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Officially Appointed Co-Witness 1 - Aimée of Jesus and of the Heart of Mary, O.C.D.

 

The Promoter of the Faith presented two officially appointed co-witnesses on 16th March 1911, in the 67th session (p. 1111v). They were two discalced Carmelite nuns from Lisieux:

1. Sister Aimée of Jesus (Léopoldine Féron).

2. Sister Jeanne-Marie of the Child Jesus (Jeanne-Marie Halgaud).

Born on 24th January 1851 in Anneville-en-Saire (Diocese of Coutances), Sister Aimée of Jesus entered the Carmel of Lisieux on 13th October 1871. She took the Habit on 19th March 1872 and was professed on 8th May 1873. Physically strong, with an active and dynamic character, she was of a rather disconcerting realism: “there shouldn’t be any artists in the community, practical activities were to be the only objective, and having good nurses, seamstresses, laundrywomen, etc. and nothing else” (Obituary Circular, p. 5). She was staunchly opposed to Céline entering the Carmel. She didn’t want four sisters living together in the same monastery and she was afraid of the last applicant’s talents. We know that Sister Thérèse asked God for a sign that her Papa had gone “straight to heaven”, by pronouncing the following prayer: “If Sister A. de J. consents to Céline’s entrance or places no obstacle to it, this will be an answer that Papa went straight to You”, which is what happened (MA “A” 82v). Deep down, underneath the harsh and gruff exterior, Sister Aimée hid a very generous heart. She died on 7th January 1930*.  

This most sincere nun reveals right at the beginning of her testimony that she was not “particularly close” to Thérèse and declares humbly that she had been “one of the instruments that God used to sanctify her.” She esteems that Thérèse “would have been an excellent Prioress, for she would always have acted with prudence and charity, without ever abusing her position of authority.” She relates the sharp retort that she one day drew from Father Youf, the chaplain of the Carmel, about the presence of four sisters and a cousin in the same Carmel (p. 1117r).

The witness testified on 17th March 1911, in the 68th session, pp. 1113r-1118r of our Public Copy.

[Session 68: - 17th March 1911, at 8:30am]

[1114v] [Informed of the significance and gravity of her oath, the co-witness answers the first question equably and correctly]:

[Answer to the second question]:

My name is Léopoldine Féron, in religion Sister Aimée of Jesus and of the Heart of Mary. I was born in Anneville en Saire, in the Diocese of Coutances, on 24th January 1851, of the legitimate marriage between Ambroise Féron, a farmer, and Cécile Enault. I am a professed nun of the Carmel of Lisieux, where I was professed on 8th May 1873.

[The co-witness answers questions three to six correctly].

[Answer to the seventh question]:

I love all our Sisters out of love for God and I don’t believe that any human sentiment could influence the sincerity of my answers.

[1115r] [Answer to the eighth question]:

I was at the monastery when the Servant of God arrived in 1888, and I lived with her in the community until she died. However we weren’t particularly close, and because of this I must have missed many details about her life.

[Answer to the ninth question]:

I consider and love the Servant of God as a very saintly soul, though without enthusiasm and without feeling any significant appeal.

[Having omitted the other questions, we come to the twenty-first and twenty-third questions, which were the reason for summoning the co-witness. Answer given to the twenty-first question]:

I’ve been one of the instruments that God used to sanctify her, since my faults, which she tolerated charitably, allowed her to reach an eminent degree of holiness. She showed her neighbour disinterested and unworldly charity. Her behaviour towards some Sisters empowered to vote in the Carmel seemed heroic to me, since when [1115v] Mother Agnès of Jesus, her sister, was elected Prioress in 1893, opinions were much divided; Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus never showed the slightest hostility towards the Sisters who hadn’t voted for Mother Agnès of Jesus, the secrecy of the voting having been compromised. Right up until she was in the arms of death, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had the courage to suffer so as not to trouble others. I remember when, on the Sunday preceding her death, one of our Extern Sisters came to watch over her during Mass, and sat against her bed in a way that troubled her, for she was having great difficulty breathing. The Servant of God didn’t let it show at all, and it was only when the Extern Sister left that our dear patient, having had a choking fit, was obliged to avow the cause. As I said, I had little contact with the Servant of God; to her it must therefore have seemed as though I was rather indifferent to her; however, even though we rarely met, I felt the tender affection she had for me and a charity that stemmed from her ardent love for God and her profound humility. Only once was I able to assist her during her illness: I will never forget either the gentleness of her look, which expressed deep gratitude, or her angelic smile.

[1116r] Her strength was heroic in the face of the trial of her venerable father’s illness, in her admirable submission and her punctuality in coming to the community gatherings when her sisters were meeting about family matters. I therefore saw her at recreation when her sisters were absent, and she spoke to us with perfect serenity, although large tears revealed that she wasn’t unmoved by all this suffering.

As soon as she entered the Carmel, she was noticed for her religious bearing. There was nothing puerile or frivolous about her appearance, despite her young age. She didn’t lay herself open to becoming the community’s plaything; her very serious character prevented her from being treated as a child. She was imperturbably calm, and when it came to life’s little difficulties, she let her sisters fret without being affected by it. Only once did I see Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus lose her calm a little: her sister (Geneviève of Saint Teresa) was very upset a few weeks before her Profession, and couldn’t hide it. It was Mother Marie de Gonzague, then Novice Mistress, who was the source of her suffering. I don’t know exactly the reason why Sister Geneviève had been humiliated but, speaking in a general way, I said to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus [1116v]: “Mother Marie de Gonzague has every right to test Sister Geneviève, why be surprised?” At hearing this, the Servant of God replied feelingly: “That is the sort of test that should not be given” – Primary source - '. Her reply surprised me and appeared to me to be the result of too human an emotion, but I couldn’t be sure of course, because I wasn’t aware of what the test was about. Today I’m convinced, and have been for a long time, that she said this out of a spirit of discernment. I’m sure that she would have been an excellent Prioress and would always have acted with prudence and charity, without ever abusing her position of authority.

I noticed the Servant of God’s tactful humility in the way she never said a word that might make us feel we should be grateful to her for the temporal commodities with which her family showered us. She never boasted, to humble others, about the natural and spiritual gifts she had abundantly received from God. She knew how to stay in the background so well, that you needed to be close to her to appreciate her virtue. I also admit I’m embarrassed that I didn’t recognize all the rare qualities that God had given her early enough.  

[1117r] [Answer to the twenty-third question]:

The Servant of God was very simple and very modest, careful to hide her virtue. When she was alive, we in the community didn’t see her life in all its perfection as we see it now. Nevertheless I can confirm that even during the Servant of God’s lifetime, all our Sisters considered her as an exceptionally virtuous soul who demonstrated particularly remarkable virtues of humility, charity and gentleness. Apart from the little imperfection I mentioned above (and it may not have even been an imperfection), I never noticed the least fault in her life.

When Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was alive, our chaplain was Father Youf: his memory is dear to me, and I am pleased to testify to the esteem he had for our little Sister. One day, when I believed I had reason to complain about her elder sisters, he said to me: “Don’t complain; if on the one hand you have to suffer something, you should find yourself only too happy to possess a treasure like the youngest: she’s a noble soul who goes from virtue to virtue; she would be the glory of the Carmel, if people knew her.” [1117v] Father Youf said this towards the end of the Servant of God’s life. The simultaneous presence of four blood sisters and a first cousin (Sister Marie of the Eucharist) in the community gave rise to tensions and unfavourable remarks at times; never, to my knowledge, did anyone call into question Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus’ perfection.

[The co-witness adds the following in answer to the twenty-ninth question]:

When one of my nieces took her first Communion in 1902, I prayed to our little Sister Thérèse, asking her to convert the child’s father (my own brother) and to bring him back to practicing religion again. My prayer wasn’t answered in time for the Communion, but my trust increased twofold and finally the Servant of God took care of my beloved brother’s soul. His conversion was remarkable for, to make up for the bad example he had given in distancing himself from the sacraments, he wanted, despite his serious illness, weakness and suffering, to go to confession and take Communion in church. Generously, [1118r] he bore the pain his illness caused him and his deep piety edified those around him; it was in full knowledge that he wanted to receive the last sacraments and his death was very edifying. I’ve put off for a long while making this grace public; our angelic Sister knows how grateful I was in my heart, and today once again I offer her my profound gratitude.

[Here ends the interrogation of this co-witness. The Acts are read out. The co-witness makes no amendment to them and signs as follows]:

I have deposed in accordance with the truth, I ratify and confirm it.

Signed: Sister AIMÉE OF JESUS