give a personal accounting, I need only to throw a backward glance over my life to see Jesus constantly by my side as if He had no other care other than mine. It is at every instant that His Spirit inspires me, that His strength fortifies me.   And now that I am writing the chapter about my youth, I can say that in going over events in my memory I discern the touch of a thousand [divine] thoughtful actions, His skillful detours,

“to win me, to obtain myself entirely.”  

Ah! how much trouble I gave him!   And, He, using one method after another to seduce me, [becoming] was more attentive around me than any other suitor near his well-beloved.   Since He leaves us free to use our liberty, He succeeds or not in his advances ; this is what makes the conquest of a heart so precious to him because if He had forced us to do this through some sort of fatalism there would be nothing interesting about it.

We shared there our ineffable intimacy while the demon proposed for me a totally opposing choice. Jesus accepted and seemed to retire, but He lived always at the bottom of my heart. It is true that


I did not sense again the noise of the waves, the unleashed winds and tempests over the surface of the ocean that would make me forget the calm of the ocean’s depths.

The demon follows in his own fashion the same method that Jesus uses, in other words, before attracting the heart, he proposes to appeal to the senses. But, how would he manage to do this, as the terrain does not seem propitious for such seed to grow.   It was not a ground prepared for it because until then it had been cultivated by Jesus. This was at the hour of darkness, during my sleep, when the deceiver made his first assault through a horrible dream or even by himself in person to come to train me.

That morning, upon rising, I understood all things, but I had entrapped my adversary, for, instead of being overwhelmed in not finding the first work of the Creator where everything is beautiful, he found that “sin is,” as Bossuet had said, “a new work that must be hidden.” I, nevertheless, thanked my strange “professor” for the assistance that he had rendered me and I cried out together with the psalmist, “oh, God, that your thoughts be delightful to me.” (Ps. 139, 17)

Some time passed, and the spirit of evil did not dare to return. As far as imagination is concerned, he had not obtained anything and his slime from hell had slid by without leaving a trace. But, profiting from his hour, he wanted to use all his resources before admitting his defeat. Seeing that, as far as thoughts were concerned, he would gain nothing because Jesus had fortified that means, he entered into the garden like a wild boar trying to tear up the earth with furor. In just a short time, he devastated everything: flowers, cascades--even forests had disappeared! Yes, a sting had been given over to my flesh and this time I could not get rid of it. Like St. Paul, I asked the Lord with tears to remove it from me and, like to the great Apostle, he gave me this response: “My grace suffices for you because strength is fortified by weakness.”

It was necessary for me, whatever the cost, to withstand this “sting” but, so that it would not wound me, my director decided to counsel


me to make as soon as possible my vow of chastity. It was on 8 October 1889 that I did this for the first time. The permission for me to be so bound was given for one year.

How can I describe my sufferings, my Mother!...the chaos was within me. It persisted there with an arrogance and a furor worthy of my ardent nature. I had wanted to roll on the ground, but that would not have relieved me.

What to do? Ah! I had only one refuge: sitting myself on the chest of drawers where the miraculous statue of Marie was placed, I clasped in my arms this depiction of my Mother. I hid myself under the shadow of her virginal mantle and I begged her to take away the arrows of the enemy…

My nights, oh!, how they passed in awful nightmares over which I preferred the daytime assaults because at least during the day I could use my free will to condemn these horrors. But what use was my will since it did not distance away temptation?

This struggle was horrible and, nevertheless, it was but the start of this trial. After having worked the soil, or rather, in continuing his efforts without rest, the infernal spirit wanted to plant these flowers in its garden to see if they would grow. It cared for them well! “The soil is prepared, “it remarked, “with old plantings and nothing left.” Victory is mine, if by presenting the occasion of desire I can reach the heart!- “What, do you say to that, Satan? Is it a desire when that feeling, hundred times cursed, is imposed by you upon my nature?”

It does not matter if he heard anything and in his rage he prepared other assaults.

Before introducing it to you, my Mother, it is necessary that I familiarize you with the new milieu in which I then lived.

Concluding the painful trimester passed in Caen; my uncle and my aunt, as


I previously said, offered Leonie and me affectionate hospitality. It was not the same domestic setting as at Les Buissonnets, but it did not, nonetheless, lack charm. At Les Buissonnets, it was the patriarchal life that held for us the most charm since we had shaken off the yoke of social customs, determining that liberty is the sweetest of pleasures. We had not seen the point in creating [social] obligations, [although] we loved to receive our friends at home or to go to their homes whenever we wanted, but not as a matter of social etiquette or obligation.   I always understood that the world complains of making [these types of] visits. I had seen it rejoice when monsieur or mademoiselle are not seen and monsieur and mademoiselle congratulate themselves for being absent. As a result of that, there existed a sense of mutual embarrassment. Would it not be much better to be happy interiorly and there to live en famille? That was, therefore, our maxim at Les Buissonnets.

At my uncle’s home, there was also a beautiful fulfillment of the Christian life, but of an exteriorized Christian life. There, one would interest oneself in politics and fashion trends. My uncle was at the head of all the [local] works and in constant contact with the highest personalities [of the community]. At the moment that I entered his home, he had just come into possession of a great fortune and magnificent properties. My cousins were at the age to establish themselves [socially]--like the nephews and nieces of my aunt. The two families [the Guerins and the Maudelondes] were very united and saw each other frequently.

I arrived in the midst of this group of joyful and charming young people. It was a veritable change from life at Les Buissonnets. Everything was


new for me, but far from finding it enchanting, it [simply] allowed me to deal with a lot of new experiences. And, seeing the world up close, I learned to despise it even more than I had from afar.

During the time that I am now recalling, one of the nieces of my aunt was engaged and there was an exchange of dinners between the two families. An [affluent,] worldly air hovered there where formerly, one would have been satisfied with a normal degree of material security. Oh how dangerous is wealth! It is like glue, it does not matter if something is attached to it, it [simply] sullies everything it touches!

We found ourselves, therefore, often in the company of the nephews of my aunt. One of them, truly a military type who had only renounced his career in deference to his parents, developed an affectionate regard for me. Whether at his house, or at our house, he always managed to be close to me. Since he strongly protested when he was not so placed, one finished up finally relenting and placing him next to me at the dinner table so as to avoid making a scene. [Once,] the dinner being finished he took me in his arms, whether one liked it or not, and made me dance a waltz. The first time, I resisted by displaying a lot of displeasure, but he did not listen to me and I believe, along with my director, that he decided that it was not worth it and decided to let me be. He very much wished to kiss me, nevertheless, he dared not do it. It was not until Jeanne’s wedding when, after accompanying me all day, because I was a maid of honor, he asked my aunt for permission to do so. Oh! that kiss! I would always remember it. It was like salt thrown on a brazier!

This trial, like all the others, I would have to endure to the very end. Not having, without doubt, sufficiently suffered just by the sole means of [this] fire, another from outside came about to be kindled even more. My cousin, Marie, who loved me very much,


believed that she would please me by reporting to me certain conversations that she had had with her cousins, “If you only knew,” she said to me one day ”how much H. cares for you. He loves you.” Ah! I had no need for someone to tell me this because I knew it well enough! And, nonetheless, this revelation was revealed to me many times through diverse means.

My Mother, it seems to me useless to go into more detail. You have had to understand the relationship that exists between this angel of Satan that had been given over to slap me and the assault that had been made against my loving heart…I had suffered atrociously feeling I was nearly dying. Plunged completely into the fire, I did not know if I was a brand from hell or if some hope for salvation still existed for me. In this state of incertitude, I passed moments of awful despair.   One day, having entered a Church to pray, I was seized by such anguish that I wished to cry out: “I am damned!”…but my “tongue was stuck to my palate.”   Afterwards, I could not pass by that place without a shudder.

Oh, my Mother, what struggles!…I belonged to Jesus all alone, I had given Him my faith, where had He gone? [It seemed] He had left me alone as prey to the furors of the enemy.. Everything had turned against me including my very simplicity. Because, instead of being seized by horror regarding everything that would have driven me to an infringement of my virginity, I also found the vocation of marriage to be beautiful. I had, in a manner of speaking, two vocations, two attractions. Oh! What torture!

St. Teresa [of Avila] said that the thoughts of men should dwell on the slope of the abyss but I feel that the heart would be stronger than all the rest, and that, in the face of the impetuosity of its drive the nobler and finer sentiments are swept away. Yes, my turmoil could have taken me up to there. I know it well.


The most extravagant thoughts took ahold of me. For example, I asked myself if I still possessed my reason. There were, it seemed, two persons within me. On the one hand, I rejoiced to be fortified by my vow. But, on the other hand, I hated my chains.   And, since my will did not make me run wild, despite the efforts of the demon, which I opposed, I had concluded that there was nothing to do with regards to this sort of temptation and that one was defeated in advance. This is why I believed that I was damned without appeal. I say “I”, but it was not I who believed in this fatalism, this predestination for hell. It was the voice of the wretched dog who barked without let-up around my abode. It was he who whispered to me to make me despair.

You could possibly respond, my Mother,” but you had Carmel.” Ah! That was also one of my sufferings, believing that I was rubbish, I would not dare speak about any of that with my Therese. I was afraid to contaminate her. A few escaped words, here and there, to my sisters made them have a presentiment about my trials, but nevertheless it was [another,] simple type of a presentiment that led them to write to Father Pichon. As a result, to encourage me they told me that he had written them that I had a very “beautiful soul” and that I was an “elected vessel” An elected vessel, is it really he who could say that, he who received all my atrocious confidences? Note: 21 September 1893, he wrote to sister Therese of the Child Jesus: “cherish you Celine, she deserves it. I know it better than you. Our Lord guides her to the summit by a rough and steep road.

I attempted to make this revelation do me good.   I made sure to persuade myself that my soul was beautiful and that I was one of the elect of God because those who knew me said so. But this consolation was a mere touch upon my soul and it only comforted me for an instant. If it was true that Jesus still loved me, wouldn’t he divert His eyes from me in disgust?


As far as I was concerned, I had remained faithful and I always loved him…

As soon as the storm arrived at its pinnacle, without my knowing when Jesus would rise, He ordered the wind and the surge [to abate] and He brought it all to a great calm. [By then,] my little boat had been tossed around by the waves and menaced by lightning for nearly two years.

I had read in the life of St. Thomas Aquinas that an angel of the Lord came to gird him so that he would not feel the rebellion of the flesh. As for me, I do not know if an envoy of God had also rendered me this service. All that I know is that after this moment a belt of purity had replaced for me the “thorn in the flesh.” The peace was so complete and so durable that I came close to forgetting that I had a body, so much so that I lived but through my [faculties of] intelligence and heart.

Now, if I wished to analyze what occurs during such a trial and what had been my cooperation to grace, I would say that this cooperation does not consist of anything but a passive suffering and a will that has as its only occupation, to denounce [temptation]. It was Jesus alone who had prevailed in victory without any merit on my part. “My strength lies simply in silence and in hope,” as our Holy Rule says. In silence, because I did not want to make an exterior appearance of the thoughts that tormented me. No one would have suspected [because] I projected an air of indifference. My cousin, Marie, to whom I was very close, never perceived it. Moreover, God permitted that I never uttered an encouraging word to those who sought after me. He could think that his attentions had been completely wasted. Ah! I did not have a word to say, not even a look! When I dreamed [of an alternative life], I was seized in horror [because] my vocation was so close to foundering! It


seemed like it was hanging by a thread and if I had wavered this thread would have broken!

My silence about this trial was so complete that I didn’t even speak of it to my confessor, whom never knew a word about it. My Director, Father Pichon, was kept minutely informed [of my affairs], and this was enough to make me feel secure. Since I had nothing for which to reproach myself, why should I raise this question? It would [only] have the same result that is produced when one beats egg whites, just as the mousse would rise, rise, so my imagination would be agitated. For that reason, I preferred to surround myself with calm. I had for a maxim, “all that troubles comes from the demon,” and, since my will was right, I rejected mercilessly against him all that he wished to make sink my peace that I still conserved intact thanks to God.

You are going to think, my Mother, that you do not understand any of this. A moment ago, I had just depicted for you an all-out war in which I had believed myself defeated and I can say right now that I have not lost for a single instant my interior peace. I admit that I did not understand this at all, and yet it is true, I can confirm it.

Upon reflecting upon all this, I simply believe that it is completely natural that it be so because, while Jesus teaches us to pray, He does not counsel us to ask to be delivered from temptation, but only to have the grace not to succumb to it. In sum, the temptation that reduced my kingdom to fire and blood pushed my soul into a corner, that is, at the same time, struggle and Jesus would deliver me from wrong, [bringing about] the arrival of peace.


I had an invincible confidence in my God and, regarding everything meriting his disfavor, I supplicated that He have pity on me and I was certain that He would deliver me, or, at least, that He would not permit that I would offend Him. I had listened to His precepts when He had told me: “My daughter, support you father in his old age, his spirit will come to be enfeebled, be indulgent with him, and do not show contempt for him in the plenitude of your strength.”   As such, I had a right to count on the recompense “because the good done to a father will not be forgotten, and in the place of your sins, your home will come to prosper. On the day of tribulation, the Lord will remember you, like ice is melted by mild temperature, so will your sins disappear. (Ecc. III, 12, 12, 12, 15)

Yes, Mother, the Lord has remembered me…that is where is to be found all the mystery of my preservation. Ah! You will now understand when I compared my soul to a brand retracted from the fire!...

Thus, never will I be able to thank Him enough. It was He who saved me!...What did I do to attract this grace? The great saints rose up against Satan like formidable giants, suffering from the sting, they rolled themselves in the thorns or they plunged themselves into icy waters and, though their efforts, they put out the fire.   As for me, I, in my weakness, am content not to have activated the flame.

In truth, the fire was not extinguished then but, since it is a very great miracle that Jesus was able to conserve His brand in the heat of the flame that should have smothered this flame, glory be rendered to His power that has triumphed in me with added brilliance.

Alas! When I consider the incalculable number of poor souls blinded by the demon who lures them within eyesight of the pleasures of the senses and the attractions of human love, I am seized by a great sadness. I


would like to be able to find and tell them how easy it is to exit the crucible--purer than when one entered there. If one were left only to one’s own devices, this would certainly be impossible and the cursed voice of the serpent is truly in that. Yes, in my humble opinion, without direct aid from Heaven, these battles are among those where one is defeated even before entering the arena. Without this help from above, the fall is absolutely certain and the Sage had cause to say: “the vertigo of passion seduces even a spirit [that is] far from evil” (Ecc.) because the flesh is the weight that would drag us away if Jesus does not keep us from falling. Just as it is impossible that a man should throw himself from the height of a vessel into the sea with a millstone around his neck and then be able to swim and save himself, it is impossible to pull oneself out of the sea of temptation [without divine assistance]. The millstone is our concupiscence; the demon uses it, but it is not its doing, rather it is our own to throw ourselves into the sea of temptation. Oh, my God! How could we save ourselves from this double peril if you Yourself would not have come to our rescue!

Since it is evident that without the help of God, we are lost, it is necessary, therefore, to ask this aid and to be drawn to it. One asks Him through prayer, one draws Him through fidelity to small things, and through confidence in God. As for me, I am certain that, if I had the misfortune to give in for an instance, I would have been lost. So, I was stricter than ever in my habits, more vigilant regarding matters of vanity. I recall that at the marriage of my cousin Jeanne, her sister Marie and me, who were maids of honor, drew much attention because of this. We, having taken care to present a modest appearance,


did not want to arrange our coiffure more [elaborately] than in the ordinary manner so as not to attract looks from whomever it may have been. Because of the state of my soul, I looked with care for all occasions to mortify myself. The mirror was banished and I reminded myself at receptions to pay close attention not to cross my feet because that was a graceful gesture and I hid [my feet] under my dress to deprive myself from showing my shoes with ornamental cuttings. These little [penitential] nothings are very small things but they are the ties that attach us to Jesus, bonds that we must prevent from breaking. In this way, we remain between Heaven and earth with our millstone around the neck, or if we touch the waves, far from engulfing us, they will [simply] give us gentle support.

If to the contrary, breaking these ties of small sacrifices and vigilance, we tell Jesus: “I am tired of forces that are of a superior strength than mine. I am going to give up to the mercy of circumstances! If You wish save me, You are all-powerful!” If one says that, one imitates the executioners who, before nailing Jesus to the Cross, said, “if you are all powerful, come down from the Cross.” He did not come down, even if He was all-powerful, and He will no more come to the aid to the imprudent who are tied to their infidelities. Or, if in His goodness, He comes there finally to prevent the final loss, it will not be before [they] had been well humbled by multiple falls.

It seems that the fall is often the punishment for pride. The Sage has said: “the root of all sin is pride” (Proverbs). So, one can be well certain that only the proud fall; the ones who have presumed to rely upon their own strength or who, abandoning the oar, have tempted God. The little ones, the weak, they are the ones who are humbly confident in the Lord, [straining with their feeble strength] to do all that is in their little power. Those very ones are the ones who won’t fall!


Ah! My Mother, I find that one does not say enough to souls about this truth, so simple and so consoling. In our pride, in a manner of speaking, we wish to forget that all, without exception, are molded out of clay and we, [therefore,] do not dare to raise up such questions. The children of darkness, they, daring well to raise them up, but only to speak to souls through ignoble novels: “open your doors, your windows, all openings in order to breathe with full lungs the voluptuous atmosphere that we intensify around your abode.”

And, we, under the pretext of maintaining good manners, we surround this important question with silence—the question that interests almost all the world, and poor souls are lost for lack of counsel, lack of hope. Ah! If I only could!...My Mother, how great are my desires to fly next to poor souls who are tempted, [and] the poor hearts who are seduced. I would recount my sorrows, my little efforts and the victory that Jesus has won. I would tell them that this victory is assured by means of an easy and very small cooperation. I would tell them these words borrowed from our holy Books: “When I was still a youth, before I lost my way down the path of error, I had prayed openly for Wisdom. In seeing her flower, my heart rejoiced in her as if seeing grapes that gain color. I asked for her before the temple—for her my soul had fought and [for her] I had taken great care in my actions. Towards her, I had directed my soul, with her my heart had followed down the right path, and I had found the purity of life. With her from the start, I have acquired instruction. That is why I will never be abandoned.


Bend your neck under her yoke and may your soul receive Wisdom. There will not be far to go in order to find her. See with your eyes that for which I have made a slight effort for so little time and where I have found so much peace.” (Ecc. 51)

What Jesus asks for is, therefore, prayer and the simple action of bending your neck under the yoke that is nothing but to take great care of one’s actions…On earth, by means of [this] remuneration, one is assured against all kinds of accidents and even about life itself, to assure also the mercy and the compassion of the good God, it is necessary [to pay just] a slight royalty, but who would not be willing to pay this for such security!

My Mother, it is time that I stop myself because on this subject I will not cease if I let myself go on. To make you forget this already too long dissertation, here is a little witticism that will make you smile. At the time that the “Journal of the Cross’ [Journal la Croix] appeared for the first time, Therese and I were still young. We found ourselves on the boulevard that led to Les Buissonnets when we heard a cry “Via! The Journal of the Cross, only 9 centimes!” At first, we thought that we had misheard, but hearing again the same sound, we began laughing: “it is just right” said Therese, “that it is not to expensive! [Just] a penny to be on the road to glory!”

Ah! My Mother, when I had been in the process of paying this penny it had cost me [so much].   I had found that I had given millions, but today it is only a penny in compensation for the brilliant victory that He had won for me in my estates.


When the enemies finally retreated, the country became extremely prosperous. I can say that my soul, far from becoming enfeebled by two years of war, saw itself enriched by all sorts of goods.   As I had just written by citing the passage of Ecclesiastics, Jesus repaid me. He seemed to have forgotten that only He deserved the honors of the triumph…

At that moment, I could say like St. Teresa that I had the world vanquished at my feet. My soul and my heart were elevated beyond the things of earth and I felt within myself a noble assurance. Ah! If I had been free with what speed I would have flown to and hidden in a cloister. But my dear, little Father had need of me. A questionable need, it is true, because I could not relieve him in anything. He was too sick to be able to enjoy regularly my visits. Nevertheless, I did not refrain from making these visits so that he would see himself accompanied and loved if, alas, he could be able to enjoy again these kindnesses!   To withdraw would have been to condemn him to die far from his family, and I hoped each day that God would return him to us.

I remained, therefore, in the world exposed to new seductions, but firmly convinced that Jesus would soon help me escape. I led a serious life that had been very agreeable in the company of my father and my dear sisters…morning was reserved for painting. After morning Mass, I focused on my work. I composed paintings for the Carmel and I also made [pictorial] studies of nature. I called in older ladies and children to serve as models for me. That cost me a lot because in all manner of things I prefer to be able to work alone rather than to be in charge of other persons.


My models were always very happy to come to pose for me because I rewarded them well. But the children would fall asleep. It was necessary for me to distract them, like the older persons who chatted almost the whole time, so I started doing this work from nature only to please the good God and to show Him my good will. It seemed to me, that after these efforts, I could fully hope for His generosity when much later I would be able to use my art for His glory. My cooperation for that moment was, therefore, to do everything that was in me without being afraid of the work.

At that time, I had a strong desire to have a teacher who would guide me in my work and the good God permitted that an artist from Paris [who was not] competing that year, member of the Jury, etc…(M. Krug) came on holiday to Normandy. Friends put me in touch with him. My uncle invited him many times and he gave me excellent lessons. I made a portrait under his direction and many studies. He was very surprised at my aptitude and admired very much my diverse compositions. Much later, when I asked him for counsel about my paintings, he would invariably respond: “I have already told you that, as far as the composition, no one else could match it!” As far as the execution, there were enough faults, but my excellent teacher never discouraged me. He promised to help me be received at a salon in Paris if I had wanted to pass a few months in Paris following his courses. But my other duties kept me in Lisieux and I refused his repeated offers.

In explaining to us that method of studies, [such as] the competitions for the Salon, since he was very frank and loyal, he alerted us to the tricks used in order to be received and the protections that he would insure. Among other things, he told us that, if the competitors were not part of a certain society (which name I don’t recall


there was a subscription to be paid)…so, if competitors were not already members of that militia, they would not be received whatever the value of the works. I cannot describe how much this declaration disgusted me because it seemed that earthly honors or victor’s palms were not based on merit but on intrigue and self-advertisement, and I was not surprised to have seen in salons so many works of art that, in my view, were very mediocre.

I was able to enjoy only one summer of lessons with my teacher. Each year during vacations, I would see him again and would submit to him works that I had made in his absence. He even came to see me at Carmel where, having shown him a bust portrait based on a photograph that I had just finished, he told me that it was worth no less than 400 francs (a portrait bust was worth around 300 francs and 500 francs if showing hands). Prices calculated by my painting teacher,

These details in the story of my soul will seem childish to you, my Mother, and, nevertheless, they have their own importance [because,] in these fortuitous encounters with a renowned painter, it seems to me there was a great delicacy on the part of Jesus. He seemed to say: “for me, you have renounced going to Paris to follow the lessons of the great teachers, eh bien, it is one of them that comes to you. It is I who sent him [M. Krug] to prove that even human help is not withheld from those who have abandoned all for the sake of my love.”

I very much appreciated this grace and I enjoyed its fruits because the protection of such a well-qualified teacher was a great support for me. When he stated that something was well done, it was necessary to believe him. No one [else] would dare to criticize my work once the “censor” had passed by. This resulted for me in a certain assurance that made me advance with giant’s steps in my art. Up until then, timidity had paralyzed my strength which proves one more time that encouragements are often necessary.


Along with painting, I also pursued the sciences and literature. I read books on geology, zoology, physics, chemistry. I also read Plato and it is with pleasure that I would have done so if I had been free to study philosophy with someone there to guide me. Every evening, my uncle would read to us beautiful passages from the best authors that he had chosen (taking care to eliminate those of doubtful morality). In this way, we began to know Corneille, Racine, Shakespeare, and many others.

At that time, I learned by heart more than 40 poems. There was one for each taste; some were delicate, melancholy, humorous; others were grandiose, severe, sublime. Among them were also patriotic recitals or military songs. The latter were the most numerous. Naturally, no one knew of my repertoire. I murmured them in a hushed tone when I was alone performing a work task that did not captivate the spirit. I do not need to say that these poems were composed in the best of taste and all were pious. I sang about my chosen heroes and, among these heroes Jeanne d’Arc was my favorite.

Stories of chivalry had been for a long time my delight, but I was not satisfied with the simple accounts. I had studied books dealing with the subject of chivalry. As a result, I knew the name of all the arms employed by the Knights, their duties, their mores—no detail escaped me.

Even as I instructed myself this way with interesting and historic lectures, I nourished my soul with holy doctrine and the examples pf the Saints. My dear Therese took charge of supplying them for me. I usually read and meditated on those matters and subjects that she had already read. I read the Foundations of the Spiritual Life by Fr. Surin, the works of St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa, Fr. D’Argentan, Henri Suso and many others


because piety always held the first place in my heart.

I also occupied myself with different tasks. I worked on electroplating, photography and all other kinds of artistic endeavors. I liked very much studying inventions and understanding their mechanisms. Having a sewing machine, I took it apart completely and, after having cleaned each piece, I put it back together.   Speaking of a sewing machine, I knew how to operate it and often we made our own clothes—my cousins and I.

Ah, my Mother, how many things! When I consider all those things, I feel vertiginous! And, of course, it is true that my poor spirit applied itself often to vanities. I should say “unfortunately” for I have always had great skill and was capable of a number of tasks. Still very small, at an age when a little girl could only string pearls, I asked for a rag and thread and, to everyone’s astonishment, I designed and made a dress for my doll—a dress in the mode of those I saw beautiful ladies wear. It is true that the stitches were one centimeter apart, but the imitation was done in a surprising manner. This aptitude for all things was so evident that a notary told Papa, pointing to me: “You don’t have to worry doting on that one; she carries her own fortune within her.” Ah! Could it be that he had said the truth because the riches with which nature had favored me have served me to acquire the imperishable fortune that one calls sanctity.

Therese thanked the good God for not giving her these exterior gifts that attract praise from creatures. “I regard that as a grace,” she wrote. “Jesus wanted my heart for Himself, already granting my prayer, by changing into bitterness the consolation of earth.” I had, accordingly, a greater need of it since I would not have been indifferent to compliments. But much later, she declared


that, while still young, she was seized by a “great desire for knowledge.” This urgent desire to learn in a child who was not yet 15—doesn’t it denote, in a nutshell, this aptitude for all things that only blossomed in me when I had reached 20-25 years of age? And, rather should she not have thanked God for allowing her to hide in the shadow of the cloister so as not to lose her time pursuing useless knowledge?

As for me, should I [now] regret to have employed in a manner less lucrative than she the most beautiful years of my youth? Oh, No! Being in the world, I was there through the will of God and, in his condescension, he did not [in those circumstances] ask me at all to live like a religious. As such, I am persuaded that I remained agreeable to Him by especially cultivating the mind. From the moment that one searches for his Kingdom and His justice, He is content with us. As for me, I am certain that, utilizing occupations that had no objective other than reaching eternity, I was always seeking to deliver them over [to Him] to find such beauty that would draw me ever closer to my Creator.   By the way, it was not difficult--everything raised me to Him, even those things that ordinarily should have distanced me from Him.

I also believe that if Jesus has wished that I be exposed to seductions “of knowledge”, it was so as to continue in me His mission of preserving his brand from this fire that is no less dangerous than the one involving passions—more dangerous even because they are named pride and vainglory and because for that sin there is hardly mercy.

But God allowed that on this subject the temptations of the demon ran aground completely without giving me over to [actual] battle because [this subject] had much less hold on me than the other. I have always hated pride more than the devil itself, and I must admit that similarly I do not


understand it. I am, alas, proud whenever I am accused unjustly. I strongly feel reproaches and I have the need for all my energy to keep quiet, not having come across humility of heart until mature reflection. On this question of pride, it is the first impulse, rather than humility, which is but the second. But as to pride that comes from vainglory, I find it to be so senseless, so unworthy for a noble and generous soul that I despise it with disdain.

I recall, nevertheless, of a circumstance when the good God allowed the demon to tempt me on this point and, having left me to myself, He wanted to see what I would do. I hasten to say that if there was a victory there, it was He who carried it. The small child who brings to the unfortunate the coin that her father has just given her has, indeed, it is true, carried out an act of charity, but doesn’t the merit rest with her father? It is always the same in my case that whoever earned the coin [deserves the real merit] and that I only have the small merit of carrying it to its destination. Oh! How profoundly I sense this truth!

I am getting ahead of my story. I was in Carmel already for a number of years but this concern relates back to the subject that I am discussing here now. In order to organize a photo laboratory, I was given the task of procuring the production of a tank and a basin. Since an altogether specific form was necessary for the latter because of the space for which it was destined, I had made a sketch with a caption on the front. These objects were perfectly executed, just as I had requested. I manifested my surprise to the commission agent that the workers had so well understood the instructions. “It is not surprising,” he responded to me. “It was so well explained that a child could have understood it immediately. The workers, in expressing their admiration, all said, ‘that sister is a true architect!’” At that moment, I felt a sense of very great pleasure,


without, however, paying attention to it. Nevertheless, this impression persisted and it bothered me, although I wished to chase it away. At any moment, however, it would come back to me with such force that I was grabbed by fear and, quickly running to the Holy Virgin, I begged her to come to my aid: “This is very clearly a temptation of pride,” I thought, “Oh, my dear Mother, have pity on me.”

But the temptation became more and more intense—what to do? I prayed with fervor and I obtained nothing! At that moment, I had a luminous thought—someone had given us, as a Christmas gift, a little pencil with an iron tip that had given me great pleasure. At recreation, a Sister borrowed it from me and I well knew that she would forget that I had lent it to her and would never return it if I didn’t ask for it back which I counted on doing without delay. But, as I have just said, a luminous thought traversed my spirit. I said to the good God: “Eh bien, I will give you my little pencil if you retract this fire of pride that burns me and I will promise you not only to refrain from reclaiming it but I won’t even take it if I see it lying around.”

My Mother, it was the very instant when the temptation disappeared never to return. I kept my word and I never came again in possession of my pencil that, you will not believe, was for me a very big sacrifice. By donating it to Jesus, I offered all that would have cost me the most at that moment.

Afterwards, I reflected on this inspired by the palpable result done before my eyes—that there is nothing efficacious except uniting prayer with sacrifice. There is a comment to make. Prayer and sacrifice are the two plates of the balance. A just balance that the good God is forced to provide…


But this reflection has led me far from my subject and I do not really know how to return to it. I said, I believe, that I have never had a battle based on pride that is born out of vainglory. I have been able, in effect, to profit safely from the enjoyment of the gifts of the spirit appreciated in the Carmelite Order, and I thank the good God for having successively placed me in milieus that were so agreeable for me.   At my uncle’s home, no more than at Les Buissonnets, there was never any banal conversation. The questions of fashion were discussed in the appropriate season and quickly resolved, afterwards one did not concern oneself any further. At table, the gentlemen had the word and I did not mind because I was hanging on everything they said. Nothing else interested me as did scientific or political questions. But, the latter made me suffer because I wanted to rise to fight for a good cause.

At that moment, a new journal was founded in Lisieux and whoever owned it opened his career by attacking the Church and the Pope. At the same time, [another] journal had stopped publishing, M. Lemeignan, its editor, a fervent Catholic of the Societe Lexovienne, who had directed this work for long, selfless years that were worthy of his faith, became ill and could no longer continue. In view of this difficult circumstance, my uncle told me one day: “It could be that the good God will be pleased if I write an article to defend the Holy Father, but this will engage me in journalism. If I did that, I foresee that the [burden of the] newspaper will fall upon me.” We were seated at table when those words were pronounced, and my


Aunt, so sweet and so timid, began to cry. She objected because, in view of the character of the adversary, she foresaw that there would be propositions for duels at every instant and that that would be a source of trouble in all regards. Then, I cried out these words, shaking with emotion, “Oh, my uncle! Are you going to stop over so little! It would only be necessary to just refuse the duels and later all would be said. What does it matter if you become a target for the enemies as long as you made a shield for the Holy Father and the good cause! Ah, If I only could!”

I truly believe that my uncle was struck by what I said then and that the good God permitted it this way because in an instant all his hesitations ceased and he replied with assurance: “Eh bien, I will respond! You have prevailed, great-hearted daughter!”

He accepted, in effect, and wrote an article filled with magisterial eloquence. The newspaper fell basically into his hands and he began a new life. Provocation for duels were presented to him, in effect, but he regarded them with contempt. In a word, everything that was foreseen came about but without any other result than a crown of honor [for him] and for religion a strong [source of] support. Oh! I will not know how to say how useful I found having a newspaper that allows [us] to speak up whenever necessity required it. At the same time, [to be successful], this publication did not have to do more than just keep the adversaries in check. Accordingly, for us to have this freedom to raise our voice when it seemed right, there was no sacrifice that seemed too costly [for my Uncle], neither that of his fortune


or even of his proper person. Nothing! It would have been better to be condemned to eating dry bread for life than to have allowed oneself be denied the right to cry out against injustice and against lies where they were laid out.

Regarding what I have just said on the subject of spiritual delights enjoyed in the Order, they are so great and superior to those of the senses that there is no comparison to be made between them. Sometimes, I judge myself with a kind of respect: I [then] tell myself, “Me, I am an intelligent and free being, I think what I wish; my spirit runs along everything and wishes to penetrate all things. I have a will that is mine, markedly independent of all that surrounds me so that nothing in the world can do [me] violence despite myself.” God Himself counts on it. Upon reflecting on that, I find myself so great that I have a hard time believing it, I touch myself and I say with enthusiasm: “yes, it is very true that I exist; I [a number of lines crossed out] but, before these marvels, how can I not recognize the supremacy of He who is our beginning and our end, about Him whom allows man to know His thoughts?” (Amos IV, 13]   And, nevertheless, how many, alas, have distanced themselves from the Divine Principle in order to demean? and to choose freely the rank


of the most wretched beings.

I cannot say how much this thought pains me. In recent days, I had for a few spare moments a fashion catalogue in my hands. In plain view of all, these frivolous heads squeezed my heart. Without a doubt, these are nothing but images, but there is no need, nevertheless, to be deceived. The designers always copy the perfect examples and the appearances of their epoch. If their pencil strokes produce these poses and effeminate figures, it is they who may see them under their eyes. How sad this is! I have remarked to others about a person whom, after having made a turn of her [dress] train around herself through a certain movement, looked upon [the result] with such contentment as if she were hypnotized by this splendid experience. The beautiful spaniel that we had at Les Buissonnets often did the same thing!

Oh, my Mother! And to say that these are creatures that are so great and so perfect; creatures that have before them eternity, [and, yet] will amuse themselves in this way! How ugly and repugnant, therefore, is vanity since it requires [one] to look for the model not in God but in the domain of animals. This reminds me that in the country we had a beautiful mare who despite the weight of years had conserved the graces of her youth when there was honor in which to show them, because, as soon as she went to the fields to pull modestly a haycart, she lowered her head almost touching the earth; whereas when she pulled a Victoria [model of horse carriage] she adopted an elegant gait, placing her head in a position resembling that of a swan; in a


word, one could immediately recognize in her the carriage horse that she had once been. She showed a consciousness that she had once been beautiful! I cannot say enough how much this study of the instincts of animals relative to vanity was profitable for me in making me despise such a low and servile instinct [in humans] because it makes us find our satisfaction, not on the joys appreciated in God or in ourselves through the culture of spirit, but in others through the desire to show off.

Alongside this serious and interesting life that I led at my uncle’s home, two trips took place during this same time period. One had Lourdes as its destination, the other Paray-le-Monial. On the first of the two voyages, we visited the principal towns of France because we went as tourists and, like the Three Magi, we went out in one direction and returned via another. This excursion, so agreeable on one hand, had a minus side: it was to learn getting around Lourdes without a pilgrimage group, but the good God so provided that we would connect up with a pilgrimage group from the Vendee at the Grotto, as well as having the joy of reuniting there with my cousin Marie who had also in this manner the opportunity to have her pretty voice heard [at the Grotto] in honor of the Holy Virgin. I recall that after the torch procession many retuned to see who was the nightingale with the pure vibrato. After making our devotions in a place that is unique in the world, we took excursions into the mountains and crossed into Spain. Our voyage was a pious one, charming and instructive, but what left a lasting impression on me


was the visit to the Sanctuary of the Holy Face and a visit to the Grotto of Massabielle.

Later, I also made a pilgrimage to Paray-le-Morial. I was accompanied by Leonie or rather it was I who accompanied her because it was to be agreeable [to her] that I set myself again en route. I had more than enough of worldly voyages…In order to prove to Jesus that I loved Him at that place where He had manifested His Heart, symbol of the love He carries for me, I did not wish to follow the other pilgrims who took the road to Ars. Yet, nevertheless, I would have loved to make a visit to that blessed place. I say that, my Mother, to prove to you how I had to give to the Sacred Heart of Jesus a proof of my affection [and] this proof carries with it a sacrifice. However, if you were to ask me what I thought about the Oratory of Tours, the Grotto of Lourdes, at the Sanctuary of Parlay, I would respond that I suffered there more than I rejoiced and I have understood this words from the Imitation: “that there are few who are sanctified by multiple pilgrimages.”

It was in vain that I looked for Jesus there, [and] that I searched for Mary there. I tried to penetrate the thought that my Jesus had appeared at such a place, [and] that my Mother had occupied space in the other; that, in effect, they whom I love so much had come there to render a visit to our humanity, to reveal there the Divine Secrets. My spirit


made a full stop and my heart exclaimed. as earlier the disciples had while seeking to understand Jesus: “Master, where will you lodge? Where are you? Where can I find you, my Well-Beloved?” It is not in sentiment that I wish to find you, but in reality. I want you to seize You and take You everywhere where I will go. Like Mary Magdalen, “the place where you had been placed,” did not suffice for my tenderness. I cried in looking upon it because that blessed place did not possess more of my Treasure. “Where have You hidden Yourself, and abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved? You have fled like the stag; after having wounded me I ran after You, crying; but You were already fled.” (St. John of the Cross)

Such are, my Mother, the thoughts that flow from my heart, despite myself, when I visit on earth the places sanctified by Jesus or by my Mother of Heaven. But in these agonies of love, the profound words of the Imitation always come to console me: “the pious man always carries Jesus everywhere with him.
What have I, therefore, left here below after such an assurance that I sense has been realized in me.” Yes, I feel Jesus living in me and I carry Him everywhere with me! Even if the malice of men arrives to deprive us of our tabernacles, to remove the Eucharist from us, as long as I have breath in me, Jesus will reside in the sanctuary of my heart and I will see this mysterious presence disappear only to possess it in the clear vision of eternity.

Oh, there it is—the pilgrimage of pilgrimages—to visit Jesus in ourselves through the interior life and the union with God…It is there that He rests…


[Thus,] He responded in those days to his disciples who asked Him where He resided: “Come and see.” Yes, in order to see, it is necessary first to go [there]. It is our cooperation to the divine call. This pre-supposes an effort, but what a recompense to see the place where Our Well-Beloved lives and to enter there with Him! Oh, how much, after finding this sublime treasure, the heart, at last satisfied, cries out with joy: “For me, to be united with God is my happiness. Except for you, Jesus, I do not desire anything on earth!’ (Ps. 73, 25, 26)

It is very true that I do not desire on earth anything but the kind will of my Jesus. Often, ah! Very often, my heart would return towards the dear Father who lived in exile far from us. The wound was always fresh on that subject, but it was [felt] without bitterness.   I was so given over to the good God that I would not have known how to wish anything other than what He wanted and it was patiently that I awaited, from His tenderness, the grace to surround myself with the last days of my Father.

What did I lack in the life that I have just depicted if I possessed the pleasures of the heart? But they were not for me anymore. The rosebush had been pruned and its flowers were dispersed. Oh! How much I suffered to be taken away from drawing the sap from the paternal branch!...To sacrifice this joy—for me was to burn that which I held most dear. It is true that my good relatives did everything possible to soften this trial for me, but they could not prevent that at times little sorrows would [still] arrive and


I am certain that the good God permitted it to be so for my greater good.

One day, my cousin Jeanne had arrived with her husband and my uncle, wanting to tease her, told her: “Leave, therefore, your Francis and return home; you will not have to pay room and board here.” Immediately, it felt as if a sword had struck me. Me, I paid board because I did not have a home of my own. Where was my home? Me, I, therefore, did not have a family! If it had been an earlier time, I too, would had been a “child of the house.” But the good God had let the storm unleash itself and the venerable chief was far from his own [family] and our domestic life where I had been one of the happy members had been devastated…All these thoughts crowded my heart and, upon re-entering my little bedroom, I freely gave way to tears.

You can believe it, My Mother, because I have already told you about the intellectual pleasures obtained through studies with which my spirit was then exclusively captivated. That should have been unfortunate above all if the proverb had been right when it says that “when one acquires on the side of the spirit, one loses on the side of the heart.” Because in choosing between the two goods, I would have preferred the joys of love, but since love augments by learning more about the beloved object, I applied myself to study to better know the good God since He is revealed though His works. I had this experience so markedly that I asked myself how the savants could ignore God. It is a problem that


I cannot resolve. In my case, the goal was, therefore, reached and I led a very intense interior life.

Carmel was everything for me. Each week, I would go to re-immerse myself before my Therese. Leonie would place herself on one end of the grill and I on the other. She would see one or both of our elder sisters and I would have a chat in a little corner with Therese—there was never any variation. It was not until the end of the parlor [visit] that one would have a general conversation.

I was never sated of receiving advise from my dear sister. I consulted with her about everything. I also arranged the means of receiving her letters--this is how I did it. Due to the so special circumstances in which I found myself, there were some privileges granted. As a result, [Therese] would bid me greetings for my feast days and birthdays. Then in order to obtain [the privilege] that she would write to me, I kept myself well away from the parlor around those dates, and, when I had received my letter, I immediately would go and thank my dear Therese in person. That is the reason why almost all the letters that she addressed to me were for either my birthday (28 April) or the feast of St. Celine (21 October). Thanks to this strategy I now possess these treasures.

Oh, my Mother! What a union of souls there was between us! There, I again found the family and my heart was comforted by this contact; we were the birds from the same nest; one would [freely] speak about the dear absent one. The same interests occupied us, the same joys and


sorrows made our hearts beat.

When I consider that divine institution that one calls the family, I think that modern legislators would do well in not abolishing it. The nations and the peoples could merge, possibly, by pursuing this goal. [yet] those without loyalty to a specific homeland [sans-patrie] would serve, despite themselves, the designs of the Most High because we ignore that which should take place in the final days of the world and the type of legislation that God prepares before the final catastrophe, or, rather that human malice prepares for itself, but the family, that sacred tie will survive until the end of time, more than that, as Therese has sung: “we shall find again the paternal roof in Heaven!..” I cannot adequately say how comforting this thought is for me and how it helps me sustain the exile.

My visits to Carmel and those which I made to my dear Father, therefore, divided my week. I still remember the deep thoughts that filled my heart during these voyages to Caen. The speed with which I crossed the beautiful countryside reminded me of the rapidity with which life passes, the setting of the sun made golden the horizon “decorating the clouds,” speaking sweetly to my soul. It seems to me that, [despite] the clarity of these marvels, I saw the truth about all things. The vicissitudes of our pilgrimage here below appeared to me as they truly are and in order to merit the sweet eternal delights no trial on earth seemed too much to me. Many times, even often, wishing to prove to Jesus my love and not knowing what witness to offer Him, I offered myself to Him to do whatever pleased Him.


I told Him that I would accept anything from His hand: even, ah! even the loss of my reason if He deigned to ask for it. The only grace that I asked was to never offend Him. After this offering of myself, my love for Jesus found some relief because it seemed to me that I could not go further in my donation, I had reached up to my last limits.

During this time, the good God hurried to flood us with waves of his tenderness, and, on 10 May 1892, he returned to us our dear Father.

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My joy was great in being able to care myself for my well-beloved Father. The paralysis had become generalized. He was not able to move except with the greatest difficulty, aided by one vigorous arm. The legs, above all, refused all service. His head wound was, at this time, completely healed. There was not even a trace left.   As far as his morale, it was now that of sweet childhood, so sweet and so amiable that he had all the charms of the young united with his grey hair. I never stopped embracing my dear papa. I showed him my affection in a thousand ways and didn’t know what else to invent in order to make life pleasant for him. He


took an interest in all that happened around him, without, however, playing a part in it, because he almost never spoke. Nevertheless, one could tell easily that he understood. He loved, above all, to listen to my cousin Marie play the piano and he would remain for long hours listening to her, principally when she played melodies. One recognized then his profound soul and his meditative spirit from times before.

It was necessary then to set up a new house. My uncle rented a place very near to his. Ah! But it was not Les Buissonnets! But, what does the jewel box matter when we possess the “fine pearl!” And I possessed my “fine pearl,” and I was so happy that to live in a dungeon with him would have seemed marvelous to me. Nothing, nothing would have cost [too much] for his company and, to surround him with honor, I would have [happily] worked and by the sweat of my brow I would have obtained [income] if that were necessary. No, it was not an ordinary filial love that I had for my Father, I believe it, it was a devotion.

We hired two domestics to care for Papa. Unfortunately, at first, we were unable to procure the couple and this was a source of big problems, difficulties of all sorts and all natures. Since I am on this chapter, I will say a word to you, My Mother, it is true that these worries are secondary, but they do not cease, nevertheless, to annoy and sometimes [even] blight life. Having particularly suffered [this,] it is [only] just to accord it some mention here in the story of my life. I believe that the good God permitted these trials for me, as He allows [them] elsewhere for others, to prevent me from attaching myself to the world.


At Les Buissonnets, my domestic preoccupations had begun as soon as I took on the function of mistress of the household, this having taken place upon the departure of Marie for Carmel, which coincided with the marriage of our loveable and devoted servant Felicite. I must avow that starting at that time, despite my prayers and the prudence I applied to my choice for replacements, I was not dealt a lucky hand. There is a [whole] book to be written on this subject that would not lack for thorny incidents due to multiple twists and turns that happened to me in this domain. In effect, as we started caring for Papa, at first at my Uncle’s house, then in our new dwelling (rue Labbey), the difficulties surged and one recognized very quickly the absolute necessity of hiring a couple whose service would be totally consecrated to our venerable infirm. I keep silent about the fruitless attempts, true dramas, that we had to live through, so as not to speak [ill] of our last domestic named Desire. This man whose final history indemnified me for all my back luck, was very devoted to my dear father, whom, from his side, displayed great affection for him. Cheerful of character, he made [Father’s] life happy and knew how to entertain him, so I did not keep an account of his many faults. His wife and he took care of the duties of [maintaining] the household.


Well descended from an honest and Christian family, he had not always been serious in his conduct and allowed himself like so many others to go by way of the miserable passion for drink. Nevertheless, one could easily reason with him and, as I said, because of his devotion, his probity, and his cheerful character, I closed my eyes to all the rest in order to keep him [with us]. He did not make any more difficulties about going to church on Sundays.

We did not ask our domestics for more than to maintain the exterior practices. They should go to one Mass on Sundays, follow the procession of the Sacred Sacrament with us, [but] without our ever taking [further] responsibility for their consciences.   Always, I looked for ways to instruct them in their duties towards God. I took advantage of all occasions to reach that goal and also so that such a need be born [naturally] within them.

That year-- it was in 1893--we neared the beautiful feast of Easter and I knew that my domestic worker would not [meet his Easter obligations]. This caused me tremendous regret. Seeing that I had made no progress with him, I began a novena to St. Joseph that would end on March 19. I had written a little letter to my well-beloved Father in Heaven that I placed under his statue and each day I made fervent prayers to obtain the conversion of my poor sinner.

On one of the days of the novena, I was in my bedroom, whereas the domestic was occupied waxing the room next to mine, when, all of a sudden, I saw him enter precipitately and threw himself on his knees

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at my feet. His face was flooded with tears and he said in the midst of his sobs: “I am a miserable one, after so many years that I am distanced from the good God, I have committed a sacrilege in appearing to accomplish my [religious] duties to please my family, but I wish to convert. I was just now looking upon the painting of the Holy Virgin and my heart melted like wax. Oh! Mademoiselle, pardon me, have pity upon me!” This poor man made before me a true general confession, so great was his repentance. As far as I was concerned, I was moved, so much so that I told him to leave his work task and go without delay to confess to a priest what he had confessed to me in order not to lose the grace from the good God.

He obeyed me instantly and left to confess himself. The scene at which I had come to be present was truly touching and I thanked St. Joseph for the extraordinary grace that he had accorded me. As far as the painting that gave off the ray that led to repentance, it represented St [Mary] Magdalen crying over her sins at the feet of the Holy Virgin. This painting was my composition, one of my “superb” daubs. This proves that the good God does not prefer [superior] works of art in order to touch hearts but [instead] uses works where love has directed the brush. That is what had happened with this painting.

The domestic returned at last from his errand happier than the happiest king on earth. His face was not the


same—he breathed peace, joy of heart. Oh! How true it is that there is nothing in this world that gives more happiness than purity of heart! This man was so content after a humble avowal of his faults that, if one had offered him all the riches and honors on earth in exchange for this peace, certainly he would not have agreed to the bargain. It is altogether right that it should be this way because the good God is just and He has placed true happiness within the reach of all his creatures. Yes, all, even the poorest on earth can possess the treasure of a good conscience that makes all the base metals on earth pale in comparison but which we, by our stupidity, believe will ameliorate our immense hunger for happiness—a hunger whetted in us by the Infinite and which only the Infinite can satisfy.

On the day following this memorable day, Mr le Cure [the local priest] came to pay me a visit to have the occasion of seeing again his penitent. And, because I spoke to him of the great grace of conversion, he assured me that it was one of the most consoling aspects of his ministry. This good, old man appeared radiant and, if there was at that moment much joy in Heaven for one sinner who had repented, in a little, intimate corner of our immense planet, there was also much joy where all hearts were united in the same faith and the same hope, [all] being very close to Heaven.


It is about the period of my life that stretched out from my residence at my uncle’s home until my entry into Carmel that I have spoken to you, my Mother, [particularly] about the place that my studies had taken, but I have not spoken anything of the assistance I gave to the poor, as well as the time mandatorily accorded to mundane exigencies and to innocent diversions that were a consequence of the [social] position that we occupied. I will mention at the outset my pleasure in carrying out works of charity because I had a true attraction for occupying myself with the unfortunate and I had a real desire that I be permitted to satisfy [this urge] by visiting the poor in their hovels, but my Aunt judged that that was not the place for a young lady. I told her that, nevertheless, I was no longer altogether so young anymore, and that, despite my age, my life experiences supplemented my small number of years.

Yet, nothing would make her decide to give me carte blanche on this subject. Then, my cousin Marie and myself decided to open in the house a type of workshop. We invited many of our friends to come and work there. Their support was required once per week. Moreover, we had a “piggy bank” where each one discretely deposited their savings for this work. I would not be able to count the number of little dresses, petticoats, blouses and hoods for children that our hands produced. We worked without stopping after having bought our materials at a discount based on having purchased lot quantities. None of us were disconcerted and for our work we felt no embarrassment in obtaining our supplies in


poor shops in bankruptcy in which the fabric remnants hung at the doors in a state of lamentable disorder. But what a recompense there followed in seeing the joy of our little world when the day had arrived for wearing the famous items of clothing! I recall a family of 5 or 6 children that we had dressed from feet to head. If I lived 100 years this picture would not become erased from my memory. The faces of all these little ones had so brightened with joy that this scene was already a more than sufficient reward for the little trouble that one had undergone and it is hardly necessary to understand that the good God additionally promises an eternal reward. To act with this liberality was truly a reward, not sorrow, for it is a great, sweet joy to give.

I say, therefore, that our little ones were overjoyed. They looked at us with big eyes that sparkled successively with longing and gratitude. Longing when the dresses and coats were displayed; gratitude when each was dressed with their own items. The little hands kept away from the clothing so as not to crease them. It was truly charming. Before letting them leave us, we addressed them with pious recommendations, asking them to promise to be well-behaved and to love the good Jesus with all their hearts.

Yes, I very much loved to make the children happy. One day when there was a market at the fairgrounds, I purchased all the stock


of waffles for my dear Carmel, and I [then] glimpsed a little boy with his hands in his pockets. He looked at me, and above all at the waffles, with longing. As soon as I had finished my purchase, I told him, “Hey, play the lottery!” His face shone with happiness as he rolled the spinning wheel and he won the waffles. He spun it once, twice, and when his hands were full, he ran off making a cry of joy that all there could hear. The merchant observed the scene as if stupefied. She seemed very moved and expressed it by praising me. I remember the change in her face that went from being rude suddenly to amiable and tender as if this spectacle had opened for her a horizon that she had never suspected existed.

I am going to speak to you this instant, my Mother, about merchandise bought at discount. Along those lines, a memory is returning naturally under my pen and I do not wish to pass over it in silence because it was for me an advisement to last my entire life. It was during our voyage to Italy. We were in Naples, and like in the other cities of that country, we were hassled by the crowds of small merchants who absolutely wanted us to buy their goods. If we had listened to them, we would have needed a second train to return to France so we mercilessly had to refuse their offers. Among all the poor, there was found a young man who


pursued me with a pretty, finely made basket. He wanted to sell it for 4 francs. Because I did not want the basket that I judged would be destined to become clutter, I said to dissuade the solicitor, “I will take it for 1.5 francs.” I thought that that would make him desist but he rejoined by lowering his first price but I stuck by mine. Finally, he went away and I thought that he had quit when I saw arrive an old man who gave me the basket for the price I had given. After obtaining the money, I saw him turn away at a distance with a certain sadness as if he regretted his deal. At that instant, I had wanted to run to him to give him his pretty basket back and leave him with my offering [of 1.5 francs]. Alas! There was not enough time because we had to rejoin our group. What my heart felt, I do not know how to explain. Still today, after more than 20 years, I do not think of this without feeling regret. And, nevertheless, this poor man has never been impoverished because of his sale because I recommend him so often in prayer to the good God that certainly he has been aided by my Spouse who is so rich and powerful. The wrong that I involuntarily could have done to him has been largely repaired. But this incident has, as I have said, served me as an example for all my life and after this moment I took the resolution never to pay for an object below its value. This poor man had, without doubt, a great need for money in order to consent to give in exchange for a few pennies such a beautiful work, representing so many hours of work, and if I had


accepted this exchange for the sake of taking advantage, I believe that it would have been a wrong on my part. Oh! How one should be just with regards to poor workers who struggle and tire themselves in order to earn a living for themselves and their families. One should be happy to find occasions not only to pay them but to have them win at our expense.

If there is any merit in feeling within myself a need for justice as perfect as possible, I must attribute it to my dear parents who had given me the [best] example and who raised me with these principles. Never did I see my father do wrong to anyone. He would rather be tricked than to trick someone else. It was because of this that he would not consent to allow a counterfeit coin to circulate that had been passed on to him, such pieces [louis d’or and pieces blanches] were pitifully attached to his work table as a perpetual memorial of his exquisite honesty.

Within the Guerin family, I was also a witness to touching examples of charity. Before the good God gave a fortune to my Uncle, I often heard him say: “How I wish I were rich in order to do good!” because his big heart suffered that his purse was not as great as his aspirations. But, when he became rich, he was also poor because he would stay in contact with a large number of people in miserable circumstances, and, in view of this multiplication [of cases], his fortune appeared to him as small as it had been at the time


he had a mediocre position. His entrance hall was always occupied by a band of poor people. He would give away a handful of pennies or other coins [pieces blanches]. He never counted them, and even if he gave more to those who were most meritorious, he never refused anyone. But, in order to be able to sustain such liberality, he did not make useless expenditures. He said that that would be to do a wrong to the unfortunate. And, I would see him serving wine at table without doing so for himself because this indulgence was not necessary for his health. He preferred to make this small savings for [the sake] of his dear poor. I only relate one sole example but I could offer a thousand because it was the same in all things and, yet, everything was well provided in his home, where offerings for the poor prevailed over the superfluous, yet where one enjoyed good material comforts.

I only, therefore, had to follow these laudable examples and I would have been responsible for straying from such a route so cleanly traced.  Nevertheless, if I desired to give the poor material alms, it was within the context of reaching into their souls. The good that touches only the exterior seemed to me to be [like] a body without life, and just as one would not allow a dog to die at one’s doorstep for a lack of a piece of bread, it is the same obligation to comfort similarly situated persons in their needs which is the least a good heart can do. [please check] Also, when one stops at the point of giving material alms, the goal [that is achieved] is grounded in the here and now and the value is very small.

To act in this manner is to throw food to a prisoner without


delivering him from his chains. It would be to cut the saving cable that the drowning person has in his hands. One cannot throw it and then, instead of pulling, abandon him after giving preliminary assistance.

Yes, when one gives alms to a rational being, one renders him indebted towards one because a good deed attracts thanksgiving. It is like a link that connects one heart to another; one becomes, as it were, a teacher and can make [the subject] do what one wishes. [It would be wrong] not to profit from this power that is placed in one’s hands but [instead] to raise the heart towards supernatural things and to give it to God. [If instead] one broke voluntarily this saving link, and carried out charity [as previously discussed], the action would be no more meritorious than to help a non-rational being. [Supernatural aid] is higher and more urgent and that is all. Our Lord Himself has explained the condition of merit. It does not depend on the value of the offering but only on the intention since a glass of cold water given in His Name would not remain without being recompensed. See, therefore, the important point—“to give in His Name”— and one sees that he has to mention the benefactor to the one receiving assistance. To keep this intention in one’s heart is not enough. So, for example, if a rich person gives me a sum to distribute to the poor on his part, I would be wrong to allow the poor to think that I am the source of this largesse and I should make known the name of the benefactor for whom I make the distribution.

It is so as to put this line of conduct into practice


that I love very much to speak of the good God to the unfortunate. My cousin Marie and I brought together children to teach them their catechism. It was our preference [to teach] boys because ordinarily they are more neglected and less well instructed than little girls and so, even if they were chosen from among the most underprivileged and those whom nobody wanted, they constantly gave us many consolations.

I occupied myself also with preparing for First Communion another child for whom my uncle paid boarding expenses at the little seminary. I placed my heart in this sweet service and I had him follow the same method that I had once followed myself. I composed for him a small notebook where each day he should record his sacrifices and, at each interval, I took the opportunity to explain to him the great tasks that he had accomplished. I did this to help him with comparisons that, without a doubt, would awaken his imagination because, upon reentering the seminary, he told his professors: “oh, prepare me for my First Communion like Mademoiselle Celine does!” But these good gentlemen did not recognize neither Mademoiselle Celine nor her stories so they could not satisfy the child. One of them, nevertheless, a young priest friend of the family told me about this and asked me to teach him my method.

I remarked that one doubts too often the success that crowns our pious efforts and sometimes one is tempted to become discouraged by thinking that one is preaching in the desert. So, in this way, the child of whom I speak seemed to be not very expansive. He even seemed not to understand and not to be very interested in the things that I would say to him. I could


not have believed without this anecdote that was reported to me by chance that I had done any good. I was then so persuaded that, after his First Communion, later having asked him for his notebook in order to make some last revisions, I forgot to return it to him. Soon, he left the seminary and I lost sight of him. What was my surprise when one day, I saw a tall, young man come towards me to reclaim this famous object. I had forgotten that it was in my possession but I soon located it and handed it over to its owner. This small detail proved to me how much this small souvenir of his childhood had meant to him and I concluded that the seeds thrown on the earth at that distant time produced much later their flowers and their fruits.

No, it is not necessary to be discouraged when the task appears to be arduous and sterile. It is necessary to work with the same ardor as if success were certain and depended on [just] our efforts. It is required that we dispense, without any further accounting, the Word of God of which we are [the] happy custodians. We do not have to have any worries because, despite the passions of men and the ambushes of the demon, the Word of the Lord will always be true: “for, as rain and snow come down from the sky and do not return before having watered the earth, fertilizing it and making it germinate to provide seed for the sower and food to eat, so it is with the word that goes from my mouth. It will not return to me unfulfilled or before having carried out my good pleasure and having achieved what it was sent to do.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

This consoling promise has always been present before


my eyes while I endeavored to complete any good work having for its end the glory of God and it has been for me a precious comfort. I have never worried about voicing my thoughts. I have always tried to instruct and enlighten those persons who approached me. Among my friends, I had many who loved the world very much and who felt obliged to sacrifice to that idol whose attractions are so seductive. I allowed them to recount to me all their vanities and I would say nothing, but it was by precisely saying nothing that I had the most effect upon them because, not seeing that I approved of them, they would come back, [saying,] “you are a saint, you! And I am sure that you laugh at us interiorly!”

They came to open my door, and I passed though it quickly and without directly attacking their conduct. I unveiled my thoughts on the stupid vanities of the world so unworthy of occupying an immortal soul. I concluded by saying to them: “I don’t care whether you have wanted to learn my way of seeing this. It is you who have asked me. If you do not wish to know [my views,] do not engage me on that terrain!” Strange thing, in my presence, they seemed as if forced to return there and to confess to me in some manner all their peccadilloes.

One day, not wishing to be unkind to one of them who tried to persuade me that her [social] position had a demanding nature, I asked her: “tell me, then, if in the society where you find yourself, there are those who still dress more modestly that you.” She blushed and testified, “yes.” Then, I replied, “Eh, bien, go to the ball if your relatives oblige you to go there, but be the most modest one in your dress.


Do not let this nobility of soul towards others, take it from yours.

And that is not all. To re-establish the equilibrium of the balance put on something to offset that grain of incense offered to pleasure by wearing an instrument of penance while you dance. Mgr. d’Outrement, during his youth, was obliged like you to lend himself to such diversions but because he did not want to find himself there he had the need to introduce nails into his elegant shoes so that the pain would remind him of himself and his God.”

My friend listened to this and [imagining] a steel bracelet instead of a gold one, a pointed, spiky belt instead of a pearl necklace, she did not bite very well into the hook. She was stunned and noted that there were enough of such generous souls, as I had noted, butt these examples in generating her admiration certainly produced their fruits.

If these [fruits] did not prevent the continuation [of all aspects] of her frivolity, they did, nevertheless, serve as a bit or rein that held back the charger of her ardors.

Yes, it is always good to enlighten and instruct our friends. I have had that experience. What not to do is to participate in their errors. It is an old proverb that says: “the fence [of stolen goods] is worse than the thief.” Yes, to listen to the language of passion, whether it be the outcome of jealousy, anger or even of vanity, without giving salutary advice is to take upon one’s shoulders the neighbor’s burden without, nevertheless, lightening his load. It would be the type of condescension that [in the end] succeeds in doing nothing. It is not an act of charity but instead one of cowardice.


It is a baser action to watch with a cold eye a fire without throwing out there a bucket of water and, as such, God knows that these are similar actions before His eyes and the eyes of our fellow men!

I don’t ignore that, generally, one does not judge that way among humans. I say this for those who have regard for the things of God and the well-being of our brothers. Upon the smallest attempt, one is immediately over-taxed by discretion. One pretends that the zeal is often more harmful than soft patience. I say, “soft patience,” because, [when] zeal is taken the wrong way, is it just to judge it equally with that patience that merits instead the epithet of lack of concern? Ah! If one should see a beloved one at the point of being crushed by a heavy machine, what cries would not be made to prevent the danger, with what rapidity would one throw oneself over the subject of one’s tenderness! Oh! One would not calculate [beforehand] how to grab, one would not consider whether one would be wounded in trying to save him. What would abruptness matter in the face of such a great danger! [Yet] to save a soul one puts on gloves, one whispers, one waits, finally, one does not try to do anything and the souls of those we love are lost for eternity and an immense abyss will separate us from them for all eternity of the kind “that where they are we cannot go and they will not be able to come to where we are…”

I still experience a profound sorrow in the face of such a great wrong. It is not I who gives myself this feeling. It is Jesus who puts it in my heart since, ever since I was very young, I would


recall that He was already in me to make me suffer because “the zeal of love is as inflexible as the destination of the dead. Its ardors are the ardors of fire.” (Canticles VIII, 6). If it is inflexible, what therefore, can reduce it? If its ardors are as penetrating as fire, who can, therefore, extinguish it? No one! Because this is not one more human fire, but “a flame from Jehovah,” (Canticle VIII, 6) and “the great waters cannot extinguish this flame and the rivers will never submerge it.”

While still very young, I was, therefore, consumed by this flame lit by the good God in my heart! Here is an example: one of my little companions, before making her First Communion, told me that her grandfather would not be uniting himself to the pious Feast because He had become estranged from God. He had been well shaken by a mission, but he had allowed this breath of the Holy Spirit to pass without responding to the grace. I dared then ask this child if she had said a word to her grandfather and, based on her negative response, I ruminated interiorly. I could not stop thinking about it and I considered in my head what I would do in the place of my companion; the means that I would employ to snatch the poor sinner by the heart on such a beautiful day. This plan put in play all my ardor and I believe that the good God was as grateful to me as if I had accomplished it.

I know well my Mother, that it is through prayer and sacrifice that one arrives upon converting the hearts of His creatures. It is He


who enlightens them and who transfixes them with a quality of contrition and love and we, without his aid, are not able to do anything but be clumsy. But, if we employ our ardors to sacrifice ourselves in secret, to pray for well-beloved beings who do not enjoy, as we do, understanding, He will make our efforts fruitful. And, just as He had in prior times, when He increased the beauty of Judith so that she could more easily execute her plan that she had conceived to save her people, so, shall He give clarity to our poor, little actions and make our words persuasive. Who, therefore, in view of such protection, dares to call our efforts “indiscreet zeal” when Our Lord tells us in the Gospel never to allow ourselves to hurl against a closed door because even, if the [occupant] does not rise willingly [to open it], he will open it, nevertheless, to reduce our [irritating] insistence because “whoever seeks, shall find.” He opens the door for him that knocks and will give to him that asks. This is so true according to the expression of the valiant Joan of Arc that “it is necessary to fight so that God will give us victory!” It is in the same sense, I believe, that St. Paul declared that “we render ourselves commendable through the offensive and defensive weapons of justice.” (Second Corinthians 6:7). In effect, the great Apostle not only refrained from praising those who consigned their zeal to the depths of their heart but he also demanded that we should not just defend justice but that we should [affirmatively] fight for it—to provoke this defense through the use of offensive weapons. We are, therefore, more praiseworthy when we go to the front [of the battle] than when we temporize because in that lull [there] often enters cowardice that is born out of the apprehension of suffering, [being] a refusal [to suffer] rather than a real fear of [committing] an imprudence that would delay the reign of God in that soul


that we are attempting to win for truth.

But I can see myself straying far from my subject. I speak of the principle charity that [should] be made to the poor—that which consists in the ministering of the Word and the outpouring of the heart. Corporal alms are the keys that open the door. It is necessary to enter through this closed door but not to be satisfied to hurl there a piece of bread. Permit me, my Mother, to develop for you my thoughts about certain sufficiently delicate prejudices. It is true and, nevertheless, deplorable in my opinion.

I have remarked that many pious persons make a distinction in their distribution of alms in rejecting those unfortunates who have been touched by the wounds of sin. Not only does one stay clear of their homes, but these persons, doubly disinherited from nature and grace, are stricken from the lists of charities and they find no succor besides the usual benefactors of the poor.

My Mother, I would not know [how to begin to explain] how unpleasant I consider the intransigence that clearly contrasts with the doctrine and the conduct of the Divine Master. Because the Holy Gospel tells us that: “all the publicans and sinners approached Jesus to hear Him.” (Luke 15:1) If they were the ones who approached Him, it was [also] they who welcomed Him warmly. If it was they who wished to hear Him, it was they who did not humiliate Him during His discourses. The Gospel again prompts us to remark that it was Jesus who first addressed the Samaritan woman. He lowered Himself to ask from her a favor and why do that other than


to bring about the opportunity to instruct her and, through [His words,] to convert her?

As far as we are concerned, it is not something we would do—not only do we disdain such women, and far from going to them and even speaking to them and ask for a courtesy, we do not even deign to respond to them when they ask us a question. Let us get away, right now, from them. Because, it would be to sully oneself merely to touch them with a tip of one’s finger!

Oh, my Mother! To behave like that—would it not be to imitate the pride of the Pharisees who scrupulously cleaned the surface of the cup and the plate and who were themselves whited sepulchers—odious receptacles of corruption? Who among us is without sin? I compare all souls to houses—palaces or ordinary shacks. In such houses—whatever they may be—there exist [in all] of them despicable and hidden places. If there is a garden around this house-- whether a park or a simple flowerbed—there is also a secret place where one leaves all sorts of detritus. Such is the condition of human life.

Thus, our soul, that splendid edifice built by the very hand of God, destined to become his sanctuary, our soul has inherited the original fault. It carries an indelible flaw. It is troubled by the three strong desires described by the Apostle and which she [the soul] knows well without needing to be taught by anyone, helas!...These are the secret places that she unveils with care to those whom approach her. In this way, she holds herself like a queen in her sumptuous salons. It is there that she receives her visitors. And she is right. Our beautiful soul should respect itself in this way. Who can blame her?


And, nevertheless, it is a truth that it is easy to note each day other beautiful souls abandoning these splendid apartments, going without false shame to establish their general quarters in the despicable places of their homes. It is then that all [others] flee from them and, one may add, not without cause. No, it is not without cause! Because it is a great wrong at the very moments that they most need us that we abandon them. They have a need for good counsel, of a helping hand to assist them [to] withdraw from this rut, but we do not extend this hand and our voice is not the one that they hear! Well, what! But that would be to prostitute oneself!

Ah! My Mother! They prostitute themselves! And, [on the other hand,] one does not fear in prostituting oneself in recognizing arrogant persons, in giving a hand to those potentates who place themselves in the opulent places that they occupy. Yes, we give a hand to those who lead us astray, who pillage the heritage of Our Lord, who tear up the robe of Our Mother the Church or the clothing of the other Mother, the Father Land, and we do not call that prostituting ourselves!

The Apostle St. John, who rested over the Heart of the Master, and, who pursued there the science of truth and charity, does not judge as we do. History recounts that one day he found himself at a public bath with the heretic Cerinthus. Upon leaving, [St. John] glimpsed [Cerinthus’s] presence, fleeing like the plague from the ground that


this arrogant man tread as well as the air that he breathed. Whereas St. John, weighed down by old age, pursued a young libertine man, even into the mountains, at last meeting this lost ewe in the sheep-pen.

Yes, see there the example that the sweet St. John gives us: he fled those whom we salute. He pursued those upon whom we step on as if a pile of rubbish. Yes, why, therefore, not go back into the river current and instruct ourselves from the same source of the doctrine of the divine Heart of the very sweet Master!

I have read somewhere that a Pope had established a turn where one would come in the evening to deposit small, abandoned children. This turn was constructed in such a way that no one could figure out from where this child came. Many became indignant in view of such a measure, even to the point of saying that the Pontiff favored vice, but he was not moved by this charge and continued with his extraordinary charity. He saved the lives of the bodies and the souls of hundreds of little beings.

In our day, many speak in the same language as in the time of this good Pope. “It is to favor vice” to be charitable to such a class [of people] in the world. Better to conserve alms for those who deserve them. It is self-evident that it is not necessary to give money to those who, without doubt, would use it [only] to commit [more] sin. But there are other ways in which to be charitable without giving money—if one becomes closer to the poor to be near them, if one visits them in their manure one would become better aware of what they need and [comprehend] that it is precisely because they sin that disorder reigns in their home

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are more miserable and have greater need for us to have mercy upon them.

But I go back to that word that “to draw near those unfortunates whose conduct does not make them deserving is to favor vice” because I have not finished my thoughts. Some vices can be dominated by fear: a man would be put to death if he kills a fellow man. These would-be-murderers, in general, refrain from killing, but the vice that we deal with here is not reduced by fear. It is not because [people with] beautiful virtues are disgusted and will refuse to give alms that vice will be punished. The bait for the senses, the bait for the heart cannot be vanquished but through their fellow man. The misleading bait for the senses must be combatted through good works; and the bait for the heart is tender compassion. To that man, thirsting for love, it is necessary to bring to his lips the quenching source—the bosom of God. And to arrive there—the supreme goal of charity--it is necessary to sever that soul from false pleasures and to offer him the real pleasures. And what are these true pleasures other than well-being—the well-being that is brought about by a discrete and well pondered charity. This charity is the hook that draws in the poor sinner—once taken, he does not lose his grip and one can give him easily to God. The Holy Spirit has said it: “If he finds for an intercessor an angel, among a thousand, to make him understand his duties, God will have pity upon him.” (Job 33:23-24) And, [yet,] we do not want to be this angel upon whom depends the salvation of this


poor sinner! Nevertheless, the situation is easy because the Lord did not say: “if he converts and turns away from the bad path,” but He states in advance His compassion and gives beforehand the conversion upon the sole touch from that angel that proposes that he become aware of his duty. And, if the compassion of God rests upon the head of the unfortunate one, pardon cannot be far away!

My Mother, how much I would have loved to be an apostle of sinners. It seems to me, through what I sense in my heart, that I would have been very patient in waiting for them and would have had much solicitude in drawing them. I would have particularly looked for the most fallen, letting the pure souls fly on their own wings. I would go to those who do not have anything. To imitate my divine Master would have been my ambition. He who has said: “I have not come to call the just, but sinners,” and again: “it is not those who are well who are in need of medicine, but only those who are sick.“ He who so fully forgave the adulterous woman of whom He asked nothing. He pardoned her without making a sole reproach! No. ”God does not act like man does. He does not shame us for things that are no more. He shows us only love when we move towards Him.” (St. john Chrysostom) [Such as] this poor woman [who] was going towards Him. Someone had taken her here by force; yet, she returned [from her encounter with Jesus] having been forgiven [of her sins]. What an encouragement for us in guiding sinners—to lead them to His feet!

But to lead them, it is necessary to grab onto them. Oh, my God remove


From our breasts that heart of man that is hard as a rock and place there in turn Your own [Heart] that is all kindness and all love, and we will, with the aid of your grace, perform miracles of sanctification.

Jesus has said it: “the children of darkness are better informed of their affairs than the children of light” and one of them, attempting to corrupt the soul, expressed himself thus, “love succeeds more in the theater than other passions do because there is more of love than there is of vengeance or ambition.” (Voltaire). Yes, in saying [those words, Voltaire] said the truth and, if we Catholics want to play our role properly in the theater of life, it is necessary to use that always seductive hook. It is necessary to love our neighbor, to love his soul for the love of Him who purchased it at such a high price. To where does this disdain lead—isn’t it foolish not to use this hook where there is a wound anyway?

It is to ignore the full extent of our strength if we fail to use love. St. John Chrysostom asserts this truth in a manner that supports so well what I wish to say. “By the sweat of his brow, a hermit had managed to reach the desert with only one companion. This hermit had lived the life of an angel and he was reaching his old age when, I do not know how, he lent an ear to a satanic suggestion that gained access to him through the [hermit’s] negligence. [Thus,] the spirit of darkness entered his heart. He was seized suddenly by [desires for] impure love. He began to ask his companion to serve him wine and meat, informing him that, if this companion refused, he would


leave the country for the city. If he spoke in this manner, it was not that he desired what he said, rather he only sought an occasion and a pretext to leave his solitude behind. His companion was surprised to hear this language, and feared that a refusal on his part might be followed by unfortunate consequences. So, he lent himself to these caprices. When the [hermit] realized that his attempt had failed, he set aside all shame, throwing off his mask and declared that he needed to go to the city. The [companion] tried to dissuade him but his efforts were in vain. He, therefore, allowed him to leave but he followed him to discover the motive behind [the hermit’s] journey. Having seen him enter a public house, and understanding that he was looking for a courtesan, he waited until the hermit had satisfied his inconceivable passion and then saw him reappear. [Nevertheless,] he received him with open arms, squeezing him against his heart, kissing him tenderly and making no reproach with regards to his criminal conduct. He only prayed that it would be the case that [the fallen hermit] would not again experience such desires and would return to his [habitual] solitude. This extreme kindness that confused his unfortunate companion, touching him to his very soul so that came to deplore his weakness, and so followed his friend back into the mountains [towards the desert.] When he had returned, he asked to be left in another cell and to close carefully all windows and to give him at certain hours a little bread and water and to tell all those who called for him that he was no longer there. His friend agreed to these requests. The penitent closed himself inside his cell where, through prayer and continual penance, he worked to clean out the muck in his soul. A little while later, a drought desolated all in the region and afflicted its inhabitants.


One of the inhabitants was forewarned in a dream to go out to find the reclusive hermit and to beg the hermit to pray for the cessation of the scourge. As a result, this man left home with some of his friends to find the hermit. First, they found the hermit’s companion who told them that the hermit was no longer in his usual abode. Unpersuaded, they resorted to prayer and he received the same vision, the same warning. Then, they surrounded the hermit’s companion and pressed him to reveal where the hermit was to be found so that they would at least know that he had not died. Hearing this, the companion knew that he could no longer maintain the fidelity of his promise of silence and he led the men to the hermit’s cell. They knocked down a wall because there was no door. Upon entering, they prostrated themselves at his feet and begged him to deliver them from the drought and the resulting famine. The hermit refused at first to comply, saying that he had no confidence in his own intercessory power because he could see with his very eyes his sins as if he had just committed them. Nevertheless, hearing their plea, he began to pray. Hardly had he started his prayers, the drought ended,”

My Mother, this example is the striking history of what love can do for a human heart. To be clear, I should have stopped my narrative upon the conversion of the hermit since I wanted to


recall this power of goodness that could convert instantly a soul, allowing him then to climb [in only] a short time to the summit of sanctity. If I have followed my hermit up until the very summits, it is so that he becomes relevant to my subject about the honor with which the good God surrounds these souls, formerly plunged in the mud, even pouring many more favors on them that exceed those whom have never come close to sin. “In extirpating evil,” said a Saint, “God returns to the soul its primitive beauty and renders those who had committed the sin as equals to those who had not committed it,” [The fault] is complexly destroyed. For God, everything is possible because he is delighted to draw purity out of a pile of rubbish.” (St. Chrysostom)

It is so true that He is pleased to give us Himself these manifest proofs through touching symbols. I had read in the life of the Desert Fathers that St. Thais [of Egypt,] the sinner, having died in the exercise of her austere penitence before the time of her seclusion had been accomplished. The hermit who had converted her was sorely troubled to know whether [before her death] she had made up for her numerous disordered [behaviors]. The Lord sent him a dream. He saw a splendid bed guarded by four ravishingly beautiful virgins. The holy hermit understood…

Oh, my Mother, I cannot evoke this memory, not even think of it, without shedding tears, so touched am I by the delicacy of the good God. Because, just the same as the stigmata far from disfiguring


are an ornament, so does penitence, that laborious baptism, according to Tertullian’s expression, changes the stain of sin into glorious marks. In this way, in this incident from the life of St. Thais, God inserted Himself to exalt the emblem that reminds all her faults and, to honor this emblem, are the virgins appointed by Him to be her [honor] guards! Yes, the sinner who did not even dare to pronounce the name of God and for whom the sole prayer was the cry thrown towards heaven: “Oh, you, who created me, have pity on me!” This sinner who had allowed the crown of purity to fall from her forehead, it was to her that God gave a guard of honor and it was composed of virgins!

Oh, my God, this is truly too much kindness [than is merited by] your puny and miserable creature! What is then the name of this strange love that you have for her! She offends You, she betrays the most sacred promises and You, You spy in her the smallest signs of repentance because “you take pleasure in eliciting grace” and this sign, so timid, yet immediately embraced by You so that “You place under your feet those iniquities, [and] You throw down to the bottom of the ocean all of her sins,” (Micha 7:18-19). See here the [kind of] God that we have! And to say that among us are those who do not love Him and are those who blaspheme Him. That [He] pardons those of us who know of a love that exists to the point of folly, that [he] pardons us for the zeal of the love that devours us. When one loves [Him,] how can one not die of sorrow in seeing Him so little loved and yet not quiver with hope in


making Him loved! Oh, Love! Ardent furnace, bath of fire, when will You allow me to rest? And why have you retracted me so many times from the fire (imitation of fire!) by fear that I will burn but then allow me to be consumed by your devouring ardors?

[reminiscence of Isaiah 30:27]

Oh! Divinified brand, tell me if you have been sufficiently imbued [by my] flames? Flee far from me, my Well-Beloved, because I can do no more!

My Mother, I no longer know where I am. Pardon me for leaving you to fly away towards my God. This subject of his mercy towards us is very difficult for me. When I think about it, it comes at a moment when I cannot support the intensity of my gratitude. Also, sometimes, I express my love audibly, reproaching His [excessive] generosity. I tell Him that it is not reasonable to overwhelm his poor creature in this way. The contest is too unequal! Why don’t we have a God that is just adorable? Ah, very quickly, we would give Him the homages that He is due like the kind that we pay to sovereigns. Our debt [thus] satisfied, we will then be at peace! But to have a God so kind! Ah! It is a martyrdom because the disproportion [between God and us] is too great…He comes [to us]. He wished to come into our souls. He forgets that He is infinite, yet wants the finite to contain Him...He launches an attack as if He were contesting an equal. He does not consider that He is in charge and the poor, little soul falls before the vehemence of those transports. What to do them if not leave Him brusquely and


convince Him like the Spouse in the Canticles!

Oh! Yes, we convince Him to escape and at the same time call out to Him, we have too much and yet we want more, we know well enough His power, and we pursue our quest. It is an exhilaration of love—[both] a delight and a martyrdom.

My Mother, isn’t it only the good God alone who can provoke in our soul such excesses? It is He [alone] who lifts and shakes us to the very depths. What would you have us do? Should one ask an accounting of the boiling lava for those damages that its immersion occasions? Should we accuse instead the abyss that contains its outflow?

The abyss. It is God. It is His infinite goodness, His mercy and His tenderness for the children of men. As soon as one descends there, one is deeply moved and one loses oneself in order that one not be found again. But I have made an error. We do not have to descend, being [already] brought down there by our misery. It is God who, to transform us, descends to where we are.

Yes, the good God, so great that He descends and it is for that [reason] that He is so kind. He remarks that the small ones on earth rise [in grace] as easily as the great [ones], but never does He fail to lower Himself to their smallness. Here is an example that well illustrates my thinking: at the beginning of this story, I said that when I was a child, I would go play with the daughter of the prefect. But when she desired


my company, she would send for me by having her governess make a sign from her balcony for me to go to her. Never did she come to our house. She would make us—Therese and me—climb [to her] without ever ‘descending’ to see us.

And, [yet] the good God descends…Much later, on the day of our deliverance, He will elevate us up to Himself. But, here below, He distances Himself from us while we climb; or, rather, it is we who distance ourselves from Him because He stays in the profundities. Oh, blessed humility that in advance that comes together with our Celestial Father who lowers Himself towards us, who, through His Son, has made Himself one of us. Not like one of us regarding sin, but being dressed in the weakness of our flesh. Doing that to better resemble us! Ah! There is the true love—to descend to self-annihilation, to render self in conformance with the object of His love…And, it is our God who has done that! And each day, He renews that descent for each wounded and culpable soul!

My Mother, I imagine that if the elect could have some sorrow in Heaven, it would not be having lost through negligence some degree of glory and happiness, but only not having loved enough such a loveable One. And, I understand that the privation of God for the damned


is the greatest of the tortures that surpasses all their other sorrows. They would have discerned His goodness on their day of judgement and it would be enough to open for them an eternity of suffering. Ah! They would feel deluded at that point for not having loved such a good God!...

But I will stop myself and return quickly to my subject of charity. See where the story of St. Thais has led me! A very unexpected path I did not have the intention of following. Forgive me, my Mother, of making you return to your path to find there the poor sinners that I had left to ask us for assistance and protection.

Yes, their souls cry towards us and it seems to me that we do not have an excuse to distance ourselves from them. The example of the good God is there to indicate to us our duty.   We cannot take recourse in a more beautiful model. Jesus, the saint of God, has come in person to show us how we should conduct ourselves and He Himself has given us the condition on which He would recognize His disciples: “It is on this sign that we shall love one another.” And adding practice to theory, He inclined towards His disciples and washed their feet. He said: “As I have done for you, so should you do among yourselves. I have set an example that you should do for each other as I have done for you…” (John 13:15). Yes, He the Master and Lord did not refrain from making this service of charity before Judas himself—so what reason do we have to excuse


our severity towards sinners?

I have often thought that what prevents us from being charitable is that we only see sinners from their thorny side.

I have often thought that what prevents us from being charitable is that we only see neighbor from their thorny side. If they reveal their faults in broad day light, if they prefer their pleasure over their honor, we serve them well and we repay them with disdain. At the moment of the misguidance of their heart, they will care about our contempt, and our disdain will be a very small concern to them, they will not try to bend this iron bar, but the time of calm will arrive, and then they will timidly advance from the obstacle that they face and, always seeing it stiff and firm, they will turn back from the road, saying “the chariot is launched, it has to roll” and they will persist on their bad path.

Our contempt or simply our reserve regarding sinners shall be, therefore, the cause of their hardening in what is wrong. (Note: “It is through prayer and by showing them our interest that we arrive at doing good,’ writes a sister in charge of “repentants” in a Refuge.) And why, if not because we were not just? We have only wanted to judge them only by one side, without thinking that, if they had one, two, or three disadvantageous sides, they had at least an equal number of extremely beautiful sides. And, so would a jeweler throw away a precious diamond because it is soiled and dulled on one side? Ah! he would be more prudent than that, turning and returning the stone, its dull side will matter little to him. What does this mud amount to in his eyes, if in his hands, this priceless object will once again be restored to its former brilliance? It is necessary to admit that, in view of our intransigent principles, we are hardly artists, though we should be like our Creator.


We must realize that the demon is like the hornets and wasps that attack the most beautiful fruits and tempts the most beautiful souls. “The greater tempests are always for the greatest saints; as if Heaven had no other entry but the breach.   As if virtues cannot grow other than in well beaten soil…” (Father Surin, S.J.) and “like a saint,” according to the Marquis of Segur, “he is a conscript who responds to the call of Go that it is an elite soldier who has received true, fine weapons, but uses them excellently and, if he is crowned in Heaven, it is not through anything other than a strong connection with grace, because he has fought and triumphed on the earth.” One doesn’t have to be surprised that many people do not have that bravery and succumb during this war. I find that one should instead be surprised that there are relatively so few who fall, because in this miserable life--that is generally a “save himself who can”--it seems more natural that there should be more scandals. This preservation is due, without doubt, to the army of the good Angels and of the chosen, who combat the spirits of darkness, and protect and defend us without any merit on our part.

Knowing this, knowing that it is the bravery of the prey that tempts the eternal enemy of mankind, who with perfidy and unmentionable arts knows how to play with our passions and how to wound us with our own arms. It seems to me that one should be filled with tender condescendence towards souls who deviate from the straight path,


particularly those souls consecrated to God, who because of their high spiritual position are particularly targeted by the jealousy of the fallen angel. Sometimes, I think, for example, that the directors of seminaries, while protecting their students against the certain and special dangers that await them in the exercise of their ministries, should act like fathers with sympathetic hearts, ceaselessly and readily to help with tenderness the poor imprudent ones, because there will be some!

These directors should be ready to reconcile them with the good God, but also to do as much as they possibly can to get them out of the difficulties in which they are committed by their fault. Isn’t the Father of the Prodigal Son a perfect model of such loving conduct?

Please do not say, “you are too generous to the sinner!” That would be the opinion of the elder son who was jealous of the honors so easily rendered to his brother. It is not the vice that one exalts, but the full redemption that one easily procures. Man is the masterpiece of the infinite Beauty, so it is altogether natural that [their] inspirations incline [towards God] on their own such as the plant turns towards the sun. It is necessary, therefore, to attract it, using a bait of ordinary beauty. That is to say: you have fallen; you have sullied yourself, but come and you will be given back your first robe and, not only will you return to you your place in the [family] foyer, but there will be upon your return feasts and rejoicing.   There will be more joy in the family because of [your return], than for all the other children who have been constantly


docile. This is the beauty that the good God makes resplendent before the eyes of the poor who have gone astray.

But the demon has been all that and since he is the monkey of God, he wants to attract the souls by holding out the prospect of beauty before their eyes. How is he going to grab them there? He has nothing but a bad hand of cards, the Lord has the upper hand. How is the demon about to proceed? He is going to blind these souls up to the point of persuading them that black is white and mud is altogether clean; he has no other means of getting out of trouble. It is not honest because it is to trick everybody about the real value of things, but he does care much. Then one of the “dancers” [coryphees], Voltaire, wrote this line of conduct—a true echo of the abysm: “it is an art to make vice more attractive and to give it an air of nobility.” So, look there at the raised mask! We cannot mistake one for the other. It is vice, the hidden vice by means of an outward show of graciousness and amiability, under irresistible charms of a human heart, or the male appearances of a noble character, that Satan will present to the poor human story eager for beauty and grandeur. Also, St. Augustine could say: “Through the reading of bad books, one learns to see evil without horror, and to speak without modesty; [and] to commit it without inhibitions.” And how cannot it be so, the fishing fly set up by the demon is so brilliant and so golden that he seduces the unfortunate fish starved of food and [so] renders it a captive to its enemies.”


To oppose so great a wrong, we risk, therefore, nothing to make beautiful—and very beautiful—the part of the sinner and it is our duty to pursue him in the confusion by varying the envy of the brilliant lights of this saving lantern.

But how to get there? There is a modesty about these delicate subjects, one maintains silence all around. Ah, we maintain silence, we saviors of souls, and the destroyers of souls act while we drowse off. And, what? Are we not steeped in the same mud? If it were necessary to converse about this with the angels, I would [then] understand our reluctance, but among ourselves we should go ahead - I say should because, helas, “the extremities touch one another” and of the strange contrast of “those who see evil without horror, who speak of it without shame and commit it without reserve.” There are those who are the strictest and surround themselves with the greatest decorum. One would remark, the most dissolute people in their morals are, on the outside, the most prudish. Like the most scrupulous are the ones who most easily gravitate towards sin. Yes, it is those men, so exteriorly correct and unapproachable, who cross themselves upon listening to the simple language of the kind of St. Francis de Sales, who are the ones who become the loosest in permitting all sorts of pleasures. And [perhaps] a simpler age sees more clearly; our century, softened by refined, easy living, finds offense more readily.

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But it is time that I leave this all too well understood subject. Pardon me, my Mother, these long dissertations that probably bear little interest for you, yet permit me to resume these scattered thoughts because I have not yet achieved all that I want to say. It is a fault that, along with my impetuosity, I sometimes commit: “giving my advice without someone asking me for it.” I am not being


reprehensible in stating my point of view. No, I do not commit a fault, but rather an act of virtue since you have made it for me an act of obedience. It is this thought that encourages me to continue thinking that I accomplish this as God’s will, manifested through you, my Mother.

Concerning charity towards the soul of the neighbor, it seems to me that no human consideration should hold us up. [First,] it is necessary to imitate the hunters who are not satisfied to depart in arms but go first to the place where they know the game is and, second, they pursue the game, following them to their last entrenchments and forcing them to leave their shelter. What would one say about the hunter who sets out on a long course [only] to place himself where he had foreseen there would be nothing, or, rather still, sits down at the start of the path, waiting patiently until the hare passes within range of his shotgun? One would laugh at such a hunter. Eh bien!  Is it not necessary that the Angels “who watch us battle in the arena” not laugh at us—hunters of souls—and because of that they prefer we choose as our preferred location where the poor sinners take refuge? But that is not all. It is necessary to flush the game and, consequently, through indirect and ingenious means, to make [these] wounded souls exit from their recesses. It is necessary to let the dogs loose, [we must] employ all our resources to this eminently interesting and fruitful work.

But, once the game is discovered, what must we do? Ah! When he is to be found at the bottom of a ravine, one must go there to


find him. The precaution with which one carries out this descent and the degrees travelled is the image of the material gifts that opens the door of the heart and gains access to a soul. By this natural means, one surely arrives little by little to win this soul, but is necessary to employ it. It is urgent [to do so] to succeed. If we wait for souls on their own to present themselves to us, we will not make many conquests. It will be brought about by hard work, and it is uncommon in life--where it is necessary to struggle, work, sweat blood and water--to reach such a satisfying result without great effort. It is necessary to convert souls and not wait for them to come to us already converted. It is urgent to go down to where they are and not to expect to get there by one leap, but to serve by degrees, humbly and patiently, because patience is very important in this type of apostolate.

No, it is not recommendable to be miserly [in terms of] methods. The explorers that Joshua sent to explore the land, returning [told him] that there were few inhabitants. Three thousand would suffice to reduce [their numbers.] They [then] left and were battered. Then, Jehovah told Joshua, “take with you all the men of war” and victory was in his hands. (Joshua 7, 3-8,1)


This proves that, when one wishes to conquer a soul, it is necessary to put all one’s weapons into action. I mean to say all one’s resources. And the chief of these weapons, it is love. Beware, if we go off to battle without it. We would risk seriously wasting our time and trouble.

Helas! Yes, we would lose them; we who want to save souls, because souls are not saved except through love: love of God, love for souls. For those who study how to subvert them, it is fortunate that they banish [love] from their arsenal because without all their resources, evil would reach its full measure.

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My Mother, I stop—a little ashamed of all that I have written here. It seems to me that upon reading these pages you will think to yourself: “this is not any way for a Carmelite to deal with all these subjects!” It is true, my Mother, that St. Teresa did no occupy herself with this; [her feet] did not touch the earth; she raised us to the heights of the Heavens by describing the stages of prayer and of union with God. Me, alas! I am not St. Teresa but “a poor brand snatched from the fire.” So, it seems to me that my place in the family is to be very close to the fireplace…I wish, to stay there [in order] to render to others the good deeds from which I myself have benefitted. Yes, I want, in turn, to snatch out of the fire those unfortunate brands that are being consumed to throw them [instead] into the ardent furnace of Merciful Love…

How will I reach my goal, me, a powerless and miserable creature? I know it well—it will be by my humbly taking possession of the most common place in the house, there very close to the fireplace…my clothes will be covered with ash, but what does it matter to me! Yes, it will be in applying myself to humility and those well-hidden little virtues that I will set as my goal. Yesterday evening, I read during prayer a passage from Holy Scripture that served well to illuminate me. To take a city, Joshua had placed 30,000 warriors to ambush the rear of the city-state with an order to merge above it and to seize it immediately before the inhabitants could leave because Joshua, who was attacking from the opposite direction, with all the people of Israel, by feigning that they were running away, would draw the enemy into the desert,


[thus] giving time for the other portion of the army to pillage the city.  But how did these warriors know the propitious moment to do that? They were too far from their chief to receive his command. “Jehovah said then to Joshua: “Spread out towards the city the javelin that you have in your hand because I am going to deliver in your power.” And Joshua stretched towards the city the javelin that he had in his hand. When he stretched out his hand, the men in ambush rose quickly from where they were and, taking their places, entered the city and occupied it and [then] set it on fire. (Joshua 8:18-19)

It was, therefore, the sign made from afar that directed the maneuver and assured the victory. Similarly, within our cloisters, we appear to do nothing for the cause of God and, nevertheless, it is to us that the Lord said: “stretch from where you are the javelin that you have in your hand.” And we stretch out the weapon of good and are victorious.   But to do that, it is necessary not to let fall the outstretched [javelin] because it is said that: “Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he had stretched out his javelin until he had subdued all his enemies.” (8: 26). The hand signifies our will to accomplish the will of the Lord. The javelin represents our little sacrifices made from love.

That being so, I expect to reach the goal of my desires. I too wish to enter the hearts [of others] so that they may be occupied by Jesus. I wish to extract them from a corrupting furnace and [instead] put them in the fire of divine Love. And I will arrive there through my little,


daily [acts of] renunciation directed towards the semi-consumed firebrands.

One day, I was a witness to a scene that still gives me luminous instruction in the same manner. During evening recreation, our Mother, had sent me off on a commission and I passed over the cloister when I heard the piercing cries of birds. It sounded like a battle and I asked myself what I had found at the bend of the chimney. There, I found myself in the presence of a bird of prey that had in its talons a little bird, while another lied on the ground. I wanted to save the poor, little animal, but the sparrow hawk began to fly about my head, appearing to menace me with its beak. I was not afraid, and deploying our handkerchief, I waved it so violently that he let go of his first captive and fled to the inner courtyard, carrying still the living bird in his talons. But his first victim [still] tempted him, [and] he did not want to lose it at all and came back to where I was, still flying around my head, then leaving again, then returning. I had truly felt pity to see the poor, little bird who hung from the talons and I did do much and so well that, pursuing by force its executioner with a handkerchief this prey escaped, [and] it [was able to] propel itself away by its wings without having lost a feather.

I then reflected upon this: if such simple strokes with an inoffensive handkerchief had made a vulture flee, without profiting from the fruit of his victory, my poor little actions could, therefore,


also in the arrangement of grace, deprive the demon of his victims.

The dead bird represents for me the souls that sin has killed but who are still on earth. They still have hope of reviving. The living bird remind me of tempted souls, becoming the prey of Satan without being in violation of a mortal sin!

Pardon me, my Mother, this long dissertation about the seal of souls covered by the mantel of charity. I will now stop to return to the story of my life. Helas! This narrative will be again interrupted by the multiple reflections that are naturally found under my pen and for which I excuse myself in advance without having the power to correct myself.

I have spoken to you, my Mother, of the [importance] that I made of study and assistance to the poor during my life as a young girl. It is incumbent upon me to record again here another accommodation to the exigencies and diversions of the world.

When I name the diversions of the world, I do not mean by that the ceremonies of the demon—that is to say, the balls and the actual spectacles because neither my cousins nor I had a taste for those sorts of amusements. Even after her marriage, my cousin Jeanne would never accept the numerous invitations she received that, if she had [affirmatively] responded, would have introduced her into the most distinguished society. If she had wished to amuse herself, she would have advanced her position and [thus] created for herself obligations. [But], she did not see the point and never repented for not doing this.

When I say, “create obligations [for oneself,]” the expression is precise because is there no [such thing as] a real obligation that makes one free, except for all those that move us towards our Creator? And those persons who have worldly obligations are the ones who created these obligations themselves. I see in the house the proof of this truth. Yes, one can very easily free oneself of the guardianship of the world—one can always do it. When one does not do it, it is because one does not want it.

We were required to attend numerous weddings that took place within my Aunt’s family. We could not also refuse certain dinners for post-honeymoon dinners at friend’s houses. But that was all, and it was in these different circumstances


that I was “obliged to dance” and there arose the famous adventure about which Therese writes in her manuscript.

Since this diversion was completely anathema to me, one I would lend myself only to avoid appearing ridiculous, I avow that Therese’s insistence pained me and I resisted a bit in trying to convince her of my good will in trying to avoid [dancing] as much as I could. But she was not satisfied with that; she wished that I would not dance at all. Why did she wish that one time in so formal a fashion that I should abstain [from dancing]? I did not understand then the reason and I found my dear sister a little too severe.   She spoke to me with fire; I rarely saw her so animated and she told me among other things that a future spouse of Jesus should not compromise her principles; that, if the three young Israelites had allowed themselves to be thrown into the fiery furnace rather than bowing before the gold idol, I should be able to put up with the small wrong of being made fun of by others rather than to bow before the habits of the world that the Church condemns.

I listened to my little Therese with great respect, but I always left her without promising from abstaining because, knowing the difficulty that existed in so doing, I did not believe that it was humanly possible and I feared breaking my word. I know that she cried for a long time and prayed much…

For my part, I was more than determined to do the impossible


to please her. Not knowing how to succeed there, I asked Jesus to come to my rescue. I did not love other than Him; I did not seek to please but Him. He was my only love. I told Him then: “Oh, my Well-Beloved, you know the necessity of my going to this wedding. I do not see why, since I am your spouse, you would let me go alone. I is necessary then that you accompany me and protect me in a manner that I do nothing that would not be agreeable to you.”

So that Jesus would go with me, I placed in my pocket a large a crucifix, the largest that would fit in it, and I left. You know the end of the story, my Mother. There came a moment when pressed more than usual by suitors, forced, so to speak, by a group of ladies with whom I went for refuge, I felt obliged to proceed. But, as Therese relates, it was impossible for my gentleman and me to execute a single dance step. It was in vain that we tried to follow the music, although we would “walk very religiously” up until the end of this dance piece. After which, my poor gentleman disappeared and did not reappear during the soiree. It made me very sorry for him and I prayed to the good God for him. He did not [understand the story] of the poor, unfortunate one who had tried to dance with Jesus!...I knew only too well and upon rejoining my group, I heartily laughed at my adventure.   My company looked at me as if dumbstruck


But they saw me so at ease that they dared to laugh too. They said that they had never seen such a thing.

Here, I will stop for a short reflection. As I have just finished saying, in winning back my group, I read on their faces a sort of worry—one asked how to help me. If, therefore, I had a shame-filled and embarrassed air [about me,] they would have qualified as shameful the failure that had come upon me. In place of that, they saw the good humor drawn on my face and my adventure took on immediately an original cast that did not lack for being mischievous. It is, therefore, that in life, one will always be, if one wishes, the master of events, without ever becoming their slave. I say of this in relation to vanity. One may say for example, “if I go to church I will be made fun of and taking the back [door] one goes there trembling. Oh! One can [then] be certain that, in effect, one will become the subject of laughter for those whose opinions we have feared. But, if one says: “They will mock me? so what! It will be I who will laugh at them whom do not have the courage in imitating me in carrying out their duties!” If one says that, immediately one becomes a subject of respect for others.  As much as it is true that on earth where so many things are relative, they are not like this but by relation to others, we are truly what we want to be, the opinion that we have of ourselves is in a sense in our hands. It is we who fashion it


and, if we sell like Esau our right of liberty for a plate of lentils that represents here human respect, we become captives of the world.

But [now] I return to my story of the dance. Exteriorly, I laughed, whereas interiorly I was very moved by the supernatural intervention that had taken place. The powerlessness that took possession was inexplicable, I experienced it fully…Oh! How I thanked Jesus for having manifested for me His presence! And, I understood then that the good God really does not approve of this type of diversion since He refuses so categorically to play a part there, and, more than that, the souls who indulge in it are left on their own, since Jesus will not even pray for them! Oh! What a danger to play such a part where the good God is not there to protect and bless! Therese was inspired by Heaven when she fought against my prejudices, [and] I thank her.

It is true that my prejudices were not big and I never took any pleasure at worldly celebrations. If I have ever been bored in my life, it was at those reunions. I dreaded them as one dreads something disagreeable and it is not surprising since my only concern was to mortify myself [in the place] where I had a great fear of offending God. No, I did not feel safe there and when one feels a need to be on


guard, one is not happy, rather it is better to walk down less a flowery but surer path.

Therese was right to press this truth and to inculcate it in me, even by severe means, because I feel very well that, if I had been raised in another milieu, I could have bitten into the bait of the world. Similarly, haven’t I myself glorified the sentiments that I express? Oh, my Mother! What would I have become, if instead of having near to me an angel who closed with care all the exits leading towards the world, I had been left to myself? It is only Jesus who could answer…And, me, I could respond a little too because I know that, when a vessel takes in water through one opening, what person does not think of plugging [the hole] because when one ignores its existence or, when one judges it insignificant at the outset, the water takes on force, suddenly making a larger hole. [The water] will rush in tumultuously and soon will cause the ship to sink to the bottom. Yes, I know that catastrophes begin with small things, always starting feebly and being easy to remedy at the outset. It is this help that Jesus gave me by placing my dear Therese near me.

Certainly, without the vigilance of my Angel, my little boat would have taken in water just like the others! Because I had recorded many failures that were little open doors for temptation. Thus, one day, I spent money from my Christmas box to purchase


a bracelet. It was a pretty chain bracelet made of chiseled silver. I expected to wear it daily, but no sooner had I put it on my arm that I was seized with an immense disgust for this object and I rejected it with disdain. It seemed to me that, by having it on me, I was a prisoner. “And, why,” I asked myself. “would I have fastened a chain on my wrist like a slave?” It seemed to me that with that I had lost something of my freedom. And, it was true, that chain would have attached me a little to the world if I had given it permission to adorn my hand.

At another time, it was during my great trial of temptation, I held in myself the language that I had placed on the lips of those who had become discouraged and, leaving their oars, allowing their ship drift way by saying,” if God wants to save me, let Him save me!” I only showed this kind of defiance once, and, in that circumstance, I allowed myself one look, only one, of which I bitterly repented. But, Jesus, who watched over His little spouse, ensured that no wrong would overtake me, [and] I found my heart suddenly to be indifferent.   It seemed to be that I had been dressed in an armor that preserved me from being wounded.

I do not know how to say how much this grace touched me profoundly because the kindness of Jesus had been totally revealed there. No, He does not abandon the soul who suffers in herself a war. And, the psalmist had good reason when he sang: “when the just fall, he is not injured because the hand of the Lord will sustain him.” (Psalm).


By these two characteristics, you see, my Mother, how weak I am and how, consequently, I had a need for the powerful education that I received. It was, as such, more necessary that the demon, as elsewhere, tempted me with numerous traps. As you have remarked during this narrative, the demon tempts me through the attraction of the senses, through the pull of the heart, and vainglory. He continues to tempt through vanity and this last one, I can say, he brings to the boiling point.

It is simply good, my Mother, to recount for you this and, if there are details that praise myself, I will quickly attribute all the glory to Jesus. It is a habit I have adopted and that gives me much peace. So, if someone addresses a compliment to me, I interiorly turn towards Jesus and I say to Him: “that is for You, my Well-Beloved, because all that is lauded in me comes from You!”...and I am content that all these good deeds are appreciated. If, on the contrary, I or the others note my numerous imperfections, I bear sorrow for Jesus because it is hard to listen to criticisms of His works! Then, I hasten to tell Him: “this is what I regret, oh, my Jesus, it is not You who have placed [my imperfections] in me because you have [made] me well gifted. It is I who deform Your work by serving my passions to satisfy my nature. The reproaches, therefore, are for me. Do not thereby ever be deceived because I have not fooled myself there. The compliments addressed to Your little spouse are rightly Yours and the reproaches are what I deserve.” As such, the roles well distributed, I am somewhat comforted


and I no longer am sad to find myself naughty. Without this little agreement, I would believe to have made an indelicacy in whining about my numerous faults because I find that it is better to be thankful than to be complaining.

With everything that we have received from the good God, I ask myself how one can be deliberately arrogant. When one is so for an instant, by accident, it is more admissible, but that is the limit of tolerance. No, my Mother, I cannot have vanity of [the kind] I am going to describe to you. It is impossible because I am too deeply persuaded that all the gifts that have been my lot have come from the good God, without any merit on my part. A comparison will perfectly explain my thought. Let’s imagine a millionaire heir. If someone praises him for having acquired such riches, he would not be tempted by pride because he knows well that his personal genius had no part in his amassing his immense fortune. Surely, he will think at the bottom of his heart that someone [attempts to] deceive him by attributing the merits to him. He will say to himself: that instead someone praises his luck in having had, through his parentage, someone who bequeathed him such many assets!

In the same way that it would be impossible for this man to be proud in attributing to himself the provenance of these treasures, similarly I find, as I have said, that I should not be proud upon counting my riches. The sentiment that would flow from my heart would instead be thanksgiving to my


Benefactor and [feelings] of distrust for myself in the fear that the riches render me unjust. Because the demon is there all ready to try to help me become lost.

These riches of which I will speak, my Mother, are a certain amiability that attracts all hearts towards me. Immediately, upon going out a little, I heard these echoes. It was not always after worldly get-togethers, but after simple visits or just during the exercise of good works. I particularly remember one circumstance where a committee of ladies, having been formed relating to a celebration of Joan of Arc, gathered together in the sacristy of St. Pierre. Soon, a circle assembled around me and many persons who did not know me, returned to heap praise on my account. It was from all sides that I heard compliments addressed to me. It all became so great that a friend of the family went to tell my uncle to enlist his daughter to walk towards me so that all the merits would not all be for me. This consideration was presented to my cousin Marie but she would not take it into account because her character was too great to attempt to shine through such efforts. Therefore, I remained without my looking like the queen of this little kingdom.

During summers in the country, there were other occasions that presented themselves and I exercised the same attraction. My uncle at that time issued numerous invitations [to social events] where were often found


friends of Dr. La Neele. They all had a predilection for me. The confidences of many of their mothers that came to address their complaints to me at Carmel would not have failed to leave a doubt, however, if I ever had any. The mothers came to deplore my entrance into the cloister and to show me their disappointments. They told me also to have understood that many times, in their foyer, the name of “Celine” had been spoken.   Finally, it was impossible for me to receive more explicit testimonies. I received the same here in Carmel—a long poem from one of these young people.

The attentions paid to me were so obvious that my uncle called me one day to his study and told me that I was too friendly, that we were not raised that way and it was necessary for him to keep an eye on me. I received the reprimand without altogether understanding it because I had not sought to please in any manner. I had acted with simplicity and absolute freedom in all my actions like someone who did not expect anything from anyone. In sum, I had been myself—expansive and frank—stating my thoughts clearly and it was impossible for me to resemble my cousin Marie who was naturally aloof. Ah! How I aspired to fly off to the cloister! I found that that escape was the only remedy from those whom had reproached me, not seeing the possibility of my changing myself, I suffered, therefore, the humiliation of seeing myself surveilled. My cousin Marie always then had to accompany me to serve as my chaperone, but since I had an absolutely free heart, her control did not bother me.


She was very content with this command that she had been given because she loved me greatly and could not leave me for a single minute, which sometimes caused resentment on the part of her parents. One wished that she would show less affection for me and showed more towards her sister. This command, therefore, as I have said, was most agreeable to the both of us.

My Mother, from all that I have just written, you might think that there was some looseness in my conduct. As for me, I can affirm that I never acted aiming to captivate the hearts of creatures. It is true that I repeated after Father de Ravignan: “Let us all be refined,” [Soyons distinguees] and I practiced it, but that was the limit of all my worldliness, which I would not use to draw attention, but instead for my own satisfaction. As I have already said to you, neither my cousin nor I ever frilled our hair and we saw as a great mortification the use of perfumes. All was so natural that it did not prevent a young and brilliant officer, who came to spend part of his vacation at the house, from saying to his mother that he had never seen [young ladies] so well [behaved] as we were. And, yet, he had seen much of the world. This proves that simplicity is the most seductive.

Just as our exterior [manner] was well governed, my interior was also. There was a long time since the tempest had made itself heard and I was entirely belonging to my


Well-Beloved. Nevertheless, because my weakness was always present before my eyes and I lacked totally confidence in myself, I could do no other than repeat this prayer of the Spouse of the Canticles: “show me where you graze, where you rest at mid-day, so I do not get lost going after the flocks of your companions…” (Cant.) Yes, I was afraid of becoming lost and it was with all sincerity that I addressed Him with this supplication. He did not at all doubt His spouse and, without worry, He gave me all latitude by saying: “If you do not know yourself, go out, and follow the tracks of the flocks and have your young goats graze near the tabernacles of the herdsmen.” (Cant.)

Reflecting upon these words, I told myself, “My Well-Beloved has exhorted me towards humility and if I am humble I can go out and graze, without difficulty with my flock following the flocks of His companions. I can be assured of not becoming lost…oh! How upon seeing that, I applied myself to acquiring that virtue! It was always my favorite virtue; my friend and my counselor and it was without letting up that I asked the good God to grant it to me. Yes, there, where others lose themselves a hundred times, the humble soul stays secure. “She does not know herself,” that is to say, she ignores her own beauty and, sensing strongly her weakness, she puts all her confidence in her God. Voila, there is the secret to not falling.


Oh, my Mother! Interiorly, how happy I was in this epoch of my life! I do not know if I was humble, but I know that my soul was like a tranquil lake for which nothing came to ripple the blue surface. Only the Heavens were reflected upon this mirror and peace, a universal peace, hovered sovereignly throughout my interior [being]. Meaning that power, all, was for Jesus and I did not live nor breathe except for Him…

With the enticements that I have just depicted and that the demon made sparkle uselessly before my eyes, there were also those that were less personal but, nevertheless, also very tempting. The good God, it seems, also wanted me to taste all the cups of pleasure just so that I could freely reject them. He allowed the demon to have the latitude of placing his “firebrand” in the worldly fires yet allowed Himself to snatch it out at the first cry. Ah! This cry was soon heard. The green wood, whose sap rose vigorously, was not fit for the action of the inferno. Immediately, when it was plunged there, there were tears and cracklings [heard], and Jesus, attentive to its prayer, snatched it from there and into the brazier of His love.

I have said that when I was a child I had desired to live in a chateaux. It seemed to me then that happiness resided in the elegant wings of a princely villa and in the


shady alleys of an enchanting park. It was to demolish this illusion that Jesus made me closely consider vanity and He has done so.

The countryside estate where we lived in the summer and that had been inherited by my aunt was composed of a ravishing castle and of a no less agreeable park. It measured more than 40 hectares surrounded by walls. Apart from lawns, [there was] a picturesque spot called “little Switzerland” because of its gigantic trees and its hilly terrain, [all] in addition to an artistically distributed forest. In its center, one could see an immense fish pond decorated with water lilies of different colors. Here, the herons would gather to catch the innumerable, red fish; whereas much farther away the foxes’ hideaways announced the cunning guest lairs-- the envied prey of skillful hunters.

I cannot describe all the charms of this delightful site, placed at a great height above the valley. The dwelling like an eagle’s nest was set above the steep quarries and the view extended over a great distance in all directions.   We could catch a glimpse below us in the valley of the running water that graciously ran serpentine, whereas in front of us on the other hill [there was] a forest where we sometimes heard the sound of the horn announcing the hunting with hounds.

My Mother, I have seen very many beautiful things during my life and, nevertheless, this sojourn would not have left me with anything to desire if [only] I had had the company of my dear sisters, if my Therese had shared it with me. Yes, it was as if I had dreamed it, but about what do I have to complain? My dear, little Father accompanied me there. The voyage had been difficult, it is true.


Nevertheless, once done, we forgot all our sorrows; by the way, our dedicated staff set to work and, our dear paralytic, was settled in his bed or little wheelchair with all his materials and soon was well installed in this ideal residence. I saw once again the joy of my dear, little Father when, sitting on the esplanade with his hands joined, he watched the magnificent scenery that was displayed before his eyes. From the right and left, the view extended until it was lost in the horizon. This grand spectacle in all its immensity spoke to his poetic and tender soul. Often, in the evening, we would go on a walk up to the entrance of the forest and, along with Marie, we would push his little wheelchair and he was content. Once, when we lingered longer than usual, we heard the nightingale’s melodies.  None of us could tear ourselves away and we followed it into the very depths of the forest. Ah! If already, while on this earthly exile, our souls hang on the voice of a bird, what will be our ecstasy when we hear in Heaven the soft harmonies of angels and when we will be permitted to join in their accents!

By listening to the eternal concerts, we enjoyed full heartedly the beauties of nature and, we gave out hymns of thanksgiving to the Creator, author of so many marvels. How much I loved to sit on the crest of the hill and to dream of Heaven!...I would stay there without effort entire days lost in the contemplation of the earthly beauties that would make me


anticipate and even [be able to] touch in some manner with my finger the celestial beauties. “I loved the faraway church, to listen to the indistinct clock tower, to listen to the sighs of the breeze in the fields, I loved to sit, the evening…I loved the countless stars…Above all, I loved the light in the somber night of the moon in its silvery disc, brilliant.” I loved…Ah! I loved everything that was beautiful and pure, all that elevated my soul towards Heaven.

This memory evoking the little church in the village reminds me of a very vivid suffering that I experienced back then. I saw our residence so rich and spacious, decorated with gold paneling and silk tapestries and, turning my eyes down into the valley, I glimpsed in the distance the dusty church steeple indicating there the residence of our God. Yes, He lived near us and I had seen his tabernacle. Repulsive local area, black and dirty, His home without wall coverings, and, whereas the keys to my furniture were gilded, His were all rusty with a miserable lock that sustained worm-eaten wood.

My Mother, I do not exaggerate at all; desolation reigned in that church. The old priest was discouraged and did not think of reacting. So, our presence did him good. We bought him a suitable ciborium. This was the most urgent. As for the rest, we would support him, always praying to the good God to send him a young priest whose zeal would revive the faith of the population while his watchfulness will properly maintain the


Holy place. But what sadness for my soul! Oh! My Mother, what shame to inhabit a sumptuous residence while Jesus lodged in a hovel! To comprehend well this sorrow, it is necessary to have experienced it, mine was painful and constant. Each evening in taking a last glance over the scenery, my look stopped over the sad bell tower and I asked pardon from Jesus for having a dwelling more beautiful than His. Ah! I understand the indignation of the faithful Uriah when David exhorted him to take his rest in his foyer. The Ark of the Lord, he exclaimed, rests under a tent and I will enter your house? (2 Sam. X, 12). He would not go in and [instead] slept under the beautiful stars near his Master. That is what I should have done!

To respond as much as possible to this need of my heart, I asked and easily obtained permission to move up to the highest floor. My cousin Marie followed me there and, under the pretext of leaving the beautiful apartments to the guests, we lodged in the attic rooms under the lead-covered roofs. There I thought of Sylvio Pellico, [an Italian patriot, writer and poet (1789-1854) who suffered much in prison, as shown in his diary] because the heat was torrid, but living there was a real comfort for me because there Jesus had nothing to envy me.

About this point, therefore, I am content. It remains for me now to write the reflections that I made about the vanity of the riches of this world. As soon as I was placed in the position of possessing them, I held myself in contempt. I who had desired to possess splendid dwellings,


I should have, it seems, have been fulfilled with my wishes. There, it is true, nothing like the corridors of the ancient palace of the Dukes de Guise, but of gracious outdoor steps, of an elegant spire, so elegant that the little prefect of yesteryear would not have to “descend” in order to come there to visit me.

Yes, I should have been satisfied, but my heart was too large to be seduced by rocks arranged in a certain fashion. With arms crossed, in one of the walks in the park, I looked at the buildings. Ah! It is this, I said to myself, it is this that humans esteem! Because that house is not square, instead it’s straighter here, larger over there, more entangled on the one side, shorter on that other so that such a window will have a wider form, one wider over there, that other one has a rounder appearance, so that the white stones be taller at a certain angle, that the front steps vary in positioning, it is for those reasons that one is proud of one’s habitation. It is for that! I could not believe my eyes! But what madness!

Oh, my Mother, yes, what madness! The King-Prophet had reason, upon meditating on the vanity of men, not to worry about the senseless.   “The senseless and the stupid,” he said, “place their trust in their assets, their glory in their riches; they imagine that their houses will be eternal, that their residences will live on age after age and they give their names to their domains, but death is their shepherd; amidst his splendor, man does no endure much; he does not understand; he resembles beasts that perish.” (Psalm 49: 7-15)

Carried away by my reflections, I would see the contrast between


that brilliant home and the straw-thatched houses where the poor spend their days. I went back to my childhood when we went to visit my little Therese at the home of her wet-nurse, and we were received in the sole room that served at once as kitchen, bedroom and salon—a room that had a beaten, dirt floor that could be cleaned with the stroke of a broom. And making a comparison of that rustic interior with the luxury of ours, I discovered that truth and liberty, and consequently happiness, prefer to live under old, rough cross beams rather than wood-paneled ceilings. And, I longed for the happy moment when I would leave these sham rattles to be transported to the humble cell where I am at this moment writing these lines.

Ah! My Mother, that I have tasted happiness here in this little cell and this blessed Carmel! I am often seized, considering its poverty, with pride and delight. I feel its worn and bare walls for they well convince me that it is true that I here enjoy charms because who would think this of me who loves beauty so much? I do not search for real charms except in despised objects, so charming to my eyes that they preach eloquently to disdain the pleasures of life. It is so much so that, during these last years, my happiness augments when, to reduce the spoliation, our furniture, already poor, was replaced by old packing crates serving at times as tables, chest of drawers and


wardrobes. It is this that I have learned through experience—how few things suffice for man on this earth.

Many, without question, will not be of my opinion, but I have sincerely found that the less one has the happier one is and the freer one is. In effect, a valuable object requires precautions, maintenance, and the time required for cleaning it to make our residences more beautiful! And then, one thing calling to another, it becomes a chain without end. Whereas, when one has nothing of value or objects of little value, one treats them according to their function. That is to say, one does not consecrate the care and time that is so precious in our life and let it flow by [instead] of praising the Lord and to serve Him in a more direct fashion since, according to the author of the Imitation: “we pass amidst the cares of this life without any care.” Oh, glorious abandonment; oh, sage ignorance that gives the heart so much peace and liberty—why are you not shared by all souls who march towards eternity!” Why do we spend our work on things that do not satisfy? Isaiah 55:2 believes that the Holy Spirit makes us understand this urgent appeal: “he who is thirsty come!” “Let he who desires it take the water of life freely!” App. 23: 17. Yes, it is most freely and more than freely that the good God offers us the water of divine life because He asks us in exchange no remuneration and in order to obtain it is enough to be poor in spirit and of heart by [means of] simplifying our lives as much as possible.


Upon writing these lines, a new reflection presents itself to my spirit, again regarding the vanities of this world; this subject, it seems to me, would be inexhaustible if one wished to study it in depth.

On earth, merit is not credited to individuals; one fails to judge people after their moral qualities, but [rather] upon the traits according to the things with which they surround themselves. Yes, those are the things that (who would believe it?) give them their value. In this way, we lived, during the summer, in the countryside that I have just described, there surrounded by the prestige of honors, we would be greeted, we were surrounded by enthusiasm—in other words, we were the lords of the place—treated as such by the local people. The chateau owners from the area wished to make our acquaintance and the young countess of F. made inquiries from the Parish Priest so that he would facilitate our making them a visit. Because we wished to preserve our independence and live our life within the family, we would not give in at the start, but, one morning upon leaving Mass, Madame de Fayet invited us for lunch at her chateau and it became impossible without being impolite not to respond to this advance and we paid a visit that was immediately returned. But, this polite exchange, renewed many times, was the limit of our relations then (much later in Carmel, these young ladies became my intimate friends)


because we kept ourselves extremely reserved, not wanting to launch ourselves into a milieu where, as I said, we would compromise even a little of our independence. For that matter, we did not have a need to create new liaisons. We were amply self-sufficient to render ourselves happy.

But I have arrived at a point of contrast. Honored at this countryside of la Musse, it was altogether different when we would pass a few hours at the little cottage of St. Ouen (St. Ouen-le-Pin, near Lisieux) and I recall that we went there one day for the distribution of prizes. We were lost among the crowd of villagers without anyone offering us a seat, whereas the chatelains [chateau owners] of the country sat on stage, looking down from on high in all their grandeur. Why this difference, why? Me, I was the same here or there. I had the same value in this region as in the other. It was not due to me that there was this change of regard. No, it was not due to me, but what was it owed to? To whom? To the house where I lived!!!... Oh! profound abysm of vanity, deceived and deceiving world, I do not wish to understand you more. I wish to cut all commerce with you because my soul is too large and the nobility of my sentiments too elevated within your walls where “everyone lies to their neighbors, they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.” (Psalms 12:2).

Informed by own experience, I did not, therefore, find happiness in the midst of opulence. I only found it within


my heart when it was united to the good God and this happiness was all the greater as the union became more perfect. No, happiness is not in the objects that surround us, “the Kingdom of God is within.” Luke 17:21. And, I experienced this truth because, for me, I never got bored except in the midst of entertainment.

Our days were, nevertheless, well filled up—promenades, excursions, family life divided up our time during the vacations. On rainy days, we played billiards, or we would break our heads over a game of chess. Also, often, we would practice at shooting at a target—a favorite distraction for the gentlemen. It was very clever but I must admit that I would hardly be useful when they placed a “Lebel” gun in my hands to my country--at least until practice would give me the [necessary] strength.

So, there is how we passed our time and, while I strolled in this manner by boring myself, the servants came and went happily occupying themselves with useful work. The gardener visited the ground floor and the outdoor steps, renewing with pride the flowers in their baskets whereas on high a young female worker, while singing, ironed the dresses and the lace that had become dirty by crying. I say “by crying” because, if my eyes did not shed tears, my heart suffered in this state of things, human things, cruel,


unjust things that would call out to God’s tribunal if these were eternal. Yes, as soon as one begins to consider life, such as we lived here below, one feels the need for a final judgement that necessity imposes to put everything back in its [proper] place and to judge each, not according to their mansions and riches, but according to their actions of the heart.

I say again “by crying” because these diversions left a great emptiness in my heart. My days seemed dull to me and I aspired for a more interesting life, a more fulfilling one. This dreamed of life, I found it in Carmel and I must admit that my dreams have been more than fulfilled. Upon entering into this blessed solitude, I left well behind me shaky earth and I have forever set foot on solid ground where the vertigo of the soul is never again known…here my heart has found rest, my activities serve as nutrients, there my unquenched aspirations have been fully satisfied, my inconstancies have forever been stabilized; here in place of my poverty and moral languor, I have seen “peace inhabit inside my ramparts and abundance in my towers.” (Psalms)

The world truly ignores where real happiness is found. It looks for it in the distractions, in the conversations, in the noise. It does not perceive that, when it spreads out, the soul is impoverished, because to give without impoverishing oneself we must draw upon the living source that is Jesus; and the soul that, delivering itself over to the world, takes its source from vanity cannot take it at the same time from the Truth.


The good God, however, has arranged things in such a way that one is one's own best company. It is rare to become bored when one deals with a useful work and the hours so used thus pass much more quickly than those where the soul is in search of distractions. I believe that, because our time is used in this way, life flows so quickly in Carmel.

It is the same as everything else. To speak only of what I have experienced, not only solitude and silence, is for me the most pleasant pastime, but the austerities of my present life, desired and beloved austerities, are gentler, even physically, than the simple inconveniences once borne in the world with a thousand precautions taken to avoid them.

Thus, I have never been hotter than by wanting to fight heat with light clothes, and I have never been cooler than by patiently enduring my thirty pounds of habit in the height of summer. It is true that our peace, our happiness, our well-being is much more in us than in the objects that surround us.

If those who doubted it wanted to convince themselves of this truth that it is not the point of comfort in life

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nor fortune that makes happiness; they would only have to consult the hearts of children, to study their tastes and their way of being, because they are for us a book of wisdom whose pages have not yet been soiled, it is easy to see [there] the imprint of God.

Now, the heart of the little one is neither envious nor proud; it sees no difference between a diamond and a pebble, between silk and rags. When I was at La Musse, it sometimes happened to my cousin Marie and me to run into the children of the concierge near their little house. From as far as they could see us down the avenue, they rushed into the bushes like a flock of birds. That's all the reception they gave us! It was clear to us that they did not need our good graces and that we could go back home. They were happy without our gifts and our presence only brought them trouble and boredom.

“Oh, dear little ones,” I said to myself, “you are right to know how to do without us, and if I did not have at the bottom of my heart that intense love of my God who makes me live and which is my only wealth, you would be, in your indigence, much happier and freer than me!”


Such, my Mother, are my intimate feelings about the goods of this world. If I could communicate them to the poor, envy would forever disappear from their hearts. And, if they bestowed society the honor of one of their thoughts, that thought, far from being a desire of covetousness, would be a deep pity upon seeing [society people] put their joy to whirl around as dust under the wheels of their chariots, and the ambition of their hearts to mount their castles to the top, for [then] the word of the Lord will be fulfilled: "When you raise up yourself like the eagle," he says, "when you place yourself among the stars, I will make you descend!” (Obadiah 1, 4) And to avoid for themselves the trouble of coming down, they would not desire to climb the earth, and their hearts would enjoy only the glory of heaven that is without envy and without pride [and] would want to taste only the eternal joys whose satiety is without revulsion and of endless duration.

But here I have allowed my reflections to go on too long and I [now] resume my family life.

The stay in the country during the last years that I spent in the world was really for me almost cloudless as much as it is possible in this land of exile since I had with me my well-beloved Father. Because of his state of infirmity, we had not been able to settle him in the chateau for the night, the arrangement of the rooms and the steps had prevented this, and he slept in a


large room adjoining the guard's house that was on the ground floor, on one level with the park, only a few meters from our house; his servant staying in an adjoining room. Seeing him in this rustic dwelling, with walls simply bleached like a hermit's cell, I thought of his desire, expressed in the past, to end his days in such a place, [and] it was there that he was to die.

As my dear little father needed to be watched over day and night, I had established as a law, in relation to the religious exercises, that the servant, who would miss because of him Sunday mass, should attend it [instead] on Monday. So, each Monday, I saw either the servant or the maid put on her most elegant clothes and accompany us to the morning mass. One day they said to me enthusiastically: "oh! Mademoiselle how wise is this method. Unfortunately, we do not think about it, and in the countryside, held up by pressing obligations, one gets out of the habit of fulfilling this great duty. So, later on, we will not forget to put it into practice.” These good and honest people really admired so simple a thought, and because of it they looked upon me as if I were a genius. It was just natural and only common sense. But it gave them a high idea of ​​the Sunday precept by being driven with us by coach without having any obligation of service to fulfill.


However, the moment had arrived when Jesus was going to break the bonds of his little fiancée and finally call her to live in His house. But, before living under the roof of the Bridegroom, I had to go through great pain by losing on earth the father whom I loved with incomparable tenderness.

It was on Sunday, July 29, 1894, at 8 o'clock in the morning, that the good Lord called to Himself His faithful servant. It was only right for him to come to rest at dawn on Sunday, a day that he had, during his mortal life, sanctified with so much love as the day of the Lord.

The day before, my dear little Father had received the last Sacraments, and on the morning of his last day of exile some of the staff had gone to hear Mass in the neighboring town (at Evreux). I remained alone in watching him. At five o'clock in the morning, finding his breathing to be labored, one of them come to get me in haste, but seeing that the agony was prolonged it was understood that we would attend the Mass at the village when the first group was back. As for me, I begged Jesus not to allow me to be absent at the supreme moment. It seemed to me that this final consolation was due to me since I had purchased it so dearly!

I found myself alone near my dear Father (Leonie had left me in June 1893 to reenter the Visitation of Caen) when my aunt came to join me. Upon remarking that the dear sick one had visibly worsened, she went to find my uncle. It was during


this space of time that Jesus gave me the ineffable and unforgettable consolation that I am [now] going to describe. I had never seen anyone die, and I was hard pressed to know what my duties were at this solemn moment. The thought came to me to exhort my Father by speaking to him of the good God, but was he going to understand me? He gave no sign of acknowledgement; his eyes were closed and his labored breathing would probably prevent him from hearing me. In this perplexity, my heart filled with anguish, I turned to Heaven to beg for help. Then, in a voice filled with emotion, I said these simple words: "Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I give you my heart, my spirit, and my life. Jesus, Mary, Joseph assist me in my last agony, Jesus, Mary, Joseph allow me to die in peace in your holy company!"

As soon as I opened my eyes, my dear little Father looked at me ... His eyes were full of life, gratitude and tenderness, the flame of intelligence illuminated him...

In an instant I found my beloved Father as he had been five years ago and it was to bless me and thank me!..Oh! this eloquent and profound look is engraved forever in my heart as a pledge of predilection, for the good God can only ratify on me the blessing of a dying Father.

After this unspeakable goodbye, overflowing with promises,


my dear Father lowered his eyes from then on not to open them for temporal things.

Immediately after his death, the reflection of the celestial Beatitude rested on his forehead, his beautiful face seemed transfigured, and all who saw him were deeply struck. For me, I relieved my sorrow in a flood of tears, sorrow that was not, however, without consolation, because I intimately felt the protection, specially upon me, of him whose painful old age I had accompanied; a sorrow also relieved by hope because I knew that by this death the Lord “had torn up the sack of tribulation which he wore to re-dress him entirely with joy, that he had changed his lamentations into gladness so that his soul may sing forever! (Ps. 30: 12.13)

A few days after this final separation we were back in Lisieux. How many impressions passed in my heart during this journey when I brought back without life the beloved Father who had surrounded our childhood with so much devotion and exquisite tenderness!...And how proud I was to have been chosen by the Divine Providence to wipe away the bitter tears of his last days and restore to him, as it were, the care and love he had lavished upon us!

This mission, which I had had to fulfill, the good God had, so to speak, given me a glimpse of a dream of my childhood. One night during my sleep, while my Father was in full


health, I saw him, aged and bent by age, laboriously walking down an extremely long path. He walked without support; but, nevertheless, a few steps from him, an angel preceded him holding in his hand a flaming torch.

Here ended the parable. My sisters, especially Thérèse, saw in it the image of the mission that I had to fulfill with my dear Father. Like the angel that did not support him directly but simply guided his march, I could not, alas(!) relieve him perfectly in his infirmities, especially during the three years that he passed away from me, and yet through my presence I did not fail to lead him, to light his way and it was I who put him in God’s hands.

My noble task, once accomplished, left no connection holding me back in the world. I thought I would answer without further delay the call of God. I presented this proposal to my dear Carmelites, but I had a revelation to make to them, a revelation that they did not expect. Oh! How much I had suffered to keep my secret to that day, especially with regard to my well-beloved Therese to whom I concealed none of my thoughts.

They-- my dear sisters--believed to see me solicit my admission to Carmel, so they were surprised to hear me say that my director, R. P. Pichon, desired me


to get involved into [his] works and that he had been waiting for me for a long time in Canada to found a small congregation he was orchestrating. He had made me expressly promise not to tell anyone. As for me, I never promised to submit to his call. On the one hand, I let him maintain his hope, while, on the other, I had not deceived my sisters in their conviction that I would become a Carmelite. I awaited [for] the hour [set by] God, certain that he would show me his Will and not let me go astray. I was not disappointed in my waiting and the decision was quickly taken thanks to the prayers and tears of my dear little Therese. In this circumstance, as in all the others, she was the angel sent by the good God to make known to me His will and to buy by her sufferings the graces she [then] brought me.

I will never know what she endured on this occasion. She told me that in her life she had never cried so much. She had a headache so violent that she wondered if she was about to become sick. Often, thereafter, she told me about this great ordeal when she had suffered so much for her beloved Céline... So much so that I can affirm that she purchased me by her prayers and by her tears as St. Monica “bought” her Augustine.

But why this persistence to want me to become a Carmelite and a Carmelite with her? As you know well, my Mother, there was no natural attachment behind it;


it was a desire that the good God himself had put in the heart: she had a kind of presentiment of her mission and wanted to train me according to the inspirations she received from heaven. She could not have withstood that her Celine should follow another path other than "her little way of love and abandonment" because in the eternal designs Celine was to be the first "little victim" offered by her to Merciful Love ...

As I said, God could not let me wander [aimlessly] for long. He had seen the righteousness of my intentions. He had counted especially the efforts I had to make and the incomprehensible suffering renewed in each parlor to hide from my little Thérèse, the sister of my soul, my confidante, my intimate friend, I was going to say “myself,” the projects in which I had cradled in secret. Oh, my Mother! How much I suffered!...and this suffering continued for a number of years. Therese then admired my docility. It is true that it was very great, I recognize it today. For if I [indeed] had an attraction for the apostolate of the missionaries in an unfaithful country, I had none for the work that was proposed to me and, if I hesitated in answering it, it was only for fear of not being where God wanted me to be. This work of zeal was masking my true aspirations.

I loved Jesus so much, indeed, that I would not have repulsed any sacrifice. I did not calculate neither my pain nor dislikes and my most perfect inclinations leaned towards distant exile and total separation from my sisters.


Alas! I see now how much this beautiful zeal was tainted with illusions. I saw it even as these events unfolded because I realized that there was a lot of searching for myself in the execution of this design. To go so far, to Canada! to leave all those whom I loved, to found a work, all of that was marvelous, the good God had designs for me, no doubt I was a great soul, a saint in the making, why not? Without thoroughly analyzing all these thoughts, I am certain that they existed in me, if not in theory, at least in action.

I put my finger on this truth when I gave up these plans and decided to enter Carmel as soon as possible, because this resolution, once taken, made disappear the repugnance that invaded my soul, a repugnance for the religious life became a real torture. I believe that the demon, seeing me finally enter the path to which the Love of Jesus had led me, did its best to hurl me into despair and make me abandon my plans.

Would you believe me, Mother, if I told you that the thought of seeing my darling sister again, of living alongside my Therese, gave me no sense of interior joy? Consolation was far away, oh! it was so far from my soul!...It was an agony. I think that this trial was a merciful grace of Jesus who wanted to make my entry meritorious. This entry, for which I had long sought with all the strength of my soul


and all the ardor of my will, was thus offered to me. It was going to be accomplished without my having to suffer great separations; it would provide a reunion with my most tenderly loved beings yet strange thing! I dreaded it as one dreads a heavy cross. Thanks to these intimate feelings, even if in contrast with [my outward] appearances, I could, without anyone knowing it, offer to Jesus a real sacrifice upon embracing the religious life and thus participate in the merit of the souls who abandon everything to serve Him. Oh! how grateful I was to my Jesus for having allowed these aversions which, in the absence of a paternal roof to leave, required me to abandon myself in order to answer His call!

Agonizingly, I asked myself what was this obscure, hidden life, what was this tomb in which I was going to bury myself? Not even the religious habit impressed me. I said to myself with terror: what will become of me, when I have my head wrapped in linen; me, who loves so much [the fresh] air and the freedom of my movements? Then, thinking in my mind of the diversity of the costumes, I saw such other nuns wearing starched guimpes, pipes all around the head, like a kind of flap that automatically follows the movements of the jaw, while their veil, at the top of the head, sometimes appearing pointed, sometimes square. Oh my God! I cried to myself, hiding my face with my hands, my God! It is that that I must drink! I too will be a 'good sister' and participate in the disgrace that surrounds them! [too bad] that am I not a man! That it is


the poor women who, therefore, are [the ones] to be constrained to be dressed up in this way!

My Mother, I would not finish if I wanted to review all the distastes that assaulted my soul. But, as in a very critical moment [referring to Celine’s instructions to Therese before their short audience with Leo XIII in November 1887], I had said to Therese, "Speak!" I said to myself, "Walk!” And I “walked” so well that six weeks after the death of my Father, I entered Carmel. I would have made this entry even faster if I had not wanted to satisfy my family and meet the last obligations that remained to me.

Tested within my soul, I [did not appear to be so] externally, all my efforts succeeded as if by magic. On my family’s part, I had nothing to fear. I was 25 years old; I was free. I suffered well, it is true, some small persecutions. It was said around me that my [true] vocation was to remain in the world, that I had all the qualities of an excellent mother. All the better, I told myself, it's just what it takes to devote oneself to God! What! Do we imagine that I embraced the religious state to shut myself up in a cocoon and to enjoy the repose of [a life of] sterile selfishness? No, no, I do not want a half-life but an overflowing life and it is to become a mother of souls, of many souls, that I united myself to God in the sacred bonds of a marriage mystic, much more fruitful than all the unions


of the earth! I have only one life at my disposal. I wanted to give it to Jesus. He sacrificed His for me. Is it not right that I should return the favor and that in the absence of testimony by blood, returned in an instant, I should give him my whole being drop by drop by means of a thousand daily sacrifices. How good the Lord is to have given us the glory of being generous!

Yes, Mother, in spite of the dislikes of which I spoke to you just now, my resolution remained firm and unshakeable. It was not these dislikes that would make me forget or reject a long-matured project, analyzed and understood in its many faces. After all, what did the incidents of life matter to me? Was it worthy of me to allow myself to be frightened by some form of hair-dress or clothing, by an embarrassment due to material causes, that is to say, unworthy of me, about a miserable body destined to dissolution? Yes, I understand that those who surrender to God give up everything and [instead] adopt an original approach that is the opposite of those taken by ridiculous socialites whom dishonor creatures made in the image of God, creatures emulated by Angels. I understand that these true philosophers, by their excesses, make a gesture of contempt for the world, and I found that true beauty was on their side, a moral beauty, solid and strong, before which all the elegance of the century disappears.

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As for my definitive choice of Carmel, it was based on an intimate conviction that where there was more suffering there was more benefit, that there was a more obscure existence, a more complete death to oneself, gushing forth a life that radiates more intensely and I preferred to give up fleeting joys, to merit eternal joys.

What I mean here by fleeting joys is the encouragement gained by seeing one’s work accomplished. We like to see flourish the seed that our hand has thrown into the ground, and I too would have liked to apply my devotion to [tangible] things, to touch the work of my hands. As I said, the [idea of] life as a missionary pleased me. I would have liked to evangelize distant lands. This desire was pronounced in my soul as it had been for my dear Therese and, in my turn, I was forced to move forward by turning my head away. I am referring to this feature of our life:

It was during the trip to Rome. A priest passed us a publication relating to the apostolate of women missionaries. Upon examining it, Thérèse’s features brightened, but soon she said to me: "return this writing to its owner, I do not want to read it because it excites attractions that I do not want to follow.” What she wanted was to bury herself in Carmel in order to be forgotten and counted for nothing, because she felt that there was no fruitful and lasting work but through the sanctity [brought about by] a total death to self.


That was also what I came to look for in Carmel, but I did not know the work that needed to be done to reach it. Later, I will speak to you, Mother, of the struggles and difficulties I encountered in this work so simple in itself, but that only heroism accomplishes.

I resume my story at the point where I left it before all these reflections. I said that on the side of my family the resistance had been weak, my uncle suspected, without admitting it to me, of this final denouement. He must have suspected it in light of my invariably negative answers to every marriage proposal, for my father's state of helplessness could not prevent me from founding a home in which he would have been the venerable relic until his last day, finding at its head a protector and a [source of] support. My uncle knew this well, so he allowed me to draw my plans without much disturbance, believing them, in the depths of his heart, to be the fruits of very mature and, therefore, irrevocable reflections.

On the part of the Carmel, the difficulties were greater and more invincible. Annoyed that in spite of his warnings Thérèse had already entered on the express order of Bishop Hugonin, Canon Jean-Baptiste Delatroette, the Superior of the Carmel of Lisieux, still felt bitter about this refutation of his own opinion, and had sworn that the fourth [Martin] sister would never enter his monastery. No one wanted to talk to him about it. I had to take care of the negotiations alone. I first wrote him a letter to express my desire, and then I went to meet him. From his first


words, he took pity on the orphan who had placed herself under his protection and [so] gave me his full consent. From the height of Heaven, my dear little Father had helped me more than he had been able to help his poor little Queen when he accompanied her in her [initially] unsuccessful efforts, pleading her cause without [a positive] result.

Bishop Hugonin was also asked for his consent for this extraordinary exception which was, I was going to say, an infraction of our rules - but not because the case was not thought through. Bishop Hugonin, having been consulted, gave his permission, without hesitation, for the immediate entry of this fourth sister into the same Carmel Convent of Lisieux.

The monastery being very poor, admission for me was sought [from him] as a “benefactor.” The bishop responded by wishing me to be a perfect benefactor in the full meaning of the word. I promised myself to give all within me to be a perfect religious and thereby a source of benefit for the community that had the charity to take me into its bosom.

It remained for me to fix the day of my departure. The 14th of September, the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross, was chosen for this final entrance, which, by making us all the wives of Jesus, fulfilled the desires of our pious parents. I cannot contemplate without emotion this feast designated by divine Providence to close the series of holocausts offered by the venerated Patriarch who, after bending his forehead under the crown of opprobrium, exalted at that moment in Heaven, the privileges of the suffering and the glories of the Cross.


On the eve of this day of departure, my internal sorrows redoubled in intensity, and my apprehensions were so great that I spent the night without sleep. I imagined the nuns as great ghosts who roamed the cloisters slowly reciting De Profundis in a monotonous voice. This image filled me with horror, and it was not really forgivable for me who knew so many nuns to have such ideas, but to my eyes my dear sisters were my sisters and nothing more. I believe that I had not thought of them as nuns: so, I had only vaguely seen their habit, and I had never thought of analyzing it myself.

On the morning of the 14th, I went with my dear uncle, my aunt, and my cousin Marie to attend Mass at Carmel and enter immediately after our thanksgiving. I was very sorry to leave my beloved relatives, who had shown so much affection for me, and had surrounded my father's old age with so much kindness with the most profound devotion. As for my cousin Marie, whom I loved very tenderly, I knew that she would join me soon and share with me the same religious life. Nevertheless, the separation was very hard and many tears were shed, because my family loved me very much.

Once I had gone through the cloister door, all my temptations vanished, the storm gave way to calm and the deepest serenity, I felt that at last I had


found the place of my rest.

My 'little Mother' Agnes of Jesus, then prioress, took me to our cell, where I found my two sisters, Marie and Therese, waiting for me. I can still see the look of my dear Therese welcoming me to the threshold of this new existence that I had begun. I realized that, seeing me by her side, all her desires were realized and that soon she could fly away. She seemed to think that ... Then, taking my hands, she showed me, gently placed on the pillow, a paper on which were written these verses:

And the angels sang: “Come to us, young girl!

"Come and be among us, the diamond that sparkles,

“Or the star, golden flower, of which the world is jealous,

"Come in our garden to open, oh, beautiful rose,

“May dawn, filled with its rays, radiate,

"Come to us! Come to us!

"Come to us, young girl!

"My crown is missing a shining pearl,

“The Lord called to us, and we have all come,

"To carry you away from the world with our white wings,

“Like a flock of birds take flowers from the branches,

“Come to us, come to us.”

What was my emotion when, approaching to read this poem, I recognized the writing of Papa! It was he who received me in this house where the love of Jesus had reserved a place for me. The rose-bush, once deposed by the storm, was now rooted in the heavens, and, yesterday, its roses were still scattered. Jesus had made a bouquet ...

At this sight, waves of recognition were pressed into


my heart and tenderness caused tears to burst that grief and anguish had not caused to flow.

I cannot tell what was going on in this first meeting with my dear sisters, we told each other almost nothing. I sat silently on the edge of my mattress like the weary traveler who, after a long absence, traversed by innumerable perils, takes breath when she arrives at the harbor, not daring to believe her happiness.

 In an instant my life of old appeared to me like a distant memory, like a tiring nightmare fading upon awakening, much to the relief of the poor patient who had suffered through it. What, indeed, are these vicissitudes of time, those incidents of life that weave our human days, if not dreams,« it is dispersed like smoke before the wind. » (Wisdom V, 14)

“All those things have vanished like a shadow, and like a rumor that passes by; like a ship that sails through the billowy water, and when it has passed no trace can be found, nor track of its keel in the waves. » (Wisdom V, 9-10)

Thus, I had just left the unreal things in the midst of which I had lived [now] to nourish myself with truth. I had just left the fog that made my footsteps unsteady [in order to] to swim in an ocean of light, whose direct action on my soul would no longer be hindered by the futile solicitude of the Age.


This is what filled my heart with a profound and lasting joy, of a happiness that I felt should never depart from me. I felt no natural joy in seeing my dear sisters, I had not come here for them, but for Jesus alone. If I found them in the place of rest, it was because they themselves had already pitched their tents. No, no affection of the earth made my heart beat, calm and peace filled it to the brim. Moreover, this meeting brought us only a [physical] presence, our souls had never left each other.

Oh, my mother! I exclaim with Thérèse: "How can one say that it is more perfect to leave one’s own for the goal of better serving the good God?" Interfering human love does not ordinarily exist among the children of the same family and Our Lord did not fear to choose several brothers to make up twelve Apostles, even to the extent of repeating three times His call to pairs of brothers (Peter and Andrew, James and John, Jude and James - Acts I:13). He rightly judged that there was [to be found] in them together a [single] strength, capable of producing wonderful things. It is true that the Apostles-Brothers, after having been reunited for a moment, were then dispersed for the service of the Master, but we too were ready to disperse at the slightest sign of His hand. And you know, Mother, if Jesus


had [any] reason to repent for keeping us together in his house ... But on earth, we do not know the good God, we do not know Him! We have narrow ideas, and He allows us to follow them in a condescending manner, rewarding each one [according to one’s] intentions. However, no one knows where is the most perfect, and as long as man is on earth, he will never be assured of having the same thoughts as God. It is this uncertainty which placed, on the lips of Therese, these words that she addressed to the Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus: "Is the good God happy with me?... Does He ask me for anything more than my poor little actions and desires?” The Lord indeed having created us free, leaves us a certain intuition that everyone uses as he [or she] sees fit. This explains the differences among the means taken by the Saints to reach their goal. Means which, it must be admitted, sometimes lack originality and [can display] a certain oddness. So, God gave Himself and Himself alone as the supreme model: "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

This is the model and the measure. If we ask the reason for this measure, it is again the Lord who deigns to answer us by saying: "Be holy because I am holy." Being our goal, our end, He is just to require from us participation in our own state of holiness, and, to accomplish this work, a stage is


opened to us. The door of this stage is Jesus since he tells us in the Gospel: "I am the Door.” Whoever enters through this Gate and runs in this stadium will not go astray. It is true that there are certain rules to be observed, rather severe rules which are the commandments of God and of the Church, wise laws that our Mother is free to promulgate whenever it seems to her that it is absolutely necessary to follow under pain of giving up the crown. However, when one locks oneself inside there, there is plenty of latitude, and the secondary means of winning this crown is what makes the prophet write: "Tell the just that all is well.” (Is.3m 10)

But where am I in relation to my subject? Here I am again in a labyrinth of reflections, if it continues I will never complete the story of the poor, so mercifully firebrand wrenched out by the divine hand of Jesus. Have you noticed, my Mother, that “wrenched” word that characterizes so well the violent action He took to remove it from combustion? Oh! my Mother, it is this action that Jesus took for me...He did not take me, [slowly] withdrawing. He wrenched me from the flames that sought to consume me.  And, happy with his deed, He set down His burning flames on the mountain of Carmel.

Inflamed, yes it really was, but solely from the love of its Liberator...Jesus had captured it, possessed and, at His touch, it had caught on fire never to be extinguished. Transported to this new home, its ardor will without doubt accelerate? It was the dream of Jesus


and that of the firebrand. You will judge, Mother, if it has been so. As for me, I hope for the mercy of God, for "it is you, Lord, who has carried out the wonders of ancient times, and who has formed the designs of those who have followed them, and they have been accomplished because you have wanted it so.” (Judith 9:4). This is the mysterious reason for my preservation, a wonder that has been accomplished not by my own merit but because the Lord has willed it.

I say preservation, because in Carmel, as in the world but even more than in the world, the demon covets Jesus' firebrand. [The demon] sat at the edge of the hearth, watching for the favorable moment to remove it from the flames of love in which it burned. It wanted [the firebrand] for itself at all costs, so my story has some resemblance to that of my Divine Spouse. "I, in a manner of speaking, retired to the desert to be tempted by the devil.”

Before speaking to you, my Mother, of these combats of which I can only say a few words, I must repeat the story of my entry into Carmel. I will first let the worldly philosopher describe his impressions. After having heard it, you will see the Carmelite apostle, leaving aside the theories in favor of practice, and you will attend her struggles, more fruitful, alas, in defeats than in victories.

After the first meeting with my dear sisters, I was shown a few places in the house and then attended some exercises. There, I saw the assembled community. I observed a great deal without


looking and I was delighted with what I perceived.  Instead of finding myself in the midst of ghosts, I had entered the society of beings well filled with life. Were they men, [or] were they women? One could have wondered. For a moment I believed myself to be in a community of monks, there were no effeminate figures, with listless and feeble manners. Nonchalance does not live in this enclosure, but one sees male faces, with rough and emaciated features, the expressions are frank, the appearances full of vigor. There are no servants, no maids. Equality is perfect, only two or three are sufficient to make up for manual work when the Community recites the Divine Office, for each one serves one another by washing, polishing, sweeping.

There the costume matches the custom, a dress without folds, a leather belt not tightened at the waist, the big scapular that falls correctly without being fixed in any fashion, the whole really has the aspect of a virile habit. And the hairstyle? Ah! My God, the head is well wrapped in linen and veils, alas! But, at least, there is no band on the forehead, the guimpe is not starched, it’s subtle folds being formed by a flexible (not ironed) [piece of] linen. The veil does as it can, it is kept in place only by a small pin on the top of the head. In sum, it is the greatest simplification of life’s necessities that can be seen.

Oh! I exclaimed inwardly, who is the artist who has had such inspirations and has carried them out? How big and beautiful! How simple it is! How very true! I had never thought of finding a life and customs that please me so much! What happiness, I will not be drawn away


from here, appearances will not be forced upon me, because it is truly in a desert that I live. There is no mistaking it. Where is the world? It seems to me that I had left it a century ago and that I was a hundred thousand leagues from it!

Oh! My Mother, how happy I was in considering the part that the good God had given me. I have to leave the world for the truth. I had divorced myself from unstable things to somehow participate in the immutability of God. No expression can express my happiness. When conforming to the world, I had found all the fancies of fashion, and for example, I was suffering when fancy goods that I had judged to be beautiful and gracious, turned despicable, and I aspired to the fortunate life which would give me, during this exile, a sort of stability in [ relation to] things

If the simplicity of the clothes delighted me, the rusticity of the house charmed me no less. These whitewashed walls or mal-joined bricks, these exposed beams, these coarse cobblestones, these rooms without chairs since each sister carries her own to sit modestly on her heels, all that was perfectly pleasing to me. In this environment, no sad people, worried faces, dissatisfied with their fate. What a contrast if we juxtaposed it to the demands of worldly life--its impotence, its setbacks, its despair! Yes, the fate of poor Carmelite, content with little, living on nothing, is much superior in total happiness [compared to] that of the rich man who thirsts with insatiable desires and [can] never say: it is enough fortune, enough pleasure, enough honors. Oh! This [Carmel] is the school of truth I was looking for


and was impossible for me to find in the homes of the hungry, the feverish, the nervous in our cities. May the Lord be blessed forever in having “raised up the unfortunate from the dust, removed the poor from the manure, to have him sit down with the princes of his people!” (Psalms 113:7).

Allow me, Mother, to take back a word I have just said, for it is not exact. If it is impossible to come across the truth in the homes of the ravishing and the feverish who are engulfed in the material world and the rapacity of gain, it is possible to find it in the "neurotic", because the sick are not excluded from the divine quest for holiness. If the good God punishes the human race by rickets, fruit of the idleness that is brought by the ever-increasing softness of our modern civilization, [modern civilization] is nonetheless called to salvation and the possessed ones can be Saints, as witnessed by R.P. Surin and many others. Those who have [reason to] deplore in themselves some lack of balance, can be [saints] too, because when they enjoy moments of reason they can always practice virtue. I do not know if I am mistaken in thinking that, but it seems to me that it does honor to the justice of God and also to our freedom to believe that we can always use the reason we have to be gentle and humble, patient and mortified, to love the good God with all our heart. Well, that's the truth.

After exposing to you, my Mother, my first impressions, all very favorable, I [now] quickly take up the narrative of facts, asking you once again pardon for being so imprecise


and for expanding so much upon interminable considerations.

At the beginning of this story I told you that my spiritual life had blossomed in the light of two stars: Therese, the little star of Jesus, [and] the Holy Face, divine sun of Justice. Therese has accompanied and guided me since my childhood, through her, you have made known to me, Lord, the paths of life and the time is coming when You will fill me with joy by showing me your Face (Acts 2:28).

But, before I lift the Shroud that still hides the features of Jesus, I must follow the path He has traveled. I must accompany him in his Passion, Calvary and to the Tomb ... When my soul has suffered mystically [through] these various stages, then Jesus will reveal His eyes because the imprint of the wounds that disfigure her Beloved will be perfect in her.

In the first part of this story of my life from Les Buissonnets until the illness of Papa, I told you, my Mother, about my childhood and my youth and you saw me drinking to the dregs the chalice of sorrow.

In the second, which extended from my entry into my uncle's house until I left for Carmel, you witnessed me in contact with the vanities of the world alongside of life.

In this third [stage], which includes my stay in Carmel, although more fruitful than the preceding ones in trials and fruits, I cannot, despite my good will, enter into the details of


certain sufferings, so may I say after Therese: “Many pages of this story will never be read on earth ..." I know you will forgive me this small reticence that must be attributed not to a lack of confidence, but to discretion.

As soon as I entered Carmel "the Cross opened out its arms to me.” I found all the practices of the Rule hard and austere; the demon certainly put its hand there to discourage me, for what was easy for others became [for me] particularly difficult. The straw mattress to which the postulants became accustomed quickly was for me a real penance. Each night, it seemed to me that it was a board that served as my bed, and the morning when I woke up, after a bad sleep, I had “broken” limbs. It was only after several weeks of this exercise that I got used to it somehow.

In the refectory I had many mortifications with having fish, milk and starchy foods. However, after a year I was used to the regimen and now habit has overcome my repugnance.

Another penance, the hardest for me and the most tenacious since it increases with the years, is the recitation of the Office standing. How much I have suffered and still suffer in the summer from the inflammation of the soles of the feet, it is the good God alone who knows it ... an infirmity all the more painful for being


uncommon, we ignore the means of relieving it. It is true that my superiors have used a great deal of condescension towards me, insisting that I be seated at the Choir, but as I wanted to suffer this infirmity to the point of extinction, before complaining or taking advantage of the latitude offered, it follows that the recital of the Breviary has been a true martyrdom for me.

Sleep deprivation, the time of rest being very limited, has also been extremely hard for me. Not sleeping enough at night, the consequence was that I slept during the Office, slept again, alas! during my prayers and acts of thanksgiving, sleeping sometimes even during the Mass. And most importantly, [and] what hurt me most, [was] sleeping during the hours of adoration while the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. I believe that the darkness in which we fulfilled this pious exercise adds more to the torpor. It is nonetheless true that many do not experience this difficulty, rather it accompanies me, I would say, always.

I could not express to you, my Mother, that this propensity for sleep, at times when it is forbidden, has been painful for me during my entire religious life. In this regard, the demon almost tempted me with discouragement. I thought of myself sometimes as being a bad nun for whom there was no forgiveness. I regarded myself with horror and saw myself in the state of lukewarmness about which Jesus swore to vomit us from his mouth.

But these difficulties are not the only ones that I had to


overcome or bear when entering Carmel. When I entered the Carmel, I already had a well-defined character; I was 25 years old. I had lived much, suffered a great deal and could expect some things [as my due]. So, it surprised me a little to be, as the last to arrive, the servant of all, the last for everything. My novitiate companion, like me under the tutelage of Thérèse, was only 20 years old, but since she had entered three months before me, I was the youngest and, consequently, junior in preference to her. Stand-in was the fate of novices. At that time, they were not apart as now. Sometimes, my nature rebelled and I confided my sorrows to my Therese in a flood of tears.

They put me [to work] in the wardrobe. I had as my first job [supervisor] a venerable old [nun], who was too good, and, probably to please me, had me paint little subjects on sea shells. I had only painted large pictures before, so these little nothings were disagreeable for me. However, they became popular and all the sisters, wanting to embellish their works for the feast of our Mother, obtained my [work superior’s] assent who then had me once decorate up to 40 objects. I would have [felt] somewhat rewarded if I had satisfied my clients, but it was never so. One would want on her menagerie a snake instead of a bird, another a yellow flower on her ball in the place of a rose. Finally, I saw that it is absolutely impossible to please creatures and [so] I stopped trying.


This experience would only have brought me joy if my first [work supervisor] had appreciated my services, but it was quite otherwise and I heard her say on occasion: "Sr. Mary of the Holy Face does not do anything for me at all; I do not count on her to help me.” (I carried this name until I took the habit.) These words seemed to me to have been an insult; I who I knew how to work, to cut [patterns], having made many dresses in the world, and I could not bear being reproached for not doing what I was forbidden to touch. Therese was still [my] confidante [regarding] these revolts. She sympathized greatly with my sorrow and for consolation she gave me on Christmas Eve 1894, the very year of my entry, the poem entitled: "The Queen of Heaven to her little Mary." These stanzas were particularly significant:  

15 Don’t worry, Marie,

About each day’s duties,

For your task in this life

Must only be: "Love!"

16 But if someone comes to find fault

That your works cannot be seen,

You can say, "I love much,

That is my wealth here below!..." PN 13

Since I am on the subject of work, I am going to finish my thought since I foresaw that throughout all my religious life the trial of which I speak would follow me step by step from the start until this day. Whatever the job for which I have been employed—wardrobe, altar bread, or infirmary--I have always been asked to perform some additional task. Sometimes, it was an ornament that had to be decorated, or a medallion on a chalice cover, or a stole. There was always something new, hardly had a task been finished when there was another one added. Then, the work supervisors


became naturally upset about this theft of time affecting their work, hence a few words [were] kindly said, but that were pointed nonetheless. Other Sisters, one knew, argued, saying that in Carmel it was not necessary to receive 'young ladies' who worked on leisure projects, while others struggled with heavy work.

I cannot say how much I suffered to see my Sisters suffering. I understood that they thought in this way because it is not given to everyone to have a preference for artistic things. On these occasions, as in all the others, I poured my heart out to Therese. With regard to this, she said to me one day: "Do not grieve about this state of affairs, it is the good God who allows it so, to give us sisters an opportunity of merit while we have one, very large credit on our side because it is a very big challenge to know how to paint in a Community. The further you go, the more you will have this experience, so do not lose heart from the beginning, rather rejoice in having this opportunity to suffer.”

My dear little Therese could speak to me in this way, she did so knowingly, having herself suffered a great deal on this side, because, by obedience, she had executed several works of painting. As for me, it was the first time, but not the last time, that I experienced


the deep words of the Sage: "He who increases his knowledge also increases his sorrow.” (Qo 1.18.) And, more than once, I was tempted to curse the knowledge I had acquired at the cost of so much labor.

From this insufficiency, which the increase of work imposed on me with regard to my companions of employment, sprung up a great defect, which was very detrimental to my perfection. By this I mean: the enthusiasm about business. I wanted to please everyone and multiply myself. With my lively and ardent nature, there was for me a real pitfall, which denoted a great self-esteem, for I could not bear to be behind in my obligations and this thought I felt came only from this principle, not at all from my charity for my sisters.

Therese followed me in these struggles of nature. She gave me her advice, always full of relevance and in which every word distilled the perfection as best as it could be understood. Listening to her, I thought I was receiving these very answers from the Holy Spirit, but alas! there was much of a distance between the good will and the way!

If my pride was put to the test by the unfavorable judgment of the creatures towards me and my being unable to prevent the [underlying] cause, my patience was no less [tempted]. During my novitiate, I was placed as an aide to the infirmarian. There, I had to take care of a good mother with cerebral anemia. She was very well educated, having been a teacher at a boarding school in her youth, but she had preserved from her old


profession a certain composure mixed with severity that made it a little difficult to approach her. She held as her principle that youth should be tested in order to accustom the young person to soften her character. For me, in whom virtue was so weak, I would have preferred, I confess, that my difficulties should be reduced rather than increased. Sometimes, she rang me [just] to tell me absolutely insignificant things. Once when I was far off and rushed to heed her call, she simply told me she “could distinguish [the sound of] my steps from that of my companion." Or, then, she would send me to explore the whole area even including the attic in order to find out if there was not a door half-open or an open transom because "air drafts" were coming into her infirmary.

In order to amuse herself, she was very fond of making conversation with me, but her mysticism was so polished that I did not understand it; and, besides, I did not have time to go deeper into the profound mysteries of her instruction. So, I told her politely that I was wanted elsewhere, but that did not satisfy her and she held me without mercy. I would never finish if I were to list all the exercises of patience that she made me perform. What made them extraordinarily tiring was that they came from an intelligent person, who was often consulted on thorny questions, a person who had the use of all her limbs and was only being served



To be continued soon !