Marie Martin entered Carmel after a difficult period of vocational discernment--and more than a little push from Father Pichon and Mother Agnes. But, later, it was Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart who conceived the idea that her sister Therese should write down her own story in Manuscript A, and she is also the source of Manuscript B. Here are her own remembrances written in 1909 at the request of Mother Agnes.
To my dear Mother – remembrances of her little sister and little daughter, Marie of the Sacred Heart.
My little, dear mother, in order to please you I will attempt to recall some things from my poor life that are so far from resembling that of our angel. But while I have the happiness of having her for a sister, I will delight in Heaven over all the gifts of nature and grace that the good God gave to her. I will enjoy them as much as if they were mine because for her, as for you, my little mother, I would prefer that you would be more favored than I am. Oh! I do not say that the Lord has not favored me; if I had been faithful to the graces that he has given me, I would have been a saint already for a long time. But his mercy is infinite and he waits with an infinite patience if the soul that he pursues with his love gives itself totally to Him.
This is what He has done for me, What kindness! When I will finally give Him all that He expects from me.
It is today All Saints and we are marking the evening of this feast day so full of melancholy [that evening all the churches toll their bells for the defunct] I listen to the tolling that cries for those that are no more of this world, but who now live beyond this world...Poor unfortunates who have passed from this vale of tears into an even sadder desert and who await for our help! Alas! They do not have the knowledge to help themselves and to [have made] the sorrows of this earth their Purgatory! Oh, my little Mother, I ask Jesus that he not be that way for us, but that He [instead] purify us before our death so that upon our last sigh we fall into His arms. This is what you told us this evening, I think as you do. I want, while I still can, not to refuse any sacrifice to the good God, because afterwards one will not be able to give Him anything. It will be impossible to give Him one single proof of our love! It is frightening to think that. What a precious life He leads us on earth...And to say that for the most part of the time, one hardly thinks of these truths that are so luminous on certain days. If I continue, my little Mother, I do not see what I would tell you of my life. Therefore, I start by given you a detail about which I do not have any [personal] recollection. I was too little to be able to recall, it was mama who had told me. I had hardly begun walking and I already showed my penchant for independence. One day when she led me by the hand to practice my first steps, I set myself all of a sudden to running. Mama feared that she would see me fall and called out to me saying...”Obey, Marie, obey!” But without stopping myself I repeated, while still running, “obey, obey...”
Much later we had a maid who had the sad talent of terrifying with one sole chilling glance my three younger sisters Pauline, Leonie and Helene. It was only I who did not fall into her webs. I saw poor, little Helene so sad as soon as she happened to commit some “sin” (although committed only by accident) at [the maid's] foot or apron; she would not dare to play due to the worry that she would be reprimanded by Louise. As far as I was concerned, I had made it expressly clear to her that I was not afraid of her and as soon as she reproached me in some manner I responded immediately: “I am quite free, am I” so she nicknamed me, “I am quite free” and it was quite clear that she was the one who was afraid of me. While I am on the subject of Louise, I would say that this poor young girl rendered my two little sisters Leonie and Helene very unhappy. She nevertheless loved the little Helene, who was radiant and had the sweetness of an angel, very much, but Louise who lacked good judgment could not see that she terrorized this poor child and did her much harm. Mama noticed this one day and told her: “But it seems to me that you make these children very unhappy; I prohibit you from scolding them for little nothings as you do.” After seeing that these two little ones were always around her and had the appearance of loving her well, this poor little Mother had confidence in Louise [long passage crossed out].
My God, your designs are impenetrable but also so admirable. Leonie was far from being as gifted as Helene. This was an absolutely undisciplined child, no one could bring her to heel; she would only obey out of fear. Mama was desperate; to whom should she be entrusted? Or should she go to boarding school? She had nowhere to turn, immediately upon giving her some liberty, [Leonie] would misuse it by bringing disorder everywhere, or rather she would come upon some accident [because] she could never stay tranquil on her own account. I remember that one day (we were then semi-pensioners at the Providence), she wanted to grab her snack that was at the top of a buffet, to reach there she stacked chairs one upon the other, climbed on top of the chairs and came tumbling down upon the bottles that she pulled down with her. Broken glass shards lodged in her forehead and she still has these marks today. The panicked Sister ran to [our] house to inform papa who came immediately to take out with a tong the glass shards that were stuck in her forehead. From that day on, mama kept her at home and it was then that she asked the Holy Virgin to send her a devoted and honest young woman upon whom she could count on to help take care of the children. And Louise arrived exactly on the 8thof September, the Feast of the Nativity [of the Blessed Mother].
My dear little Mother, I have forgotten to recount to you about the little act of virtue which I [now] recall. I would have been four or five years old. You will recall that papa had on top of his work table a dried orange peel in which he placed centimes or sous [spare coins or change]. I found this so marvelous that one day when he had given me an orange I asked him to make me such a small saucer like his and all triumphantly I showed it to you from a distance. “Me, I have an orange peel.” Immediately, you became envious and to gain “a pearl for my crown” (because that was the means that mama used to have us share) I gave it to you. It seemed to me that I had made a heroic act and that poor orange peel had become even more of a price to my eyes because you had wanted it. Again, running very rapidly near to mama, I told her: “Mama, I have given my orange peel to Pauline; will I be going to H'ven [sic]? “Yes, my little girl, yes, you will go to Heaven,” responded mama. This hope alone could console me for the loss of my fortune.
Alas! My dear little Mother, I found upon reflection that most times, it is but such that we offer to the good God. Great sacrifices are rarely to be found, but the little ones, “the little dried orange peel” are seen as often as one wants. In this way, at that moment, I had only my little yellow saucer to give and I am sure, very sure, that I put there not small change, like this poor, little father, but diamonds for Paradise; that is to say, souls. And do you know at this instant what [represents] my little orange peel? Well, then, it is the house that is being built behind the trees just facing our cell. All of the countryside that I love to see will disappear to my eyes, already I do not see any more the small white houses whose windows reflect the setting sun in the evenings. That makes me think of Heaven, I tell myself that in Heaven, it is in this way that the blessed mutually reflect themselves upon the sun of Justice and that the most simple souls will shine as brightly as suns. I have, therefore, offered the good God this altogether small sacrifice in union with those that Jesus accomplished for poor sinners so that for them there will not be raised the redoubtable wall of his justice that would hide them forever from the Sovereign Good! Oh! when one thinks of this irreparable misfortune! How much I wish to save souls! But for that, it is necessary to be a saint because there are not but the saints who have power over His Heart! But I am His spouse and it could be that His love for me blinds Him...?
Now, my dear little Mother, that I have cited the sole act of virtue that I can recall, I will cite for you my acts of independence, because I have well justified my nickname, “I am quite free.”-- One day on Easter, I went to High Mass with Louise, I was by myself because you were too little to come with us. Near the church of [St. Louis] de Montfort, which was then in state of being repaired, there was a sort of a large pool of lime encircled by sand. I approached to see it. Louise told me not to go too far because this lime would burn my feet. Well, it sufficed that she should tell me this for me to show her that I was very free and that I would see for myself if what she told me was true. I jumped over the sand embankment and immediately I began to sink in the lime and I saw her prediction coming true because I felt as if I were being burned alive. I cried out desperately. Finally, having been taken out of this lime, it was necessary for me to go home, but my pretty, little ankle boots that were all new were completely burned.
When I listened to the little bell rung at Mass at the moment of the elevation and I saw that immediately all lowered their heads, I told myself: “It is too bad to force us like this to lower our heads, for me, it pleases me more to watch, I am quite free...” And, in effect,I looked [and] saw again the white host in the hands of the priest. But then I understood without yet fully understanding the deeper sense of this thought why all the heads were bowed. The first time that I saw the Holy Host in making my act of independence I felt a sense of sweetness and peace.
At this age, I did not want to salute other people that we did not know; it was humiliating to make such a salute. I remember that one day in going to the pavillon such an occasion presented itself, but I turned my head away like a little savage. Mama was very embarrassed to see me with such a singular character and she told that I would never make anyone love me. But this word contributed only to make deeper the roots of my haughty character. Thinking that one is obliged to make niceties and reverences, I told myself: No, I would not subject myself to that; that would bother me about finding someone who would love me: “It is the same to me that people not love me, as long as you love me it suffices for me.”
As I have told you, Mama placed us as semi-boarders at the Providence. You will remember my little Mother how intrepidly I would defend you. You were so sweet so cute! As soon as someone would make you cry, all my blood would boil in my veins. I was not happy at the Providence. The mistress who was in charge of the small children was far from edifying to me.I would always see her eating oranges and bom-boms. I never returned there! And then she would often scold us when we had called her nearby to her desk, and then she would pull our ears. This habit revolted me. The evening when I returned to our home, I told Mama all about who had caused me to suffer. In sum, I came to have such a real antipathy for [these] religious that I could not stand to see them.
Many of the older students loved blindly the religious of whom I have spoken because she was pretty. I, who was only seven and a half years old, found it very stupid for them to attach themselves to her having already experienced at my own expense something that had already taught me what one can expect from creatures. One day during dinner, she sent me to search for her knife that she had forgotten on her desk. I rushed gladly to render her this little service, but it was all sticky, covered with barley sugar, and I proceeded to wipe it. I ended up with a big cut on my thumb and I arrived in the refectory with a very bloody finger. She hardly paid attention to me. I didn't say anything but I thought interiorly, “it will not be too soon when I do that over again.” She only had looked at me sweetly in order to get something from me, I now realized. It seemed to me that it was such ingratitude that I could not fully understand it.
There were also in the same class as mine inattentive and spoiled students, and even more!!! The mistress did not notice them. Since I did not hide anything from Mama, I told her everything that I had seen and understood. It was then that this good, little Mother told me, “above all, my little daughter, tell everything about that when you confess. Start with that which cost the most.” (But I had not accused myself of taking part in these indecencies. I had been horrified; Mama knew that well. I believe by the way that I can confide in you, my dear little Mother, that never have I gravely offended the good God). And she told me this story that made my hair stand on end: “There was a child who did not dare tell her sins when she came to confession. The priest saw come out of her mouth the head of a large serpent and immediately it disappeared. Later, one day, she had the courage to confess her fault and the large snake came completely out, followed by a multitude of small snakes because when one chases the larger one the others go all alone as if they were under an enchantment.” I have retained that and for nothing in the world would I want to commit a sin. One day when I worried having swallowed a serpent, with what happiness I welcomed the news that we would go to confession. I saw myself again besiege the door of the confessional. There were many of us waiting and I had a great fear of not having enough time to go in. Then, I felt, so to say, tormented, [praying] that there would not remain in my heart a single serpent.
I also forgot to relate an act that shows how I have a haughty and independent character--in what I do not know too much what circumstance, the school mistress decided to punish me by placing a dunce cap that she had made out of a newspaper. During dinner, it was required that I wear during the entire time in the refectory this cap on my head. But no sooner she had placed it [on my head] that it was on the floor; many times she tried to fix it and hardly she had fixed it in the back that I would make a jump [in order for the cap to fall to the ground], I think that she finally was obliged to attach it with a pin.
One of my remembrances of my childhood that is engraved in me is while we were watching the little Helene nurse. I was no more than five and a half years old but it seemed to me that I felt things as profoundly as I do at present. Firstly, little Helene was nursing at the Chene, a farm that belonged to our parents four or five leagues from Alencon. How good that [farm] seemed to me! I found it sad that such a sweet, little sister was so far from our home. I saw my mother embrace the little Helene as she left. And I told myself: what a pity to leave my little sister! How sad Mama must have been! Poor Mama! Then, why, therefore, did she not take her back with us? I found that the good woman who cared for my little sister was very happy and I could not understand such a mystery. Then, I thought for the first time that life is filled with sacrifices. But I did not say anything about my sentiments because it would have been impossible for me to express them.
I recall also very well my little brothers, the second one above all. To make him laugh, I danced with you, my little Mother, and also with Leonie and Helene, I believe, on a bed that was placed in front of his crib. We would make the bed base sag; he roared with laughter and it amused me very much to see that he had begun to understand us when he was hardly five or six months old. He had a very intelligent air about him. When I would tell him: “he is a little mischief-maker, little Joseph!”, immediately, he would make a little pout and, without any crying out loud, big tears would well in his little angel eyes. Then, I would quickly say: “no, he is so cute!” And he would start smiling. I have never seen a more beautiful jewel. Mama would say regarding his little fingers: “he has hands well made , my future little priest...” I also saw his little crib turn into his little coffin. Mama had placed a crown of white roses and she said in this regard: “My God, do we have to put him in the ground!! but if you willed it, let your will be done.” What courage! What faith! I was eight years old and this sight was profoundly engraved in my heart. I looked upon Mama with admiration. She never cried, she could not cry under her circumstances and her astonishing energy made the world say that she felt no sorrow over the death of her children, that her faith was so great that she was glad to give them to the good God. Poor little Mother! Fortunately, He who reads the bottom of hearts counted all her agonies.
I also remember very well the birth of the first, little Therese (Marie Melanie Therese). She was ravishingly beautiful. It was similarly necessary to put her in the hands of a wet nurse [suppressed passage], but this time in Alencon. We went to see her often ; when Mama could not, Louise, our maid, went there with us. I went with her everyday to see my little sister because I loved very much my little brothers and little sisters. I can say that it was one of the joys of my life as a child. I was no more than ten years old, but that wet nurse whose propriety was perfect and whose house was in very good state, did not inspire any confidence in me. I did not find about her a frank air and when we arrived she would nurse the little one who fed with such urgency that it was like a poor, little child who was famished and dying of hunger. I did not say anything, at ten years of age what could I have said? But when we had left, I made my refections known to Louise, I told her that I was sure that my little sister had not been well cared for at the house of that woman and that I would tell Mama, that she threw herself at the wet nurse as someone who was dying of hunger. Louise responded that I didn't know anything, that all children were like that, that it was not worth the trouble that I should worry this poor, little Mother, that she had enough troubles without this one added, etc...But one day, not having more bread, I said regarding the bread, “Ah! If poor little Therese would only have a bite, she would not be dying of hunger.” Louise looked at me sensing what was about to happen. In effect, Mama questioned us and from the next day on the poor little one was in our house. Alas! It was already too late. She was too weak to take the upper hand and soon she had rejoined the two, little angels that had preceded her to Heaven. Mama was so pained by her death that when we went out on “promenades” with her, we would avoid passing near the De la Barre street where the little Therese had been with the wet nurse; never was she able to bear to see that street. And me, I also felt a sting in my heart because I reproached myself for not having said sooner what I thought and, for fear of Louise, having caused the death of my little sister. Now, I am very happy that all our angels have been rendered to port finding protection from the foundering caused by this stormy sea, that is, life.
While I am on the chapter of my little sisters, I will continue on the same subject and speak of Celine who was for me the joy of joys. I was at the Visitation when I learned that we had a new, little sister. I exclaimed to myself: “What happiness!” The school mistress smiled and said to me: “it seems that you haven't enough [little sisters] yet”. But for me, I never found that there were ever too many. When vacation arrived, what joy to see our little sister. She was with a wet nurse at Semalle. Her wet nurse loved her very much and called her “ holy Angel”! When the months of nursing were passed, with what tears she returned the little one to Mama. But I was very happy to see her come back to our home. She was cuter than I could ever say.
She was a real jewel, so little! It was curious to see so small a child run like a little chick across the house. She made her first steps across the desk belonging to Mama. Louise who had this small living doll in her arms would position her for an instant on the desk to amuse herself and the baby preparing herself to take steps would start saying, “Enco...enco (encore!) [meaning “aga, aga'”(again].
I could not believe my ears to see that she understood what was said and one continued to be amused with her. In sum, I was enchanted with my little sister. Louise was also proud of her, one would have thought that she belonged to her, so much did she pamper her. Nothing was too beautiful for Celine, she cared for her toilette as if were that of a princess. Also, when Louise would lead us in a promenade, all of us together, it was not unusual to hear people whom we ran into say among themselves: “who, therefore, is this pretty, little girl?” And the others would reply: “but it is the little Martin girl.” Then, Louise's happiness was full. Returning home, Louise would recount [all] this to the poor little mother who worked with ardor at her point d'Alencon lace while we were on our promenade and to all these compliments Mama would say that it was [all] about pride.
If I continue so, my little, dear Mother, my stories would have no end. It would serve well that you expect from me but chaos without parallel since I do not know anything about rules.
Now, I return to the point where I was: I will speak to you about the time that we spent together at the Providence of Alencon. Before leaving this subject, I wish that you would know that the school mistress who did not edify me by her gluttony was converted. It was Father Pichon who converted her during a retreat that he gave at the Providence. I do not know by what chance he crosses my mind now. I think it is because I am recounting to you my childhood that his name returns to my lips. He told me: “Ah! that Sister! You know her!! But she is one of my children. It is I who opened Heaven to her.” And, he added, “Oh! She had a great need of conversion!!”
Mama seeing the profound aversion that I had for all the religious of that community (alas, they had no fault if one of them carried out her duties poorly) resolved to place me as a boarder at the Visitation at Mans. I was eight years old then. I was far from suspecting the hard sacrifices that I would be having to make.
It was all new, I had to travel...to go to a boarding school so far away...it was different! I did not analyze all that for myself, but I did have a certain idea. Louise, who did not love me too much because I was too strong-willed, told me that when I was gone she would not cry for me and I, to prove to her that I would not miss her, told her that, for my part, I would be so glad not to be with her that I would light a bonfire in the garden. This poor Louise, she has left in my imagination from childhood a profound impression of her malice.
One day she dressed for me a little doll, a little bigger than a finger, as a First Communicant. I was delighted, but then I did something that displeased her. What? I do not remember. Probably telling Mama something that she did not want me to say. As a result, she took my doll and took off its dress that had earned my admiration and ripped it into pieces. I was absolutely dumbfounded, but above all indignant. I thought she was so spiteful that I was astounded. To show her that I was not afraid of her, I told her boldly: “I am going to tell Mama.” This poor little Mother, who had other worries other than a doll's dress in shreds, did not understand a happening that I considered to be a real wrongdoing. She reprimanded Louise, but that one knew well how to defend herself so that hardly any attention was paid to me.
Finally, the day arrived when we would part for the Visitation. I have so little memory that I do not recall the voyage. What I do remember is the parlor where I saw my aunt behind the grill. It was not, of course, the first time that our mother had taken us to the Visitation to see our aunt. But then it had not been to enter and we had passed almost all day in the court of the chapel playing and running. During one of these visits, my aunt gave me an image that impressed me so profoundly that I recall having written on the back: “Souvenir of my Ant [sic]from Man [sic]. I will sav [sic] allways [sic].”
I, in effect, kept it always since I still have it in our breviary, it followed me to Carmel. It is a Child Jesus, in the middle of a field of lilies, having a scythe and a harvest of lilies at hand. At the bottom of the image are found these words, “Blessed are the lilies without blemish at the time of their harvest, their whiteness will shine brilliantly in Paradise.” This image made me dream as a child, and it makes me dream still. In effect, thanks to this image, it could be that the Visitation has a certain secret poetic and saintly charm for me. Yes, but...the poetry vanished for me when I saw that I would have to part from my mama. Then, I had felt as if I were leaving everything...all that could protect us and love us. I regarded my aunt as so saintly, of course, and so good but I did not have any wish to go with her. Also, I told myself very softly, "What is going to come when I do not have Mama." I did not dare say anything to the sisters there; at dinner they made me eat fat. It was a bid deal for me because the meat that had grease turned my stomach. Then, I told Mama: "would you ask them not to give me fat?” To, please me, Mama, make the request to my aunt. But I realized very clearly that my recommendation was useless and that no one was paying attention to my tastes. Finally, just the two of us were bidden to enter into the convent. We were so well cared for that I did not think more of the pain of separation. I was distracted by all the new things that I was seeing for the first time. And more, mama had well told me that the religious of the Visitation were all saints (which was true) that I felt at home in their midst.
We had entered, I believe, one or two days before the general entry of students and this allowed me to appreciate much more the saintliness of the religious through the solitude that prevailed everywhere. But after some time, suddenly, I heard the sound of a piano. Quickly, my happiness vanished: “Ah! It is like at the Providence, no, these religious are not more saintly than the others, they have pianos!” Surely, there were students who were the preferred ones, I saw again here injustices and many things that displeased me. The rich should have the better views, etc., etc. In my small eight year old's head, there was a whole world of thoughts and appraisals about which one was far from doubting. I continued my observations without saying anything and fortunately I realized very quickly that I was not misled. My school mistresses were true saints. My aunt was for us one of unequaled devotion, we saw her frequently. Because she was not in the boarding school, that placed us in contact with the community. And, often, during our promenades with her, we encountered religious who appeared to take a vivid interest in the little nieces of Sr. Marie Dosithee. You, my little Mother, you had so open a character, so amiable that I was proud to have so charming a little sister. At the Visitation, I was not obliged to defend you because all the world loved you. And I, I loved you so much that I can not put it into words and I was very happy to hear your praises sung. As far as I was concerned, I would take on a singular manner when people would could to me with compliments about you. Then, I would put on an indifferent air, or rather I would attenuate those of your qualities that were being remarked upon. I would respond for example: “it is true that she, Pauline, is very kind, but the others are too.” Upon recounting to my aunt, my absurd reflections, she said that I was jealous of my little sister. Ah! But jealousy was very far from my thoughts. I told my aunt that I responded in this manner because those compliments that were addressed to you I saw as if if they were [addressed] to myself and I believed that is what was being done. My aunt began to laugh at my nonsense.
My First Communion was advanced by one year because my aunt fell gravely ill. As I was very advanced in the Catechism, the first Mistress told me that I was very well taught and I would make my First Communion at the age of nine because we wanted to give my aunt this consolation before her death. This thought gave me great courage, I had a great desire to make my First Communion and I learned my Catechism with an ardor without parallel. Religious questions interested me very much. It was a feast for me to go recite my lesson before Mgr. L'abbe Boulange. I can still see the parlor where he would go over the Catechism with us. When he asked these questions, many of my companions did not know how to respond. I would burn with envy when he didn't address me. I would say to myself: “Oh! How I would like him to ask me! I understand it so well!” That is how it was most of the time, mostly he was very content with me. I was not satisfied with just learning the Catechism well, I spent much time practicing so that the little Jesus would be most happy in my heart, that He would find Himself there well received because I felt in the intimacy of my soul that He had made the whole world think that my aunt would die precisely because He was pressed to give Himself to me and this thought filled me with joy. However, it was very true that my aunt was very sick and the entire community was persuaded that she would not have the consoloation to see me make my First Communion. Me, I was sure of the contrary; I had an unshakeable faith.. One day we were able to see my aunt in her infirmary and she could hardly speak to us as she was so oppressed [in her respiration], the infirmarian tried to make me understand that it was necessary above all to abandon ourselves to the will of the good God because [the infirmarian] knew well that I prayed with ardor for the healing of my aunt. Then, I looked at her astounded and I told her: “But, my Sister, if I acted like that, I would not succeed at all. If, unfortunately, it were not the will of the good God, I would, therefore, be sure it would not be granted! So I take good care not to talk to Him about His will because I try to change His will.” The good Sister started to laugh and could not come up with any response to me.
It was to St. Joseph that I turned to obtain this cure. I had a very great confidence in him and to touch his heart this is what I did: at the bottom of the “little sheep pen” (the place where we had our play during recreation), there was a statue of St. Joseph in a niche surrounded by jasmine. I would gather all the little flowers that fell at his feet and threaded them, one into another, making crowns that I would throw with great devotion into the two empty spaces in the niche. It was for me the biggest practice [of penance] to thread these flowers because I could not then run and amuse myself with my companions. They, being nice enough to invite me to take part in their games, I invariably responded: “I like better to make crowns for St. Joseph.” When I arrived at recreation, my first thought was to see if the jasmine had bloomed, not because that gave me pleasure, but because I disliked this type of amusement to which I delivered myself to obtain the cure of my aunt. It seems that I can remember that one beautiful day the school mistress obliged me to leave aside all my crowns and told me to play like eveyone else. I did not make it necessary for her to repeat this twice because I thought: “St. Joseph sees well that it is not my fault if I abandon him. It would not be that that would impede the healing of my aunt.” Nevertheless, several weeks before my First Communion, [my aunt] was found to be so ill that all hope appeared to be lost. Our mistresses looked at us with an air of consternation and we would not go see her at the infirmary fearing that we would cause even the slightest fatigue. But confidance did not quit my soul. To each sister that I encountered, I asked: “My Sister, how is my aunt going?” And, if she gave me bad news, I resorted to enter the chapel to look upon St. Joseph, but with a certain look that should have told him everything, according to me... And when I had looked upon him like this, whether to admonish him, whether to thank him, I found myself all reassured and convinced that my aunt would be cured. Mama, for her part, wrote me brilliant letters to encourage my faith: I remember well these words: “My little Marie, the good God will not refuse you anything on the day of your First Communion. We need that on that day your aunt will be able to say: 'the good God has cured me! You have prayed well for me!'” Ah! Those letters from Mama that produced the admiration of our mistresses. [these letters] were burned by accident! How many times have I heard the [mistresses] say that there was no mother like our own...They had good reason.
In sum, I obtained this greatly desired grace, my aunt was cured despite all the contrary predictions. She was able to assist my First Communion, and she lived another seven years! She died one year after I left the boarding school. She told me shortly before her death that she owed me seven years of life.
I will go back to the time that preceded my First Communion. I was so scrupulous that it poisoned my life. All the most extravagant thoughts crossed my spirit; I would go immediately to tell them to the First Mistress of the boarding school. It was she who had prepared us for our First Communion. I had a great fear of not making a good First Communion! But there was no way for the First Mistress to understand my follies because I can say that it was [a question] of folly. The fear of having bad thoughts brought them in my mind and then each time that I went to confess (which was for me a real torture) I said and re-said up to the very smallest details, but not without giving out a sigh (!) all that had crossed my mind. I had not forgotten the story of the big serpent and I had excessive fear that it would hide in my heart [to the extent] that I would force out of myself even the ones that were not there. One day at the end of the confession, Monsieur the Chaplain told me “From now on, I proscribe you from telling me one sole word about all that.” Ah! The relief that I experienced, it is impossible for me to express! From that moment on, all my scruples were vanished as if by enchantment.
To encourage us to make numerous acts of virtue, we would keep track of them on what one would call
practice beads [“chapelets de pratiques”]. I was not always very faithful in tracking my pearls, but I knew well how to get myself out of the situation just the same. One day, it was the acts of love that one should have been doing. When I saw the mistress with her paper and pencil come to take notes of our virtues, I asked myself: “What am I going to do?” I had forgotten! But, just as she arrived at my row, I had more time...quickly, quickly, move on: “My good Jesus, I love you, my good Jesus, I love you...!” And when she arrived at my place, I responded boldly: “sixty...!” But I thought all to myself that my acts of love had been too rushed and that next time it was necessary for me to do it in another fashion.
Finally, the beautiful day of my First Communion arrived, a day without clouds! The most beautiful day of my life along with that of my profession. Ah! Of that day, I can say that that which I often heard my mama repeat in a delightful poem of which I have only retained these lines:
Beautiful day among days! Your memory remains
Like a faithful friend, of which nothing has departed
You always appear transparent, azure
As a temple in the evening a celestial vapor
On the sacred tabernacle!
It was given to me to recite the act of faith. With what profound feeling, I pronounced it in the names of my companions, but above all mine. When I approached to receive the Sacred Host, I was only concerned about one thing: to make a good First Communion. They had told me that on this act depended all my life Then, I recollected myself as best I could, but, as a child, I did not receive any particular lights for the direction of my life and I did not have any type of extraordinary consolation. I will only repeat, I was well prepared. Towards the end of the Mass, Sister Marie Paule, the first mistress of the boarding school, came very close to the choir grill and, like a vigilant mother, passed some morsels of chocolate to those whom she thought to be the most delicate. As for me, no one occupied themselves with me and I experienced the happiness of being forgotten by creatures and to be left alone with my Jesus. Finally, the sign was made to me to re-enter the convent because the Ceremony for First Communion was done in the exterior Chapel because of the parents. I glimpsed then Papa and Mama; they were in the first rows at a place of honor like all the parents of the first communicants. I experienced then a sentiment of noble pride. How beautiful appeared to me on that day my well beloved parents. For me there were no others like them in the entire assembly. From the rest, Papa was, in effect, so beautiful and with a rare natural distinction. Mama had on a simple dress of black silk, but her noble and dignified air appeared to my eyes to have a radiance without equal. Oh! I found myself so privileged to be their child.
That night, we did not have dinner in the refectory with the other boarders, but they prepared for us a separate room, with a table around which there had been deposited garlands of flowers. To say that it delighted me! All was celestially on this day!... After mid-day, we came out again into the exterior chapel for Vespers for the Act of Consecration and the renewal of Baptismal Promises. Following this, Papa and Mama climbed to the parlor to see my aunt, we two alone [Marie and Pauline] with them, but they were very susrprised to see that it was time to say goodbye to the little daughters on this very beautiful day. They thought that they would be able to lead us until the next day. My aunt told them that this rule provided a better means to preserve the interior recollection of the children on such a holy day. On the evening of my First Communion, once I had re-entered my little boarding student's cell (because our beds were separated by a partition made of boards and enclosed with a curtain truly resembling a little [monastical] cell), I dissolved into tears. The Mistress hurried up toward me and very anxiously asked what could possibly have made me cry so. At last, though my sobs, I told her: “It is because the day of my First Communion has passed!”
On the following day, we were reunited with our parents. Ah! That next day that was [so] impressed in me with melancholy. I had, then, recovered papa and mamam, but I how I suffered to be separated from them! With them, it seemed to me that I was in Heaven, but this heaven had to be very short since that same day they would be leaving us! So my happiness was far from being complete. We went on a walk into the country. Soon, I saw myself in a field filled with big daisies and cornflowers. But to cut them it was necessary to let go of the hand of my dear father, [so] I preferred to stay close to him. I looked at him, I looked at mamam...There was in my little nine year old's heart a [great] depth of love and tenderness for them. I also thought much of my little sisters Leonie and Helene who had stayed in Alencon. Leonie, above all, worried me. I told myself: “I would like to have her with me”; it was a dark point in my life to [recall] that maid of whom I have already spoken and had such dominion over her. Finally, we returned to the Visitation with a big bouquet of cornflowers that I had cut with mamam. But how great was my pain when I saw that they passed this bouquet to the other side of the grill to Sr. M. Paula who had never paid any attention to me. Oh! The cornflowers were for me infused with so much poetic feeling! So much so that it seemed sad to me to give them to one that I loved so little. No, I did not love S. M. Paula very much. Why? I really don't know. I loved my other mistresses much more. It was, however, to her that I had made all my confidences. But I did so out of duty (to prove that I had merit!). And then after that day, this poor sister seemed to me even less amiable than the others because she prepared to open the door for us and she left me with the impression of a jailor in a prison.
While I am on this [same] chapter, I want to tell you my little Mother (you know this well) to what point I suffered at the boarding school in being far from our parents. No, it is in vain that I wll try to describe this martyrdom. You had passed through there the same as me, then you know what it was! It is above all after my first Communion that I suffered the most. Before, the desire to make my first Communion made me forget the separation, but, afterwards, there was nothing more to wait for; I was inconsolable to see myself so far from them. I envied the sort of ragmen who would shuffle from door to door with their stick removing with it the trash that one would throw into the street. “At least,” I thought, “he goes home.! They are at liberty, they can see [their] papa and mamam!” So, when I heard Sr. Marie Claire singing to us at recreation:
When into the blue sky slides a slight cloud
I dream again of whom I love so much
The beloved features, her pure and sweet image;
From high in Heaven blessing her child!
My heart would refill with sadness, I would see again the blue of Heaven and would have wanted to fly above the clouds to find again my dear mother. Alas! I had to stay on [this] strange earth; happily, I had my little Pauline, the sweet companion of my exile. She never complained; she had an astonishing strength of soul. So when I saw arrive the end of of vacations, I would always leave the house in sobs and nothing could dry up the cause of my tears, not even the curious looks of passersbys nor the train station employees because I cried for the entire length of the voyage. But dear little Pauline did not shed a single tear out of fear of causing sadness to our parents. Yes, she had an amazing strength for so tender an age. Papa called her his “precious pearl” and it was with good reason! But papa loved me very much also and before leaving me he would often make for me little gifts, believing they would console me. Poor Papa! It was all to the contrary, his tender delicacies would only pierce my heart very much. One day, he brought to me a kind of little charming trinket in the form of a medallion. It was a little miniature barometer. Pauline wanted to see it but it escaped her hands and broke. I felt like crying, not so much because the glass was broken, but because I felt that the heart of my little sister, so sweet, so delicate, was broken as Papa had somewhat scolded her for her clumsiness. Poor, little, dear sister! Jesus has counted all the little breaks and the great sorrows of her heart...Yes...and soon all will be changed into cries of happiness. Still, do not commence singing your Nunc Dimittis because in your little sister Therese (!) you already see the fruit “of what your soul has suffered and in what your heart is satisfied” here below. How will it be above?
But I return to my subject.-- If I had the pain of separating from our dear parents, you will remember, my little Mother, what heady joy, it was for us to foresee [our] vacations. Alas, they were very rare for us, these vacations, we left [school] but three times per year: on the first day of the year we had eight days of vacation, at Easter 15 days and our big vacation six weeks or two months. Some days before these vacations, you would ask me to make for you a chart of the joys that we awaited. It was not imitative music, but certainly imitative poetry. I began with the arrival of mamam at the parlor, then I imitated the noise of the little rattle at the turn that called for the doorkeeper. Ding, ding! dong! ding! ding! dong! At last, the sister in charge of this service had announced to the mistress: “Madame Martin asks for her children.” Little Pauline, in hearing me, let out from time to time little cries of joy. We are leaving, we threw ourselves in mamam's arms, then we returned to the train station with her...We were well accomodated in the train. Then, I imitated the locomotive in making the sound of Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! That would make you say: “Enough, Marie...enough!” You could not contain the joy that overflowed from your little heart, it was too strong for you. Then, I imitated the officer who announced at each train stop the name of the places where the passengers exited. Then, I would cry out loudly: “Bourg-le-roi! Bourg-le-roi!” (It was the station closest to Alencon). Our hearts beat all the quicker. But when I cried out “Alencon!” it was another matter altogether...Ah! There was papa who was at the station to wait for us with our little sisters: Leonie, Helene, and Celine! (Soon it would be the turn of the little Therese!). Oh! What joy! What exhilaration! Once there on the rue de Pont Neuf, one could glimpse the house! Later this would be the rue St. Blaise, the little Therese would have been born but [by then] Helene would have flown away to Heaven. Then, my little Mother, in portraying for you our departure for vacation, I sadly add: but no more of Helene!
And our eyes filled with tears. And these joys, so pure, had lost their charms. Little Helene died on 22 February 1870, the day of my tenth birthday. When my aunt informed me of her death, I let out a cry of pain. You, my dear Mother, as in all circumstances, you conserved your soul so pure, so deep...in peace. But what pain also was expressed in your features; I will bever forget. Also, how I bitterly reproached myself for all that I had refused my little godchild because I was the godmother of Helene. She always wanted to sleep with me when we were on vacation, but since I loved very much to relax, I preferred to be alone in my large bed. I recalled all her little childish desires, and being a child myself, do you know what I would do to try to console myself? In the evening, when the mistress of the dormitory had made her round to see that all the little ones were well installed in their “white chapels,” I moved back against the partition so as to leave a big space free in my bed and I said: “my little Helene, come...come...I beg of you! Oh! Pardon me for having refused that which gave you so much pleasure!” And in saying this how heavy was my heart!
At last, when the good God sent us a new angel that was named “little Therese”, the supreme joy of our vacations was to go to see her at [the house of] her wet nurse. When I would see myself on the route that led to the home of little Rose [the wet nurse], I could not contain my happiness. The fields of wheat spangled with tall cornflowers and poppies delighted me. I drank fully from the cup of life surrounded by those I so loved. Papa had given me a concave watch that consequently did not have any dials. Papa was amused to see the pleasure with which I drew this unique type of watch from my pocket. He would tell me from time to time, “Marie, tell us, therefore, what time it is?” I did not err very much and since he looked at his [watch] and told me the exact time that would give me self-assurance for the next time. We took with us to the home of little Rose our provisions for the day, but we would prefer much more the black bread and the fresh milk. She could not believe her eyes. Her children devoured heartily our white bread and we begged mamam to give us the good black bread that seemed to us to be exquisite because we had never seen it before.
But our vacations passed quickly and I would hear Mamam talk of putting together our trousseaus in order for our return. Then my heart would break and I would lose the last fifteen days to lamentions. It was always Mamam who accompanied us back to the Visitation. There were some meters from the station [in Alencon] a small barrier where this good little father would attempt to run after us to see us for a last time. When the train passed by this barrier, he would wave his handkerchief as a sign of adieu and we at the car door, out of breath with emotion, also waved our handkerchiefs, trying to smile, despite our tears, to him who we loved so much ! and who would soon disappear from our eyes. Oh, my God! Only you know the martyrdom that we had suffered! At some distance, the train passed in front of the cemetery. Then, mamam would rise to glimpse from afar the tombs of her little angels, when we were alone in the car, she prayed to them out loud. What profound impressions this spectacle produced in my soul! It is true that the hearts of children are like soft wax that [easily] receive all imprints; for the good as well as bad. And I, who have received such imprints of good, who has seen before my eyes these virtues possessed to the point of heroism, ah ! how is it that I am so lacking in heroism. My God, have pity of my misery!
When we had arrived at the Visitation, then recommenced scenes of tears when it was necessary to say goodby to our dear mother. One day, she forgot to give us before leaving the key for the trunk. I noticed it just after she had left. I quickly opened the door to the choir of the chapel that opened out to the street. I, in fact, saw her but she was already too far then [to hear] my cries “Mama! Mama!” Seeing that she could not hear me, I wanted to set forth to run after her, but the turn sister that was there stopped me. I told her in vain that we did not have the key for the trunk, that we could not arrange our affairs, that Mama was only a few steps away, [but] nothing would soften her. She was a true jailor. She closed the door and we remained in the Convent. I do not know how I was able to withstand to be so enchained, I ask myself often. Ah! If did not have my aunt who I did not want to make suffer, I am sure that I would not have stayed seven years behind the grills because then I did not have the vocation to be behind grills; I had not then understood the call of Jesus: that call that rendered sweet that which is bitter to [our] nature. Did He not also say: “No one comes to me if my Father does not draw them.” Now that he has drawn me, I find myself behind grills as the happiest of creatures, I find myself in possession of true liberty. Ah! It is [only] at present that I can say in all truth: “I am truly free, I truly am.”
My little Mother, I am only up to ten years, I should not add confusion to my interminable recital.
My aunt loved me very much because I had a unique frankness ; all that I did wrong I would tell her right away. [For example,] I went to the great study hall and consequently I was not counted among the little ones; suddenly, I heard her pass down the long corridor that led to the little class. I asked permission to leave and run towards her and I told her with an air of contriteness: “My aunt I again lost time at the commencement of studies. I did this and that.” It was a need for me to accuse myself, [and only] afterwards I would have peace of soul. My aunt was delighted with my disposition as she wrote in the letters to Mama. But, as I grew older, I gave her more to worry about. When I went to say to her, for example, “my aunt, I find that there are many repetitions in the Gospels; [yet] our Mistress of writing style has taught us that it is important to avoid repetitions.” This time, she took on a severe air and. almost indignant, she said to me: “Are you now to find a need to object to the words of Our Lord?” I, who had told her this to accuse myself, thought to myself: “Ah, well, it is not good that I tell her silliness of this kind because she made too much out of the matter.” I was then eleven or twelve years old.
One other time, I told her: “My aunt, I have said my Pater [Our Father] in reverse order to see the devil, do you think that I committed a sin?” In effect, one of my companions had told me: “you know, when you say the Pater in reverse, that is, commencing from the end, the devil will appear to you.”
I wanted to know if this was true because my curiousity was keen. But to make sure that the devil would not do me harm, I said it during the Mass at the moment of Communion. Then, I looked at the Sacred Host and said to myself: “You are my Jesus, I see you, above all, protect me well and do not allow the devil take me away.” I did not dare pronounce the last word of the reversed Pater fearing to see the devil appear to me; in sum, I risked myself to make this act of bravura and I [then] quit out of fear.
My aunt began to worry about my accounts because I had, in effect, very funny ideas. This good aunt had an altar to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows that she ornated her best with arrangements of artificial flowers that she had made herself. She had them in mauve for Holy Week. These flowers had the benefit of displeasing me very much as well as the [images of] the poor Holy Virgin and the poor good Jesus! The Holy Virgen had suh a pitiful air! It seemed that her Jesus,which she had leaning on her knee, was going to escape so much was he raising his hands to Heaven. I found this chapel as sad [a place] as such could be. And when my aunt led me with her to help fix her altar, which she made me dust the numerous flowers made of lead that decorated around and in front, my misfortune was complete. She tried, nevertheless, this poor aunt, to inspire me with devotional and solemn thoughts, but all that I could do was to hold back in order not to pain her by revealing my secret thoughts that were far from being peaceful ones.
One day, it came to me by habit an absurd idea, I found that one placed flowers before saints [and this resulted in the flowers being] not for them, but for us. You know well that the flowers are turned towards us [in a way] that the Holy Virgin only would see iron threads! I found that one should turn the flowers to face her. Then, my good aunt made me undestand that to honor myself I do not wear my dress in reverse in order to have in front of me the beautiful side and [at this] the light went on in my mistrustful spirit.
I succeeded well in my studies. One year, I took nine prizes. That was beautiful for the Visitation where one would receive only awards that were absolutely deserved; I remember that in that same year one of my classmates did not even get one. But [the prizes] cost me so much to go accept them that my pleasure was cut in half because it was necessary to walk across the entire noble assembly of religious gathered together for the celebration in the great recreation hall called “the Room'” [the Chambre] and I was very intimidated. Each trimester was distributed again these which we called the decorations. They were large ribbons, big as the hand, finished with a gold or silver fringe that one wore on Sundays in the form of a shoulder strap. There were ribbons for religious instruction (white), the ribbon of honor (blue), the ribbon of application (violet) and work (green).
One day, in awarding me a ribbon, the mistress added these words: “by leniency.” On account of this, I did not want to wear it, thinking that because I had not deserved it, I should not bother with it.
My aunt who watched over us with a truly maternal solicitude had a great fear that we would have vain thoughts. One day at an outing when I had attached a mauve ribbon to my hair, she appeared all saddened and told me [somethings] I do recall too much [in order to] make me take off my ribbon. She found all our accessories too beautiful, [yet] they were actually quite simple. In sum, one day to reduce the elegance, she decided to take away a little lace that formed the collar of the dresses, so that Mademoiselle Pauline, your godmother, who took us out that day, said, “My little children! But you have the air of being on your way to the guillotine with your neck bare!” I, who for the love of God had put up with this big mortification, exclaimed: “Oh, Mademoiselle, it is not Mama who made our dresses like this; it was my aunt who absolutely wanted to take away our lace!”
Our holy aunt began then to worry a little about these days of outings with Mademoiselle Pauline [Romet]. Her brother had at Le Mans a big store of novelties. It was to his house that Mademoiselle Pauline rode down. And my aunt one day asked me this question: “Are there many employees at the house of Mr. Romet?” “oh, my aunt, at least one hundred!” There could have been fifteeen...”Oh, my poor child, do you need to exaggerate that way!” For certain, she had the information and when it turned out there were but fifteen she arranged in some fashion to make these outings cease. I felt no sorrow for this. What did it matter to me to go out like the other children every month if it was not with my parents.
I was 13 years old when, during the vacation for the first of the year, the good God sent us our little Therese. When I entered that morning into Mama's room, she told me: “go kiss your little sister.” I approached the crib and I was so happy! But this happiness did not last long. It was during these days of vacation that she nearly died, but the faith of our dear Mother, her ardent prayer, called her to life. Mama gave us all these details in her letters.
It was during that same year that I caught typhoid fever. I fell ill in the spring and I was placed in the infirmary. I spent there many days, my aunt came to see me often. I yearned for visits, but I was mostly alone. I could not see my dear Pauline because there was a fear that she would also catch the fever and so I had no distractions. My bed was not placed near a window, but in a corner of the infirmary and I did not have any view of the garden. Along with that, I had a scorching thirst and nothing could quench it. The poor infirmarian was inflexible and for the sake of prudence did not want to give me to drink, or very little. I offered this to the good God, but I would say to myself: “Oh! If I was in our home, however! I would go to the cellar and there I would drink to my heart's content the good cider that I so crave! I know Mama would not refuse me this, I am sure of that.”
In sum, seing that I was not getting any better, to the contrary, the physician said that it was necessary to send me to my family and quickly at that. When my aunt informed me of this news, I did not let her see my joy, but it was very great. I began to despair that I would not have Mama to take care of me. It seemed to me that I would suffocate...I descended the stairs with much pain, asking Pauline if she was going to go with me; to console me, she promised [to do so] in a few days. It was Monsieur Vital Romet, Celine's godfather, who accompnied me home. When that poor, little Mother saw me so sick she was very sad; for me it seemed that, when I placed my feet on the floor of the house, that I returned to life. Right away, Mama installed me in her room and I rested in bed for a long time. I was delirious, and my head was like an enormous weight that I could not move. At each movement that I made on the pillow it was as if [my head] was a big rock that I could not lift up. I heard one day the physician tell Mama: “this child has taken [ill] due to sorrow, rather it is a bilious fever [instead of] a thyroid fever; it is sorrow that has caused this malady.” I said to myself: “it is very true, that!” And I was almost satisfied to have such a proof about my bitter suffering. Mama cared for me during this illness like only a mother could. She passed many hours near my bed in order to distract me, [and] to listen to me despite her work which was overwhelming. It was then that I had the time to open my heart entirely and that she undestood all that I had suffered far from her. I saw in one of the letters that she wrote to my uncle that she had understood me because she had written to him: “I never would have believed such a profundity of feeling in a child such as this. She has confided in me things that have pierced my heart.” (If these are not the exact words, it is nevertheless the sense of them.)
When I was cured, this poor, little mother seriously proposed to me to finish my education in Alencon. But I told her: “No, Mama, my aunt would suffer too much; I would like to return to the Visitation.”
I, therefore, returned to the Visitation and then began a new period in my life that has left me with some regrets. Alas, my heart became attached to a creature, and turned towards her! You know, my little mother, how much I cared for Edith...Edith, I did not begin to know [sooner] because she entered the Visitation at 13 years old. But as soon as I saw her, I felt drawn to her. Her distinction, her angelic air, impressed me. Soon afterwards, I told her of my friendship towards her and she did likewise. She confided in me that she had a religious vocation but that her parents, who were very worldly, wanted to prevent it and that it was necessary to pray very much for her. So, I found her to be delightful and I cared for her very much. With Edith began my extravagant dreams [of vanity]. Since most of my companions belonged to the nobility, I then wanted to be a noble as well, to have like her a chateau and a park; to walk in the evenings dreaming under the enchanting groves, to know the world whose vanity, naturally, I understood. Edith stayed only for a few months at the Visitation; her parents,noting these pious dispositions, took her back home. But my love persevered and I would not forget her to the point of continuing to dream of Edith. Her memory made me suffer! It was not the pure suffering of my childhood, but a suffering of reveries that made me suffer, that poisoned my life. During these vacations, I thought only of Edith and foresaw that the pleasures of the world would shake her resolutions, I told the good God, under the form of a prayer, these verses that I had learned at the Visitation:
On his beaten forehead, fade, fade the roses,
Erase there, Lord, youth and beauty,
Place a bitterness at the bottom of each thing,
In each illusion, a reality...
Edith, in effect, forgot her beautiful dream of a religious life and the year that I entered Carmel, after many years, I saw her for a last time, surrounded by three children of which the oldest was six years old. She had four or rather five children because she had lost one little girl who had aphyxiated in her crib. I felt bad at seeing her again, all her beauty had withered like a wildflower. For me, I prepared myself to fly towards the only Beauty that does not fade...My dreams of nobility and grandeur had become outdated.
I departed the boarding school at the age of fifteen and a half. I left the Visitation without regret; I had suffered too much there. My aunt had given me the prayer to St. Joseph: “Oh, Father and Protector of virgins”, advising me to recite it every day. But I had read in this sheet a line that made me tremble: “Special prayer for the priests and religious.” I told myself: “That' s pretty clear, my aunt wants me to be a religious, there is no danger that I will say that prayer”...I was deeply afraid. One day, mama told me, “I believe that Pauline will become a religious...And you, Marie, what will you become?”--[I responed:]”I do not know...but I will not become a religious!” “And why not? What is it that so displeases you?” “Ah, mama, all of it displeases me, firstly, I want to be free and when one is a religious one must dust the altars and that displeases me very much.”
And, so, I could not bear to hear [anyone] speak of marriage. Only one time my mama talked about it in front of me just as a laugh because I was not much more than sixteen. I melted into tears and I beseached her never again to raise this subject. I am sure that she was delighted to see me with this disposition, all the same being very surprised that I did not wish to be a religious. But I did not say what was at the bottom of my thoughts. The marriage question humiliated me very much, I found the young girls more to be pitied to be so delivered into slavery. As for me, I did not want to sell my noble liberty to a mortal.
How was I able to stay nearly two years without my dear Pauline? I do not know at all! Now, that she has become “my little Mother”, it seems to me that if the good God would separate us I would die of sorrow. This will certainly happen if she leaves for China, then I am sure I would leave for Heaven.
I occupied myself a great deal with my little sisters, I spent all my mornings teaching classes to Celine. I applied myself to this in an unprecedented way, to the point that I would not carry out during this time any manual work, wanting to be all [focussed] on this matter. If I had had 20 students, I would not have given less effort. So when Therese, who was no more than three years old, wished to follow her Celine, I foresaw difficulties fearing that this baby would disturb our studies. But she was very wise, so cute that I could not refuse her. She would come, therefore, and install herself in my room near to Celine and would not fidget during the entire time that the lesson lasted. I would give her “pearls” to thread or cloths to stitch. Seeing that she was with Celine, she was content. Sometimes her needle would unthread and she would attempt in vain to rethread it; she was too little for so difficult an operation! But she would not dare ask [for help] so [to avoid] that another time the door would not be opened for her. Then, big tears would fall down her cheeks, but she would not raise her eyes fearing that I would have a glimpse of it. I nevertheless would notice it and I would rethread the needle [and] then a smile would illuminate her sweet countenance. What a cherubin! No, I cannot express how much I loved my little Therese. One day I found her at the door of my room, she had gotten ahead of the hour for the lesson. I pretended that I could not open the door. To demonstrate her profound sorrow and to my great astonishment, she lay on the floor without saying a single word or making a cry. Two or three times, she took recourse of this great means to express her sorrow; but I told her that this caused hurt to the little Jesus and she never repeated it.
After noon, I worked with mama and talked also, [but] when she saw that I talked without moving my needle she would tell me that it was necessary to work while one talked. That would put me, alas, sometimes in a bad mood and I would not say another word. Poor, little Mother! Ah! If I had had more of [a spirit of] abnegation, how many joys I would have been able to give her, joys that she did not haved. One can say that she had dug her furrows with tears and that she had not seen the harvest of gold with which she would be covered one day (!).
I continued to recall Edith, I would write to her from time to time. I had so entreated mama to allow me [to do so] that she finally finished by ceding. Ah! The love of creatures! What a chain, my God! What a net which embraces us! What slavery! What illusion! What lost time! I read the letters of Mme. de Sevigne to learn how to render mine interesting and spiritual. Yes... see there is where I was! One day, I asked mama to have our photograph taken (always for Edith!) [but] the good God punished me this time for my pride, never had I been so unwell. I went also from time to time to see my aunt at the Visitation when mama went there to pick up my little Pauline for the vacations. I returned also to the Visitation for the retreat for alumni and I remember that my aunt absolutely wished that I would speak of my vocation to the Jesuit Priest who preached the retreat. I did not have the same thought as to my vocation, I had none! [please check] Finally, to please her, I went to the parlor where he gave me his direction and, withour another preamble, I told him that I came to discern my vocation. I had but one desire and it was that he would give me a session [directing me] towards a decision...(following p. 55).
During one of these intimate conversations, mama told me the following: around the age of 20 or 22, her parents, having no wealth, her mother placed her in a home of a maker of Point de Alencon to learn how to make this lace. But, soon, she intuited that in this house her virtue was not assured and she confided this to her mother. From that day on, she did not return to that house. But what to do? Where would she find the resources for the future? She remained in this stage of worry until the day of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, being alone in her room busy making her bed, she distinctly heard these words: “Go make Point d'Alencon.” Upon these words, she regained her calm. This voice, from where did it come? She had understood it, nevertheless, she remained meditative [until] surprisingly she heard it repeat: “Go make Point d'Alencon”. She had been so far from, in effect, dreaming of any such enterprise. She ran to her sister and told her that which had just happened. And this good little Mother added: “How could we without any pecuniary resources say such a thing, without any idea of commerce, lead everything to a successful end, find the houses in Paris who would lend us their good trust. And, in any event, that is how it came about and in very little time because just the next day we put ourselves to this task. And a remarkable thing [took place]: when we proceeded to sign a contract with the first house we offered to furnish lace, my sister, who was the elder and whose signature was required, was absent, and it was I who furnished my signature. Was that not providential? This dear sister, as it turned out, entered the Visitation several months later, leaving me alone to combat facing the world. That is why, without doubt, the Holy Virgin had addressed me alone when I heard these words: 'Go and make Point d'Alencon.”
Mama also told me that after the death of little Helene she was much tormented. She would ask herself if Helene was in purgatory because she had made some small mischief as a result of a pear that she had picked in the garden without wanting to confess. This poor, little mother overly tormented herself; she suffered so much from this thought that she lost all her courage. She went to kneel in front of the feet of the statue of the Holy Virgin that she loved so much to find some consolation for her pain. A sweet voice, that of the Mother of Heaven, made herself heard once again: “She is there, at my side...” She lifted her head believing to see the angel that she had lost. “Oh, my good Holy Virgin” she cried to her, “she is there, my little Helene! She is next to you!...” She looked at this holy place where Mary had told her child was, and tears of sorrow turned into tears of joy.
I now return to my follies of youth, in order to close that subject.
I have already said that my aunt wanted that I had a director and, if he so wished, that he would take me under his direction. I asked her for his address. In the end, I went eextremely calm about finding a director and I decided not to ever write to him. Voila, how I successfully completed my retreat. As you would suspect, my little Mother, I did not have any great confidences to make to my poor aunt, who waited to see me exit the parlor all trasnformed.
Returning home, I resumed my life as usual. Mama did not find me very pious. She wrote to my aunt and I received sermons about sanctity that, I confess, did not have a great effect upon me. I told mama: “I assure you that I love the good God very much, more than you think!” Thus, I loved very much to contemplate the Tabernacle. It was not necessary for my lips to move in order to prove it.
Me, I preferred to hide my feelings....” But mama responded delicately: “There is no fire without [producing some] smoke.” The fact is that I did not have an extraordinary piety. Alas! My heart was too entangled!
In this heart, of course, there were noble sentiments and I vowed to remove from slavery
this poor Leonie...from the supervision of Louise...And there you have it--how from the forehead of this child fell a banner: the banner of dread. What then?...She was not again enthralled by that vulture who from the age of five had her in her grip!
No! She was now fascinated, like all other children, by her mother who smiled at her. From then on, she would never leave her again, she followed her every step up until when the good God, in His imprenetable designs, would take from us this incomparable mother.
Who, therefore, brought about this prodigious outcome? Nevertheless, just as I have said, Leonie never went to mama's side despite [half page crossed out] all the overtures that mama made towards her. Leonie's response was always the same: “I much prefer to go with Louise.” Impossible to keep her from that! Very often, I heard this poor, little mother say sadly that she had a child that did not love her. It was one of the cruel sorrows of her life. It was, therefore, a very great prodigy to see how suddenly she threw her arms towards her mother. I have always seen that as a supernatural intervention. Our saintly aunt from Mans had just died. And it was just after her departure to Heaven that she at last came to the rescue of her poor Leonie, [now even more] near to her whom she had previously attempted to devote herself. Mama, in effect, upon the pleas of my aunt had placed her with us at the Visitation. But she stayed there only three months, she was too undisciplined and our parents were obliged to withdraw her. This is why I believe and I am most certain that the good God used Louise as an instrument to master Leonie's nature that had seemed indominatable…
[Note added by Sr Genevieve:
This was the opinion of Rev. Father Pichon, intimate confidant of the family]
and who became humble and sweet like an angel under the action of grace.
A little after this event, mama felt the last ravages that would take her from us. It was a breast tumor that had been ocassioned by a blow that she had experienced when she was a youth. It raised the question of an operation and she went to Lisieux to consult with Doctor Notta. But it was already much too late. Then, it was decided that we should go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Mama led the two of us along with Leonie. With what faith she bathed the forehead of her little Leonie with the miraculous water. “At least.” she said to the Holy Virgin,”if you do not heal me, heal my child! Open her intelligence, make her a saint.” Her prayer was granted from that side of things, but for her there was no point of a cure and she returned from Lourdes more ill than she had been before. Her illness made a rapid progress and you, my little Mother, who had rejoiced to see our time in the boarding school finished so as to live all together it became necessary for you at the end of several weeks to say adieu forever to this beloved mother. When I think of so many sorrows, my heart is again pierced.
After the voyage to Lourdes, my uncle came to Alencon to see mama. And, in the middle of dinner, without any preamble, he told her, “my poor sister, it is best for you not to have any illusions, put your affairs in order because you do not have more than a month.” Papa was appalled and he immediately reproached my uncle for having said things in this way, without using any moderation. “It was she herself who asked me,” my uncle responded.
“Eh, well, it was not necessary to listen to her,” said this poor little father, with wisdom. “You do not know how much harm you have done her.”
My uncle was very much hurt because he loved her very much and when he found himself alone with her, he said: “I regret what I told you because, in the end, I do not know the future and the good God could still cure you.”
But mama replied to him that she did not worry about death and she regretted dying only on account of her children. And she added: “What will happen to poor Louis with his five daughters! In the end, I abandon everything to the good God!” It was then that my uncle urged her to ask papa to come live in Lisieux. But she responded that she would never do that; that she knew all too well that to please her he would not hesitate [but] that she worried too much that he would be unhappy after seeing his life completely changed.
This good father, having learned from my uncle these details after the death of mama, did not hesitate, in effect, to change his life for the good of his children. He knew that in Lisieux we would find a new family and he wanted to procure for us this advantage.
My uncle's prediction was realized. At the end of several weeks, our dear Mother went to Heaven to rejoin the four little angels who awaited her there. But what cruel sufferings she endured during the last month of her life. It was then that Louise, who asked to stay temporarily to nurse her (because this poor girl was made up of strange contrasts—she loved us very much) assisted her up to the end with great devotion. She did not leave the house until our departure for Lisieux.
This poor, little mother, always forgetful of self, did not want anyone to watch over her at night. I heard from my room her moaning and her prayers. “Oh, you who have created me,” she said, “have pity on me!” One night. I heard her moan and then rushed to her despite her protest. She had gotten up and painfully dragged herself next to a table to get what she needed. She asked me not to start again, saying that she could be self-sufficient. But papa would not support it and asked a religious nurse to spend the nights with her. Never will I forget the sad expression with which she looked at the sister when she entered her room. It was two days before her death. That very day, my uncle and my aunt, summoned by a telegram, rushed to see her one last time. Mama gave my aunt a look so profound that I will never forget it. It seemed to me that she foresaw the future devotion that [our aunt] would have for us. Some days before, mama exhaled this bitter lamentation, “Oh, when I am no longer here, who will take care of my poor Leonie? Who will love her?” Then I would rush to her and say, “me! mama, I promise you.” And I kept my promise; I have always had for Leonie an altogether particular affection. I have always protected her.
The evening of the death of mama, I stayed for a long time near her bed with the sister and I wanted to spend the night there. But she told me that there was nothing to worry about and she sent me to rest. Alas!...towards eleven hours, this poor, little father entered into my room and told me through his sobs: “your little Mother is no more!” Oh! What sadness that I had been there for her last moments! But the sister herself had been surprised and had summoned with all haste papa and my uncle who then arrived in time only to receive her last breath. Hardly had reality been able to enter my heart that I spent the night in tears. During the next day, I went often to be near my dear mother. She looked to be twenty years old. How beautiful I found her ! Near her body I had a supernatural feeling. It seemed to me (this was true) that she was not dead but more alive than ever. Yes, because she had entered into the true life where one would not know death again.
Some weeks after the departure of our dear Mother for Heaven, papa called just the two of us and confided in us of his resolution to leave Alencon.to go live in Lisieux. I had been alerted by my uncle but I acted as if I did not know anything. This good, little father told us: “I ask for your advice, my children, for it is uniquely for you that I make this sacrifice and I would not want to impose it on you.” I responded to him that we equally wanted his happiness and that we did not want that he should so sacrifice for us. But he saw well that we had no repugnance for leaving Alencon and this generous father decided immediately upon our upcoming relocation. “I am going,” he told me, “to take back to the pavillon the Holy Virgin that is in your bedroom. She is too large to be well packed and would arrive down there in pieces.” But, I told him, “Oh! No, papa, I prefer that we take her with us. Mama loved that Virgin so much!” I had seen this poor, little Mother several days before her death recite her rosary on her knees before this statue. She had been breathless and could barely sustain herself but she did it on her knees up to the end.
I recall also that one day I had asked that it be replaced in my bedroom with a smaller one because I found it too large and it seemed to me to be a statue fit for a classroom! Mama reponded to me: “When I am no more, my daughter, you can do what you want, but while I live, this Holy Virgin will not leave here.” These words I have retained and they are sacred for me.
Because I am on the subject of the Holy Virgin, I should recount her story. This statue was given to papa before his marriage by Mademoiselle Felicite Baudoin, a spinster, who was very devoted to him and had paid the first expenses of his establishment when he founded his clock store.
When I was very little, to be closer to the Holy Virgin, I recall that I would kneel on the chest of drawers where she had been placed in order to make my prayer. Later, I saw her in the garden of the Pavillon at the end of an alley in a grove of folliage. And because I was already argumentative, I said to myself: “Really, our house, it is like the home of M. the Priest, there is a Holy Virgin in his garden.” In my little mind, I found that it was too pious. Alas! How the spirit of the world infiltrates, even into the souls of children!
Mama retained for too long a time her fortitude. I forgot to recount the last Mass that she assisted with me. I had believed that I would not be able to guide her back home. Ah! What a Mass of anguish I sustained. Many peole regarded us with astonishment, asking themselves, no doubt, how one could have allowed to go out a sick person in such a pitiful state! But she had wanted, cost what it would cost to got there, not finding herself ever too ill to skip a Sunday Mass. (It was a low Mass).
In the end, this Holy Virgin returned to the house and was placed as I said in my room. During the month of May, mama paid a good lady to go and buy hawthorne. Never were the branches cut too big: because for her to be content it was necessary that the Holy Virgin would not be lost amidst the flowers. Thus was this good, little Mother looked upon during her month of Mary that has left me with impressions so fresh with piety and of poetry that I do not know how to express. Ah! My Mother I will not run out of all these details. I need, therefore, to finish my remembrances of times passed...
After the death of mama, my life was no longer the same. I no longer thought of Edith but [only] about devoting myself to my little sisters and papa. Ah! How much I loved papa! For nothing in the world would I have wanted to cause him the least pain. I can say that I have nothing to reproach myself on this subject. If, I have something to reproach myself about [it, it is this]: he loved punctuality so much but I always arrived late for the High Mass on Sundays and on account of this I made him suffer. I said that I did not think more of Edith, it is true. And, nevertheless, I was still devoted and at the Buissonnets, made 10 meters of guipure lace to adorn the crib of her first child. What folly!
In the end, I was but seventeen and a half, and before throwing myself in your arms, Oh, my God. I should have done no more than a digression! Alas! That I did not fly straight there like my little Therese. No, it was needed for my heart to cling to all the wrecks of happiness that the flood of life brought me. The times of illusions were not yet all over for me. But as to this wreck, it was you who threw it at me in order to conduct me to You, Oh, infinite Goodness! Because you also, oh, my God, you dream of creatures...But you do not dream like us! You dream of them to divinize them. You so dream sometimes, Oh, Mystery! To make us your spouse...And it is this dream of love that you have realized inme!
I had just turned 21 years old when you told me in confidence, my dear Mother, that you had a vocation to be a Carmelite. I had known for a long time that you wanted to be a religious at the Visitation of Mans and this development more or less in the distant future saddened me very much. Because how could I think of separating myself from you whom I loved so much! You who made life charming for me. But the day when you spoke to me about Carmel, I had even more sorrow. I did not know the Carmel. I even was ignorant that there was a Carmel in Lisieux, but I did know that it was an austere order where one fasted eight months of the year and where one always abstained from meat and I was desperate that the good God should not call you to such a life. It was, however, needed that I should resign myself to this thought. We had the same confessor, I noticed well that you knew perfecttly what to say whereas I was like a log. Of the rest what had my soul to confide anyway? Your desire to enter the convent did not at all produce in me a vocation, [so] I had, therefore, nothing to say. As a result, I suffered very much and I remember one day in returning from confession that I dissolved into tears when I found myself alone in my room. I then opened The Imitation and I read there these words: “Having taken again heart after the storm, remember your strengths in light of my mercies because I am near you,” says the Lord, “to re-establsh all things, not only to some degree but with abundance and filling them up to full measure.” I felt immediately consoled and I told you: “See, therefore, what I have drawn from The Imitation.” But it was still a mystery for us both. Some days thereafter, a person we knew spoke to us with enthusiasm about a holy Jesuit Father coming to preach a retreat in the environs of Lisieux. “It is a Saint”, she added, “a true saint like one never finds today. But you can find him at the Lambert factory.” Out of curiosity, I went to see the saint; I attended his Mass and in order to have nothing to reproach myself I went into the confessional telling myself: “Do I need to confess? Is it necessary that, on the contrary, I state the real goal of my visit?” I stopped at this latter part and I began with these words: “My Father, I have come to find you in order to see a saint.” He laughed a little at my simplicity and told me: “Alright, my child, go ahead and confess.”
I made my confession as usual and I left without having said too much. I told myself as I was leaving: “If I had known, I would not have been troubled.” But, voila, that afternoon an ardent desire to return and find the good Father took possession of me. How could that be? I, unfortunately, did not go out by myself and I had to confide my project to Victoire the maid so that she would go and accompany me. I overcame all obstacles and the next morning I assisted again his Mass. I entered the confessional immediately afterwards amd I said to him: “My Father, I come again to find you because I felt an irresistible drive to do so.
Why? I did not know. He asked me various questions. He asked me if I would like to be a religious.
“No, my Father.”
“Would you like, therefore, to marry?”
“Oh! No, my Father!”
“But what would you like to do? Stay an old maid?”
“Oh, no, surely not!”
“Then? I am pressed for time,” he told me, “because I need to take the train in a few minutes, but I will return to Lisieux in 15 days to preach a retreat at the Refuge. And there we will meet again..You should write your impressions about the religious life [and] why you do not want it and, finally, all that you have thought about during these days on the subject of your vocation. As for me, I hope strongly that I can give you to Jesus...” I was caught in his nets...nets of mercy! I returned to the house with a light heart and filled with a secret joy. Jesus had, therefore, directed at me a particular glance of love. I was not tempted to imitate the young man in the Gospel and go sadly away from Him.
On the appointed day, I went to find Father Pichon with my eight big pages where I had revealed all the most intimate sentiments of my heart. But so as not to influence him, I was very careful to write only what I had thought during my last visit. After my confession, I passed to him through the little grill my manuscript and I got up to leave. But he kept me there during an hour, reading it in front of me, asking me questions and stating his reflections during the immediate session. I can say that I had passed an uncomfortable quarter of an hour.
And, I, who never had wanted before a director, now had one. And I had chosen him out of my own proper will, or rather no, it was the good God who had chosen him for me. He had arrived at the moment when I had had the greatest need, at the moment when I was about to lose my dear Pauline. I testify that he was for me “The Angel of the Lord.”
He would write to me from time to time and I would write to him every fifteen days. Ah! I loved him very much, very much! Because this affection was pure and it carried me to the good God, therefore, I was not worried to let it grow in my heart. Poor heart! It seemed to me that I took pleasure in surrounding myself with thorns. Father Pichon, over burdened with activity by his correspondance and his apostolic works without interruption (he preached nearly 900 retreats) left me for some time (a long time) without responding to my letters. I had written to him fourteen without receiving a single word, but nothing, nothing slackened my ardor and my persevering affection. His letters were also so fraternal. But it is the same! Now that I have grown older, I see clearly that during these young years of my life I lived on illusions. Because, oh, my God, why, therefore, attach oneself so head-over-heels, to a creature would it be an angel descended from Heaven? Is a creature capable of satisfying for a sole instant the delirious thirst of a heart made for You and created in Your image! No, it needs the Infinite, not such a finite creature, not this nothing. What a mystery!...In 1884, Father Pichon was called to Canada and, upon his departure, only the good God alone knows how much I suffered again. This good, little Father took me to Rouen for me to say my goodbyes and then we accompanied him up to Le Havre in order to my pierce the heart in seeing the boat fleeing that would take him to America.
I also remember from the morning of the next day the sweet look of my little Therese. I was in the process of doing her hair when I broke out into sobs. (Poor silly one!) That does me good to remember this today. But, even at that time, I already realized it, because in seeing the cloud of sadness on the forehead of this cherubin, I was blaming myself that through my tears I had darkened her heaven so pure. -- But that, as you know, my little Mother, does not finish my tribulations with Father Pichon. Upon his return in 1886, once again, I endeavored to have additional salutary experiences for the greater good of my soul. You will remember that voyage to Calais when papa and I went in vain to find him. Ah! Never will I forget his goodness in these circumstances. When I asked him to make this voyage, he responded: “I would refuse nothing to my eldest...It is the third Sunday of September, Feast of O.L. of Sorrows whom I want to [ask to intercede] for you, no pun intended, before the coming of a sorrow.” We waited for two days in Calais and then in Douvres for this famous boat that would not [seem to] arrive.And this added to my sorrow: that is, to see this good, little Father that I had made come so far for nothing, [and also] to think of my little sisters of whom I had deprived myself; I, who had only a few days to spend with them.
Returning to Paris, we found...Father Pichon! It was unbelievable. I complained bitterly to myself about my confusion, telling papa that I could not understand how the good God would not allow me to enjoy my last pleasure. But he responded to me like a saint: “it is not necessary to murmur my Marie, it is that He has judged that you are in need of this trial and, as for me, I find myself happy to have served as an instrument in allowing you to make this voyage.” I was so impressed by his words ! Ah! My Mother, it was very true, the good God wanted through that trial for me to detach myself again from earth, even from its most innocent joys. After having been so attached to creatures, should I, therefore, not have remade myself only for Him?...
I have strayed very far, my dear Mother, I return now to your entry into Carmel. It was, as it were, the end for me of those so happy times in our little working room where we had passed so many good moments. You had the gift of bringing charm to my life and it is very appropriate, my little Mother, to apply to you these words: “From those who love me will flow the source of living waters.” As for me, I drank with delight from this celestial source. Many times, I would ask you to compose for me a poem; for my feast, for example. I would not leave you be until you had paid such a tribute. I have preserved these lines, being precious to me. The one from August 15, 1887, addressed to the Holy Virgin, finishes like this:
Marie, listen to our prayers,
Bless the sweet strong tie of our love !
Show—yourself always as our mother,
And hand in hand, direct us to the Port!
Then when evening came, we called papa who was in the belvedere, do you remember?...Sometimes we would much prefer to remain alone because he would then want us to forget our intimate conversation and [instead] interest us in serious reading. But we loved him too much for us not to be devoted to him on all ocassions.
It was his joy to pass these evenings with us! You will also remember suppers in the garden near a rosebush in bloom. This is what Therese had sung:
Oh, memory, you bring me rest,
You remind me well of things...
The evening meal, the perfume of the roses.
Les Buissonnets, filled with gaity,
After supper, Celine took her lessons. In a quarter of an hour, she had to know everything by heart! And very quickly, she would repeat it to us like a little parrot. If, unfortunately, we would tell her that she did not know it, everything would be lost, the tears running, she was inconsolable.
It was to this family life, my little Mother, that you had said adieu on October 2, 1882. I have never forgotten that day and I could, hour by hour, give you the details. When I saw the door of the enclosure close upon you whom I loved so much, I let out a cry of sorrow. The poor, little father was admirable as always. You can understand our sadness in returning to the Buissonnets without you!...
I took my life up again with courage, doing my best to fill the void left in the foyer by the little dove that had just flown away. But each week, I returned to the Carmel as if to the source of all my happiness. Ah! How I repent today of not having shared with my little sisters this parlor [visit] that I found too short for me. If I had known how much my poor, little Therese had suffered ! I was far from suspecting it. I remember, nevertheless, that one day she told you: “Look, Pauline, I have on the little skirt that you made for me.” One hardly paid attention to her little childish babbling and, afterwards, I saw big tears in her eyes. Poor little one! She had deeper thoughts than I realized! Her poor, little heart suffered profoundly in these so short moments that I had accorded her [with Pauline at the grill]. And I did not suspect it!
Finally, my dear Mother, before and after your taking the habit, came the great trial of Therse's illness. You will find the details in my deposition. Ah! My Mother, it seemed to me then that the story of the holy man Job was our own and that Satan had presented himself in front of the Lord, [and] had told him as before: “It is not surprising if you servant praises you, since you fill him with favors! Strike, therefore, his own person and you will see if he will not curse your name...” But the Name of the Lord was never cursed, it was always blessed in the midst of the most cutting trials.
Then came the hour for my also entering the Carmel. One day, in the parlor, I remember that you had asked me when I counted on entering there. Since I did not have a vocation that pulled me, I responded that I would enter when the good God would tell me so, but that, up until then, he had not yet demostrated His will with sufficient clarity. Then you said to me: “But don't think that He will appear to you for that. It is about time that you make a decision.” I was about to turn 26.--I had not made a decision yet, I replied, because He knows well that I wish to follow his will [and] He could send me an angel to tell me so. It was then, my little Mother, that you wrote to Father Pichon. And some days later, I saw arrive a letter in which he asked me what was Celine's age and if it was possible for me to respond right away to the call from the good God. I did not doubt this [now] and I became speechless. The hour of sacrifice had, therefore, come to me. Ah! I looked upon this hour without enthusiasm. It was necessary for me to say goodbye to a father that I loved. It was necessary for me to leave my little sisters behind! Of course, I did not hesitate for a single instant and entrusted papa with this great confidence. He sighed upon hearing such a revelation. He was very far from expecting this because nothing could have made him suppose that I wanted to be a religious. He tried to stifle something like a sob and told me: “Ah!...Ah!...But...without you!!” He could not finish. And I, so as not to touch him too much, responded with assurance: “Celine is sufficiently big to replace me; you will see, papa that all will go well.” Then this poor, little father told me: “the good God could not demand from me a greater sacrifice! I believed that you would never leave me, ever!” Then, he embraced me to hide his own emotions.
I cry, my little Mother, in writing these reminiscences. Is it not that everything shouts at me: Become a Saint?”
I wrote right away to my uncle and my aunt to inform them of my decision. But they did not want to believe me, they were absolutely stunned. Me, the independent one! I who had always had the air of not being able to suffer convents, I was going to become a religious! They could not get over their astonishment.
I entered Carmel on October 15, 1886. In passing through the cloister to get to the Choir, I had a glimpse of the inner courtyard. It is very much in line, I thought, with what I had anticipated, it being so austere! After all, I had not come here to see merry things. So, you can see what was [the extent of] my enthusiasm!
I entered the Choir where Mother Genevieve was in adoration before the Sacred Sacrament. Her air of peace and holiness moved me. Then with you, my little Mother, one was sent to make a tour of the garden. My enthusiasm did not grow. The garden seemed so small compared to the immense garden of the Visitation in Le Mans and plus everything seemed to me to be so poor. I did not think about the happiness of being with you; I only thought to ask myself how I would [be able to] pass my life behind these four walls.
Ah! my Mother, I have found Jesus behind these four walls and in finding Him I have found Heaven. Yes, it is here that I have passed the happiest years of my life. They, of course, have not been exempt from the cross—as you know, there have been those [crosses] that have come to visit us. At first, the trial of the illness of our dear father; [it was] this trial that Therese called “our greatest wealth.” During the exile of our poor little Father at the Bon Saveur [the Good Savior, a psychiatric hospital in Caen], one day, during Mass, I clearly saw the cost of this cross that I would never want to exchange for all the treasures in the world. And you, of couse, know what we have suffered!
My little Mother, within the Heaven of Carmel, I have also seen your years of martyrdom and my heart was pierced. Yes, along with the holiness of Mother Genevieve, I have seen, alas, another filled with misfortunes and it is you, sweet lamb, that was immolated by the jealousy of that poor Mother ***. Who has counted all these sufferings? Who has understood this martyrdom? Ah! That these hidden pearls [should] shine one day on your crown.
Lastly, my dear Mother, a great trial that could be [the one] to surpass all of the others has come to reach us in our solitude. That one, only Heaven is on the secret...
My little Mother, what more can I say! Ah! If trials have been cast upon us, the graces have also fallen here in torrents. To the Carmel, following in our wake, [were] the two doves that we had left behind in the paternal nest. Therese and Celine, we came to see them at our sides! Yes, they have come her, to take part in our life! We have seen Therese die...of love! Tell me if the measure of our joys has not surpassed those of our sorrows?...But our life has not come to term and more than one cross still awaits us. Sometimes I ask myself with anguish? Which of us will remain to be the last of us three? But why not abandon it to Him who measures graces to [fit] the cross, to him who has filled us with so many blessings. I also want to say like Therese: “Lord, you fill me with joy through everything that you do!” Doesn't the Cross, in effect, hide from us the eternal joys...
Attached pages: 12 pp. In double sheets
24 May 1909
My dear, little Mother, I had forgotten many things in detail in the account that I have given you of my poor life. First, in my remembrances of my childhood, I had forgotten to tell you that at my confirmation I had taken the name of Josephine to testify to St. Joseph of my great devotion [to him]. But what was my surprise and my disappointment when I saw that most of my companions had had the same idea. Then, it seemed to me that St. Joseph would not pay enough attention to me, nor love me more than the others, and I was very sad.
Another remembrance of my childhood is profoundly engraved in my memory: It was about Sundays when papa would amuse us with marbles of all colors. When I would see his large golden marble roll, I looked on it with especial admiration. [Papa] seemed to have [about him] something of the richness and power of the good God, because he had the power to render us so happy. Then as the afternoon became evening, this big golden marble would roll in the semi-darkness that rendered it even more brilliant because as you know everything would come to a close at the end of Sunday. Indeed, Sunday appeared to me as if it were a day in Heaven. It really was that, in effect, because this good Father observed Sundays so faithfully and the big golden marble sparkled more in the eyes of God that in ours.
Another memory returns to me each time that I hear my uncle talk about selling the Roulee property. I went there only once with papa. I was then about ten to twelve years old, but he gave me good, little lesson on humility that I have never forgotten. We crossed, just the two of us, the two large pastures that made up the property. All the while making this long walk, I would cut from time to time the little flowers. Finally, I told papa: “I am going to take these flowers to the Visitation as a souvenir of Roulee. He responded to me: “that's that! – And then you will show off to your little friends by showing them the flowers from your land…
I cannot then tell you, my little Mother, I felt caught and mortified to see how papa guessed my thoughts of silly vanity that I did not admit [readily] to myself but that were nevertheless real. So, I threw my bouquet into the grass to show papa that I did not have [this intention] anymore.
I did not care very much for toiletries, but within my contempt for all sorts of elegance, there was also pride, because pride nestles everywhere, even in [behavior] that [only mimics] beautiful, humble feelings. Thus, (I think I have already told you) when I would wear [a] dress for the first time, it was a true martyrdom for me, but, above all, when this poor, little mother dreamed of dressing us in white for the processions of the feast of the Assumption in Alencon, it [became] my nightmare. So, as to avoid causing me [more] pain, she did not speak of it again. Why so much resistance on my part? Alas! It is because I lacked humility unlike you, my little Mother, who were willing. It was I alone who did not want. It was not sufficiently distinguished for me; I found that it was good enough for the students at the Providence, but not for us. It is true that in Alencon one would see old maids in white up until their forty or fifty years; [and] this did not serve to give me much encouragement.
I could not stand to wear my [little] veil. It seemed to me that it was to show openly [one's] vanity [and] to imprison the face behind tulle in order to make one [seem] beautiful. When it came to a large veil that was tied in front as one wore it in Lisieux, I liked that very much [because it] kept the face truly hidden, [in contrast] the little, white veils, which served for nothing except to make [one's] complexion [appear] dull, displeased me supremely. That is why on the day of Leonie's First Communion I did not have a dull complexion (although I wore one of those beautiful little veils) but bright red to the point that, upon leaving the church, the dressmaker who had made my hat, asked if I was sick. I responded “no” but that it was impossible to maintain at [such a significant ceremony] a composed and contained face, and that [exchange] delivered me from that fashionable mask.
As you may recall, my little Mother, papa had given us a beautiful golden medal. It was the fashion in those times to attach the medal to a black velour and wear it around the neck. Far from being drawn by vanity, I took it as a sort of shame. It seemed to me that I looked like a little toy dog when I had around my neck this famous velour.
But I well recognized that I was not humble enough to have these sentiments—that, to the contrary, I found that, rather, [my problem] was [that of] refined pride. By waiting, I came into full possession in Carmel of the true liberty promised to the children of God. When I glimpsed through the choir grill persons who were at the Communion table, I was taken over by a sort of stupefication. I told myself: “is it possible for fashion to be so absurd! That it is, therefore, ugly to attire [oneself] with bird feathers like a savage!” And I looked around me...And I asked myself by what privilege had I taken my place among these wise virgins who don’t ask themselves “where does wisdom dwell” because they themselves walk down “these ways.” I was above all during the days that followed my taking the habit that I better appreciated my good fortune. Every morning, I seemed to put on the habit of liberty; it was also for me a habit of celebration. It was the cause [for me] to say as I had during my childhood: “I am free!” To enter the choir, there is no other arrangement required than to fold down one's sleeves. I could not believe my happiness!
I have not spoken to you, my little Mother, of my impressions of the day of my profession. I do not have any other memory to report than that [to say] it resembled exactly the day of my First Communion. My soul was at peace: Jesus had called me and I had gone to Him. What happiness could be compared to that of responding to His voice. He had called me...Him! And I was well guarded against imitating the young man in the Gospel who distanced himself with sadness from Him who is the boundless source of all joy. Who can understand what it is to be called by God. What mystery! Is He not the Master of his creature! And he invites us to love Him...He asks if she wishes to love Him. But since He is Love, he cannot act otherwise because love should be free. Only one who can be moved is One who desires to be loved and who will appreciate the love of His poor creature.
The evening of my profession, I cried like on the evening of my First Communion because the second beautiful day of my life had passed! (It was Therese who had placed the crown of roses [on my head] on the day of my profession).
Now, my little Mother, I wish to talk about the impression that Therese made on me on the day of her entry into Carmel. I cannot say that I experienced a feeling of happiness when I say her cross the door of the cloister. No, because I thought of poor, little Father who was being deprived of his treasure. But her! What a celestial creature! It seemed to me that I saw an angel. And how much had my little Therese grown. Through the grill, one could not take a correct measure as one can when one is next to each other. Yes, she seemed to me to be very tall and also very pretty. The good God had placed in her all his graces. When one thinks that in Carmel her beauty was from the start a subject of jealousy for the poor Th. of J. [Therese of Jesus] who said (to console herself) that it was nothing unusual. I heard that with pity, finding that this diamond was too brilliant in effect to live buried among these large stones...However, Jesus took care to put her [in a place] of honor and to make her resplendent near his divine Face before the entire universe and that...up until the consumation of the ages! Thus, wherever the Spouse is to be found, one will hear speak of His little Spouse, of her who prayed so magnificently [to] the Child God, the God of the Holy Face. But, my little Mother, near this diamond had shone a beautiful, fine pearl.
Because of the diamond, the fine pearl often was hurt and trampled because she too was and still is hidden among the stones. But one day she will shine so sweetly that she will be for the saints a beneficent light as she is [now] for so many unfortunate ones here below. Oh, my little Mother, how much suffering has there been in your life! Who can describe the martyrdom that you have withstood [due to] human jealousy or, rather, the jealousy of the demon because he is the source of all evil. Ah! What I have suffered (crossed out) to have seen you suffer so much. But, if I have seen you suffer, I have at the same time seen your virtues—your charity, your sweetness that resembles that of Jesus. It is why the fine pearl and the brilliant diamond shine with the same radiance before His eyes...For me, my Heaven will be beautiful enough in contemplating [both of] you—your glory will be my own.
You wanted, my dear Mother, that I speak to you about the play [on the topic] of Joan of Arc when I played a role for the first time in my life because you know that I was not [keen to do so] because of my stupid timidity.
But on that day, I was strongly obliged by the others, volunteered until the last minute to help them to [put on their costumes]. So, at the end, they had the upper hand and the good God was left in charge of me. [As it turned out,] I was not at all intimated and I was fully involved in my subject.
As you know, Therese played the role of Joan of Arc and I represented France. It was I who recited for the first time: “Remember, Joan, of your victories, etc.” And said, “I come to you with my arms in chains.” I advanced towards her so that she would relieve them. She [Therese] gave the impression of a veritable Joan of Arc. What a noble and marshal air! Ah! She was really a Joan of Arc.
I had also filled in the previous year the role of St. Catherine in the premiere of the play. It was in 1894. – In 1895, at the second presentation of the play, Sr. M. du S.C. represented France and it was Sr. Genevieve de la Sainte Face who played St. Catherine.
Joan was alone, and speaking to herself said: “Ah, if God commanded me to retire to a long solitude, I would not hesitate to leave my dear parents in order to obey him. But it is to war that he makes me go...I should fight at the head of an army...Oh! No! It is impossible.”
After some moments of silence, as she cried and covered her face in her hands, I came to stand near her and lightly touched her, saying to her: “Joan!” And, it was then that I sang:
I am the Virgin Catherine;
I have come from Heaven to console you;
Having the divine mission;
To bless you, to protect you...
Like you, I was once on earth;
A dear child of the Lord;
His tenderness was for me so dear;
That I consecrated to Him my heart.
Then, a little later, this second passage that almost made me cry while saying it, upon seeing with such tenderness what only you will understand, my little Mother...
I am your sister and your friend;
I will always watch over you;
Because in the eternal Country;
You will be placed near me;
Soon, the eternal hills;
Where graze the virginal troup;
Will open for you their divine sources;
Transparent as a crystal;
And in the fields;
With your companions;
You will follow the Lamb;
Singing the new canticle.
If you had [only] seen her angelic air in looking at me and also her expression of love so profound that responded to mine! I can say that at that moment, I savored something of the happiness of Heaven.
Here are the circumstance when she said that she would make a shower of flowers:
In the year of her death, one read in the refectory the life of St. Louis de Gonzague. In the week that I read from this book, one came across this charming detail. – A person who asked for a healing from St. Louis de Gonzague knew that her [prayer] had been granted in seeing roses fall softly upon her bed.
Immediately after the refectory [reading], Therese told me with a tone that I will never forget: “Me too, I will make a shower of roses after my death.” And you my little Mother, know if she has kept her word.
What more can I say to you? One can recite events, but it is in the soul where one can best express these sentiments. Since our souls are but one; you know everything that happens in the heart of your poor Marie.
Ah! It is gratitude that overflows most often from the heart before all the graces that the good God has given us. My dear Mother, it is not the least of these graces to live at your side, to cross with you the stormy sea, awaiting to enjoy together eternal life. Ah! How dear you are to me! No, my little Mother, you will not know until Heaven how I love you.
Your poor Marie
29 June, Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul