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Circular of Sr Marie of the Angels

Jeanne de Chaumontel (1845-1924)

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Peace and very humble greetings in Our Lord who during the morning of the Feast of our Father Saint John of the Cross called unto himself our honorable SISTER JEANNE, MARIE OF THE ANGELS AND OF THE SACRED HEART, former novice mistress of Blessed Therese of the Child Jesus, professed and doyenne of our Community. She was 79 years and 9 months old, and had spent 59 years and 26 days in religious life.

     Our dear Sister was born in Montpinçon in the diocese of Bayeux, February 24, 1845 and came from one of the oldest and most Christian families in Calvados, whose motto was, “Gentleness/sweetness and discretion” which would so completely be fulfilled by our venerable Doyenne.

     In her family, three sisters preceded her and a brother followed. With what affection she surrounded all of them! Really, she can be included among “the saints who love their family very much” as she shared with hers to a rare degree their joys and above all their pains. She could also repeat quite rightly that “in spite of appearances she suffered a lot here below.” We reminded her of this, as a remembrance to fortify her, during the speech given on the day of her golden anniversary.

     Mme de X…, her mother, promised before the birth of the child to offer her to God for religious life. Our good Sister Marie of the Angels said many times to us about this, “Oh, it’s really the lowness of his servant that the Lord always sees in me. I was certainly the most incompetent, the least enriched by these gifts and these charms that attract and that I saw shining in my sisters. This is not to say I was not loved the less for that, but the feeling of my inferiority penetrated me deeply since my childhood, and that has stayed very strongly until today.”

     Our little Jeanne who was nicknamed “Mimi”, was very lively and very nervous. During her childhood temper tantrums, she would grab hold of the banister of the stairs and yelled so loudly without stopping that her weary father decided to at least make her ashamed even if he couldn’t completely correct her.

     One day during a magic lantern show where friends were invited and the little girl was placed in the first row, they suddenly saw on the screen an angry little girl with her mouth wide open and shouting at the top of her lungs. The picture was announced like this: “Mimi…blaring”. The lesson was so effective that the child never relapsed to her bad behavior. The good God undertook to soften her personality through numerous mortifications that caused her to mature early and made her turn entirely toward Him.

     The thought of her first Communion kept her busy all the time and helped by a very pious teacher, she made many sacrifices and prayers to prepare herself. However, this day was without joy, without light for her and that evening, such a great sadness overcame her that she thought she had made a bad first Communion. All night long she cried. “Is it possible?” she said to herself. “This is the most beautiful day of life for so many little girls and me, it will always be “like a bitter memory!” Then her sobs doubled and she thought herself damned. She cried all night for four nights not daring to admit her trouble to the good village priest who would have consoled her. Finally, a religious visiting the parish listened to her and put her soul at ease.

     This was, alas, only a relative peace because during her entire adolescence from age 12 to 19, the young girl suffered continual interior pain about her confessions, scruples of every kind to which were added family ordeals which broke her heart. “It was the work of the good God,” she concluded, “this kind of martyrdom kept me from enjoying the sweetest and rightful joys and detached me from the world which with my ardent nature would have found so seductive it would have been impossible for me to resist. Fear of God and the thought of eternity were like a lifeline that kept me from foundering and forced me, so to speak, to practice virtue.”

     Around age 19, unable to take things any longer, she had the happy inspiration to give herself entirely to the Blessed Virgin, throwing herself into her arms, she rested completely on her motherly tenderness. Several days after this, a Franciscan from Caen, Reverend Father Bénigne, came to give a retreat in the parish of Beaville where Jeanne’s parents lived at that time. “He was my angel, my good Samaritan, our dear sister used to like to tell us. He was the one who poured the oil and wine of confidence on my unhappy soul and three years later guided by his wise counsels I entered Carmel.”

     She had many struggles, my Reverend Mother, to tear herself away from her beloved family. Sometimes during pleasant gatherings, she left in distress and prayed on her knees to Our Lord to strengthen her courage for the hour of the great sacrifice. “It was beyond my strength to announce my vocation to my parents,” she confessed to us.

     Speaking to the Holy Virgin, this was the prayer she made to her: “If you want me to leave my family, take me by the shoulders and push me to Carmel because on my own, I would never have the courage to say the slightest word or to make the least step forward.” And the Virgin Mary, so compassionate, took pity on her weakness. The elder sister of our poor child took charge of the dreaded step. At that moment, several Carmelites from Lisieux, going through Caen to found the Carmel of Coutances so Madame de X was asked to come with her daughter Jeanne to the parlor of Sainte-Paix (monastery of the Capuchins) and there before the Reverend Father Bénigne, friend of the family, and the Mother Prioress of Lisieux, everything was taken care of. Even the day of her departure was decided.

     “I gave that child to God before she was born,” said her mother weeping. ” I didn’t know he would take me at my word.”   “It took a force from above to leave my father’s house,” our dear Sister told us more than once. At the time of climbing into the carriage, I embraced my brother last and at the same time I saw a big nebulous cross hanging over the property; it stretched above the grove on the right, adjacent to the outbuildings and ended towards the house. It was only later that I understood the meaning of that mysterious cross and that memory sustained and consoled me often.”

   The young candidate, brought by her sister, entered our Carmel on October 29th, 1866, at the age of 21. She was received by Reverend Mother Marie-Baptiste, later the founder of the Carmel of Caen, who surrounded her with affection and motherly gestures. “Seeing myself so nicely welcomed and so loved, “Sister Marie des Anges, “I became wildly attached, alas, to that good Mother! Me, who had watched over my heart with extreme vigilance in the world and at the cost of so many sacrifices! O my God, “she sighed again in the evening of her life, “what infidelities, with what ingratitude did I not make myself guilty toward you! I paid for all of that with bitter remorse, mixed with lights because, it’s true, that in discovering my wretchedness, I understood I was capable of anything, even the worst things without grace and I became more humble.

     My companion in the noviciate whom I saw was also very loved by Our Mother, became for me a subject of terrible jealousy. One day when I saw them together, my suffering became dreadful. But at the same time I was struck down by an interior word that was so clear that I can’t forget it, “You are making me suffer even more.” I wonder how I didn’t fall over dead then, these words were so piercing. I can’t even think of it without an immense gratitude being rekindled in my heart.    “But that natural affection, even though overcome, caused, as a consequence extreme harm to my soul; it was for my soul as trees budding in spring, hail, springtime showers that strew the earth with flowers. It took me years to heal that wound.”

     So drawn by the love of Our Lord, the dear postulant took the Holy Habit of Carmel on March 19th, 1867. She took this first step in anguish in spite of her decision not to go backwards and to make as many sacrifices as possible to become a good religious. Until her Profession, she still suffered very much but our holy Mother Geneviève, her novice mistress, strengthened and encouraged her during ordeals.

     The retreat which preceded her total self offering was spent entirely in distress. And what was the astonishment of the Community when she had placed her hands in those of the Prioress, exactly at the moment she was to say her vows, not a word passed her lips and the silence continued. It was disturbing. It was the devil’s last attack, jealous of the beauty of this soul and the glory it would give to God through so many years of faithfulness and love.

     “I felt like an iron hand was squeezing my teeth shut with violence. I needed an unprecedented strength to finally open my mouth and only through prayer was this granted me. I tremble yet at the thought of that moment. When I prostrated myself, peace entered my soul. It was March 25th 1868, the day of the feast of the Annunciation. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed and when coming down from the chapter room and entering the choir, I experienced the sweet joy of being completely given to the good God.”

     That evening, kneeling before the altar of the Blessed Virgin after Compline and laying her crown there where almost 23 years later our little saint would also place hers, this new spouse of Jesus did not feel the conviction that “soon she would fly to heaven” but a profound conviction to the contrary that a “long road lay ahead for her to travel”. She trembled at the perspective of new battles. Our Lord then reassured her; it seemed that she heard in the bottom of her heart these gentle words, “You are no longer alone, I am your Spouse, you may rely on me.”

     After having told us these private facts, Reverend Mother, and with a tone difficult to render, our venerable Doyenne recently added this in a charming way,” Do you see, Mother, when I think of the help Our Lord promised me that day, the memory of this little story from childhood comes to mind: Msgr. Robin, bishop of Bayeux who came to dine with my parents, drew attention to me in the living room as the smallest girl, I was hardly 9 years old. When we went into the dining room, he said to me in a serious voice, “My little child, give me your arm and let’s go in together.” Quite intimidated, I put my little hand on his big arm and we made our entrance to the applause of all the guests.

     Well, my Mother, this is the image of what the good God has done for me: “He looked upon my littleness and supported by him throughout the long passage of my existence, I will finally enter into the joy of all the elect, in the Room of the eternal feast.”

     The novice took the veil on the following June 26th and it was her first feast without clouds. Her heart was in a joyful mood, she felt that her ordeals had been graces. She told us, “I would have willingly repeated with Job: Who would render me this service but the Lord, having begun to destroy me, finished by making me dust?” “These words really struck me and they still make an impression on me in old age, where I see they are still happening to me.”

     Our very virtuous Sister Marie of the Angels performed great works in the various positions in the convent. She was very skilled, for sewing as well as other works of art; the sacristy has beautiful linens embroidered perfectly by her. But when she entered it wasn’t a question of embroidery. She was given the job of assisting the first infirmarian. Each morning, no matter what the weather, this delicate young girl who was used to being served went to wash the sheets of a poor ailing sister. For her entire life until the last years when she was reduced to powerlessness, we found her among the first. In jobs where she had more contact with the Sisters, she showed herself to be good hearted, all goodness, and tried to make herself agreeable to them, to help them even at her own expense. She would have given everything to oblige, to give pleasure. In some instances she went overboard and was almost jaunty. She was also perhaps lacking in insight.

     These small imperfections together with a distracted mind bothered her somewhat in carrying out her duties of Sub-Prioress and Novice Mistress that she fulfilled for 16 years. However, this dear Sister remained the constant edification of the convent by her piety, her abnegation, her community spirit and her heart which was so delicate and so sensitive that it made her cherish all the Sisters and to take part, in a large measure of their pains as well as their joys. Blessed Thérèse of the Child Jesus had noticed these virtues and these great qualities when she considered her Novice Mistress “a real saint, the accomplished kind like the first Carmelites.” However, these lacunae of which our beloved Sister was aware, were for her a continual source of praiseworthy humiliations.

     During the Divine Offices she chanted in a good voice, strong and in tune, but often dragged behind without noticing it on the final words of the verses such that the last syllable fell alone in silence. With the psalm Benedicite from Lauds it stood out more because the word Domino was repeated and almost every night we had to warn her at that moment. She met us with an expression so humble that we were moved. “Thank you, my Mother,” she said to us, “I’m going to pay more attention.”

     “I am annoying for everyone,” she said in later times. ”Ah! I wanted so much at least to be humble enough to not be pained by my inferiority, my littleness in all things and in spite of myself, I’m sometimes anxious.”

     Dear Sister, how much her soul soared without her knowing it, within that littleness. How much she was great before God! She loved each member of her family, as we told you, my Reverend Mother, with an inexpressible tenderness and strength. But the ordeals of her relatives touched her to the point of preoccupying her too much, which happened from time to time. We did not fear to warn her about it and what edification for us to see this venerable elder with whom we finished our noviciate, receive our observations with the sincerest and most complete humility, to comply with them, to ask us not to spare her, to always tell her the truth. Often then after these painful moments she would take our hands and squeeze them with a touching affection. The expression on her face then was really that of a saint; our “Little Thérèse” had not spoken in vain.

     We had kept several notes from this true religious, such as these that reveal in depth the sentiments of her heart, so naively and so profoundly humble:

March 30, 1919

     “O, my Mother, how I thank you for having made me understand my faults. I only love you more for it but I see with my susceptible temperament, I will never be able to correct myself completely. I take consolation that Our Lord said to Saint Gertrude that he left faults in souls for their sanctification, to humble them. I think this is my case and that I will have to die with my wretchedness. I will do all to correct myself but if I fall again, you will lift me up, won’t you, my Mother? I am your “very little one.”

March 8, 1920

   …”So, I believe that you are holding your old dove whose departure seems to be coming, so that you are going to develop, even if late, its poor wings. Shouldn’t it take flight earnestly toward the Heart of Jesus in whose depths it wants to hide itself forever? We accomplished some good work this morning and we will continue this the next time; you will have to put me inside out or rather I will let you pluck my feathers if you deem it necessary. I see lots of things yet to correct, I will say that. Lastly, my dear Mother, I abandon myself to you as to Jesus himself, do what HE inspires you to do and know that my tenderness for you will only grow.”

     We wanted to have you know the novice mistress of our Blessed before knowing her as that, Reverend Mother. When Thérèse entered the convent on April 9th, 1888, Sister Marie of the Angels had already been Sub-Prioress a first time having Mother Geneviève of Saint Thérèse as Prioress from 1883 to 1886…It was in October of this last year that she was assigned to the Noviciate and kept this position until February 1893. Renamed Sub-Prioress, then re-elected after three years, she turned over her flock to Mother Marie de Gonzague and took it back after the death of our Angel. During the office of Sub-Prioress that she held another seven years, four different Prioresses were at her side. And in this position what respect for authority, what obedience, what deference did she not always show toward those who had even been her novices such as Mother Marie-Angel and ourself!

     As our Blessed speaks of it in her life, Sister Marie of the Angels was also in charge of her in the linen room and taught her how to work there. But at the same time she wanted to initiate her in the work of interior perfection and believing she was doing good, she spoke almost continually of God. These instructions did not correspond with the child’s attraction for silence. She also confessed in her manuscript “Her soul did not expand” and the poor holy Mistress didn’t know the reason.

     Much later however, on September 2, 1897, our Thérèse told us privately, “It was perhaps two years after I was here when the good God stopped my ordeal and I could open my soul to Sister Marie of the Angels who since then comforted me a lot.”

     Yes, Reverend Mother, this dear Sister comforted her and was also comforted very often. She felt called indeed to speak of her own trials and received light and peace from this. These were two saints who encouraged each other mutually to valiantly bear the battles of the Lord and to sacrifice themselves entirely to save souls.

   Here is the testimony, in two words, included in the Beatification Process: “With exquisite charity Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus comforted me, during many difficulties that I encountered and that she sensed were so painful for me.” The humble Mistress did not fear either telling the little novice about the weaknesses in the beginning of her religious life in order to further encourage her to flee the danger of affection that was too human.

     You are expecting, undoubtedly, Reverend Mother, for the occasion of the circular several little unknown stories about the life of our Blessed but the pages that could be revealed on earth are very few; the entire Process itself is only a single and tiny page. “My name is written in heaven!” exclaimed Thérèse as a child. She could have later said “I am writing all my life in heaven…”

     Here are several remembrances nevertheless, some transmitted to us by our dear Sister Marie of the Angels, the others she deposed during the Process.

     We read in STORY OF A SOUL:”One day I surprised our Mistress by telling her “ I am suffering a lot but I feel that I can suffer still more.” These words remained very present in the memory of the happy Mistress who many times reminded us, her heart touched, of the slightest circumstances about the moment these words were spoken.”

     “It was an evening during the postulancy of my Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Toward the end of the silence I entered her cell to try to console her a little for I knew she was really suffering. She was getting ready for bed, I found her in a long night shirt, her hair down and falling about her shoulders. She sat next to me on her straw mattress. All of a sudden seeing her so calm and so beautiful, I had the impression I was speaking to a saint, I gazed upon her with respect. Through the window fell a ray of moonlight that lit her face and she made me think of the Virgins in Heaven that followed the Spotless Lamb everywhere. At last I gave her some encouragement to which she answered with the words we know.”

     Another time, during a little feast of Christmas, the novices had performed “The Dream of the Infant Jesus” [a short play written by Agnes of Jesus], Thérèse played the role of the Blessed Virgin and held the Divine Child on her knees. Sister Marie of the Angels was spellbound, “Isn’t she ideal and heavenly!” she said in a low voice. And then, “We’ve seen the face of the Blessed Virgin!” It’s true the impression was unanimous, so much so that after the death of the Servant of God, the Community never again consented to view the scene nor could they accept contemplating the Holy Virgin in any other face.

     But another detail rendered the memory of this pious recreation particularly dear. Toward the end an angel approached Mary, sang her several stanzas to console her about the painful dream of the Child Jesus and its canticle ended with these lines that seemed today to have a prophetic significance:

                                         .......there is a family
                                        That I introduce to the King of Heaven
                                         In the future, see how it shines
                                         Dream, Child, of the Carmel of Lisieux!...

   A thought of compassion was given by our good Sister during the “retreat of graces” of her Novice in 1891 because the Mother Prioress did not permit the poor child a single supererogatory interview with the preacher. “I can’t remember that without having a heavy heart,” she said. Our little saint was second sacristan then and she heard the religious coming and going between the sacristy and outside, reciting his breviary after having told the first sacristan that he was at the disposition of the Sisters. Oh! She was heroic in patience and silence during that retreat and I suffered a lot to not be able to see her profit as much as possible.”

     This leads us to cite a passage from the Deposition of Sister Marie of the Angels: “ The strength of the Servant of God was in silence… She worked in silence, she prayed in silence, she suffered in it. In the ordeals of her life, as Our Lord during his Passion, she was silent. Was she not taught that a soul without silence is a city without defense, and that “He who keeps silence, keeps his soul.” We find in her Deposition the story of the little broken vase, the novice’s temptation confided and vanquished on the evening before September 8th, 1890.

     And foremost the impression the Mistress had when she saw child Thérèse for the first time in the parlor/speakroom. “She was an angel from heaven rather than a little girl of the earth.” Later on the day of her entrance among us, she noticed “at the same time a kind of majesty and simplicity in her entire being” and this memory which was shared by all who were present, remained etched in the memory of our dear Sister until the end.

     She deposed in the same way at the Process regarding personal favors obtained and that we find in more detail in a notebook where numerous pages are entitled “Smiles from my little Thérèse.” These were perfumes of roses and violets given off by relics she was preparing, a portrait that came to life and smiled at her twice, singing that she heard. These graces that were memorable, it is true, were also very rare.

     She told at length the story of the rhododendron which came from her dear forest of Montpinçon to bloom in the inner courtyard of the Carmel. It was drying up and almost dead; they wanted to pull it up and throw it in the fire. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus already ill, was present during the debate and took the defense of the bush because of seeing Mother Sub-Prioress saddened. “You’re causing this poor Mother sadness, leave it, she said. I am the one who is going to die but the plant will come back to life.” For 27 years, the rhododendron gave each spring flowers in abundance. Only this year has it begun to fade away.

     “After the Servant of God’s death of love, she was very beautiful without a doubt, even though it didn’t resemble her when she was exposed through the grill of the Choir. But this beauty was very pale compared to the extraordinary light shining from her at the removal of the body through the door of the infirmary. I was struck by it and wondered if she was really dead. She appeared so alive that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her smile at her Little Jesus passing in front of his statue at the corner of the cloister. She had the air of a martyred Virgin stretched upon her reliquary rather than a poor Carmelite in her coffin.”

     Coming back to the death of Thérèse in these documentary pages, she called this enthusiastically “the explosion in heaven of the love that consumed her heart here below” and compared the shower of roses to “flaming bouquets that are spread upon the earth to revive love in the heart of the Church at a time when it is so cold.”  We read later on, “I didn’t know she had written her life. When I read it, I was in admiration of it.”

     Sometime later during my retreat, I took this book to study it and one day when closing it, delighted that I had read it, I said to myself pensively, “And I knew her! And her sisters are still among us! And she is working miracles!...”How this is extraordinary! However I couldn’t help but doubt….Then I had the inspiration to open the Holy Gospel and my eyes fell upon this passage: ”Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given to him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary? And are his sisters not here among us?”

     She cited these words meaningfully: “Really, it is only in hell that she isn’t loved or imitated. I don’t hesitate to say that in hell she makes the devils rage and fall into despair.”

     And her testimony ended like this: “The best comparison I could make about the Servant of God is to a mustard seed in the Gospel, the smallest seed that when it grows is the biggest among plants and grows like a tree. Birds come to perch on its branches. It’s like that for me with the Servant of God when I consider her virtues, like for all eyes that look at the stars of the firmament; the more one looks at it, the more one discovers. Well, the more that I contemplate the soul of Thérése, the more I discover her virtues and proclaim her a saint.”

     The portrait of our dear Doyenne, my Reverend Mother, would be incomplete if we didn’t speak a little of her courage in serious situations and also of her distractions. Several stories relevant to this will certainly make you smile and others will edify you.

     One day Sister Marie of the Angels admired the composure of her holy Novice at the beginning of a fire who was only imitating the intrepid Mistress that nothing frightened. A container of gas had caught fire in the work area of the lamps; our courageous Sister slipped into the little room that was filled with flames. She was soon surrounded by them. Invoking the Blessed Virgin, she soon extinguished the fire but not without burning them in such a way she had to wear bandages very painfully for weeks to heal.

     One night after Matins, we heard noise on the first floor of the sacristy which was isolated from the dormitories. No one dared to go to bed or go up. Sister Marie of the Angels went to explore everything without the least fear. Permit us, my Reverend Mother, to copy the story of the event from our archives, despite the length and the details that could take us away from our subject. Here is Mother Geneviève of Saint Thérèse speaking:

     “In 1875 Mother Prioress (Mother Marie de Gonzague) obtained permission to raise the cloister wall that borders the path of the Carmelites on the near side; regularity required this expense. This is why, counting on divine providence, she took on this venture for the sum of 3000 francs. While the wall was going up, a catastrophe happened that nearly wiped it out.

     On July 7th at one in the afternoon, a terrible storm happened with a torrential downpour and continual deafening thunder. The storm lasted until 8 o’clock in the evening. At this time, a deluge of unprecedented violence descended upon the valley between Bernay and Lisieux. As only fifteen days before all of France was touched by the disaster of flooding in Toulouse and the neighboring areas, the Lexovians in the presence of the same kind of disaster were horrified. The Carmel was located at the entrance of the village, next to the side where the cyclone raged and was inundated by the torrent in less than fifteen minutes. Sisters who ventured out as far as the poultry yard and even the laundry area which was closer to carry in the washing destined to be done the next day, almost perished and had to abandon everything. The terrified turn sisters begged us to let them enter and there was no other way to do this than to get the grill free in a parlor on the first floor. They had to go through knee deep water descending to the ground floor where they had to take the stairs to get up to the infirmary. The chapel was already flooded so my Sister Marie of the Angels (young professed at the time) asked to go through the little communion grill to save the Blessed Sacrament. Being very thin, she was the only one who could do it although it was perilous and difficult. Mother Prioress gave her permission; she succeeded in slipping through the tight space and trembling, took the Holy Ciborium from the Tabernacle. Mother Sub-Prioress who was sacristan took it in her hands and carried it to the Altar of the gallery accompanied by two sisters holding candles. The Community gathered there and remained there in prayer all night.

     Elsewhere, the sisters who kept watch noticed that the strength of the water had suddenly forced open the big workers’ gate. Mother Prioress who wanted to safeguard the cloister, attempted with another sister to close it but the water had reached the height of 6 feet and continued its onrush with a terrifying noise. They were obliged to leave. Faced with impending danger that threatened the convent, the Mother Prioress made a vow in the presence of the Community who prayed with their arms in a cross in front of the Blessed Sacrament, to have 15 Masses celebrated for the souls in Purgatory. She promised additionally a novena of communions and fasts, several of which were bread and water. It was at this time 11 o’clock in the evening. The flood had been raging for two hours. But as soon as the vow was made the promise of divine goodness was realized: “Ask and you will receive.” It was like a barrier that the scourge respected and by four o’clock in the morning, the water had completely withdrawn.

     The danger having passed, a new deathly worry come over the soul of the poor Mother Prioress; she imagined that the permission she gave to remove the Blessed Sacrament from the Tabernacle made her very guilty. Sister Marie of the Angels was not less unhappy.

     At last, around 6 o’clock our Father Superior arrived who far from blaming her, on the contrary hastened to console her and praise their actions. He saw with astonishment all the damage done in several hours to the convent; the paving stones of the cloister and refectory heaved up, the entire ground floor filled with foul sludge and the garden destroyed.

     The city obtained some help for us and Madame de Mac Mahon gave 1000 francs [she was then the First Lady, spouse of Patrice de Mac Mahon, president from 1873 to 1879]. The alms that the community received paid for the cloister wall and the repairs. Alas, the following year it was necessary to start over because the oily sludge that had covered the buildings left dampness that a second paving was unable to overcome.

     During the flood, the Lord kept watch over the convent by permitting a big sawhorse to be violently pushed by the water toward the big open gate, closing the double door just like that so that not only were we in safety from people outside but also all the laundry tubs, the wood and the linens as well as all sorts of utensils that floated in the current found themselves blocked by the door and couldn’t escape. “O Providence! You are admirable in the smallest things, you deserve all our gratitude.”

It was not always under such serious circumstances that our dear Sister distinguished herself…One day she faced a very unusual battle of which Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was a witness and caused to her laugh until she cried. It was July 14th. During the quiet afternoon, what a surprise in the reclusive Carmel to see in the midst of the inner courtyard a big human shaped balloon looking like frightful midget coming down. It was dressed in a flesh colored suit that was so tight that it appeared to be nude. A little deflated, it slid the length of the archways of the cloister. Sister Marie of the Angels was passing by and noticed it, thinking it was some kind of spell…Driven by a holy anger, she armed herself with a stick and struck it with intensity. But the hideous figure seemed to mock her and answered with deep bows and a calm smile that she deemed satanic. She cried, “Throw holy water on it!”

     Shortly afterward, someone rang the bell outside the convent turn, asking if a balloon that had escaped from the town square hadn’t come down in the Carmel. The doorkeeper coped with this as best as she could, without lying or mentioning the theatrics that had just taken place!

     We were telling you, my Reverend Mother, that our dear Sister was as distracted as she was brave. One day we were doing our annual procession in honor of the Child Jesus with candles in hand when we noticed our good Doyenne somewhat behind the community who held with great devotion her stick in the air, believing she had taken a candle! This tendency of distraction had the advantage more than one time of making our Blessed practice virtue.

     Here is an example. Sister Marie of the Angels had requested that she notify her each time she had a stomach ache. The poor postulant who had difficulty adjusting to the food in Carmel, came courageously every day, her face blushing, to say that she was sick to her stomach! The Mistress quickly forgot the order she gave and found strange—her novice saw that—this daily confession that lasted a long time because Thérèse, remembering the order, didn’t want to lose such a beautiful rose of obedience and humility that she could pluck to place under the feet of the Infant Jesus each day.

     For her part, she who was the cause of an occasion with so much merit, plucked a lot herself undoubtedly through humiliations she inevitably attracted through absent-mindedness. She told us she noticed and always recited with fervor this verse from Tierce: “Bonum mihi quia humiliasti me.-It is good, Lord that you have humbled me.-“

     It often happened that the good Mistress after having lost her pencil or pen, or having no more paper, went anytime to get supplies from her Novice. If she was present, with a little act of patience and charity, all went well, but in her absence it was more delicate. Indeed, after an order from Mother Prioress, Thérèse was not supposed to show anyone but herself the correspondence with Reverend Father Pichon. Now, Sister Marie of the Angels noticed in the writing desk a letter she had begun or another coming from Canada. The result, one can imagine, was despite her great discretion, embarrassment and upset for both of them.

     We’re going to speak now, Reverend Mother, of the deep piety of our fervent Sister. Words of the Holy Scripture fed it. She absorbed them and remembered them. She loved vocal prayer; we always found her with the rosary in her hand. She read and reread works by certain mystical authors, knowing particularly the revelations of Saint Gertrude and knew by heart long prayers about the merits of Our Lord that she repeated during Mass. If need be, she composed prayers according to circumstances, such as this one near the end of the war:

           “O Jesus, if your justice cannot pardon us, please give the glory to your mercy.
           Through my Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus perform for the salvation of France and the entire world a miracle of your merciful love that renews the face of the earth and places sinners at your feet.

           “May your justice and your mercy meet and be set ablaze. May a peace treaty finally be signed and victory be brought about through your infinite mercy.”

     She versified easily. For the feasts of her Mother Prioresses, she composed couplets full of refinement that were flowing with exquisite sentiments from her affectionate heart.

     We find her pious canticles of which here are several snippets:

                                                         To Jesus in the Tabernacle
                                                         Jesus is in there, his manner inviting
                                                         Like the happy blind man in the Gospel
                                                         I can here write with faith:
                                                         “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
                                                         This is Jesus of the Canaanite,
                                                         The Master loved by Saint Magdalene,
                                                         Alternately compassionate, severe,
                                                         To test and strengthen my love.
                                                         IN FRONT OF THE CRIB
                                                         He is so little! However, allow him
                                                         On the path, He knows how to guide you,
                                                         To destroy in you that which displeases him,
                                                         As Sovereign, as Master, to rule.
                                                         Jesus causes his strength to shine in your weakness,
                                                         His infinite power in your powerless being,
                                                         His greatness, his goodness, his splendor, his richness,
                                                         In your infirmity, in your poor nothingness.

     Yet, our respected Sister who was a little fearful and faint-hearted, called with all her vows for a sparkling and soothing light in her spiritual life, a “grace-filled retreat”, she said, to be simplified, to be rid of troublesome scruples and to sail, her too, on an ocean of absolute confidence in God. She was answered in 1913 when the Reverend Father Foch from the Company of Jesus preached our spiritual exercises.

     In a surge of gratitude, she wrote to her little pupil of yore, who was now her great protector above.

December 12, 1913.

MY BELOVED LITTLE THERESE,

     “After having prayed, begged the good God, that this retreat be to my soul as “the one of Reverend Father Alexis’ was to yours” my prayer has truly been answered, I come to tell you with all the gratitude of my heart.

     “To me, as to you, peace and joy have been given and I can fly toward the good God on the wings of confidence and love.

     “It has been said to me: ”The kingdom of God is near your soul, live in peace, sing with joy MAGNIFICAT! ALLELULIA! HAEC DIES, here is the day the Lord has made!” My dear little Thérèse, these words that are so magnificent, full of joy, seem a dream to me! Is it possible they were said to me? I am overwhelmed by the weight of such a grace, such a smile from the Lord.

     “Oh! Now I will give I will give you my works, my joys, my suffering, each word of the Divine Office, my prayers, all. In a word, doing all from love, for love, and thus, everything in me will bring you roses to delight the Heart of Jesus, when you scatter them on earth to reach many souls and save them.”

     Until the end of her life, the influence of that retreat remained a luminous beacon that she never completely lost sight of, in spite of the attempts by the spirit of darkness who sought from time to time to cast a shadow over her. Several years later, the grace of her Jubilee happily revived the flame in her. This feast of April 9th, 1918, the anniversary into Carmel of our Blessed Thérèse, was truly beautiful and complete. Surrounded by a large and dear family, gratified by the blessing of His Holiness Benedict XV, in the presence of Mgsr. Lemonnier, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, our beloved jubilarian received the flowered staff and crown of roses from his Excellence. She then renewed her vows with fervor in her soul, with a firm and vibrant voice that all could hear.

     The evening before, Monsignor had written these lines to her that she meditated upon with delight: “Our Lord said one day to his Apostles, “I have been with you a long time and you still don’t know me!” You, my daughter, you will say to Jesus:” You’ve been with me a long time and I have the happiness of knowing you. Yes, I know that you are goodness, that you have shown me this all the days of my life, above all in Carmel…You are reparation and your heart will offer to your Father that which my past made necessary because of my weakness. I know you, you are love and you will love my soul here below until the end of my earthly existence. You will love it eternally in Heaven.”

   A very dear relative, the Reverend Father de Chaumontel, assistant general of the Priests of Our Lady of Zion, gave a touching address which particularly caught the attention of the heroine of the day: “Did not the cross being the work of God in you and it is that which will finish it in you? How many times have you not said with Saint Francis de Sales, “I see before me crosses of many kinds. I greet you, large and small crosses, interior and exterior, spiritual and temporal, I greet and kiss your foot, unworthy as I am of the honor of your shadow.”

     Anyway, the Community celebrated the Novice Mistress of Thérèse with joy and pious love. How many times she was reminded of that title that day! Other Carmels who knew her from her correspondence that was so religious and delicately fraternal—especially dear Poitiers which was a birthplace to Lisieux—had competed with affectionate zeal to delight her. Seeing so many pious and beautiful things before her, she didn’t know which to look at and her heart overflowed with gratitude.

     The next evening, she thoroughly enjoyed a recreation entitled “La Nielle des Blés” (Flower of the fields) or “The Mission of Therese on earth” and told us since then, “When I read this, Thérèse instructs and enlightens me I can’t pull myself away from it. I ask your permission, my Mother, to keep these pages until I die.”

     According to our wish, she wrote about the feelings that had enlivened the solemn occasion of her Jubilee. “Regarding all the preparations that were done to celebrate my golden anniversary and so much honor that awaited me, the good God made me feel that all of this was not for me, but for Him, to thank him for all the graces he bestowed since my birth since it was then that my mother consecrated me to him. Since during my earliest childhood, my adolescence, my youth and finally in the world as in Carmel. Graces, above all humiliations of all kinds made me think myself a little nothing.”

     “I don’t know how to express this feeling, the deep feeling of my lowliness that penetrates my being all the way to the marrow of my bones; it seems to me that this is what attracted the glance of the good God for me and attracted his divine mercy. It seemed to me also that the celestial Court bent down with surprise toward me, so little and celebrated on this day, and to hear them even more praising the only Author of all good. I would have liked to have been poorer/more indigent, even more pitiful to be an even greater object of the merciful love of the Lord.”

And the following June 12th:

     “I thought with my Jubilee I should begin a new and real religious life.

     “After having remained awake a long time that night because of a too human preoccupation, this morning during prayer and holy Communion, I abandoned everything, entrusted everything to Jesus. AT present, I try not to think of it anymore. My Mother, isn’t that what you want of your old jubilarian? Oh, you see that the cross follows me! This isn’t surprising as the one I saw so long ago was so long, so long!”

     The Beatification of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus brought a supreme and inexpressible consolation to that honorable sister as you would guess, Reverend Mother. Nevertheless, the infirmities of old age had come a few years ago and increased for her at that time. Around the Feast of the Good Shepherd in 1920 she wrote us about them in these lines that were filled with images and filial tenderness:

     “Have pity on your old sheep, my dearest Mother, who all bent over, not knowing how to bleat except to scare, having poor old ears that are stopped up more and more, poor legs that give out, a head that soon will touch the earth, who always has a young heart to cherish you with a tenderness that only Jesus knows. The heart is all I have left and I will take it to Paradise if I am allowed to join my little Thérèse into whose arms I’ll throw myself with joy! O my Mother, I really wish to see her Beatification but will this privilege be reserved for me? And yet how great would be my happiness to celebrate the glorification of your little daughter and mine!

     “I am more for being hidden than for showing” she told us at the time of our feasts and the entry of prelates into the convent. Our dear Sister, in spite of being increasingly crippled, was able to retain a noble demeanor and an innate refinement. Seeing our desire, she allowed herself to be placed next to where their Eminenences and their Excellencies would pass; they stopped, touched to be able to bless her when we said, “This is the Novice Mistress of the Blessed.” But she excused herself quickly with a touching humility. “I didn’t do anything, she didn’t need me.” We felt she was so sincere in her assertion.

     Sometimes however, if you didn’t really know her, it would have been possible perhaps to be surprised considering the advance of old age, that it was a great and painful sacrifice for her to not see and hear the least as well as the great activities in our community life.

     “It would be a big sacrifice”, she told us the evening before a special feast, “to not be in a little corner to catch a glimpse of all that will happen tomorrow. We know it was not a lack of mortification but only her understanding of our life together. She wanted to share all the joys to be delighted by everything in God. Her imagination which remained young and clear, got carried away at times and convinced her of implausible things. After the departure of His Excellency, the Cardinal Vico, she made this naïve comment to us ”The Holy Father will be dying to come visit us when the good Cardinal Vico gives him his impressions of Lisieux!” And with a childlike candor “Oh! If he could have, he would have already come, I’m sure.” She was so interested in the general well being of our holy Order that we were obliged to hide the ordeals for fear she would fall ill over them.

     When it was a question of introducing Gregorian chant in the French Carmel, she couldn’t believe such an innovation was possible and yet no one was a “daughter of the Church” more than this dear Sister or thought more highly of beautiful religious music. But as we needed her intercession with Our Lord, we more fully informed her about the matter and since then she prayed continually to keep this part of the Constitutions. It was one of her last joys to see this prayer answered.

     How much she would have savored, for example, the precious information that we announced from one of our Carmels several days after her death: “We learned from an Archimandrite of the Greek-Slavic rite that our recitative without notes comes from the primitive chant of the Church, which is preserved by the anchorites, so much so that in the 5th century it was called “the chant of the desert.”

     Sister Marie of the Angels also greatly shared our smallest troubles and preoccupations. When she learned of a campaign led against the portraits of our saint, one really had to see her indignation! It was with prayer that she calmed us and said, “Don’t pay any attention, my Mother. It’s the jealousy of the devil that plays these tricks. Even if everyone said that our “little Thérèse” was ugly, would that have kept her from being pretty and doing good? I think that we could never depict her as perfectly as she was. I like my memory better than all these photographs.”

     When we showed her a certain failed reproduction of her novice with the white veil behind the Cross in the inner court yard, she exclaimed, “What an unfaithful photograph!” However after an enlargement with the necessary retouches, she declared herself so satisfied with the edited resemblance that we chose this portrait for the holy cards of her fiftieth anniversary/birthday.

     For the last several months our venerable Doyenne felt very tired, very weak and constantly repeated to us, “Ah! I won’t see the Canonization!” Without agreeing with her, we shared her doubts but her strong constitution that allowed her to follow the rule for many years reassured us. Nevertheless, she, who was so active with work, had to little by little abandon all work, even the fabrication of holy cards and relic packets. Her only occupation from then on was to cut and to emboss countless rose petals in all colors for use in the feasts of the following year. We will see for a long time this good Sister Marie of the Angels with her cane and box of paper going to our recreations and once there, doing her charming task without wasting a moment and almost without looking up. If we arrived late, she absolutely wanted to get up like the others, at the risk of overturning her box and strewing her shower of roses on the community, which did happen more than once. That was only the lesser misfortune as we have seen this poor dear Sister fall herself in the midst of her petals!

     She became almost completely deaf and her head leaned forward even more, threatening to make her lose her balance. It was painful to watch her walk and edifying to be a witness of her courage. If we had listened to her, she would have gotten up earlier than the community in order to pray, recite her Office and go to Mass for the sick and then, without any delay, start working.

     Sometimes during the night, thinking she heard the matraque, she would quietly open the door of the Sister Infirmarian and say to her, “You’re forgetting me, I’m not going to be ready for Mass.”

     When Sister Marie-Philomène of Jesus died at the beginning of the year, she made this comment to us: “It’s my turn now” And after having read her circular: “Ah! My Mother, what a beautiful soul!...But for me, what could you say? I wonder how you’re going to do it!”

     Her soul sometimes went through some hard phases of dying, she was afraid of death. Recently, one of her first novices, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart that she especially loved, was inspired to reply on this subject to her: “But you won’t even notice it; you’ll find yourself all of a sudden before the good God, like a little child that wakes up after a long sleep.” “You think so?” replied Sister Marie of the Angels with happiness.

     On Sunday November 23rd, she had spent the day as she usually did, came that evening to the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and even to Recreation where, one of the first to arrive, she entered into conversation with a postulant:

     “Are you enjoying Carmel, my little Sister” she asked her pleasantly.

     “Oh yes, my Sister, I’m very happy and find everything very nice here.”

     “Well then, that’s perfect: “This path is good and holy, go this way...”

     The rest of the time she spoke little through charity as it was almost impossible to reply to her because of her deafness but she smiled at us from time to time with affection and looked so peaceful and so sweet! At the end, we were absent and not having blessed her, we went to visit her during the silence. She wasn’t expecting to see us and replied with a special smile that was filled with gratitude. We promised her to come the next day for a good amount of time. “Oh, thank you! My Mother” she replied to us with enthusiasm. Alas, we would never again hear her voice here below.

     On Monday morning at 6 o’clock, her devoted infirmarian found her unconscious, with a labored breathing that frightened her. Someone came quickly to warn us. We tried to speak to the dear dying person but she didn’t seem to understand us. During this time the chaplain was notified and ran here. He was able to give her the grace of Extreme Unction. She breathed her last gently once the Indulgence in articulo mortis was administered to her. It was 7:15; the Community chanted the Minor Hours while the priest recited with ourself and several Sisters present, the prayers from the Manual.

     This death, so quick, leaves us however only with a feeling peace. She who wanted so much to be considered as our daughter and who showed us so much confidence wrote the following to us:

     “I see myself, more and more, as a soul stripped of everything. May that indulgence, justifiably, draw to me the merciful glance of Jesus, as he has always been for me! May this mercy, under the wing of my Thérèse, pour down upon me at the hour of my death and open heaven for me!

     And again: “Our Blessed fills me with enthusiasm, her little way delights me. Oh! That she make me enter and persevere, that until my death Jesus be my Elevator, and that I fly straight to Him like our dear Angel!

     We copied these lines from a letter written the evening before her death, to one of the members of her family: “May God have pity on my wretchedness and may his name be blessed by all because he did all for our good.

     What other last words could have better glorified the good God and earned for out honorable and much loved Sister a triumphal entrance into the legion of “little souls” who only lived humility, love and abandon?

     The funeral took place on Tuesday November 26th. The Requiem Mass was chanted by Reverend Father Chaumontel who gave the last absolution surrounded by the entire family; the ones absent were there in their hearts and each one remembered always, whether sister-in-law, aunt or cousin, her veneration and gratitude; her confidence also in intercession which becoming even more effective in heaven than on earth.

     The grave of our late lamented Sister is found right next to the last tomb, much visited yet, of our dear Blessed and where we wish to erect soon her Apotheosis. The humble Mistress will be buried in the shadow of her glorious Novice henceforth borrowing these words to praise the Lord for her long career: “O my God, you have surpassed my expectations and I want to sing your mercies forever!

     Please accept, my Reverend and very honored Mother, the expression of our religious and fraternal respect. Our beloved Sister Marie of the Angels will be very grateful, with us, if you would add 6 Paters and an invocation to the Blessed Thérèse of the Child Jesus to the intercessory prayers already requested.

Your humble Sister and Servant in Our Lord,
Sr. AGNES OF JESUS
r.c.i.
From our convent of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Conception of the Carmelites of Lisieux, December 25th, 1924.

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