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Circular of Mother Agnès of Jesus

 

Marie Pauline Martin   1861-1951

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Translation used with the courteous agreement of Fr Colaresi, O.Carm.

I. Childhood

Marie Pauline Martin was born at Alençon on the 7th September 1861, and was baptized on the 8th in the ancient church of S. Pierre de Montsort.

In her delightful correspondence with her younger daughter Mme Martin recalls this fact. On 6th December 1875, she writes :

. . So Wednesday is the Immaculate Conception, a great festival for me ! ... on that day the Blessed Virgin granted me many special graces. I have not forgotten either the 8th December 1860, the day when I prayed Our Mother of Heaven to give me a little Pauline, but I cannot think of it without laughing, for I was just like a child asking her mother for a doll ... I wanted a Pauline just like the one I have, and I described her exactly for fear that the Holy Virgin should not quite understand what I wanted. In the first place she must have a lovely little soul, capable of becoming a saint, but I wanted her to be very sweet too. As to that she is not at all pretty, but I think her beautiful, very beautiful, and she is just as I wanted her . . . this year I shall not ask for any more daughters, only that those I have may become saints, and that I may follow close behind them, but they must be much better than I.'

 Let us leave this humble mother in ignorance of her own merit and repeat the beautiful testimony that her daughter, Pauline, as Mother Agnes of Jesus, gave of her parents at the Process of the Beatification of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

'They always seemed saints to me, and we were filled with respect and veneration for them. I used to ask myself sometimes whether there could exist any others like them on this earth.'

Of all the sisters, Pauline resembled her mother the most, both physically and morally, hence, no doubt, the marked intimacy between the two. The mother's letters are full of descriptions of her children. We will let her picture Pauline to her brother M. Guérin, who was the child's godfather, and to whom she wrote on 1st January 1863.

'You cannot think how sweet and affectionate your goddaughter is. She kisses us continually without being asked, she sends kisses to Jesus, she does not talk, but she understands everything. In fact she is a marvel.'

If the godfather was devoted to his goddaughter, she on her side had a childish admiration for him, so her mother relates : '. . . She (Pauline) loves teasing Marie. She shows her your photograph every day and says : "Look at my godfather ! He is handsome, see, Marie, he has got hair, and yours has none." She says that because her godfather is bald.'

But she had her good qualities too. Her aunt, the nun at the Convent of the Visitation, tells M. Guérin :

'If her sisters want to take away her toys, and someone says, "Give them, my child, it will be a pearl in your crown", Pauline gives them up without hesitation.'

Mother Agnes, herself, recalls the following details of her childhood : 'When I was quite small, Mother used to take me on her knee and tell me tales of the lives of saints. One day she told me that in heaven only virgins would follow Jesus in the form of a lamb without blemish, and that they would be crowned with white roses, and sing a canticle which the others could not sing. Then I told her that I would like to be a virgin with a beautiful white crown, and I asked what colour hers would be, for she had told me that married people would not have a white crown. She replied that no doubt she would have a crown of red roses. And I cried, "Oh, mother, I will never marry, I do not want a red crown in heaven !"

 "When I was five or six I dreamed about my guardian angel. He was tall and beautiful with a white robe and wings. He took me by the hand and led me along a small path so overshadowed that I could only see foliage by my side and above my head. Our journey along the path seemed long. I did not dare speak, but I was very happy. At last we arrived at a large meadow I saw Our Lord fastened to the cross. The Angel made me kneel and disappeared." She adds, "I feel that this dream is a picture of my life in many respects".

On the day she entered the Carmel, when she saw the calvary raised in the middle of the"Préau", the memory of her dream returned at once. It was the festival of the Holy Angels, and at the Carmel a statue of the GuardianAngel is venerated, the community gathering at its foot to sing a canticle on 2nd October. Another curious detail is that this statue stands at the entrance of a long dark passage, which for the new postulant was again a symbol of that narrow way in which her celestial guide had led her.

    The family circle had been increased by the arrival of Léonie and Marie Hélène. Two little sons followed, but neither survived long. The poor mother, exhausted by her maternal cares, and the loss of these two children, decided to entrust the education of her elder daughters to the religious of the Visitation at Le Mans, where her own sister was a nun. Marie and Pauline, therefore became pupils in October 1868, and only returned to their home for Christmas, Easter and the long holidays. This separation was for them a break difficult to describe, such was the marvellous union of hearts in this perfect family circle. Their common grief, and an extremely deep understanding, bound the two sisters with a tie of mutual esteem and affection which continued all their lives, and from whence in old age both drew support.

 "If I had not had Marie with me", writes Pauline, speaking of their departure for Le Mans, "I really believe that I should have died of grief.. I loved my parents so much. But I did not cry at parting from them because Marie wept enough for both !" I said to myself : it is quite enough for one to cry like that, Father and Mother would be too sad if I wept too." Here already was a proof of fortitude in a child of seven.

"I remember particularly my first return to Alençon : it was for the New Year holiday, and a friend of my parents brought us back to the house. As soon as arrived at Rue du Pont Neuf, I could no longer hold back my happiness and emotion, my heart beat fit to break. Far away I saw lights of the Horlogerie, and I could not speak. In a moment I was going to rejoin my parents, throw myself into their arms, and receive their embrace after three months absence. which had seemed a century !"

 It was in 1932 that Mother Agnes recalled these memories. She had passed her seventieth year, and her soul, thirsting for eternity, uttered this cry :

 "Oh ! sweet and pure emotions of chilhood ! How surely they express those of my old age ! Here I am at the last turn of the road, and I see My Father's house. At last I am near the harbour ! What happiness, what rapture ! And it will no longer be to return to the school of exile after a few day's holiday. No, those times are nearing their end. It will be eternal life for ever with God, with our parents, with all heaven !"

 The first letter from the little schoolgirl shows that she undrstood already what she was to teach her saintly little sister later - that love proves itself in works.

    My dear Parents,

 "... I will always please you,... I am very happy to write you my fist letter as I know that it will give you pleasure. I love you with all my heart, that is why I will please you so much. I had the rosette this week. All my life I will please my parents.
 Your very obedient little daughter,
 Pauline Martin.'

 22nd November 1868.

 And they were not empty words, for her aunt, watching her niece closely, writes to Mme Martin on 22nd October : 'Pauline is a jewel of a child, gay as a bird, studious and doing her little best'.

She wrote in much the same strain to M. and Mme Guérin on 29th November. 'It is a pleasure to have that child. Everybody loves her, she is so affectionate and sweet. If God permits her to live she will be a happy mortal . . . just to see her makes me happy, she is so gay and has such dear little ways.'

 In 1874 she made her First Communion in the chapel of the Visitation. 'I think I made a very good First Communion, I was already thinking of becoming a religious.' And watching one of her young mistresses making her retreat for her profession she said to herself, 'Oh, how beautiful to become a religious ! When shall I make my retreat and become the spouse of Jesus ?' She thought of entering a convent of the Visitation.

After the month of October 1875, Pauline returned alone to the convent. It was then that the delightful correspondence started between Mme Martin and her daughter, in which all the tenderness of the mother for the child who so resembled her lies revealed. It is through these letters that we have numerous details about Thérèse, the youngest, who was already winning all hearts. The schoolgirl and the baby already loved each other with a special devotion. Many and many a time Thérèse was discovered watching at the window for the return of 'Little Pauline', or wanting to go to the station to wait for her. If she were asked : 'What are you thinking of ?' her almost invariable reply was : 'Pauline'. The mother's letters, so fresh and spontaneous, yet so profound, struck the mistresses too, and the child to whom they were addressed was not a little proud to hear one of the principal Mothers say : 'A letter from your mother, Pauline, I know of no other pupil who receives letters like hers'.

 Her holidays caused great joy in the Rue St Blaise at Alençon. 'The New Year is approaching with great strides, and I shall come and fetch you', wrote her mother on 3rd December 1876. . . Marie is looking forward to it so much; Thérèse has made her little preparations for when "Pauline will be here", to listen to her one would think that we shall be celebrating all the time ; perhaps we shall be able to have a rest at night, but I think she would prefer it if we did not go to bed.'

However, a great grief was about to overwhelm them. Mme Martin was fighting in vain against an incurable disease, and while preparing with wonderful resignation for death, she attempted to beg for a miracle in a pilgrimage to Lourdes. To support her prayers better she resolved to take her three elder children with her.

 'I count more on you than on the others', she confided to Pauline, 'I do not know why I have that idea.' But it was not to be, and the mother, feeling her beloved daughter overcome by the rebuff, tried to inspire her with courage. '. . . I want to know in what mood you are', she writes on 5th June 1877, 'and if you are still angry with the Blessed Virgin because she would not fill you with joy. She says to all as she said to Bernadette, "I will make you happy, not in this world but in the next". So do not hope for many joys on earth—you will have too many disappointments. As for me I know by experience what value to place on earthly joys, and if I did not hope for those of heaven I should be very unhappy.'

 Pauline quitted the Visitation on the 1st August, and on the 28th, Mme Martin left her family for her true home. A little while before, in a prophetic gesture, she appeared to have confided to her beloved second daughter the mission which was to be hers later towards her sisters and towards so many other souls confided to her motherly care.

 'One day', Pauline tells us, 'Mother was lying down and I was watching her in silence. She took my hands and kissing them said : "Poor little one, what holidays for you, and I was rejoicing so to have you all to myself. Oh, my Pauline, you are my treasure. I know well that you will be a nun, and that you will become a saint : I am not worthy to have a daughter like you, you are my glory and my happiness." '

 We know how on the evening of the burial of this admirable mother, Thérèse threw herself spontaneously into Pauline's arms crying, 'For me, Pauline will be mother !'—a spiritual motherhood, really willed by the Holy Spirit, and whose vigilant work was crowned by a masterpiece. All readers of the Story of a Soul know the gentle yet strong influence of the elder sister, and her delicate intuition in enlightening the supernatural and ever wakeful intelligence of her little daughter.

 Mère Agnès, on her side, has left her impression of her motherly role. 'I took charge of her beautiful little soul, of her first studies, and of everything to do with her. She has said how I brought her up. But I reproach myself for certain severities quite unnecessary for this little creature of heaven . . .'

 M. Martin gave his elder daughters full trust, to Marie in the material management of his house, and to Pauline in her task of educating her little sisters. And this authority, loving but firm, had great influence on her pupil. With the greatest joy Thérèse would climb to the belvedere to tell her father of some reward or good mark. 'Father, it was Pauline who said it first !' the highest sign of merit.

 Theirs was a quiet and serene family life, in which each one worked for the happiness of the rest.

 

II. The Call to Carmel

 

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus relates that, 'From the age of two she heard that Pauline would be a nun, and that from that time she said to herself : I will be a nun too'. No one showed any surprise therefore when M. Martin's perle fine on reaching her twentieth year wrote to the Visitation Nuns at Le Mans to know at what age she could be admitted. The reply was : between twenty- two and twenty-three.

 The young girl was waiting quite tranquilly for this time to arrive when an urgent grace came and suddenly changed her plans. This was on 16th February 1882, and she relates it thus :

 'I was at the 6 o'clock Mass at St Jacques, in the Chapel of Notre Dame du Mont Carmel with father and Marie. Suddenly a light flashed through my soul, and God showed me clearly that He did not wish me to go to the Visitation but to the Carmel ... I must say that the memory of a friend, predestined to die the preceding year, came to my mind. She must certainly have been praying for me. They had told me that she thought of entering the Carmel and would have taken the name of Agnes of Jesus. I remember that I felt myself blush with emotion, and in going up and returning from receiving communion I feared that this would be seen. I had never thought of the Carmel, and in one moment I found myself being impelled there with an irresistible attraction.

 As soon as we were back at Les Buissonnets I confided my secret to Marie. She only pointed out to me the austerity of the Carmel, saying that she doubted whether my health was strong enough to stand it. My father, to whom I went the same day, while he was on the belvedere, to make my request, said much the same thing to me; but I saw that in his heart he was very proud to find that I had this vocation. In the afternoon I met him mounting the stairs, and he seemed a little sad. "Do not think, my Pauline", said he, "that if I am happy to give you to God I shall not suffer in parting with you", and he embraced me with tender emotion. All his ways of speaking and acting were simple like his beautiful patriarchal soul.'

 This praise is a faithful echo of Pauline's feelings for her father. In the letters she wrote to him we have the same convincing proof. 'Oh, what happiness to have a father like you, what happiness and what an honour ! We will all become saints to reward your zeal and to thank God.' Or, 'Father, if you only knew how your little Pearl loves you. You will never know all that is in my heart for you till you are in heaven. If, as the good Curé d'Ars says, one must be in heaven in order to understand divine love, one must be in heaven also to understand filial love as I feel it. Farewell, our all here below after Jesus !'

 Once Pauline had made her decision she brought her untiring will to carrying it out. Having obtained the consent of her father and Marie, she spoke to her director, and then to M. and Mme Guérin without meeting any opposition. 'But, alas', she admitted later, 'I made our little Thérèse's deep and tender heart bleed by my silence. Had I but realized what suffering I was causing her, how differently I should have acted—I should have told her all ! But at nine years old she had a wisdom I could never have guessed. In any case I console myself to-day by thinking that my error served God's purpose. He showed it by the graces which followed.'

 At her first visit to the Carmel Pauline thought only to make a request to be presented to the Convent at Caen, for she imagined that there was no vacancy at Lisieux. But the Mother Prioress, Mother Mary Gonzaga, attracted doubtless by the charm of the 'aspirante' welcomed her kindly, and assured her that they would find her a cell in their convent. At the following 'parloir' they gave her the name of Agnes of Jesus.

 On the 2nd October 1882, led by her father, Marie and M. Guérin, Pauline crossed the threshold of the cloister. With delicate tact M. Delatroëtte, Superior of the Carmel, left the address to M. Ducellier, then the austere door closed on the 'first swallow'. This graceful simile is borrowed from St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who wrote to Mother Agnes on 9th January 1897 : '. . . You, the privileged one of our family, you who have shown us the way, like that little swallow one sees always at the head of his companions, tracing in the air the path which will lead them to their new home.'

 And indeed while exiling herself in the cloister and answering the divine call, the Carmelite continued her supernatural mission to her sisters. Her correspondence with Thérèse is the best illustration of this. The poor little Benjamin had all the more need of this comfort for she was suffering physically from the grief of this separation. The few moments special conversation, granted to her in the family 'parloirs' never gave her time to unburden her little broken heart, and we know that this suffering brought about the serious illness of 1883, which was miraculously cured by the Virgin of the Smile. We can guess the joy of the 'little mother', a novice now since the preceding April, when at the grille she heard the child tell of the miracle.

 The following year a grace of Providence united the two sisters souls in their self-oblation. On the 8th May 1884,s ister Agnes of Jesus pronounced her vows in the hands of the saintly foundress of the Carmel of Lisieux, Mother Geneviève of St Teresa, and little Thérèse received her first Communion in the Abbey.

'At the end of the afternoon', she says, 'I saw my little Thérèse in the parlour, with her veil as white as my own. She gazed at me with so profound and gentle a look. What a moment for us both ! I went out quite comforted, a little like the apostles when they descended from Mount Tabor : a heavenly atmosphere surrounded me. Oh, my God, if the sight of an earthly angel could so fortify me, what will it be to see in eternity the very fountain-head of goodness, from whence proceeds all the beauty of the saints !'

In the following years Sisters Agnes of Jesus was the counselor and best support of her little sister in the latter's attempts and struggles to enter the Carmel at fifteen. Writing to her during her journey to Rome, on l0th November 1887, she presses her strongly to present her request to the Holy Father, and concludes:

'Above all do not let yourself be disheartened by a first refusal : think of the perseverance of the Canaanite. If the Holy Father seems about to refuse, you reply : "Oh, Holy Father you cannot refuse me, you know that Jesus said : Suffer little children to come unto me."

 

III. She is Joined by Thérèse

 

At last on 9th April 1888, Thérèse saw the Convent door open before her. She rejoined there those who had watched over her childhood so tenderly, her sisters Marie and Pauline. But far from seeking consolation from this, she sought to make it a constant source of renunciation. Her vow to her 'little mother' should, however, be remembered : 'Oh, my mother, having always looked upon you as my ideal, I wished to be like you in all things'. She learned in silence. When helping Mother Agnes of Jesus in the refectory or in painting she denied herself all confidences, and this was a source of suffering to them both.

 We have referred to the artistic work of Mother Agnes. She had studied drawing at school, and had been found to possess great talent. From the beginning of her life as a religious her superiors made use of her talent in painting ornaments and miniatures, and even Portraits on parchment or ivory, and the sale of her pictures and other works helped the community to earn their daily bread. Gifted in all things, she wrote poems with ease, as charming in their supernatural inspiration as in their grace of expression.

 But her highest work of art was the 'exquisite miniature of holiness' (Pope Pius XI), to which she gave the final touches, thus perfecting the work of over eleven years.

 Having previously set her sister's feet in the path of littleness and humility, under the symbol of 'the play­thing of the Child Jesus', and 'grain of sand', she directed her shortly after her entry in the Carmel towards devotion to the Holy Face of Our Lord.

 'Up till that moment', declares Thérèse in her auto­biography, 'I had not sounded the depths of the treasures hidden in the Holy Face. It was my little mother who taught me to know it . . . She had penetrated the mysteries hidden in the Face of our Spouse first : then she discovered them to me, and I understood . . . Ah, I wished that like that of Jesus my face should be hidden from all eyes, and that no one on earth should recognize me. I thirsted for suffering and oblivion.'

 It is hardly to be wondered at that when meditating on the sublime words of these two souls, we should ask ourselves which is the master and which the disciple.

 Thérèse's clothing took place in January 1889, and on the day after, M. Martin fell ill. It was a time of great sadness for all, for what father was ever better loved by his children ?

 Let us listen to Mother Agnes, writing to her sister Céline, who climbed this bitter Calvary in the world.

'Jesus ! oh let us have only His Name and memory on our lips and in our hearts ! We taste heaven already when we love Him and accept His Cross . . . Suffering gives us the measure of His love for us, and in suffering we are assured of giving in return' (April 1889). And the same month : '. . . as a delicate flower burned by the heat of the sun begs for dew to refresh it, thus your soul rises gasping to the Heaven of Jesus' Heart. And what will descend from that Heart ? Oh, ineffable mystery ! Do not fear, little flower of Calvary, in the shadow of the Cross there is refreshment and peace. More, there is a flood of love. Stay there, steeped in the blood of Jesus. Does the water-lily complain of the clear and embracing waters ? Be the little water-lily of Jesus : as the waters of tribulation rise, rise with them ; rise, rise always . . . open your petals, fear nothing. No hand can touch you, for if there is a virgin land it is there, the 'and one reaches through suffering, the land which for an instant raises us to the level of Jesus' Heart.'

'I would wish to exile myself, to rise thus : and to tell you a little of what is in my soul, I confess that I should like to rise higher still, higher than the Heart of Jesus. Is not that daring ? And yet it is my desire. I would wish that the humble flower of my soul, carried on the waters of suffering, might reach the Face of Jesus, that He might assuage His thirst in the bedewed petals of my heart. It is good to go to the Heart of Jesus, for that Heart is an ever flowing fountain which gives and gives again ; but to rise higher, that is to give in return. To assuage the thirst of Jesus, that is sweet. Through our trials we may dry His tears, and even make Him smile. He expects it from us, it is His right . .

 'You are my torch !' cries Thérèse to her ‘little mother', and her other sisters were drawn onwards too by that strong and impelling light.

 

IV. Prioress

 

On the 20th February 1893 Sister Agnes of Jesus was elected Prioress for the first time. On hearing of it her invalid father murmured 'They could not have made a better choice'. Before her death Mother Geneviève had named the young Sister Agnes to Mother Mary Gonzaga as being competent to fulfill that duty in the future.

 The same evening Sister Thérèse opened her heart to the new Prioress. 'My beloved Mother, how sweet it is for me to give you this name ! For a long time you have been my mother, but it was in the secrecy of my heart that I gave that name to her who was at the same time my guardian angel and my sister. To-day God has consecrated you. You are truly my mother, and you will be for all eternity. What a happy day for your child !' Then foreseeing the misunderstandings and the probable sufferings in this motherhood of souls, she ends delight­fully : 'Little sister, beloved mother, my own heart, the heart of your child is a tiny lyre. When you are tired of playing on the harps you will take up your little lyre, and the moment you touch it the melodies you desire will come forth . . . one touch of your motherly fingers and she will understand, and her frail melody will mingle with the song of your heart . . .'

 And yet it was only in austere sacrifice that Thérèse could enjoy the comfort of her mother. The prioress made a rule of seeing each sister privately every month. But as she did not seek them herself and Thérèse never claimed her turn, often many months would pass before she had this intimate talk. Mother Agnes has admitted since that after one of these long intervals, having at length had a talk with Thérèse, she was astonished at the inner growth which had taken place in her soul. The fruit of the cross is hidden but fertile, and the saint could say later to her beloved mother with complete truth : 'Oh, mother, since your election I have been flying in the ways of love. During this first term as Prioress Mother Agnes had the joy of welcoming her sister Céline, on 14th September 1894, after the death of their father and of receiving her profession on 24th February 1896.

 But perhaps the most important act of this three years, owing to its quite unforeseen consequences, was the order she gave to Thérèse, at the urgent request of Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, to write the memories of her childhood for her sisters. This was in December 1894

 She obeyed with simplicity, and deposited her modest penny notebooks filled with truly inspired pages, on the of her Mother Prioress as a birthday present for the feast of St Agnes, 20th January 1896. As she was very much absorbed by the conclusion of her term of office, Mother Agnes did not open the precious manuscript until after the March elections. She was overcome with emotion at the treasure she possessed. The following year, seeing that her sister was near to death, she suggested to Mother Mary Gonzaga that Thérèse should be ordered to complete the account of her religious life, and thus were provided Chapters IX and X of the Story of a Soul.

 In view of the immense good that the publication of these pages would bring, in making better understood the Merciful Goodness of God, Mother Agnes confided her plan to the dying Saint. Thérèse then told her expressly: 'You must revise all I have written. If you think it well to take out or to add anything that I have said to you, it will be just as though I had done it myself. Remember that afterwards, and have no scruples on this account' (16th July 1897). And again on 1st August : 'After my death nothing must be said about my manuscript until it is published in agreement with our Mother. If you do otherwise the devil will lay more than one snare in order to spoil and prevent God's work ... a very important work.'

 Thus Mother Agnes was officially charged by the Saint with her posthumous mission. How well she fulfilled that mission the future was to show.

 In the latter stages of her illness Mother Mary Gonzaga left Mother Agnes complete freedom to tend her dying sister, and this fact has given us the invaluable collection of Thérèse's last words, gathered together each day by her 'little mother'.

 While she was tending the invalid on the 6th July 1897, Thérèse said to her : 'You have always acted thus with me ... I cannot express my gratitude'. And, drying her eyes, 'I weep because I am too touched by all you have done for me since my childhood. Oh, how much I owe you ! But when I am in Heaven I shall tell the truth, I shall say to the saints : It was my Little Mother who gave me all that pleases you in me.' And on l0th July : 'You are always there to console me . . . you fill my last days with sweetness'. On the 20th : 'You do not know how much I love you, and I will prove it to you'. On the 25th she declares as before : 'You are my light' ; and on the 29th : 'It was you who threw the seed of trust in my soul'. On 7th August she repeats how sweet her sister's presence is to her. 'I should like to have you with me always, you are my sun' ; and on the 10th : 'If you but knew all you are for me !'

 On the 18th of the same month she observes with her childlike wisdom : 'As they say that all souls are tempted by the devil at the moment of death, I, too, shall have to pass through it. But no, I am too small. With the very little ones he cannot . . .'

 Repeating these words many years afterwards to her sister, Mother Agnes added : 'Littleness, humility, the mind of a child, how lovely it is—it is everything'.

 Let us follow the thread to the last day. On 11 th September : 'Only in heaven will you know what you are to me. You are a harp, a song, even when you are silent.' And on 30th September,

the day of her blessed death, at the love and compassion her Little Mother was showing her the Saint murmured : 'And you . . . the consolations you have given me, they are very great !'

 In spite of this gentle assurance, how did the loving heart of Mother Agnes bear the anguish of separation ? She has defined it in the case of M. Martin.

 'We left him entirely in the hands of God. The children of martyrs left their parents thus in the arena, and the parents their own children. This thought was already restful and familiar to me. At the death of Thérèse I felt the same. Seeing that I had no means of alleviating the unspeakable sufferings that she endured during her long agony, I looked upon her as a true martyr in the arena, and assented in full to her immolation. This feeling, which could only have come to me from God, was a source of immense strength.'

 

V. She Begins Her Mission

 

Immediately after the death of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Mother Agnes started on her mission of publishing the manuscript of the Saint.

 The Carmel, desiring to obtain wise and authoritative advice, asked the Rev. Fr. Godefroid-Madelaine, Prior of the Prémontrés de Mondaye to supervise the publica­tion. He was swift to see the value of the work and immediately laid aside the blue pencil with which he was about to write his criticisms on the copy. On his intervention the Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, Mgr Hugonin, gave the Imprimatur on 7th March 1898.

 On the 30th of the September following, the first anniversary of the death of the Saint, an edition of 2,000 copies was published by the Imprimerie St Paul of Bar-le-duc. The first volumes were then sent in the form of a circular—customary after the death of a religious— to Carmelite Monasteries and convents. But the spark thus thrown soon burst into a flame. Requests poured in from all sides for this book, which through St Thérèse's message brought a new revelation of God's fatherly love for His creatures. Prayers were offered to the Angel of Lisieux, requests were received for her relics, and a stream of devotion spread through the entire world.

 Before this irresistible wave Mother Agnes of Jesus, who had again become Prioress in 1902, thought it her duty to draw the attention of her Bishop, Mgr Lemonnier, to the desirability of having the cause studied by the Church. But after a disappointing and mortifying reply, the matter was dropped. In May 1908 Mother Agnes completed her term of six years, and one of her greatly loved nuns, Mother Marie-Ange of the Child Jesus, took her place.

 The new Prioress, keenly alive to the great service she might be rendering, took upon herself, on the day of her election, to ask Mgr Lemonnier again if he would under­take the Process for the Beatification of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. This time the prelate agreed immediately, without any reservation—it was the hour ordained by Providence. Eighteen months later Mother Marie-Ange lay dying ; Mother Agnes succeeded her and retained her office till her own death.

 From that time she became an active co-operator in the lengthy studies which accompany all diocesan and apostolic processes. Her depositions were of first importance, and all recognized the essential part she played in bringing about the successful end. It was not achieved without difficulty. Many were the obstacles to be overcome, the steps to be taken ; but Mother Agnes's authority made itself felt in Roman circles, and gave her a very real prestige.

 'Sister Teresa lives on in her', remarked Cardinal Vico, Prefect of Rites, to Cardinal Mercier, 'the same thoughtfulness, the same devotion to God.'

 And it was entirely for love of God that she bore this heavy burden of work. Her prodigious activity covered all fields with incredible ease : editions of Theresian books ; numerous conferences with personages of the hierarchy ; correspondence with many prelates in Rome, Cardinals and even Popes, to say nothing of letters which reached her from all parts of the world.

 Then followed the successive triumphs : the Declara­tion of Heroic Virtue (14th August 1921) ; Beatification (29th April 1923) ; Canonization (17th May 1925).

 What were the intimate feelings of the 'Little Mother' of the 'greatest Saint of modern times', at these amazing glorifications ? We find them in her correspondence with her sister, the Visitandine, Sister Françoise Thérèse.

 'My little Sister,

 Let us prepare together our heavenly triumph. Let us be meek and humble on earth, and we shall one day see all heaven in a glory proportionate to our humility.'

 On the eve of the Beatification, 2nd April 1923, she says in a lighter tone :—

 'I am in a hurry to see the festivals ended, and God will not be angry with me for this. It is the real truth. They say I should be in a transport of joy, or ask if I am not proud of such glory ? When I hear that I look at people, or at their handwriting a second time, and the words do not even penetrate ! Au revoir, my little sister, I assure you that I am not sad, but rather very happy to work for the glory of God without the reward of a tangible joy—that I desire to taste in heaven alone.'

 And on 24th December 1924, comes this profound thought :

 'The Canonization will take place on 17th May. What great things we are seeing ! But for me the greater they are the more I love littleness, the more I repeat to myself the words of Jesus : "Learn of Me for I am meek and humble of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls". Oh, it is so true ! We shall never have a true or deep joy without humility !'

 Mother Agnes reveals herself here in that fundamental simplicity and humility which emanated from her whole person, and struck so forcibly those who came in contact with her.

Cardinal Touchet, when he came to pronounce the panegyric of the Beatified at the Cathedral of St Pierre of Lisieux, made a pilgrimage round the interior of the Convent, led by Mother Agnes. Afterwards he declared to a Canon : 'The festivals at Lisieux in honour of the Blessed Thérèse were splendid. How grateful I am to the  MOTHER AGNES OF JESUS.

Carmelites for the welcome they gave me ! Amid all the enthusiasm caused by the recent Beatification, the thing that struck me most was the attitude of the Mother Prioress. How self-possessed she is, how calm and simple she remains in the midst of all these religious mani­festations. She is a Prioress ordained by God for these hours—always so difficult for a community. What an impression she made on me !'

 But there was another side to the picture. It would be difficult to enumerate all the insidious campaigns opened against the moral and physical character of the Saint, and even against her doctrine. The good faith of Mother Agnes of Jesus was sometimes called in question, and she suffered unspeakably from these attacks. With indomitable energy she struggled to contradict the false accusations and to bring the full truth to light, and no praise can be too high for the courageous way in which she defended the heritage and the message which her saintly little sister had confided to her. Yet with quiet serenity she could write about these trials to her sisters, Marie and Celine. 'If I remembered all these crosses in detail, I should also have to remember in detail all our profound, inexpressible joys at the time of the Beati­fication and the Canonization of our little Thérèse, and other circumstances connected with her glory and her cult. Then we should see—with what tender gratitude ! how that in spite of our past trials, in spite of any we may yet have to face, the scales of God are weighed down for us, not in harshness, but with inexpressible graces and joys.'

 On 31st May 1923, at the end of his legation at Lisieux for the festivals of the Beatification, Cardinal Vico, delegated by the Holy Father Pius XI, named Mother Agnes of Jesus, Prioress for life of the Carmel of Lisieux. This was done in answer to a unanimous vote on the part of the community. The only one to show surprise was Mother Agnes herself ; but she accepted with  simplicity what had been represented to her as the Divine Will.

 When he returned to Rome the Cardinal wrote to a Carmelite, describing the impressions he had received:

 'You are right; the 31st May was an unforgettable day. The Blessed Thérèse must have smiled from heaven when she saw the spontaneous and enthusiastic desire of her Carmel to continue under the wise and gentle rule of her "little Mother". I rejoiced with all my heart. I can still see her kneeling as soon as she foresaw the conclusion heralded by the first results. The will of God had been clearly shown, and she had made her own one with it.'

 In the inner rule of the convent Mother Agnes of Jesus, her position strengthened by the trust her nuns had shown in her, continued her task on the same lines as in the past—suaviter et fortiter. No better motto could be found for her.

 

VI. Her Work for the Church

 

Outside the convent this continuity in her office permitted her to undertake and conduct many matters of great importance. She gave much help to the Order of Carmel, and the Carmelite Fathers as well as the religious had a filial devotion to her. Many Mother Prioresses came to her for advice.

 On many occasions the Holy See confided painful and apparently hopeless cases to the prayers of the Carmel for intercession with their powerful little Saint. The zeal of Mother Agnes of Jesus was directed actively and wisely to the obtaining of peace-bringing solutions which were welcomed in Rome with the greatest satisfaction. Deliverance, light and consolation were thus carried to many a soul in distress, earning an undying gratitude. Her diplomacy was made up of simplicity and a supernatural rectitude difficult to withstand.

 Many of these successful cases became known, and there followed an influx of requests to the Mother Prioress of Lisieux for her intervention in difficult matters, for it was known that, through her, access could be obtained to the Holy Father. The modesty and wisdom of Mother Agnes caused her to refuse her support to inexpedient requests, and she always refrained from acting without authorized encouragement.

 This discernment was highly appreciated at the Vatican and gained her the increasing esteem of the Popes. A highly qualified prelate was speaking one day to Pius XI on a controversial matter, passing on to him the opinion of the Mother Prioress of the Carmel of Lisieux.

 'Mother Agnes is right !' exclaimed the Holy Father emphatically, and he immediately gave his formal orders accordingly.

Each year he sent her one of the great decorated and blessed candles which were offered to him at Candlemas.

The confidence of His Holiness Pope Pius XII in Mother Agnes was equally complete, and of this he gave her many proofs, replying almost always in his own hand to her letters.

Manifestations of reverent affection reached her from all parts of the world. The 'Little Mother' of the 'Child beloved by the world' became the 'beloved little Mother' of all Thérèse friends. She felt herself unable to respond to so many requests, and each night, before going to sleep, she would look at a picture of the Holy Face, placed at the foot of her bed, and pray, 'Pay all debts', in quiet confidence that her prayer would be answered.

Not long before her death one of her nuns recalled the glorification of her little Thérèse, and the reflection of that glory which had surrounded Mother Agnes herself. She replied quickly, 'Oh, I was never vain about it', and it was the truth.

 

VII. Her Last Days

 On 8th May 1934 the Golden Anniversary of the profession of the Reverend Mother Agnes of Jesus was celebrated solemnly at the Carmel of Lisieux. It coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the first Communion of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Mother Agnes, who never lost a certain shyness before great personages, was very nervous beforehand of this com­memoration. But when the day arrived she overcame her fears, and shared in the gaiety of all around her. His Eminence Mgr Picaud spoke at the Mass describing to an enthusiastic congregation the merits and providential mission of Mother Agnes. For her these acts of grace could be summed up in the words of Psalm xv, 6. 'The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places, yea, I have a goodly heritage.' At the foot of a watercolor, showing him close to the Saint, Pius XI had written the words : 'Absens corpore, praesens spiritu, et ex corde benedicens'.

 Beneath her frail exterior the health of Mother Agnes remained good, and the sisters to their great edification saw her arrive the first at the early meditation, punctual at all the exercises of the community, even at the offices of Matins and Lauds which, as she confessed towards the end of her life, fatigued her greatly. At eighty-four years of age she attended them faithfully, and kept all fasts. Every morning and in all weathers she went to the end of the garden to observe the Stations of the Cross. It was one of the devotions dear to her heart, where her soul was poured forth in her favorite prayer, 'Meek and gentle Jesus, meek and gentle Mary'.

 Her great virtue was accompanied by that same charm, both natural and supernatural, which had earlier distinguished the little Pauline, and which she retained in extreme old age, right up to her death. To see her was to love her.

 Her Diamond Jubilee in May 1944 was overshadowed by the threat of imminent disaster. It was celebrated privately. The Holy Father's magnificent presentation on this occasion was the decree proclaiming Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus secondary patron of France, signed by him on 3rd May 1944. Unhappily tragic circumstances prevented the news from arriving at Lisieux until 12th June when a copy of the document was presented to Mother Agnes by a delegate of Cardinal Suhard. She was then in refuge in the crypt of the Basilica.

 Lisieux, alas, had undergone a terrible bombardment during the landing of the Allies on the coast of Normandy on 6th June, and the town had been three-parts destroyed. In the evening of the 7th, when fire was raging in the Rue du Carmel, the Superior of the Mission of France urged the Mother Prioress to leave the convent, now inevitably doomed, and to go up to the basilica with her nuns.

 Before so great a sacrifice Mother Agnes hesitated ; but as the decision was put before her as a duty, she acquiesced and on leaving the threshold of her cloister, that true shrine, she raised her hand in blessing.

 One can hardly imagine the agony of her soul at this moment—at eighty-three years of age, exiled from her Carmel and with the fear of seeing it destroyed. But, as always, a loving and generous surrender conquered her grief. Later, on several occasions, she confided her heroic prayer to others. 'Looking at the beautiful basilica, golden in the evening sun, I said to God : "I give it to You, do as You will with it ..." I said the same for the Carmel and the Chapel of the Shrine.' In her offering on the evening of the 7th she had added : 'My God, I even sacrifice my nuns to You if You wish it . . .'

 Our Lord heard this supreme offer and His powerful Hand turned aside the danger and saved all that Mother Agnes had been prepared to lose for His love.

 Three or four times during this exile of eighty days she descended the hill to the Carmel. All was calm and gay within a ring of devastation. The roses in the garden were in full bloom. As she looked on them her eyes filled with tears. 'I must cry when I see our little Carmel ; I love it so much'. And, perceiving how visibly it had been protected, she added : 'My heart is full of gratitude to God who has so clearly preserved us'.

 To be able to visit the basilica, and see it at close quarters had been a source of great comfort to her during her trial. Nevertheless, on 27th August she returned to the convent with joy. But the grace she had never dared to hope for of seeing the magnificent church raised to the glory of Thérèse was always a source of profound pleasure. The basilica was a ray of sunlight in her old age, and often she could be seen gazing at it through the trees of the convent garden, filled with gratitude at this divine response to the humility of the Saint.

In January 1949 Mother Agnes developed congestion of the lungs. This attack was stemmed at once, but it was thought wiser to move her to the infirmary which was heated, and to keep her there after her recovery, rather than let her return to her cold cell. She felt this, but no complaint passed her lips, and this remained her attitude before each renunciation which she was com­pelled to make afterwards. In the same year the pen dropped suddenly from her hand, an immense sacrifice for one who had used it so brilliantly. When she tried to sign her name her features would contract painfully as she saw the tiny letters so laboriously traced, and in such contrast to her striking and beautiful hand. But she only uttered one word : 'I offer it to God'.

 Her Ruby Anniversary, which took place on 8th May of that year, was celebrated privately in order to spare her emotion and fatigue. Then, little by little she was forced to give up her last activities ; she could no longer walk. At times she would appear thoughtful, and when questioned, replied 'I am wondering what new thing there will be to offer to-day' (meaning the loss of some power or capacity.) 'Are you sad ?' 'No, I surrender myself.' In her old age the little child shut her eyes and accepted completely the will of her Father.

 During the months of November and December 1950, her condition, already feeble, worsened, and Extreme Unction was given her. Her weakness might have brought about a rapid end, and she herself felt very close to the moment for which her soul had yearned for so many years. At certain times the anguish of death came over her and she would moan gently and pray with tears : 'My God, have pity on me I implore You !' Every morning Holy Communion was brought to her.

 Tended with marvelous devotion by both doctors and nuns, she recovered so unexpectedly that this was thought to be through the intervention of her little sister.

 A fresh honour was to be added to her career as Prioress, now in its fiftieth year. On 19th March the Carmelites of Lisieux, responding with enthusiasm to the invitation of the Holy Father, had the happiness of making their solemn vows at the hands of their beloved Mother, after she had first pronounced her own. Her mission was ended ; she already lived in another world.

 'How do you feel ?' they asked her.

'As one who is near heaven. Jesus is leaving me on earth for a little while, but it is as though I had already passed from it.'

 As soon as the spring came she was taken into the garden, then to the Oratory and to the hall of the community, where the sisters clustered happily around her. She seemed to be renewing her strength, when suddenly on 15th July a fresh attack of exhaustion came on. Many more centers of congestion manifested them­selves in her lungs, and in the night following she fell into a coma which continued for thirteen days, up to the moment of her death. From the 17th onwards Holy Unctions were given her again.

 

VIII. Her Death

 

On the feast of Mount Carmel the Holy Virgin sheltered her beneath her veil in a mysterious slumber, like that of a child sleeping in its mother's arms. In the afternoon of 28th July the breathing of the invalid became faster, her heart weakened, and all the com­munity were praying around her when suddenly awaken­ing from this long prostration, she pressed the hands of her nurses who held her own, cold and almost lifeless. Then her eyes opened in full consciousness. Greatly moved at this last awakening, the sisters suggested the invocation most dear to this humble soul. 'Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like Yours.' Mother Agnes of Jesus bent her head gently and gave a sign of acquiescence, a smile on her lips. Realizing that she was quite conscious, they told her that all her nuns and her dear Céline were around her. Immediately her gaze turned to Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face, and then embraced all the sisters. Ejaculatory prayers were con­tinued to the Sacred Heart, to the Virgin of the Smile, and to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, ending with this appeal, 'Little Thérèse, help me, come and fetch me ?' At the same moment the motherly eyes half-closed, she breathed her last sigh. Thérèse had come down to meet her 'Little Mother' !

 On 7th April 1897 Mother Agnes of Jesus had allowed fears of the 'passage of death' to escape her in the presence of her little sister, and Thérèse had replied tenderly : 'God will draw you up like a little drop of dew'. Remem­bering this Mother Agnes afterwards wrote : 'Our Lord tells us, through a prophet, that a sun of justice will rise for those who love Him, and healing will be in His rays. So the little drop of dew will not be destroyed, but only drawn up and made one with the sun of love, and healing will be in His rays ; that is to say that she will find herself drawn up and purified at the same time.'

 Was not this double prophecy realized ? Those who witnessed her death, so calm and simple, had clear assurance of this. The solemn obsequies took place on 1st August, presided over by Mgr Picaud, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, and in the presence of Mgr Pasquet, Bishop of Sées and Alençon—the diocese in which St Thérèse was born and in which Pauline Martin grew up—and of the Rev. Abbé de la Grande Trappe de Soligny, together with many other prelates. The two Provincials of the Déchaux Carmelites in France were present also, accom­panied by a great following of Carmelite religious and numbers of priests. In the front row of the crowd which overflowed the Chapel were the local civil authorities.

The Requiem Pontifical Mass was celebrated by Mgr Fallaize, Bishop of Thmuis, and afterwards Mgr Picaud gave an address.

 The bishops and some of the clergy entered the cloister for the three absolutions sung by the Carmelite Fathers, and given by the Rev. Father Provincial of Paris, Mgr Fallaize and Mgr Pasquet. Then the procession of Carmelite Fathers in their white habits carried the coffin to the entry of the vault nearby, under the shrine, where since 1940 Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart has rested.

 And here let us recall that vision of the future, confided by Thérèse to her little mother on 2nd August 1897. 'I shall soon be in the horror of the tomb ! And you will be there too one day, my little mother. And when I see you coming close to me my humiliated remains will tremble with joy.'

 The humiliated remains have become glorious in the golden shrine, and now on this morning of 1st August, she was laid to rest in their shadow to whom Thérèse had also said : 'I do not know what I shall do in heaven without you' (30th May 1897).

 A few seconds later the bell of the basilica tolled to announce the mourning of the Carmel, followed immediately by the majestic peal of the carillon, as though to salute a triumphal entry.

 The remains of Mother Agnes were exposed at the grille of the Choir of the religious from Sunday after­noon onwards, and during these days there was a constant procession of visitors, begging that rosaries, medals and other objects might touch the Little Mother, whose smile, radiant with a heavenly peace, touched all hearts. They came from other countries, too, to look on her, for the wireless had broadcast the news of her death at once, and the fame of Mother Agnes had, quite with­out her knowledge, spread far beyond the limits of her profession as Carmelite. Statesmen and persons of high rank in the political and intellectual world, without knowing her directly, were interested in her and, when astonishment was shown at this, frequently said : 'But Mother Agnes belongs to the whole world !' We were told of a Hindu, not a Catholic, and a very cultured professor at the Sorbonne, who showed great emotion on hearing of her death. For all she was a living link between earth and her little Thérèse.

Thousands of letters and telegrams were received by the Carmel of Lisieux. Amongst the latter we quote only that of the Holy Father, signed—a rare occurrence— by his own hand.

 Vatican City 31 st July 1951 'Having learnt with grief the news of the death of our very dear daughter, Agnes of Jesus, we commend to the divine mercy the soul of your venerated prioress, through the intercession of the Saint to whom she was both sister and mother, and we grant you, together with Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face, and all the religious, our Apostolic Blessing.'

 Pius PP XII                                

 

 

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