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Biography of Celine (Sr Genevieve)

Sister and novice of St. Therese

 

1869-1959


Céline, seventh child of the Martin family


Through the expression "the four Martin sisters", reference is often made to the presence in the Lisieux Carmel of Marie, Pauline and Celine as contemporaries of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. After Mother Agnes of Jesus and Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, here is Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, who was first Céline MARTIN, born in Alençon April 28th,1869, four years before Therese.


Both sisters will experience exceptional intimacy from their childhood. Mrs Martin will write on March 4th, 1877:
"Celine and Therese are inseparable, one cannot see two children love each other better; when Marie comes to look for Céline to do her class, poor Therese is in tears. Alas! What is she going to become when her little girlfriend leaves? "

Intense vitality


How to describe the character of this child apparently frail, but who will have a nonagenarian career? Determined, willful, she will be said very early “as tricky as a little devil." She admits herself:" My nature never knew how to evaluate obstacles. "
On the occasion of an anger that the family was trying to calm by reminding the child of virtue and the love of Jesus, she retorted, ​​"He does not care about that, the good Jesus. He is the Master, but I also am the Mistress. " Celine is 4 years when her mother writes this (July 9th, 1873).

The child, the boarder, the teenager and even the Carmelite, will always be a pugnacious mite, teeming with ideas which she held, with a temperament of a researcher, inventive, reasoning that will help her to go deeper with everything but also to burst out sharp comebacks.

However Celine, wrote her mother, was brought to virtue and piety: her vocation to religious life manifested early, although the circumstances delayed its fulfilment until her 25 birthday.


Years of experience in the world


By then, Céline will experience many separations; the death of her mother, the departure from Alencon for Lisieux, the entrance of her sisters in Carmel and finally the long ordeal of her father. It will also be within in a happy family life, the development of her personality and gifts will take place; the role of a housewife, painting, photography, encounters and meetings brought about by very close ties that united Celine, Leonie and the family of their uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Guerin.


But in the background, nothing but a deep orientation towards God and the consolation of
being able to confide everything day after day to the one who had been the companion of her games. Thérèse had made Celine the intimate confidante of her thoughts and she could nickname her the "sweet echo of my
soul ". Inflamed conversations in the Belvedere and at les Buissonnets, the journey to Rome, many steps where communion is expressed in the heart and feelings of the two girls. Their separation, marked by the entry into Carmel of Therese April 9th, 1888, will be the priviledged era of their correspondence and the letters exchanged between 1888 and 1894 are one of the jewels of the Teresian writings.


Mission to her father


It is impossible to ignore the day of anguish and tears caused by the disease of Mr. Martin for Celine: the one her father used to call "the brave" or “the intrepid” had to face a trial whose acuity will wrest from her words like these:
"No, no words, no expression to recount our anxieties and our heartbreaks, I felt helpless. Dear little sisters, my suffering was so acute that walking along the edge of the wharf - Honfleur - I looked with envy at the depth of the water. Ah! if I did not have faith, I would be capable of anything. "(October 31, 1888).


However she faced it, throughout the three years Mr. Martin spends in le Bon Sauveur of Caen - 1889-1892 - and when she had the consolation to live with the dear old man at Lisieux (1892-1894). Affectionate and attentive, she never tired of taking care of this father for whom she conceived more than ordinary filial love, but a worship, she said. She finally had the comfort of attending his last death throes and receiving his last breath, and the ray of intelligence and recognition that appeared in the eyes of the dying man. It was July 29th, 1894.


Celine in Carmel - Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face


Celine could now answer the call of God. Father Pichon released her for Carmel after a proposed time for bringing her to Canada where he had a foundation project. On September 14th, 1894, Therese, that the foreseen separation had deeply pained, finds her beloved sister again and dreams of teaching her to "follow her little way ".
In fact, in her role as Novice Mistress, Thérèse will have to play a big role with Sister Genevieve; the latter experienced euphoria for a few months leaving the world, but her ardent nature soon manifested, with strong and inevitable resistance.

We guess that the task was tough, that of the young Mistress who had to deploy treasures of ingenuity and patience to listen, correct, reprimand, console, encourage. And that of the young nun who had to learn to bend to the constraints and monotonous life of the cloister, as well as to discover the real self-giving, the true poverty of spirit.


Sister Genevieve have taken the Habit on February 5th, 1895, made her perpetual vows on February 24th 1896, there still remained the last 18 months of life of her sister to collect her teachings, especially those concerning the "little way of love and trust "which communicated her secrets after having discovered them herself.


Besides the poems composed for the clothing and the Profession of Sister Genevieve (Poem 16 and Poem 27),  Thérèse dedicated to her more of her poetic compositions: St. Cecilia (Poem 3), Canticle to obtain the canonization of the Venerable Jeanne Arc (Poem 4), "The Queen of Heaven to her beloved child"(Poem 13)" The Canticle of Celine " also called "What I liked" (Poem 18), and finally "Jesus, my Beloved, remember!" (Poem 24). [Click here to read any of them].


The time will soon come for Sister Genevieve to write and work a lot for Therese ... Meanwhile, she is the photographer of the Community using the camera she had when she entered Carmel, already unknowingly working for the future because we owe her the vast majority (38 of 47) of shots of Thérèse of Lisieux.


Her fraternal affection and her sense of "archives "lead her to gather many recollections, to write many notes, to maintain a "living memory" that will become a documentation of the most valuable in history. Because history will soon take hold of Therese. Dying in the infirmary of Carmel, to her sister Celine who asked: "Will you look at us from the top of Heaven? "she responds spontaneously, "No, I will come down! "


Serving the theresian message


Sister Genevieve will barely have time to dwell on the great void made in her life by the death of Therese, because she will be sollicited by the incessant labor that will flow into the monastery: she takes up the pen to write "The Call to litle Souls "(1904)" The Spirit of the Blessed Therese of the Child Jesus "(1922)," The Little Catechism of the Act of Offering to Merciful Love "(1932). She also uses charcoal and brushes with dexterity for the compositions that made for long the basis of Theresian iconography: Therese and father, Therese and her mother, Thérèse on her deathbed, to Thérèse with Roses, etc.

We can’t quote everything, but we must however give a special mention to her reproduction of the Holy Face from the shroud of Turin. It was not a work dictated by the message of Thérèse, but a personal hommage of devotion . “My devotion to the Holy Face,” writes Sister Genevieve, “is the summary of my devotion to the Holy Humanity of Jesus." We can not minimize in this respect the fervor of her love, the strength of her faith.


Impossible moreover to report all domains where the activity of the ingenious Celine was at work, and in her old age, she was still asked to record her testimony concerning her parents. She gave to this task the last of her remaining strength, because for her nothing was indifferent. She gave herself to all tasks with enthusiasm and tenacity. This temperament of fire, built for combat, however, had offered her many battles because of her sensitivity, her reactions of self-love, her secret attachments that each of us knows one day or another . But she unconsciously fed her confidence with all and was delivered to the flame of Consuming of merciful Love.

Also she did not hesitate in 1952 - when she was 83 years – to work on the publication of her "Conseils and Souvenirs” where she humbly reveals her many difficulties of character and behavior, but also shows all of St. Therese’s teaching style vis-à-vis her novice.



The last call of the Lord


Sister Genevieve did not hesitate to write in confidence: "I will present myself to the good God, not with empty hands, but with paraphernalia of all my misdeeds. I summon all my faults in my judgment. Of good deeds I cannot speak. I gave them to God, and he spent them for souls. I will come with the procession of all my miseries, and the good God will be so good to me that being unable to bear such kindness, the link that held me yet on earth will break. "

However her life was prolonged far beyond her desires: after celebrating her Golden Jubilee in 1946 – and diamond - 1956 - she lived on earth as the last member of the family, while her 90th birthday was approaching. It was in December 1958 that a serious heart disorder manifests and she had to suffer a slow death of nearly two months. It was her "Passion" as she had desired, and certainly the last purification after a long life of work, of struggle and generous efforts.

On the morning of February 25th, 1959, her life was consummated in a last look of joy, her eyes staring straight ahead; Sister Genevieve had experienced death to finally contemplate the Face of her Lord.


Back to the page of Celine in her family