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Biography of Pauline (Mother Agnes)

(1861-1951)

Sister and "Little Mother"of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

 

AJtravail

With a terse sentence, the Carmel of Lisieux Chronicles mark the entrance of Miss Pauline Martin in the monastery, October 2th, 1882. She is 21 years old and took the name Sister Agnes of Jesus. Simply as well, her clothing is given as being on the feast of Saint Joseph in 1883, then postponed until April 6th due to Lent, and her Profession is on May 8th, 1884. This same day, the youngest of her sisters, a child of 11 years, Thérèse Martin, day boarder at the Benedictine Abbey of Lisieux, made her First Communion with five of her companions. "Pauline and Therese were becoming more and more united on May 8th since Jesus seemed to be joining them together and flooding them with His graces "(Ms A, 34 v °).

There is no need to remember at length the childhood and youth of Pauline. The
youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Martin was born in Alençon September 7th, 1861, boarder at the Le Mans Visitation of 1868 to 1877, chosen as "little mother" by Therese when Mrs. Martin died on August 28th, 1877. With her elder, Marie she shared at the Buissonnets the household duties and raising their three little sisters - Léonie, Céline and Thérèse - when Mr. Martin had left Alençon for Lisieux after the death of his wife.


Vocation to Carmel


It seems that the religious vocation was always clear to Pauline; she counted on entering the Visitation of Le Mans... Now another sign was given to her on February 16th, 1882 during the 6:00 am Mass in the church of Saint Jacques of Lisieux: "God,” she wrote, “clearly showed me that it was not at the Visitation he wanted me, but at Carmel. "   So bright was that light, the
very day, her sister Marie and her father were made aware of what the young woman already considered a decision. All the determination and quickness of Pauline can be read in this reaction; Mother Agnes will be like this, intrepid when her decision is made to take action. Indeed, 8 months later, she crossed the threshold of Carmel. She found there a Prioress that "she attached herself to a lot, "Mother Marie de Gonzague, and a Novice Mistress to whom she vowed unchanging trust, Mother Genevieve of St. Teresa, founder of the Monastery in 1838.
She who entered into the Carmelite life of prayer, silence and solitude blazed a trail without knowing that would engage three of her sisters: Marie in 1886 (Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart), Therese in 1888, and in 1894 Celine (Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face).

She will recognize that it is the ascendancy of Mother Marie Gonzague - on the Community and on the Superior – that allowed them to be reunited in the same Carmel, as well as their cousin Marie Guérin in 1895 (Sister Marie of the Eucharist). It will be a source of consolation and trials.

The sensitivity of Mother Agnes was extreme indeed, and nothing escaped her intuitive finesse.  Carmel was no longer the warm intimacy of fraternal relationship of the Buissonnets, it was necessary now, "in silence and hope", to bear the yoke of the Lord, to share the work, joys and sufferings of community life, to experience all that can detach, mature and strengthen a soul in its search for God alone.

Therese entered Carmel


Sister Agnes had spent 5 1/2 years in Carmel when Thérèse entered, on April 9th 1888. As a child she had continually turned her gaze to Pauline. From her  came the delightful little book that helped her prepare her First Communion [see it here] and she recognizes this. "To encourage me in my vocation, I found one soul, it was that of my dear Mother "(Ms A 49 r °). Very early Indeed she had "felt that Carmel was the desert where God wanted me to come hide "(Ms A, 26 r °). And Mother Agnes testified at the Apostolic Process: "On entering her small cell, she said with an expression of peace and happiness that I have never forgotten, “Now I'm here for always "(PA, p. 141).

Later, in the course of private memories from her pen, she exclaims: "Did I desire her entry here! What have I done to get her here! ", but, worse, she will summarize in a few lines, “I saw our little Therese act, suffer and be silent. I saw her die ... and what a death! A grandiose and painful memory at times. I saw her during her religious life, simple, unknown, alone in the world. It was a hidden pearl from Heaven then. The universe is beginning to learn the value of it. "


Sketch of a portrait


While Thérèse passed through the stages of postulancy and the novitiate, Sister Agnes continued her pace of religious life in the service of her community without departing from the simplicity that characterized it. What portrait can be sketched then to reveal her a little?

"Pauline will be small, which doesn’t please her." Mrs. Martin had written this to her sister Marie-Dosithee in the Visitation, during the years of boarding: actually a tiny and small brunette with brown eyes. She resembled her mother in all this, she also had her liveliness and spontaneity. Very gifted in many areas - literature, drawing, painting - she had a happy disposition to piety, disposition well aided by the education received in the family home. Sure of her God, aware of the relative value of everything that happens, she was in great union with Jesus, passionately fixing her eyes on Him who the gospels reveal so well. Very happily, without ostentation, assertively she knew how to express herself on every subject: correspondence, private notes, exhortations, poems of any kind, treasures of thought and faith she revealed, delivering the feelings which overflowed her soul.


Quick to be upset, quick to resonate with everything, she hears Thérèse say shortly before her death: "You take too much trouble for matters that are not worth the trouble "(Last Conversations, 10 / 7.7). Correct fraternal admonition! But Mother Agnes met more than one difficult situation where she knew to dominate excitement, to make truth triumph at all costs, or to be angel of peace in stormy circumstances. In fact, if she was very gentle she was not lacking in firmness. Strong-willed and tenacious, she also knew however to be humble and flexible when necessary.

Under the sign of the Holy Face


Her spiritual temperament led Mother Agnes to focus on the hidden life: fidelity to asceticism, the quality of love, including an intention of reparation on behalf of sinners "(CGII, p. 845). Very naturally, she found herself quickly given to a devotion to which Mother Genevieve brought with her while entering into Carmel", the devotion to the Holy Face that the Carmel of Lisieux had received from the Carmel of Tours.  Attracted too, finding Jesus revealing to us by his Holy Face all the love of his Heart, Mother Agnes made herself the apostle of this devotion with her sisters.

"Until then I had not fathomed the depth of the hidden treasures of the Holy Face,” writes Therese, “it was through you, dear Mother, that I got to know them. Just like before, you had preceded us all in Carmel, and you were the first to penetrate the hidden mysteries of love in the face of our Bridegroom; then you called me and I understood "(Ms A, 71 r °).

Implicitly, if one has identified the context of the remembrance here reported by Therese, one reads the suffering that gripped her heart and reached simultaneously the heart of her sisters with the painful illness of their father. " All it brought after it of humiliation and punishment "- in the words of Mother Agnes herself - this "transient cross nonetheless was there for three long years, and by the grace of God it greatly strengthened our souls. "

What she calls "our great trial" would never be erased from her memory, but she always kept the belief that the family had to glorify and praise the Lord for having sent so heavy a cross.


First Priorat (1893-1896)


Mother Agnes was hardly 32 years old when she was elected Prioress on February 20th, 1893. She will be reelected again in 1902, then in 1909, and - due to the exceptional circumstances which then marked Community life with the beatification of Therese  - this duty will be entrusted to her for life by an act of the Holy See in 1923. These first three years as prioress gave Pauline the joy of welcoming in Carmel her sister Celine in 1894, and their cousin Marie Guerin in 1895. Thérèse undoubtedly was full of thanks in considering her "Little Mother" now as her "living Jesus". “It was especially since the blessed day of your election that I flew in the “ways of love," she says in her manuscript (Ms A, 80 v °).
It was during these years that she wrote her memories in response to a desire of Mother Agnes, it is to her that she asked permission to offer herself to Merciful Love (June 1895), it is from her that she received her first spiritual brother, Father Maurice Bellière (October 1895).

Mother Agnes was probably not aware of what was going in the soul of her sister in the year 1895. She hardly paid attention at the time to the notebook of memories Therese gave her [Manuscript A], and she had an anxious reaction when Therese told her about the grace of her "wound of Love. " In fact, the job of prioress completely monopolized the young Prioress, and she had few talks with her sister, as she testified herself.

These years were not cloudless for her: taking her authority and responsibilities were not always easy in the presence of the former prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague. This difficult experience was for her a grace that she recognized had detached her from honors.


The witness and herald of Thérèse


Discharged from the task of prioress in March 1896, Mother Agnes has no idea yet of her new task ahead, as she has no knowledge of the first
hemoptysis (spitting up blood) of her sister, but the symptoms of her illness will clarify and show her impending death. Admitted by Mother Marie de Gonzague to spend long periods with the sick Carmelite, Mother Agnes begins taking notes at her bedside: we owe to her the "Last Conversations » from April to September 1897. We also owe to her initiative the text Manuscript C, written for Mother Marie de Gonzague (June-July 1897).


All her emotion and all her faith are in this note written in haste for her family on the evening of September 30:

Beloved Parents, my dear Leonie, Our Angel is in Heaven. She breathed her last at 7 o’clock, pressing the crucifix against her heart and said, "Oh! I love you!" She had just raised her eyes to heaven, what did she see…

A year later, with 2000 copies under the title "Story of a Soul" the autobiographical memories of Sister Therese of the Child Jesus were published to get to the  Monasteries of the Order of Carmel, and a few close friends.

How would the Carmel be able to sell such a large amount of  volumes? Facts swept away this fear, and now the Carmel had to follow the signs of God which became so obvious that there was no more escape from the Theresian phenomenon: editions and reprints, opening of the Process, correspondence, pilgrims, emergencies of all kinds were the work of Mother Agnes, kingpin of that activity and elected Prioress again in 1902. Difficulties and contradictions will not be lacking for her, but she continues to lead the Community with simplicity and wisdom, always giving the example of fidelity to the observance, encouraging and stimulating her sisters in the ways of trust and love. What grace for her to meditate and cite the example of her holy Little Sister, a hidden life that God has wanted to show its apostolic fruitfulness. What a grace also to become a disciple of the one she had guided in her childhood, and to rejoice about all so many souls owed to the little Doctor of the Way of spiritual childhood.

Mention has often been made of the many changes made by Mother Agnes in Therese’s manuscripts before the first publication. She indeed exercised the permission given by Therese to "add" and  "take away" as she thought it good  in the notebook of her Life. The Carmelite Father François de Sainte Marie admits that "these changes have certainly not prevented the souls from uniting authentically with Therese and becoming permeated with her doctrine ", while offering to the public for the first time the original texts of Therese (Autobiographical Manuscripts, Ed. Central Office of Lisieux, 1956, Volume I, p. 78).

This new publication cannot take away the merits from Mother Agnes of this very first audacity that was hers: to throw to the four winds of the world and history the modest pages from a "notebook of obedience" that would be a historical milestone in contemporary spirituality.

 

Last years

 

Through grace, Mother Agnes of Jesus will have good health and activity for a long time; she will celebrate her jubilees of 50, 60 and 65 years of religious life, respectively in 1934, 1944,1949. These long years of service, both hidden and glorious, where prospects so diverse were intermingled, cannot be developed within the limits of this notice but we simply evoke the one who was contemporary with Therese in certainly a very special way, since both knew each other intimately for so long.
Evening came gradually, sometimes with tragic upheavals like this exodus of the entire Community in the crypt of the Basilica, in the hours of Normandy invasion, June-August 1944.
For a woman who had practiced abandonment and trust, she also had to accept the limitations of old age, and in the last eighteen months of her life, hard renunciations were her prerogative. She was about to reach 90 when she died July 28th, 1951.
In regards to what St.Therese had said on April 7th, 1897: "God will pump you like a little drop of dew, "Mother Agnes wrote this commentary in her private notes, "I read that the Lord tells us through a prophet: "A sun of righteousness will rise for those who love and healing will be in its rays."  The small dewdrop therefore was not destroyed, but only pumped and drawn by the Sun of love, and her soul healed in his  rays, that is to say that she will be simultaneously pumped and purified. " Mother Agnes lies in the chapel of the Carmel of Lisieux, in a vault dug under the Shrine of St. Therese.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." (Rev 14:13 NIV)

Back to the page of Pauline

Mother Agnes of Jesus
(1861-1951)
Sister and "Little Mother"of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

With a terse sentence, the Carmel of Lisieux Chronicles mark the entrance of Miss Pauline Martin in the monastery, October 2th, 1882. She is 21 years old and took the name Sister Agnes of Jesus. Simply as well, her clothing is given as being on the feast of Saint Joseph in 1883, then postponed until April 6th due to Lent, and her Profession is on May 8th, 1884. This same day, the youngest of her sisters, a child of 11 years, Thérèse Martin, day boarder at the Benedictine Abbey of Lisieux, made her First Communion with five of her companions. "Pauline and Therese were becoming more and more united on May 8th since Jesus seemed to be joining them together and flooding them with His graces "(Ms A, 34 v °).

 

There is no need to remember at length the childhood and youth of Pauline. The
youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Martin was born in Alençon September 7th, 1861, boarder at the Le Mans Visitation of 1868 to 1877, chosen as "little mother" by Therese when Mrs. Martin died on August 28th, 1877. With her elder, Marie she shared at the Buissonnets the household duties and raising their three
little sisters - Léonie, Céline and Thérèse - when Mr. Martin had left Alençon for
Lisieux after the death of his wife.


Vocation to Carmel


It seems that the religious vocation was always clear to Pauline; she counted on entering the Visitation of Le Mans... Now another sign was given to her
on February 16th, 1882 during the 6:00 am Mass in the church of Saint Jacques of
Lisieux: "God,” she wrote, “clearly showed me that it was not
at the Visitation he wanted me, but at Carmel. "   So bright was that light, the
very day, her sister Marie and her father were made aware of what the young
woman already considered a decision. All the determination and quickness
of Pauline can be read in this reaction; Mother Agnes will be like this, intrepid when her decision is made to take action. Indeed, 8 months later, she
crossed the threshold of Carmel. She found there a Prioress that "she attached herself to a lot, "Mother Marie de Gonzague, and a Novice Mistress to whom she vowed unchanging trust, Mother Genevieve of St. Teresa, founder of the Monastery in 1838.
She who entered into the Carmelite life of prayer, silence and solitude
blazed a trail without knowing that would engage three of her sisters: Marie in
1886 (Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart), Therese in 1888, and in 1894 Celine (Sister
Geneviève of the Holy Face).

She will recognize that it is the ascendancy of Mother Marie Gonzague - on the Community and on the Superior – that allowed them to be reunited in the same Carmel, as well as their cousin Marie Guérin in 1895 (Sister Marie of the Eucharist). It will be a source of consolation and trials.

The sensitivity of Mother Agnes was extreme indeed, and nothing escaped her intuitive finesse.  Carmel was no longer the warm intimacy of fraternal relationship of the Buissonnets, it was necessary now, "in silence and hope", to bear the yoke of the Lord, to share the work, joys and sufferings of community life, to experience all that can detach, mature and strengthen a soul in its search for God alone.

Therese entered Carmel
Sister Agnes had spent 5 1/2 years in Carmel when Thérèse entered, on April 9th
1888. As a child she had continually turned her gaze to Pauline. From her
came the delightful little book that helped her prepare her First
Communion [see it here] and she recognizes this. "To encourage me in my vocation, I found one soul, it was that of my dear Mother "(Ms A 49 r °). Very early
Indeed she had "felt that Carmel was the desert where God wanted
me to come hide "(Ms A, 26 r °). And Mother Agnes testified at the Apostolic Process: "On entering her small cell, she said with an expression of peace and happiness that I have never forgotten, “Now I'm here for always "(PA, p. 141).

 

Later, in the course of private memories from her pen, she exclaims: "Did I desire her entry here! What have I done to get her here! ", but, worse, she will summarize in a few lines, “I saw our little Therese act, suffer and be silent. I saw her die ... and what a death! A grandiose and painful memory at times. I saw her during her religious life, simple, unknown, alone in the world. It was a hidden pearl from Heaven then. The universe is beginning to learn the value of it. "


Sketch of a portrait


While Thérèse passed through the stages of postulancy and the novitiate, Sister Agnes continued her pace of religious life in the service of her community without
departing from the simplicity that characterized it. What portrait can be sketched then to reveal her a little?

"Pauline will be small, which doesn’t please her." Mrs. Martin had written this to her sister Marie-Dosithee in the Visitation, during the years of boarding: actually a tiny and small brunette with brown eyes. She resembled her mother in all this, she also had her liveliness and spontaneity. Very gifted in many areas - literature,
drawing, painting - she had a happy disposition to piety, disposition well aided by the education received in the family home. Sure of her God, aware of the relative value of everything that happens, she was in great union with Jesus, passionately fixing her eyes on Him who the gospels reveal so well. Very happily, without ostentation, assertively she knew how to express herself on every subject: correspondence, private notes, exhortations, poems of any kind, treasures of thought and faith she revealed, delivering the feelings which overflowed her soul.


Quick to be upset, quick to resonate with everything, she hears Thérèse say shortly before her death: "You take too much trouble for matters that are not worth the trouble "(Last Conversations, 10 / 7.7). Correct fraternal admonition!
But Mother Agnes met more than one difficult situation where she knew to dominate
excitement, to make truth triumph at all costs, or to be angel of peace in stormy circumstances. In fact, if she was very gentle she was not lacking in firmness. Strong-willed and tenacious, she also knew however to be humble and flexible when necessary.

Under the sign of the Holy Face
Her spiritual temperament led Mother Agnes to focus on the hidden life: fidelity to asceticism, the quality of love, including an intention of reparation on behalf of sinners "(CGII, p. 845).

Very naturally, she found herself quickly given to a devotion to which Mother
Genevieve brought with her while entering into Carmel", the devotion to the Holy Face that the Carmel of Lisieux had received from the Carmel of Tours.  Attracted too, finding Jesus revealing to us by his Holy Face all the love of his Heart, Mother
Agnes made herself the apostle of this devotion with her sisters.

"Until then I had not fathomed the depth of the hidden treasures of the Holy Face,” writes Therese, “it was through you, dear Mother, that I got to know them. Just like before, you had preceded us all in Carmel, and you were the first to penetrate the hidden mysteries of love in the face of our Bridegroom; then you called me and I understood "(Ms A, 71 r °).

Implicitly, if one has identified the context of the remembrance here reported by
Therese, one reads the suffering that gripped her heart and reached simultaneously
the heart of her sisters with the painful illness of their father. " All it brought after it of humiliation and punishment "- in the words of Mother Agnes herself - this "transient cross nonetheless was there for three long years, and by the grace of God it greatly strengthened our souls. "

What she calls "our great trial" would never be erased from her memory, but she always kept the belief that the family had to glorify and praise the Lord for having sent so heavy a cross.


First Priorat (1893-1896)
Mother Agnes was hardly 32 years old when she was elected Prioress on February 20th, 1893. She will be reelected again in 1902, then in 1909, and - due to the exceptional circumstances which then marked Community life with the beatification of Therese  - this duty will be entrusted to her for life by an act of the Holy See in 1923.
These first three years as prioress gave Pauline the joy of welcoming in Carmel
her sister Celine in 1894, and their cousin Marie Guerin in 1895. Thérèse undoubtedly was full of thanks in considering her "Little Mother" now as her "living Jesus". “It was especially since the blessed day of your election that I flew in the “ways of love," she says in her manuscript (Ms A, 80 v °).
It was during these years that she wrote her memories in response to a desire of
Mother Agnes, it is to her that she asked permission to offer herself to Merciful Love
(June 1895), it is from her that she received her first spiritual brother, Father Maurice
Bellière (October 1895).

Mother Agnes was probably not aware of what was going in the soul of her sister in the year 1895. She hardly paid attention at the time to the notebook of memories Therese gave her [Manuscript A], and she had an anxious reaction when Therese told her about the grace of her "wound of Love. " In fact, the job of prioress completely monopolized the young Prioress, and she had few talks with her sister, as she testified herself.

These years were not cloudless for her: taking her authority and responsibilities
were not always easy in the presence of the former prioress, Mother Marie de
Gonzague. This difficult experience was for her a grace that she recognized had detached her from honors.


The witness and herald of Thérèse
Discharged from the task of prioress in March 1896, Mother Agnes has no idea yet of
her new task ahead, as she has no knowledge of the first
hemoptysis (spitting up blood) of her sister, but the symptoms of her illness will clarify and show her impending death. Admitted by Mother Marie de Gonzague to spend long periods with the sick Carmelite, Mother Agnes begins taking notes at her bedside: we owe to her the "Last Conversations » from April to September 1897. We also owe to her initiative the text Manuscript C, written for Mother Marie de Gonzague (June-July 1897).


All her emotion and all her faith are in this note written in haste for her
family on the evening of September 30:

Beloved Parents, my dear Leonie, Our Angel is in Heaven. She breathed her last at 7 o’clock, pressing the crucifix against her heart and said, "Oh! I love you!" She had just raised her eyes to heaven, what did she see…

A year later, with 2000 copies under the title "Story of a Soul" the autobiographical memories of Sister Therese of the Child Jesus were published to get to the  Monasteries of the Order of Carmel, and a few close friends.

How would the Carmel be able to sell such a large amount of  volumes? Facts swept
away this fear, and now the Carmel had to follow the signs of God which became so obvious that there was no more escape from the Theresian phenomenon: editions and reprints, opening of the Process, correspondence, pilgrims, emergencies of all kinds were the work of Mother Agnes, kingpin of that activity and elected Prioress again in 1902. Difficulties and contradictions will not be lacking for her, but she continues to lead the Community with simplicity and wisdom, always giving the example of fidelity to the observance, encouraging and stimulating her sisters in the ways of trust and love. What grace
for her to meditate and cite the example of her holy Little Sister, a hidden life
that God has wanted to show its apostolic fruitfulness. What a grace also to become a disciple of the one she had guided in her childhood, and to rejoice about all so many souls owed to the little Doctor of the Way of spiritual childhood.

Mention has often been made of the many changes made by Mother Agnes in
Therese’s manuscripts before the first publication. She indeed exercised the
permission given by Therese to "add" and  "take away" as she thought it good
in the notebook of her Life. The Carmelite Father François de Sainte Marie admits that "these changes have certainly not prevented the souls from uniting authentically with Therese and becoming permeated with her doctrine ", while offering to the public for the first time the original texts of Therese (Autobiographical Manuscripts, Ed. Central Office of Lisieux, 1956, Volume I, p. 78).

This new publication cannot take away the merits from Mother Agnes of this very first audacity that was hers: to throw to the four winds of the world and history the modest pages from a "notebook of obedience" that would be a historical milestone in contemporary spirituality.


Last years
Through grace, Mother Agnes of Jesus will have good health and activity for a long time; she will celebrate her jubilees of 50, 60 and 65 years of religious life, respectively in 1934, 1944,1949. These long years of service, both hidden and glorious, where prospects so diverse were intermingled, cannot be developed within the limits of this notice but we simply evoke the one who was contemporary with Therese in certainly a very special way, since both knew each other intimately for so long.
Evening came gradually, sometimes with tragic upheavals like this exodus of the entire Community in the crypt of the Basilica, in the hours of Normandy invasion, June-August 1944.
For a woman who had practiced abandonment and trust, she also had to accept the limitations of old age, and in the last eighteen months of her life,
hard renunciations were her prerogative. She was about to reach 90 when
she died July 28th, 1951.
In regards to what St.Therese had said on April 7th, 1897: "God will pump you like a little drop of dew, "Mother Agnes wrote this commentary in her private notes, "I read that the Lord tells us through a prophet: "A sun of righteousness will rise for those who love and healing will be in its rays."  The small dewdrop therefore was not destroyed, but only pumped and drawn by the Sun of love, and her soul healed in his
rays, that is to say that she will be simultaneously pumped and purified. "
Mother Agnes lies in the chapel of the Carmel of Lisieux, in a vault dug
under the Shrine of St. Therese.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." (Rev 14:13 NIV)

 

*

Mère Agnès de Jésus

(1861-1951)

Contemporaine de Sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus

Sa sœur et « Petite Mère »

 

Fille cadette de la famille Martin

Par une phrase laconique, les Chroniques du Carmel de Lisieux signalent l'entrée
de Mlle Pauline Martin au Monastère, le 2 octobre 1882 : elle est âgée de 21 ans
et prend le nom de Sœur Agnès de Jésus. Aussi simplement, sa Prise d'Habit est
mentionnée au jour de la fête de Saint Joseph 1883 - reportée au 6 avril en raison
des rubriques du Carême -, et sa Profession à la date du 8 mai 1884 : ce même
jour, la benjamine de ses sœurs, une enfant de 11 ans, Thérèse Martin, pension-
naire à l'Abbaye des Bénédictines de Lisieux, fait sa Première Communion avec
cinq de ses compagnes : « Pauline et Thérèse devinrent le 8 mai de plus en plus
unies, puisque Jésus semblait les confondre en les inondant de ses grâces » (Ms
A, 34 v°). Cette année 1984 marque donc le centième anniversaire de ce double
événement.

Il n'est pas besoin de rappeler longuement l'enfance et la jeunesse de Pauline :
fille cadette de M. et Mme Martin, née à Alençon le 7 septembre 1861, pension-
naire à la Visitation du Mans de 1868 à 1877, choisie comme « petite mère » par
Thérèse lorsque Mme Martin mourut, le 28 août 1877, elle partagea aux Buis-
sonnets avec son ainée Marie les soins de la maison et l'éducation de leurs trois
petites sœurs - Léonie, Céline et Thérèse - quand M. Martin eut quitté Alençon
pour Lisieux après la mort de son épouse.

Vocation au Carmel

Il semble que la vocation religieuse ne fit jamais aucun doute pour Pauline : elle
comptait entrer à la Visitation du Mans... Or, voici qu'un autre signe lui fut donné
le 16 février 1882 au cours de la Messe de 6 heures en l'église Saint-Jacques de
Lisieux : « Le bon Dieu - écrit-elle - me montra clairement que ce n'était pas
à la Visitation qu'il me voulait, mais au Carmel. » Si vive fut cette lumière que, le
jour même, sa sœur Marie et son père furent mis au courant de ce que la jeune
fille considérait déjà comme une décision : toute la détermination et la vivacité
de Pauline se lisent dans cette réaction, ainsi sera Mère Agnès : intrépide pour
passer aux actes lorsque sa résolution aura été prise. De fait, 8 mois plus tard, elle
franchissait le seuil du Carmel; elle y trouvait une Prieure à laquelle « elle s'attacha
beaucoup », Mère Marie de Gonzague, et une Maîtresse des Novices à laquelle
elle voua une confiance inaltérable : Mère Geneviève de Sainte Thérèse, fonda-
trice du Monastère en 1838.

Celle qui entrait ainsi dans la vie carmélitaine de prière, de silence et de solitude,
frayait sans le savoir le chemin où s'engageraient trois de ses sœurs : Marie en
1886 (Sœur Marie du Sacré-Cœur, Thérèse en 1888, Céline en 1894 (Sœur
Geneviève de la Sainte Face). Elle le reconnaîtra, c'est à l'ascendant de Mère
Marie de Gonzague, - ascendant sur la Communauté et sur le Supérieur -
qu'elles durent de pouvoir être réunies dans le même Carmel, ainsi que leur
cousine Marie Guérin, en 1895 (Sœur Marie de l'Eucharistie) : réunion qui fut à la
fois source de consolations et d'épreuves. La sensibilité de Mère Agnès était

Mère Agnès de Jésus à l'âge de 42 ans.

extrême en effet, et rien n'échappait à sa finesse intuitive : le Carmel, ce n'était
plus la chaude intimité dans l'entente fraternelle des Buissonnets, il fallait
maintenant « dans le silence et l'espérance » porter le joug du Seigneur, partager
les travaux, les joies et les souffrances de la vie commune, faire l'expérience de
tout ce qui peut détacher, mûrir et fortifier une âme dans sa recherche de Dieu
seul.

Entrée de Thérèse au Carmel

Sœur Agnès avait passé 5 ans 1/2 au Carmel lorsque Thérèse y entra, le 9 avril
1888. Enfant, elle avait incessamment tourné son regard vers Pauline, d'elle lui
était venu le « ravissant petit livre » qui l'avait aidée à préparer sa Première
Communion, et elle reconnaît : « Pour m'encourager dans ma vocation, je ne
trouvai qu'une seule âme, ce fut celle de ma Mère chérie » (Ms A 49 r°). Très tôt
en effet elle avait « senti que le Carmel était le désert où le bon Dieu voulait que
j'aille aussi me cacher » (Ms A, 26 r°). Et Mère Agnès témoignera au Procès
Apostolique : « En pénétrant dans sa petite cellule, elle me dit avec une expression
de paix et de bonheur que je n'ai jamais oubliée : Maintenant, je suis ici pour
toujours » (PA, p. 141). Plus tard, au fil de souvenirs intimes venus sous sa plume,
elle s'exclamera : « Ai-je désiré son entrée ici! En ai-je fait pour y arriver! », mais,
plus grave, elle se résumera dans ces quelques lignes : i J'ai vu notre petite
Thérèse agir, souffrir et se taire. Je l'ai vue mourir... et de quelle mort! Souvenir
grandiose et douloureux à la fois. Je l'ai vue pendant sa vie religieuse, simple,
inconnue, « seule sur la terre ». C'était une perle des Cieux alors cachée. L'univers
commence à en savoir la valeur. »

Esquisse d'un portrait

Tandis que Thérèse franchissait les étapes du postulat et du noviciat, Sœur Agnès
poursuivait son rythme de vie religieuse, au service de sa Communauté, sans se
départir de la simplicité qui la caractérisait. Quel portrait tracer pour la révéler
quelque peu?

« Pauline sera petite, ce qui ne lui plaît guère », avait écrit à Mme Martin sa sœur
Visitandine, au cours des années de pensionnat : effectivement menue et de petite
taille, brune aux yeux bruns, elle ressemblait en tout cela à sa mère, dont elle avait
aussi la vivacité et la spontanéité. Très douée en bien des domaines-littérature,
dessin, peinture - elle avait d'heureuses dispositions à la piété, dispositions si

bien secondées par l'éducation reçue au foyer familial : sûre de son Dieu,
consciente de la valeur si relative de tout ce qui passe, elle allait en grande union
avec Jésus, fixant passionnément son regard sur Celui que l'Évangile lui révélait
si bien. Avec un rare bonheur, sans ostentation comme sans complexe, elle savait
s'exprimer à tout propos : correspondance, billets intimes, exhortations, poèmes
de tout genre, que de trésors de pensée et de foi n'a-t-elle pas confiés, en livrant
les sentiments dont débordait son âme.

Prompte à s'émouvoir, prompte à vibrer en tout, elle s'entendra dire par Thérèse
peu de temps avant sa mort : « Vous vous faites beaucoup trop de peine pour des
affaires qui n'en valent pas la peine » (DE, 10/7.7). Juste remontrance fraternelle!
Mais Mère Agnès connut plus d'une situation difficile où elle sut dominer son
émoi, faire triompher la vérité coûte que coûte, ou se faire ange de paix dans des
circonstances orageuses. En fait, si elle était très douce, elle ne manquait pas de
fermeté : volontaire et tenace, elle l'était aussi, sachant toutefois se montrer
humble et souple lorsqu'il le fallait.

Sous le signe de la Sainte Face

Son tempérament spirituel portait Mère Agnès à mettre l'accent sur la vie cachée :
on a pu préciser et ajouter : « la fidélité à l'ascèse, la qualité de l'amour, incluant
une intention réparatrice au nom des pécheurs » (CGII, p. 845). Comme tout
naturellement, elle se trouva vite accordée à-une dévotion à laquelle Mère
Geneviève « l'attira dès son entrée au Carmel » : la dévotion à la Sainte Face, que
le Carmel de Lisieux avait reçue du Carmel de Tours. Attirée elle aussi, trouvant
« que Jésus nous dévoilait par sa Sainte Face tout l'amour de son Cœur » Mère
Agnès se fit auprès de ses sœurs l'apôtre de cette dévotion. « Jusqu'alors je
n'avais pas sondé la profondeur des trésors cachés dans la Sainte Face, écrit
Thérèse, ce fut par vous, ma Mère chérie, que j'appris à les connaître : de même
qu'autrefois vous nous aviez toutes précédées au Carmel, de même vous aviez
pénétré la première les mystères d'amour cachés dans le Visage de notre Époux;
alors vous m'avez appelée et j'ai compris » (Ms A, 71 r°).
En filigrane, pour peu qu'on ait cerné le contexte du souvenir ici rapporté par
Thérèse, on lit la souffrance qui tenaillait son cœur et atteignait en même temps
le cœur de ses sœurs : la douloureuse maladie de leur Père, M. Martin. « Tout ce
qu'elle entraîna après elle d'humiliations et de peines », - au dire de Mère Agnès
elle-même -, cette croix « passagère comme tout ce qui est du temps » devait

Mère Agnès de Jésus à l'âge de 55 ans.

néanmoins durer trois longues années, et, par la grâce de Dieu i fortifier grande-
ment nos âmes ». De ce qu'elle nomme « notre grande épreuve », jamais le
souvenir ne devait s'effacer de sa mémoire; mais elle garda toujours la conviction
qu'il lui fallait glorifier et louer le Seigneur de leur avoir envoyé une croix si
pesante.

Premier Priorat (1893-1896)

Mère Agnès avait 32 ans à peine lorsqu'elle fut élue Prieure le 20 février 1893. Elle
le sera de nouveau en 1902, puis en 1909, et - en raison des circonstances
exceptionnelles qui marquaient alors la vie de la Communauté - cette charge lui
sera confiée à vie par acte du Saint Siège, en 1923.
Ces trois premières années de Priorat lui donnèrent la joie d'accueillir au Carmel
sa sœur Céline en 1894, et leur cousine Marie Guérin en 1895. Thérèse goûta
incontestablement une grâce sensible â considérer sa « Petite Mère » devenue
son « Jésus vivant ». Ce fut surtout depuis le jour béni de votre élection que je
volai « dans les voies de l'Amour » confie-t-elle dans son manuscrit (MsA, 80 v°).
C'est au cours de ces années qu'elle écrivit ses souvenirs pour répondre à un désir
de Mère Agnès, c'est à elle qu'elle demanda la permission de s'offrir à l'Amour
(juin 1895), c'est d'elle qu'elle reçut son premier frère spirituel, l'Abbé Maurice
Bellière (octobre 1895). Mère Agnès n'eut sans doute pas conscience de ce qui
se déployait dans l'âme de sa sœur en cette année 1895 : elle ne prêta guère
attention dans l'immédiat au cahier de souvenirs que lui remit Thérèse, et elle eut
une réaction d'inquiétude lorsque celle-ci lui confia la grâce de sa « blessure
d'Amour ». En fait, sa charge de Prieure l'accaparait totalement, et rares étaient
ses entretiens avec sa sœur, comme elle en a témoigné elle-même. Ces années
ne furent pas pour elle sans nuages : prendre son autorité et ses responsabilités
n'était pas toujours chose aisée en présence de l'ancienne Prieure, Mère Marie
de Gonzague. Cette difficile expérience lui fut une grâce : elle reconnut qu'elle
l'avait « détachée des honneurs ».

Le témoin de Thérèse et son héraut

Déchargée du Priorat en mars 1896, Mère Agnès ne se doute pas encore de la
nouvelle tâche qui l'attend : elle n'eut pas connaissance de la première hémop-
tysie de sa sœur, mais les symptômes de son mal vont se préciser et faire
pressentir une mort prochaine. Admise par Mère Marie de Gonzague à passer de
longs moments avec la petite malade, Mère Agnès commence à prendre des
notes à son chevet : nous lui devons les « Derniers Entretiens » recueillis d'avril
â septembre 1897. On doit également à son initiative le Manuscrit C, écrit pour
Mère Marie de Gonzague (juin-juillet 1897).

Toute son émotion et toute sa foi passent dans ce billet écrit en hâte pour sa
famille le soir du 30 septembre : « Notre Ange est au Ciel. Elle a rendu le dernier
soupir à 7 heures en pressant son crucifix sur son cœur et disant : « Oh je vous
aime. » Elle venait de lever les yeux au Ciel, que voyait-elle!!! »
Un an plus tard, tirés à 2 000 exemplaires sous le titre « hertoire d'une Ame » les
souvenirs autobiographiques de Sœur Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus étaient publiés
pour atteindre les Monastères de l'Ordre du Carmel, et quelques intimes : mais
comment écoulerait-on une telle quantité de volumes? Les faits balayèrent cette
crainte, et désormais il fallut suivre les signes de Dieu, devenus si évidents que
rien ne permettait plus de s'y dérober : éditions et rééditions, ouverture du Procès,
correspondance, pèlerins, urgences d'organisation de tous ordres, c'est un labeur
incessant pour Mère Agnès, cheville ouvrière de cette activité, et à nouveau
Prieure dès 1902. Les difficultés et les contradictions ne lui manqueront pas, mais
elle n'en continuera pas moins à conduire la Communauté avec simplicité et
sagesse, donnant toujours l'exemple de la fidélité à l'observance, encourageant,
stimulant ses sœurs dans les voies de la confiance et de l'amour. Quelle grâce
pour elle que de méditer et de citer l'exemple de sa sainte Petite Sœur, vie cachée
dont Dieu a voulu montrer toute la fécondité apostolique; quelle grâce aussi de
devenir disciple de celle qu'elle avait guidée dans son enfance, et de se réjouir
de tout ce que tant d'âmes devaient au petit « Docteur » de la Voie d'enfance
spirituelle.

On a souvent évoqué les nombreuses corrections apportées par Mère Agnès au
Manuscrit de Thérèse avant la première publication : elle a en effet usé de la

permission donnée par sa sœur « d'ajouter » et de « retrancher » comme bon lui
semblerait au cahier de sa Vie. De l'aveu du Père François de Sainte Marie, « ces
modifications n'ont certes pas empêché les âmes de rejoindre authentiquement
Thérèse et de se pénétrer de sa doctrine » (Manuscrits Autobiographiques, Éd.
Office Central de Lisieux, 1956, tome I, p. 78). Il n'est plus désormais besoin de
précautions pour livrer les moindres textes à l'éclairage d'une critique juste et
sereine; les éditions complètes parues depuis quelque vingt-cinq ans font droit
aux meilleures exigences, mais on ne saurait enlever à Mère Agnès le mérite de
cette toute première audace qui fut la seienne : jeter aux quatre vents du monde
et de l'histoire les modestes pages d'un « cahier d'obéissance » qui allaient faire
date dans la spiritualité contemporaine.

Dernières années

Par grâce, Mère Agnès de Jésus gardera longtemps santé et activité : elle
célébrera ses jubilés de 50,60,65 ans de vie religieuse, respectivement en 1934,
1944,1949. Ces longues années, ce service à la fois caché et glorieux où s'en-
trelaçaient des perspectives si diverses, ne peuvent pas être développés dans les
limites de cette notice : ici nous évoquons simplement celle qui fut contemporaine
de Thérèse, et certes à un titre bien spécial, puisque l'une et l'autre se connais-
saient intimement de longue date.

Le soir venait peu à peu, avec de tragiques bouleversements parfois, comme cet
exode de toute la Communauté dans la Crypte de la Basilique, aux heures du
débarquement en Normandie, juin-août 1944.

A celle qui avait tant pratiqué l'abandon et la confiance, il faudra aussi l'accep-
tation des servitudes de la vieillesse, et dans les dix-huit derniers mois de sa vie,
de durs renoncements furent son apanage. Elle allait atteindre 90 ans lorsqu'elle
s'éteignit le 28 juillet 1951.

A propos de ce que Sainte Thérèse lui avait dit, le 7 avril 1897 : « Le bon Dieu vous
pompera comme une petite goutte de rosée », Mère Agnès avait écrit ce commen-
taire dans ses notes intimes : « J'ai lu que le Seigneur nous dit par un prophète :
« Un soleil de justice se lèvera pour ceux qui l'aiment, et la guérison sera dans
ses rayons. » La petite goutte de rosée ne sera donc pas détruite, mais seulement
pompée et attirée par le Soleil d'amour, et la guérison de son âme sera dans ses
rayons, c'est-à-dire qu'elle se trouvera en même temps pompée et purifiée. »
Mère Agnès repose dans la Chapelle du Carmel de Lisieux, dans un caveau creusé
sous la Châsse de Sainte Thérèse.

« Bienheureux ceux qui meurent dans le Seigneur. Oui, dit l'Esprit, qu'ils se
reposent de leurs travaux, car leurs œuvres les accompagnent » (Apoc. XIV, 13).

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