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Circular of Mother Genevieve of St. Therese, Cofounder of the Carmel of Lisieux

 

 

Claire Bertrand 1805-1891

 

My reverend and very honorable Mother

Peace and very humble greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ

 

We had just tasted great consolations during the feasts of the third centenary of Our Father Saint John of the Cross, when it pleased the Divine Master to give us the bitterness of his chalice and plunge us into deep pain by removing from among us, December 5th, 1891, our revered Mother Marie Claire Radegonde Genevieve SAINTE THERESE, age 86 years, 4 months and 17 days, including 60 years, 4 months, and 14 days of religious profession.

 

It is with trembling, my Reverend Mother, we take up the pen to tell you about this dear relic, true treasure of our Carmel ....Perhaps you will find that we sometimes have gone beyond the bounds of discretion by revealing some mysteries of this beautiful soul. There are many things that we would have indeed ignored, if we were not certain that in her simplicity, our humble Mother herself reported them to several of her daughters. God has doubtless permitted this for your edification and the glory of this noble soul.

 

Oh beloved Mother! Above all, bless your daughter and forgive her if, despite your expressed wishes not to have a circular, she devotes through obedience these few pages to the memory of your virtues. Sleep in peace, my Mother, in your humility.

 

Our revered Mother, born in Poitiers to an eminently Christian family, received the name of Claire in baptism. This blessed child from the cradle predicted what she would one day be; she never cried which greatly astonished her good mother. At the age of two, she fell ill, she never stopped smiling and uttered, instead of cries, a graceful and childlike song, a prelude of this force of soul and joy in the suffering we will soon admire, no longer in a cradle and on the knees of a mother, but at Calvary, on the bloody cross of Jesus.

 

Meanwhile let our liet’s follow our little Claire in the spring of her beautiful life; a bright day, whose setting sun emitted so much splendor! Several features alone suffice to show the rare qualities that Heaven had endowed her with. At a very early age, she was entrusted to a teacher who unfortunately was not flawless. The friendliness and the child's graces gave her it seems the right to abuse her more; and young students, believing themselves authorized by the example of their mistress, made a game of attacking her. But the Lord had placed in her soul the seed of charity; this heavenly plant that would grow with age and become the most beautiful tree in this delightful garden. This is why instead of complaining and taking revenge, she continually showed the kindness and delicacy of her heart. One of her little companions was crying one day because the ball of wool from her knitting had fallen into a pit. "Mama will scold me tonight. I’m so sad,” she cried. “Oh do not cry!" said Claire; then pulling out the dirty wool and wiping it dry with her little apron, she returned the ball of yarn, happy and proud of her achievement. Spiritual and very serious, she knew perfectly how to read, barely three and a half years old. Already the Holy Spirit illuminated her young mind, as evidenced by the following fact: while the children were playing and running around the garden, Claire often withdrew and read.  "There are no doubt beautiful images in this book, and it must be really interesting, is not it my dear? " said a lady, very surprised to see her so attentive. "Yes, Madame”, she said, “this book is very interesting because it is the Imitation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

By this time, my Reverend Mother, the pious child attracted the attention not only of God but also of one of his saints. We refer to the venerable parish priest of Saint Pierre, Father de Beauregard, later bishop of Orleans, whose interesting memoirs of his deportation to Cayenne really show that if martyrdom missed him, it is not he who failed martyrdom. This admirable confessor of the faith, who had baptized the little dear, never saw her go without giving her the marks of a special affection. Often, taking her in his arms, he carried her into his bedroom and showed her his paintings and holy cards. The child was shaking! "You’re trembling, sinner?'' he told her, smiling, and he looked at her with indulgence. A prophetic look, no doubt, and which explains the words from one of his letters. "From your earliest childhood, I saw that there were enough in you to make a saint but you would need crosses."

 

However, the poor girl was still under the direction of the mistress of whom we spoke, and her mother, believing her in good hands, was not worried. Years passed thus until the time of First Communion, where the good God allowed all to be discovered. Surprise silence of her daughter, her mother asked her the reason. "Mother,“ answered the angel of peace, “how could you want me to speak ill of my mistress? I preferred to suffer..." Response and conduct beyond all praise, as they imply strength of character at yet so tender an age.

 

Seeing this early under my Reverend Mother, it is easy to judge how fervently the young child went the first time to the Divine Banquet. Besides, it was her good Father de Beauregard, as she called him, who prepared her for this great action, and gave her himself the Bread of Heaven. From then on, he never ceased to cultivate this beautiful lily, watching with jealous care that nothing earthly tarnished the whiteness. One day, seeing her curled hair put up gracefully, he said, "Why all these curls, little one? Fix your hair more simply, you'd be much better, just ask your mother for darker colors. " And to humiliate her, he added: "Besides, you're not at all pretty, you're not rich and you do not look nice. So who do you think you are pleasing?"

 

There was nothing more to say! The next day, the girl’s hair was smooth and formed two flat bands to the taste of her severe director. But when my mother saw me, she told us, she made endless exclamations; very happy with her displeasure, I went back to my first hairstyle and apologized to Father de Beauregard, saying: "Father, I saw that it annoyed Mother..." This innocent enough defeat proves that the young penitent was not insensible to the attractions of her age. With a quick and fiery character, she even felt enthusiasm. When the noble daughter of Louis XVI came to Poitiers, all the great ladies of the city in their beautiful outfits found themselves along her path. Claire slipped in among them, and cried, "Long live the Duchess of Angouleme!" Before responding to the greetings of the great ladies, the princess looked at the girl, made her a sign of friendship and graciously smiled. This one, in the transport of her joy kept saying to her brother: "Jules, think of it. The Duchess of Angouleme smiled at me! "

 

But the time was approaching when our Lord was preparing to smile at this chosen soul, and as the smiles of Jesus are only for crucified souls, He began by giving her his cross. Mrs. Bertrand fell seriously ill, and it was Claire, then age 16, who exhorted her to sacrifice her life. Heeding the advice of this earth angel, this pious mother gave her beautiful soul to God shortly after, abandoning her children to Divine Providence, happy to leave exile and in the sentiment of the utmost piety. Fr. de Beauregard was again at the bedside of the dying mother, which caused him to later write to our beloved Mother these words that always moved her, "Remember, my child, it is I who led your mother to Heaven, and that I was her friend! "

 

However my Reverend Mother, this cruel bereavement brought many painful changes in the life of the poor child. She was the eldest and understood the importance of her task. Her excellent father made her feel that when on the very day of the death, taking the ring from her mother, he put it on her finger, saying, "My daughter, it is now you who replace your mother." Following the example of our Mother St. Teresa, she spoke from that day to the Queen of Heaven, asking her to help her in her new duties; but all was sadness in this home only yesterday so joyful! Financial pressures coming soon joined the regrets of maternal absence, there was talk of selling the house, this house so dear, guardian of so many memories. The poor father ill concealed his fears, his daughter guessed everything. Submerged in an ocean of sadness, she could not even cry out to Heaven but the desperate hours are the hours of divine help, grace was about to ring out.

 

"One night,” she said, “my father went out to sell the house, I remained alone with my younger brother, then aged seven. Sobs choked me, but I would not cry for fear of hurting this poor boy who loved me beyond what words can say. Already seeing that I was sad, he covered me with caresses, which pierced the heart! To regain my composure, I took a book that was under my hand, and opening it at random, my eyes fell upon a small picture representing Jesus Savior of the world. In an instant the picture became bright. There was in my heart a sudden and admirable revolution; the cost of crosses, the merit of suffering was shown to me in a vivid clarity, I was very excited and beside myself. My tears flowed in abundance, but I did not hide them anymore, for they were tears of joy ... I felt all transformed and ready if necessary to beg my bread for the love of Jesus

Our Lord was satisfied with the acceptance of the sacrifice, and Divine Providence came to the help of the father and orphans. Through a devoted cousin, the Reverend Mother Aimee de Jesus, then Prioress of Carmel of Poitiers (known in the world by the name of Miss d’Ulys), took a keen interest in this sorely tried family; she named Mr. Bertrand as manager of her vast fortune and saved him from a ruin too justly dreaded. They kept the house, and trust, peace and almost joy came to be reborn in these desolate hearts. A year passed without serious incident. Claire fulfilled all her duties with great perfection and never thinking of the future without recommending it to God, thinking he would not refuse his light in due time. She was not mistaken; already Our Lord was at the door, ready to conquer this young heart. We will again let her speak herself:

"I was going to be seventeen; one day I was alone in my room, knelt to say my prayers in the morning, suddenly the apartment disappeared from my eyes, I didn’t know where I was, if I had a body or if I didn’t have one anymore ... Plunged into a blinding light and an indescribable joy, I heard the sound of a melodious voice that all the concerts here below could not give the slightest idea. This voice said, or rather sang, leaving between each word a mysterious interval:

 

TO BE THE BRIDE OF GOD.... WHAT A TITLE ....WHAT A PRIVILEGE! ......

"Then everything disappeared ... there was silence, I found myself flooded with tears and an intoxicating happiness, as one who would return from heaven after having contemplated the splendor and penetrated unfathomable secrets."

 

From that memorable day that we can call the day of God's engagement, the happy child thought of Carmel and could not suffer any delay, she went there shortly. But her visit was prevented by that of her father, who used such used good reasons as a pretext that they agreed, with the promise of never depriving him of his treasure. Knowing nothing, the poor little thing was full of hope. "Oh, I felt joy, she told us, in the parlor of the Carmelites! Fortunately, there was a little hole near the grille, I put my eye up to it and I soon saw appear Mother Aimée of Jesus ...... my heart beat so hard it might burst ... She said, "How old are you, my child?”

 “Mother”, I replied, “I am old, I'm 17!”

 

  That is good, my child, but you want to make a vow of obedience, don’t you? So you will start to practice it by returning to your father. I will tell you when you should enter. "

 

Judge my surprise and my pain! I knew well that I had to wait until my father died; I was shattered. But gradually peace returned to my soul, thinking I was doing the will of God.

 

Claire therefore returned to her father's house, trying to console herself for not being a Carmelite by practicing all the virtues of the cloister. Soon our Lord asked another sacrifice of her; Fr. de Beauregard was appointed Bishop of Orleans and even though he promised never to lose sight of her, there was one less help! She had to choose a director. The girl had already glanced at Fr. de Rochemonteix, superior of her dear Carmel; but to get used to obedience and renunciation of self she entrusted the matter to Miss Therese, her elderly and holy cousin whose wise advice she always followed. "Alas,” thought the poor child, “of course my cousin Therese will send me to some good old canon of the cathedral." She was wrong, God blessed her act of renunciation and the Superior of Carmel was proposed. This wise Director, my Reverend Mother, saw at first glance that he did not before him a common soul. Consequently, he didn’t spare her, humiliated and corrected her at each meeting. Despite this, it must be said, that soul, otherwise so perfect, deceived his vigilance about a small thing. This is the time to share the little infidelity of her youth, "her great infidelities," as she called them. We cannot endorse this word, however, for a soul of so many favors. Is it any wonder that the Lord appeared to be jealous?

 

We'll see how rigorously he later made her atone for this imperfection in the story we are going to tell.

 Released for a long time it seemed into the world she wanted to leave, adorned with all the moral qualities, witty, a perfect judgment, a quiet imagination, it is true, but with a heart that was loving and sensitive to the highest degree. The young woman soon attracted attention; despite her modest position, she was sought in all levels of society; advantageous suitors were offered to her. "For marriage, she told us, I always showed myself to be unshakable, I remained very simply dressed and never thought of trying to please. Except for my personal satisfaction, I kept in my way of dressing a little affectation. I had been given a beautiful shawl, and instead of attaching it with a pin, I let it float freely and gracefully. An inner voice asked me for the sacrifice of this pin but I did not want to hear it. I refused Jesus a pin! What ingratitude ... Fr. de Rochemonteix himself seemed to warn me in the name of our Lord, because the first time that I spoke to him, he reproached me like this: "There is about you my child, a certain style that I would like to see disappear.” “Father,” I said then, “I cannot dress more simply. See, I have a brown dress and shawl was given to me, should I not wear it? " Surprisingly and worthy of note, never was Monsignor de Beauregard warned of this infidelity which Our Mother alone had knowledge and years after, he wrote her in Carmel: "Humble yourself, remain little, remember that you once wore a shawl which displeased God and me. "

 

But apart from this small failing, Claire was a model of all the virtues. Her father loved her so tenderly he could not bear the thought of even unintentionally causing her the least suffering. One day, after asking him for money for household needs, he was not able to give it. Guessing the anguish of his paternal heart, she shed a few tears in secret, but her red eyes betrayed her: "I am an unhappy man”, the good father cried with pain, “I made my daughter cry!”

 

This darling girl really was like the mother of her two brothers, and the examples she gave them, the sweet influence she exercised over them, always keeping them in the paths of duty.

She even used her blessed influence not only within the family, but in the world. Sunday, several ladies had invited her for a walk not far from town. Once there they went to Mass; but what a temple! An abandoned barn with water falling on the altar. And what an altar! Poorer than the crib! The priest’s vestments in tatters, sacred vessels unworthy of the name ... Coming out of the Divine Office, the pious girl, heartbroken, followed the ladies to the hotel, unable to utter a single word.

 

"What’s wrong, Miss?” they asked. “Ladies,” she answered immediately, ”I am surprised that you do not share my sadness, and I wonder how it is possible that you could painlessly attend such a Mass, covered in lace with beautiful hats, while our Lord is housed worse than a street beggar and more poorly dressed than your servants." This speech produced its full effect and soon an elegant chapel replaced the poor barn.

In the countryside, where her father had to spend several months each year, her presence worked wonders; she taught the village children with amazing success. "Mam'zelle”, said a poor woman, “do not refuse to take charge of my daughter, I warn you that she is bad and a halfwit, but that does not matter, you can give her a mind. It's up to you to want to. "This naive confidence was not misplaced. The little halfwit became intelligent, pious and good, and later went to Carmel to thank her benefactress.

 

To visit the poor and do good for them, these were all pleasures of Claire. For a Christmas party after the Midnight Mass, the ladies of the neighboring chateau wanted to have her there; but she had already promised the good farmers and refused the invitation. "Oh, I was much happier in the house of poor people” she told us, “they sang until the daybreak of Christmas in the old dialect of the region, and I sang with them, my heart warmed by their company, they showed such a great faith, a lively piety, I thought I was in Bethlehem."

 

She still practiced charity with a heroic silence when necessary. An aunt invited her to come spend some time at her home in Poitiers. She went joyfully but her piety soon displeased the uncle who had a dark and surly character. Seeing her return one morning from church, he said loud enough to be heard: "If I had a daughter like this, I would put her out of my house." Back in her room the poor child burst into tears; her good aunt herself, deeply pained, advised her to return at the earliest to the country, but this angelic soul did not think like that as a hasty departure would have made known to her father what had happened and probably damaged the harmony of the two families. She remained all the time agreed upon, was more amiable than ever with regard to her uncle, and was silent. O wonderful power of love! This man was struck very much with such conduct, and the wolf became lamb; he was guided later in the ways of God through the guidance of his admirable niece.

 

But the time was approaching, my Reverend Mother, where the doors of Carmel would finally open. The dear aspirant had reached her twenty-fourth year when her excellent father was called to God. It was time to fly to the cloister. Mr. Rochemonteix, to test her, then pretended not to believe in her vocation. However one day he sent her a small book in which, on the angles of the first page, he had written these words: Do not complain about trials... the reward will be great ... Nothing less than Heaven for a dwelling place... God himself will make you happy. ”Oh!” she said to herself, “I will be a Carmelite: "God himself will make you happy!" and she constantly repeated the word. Indeed, on March 26th of that year, 1830, our gentle dove joyfully entered the blessed arch.

 

It was the Reverend Mother Aimée of Jesus, her benefactress and her second mother, who received her on the threshold of the cloister and called her Genevieve of St. Therese, prophetic name, for had she not become one day on Mount Carmel shepherd and guardian of several flocks? Here are the first words this good Mother addressed to her: "My child, if you want to be holy and always happy, remember this well: Never let anyone know what pleases you or displeases you, what is pleasant or unpleasant to you, what you like or don’t like. " This lesson was followed to the letter and our beloved Mother reaped the fruits of peace from it.

 

The Monastery of Poitiers then had venerable older sisters, accomplished types of the perfect Carmelite. These good mothers for the most part had seen the disasters of the Revolution and suffered a thousand ways during those awful days. A heroic perfume of sanctity escaped from them, and the young postulant was at first uplifted. She never forgot that first impression, and when during the time of breaks, novices, her companions agreed on an hour to go together to visit, she always excused himself and went alone, wanting to enjoy at leisure their experience and advice. Guided by such examples, Mother advanced with a quick step on the path of religious perfection, and God who was watching over this soul and wanted to lift it so high, began by lowering it in her own eyes and those of her sisters, sending her a humiliation that the most skillful mistress would never have been able to give her. She had been named second seamstress and surprisingly, this girl who in the world had shown a great aptitude for manual labor could not even sew a tunic belt. Powerless to handle the needle, she was handling the work in such a clumsy way that her companion was annoyed. Not knowing what to do, she had a heavy heart when the feast of her beloved Mother Prioress arrived, having only the canvas for the sacristy to offer her ... Upon receiving a blessing and motherly kiss at her turn, she held back her tears ... but the good Mother Jesus Aimee whispered to him: "Be comforted, my child, for you are the daughter of my heart." Words are tender which put balm on the wound.

 

However, my Reverend Mother, this apparent void was offset by such great qualities, that no one objected to her request for the habit, other than informing her about the uncertainty of the future. It was in 1830, on the eve of a new revolution but the fervent postulant answered without hesitation, she would be happy to follow her mothers and sisters to prison and to death ... Seeing her so resolute, she was given the Holy Habit. This was a new impetus towards good. Six months were spent in happiness and gladness; all the exercises of religious life seemed to her more and more delicious. Returning from the parlor, she lovingly kissed the walls of her cell; solitude was so attractive to this soul of prayer! She lived in an atmosphere of peace, when suddenly this beautiful heaven darkened ... We leave her to tell herself this terrible ordeal while despairing of rendering the tone with which, in the privacy of our souls, she told us so many times.

 

"Six months before my profession, Mr. Rochemonteix preached a retreat for us, and in one of his sermons, he painted us a vivid picture of the three states in which souls in this life can be. In the table of imperfect souls, much less in that of fervent souls, I could not recognize me, but when it came to describing the state of souls in mortal sin, I felt deeply disturbed. As he spoke, I recognized myself more. Troubled beyond all expression, I returned to our cell almost reduced to despair ... Not knowing what to do, unable to pray, I sat beside myself near our bed (it was late, it was after Matins), where, in the silence of the night, a voice that seemed to come from outside said loudly and distinctly: "YOU COULD HAVE AND YOU DIDN’T WANT TO.” Grabbing my crucifix, I held it up towards the place where I had heard that voice and I said: "Excuse me, my God, forgive me.... Here is my bond...”

 

I remained all night in mortal anguish, under the influence of divine justice ready to throw me into the abyss ... In the morning I went to confession, and what was my surprise hearing I was given a penance of a novena of communions! I approached the Holy Table in a desperate state and about to exclaim, "I am damned." But hardly had the Blessed Sacrament touched my lips, I felt tears well up in my eyes and pour in torrents ... peace was restored and I felt only a gentle and deep contrition for my sins. After some time, thinking of what I had suffered, I naively addressed my complaints to our Lord, I said to him: Why, my Jesus did you permit such a storm? Oh it was awful! Tell me why you did that?” - The answer was immediate, "If I allowed it, it is only through love...and to spare you 10 years of Purgatory! "

 

This revelation is very mysterious. When God chose a soul, that to whom he made known his graces, what fidelity does he not ask of it? It is good to remember the complaint of the Spouse of the Song of Songs, "You have wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, by one of your hairs!” "What were the mistakes of youth of our beloved Mother? And by what purifications Our Lord made her expiate them! Letting her know that they merited 10 years of purgatory...... Which shows the merciful goodness of our God who is willing to pay for an hour of suffering in this life, to spare us the rigors of his justice in the other.

 

So passed this awful storm; but when the day of her profession came, new anxieties; not only did our dear Mother not felt the consolation of being the spouse of a God, but God she loved so dearly seemed to cast her aside far from HIM ... sinking in the depths of her nothingness, the poor little professed in the bitterness of her soul begged the divine master to please only suffer in his holy house among his faithful spouses. "Keep me,” she said to him in tears, “keep me as your little slave!" And confiding her suffering to her Mother Prioress, she begged her to give her the job of third nurse, to be the servant of her sisters, which was granted. There were in the monastery many infirm; among them a poor sister whose wounds gave off a foul smell. Sr. Genevieve never left her day or night, although the Doctor himself could only visit her very quickly. The day of death, leaving the poor cell he said with admiration, "She who nursed this religious is obviously a SAINT because without special help from God, it is not possible to stand such a smell for long.

The heroic novice found another way to be happy. In summer, in front of a blazing fire, she was drying linens for another patient who required special care. She did this every day and long enough to have an inflamed face and almost to the quick. But carefully hiding this fatigue, no complaint escaped her lips. It was already too much for her humility to not be put out of the house of God; she suffered everything in silence and suppressing her distress, constantly singing pious hymns to the glory of her Jesus...

 

Always finding her amiable and smiling, they wondered about only one thing: it was to see her in the refectory eating very little and with great difficulty. "My sister Genevieve”, she was told “you must not let the joy of having made profession prevent you from eating.” “Alas,” thought the poor novice, “so I must take care of myself, to make all my sisters believe I have joy in my heart!" Finally, little by little, our Lord let himself touch her; He said nothing this time, but slowly and invisibly, his divine hand parted the clouds; the sun, not consolation but trust subsidiary illuminated her soul, humble wife did not want anything else. His life was to be a cross of life, not of ecstasy. No doubt many times again, it will hear the sweet voice of the bridegroom; but more often his soul will be immersed in the mysterious silence of the faith. Who can tell, my Reverend Mother, the progress of the young novice during this dark night she had just crossed! She had become all humility, charity, detachment and obedience.

 

A priest who had known her in the world asked her this question in the parlor: "My child, tell me what appeals to you? Do you have a particular liking for penitence or prayer?

- “Father, she said shyly, “I only feel attracted to the penitence of the rule in use at the monastery; I also really like the prayer and the Holy Office recited in choir, but I have a particular attraction only for obedience.

“Courage, my child”, said the good priest very edified, “with that attraction you will go far. "

There would be many examples to report of her other virtues, particularly her great courage to conquer herself in all things, her detachment and her charity. On one occasion when she had an extreme need to see Father de Rochemonteix, her superior, it happened that several nuns had asked too. She waited until evening at the door of the confessional, without having had her turn; this caused her a violent headache.

 

"Ah, she said to herself, “it’s like this, Sister Genevieve, that you give yourself a big headache to satisfy your will ... but this is the last time. I will know how to heal you ... "And the next day she spoke to the ordinary confessor, not wanting to suffer anything which could disturb her peace.

 

Another time, when she was ill a long time, it happened that a certain little wool cap she wore in the infirmary caused a visitor to laugh and joke a lot. At heart, the dear little patient experienced annoyance and a slight injury to self-esteem. But immediately recognizing this, her mind was made up. The first day she came back to recreation, she solemnly pulled out of her pocket the famous little cap, and putting it on her head, she laughed: "See, my good sisters how I'm wearing my hair with this hat ...We had so much fun the other day over it, I did not want to deprive the community of this small distraction...." Everyone laughed indeed at the expense of our humble Mother who triumphed then, and blessed God in her heart.

 

Now an example of her detachment and her inner freedom: When Reverend Mother Aimée of Jesus fell ill, justly alarmed, the community showed a lively sorrow. Little sister Genevieve suffered as well, she the "daughter of her heart!" "But to prepare for the test of upcoming separation, she withdrew, expressing her regrets and tears, not outwardly, but only in the presence of her Beloved, for she knew from experience what the author of the Imitation says "The devout man carries Jesus his comforter everywhere with him." A young white veil sister, her novitiate companion, attracted by the charm of her virtue, joined her, both then encouraged each other ... 'They were saying, having left the world to God, God of goodness they would always remain, that besides it was only fair that their dear Mother should go soon to receive the crown, having worked and suffered so long to acquire it ... when you're in Carmel  our venerable Mother said later, “do not too grieve the death of her mother and sisters, did not we come here to die, and soon  we will all not be together in Heaven?”

 

While this good Mother Aimée of Jesus was in the infirmary, Sister Genevieve was assigned to care for her. One day as she began to work to wash her feet, the face of the sick woman became sad and thoughtful. "What is it, my good Mother?" said her little nurse. '' O my child,” replied the holy Prioress, “Must I tell you? ... I am afraid that your love for me will make you lose the merit of this action.“ “Fear not, my Mother,” replied the young professed, “and forgive me if I dare say that with much joy I would wash the feet of the last of my sisters.” The girl was already living up to her mother. Soon, alas, this beloved Mother was found worthy of eternal reward ... Miss Therese then came to the parlor, in tears, and told her cousin: "Well, what will you become now? How you will be unhappy!” - "But I came for God who will never fail me, so I will always be happy."

 

After the death of her good Mother, our virtuous novice was named temporarily in charge. All the sisters were edified and charmed by her exquisite charity in this office that she said can be harder to fill and more meritorious than that of nurse because we are not only responsible for the sick but somehow the whole Community.

 

With a nun who caused her pain she resolved at once to take revenge in the manner of saints. Knowing this sister loved cooked pears, her pleasure was to serve her the most beautiful as well as choosing the best in everything else for her. And telling it later, she said it in a way so sweet and humble that went right to the heart without raising the slightest doubt: "This time I didn’t act like that to vanquish myself, but really from love ... since the dear sister hurt me, I loved her more '' ... “well, my little children,” she added, “see how advantageous it is to forgive, not to be angry, to be considerate and kind to those who offend us. The sister who was angry with me, seeing that I did everything to please her, soon came to throw herself at my feet, and kissed me tenderly, "O my sister Genevieve,” she cried, “we cannot tell you anything, I am overcome by your charity, forgive me! "

 

We would not finish, my Reverend Mother, if we had to tell all the edifying traits of these eight years at the blessed Carmel of Poitiers. We only showed some precious pearls from this incomparable jewelry box; but do not know ourselves the wealth we end with these words of Solomon: "This is the beauty of the Bride without what is hidden within."

 

Our beloved Mother was thus prepared for the great mission that was going to be assigned to her. When it was a question of founding a Carmel in Lisieux, she felt a strong desire to be part of it "to taste the sweetness of poverty..." But the fear of acting by her own will, prevented her from asking. "If God wills it”, she thought, “he will know how to inspire the superiors." The Reverend Mother Prioress indeed had cast her eyes on her daughter Genevieve, and Fr. Sauvage, our founder, had gotten two benefactors and their companions to come to Poitiers to make their novitiate there The Reverend Mother Pauline resolved to appoint her novice mistress. Before telling her about it, wanting to test her, she called out in the middle of a recreation: "My sister Genevieve, it is not the custom in Carmel to remain here in silence, sad and gloomy as a nightcap, so try to be more cheerful." The next day, complete change! But now, leaving recreation, the good Mother, pretending to be more dissatisfied than the day before, said, "Really, my Sister Genevieve, if you continue, I'll be forced to be quiet to listen to you; you’ve become like the village rooster at recess!" Without saying a word, without showing the slightest vexation, the true religious kissed the ground and withdrew. The Reverend Mother Pauline was satisfied and our Lord was even more, because at evening prayer, he announced himself the event of the next day with these words: "MY DAUGHTER, TOMORROW THEY WILL ALLOW YOU TO UNITE YOURSELF TO ME WITH COMMUNION, THEN THE MOTHER PRIORESS WILL CALL YOU, AND AFTER HAVING MADE YOU READ THE SERMON YOU HAVE COPIED ABOUT OBEDIENCE, SHE WILL APPOINT YOU NOVICE MISTRESS ".

"I was very disturbed,” said our mother, “and believing that the only demon could put such a thought in my mind, I banished it with the utmost of my power. But the next morning, at the command of my Mother Prioress, I approached the Holy Table and went to her cell.” “My child,” she said, “take the notebook you have written and read me the sermon on obedience." “ I read it in a trembling voice and then she appointed me novice mistress. So it was that Our Lord spoke to me, I did not doubt anymore, and remained comforted. "

 

She knew she would go to the foundation and rejoiced ... a real supernatural rejoicing probably because we were able to realize the immense sacrifice she had to offer God by leaving her dear religious cradle and the country she loved so much! But all her affections, put in the balance in the face of poverty, could not outweigh this cherished virtue. With her obedience, happy to still have it to practice with regard to the Reverend Mother Elizabeth, named prioress of the little colony this generous soul, this angel, as Mother Pauline called her, took flight towards Lisieux.

We recount the journey, my Reverend Mother, unremarkable, except passing through Orleans. Both founding mothers were the spiritual daughters of Bishop de Beauregard so they went to the bishop's palace. The venerable bishop, 88 years old, was ill and kept to bed. When he knew the names of visitors, expected each day, he got up, with unsteady steps but with a joyful heart, he first approached his daughter Genevieve. He took her head in his hands, "Ah, there you are,” he cried, “the smallest of the people of God." The conversation began; they almost forgot the time for the coach. The holy bishop was radiant. "Little one,” he said to our dear mother upon departure, “be sure to write the story of your foundation and put in it the happiness your visit gave ... I'll say" my Nunc dimittis." After having made a generous offering, he blessed them with all the affection of a father and dismissed them.

 

This blessing was auspicious; God kept and protected his elect amidst many dangers. Finally, they arrived in Lisieux. The lover of poverty could then be satisfied; the temporary house was thatched and the interior so ill situated, the rooms so small, so low that she did not give it any other name than that of her little Bethlehem. They remained like that for several months ... time to prepare another house, although still poor, but larger, where little by little they established regularity, until the monastery and our beautiful chapel were built during the first term of our dear mother as prioress. God blessed these beginnings, subjects were not lacking and these young plants grown by the hands of a saint, educated more by example than by her words, became veritable Carmelites, manly souls, capable of sacrifice in all things for the glory of our Lord. "I always recognize”, said one of the confessors of the monastery later, “novices formed by holy Mother Genevieve."

Four years had scarcely elapsed since the foundation when our good Mother Elizabeth was called to God. This event required an election; all eyes were already focused on the sub-prioress when Father Sauvage received a letter from Poitiers. Incomprehensible thing in such circumstances; thinking it was the return of Mother Geneviève (who had only been lent to Lisieux), he was careful not to open the letter, but came running to Carmel, exposed the Blessed Sacrament during the customary three days, and presided over elections that realized his desires, confirming his hopes.

Now, the evening of the first day, our Lord wanted to approach his humble and very little servant to make her hear his sweet voice. He said: "IT'S YOU THAT I’VE CHOSEN TO GOVERN THIS HOUSE ... OPEN YOUR HEART TO YOUR GIRLS AND I WILL OPEN MINE TO YOU ... AND EVEN AS I REST IN MY FATHER, THE HOLY TRINITY WILL BE YOUR SUPPORT ".

 

O beloved Mother! You could enjoy the sublime reward that was promised to you, because we know how much you have been faithful to the recommendation of the Divine Master ... Yes, during your twenty seven years as prioress you opened your heart to us and what a heart! The goodness of Jesus had descended there entirely: it was a heaven of peace, an abyss of charity, a powerful dike where the waves of all storms came to crash and die.

 

But what did this letter contain that we talked about? It concealed a heavy cross.... From this election onward where he seemed so happy, our good Father Sauvage was not the same with regard to the new Prioress. She, who had previously enjoyed his full confidence, now saw herself deprived. As to the conduct of souls, he had seen her at work and did not doubt her ability, but for exterior matters, he guided her, watched her like a child, without giving latitude even for the least expense. What acts of humility and obedience were to be the fruits of this painful situation!

 

Upon the death of the Rev. Fr. Sauvage 11 years later, we begged our good Mother to please go through her correspondence, and God allowed the mysterious letter to fall into her hands. It contained these words: "Do not name Geneviève prioress because she is not able to complete this difficult task...”

It happened that our humble Mother was very clever at hiding her talents and merit in this dear convent of Poitiers, so the good Mother Pauline (who later acknowledged her error) was mistaken herself. Anyway, while making her understand what had seemed hitherto inexplicable, this revelation did not distress our Mother. On the contrary, she found it a topic of joy. She told her adventure out loud, saying happily: "If I'm prioress, it is only by the will of my God!! So was fulfilled this prophecy of Monsignor de Beauregard:" You will not go to Lisieux to build a house of stone, but to raise up in honor of God, an edifice of living stones which are souls. "

 

 

Since the venerable name of the holy Bishop of Orleans returns to our pen, allow us, my Reverend Mother, to transcribe a single part of his delicious letters. In 1841 he left exile, so it could be that in a supernatural light, he wrote in 1839, while our Mother Geneviève was only Sub Prioress and Novice Mistress:

 

"Read more than once the XXth chapter of the first book of the Imitation ... This admirable chapter of wisdom recommends solitude. How can you observe it because it seems better made for a hermit than a prioress, who must open her heart, her mouth and her cell to all and at all times? However, you need a little corner where you will be alone with the Alone. My child, you must find in the corner of your heart a small place, very little where you will be sure to find it alone worthy of your love, your thoughts. But what furniture will you put into it? It takes two: faith, love, and nothing else. I do not like it when you write me and you tell me about your sins; long ago God forgot this shawl that you paid so much for! And I've been fortunate enough to have you shown the right way, I tell you that all your sins were taken away ... take it as true and certain ... God is not a debater, he easily excuses souls ... He loved you with a love so great, I would see it as a lack of faith to worry now. Oh my God! You are merciful, to give my daughter Geneviève such a beautiful place in your heart! My daughter, sink into a sea of gratitude and keep often at  the feet of Jesus a silent respect and a holy wonderment of what God has done for you, and what happiness he prepares for your poor heart...

 

"Let me tell you or if I remain silent, I will remain united in heart, prayer, memory with the shrub Carmel removed from the Garden of Poitiers. It is spoken and written in my heart. You have been my daughter for so long ... I bless you like a good old father. "

How this would bring consolation to our honorable Mother reading such lines! However, we must say in praise of her detachment and delicacy of her heart: two years before the death of the holy Prelate, she deprived herself of that correspondence, because his letters often contained a single word to address of the Reverend Mother Elizabeth, and she wanted to leave her only the consolation of receiving answers. The sacrifice was shared, as we have proof with this bitter complaint of the worthy and noble old man on his deathbed: "I once received letters from Genevieve that gave me so much pleasure, why doesn’t she write me anymore?” –“He knows now,” she replied with an angelic smile when we gave her knowledge of this touching detail.

 

To return to the first term as prioress of Our Mother, three years expired, the Reverend Mother Pauline asked for her angel ... Rev. Fr. Savage said nothing to the community; it was agreed with the Superiors of Poitiers there would be elections, and if Mother Genevieve remained without a position, she would be returned as soon as possible to her first monastery. Judging easily the result of the election: one voice, our good Mother was re-elected for three years, in the exercise of a duty she had so perfectly satisfied. After this time, new requests from the Superiors of Poitiers, new entreaties from Fr. Sauvage and her poor little Carmel. Msgr. Rochemonteix wrote in these terms to our dearest Mother: "The sisters are eager to bring you back, the hard time they see you again, they fear that the loan they made is turning into a gift; I had difficulty calming them I told them that if your presence in Lisieux was deemed necessary, it would not be wise to withdraw it now. I repeat to yourself. we all have a great desire to see you return to Poitiers, but if your Superior, if you in all honesty and simplicity think it is necessary to extend the permission I gave you, I will do my best so that your sisters do not create obstacles for it.

 

This decision that needed to be referred to the Superior and Community of Lisieux, was quickly given ... The Carmel of Poitiers again granted three years. When at the end of the second year, our good Mother was ill, it took advantage of the opportunity for a final recall. How would this beloved Mother answer? No doubt she was strongly inclined to return ... but a crushing trial weighed on the foundation and putting her dearest hopes aside, she wrote these beautiful words: "Now that the cross is planted in the Carmel of Lisieux, how could I flee from it?" Our revered Founder, meanwhile pleaded her case so eloquently that she won.... Mother Genevieve remained forever in Lisieux, and September 15th, 1849, Archbishop Robin, then bishop of Bayeux, himself announced the happy news to his beloved Carmelites. So, we owe to our Mothers of Poitiers this great favor to have known a saint ... They were willing to forego to enrich us; but today our heritage is shared... and the same gaze that watches over Lisieux turns toward Poitiers! ... The Angel of Mother Pauline spreads her wings over her beloved birthplace and would never leave it again.

 

Since September 15th, 1849 until the death of our beloved Mother what events, what lights, what graces received! It would take a volume to give the interesting details ... The events are known to our dear Carmels; we know that branches from the little shrub removed from Poitiers garden are now a trees in full force, Saigon, Coutances and Caen.

 

Saigon especially was the work of Mother, indirect work probably because she appointed one of her dear daughters for this noble undertaking; but the difficulties without number, contradictions and humiliations of any kind that she suffered, will always make her look like the first Mother of the humble Carmel. Moreover, the venerable founder, Mother Philomena of the Immaculate Conception, of blessed memory, would not hear otherwise. Also hasten to say that the sufferings of which we have spoken were well compensated by heaven ... The illustrious founder of the new Carmel, Archbishop Lefebvre, Apostolic Vicar of Cochin and cousin of Mother Philomena had he not seen in the dark dungeon where he was detained by an unjust sentence, the radiant vision of our Holy Mother Teresa, asking him to establish his Order in Annam, because God would be greatly served and glorified?

 

We will limit ourselves, my Reverend Mother, to speak now of the hidden life of our saint, her virtues, which are summed up in one word: love. She loved her God with all the strength of her soul; that's why she has so loved us! Why she so loved the Church, France, the sinners, and sacrificed herself to them.

 

Not to steal from Jesus a single atom of her heart: this is the inner work of all her religious life. Jealous also about that for her daughters, she prayed God would permit that not one should become attached to her with a sense of human affection. Her biggest caress, excluding maternal kisses of our family parties, simply to put her hand on our heads; it was a sign of well-reported contentment! And yet, what tenderness! Our sorrows were her sorrows, our joys her joys ... She was interested in each of our family members and recommended them urgently to God..Her manner  was soft, easy; her indulgence extreme. She did not hurry souls, but knew how to wait for them and always won. Calm in any event, with a prudence filled with wisdom, she did not break the difficulties, looking only to make peace, preached constantly the union of hearts and charity. She had like the Bride of the Songs, "honey and milk under her tongue." Her exhortations to the Chapter were admirable; one felt the fruit of her prayers, she spoke of the richness of the heart, a blazing heart that wants to spread its flames ... and how exciting to hear these words: '' Our Lord asked me to make this known to the Community ... He wants of you, my children, such and such a thing ... One day, she assured that all his dear daughters present, not one to miss an appointment from the sky ... When she received the vows of the novices, it was never without tears ... it was as if the mystery of divine Nuptials were shown unveiled to her eyes! ... Blessed are the hearts that are offered to Jesus through such hands !!! ...

 

She also knew hot to introduce them to the eternal nuptials ... And in the early years of the foundation, this case was not, alas, all too common. One of these young nuns, subject of hope and greatly beloved of Our Mother, waited, it seems, in the hour of agony, permission to fly to heaven. Then, in a voice choked with tears, this courageous mother said to her, “Child, you have always lived in obedience, die in an act of obedience ... "And her soul immediately, breaking its earthly bonds, went to meet with the Bridegroom of virgins!

 

But to know our incomparable Mother, you had to see her released from the heavy burden of being a superior: it was then the humble little sister Genevieve de Poitiers, so hidden, so obedient that one would have rather taken her for a novice than a former prioress and founder. Such a soul had to go to God by way of filial trust. She had indeed no other relations with Him than as a child with the most loving of fathers. "Here is one who knows how to pray!" said our good Father Sauvage. Indeed, Mother got all from God because she knew how to pray! In difficult situations when we offered her the means of human prudence, she replied: "Yes, that's fine ... but above all prayer, prayer oh!" It was enough to see her praying to realize that she was very close to God, and had his ear ... we really felt that she was not only listened to, but answered. Her humble confidence and faith pierced the Heavens. And how surprising since our Lord himself said: "If your faith only equaled a mustard seed, I tell you the truth, if you order this mountain flows into the sea, it would immediately. "Therefore, the graces received in this fervent prayer were often prodigious. Allow us, my Reverend Mother, to cite a few examples among thousands:

 

In the beginning of the foundation when poverty was so great, we ran out of butter. After listening to the complaints and seeing the deep pain of our good Sister Madeleine of sweet memory, Mother Genevieve replied, "My daughter, I have no money ... But if you still have a little butter, use it and let’s put our trust in God. It was almost two months later and it hadn’t run out when our dear sister the cook, very surprised, said: "Finally, my Mother, I do not understand, my little bit of remaining butter is still in the same state; what does that mean, since I didn’t have enough for two days? Now I can take it and it doesn’t run out! “Rest easy,” said Mother smiling, “your little provision is about to end. "And a few days later when the Community received alms, Sister Madeleine found the jar empty.

 

How often has the Divine Providence responded to her trust through unexpected help at the right time and often the very amount requested!

 

But what seems more admirable to us and perhaps even more touching are the small miracles of indulgence granted on so many occasions because of her filial prayer! So for our laundry, she always got us good weather, so much that in the early years, people of the world came to ask, long in advance, what day we were doing the laundry in Carmel ... And during winter what attentiveness! This good Mother was in anguish when she saw us suffer from the cold. One morning with lots of laundry, the cold was very intense, her heart couldn’t stand it... she went to the foot of the Tabernacle ... and during her absence, the freeze ceased, the weather became so warm that we might have thought it was spring, if the thick ice in the wash basin didn’t remind us of winter.

 

Not so long ago, she began innocently to tell to one of our sisters the following incident that happened the same year, which proves that so many things like this were hidden by her humility.

 

“It froze hard,” they came to tell me. "My Mother, the beautiful apricot tree that you loved so much is lost, there will not be a single apricot.” I directed my pleas then to my good Jesus, I said to him, "Is it possible that you give nothing to our sisters this summer for refreshment?” - An inner voice replied: BE QUIET, THERE WILL BE APRICOTS. When the time came, they carried me to the garden, and without saying anything about my business, I asked to be taken by the alley of my apricot tree. What were my surprise and joy in finding the tree so laden with fruit we could hardly see the leaves! I felt moved to tears "Oh my daughter”, she added, “who can say how good Our Lord is! That his condescension is admirable!"

 

A new proof of this infinite goodness was given to our Mother at the time of her golden anniversary. A few months ago she became troubled, worried even, unlike her, because she would have to lift the veil and show herself to the world. But the divine Bridegroom who did not want to cloud this celebration, said during her preparatory retreat: "FEAR NOTHING, MY DAUGHTER, I NOT PERMIT YOU TO BE TROUBLED BECAUSE I WANT TO GIVE YOU THIS DAY WHAT I HAVE REFUSED YOU 50 YEARS AGO ON THE DAY OF YOUR PROFESSION. THERE WILL APPEAR ON YOUR FACE SOMETHING SPECIAL THAT WILL REFLECT WHAT I AM DOING IN YOUR HEART." Indeed, from the dawn of this blessed feast, a river of peace, following its expression flooded her soul ... On her face, something extraordinary appeared to all eyes. Mother Genevieve seemed rejuvenated, with an unknown beauty; incomparable reflection of her heaven. This was the fulfillment to the letter of the divine word. The happy Jubilarian was not the only one to rejoice ... In all our hearts, what joy! ... Our dear Carmels and our friends wanted to take part in this festival by lavishing upon us the most delicate attentions. Our monastery never had seen shine such a day! It was transformed with the most beautiful decorations ... The night before, our young sisters dressed in their cloaks, carrying lighted candles, went into the heated room at the end of recreation and one of them sang the Calends announcing this blessed day, during which so many tears of joy were shed! ... Ours fell very sweetly, receiving the vows of this venerable Mother, of this saint, who herself nineteen years ago, had offered ours to Lord! And what sweet emotions on hearing the touching words of our good Father Superior on the text chosen by her: "The Lord's yoke is sweet and His burden light!"

 

It seems, my Reverend Mother, after the story of so many graces, we are left with nothing more to say. However, the picture of this beautiful life would be incomplete if, after talking about the love of our Mother for Jesus, we didn’t add something of her love for the Cross.

 

It was in 1849 that the cruel disease that took her from us, made her feel its first attacks. We did not conceal from her the long and cruel suffering she would have to bear. "At this announcement,” she said later, “my heart was flooded with joy; it was the day of the feast of Saint Andrew. Reciting his office, I repeated with jubilation, “O good cross that I desired so long and which is finally granted according to my wishes. I come to you with confidence and joy; receive a disciple of He who has been attached to your sacred wood. Lord, you know I would have been foolhardy to ask you for suffering, I would have been afraid of my weakness, but since you find me worthy, be a thousand times blessed. I considered my soul like a stained copper vessel, and I thought with pleasure that the suffering coming to me would be the charitable hand that would rub forcefully and make clean and shiny this dull and ugly vase.”

 

Seeing this heroic acceptance of the cross, combined with a profound humility, we can assume patience and invincible courage that Mother showed during these years of martyrdom. As long as she could walk, only God was her witness, except in cases of attack in which we found her sometimes lying in pathways, unconscious and almost lifeless. One day, among others, in the freezing cold, she had not thought it necessary to dispense with drying linen; she fainted and fell in the snow. But Divine Providence did not abandon her ... At the same time, our dear Sister Adelaide, of holy memory, heard in her cell a voice say, "Go to the garden.... Go to the garden." she obeyed immediately and saved Jesus’s beloved from this imminent danger.

 

To these dangerous attacks were often joined severe migraines which through the violence of pain, came around her head like a rope in the shape of a crown, first likeness of the bride with the crucified bridegroom. We were surprised that our beloved Mother, despite this painful condition, could follow our holy rule and almost all our exercises from 1849 to the end of her last term as prioress. It was then that the considerable swelling of her legs didn’t allow her to stand anymore, we carried her in an armchair from the infirmary to the choir, and the choir to the discharge of the heated room that she had called the Sainte Baume; she stayed there until evening, working hard, praying and sacrificing in silence under the eyes of God and his angels. It was just one step to come to our recreations; this good Mother was joy there, she inspired them with her cheerfulness and her pleasant comments. There she told us the adventures of her youth, the Carmel of Poitiers, about the holiness of the first Mothers ... Who among us has not heard from her some remarks about virtue piously preserved in her memory and better yet in her heart? On this topic she didn’t peter out ... and we loved to encourage expansiveness, knowing it gave her joy that made her face glow. "Oh, how these good Mothers were holy,” she repeated. “You see,” my poor children, ”you must not fear suffering on the earth. You must walk in their footsteps and use everything to elevate us to God." How many times on this topic did she repeat the verses composed by one of those fervent Carmelites (Mother Victoire, the bishop of Aviau’s sister, Archbishop of Bordeaux. This nun died in the odor of sanctity at the age of 80) about the view she enjoyed at the window of her cell! We transcribe here in its simplicity.

 

                                  At the riverside

                                  From morning until evening,

                                  A poor washerwoman

                                  Up and down his paddle.

                                 Ah! hit me with tenderness

                                 Lord, do not spare me

                                 Purify me constantly,

                                 Until the day of my death.

 

                                   Further, out of sight

                                  In a fairly wide field,

                                  With his plow and plow,

                                  A man goes, cruising ...

                                   He does not spare his sentence,

                                  Because he knows that the wheat

                                  In very little time, a hundred ...

 

                                   Till, till the soil of my heart,

                                    Divine Spouse ...

                                   You are the owner of this field…

                                    It is yours.

                                   Sow the seed there,

                                   Make it grow, Lord.

                                   Enjoy the abundance,

                                   I sing my happiness!

 

Thereby exalting these venerable elders, Mother had no idea that she drew a true picture of herself! But, since he is talking about matters of preference, here is another who had a talent for making her cry and smile at once. It was no longer a mother who charmed her, it was a sister she knew and cherished; the little shepherdess of Domremy, Joan of Arc. A that time, no one spoke, like today, of the brave and gentle martyr.  You could say the affection, the tender devotion of Mother Genevieve for our French heroine surprised us sometimes and seemed to us almost the enthusiasm of another age...... We forget that in her heart, so full of love for God and detached from all things, also ran "the blood of France," and now that all sides praise the Venerable Joan, we see with joy and gratitude that our humble Mother was right ...

 

Also, despite her increasing infirmities, she did not become withdrawn. We noticed the more she was suffering, she appeared the more joyful! Which is all the more admirable because during these years the good Lord weaned her of any kind of consolation leaving only faith and the ineffable memory of its benefits ... But in 1888, when for the first time she nearly taken from us, He made her feel his presence again. Given Extreme Unction, favored with the blessing of the Holy Father, she appeared in profound peace, with great security ... and our expressed desire to know the cause, she said, "Mother, how could I fear death? Our Lord gave me the grace to never judge anyone; I count on his promise: judge not and ye shall not be judged." It was then the divine Master showed her in heaven the image of the cross, light and splendor, and revealed to her that the sight of the cross was the joy and the glory of the elect. Believing it was the day to contemplate this, Mother was radiant and as if transfigured. Poor Mother! It was only the day before her martyrdom. Before this luminous cross, awaited a bloody cross ... still four years of sacrifice before the eternal Easter!

 

Whatever it costs us, my Reverend Mother, we will say nothing of this long and painful vigil, to speak more about the same day of the Passion. She began, with that of Jesus, on Holy Thursday 1890. In the morning at holy Mass during her thanksgiving, this privileged soul heard these sweet words: "MY DAUGHTER, FROM NOW ON, IT'S NO LONGER YOU WHO WILL COME TO, IT IS ME WHO WILL GO TO YOU. " It was the last time she indeed came to the choir, that she received Holy Communion there! She was then in her usual state, and nothing presaged the frightful next day, when suddenly, while we sang the office of Tenebrae, a violent attack happened; the illness during the night made frightening progress, and Friday morning, our good Father Superior came to administer last rites. We were waiting only for the last moment. Our beloved Mother was panting ... constantly asking to drink ... and nothing could quench ... Hearing the cry: I thirst, seeing that face disfigured by pain, those feet that iron nails seemed driven into, we believed we were on Calvary, and we could understand something of the anguish of Mary when she saw her Jesus on the cross! ... Before the true image of the dying Savior, witnessing so much suffering, we longed to hear three o’clock sound, hoping that then everything would be consumed, and that very day, she would go with Jesus to Heaven! ... But our thoughts were not those of God. In his inscrutable designs, he reserved for her longer combats ... after the example of these brave martyrs, who being miraculously healed of their wounds, generously offered their bodies to new torments! ... And just as the blood of martyrs was the seed of Christians, her pain would bring forth souls for God! This God of kindness would have her perhaps undergo her purgatory in this world; she will pay for her, as it was revealed to her ... but first and above all, she will sacrifice for souls because she was told again the evening of that day of agony: "MY DAUGHTER, IT IS TIME, OFFER YOURSELF UP AS VICTIM."

 

O victim full of sweetness, who can say to what degree of heroism your patience rose! ...

A few days after this painful Good Friday, against any human expectation the gangrene disappeared. But alas! What condition did our poor Mother remain in! And what ravages did the twenty months wield over her martyrdom? Her horribly swollen legs became only a wound. Gradually she formed frightful cracks of her feet, several toes and the heel of the left foot fell into decay ... We can imagine such a sight! ... Let us add to this picture the inner evil that devoured and after a few months the loss of sight with excruciating pain ... All of this without being able to make the slightest movement in bed, having only her arms free.  There had to be something extraordinary in this state that our pious and learned Doctor swore himself: "I challenge”, he said, “any of my colleagues to have seen such a case! It’s not possible to live like that without a miracle. "Edified to the utmost to see her suffer such torment with a smile on her lips, he knelt near the bed of our Mother one day, begging her to bless him and his large family, silent tears rolled down his cheeks. ..

 

Saying that our holy martyr had a smile on the lips is not enough ... She did more than smile, she was joyful! ... Many times torn between life and death, she joked amiably about this trip to eternity that she couldn’t complete, and we were deeply moved (knowing her longings) to see her beg our Lord not to call to him when she glimpsed a family celebration: our own, for example, not wanting to disturb our small solemnities with her death. During her sleepless nights, constantly occupied with her Jesus, she composed charming verses, but always with the cheerful note, like this one:

                            Blessed powerlessness,

                            That makes my suffering

                            Evening and morning

                            My daily bread!

                            But the cross is a divine bridge

                            It shortens the path

                            I take ... and going to Heaven,

                            Farewell, farewell, good friends!

 

When her sufferings were excessive, she exclaimed: "Come, my good Jesus! Are you not going to come to the aid of your poor Genevieve? ... In one word: we can never imagine a sick person more forgetful of herself, more compassionate for the slightest suffering of others, more grateful for the least service. We may apply to her this praise that the Venerable Mother Anne of St. Bartholomew had for Mother St. Teresa: "It was such a beautiful soul, she gave marks in all things." One of never approached her bed without feeling closer to God. What she had learned from the lips of the Divine Master, she repeated it to us so appropriate times, as we abide in the greatest astonishment. So, my Reverend Mother, one morning when her second nurse could not go to prayer because she was overwhelmed by her job, and she was distressed, Mother Genevieve called to her, "My child,” she said to her,” you know what our Lord has just revealed to me? Here are his own words:

 

"IT IS NOT THE SOULS THAT HAVE ALL THEIR TIME TO PRAY TO ME THAT ARE THE MOST AGGREABLE:  BUT ONLY THOSE WHO PROVE THEIR LOVE FOR ME BY MAKING SACRIFICES .... ALL IS IN SACRIFICE AND OBEDIENCE! "

 

We leave this dear sister telling herself the following line: "Seeing Mother one day who spoke to several of our sisters and walking near her, I was tempted to stop. They looked like they were discussing interesting things. But our Lord asking me for the sacrifice, I walked by. I hardly entered the infirmary when Mother Genevieve called me and said, "I have a little secret to tell you, a secret for always being happy and to please our Lord. Never seek, my child, to know what is happening ... You see a small gathering, instead of stopping, make a sacrifice for your good Jesus .... In the life of the Fathers of the Desert, have you not read that a brother was always agitated and it will arrive anything, we ended up nicknaming him "Brother Fly"? Well! Do not be like him, do not be "Sister Fly" ... .. The good Mother spoke to me about that for more than a quarter of an hour, and I listened to her without communicating any of my impressions; but in the end, not holding back any longer, I said, “My Mother, did you see me? Looks like you followed me because I just encountered that to the letter, what you’re speaking about.” "I have not seen you,” she answered smiling, “but it is our Lord who allows me to tell you this for your good. Go now, that's my little secret.”

Another of her daughters finding difficulty in the fulfillment of a point of obedience, though she didn’t speak about it, our holy patient said, "O my daughter if we understand well what obedience is! This morning, after Holy Communion, my good Jesus made me understand. Remember well this teaching that is not from me but from Him alone: "AS THE BIRD DEPLOYS ITS WINGS AND FLIES AWAY FREELY IN THE AIR, THUS THE OBEDIENT SOUL TO TAKES OFF TOWARD ITS BELOVED AND IS LIKE A HEAVEN WHERE GOD TAKES DELIGHT! "...

 

We could cite many examples of this kind and also bring some of the wonderful lights that were given to her on the Holy Eucharist, but the limits of a circular, already exceeded, do not allow it.

 

We asked her one day what this voice was that instructed and consoled her, and how she was heard it in her soul ... Without hesitation, she answered with a guileless smile and her usual simplicity: "My good Mother, this voice I hear, I feel that it is a FRIEND’S VOICE, but I do not know anything ... "

 

The day of her approaching diamond anniversary, we did everything possible to make this feast good. The hospital became a real oratory: all the statues of saints in the monastery took their place; garlands of white and red roses, the symbol of virginity and martyrdom, adorned the bed curtains, the bottom of which we hung a beautiful picture of the agony of our Lord. On the altar, adorned with sparkling jewels, was laid the crown coming from her dear Carmel of Poitiers ... flowers from Poitiers also decorated the staff and blessed candle. And the gentle victim, still on the cross, only heard our preparations, (her eyes are closed to earthly light) called us towards evening, and said with the accent of the deepest gratitude, "Here is the slave..." We realized she was referring to her trial of  July 21st, 1831 of which 60 years of grace separated her ...

 

When all was ready, the Community went to the infirmary. She asked forgiveness in the most touching terms, and spoke a few delightful words to us on purity of intention and love, repeating with Jesus at the Last Supper "My little children, love one another as I have loved you. "

 

The day cannot be described ... This passage of Our Lord in the middle of the cloister dotted with greenery and flowers! The infirmary resplendent with lights! This ineffable Communion! ... The touching little speech by our good Father Superior! Finally the vows of our venerable Mother, renewed once again in our hands with such fervor! .... What remains for us is a celestial memory ... However we noticed something serious about the expression of our holy jubilee. On this beautiful celebration of her diamond wedding anniversary, would she be tested like the first day of the divine covenant? Yes, and perhaps more! When we were alone near her bed, she repeated, clasping her hands with an indescribable accent: "Oh no, the greatest sufferings are nothing but not to see God! To be deprived of God!”

 

We believed we were hearing complaints of a soul at the end of life, when it sees itself plunging into a fiery abyss, whose torments barely seem harsh to it compared to deprivation of its God. It was no longer Mother Geneviève, it was a soul in purgatory? ... Probably, my Reverend mother, by calling this state a test, we are wrong ... Was it not rather a grace that signaled that last purification, which gave her like insurance to fly straight from her deathbed to Heaven ... So when we said to this happy victim, “ Courage, Mother, you are doing your purgatory in this world”, she replied with humility and trust "Oh, I hope!"

 

Asking her one day if the desire to be delivered from its cruel suffering was something in her ardent sighs for death, she spoke these beautiful words, "I do not want to die so as not to suffer, but only to see my God. "

 

The blessed moment approached when her eyes were finally going to open to this divine and eternal beauty! We were preparing for our great solemnities of the Centenary, when our beloved Mother found herself worse. '' It is time, Lord”, she cried like another Thérèse, “it is time, take me with you! ... "But, for fear of disturbing our feasts, she asked only for a reprieve of three days and our Lord granted her that.

 

The 24th, feast of Our Holy Father John of the Cross, His Grace Our Bishop, presiding over the ceremonies, was willing to come and honor her with a special blessing, accompanied by a few words which his paternal heart had the secret of! It seemed we saw in the person of our bishop, hair whitened by age and the noble work of the episcopate, Bishop de Beauregard himself, coming to encourage, bless and comfort his beloved daughter on the eve of the last battle, and show her in advance the palm and the crown!

 

The next day, after the close of the Triduum our dear Mother being sicker, received Extreme Unction for the third time ... Excessive suffering caused her weak moans to which we mingled our tears. She was worried about that. "To complain like that, isn’t that lacking in patience?” she asked our Father Superior.  “Ah it would be really regrettable!  My children, pray...... ask God to give me patience. "

 

Around six-thirty, she said in private: "It was 61 years ago today that my great pardon was granted to me and perhaps tonight, Heaven! I hear a whisper: STILL A FEW HOURS! STILL A FEW HOURS! Poor Mother, this friendly voice was not wrong, but the hours were to be very long and many more than she had thought! Soon, we found her a little better; so many times we had seen her at the gates of death that we had some hope. It was the time of the Mass; we went there more reassured. Our holy martyr who had heard us speak in this way to the nurse immediately complained to our Lord in these simple and touching words: "My Jesus, as our Mother found me better and I suffer so much, show me what it is like to be better! "

 

At the same moment, all pain was removed her ... no more suffering! She did not recognize herself! Finding herself like a very healthy person, who rests gently in a soft bed ... This time of feeling better lasted all the time of the Mass, that is half an hour ... Oh! How it is true the Lord works in all things the will of those who love him!

 

After this rest of a moment, prelude of eternal rest, the pains of our poor Mother did not leave her a single moment of rest ... Her crucifixion was complete ...  This sweet victim only lacked the supreme test of abandonment to be fully compliant with her Jesus. This feature will be also given to her. On Friday morning, December 4th, her suffering became such that not being able to take it any longer, she called her charitable nurses all the time to lift her up in their arms ... but nothing relieved her! While we looked at her silently through our tears, she cried in a soft, plaintive voice: "My good Jesus, so you abandoned me?" At that moment, her face lit up with a heavenly beauty, a smile touched her lips and seemed to belie her words. We could apply this verse from Psalm to her, "I have helped you in the day of tribulation. I have answered you in secret during the storm." It was agony, and Jesus was silent ... Jesus, who so many times had made her hear his friendly voice ... What a mystery! ... This morning, our revered Father Superior came in to give her that last blessing. How touching to see him on his knees praying fervently for this holy dying person to obtain help and strength from above! Our devoted and pious chaplain who had her confidence came in turn to comfort her and renew the absolution and the Indulgence of the Order. Finally, that afternoon our good Doctor arrived: "Well, Mother, he said, “you always wanted me to announce to you the time of death. It is here, this happy moment which you hoped for so much!" She smiled sweetly and thanked him.

 

We will not try, my Reverend Mother, to tell you about the cruel night following this day of agony. No expression could render what we saw! Our poor mother seemed immersed in a pure ocean of suffering without any mingling of consolation ... darkness enveloped her Calvary ... And in the morning, while we supported in her arms her weak head, she sighed this bitter complaint, "And I who always said to you IN TE DOMINE SPERAVI" and tears glistened like diamonds on her closed eyelids ... But her sweet face exuded calm and peace ... She said with a touching voice: "Oh ...how my exile is long! Jesus, Mary, Joseph, make that I die peacefully in your holy company! ... Virgin Mary.... help me!!! "

 

The Blessed Virgin heard her prayer and at dawn this Saturday, at the first sound of the Angelus she showed her God. The victim was immolated "all was finished!"

 

At the moment when white dove broke her mortal bonds, all her daughters were gathered around her bed ... Alas! And among them, the three privileged intended soon to join her procession in Heaven.... realizing the words of the Holy Spirit: "Virgins ... her companions, will be brought to him, they will be presented to him with joy; they will enter in the temple of sovereign King."

 

This triple mourning was hidden from us, we only thought then of our beloved Mother.... Added to the distress caused by her departure was the pain of sending away her venerable remains.... Our good Father Superior, unable to resign himself to it, made us try several approaches whose result seemed far from being in our favor ... But the Lord who had looked at the lowliness of his servant now wanted to raise the proportion of her depths and the greatness of her sufferings. He allowed that Mr. Target, former deputy, former Plenipotentiary Minister, should take charge of this issue, with a commitment that we will never know enough to acknowledge, and that he should lead it to a good end despite the apparently insurmountable difficulty.

 

The alternatives of fear and hope, yes and no, we imposed the sweet obligation to keep three weeks on one that seemed not to want to get away from us, and brought him to her even three of the most solemn services. The first of these services, celebrated by the Reverend Hugonin, brother of Bishop, Vicar General of Bayeux, Father ROHÉE, pastor of Saint Pierre de Lisieux, held in honor of speaking. In what terms real, touching and eloquent at the same time he extolled Mother! One felt that he had known and loved, as proved these words: "I can say for having been the lucky witness, I have never met a soul as equal, as serene, calm as the soul of the one the public voice called holy Carmel ... "

 

That voice, my Reverend Mother we ourselves heard ... During the five days that Mother remained exposed to the gate of the Choir, the crowd was considerable. Those of us who were watching over the dear departed had barely time to pray, so great was the number of religious objects: crucifixes, medals, rosaries, etc ... they had to make him feel. The newspaper of our city had also announced the death as "public mourning" in an admirable article, that the most lively faith alone could inspire.

 

We waited for evening impatiently to freely surround our beloved Mother! Impossible to describe the impressions of grace felt near her! Her face so sweet and calm invited us to trust ... What favors already obtained by her beloved relics! They came all the time to ask us for something that had touched the saint ...even if only a rose petal of Christmas that covered her ...Doctor de Corniere, who during these days of anxiety gave us proof of his dedication and reverence for Mother, observed each night with touching happiness that her wounds gave off no smell! ...When the authorities forced us to seal the lead coffin eight days after, we kissed her feet with a pious emotion by watering them our tears ...... Now, alas! We will no longer see our saint ... But what immense consolation knowing she is near the Tabernacle! .... She's there. ! To the left side of the altar, close to our grille.... Today she may well exclaim in the transport of her gratitude: "There is the slave! "Yes, there she is! No longer servant, but Bride and Queen in the palace of her Bridegroom, the King of Kings! ...

 

O beloved Mother, let us address to you, in finishing, this prayer engraved on the marble of your tomb, "Look upon us from heaven. See and visit the vine your right hand has planted, and give it perfection!"

 

We cannot doubt, my Reverend Mother, the one we are lamenting is with God. She was so humble, so hidden, she loved so much and suffered so much! But since on earth her happiness consisted in doing good to all, she will be very grateful to you for the prayers which you add to the prayers of the Order, reserving for itself the distribution, if, as we have every reason to believe, her blessed soul enjoys glory in heaven.

 

 

 

 

Although the circular bears the date of the venerable Mother’s death, it was written later as evidenced by the note to the circular of Sister Fébronie of the Holy Childhood on January 6th, 1892: everyone is asking for the circular of our venerable Mother Genevieve. The sad days we have just passed (epidemic of influenza) have prevented us from taking care of it, but we hope soon to respond to the wishes so fraternally expressed.

 

Although it bears the signature of the Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzaggue, the writing of this circular, besides the entry which seems to be her style, had been entrusted by her to the young Sister Agnes of Jesus, a year before her first term as prioress. (1892)

An edition in the form of a booklet 21 ½ x 14 appeared in 1896, dated June 21st of the same year, 1892, and a revised edition around 1923 including the accounts of Thérèse with the founder.

 

DEATH OF MOTHER GENEVIEVE    (December 5th, 1891)

 

Here are the terms, the Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzague, then Prioress, announced this death to the Monasteries of her Order and promised her circular:

 

J.M.J.T.

My Reverend and Most Honored Mother,

Peace and humble salvation in Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has just taken from our tenderness our dear and revered Mother Marie Radegonde Claire Genevieve de Saint Therese, Professed of Poitiers, Founder of our Carmel.

 

Our beloved Mother was 86 years, 4 months, 17 days old, of which 60 years, 4 months and 14 days of Religious Profession.

 

Her departure plunges us all into the deepest grief. This venerable Mother was a relic for our little Carmel, the accomplished model of religious virtues.

 

We shall endeavor later, my Reverend Mother, to speak to you of the examples that she leaves to us as a precious inheritance, in spite of her expressed desire not to have a circular. Today, we merely wish, my Reverend Mother, to ask for the prayers of our Holy Order for Our Beloved Mother, adding, according to her intentions, a Communion in reparation, to the Blessed Sacrament, one to the Holy Heart Of Mary, and a Plenary Indulgence, demanding that these prayers of the Order and other prayers be applied to the souls of Purgatory.

 

It is at the foot of the Cross that we dare to say, my Reverend and most honored Mother,

Your very humble Sister and Servant, Sr Marie de Gonzague, R.C. ind.

 

* * *

 

A modern appreciation of the medical problems of Mother Genevieve

 

Her health problems are mentioned as starting around 1849 meaning she was 44. They are serious health problems.

 

Fainting and falling. Some cardiology departments now have “Faint and Fall clinics.  Maybe she would have gotten a pacemaker along with medication in modern times.

 

Severe migraines, described as circling her head like a rope, often with fainting and falling but not always. Contemporary neurologists still aren't sure but there are many medications now to treat different kinds of migraines.

 

A lot of swelling of the legs so Mother Genevieve couldn't walk anymore. This started at the end of her last term as prioress.  She had to be carried. Swelling of the legs means that some organs are not eliminating water well. Congestive heart failure ? or kidney problems ? or both.

 

When the narrative skips to Holy Thursday 1890, Mother Genevieve has a frightening attack with unquenchable thirst. Congestive heart failure causes unquenchable thirst, among other illnesses.

 

The narrative then mentions gangrene. Mother Genevieve had already been suffering gangrene but this is the first that it is mentioned.  It says it disappeared but her legs became an open wound and parts of her feet fell off. This then is mentioned as lasting during her last 20 months of life, devouring her internally with loss of sight and horrendous pain.

It sounds like diabetes and when diabetes gets bad, it can be internal, with loss of eyesight;  amputations are needed because of the gangrene.

 

Insomnia is mentioned, with again incessant thirst.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Claire Bertrand 1805-1891

 

Circular of the Reverend Mother Genevieve of St. Therese,

Cofounder of the Carmel of Lisieux

Claire Bertrand, 1805-1891

 

My reverend and very honorable Mother

Peace and very humble greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ

 

We had just tasted great consolations during the feasts of the third centenary of Our Father Saint John of the Cross, when it pleased the Divine Master to give us the bitterness of his chalice and plunge us into deep pain by removing from among us, December 5th, 1891, our revered Mother Marie Claire Radegonde Genevieve SAINTE THERESE, age 86 years, 4 months and 17 days, including 60 years, 4 months, and 14 days of religious profession.

 

It is with trembling, my Reverend Mother, we take up the pen to tell you about this dear relic, true treasure of our Carmel ....Perhaps you will find that we sometimes have gone beyond the bounds of discretion by revealing some mysteries of this beautiful soul. There are many things that we would have indeed ignored, if we were not certain that in her simplicity, our humble Mother herself reported them to several of her daughters. God has doubtless permitted this for your edification and the glory of this noble soul.

 

Oh beloved Mother! Above all, bless your daughter and forgive her if, despite your expressed wishes not to have a circular, she devotes through obedience these few pages to the memory of your virtues. Sleep in peace, my Mother, in your humility.

 

Our revered Mother, born in Poitiers to an eminently Christian family, received the name of Claire in baptism. This blessed child from the cradle predicted what she would one day be; she never cried which greatly astonished her good mother. At the age of two, she fell ill, she never stopped smiling and uttered, instead of cries, a graceful and childlike song, a prelude of this force of soul and joy in the suffering we will soon admire, no longer in a cradle and on the knees of a mother, but at Calvary, on the bloody cross of Jesus.

 

Meanwhile let our liet’s follow our little Claire in the spring of her beautiful life; a bright day, whose setting sun emitted so much splendor! Several features alone suffice to show the rare qualities that Heaven had endowed her with. At a very early age, she was entrusted to a teacher who unfortunately was not flawless. The friendliness and the child's graces gave her it seems the right to abuse her more; and young students, believing themselves authorized by the example of their mistress, made a game of attacking her. But the Lord had placed in her soul the seed of charity; this heavenly plant that would grow with age and become the most beautiful tree in this delightful garden. This is why instead of complaining and taking revenge, she continually showed the kindness and delicacy of her heart. One of her little companions was crying one day because the ball of wool from her knitting had fallen into a pit. "Mama will scold me tonight. I’m so sad,” she cried. “Oh do not cry!" said Claire; then pulling out the dirty wool and wiping it dry with her little apron, she returned the ball of yarn, happy and proud of her achievement. Spiritual and very serious, she knew perfectly how to read, barely three and a half years old. Already the Holy Spirit illuminated her young mind, as evidenced by the following fact: while the children were playing and running around the garden, Claire often withdrew and read.  "There are no doubt beautiful images in this book, and it must be really interesting, is not it my dear? " said a lady, very surprised to see her so attentive. "Yes, Madame”, she said, “this book is very interesting because it is the Imitation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

By this time, my Reverend Mother, the pious child attracted the attention not only of God but also of one of his saints. We refer to the venerable parish priest of Saint Pierre, Father de Beauregard, later bishop of Orleans, whose interesting memoirs of his deportation to Cayenne really show that if martyrdom missed him, it is not he who failed martyrdom. This admirable confessor of the faith, who had baptized the little dear, never saw her go without giving her the marks of a special affection. Often, taking her in his arms, he carried her into his bedroom and showed her his paintings and holy cards. The child was shaking! "You’re trembling, sinner?'' he told her, smiling, and he looked at her with indulgence. A prophetic look, no doubt, and which explains the words from one of his letters. "From your earliest childhood, I saw that there were enough in you to make a saint but you would need crosses."

 

However, the poor girl was still under the direction of the mistress of whom we spoke, and her mother, believing her in good hands, was not worried. Years passed thus until the time of First Communion, where the good God allowed all to be discovered. Surprise silence of her daughter, her mother asked her the reason. "Mother,“ answered the angel of peace, “how could you want me to speak ill of my mistress? I preferred to suffer..." Response and conduct beyond all praise, as they imply strength of character at yet so tender an age.

 

Seeing this early under my Reverend Mother, it is easy to judge how fervently the young child went the first time to the Divine Banquet. Besides, it was her good Father de Beauregard, as she called him, who prepared her for this great action, and gave her himself the Bread of Heaven. From then on, he never ceased to cultivate this beautiful lily, watching with jealous care that nothing earthly tarnished the whiteness. One day, seeing her curled hair put up gracefully, he said, "Why all these curls, little one? Fix your hair more simply, you'd be much better, just ask your mother for darker colors. " And to humiliate her, he added: "Besides, you're not at all pretty, you're not rich and you do not look nice. So who do you think you are pleasing?"

 

There was nothing more to say! The next day, the girl’s hair was smooth and formed two flat bands to the taste of her severe director. But when my mother saw me, she told us, she made endless exclamations; very happy with her displeasure, I went back to my first hairstyle and apologized to Father de Beauregard, saying: "Father, I saw that it annoyed Mother..." This innocent enough defeat proves that the young penitent was not insensible to the attractions of her age. With a quick and fiery character, she even felt enthusiasm. When the noble daughter of Louis XVI came to Poitiers, all the great ladies of the city in their beautiful outfits found themselves along her path. Claire slipped in among them, and cried, "Long live the Duchess of Angouleme!" Before responding to the greetings of the great ladies, the princess looked at the girl, made her a sign of friendship and graciously smiled. This one, in the transport of her joy kept saying to her brother: "Jules, think of it. The Duchess of Angouleme smiled at me! "

 

But the time was approaching when our Lord was preparing to smile at this chosen soul, and as the smiles of Jesus are only for crucified souls, He began by giving her his cross. Mrs. Bertrand fell seriously ill, and it was Claire, then age 16, who exhorted her to sacrifice her life. Heeding the advice of this earth angel, this pious mother gave her beautiful soul to God shortly after, abandoning her children to Divine Providence, happy to leave exile and in the sentiment of the utmost piety. Fr. de Beauregard was again at the bedside of the dying mother, which caused him to later write to our beloved Mother these words that always moved her, "Remember, my child, it is I who led your mother to Heaven, and that I was her friend! "

 

However my Reverend Mother, this cruel bereavement brought many painful changes in the life of the poor child. She was the eldest and understood the importance of her task. Her excellent father made her feel that when on the very day of the death, taking the ring from her mother, he put it on her finger, saying, "My daughter, it is now you who replace your mother." Following the example of our Mother St. Teresa, she spoke from that day to the Queen of Heaven, asking her to help her in her new duties; but all was sadness in this home only yesterday so joyful! Financial pressures coming soon joined the regrets of maternal absence, there was talk of selling the house, this house so dear, guardian of so many memories. The poor father ill concealed his fears, his daughter guessed everything. Submerged in an ocean of sadness, she could not even cry out to Heaven but the desperate hours are the hours of divine help, grace was about to ring out.

 

"One night,” she said, “my father went out to sell the house, I remained alone with my younger brother, then aged seven. Sobs choked me, but I would not cry for fear of hurting this poor boy who loved me beyond what words can say. Already seeing that I was sad, he covered me with caresses, which pierced the heart! To regain my composure, I took a book that was under my hand, and opening it at random, my eyes fell upon a small picture representing Jesus Savior of the world. In an instant the picture became bright. There was in my heart a sudden and admirable revolution; the cost of crosses, the merit of suffering was shown to me in a vivid clarity, I was very excited and beside myself. My tears flowed in abundance, but I did not hide them anymore, for they were tears of joy ... I felt all transformed and ready if necessary to beg my bread for the love of Jesus

Our Lord was satisfied with the acceptance of the sacrifice, and Divine Providence came to the help of the father and orphans. Through a devoted cousin, the Reverend Mother Aimee de Jesus, then Prioress of Carmel of Poitiers (known in the world by the name of Miss d’Ulys), took a keen interest in this sorely tried family; she named Mr. Bertrand as manager of her vast fortune and saved him from a ruin too justly dreaded. They kept the house, and trust, peace and almost joy came to be reborn in these desolate hearts. A year passed without serious incident. Claire fulfilled all her duties with great perfection and never thinking of the future without recommending it to God, thinking he would not refuse his light in due time. She was not mistaken; already Our Lord was at the door, ready to conquer this young heart. We will again let her speak herself:

"I was going to be seventeen; one day I was alone in my room, knelt to say my prayers in the morning, suddenly the apartment disappeared from my eyes, I didn’t know where I was, if I had a body or if I didn’t have one anymore ... Plunged into a blinding light and an indescribable joy, I heard the sound of a melodious voice that all the concerts here below could not give the slightest idea. This voice said, or rather sang, leaving between each word a mysterious interval:

 

TO BE THE BRIDE OF GOD.... WHAT A TITLE ....WHAT A PRIVILEGE! ......

"Then everything disappeared ... there was silence, I found myself flooded with tears and an intoxicating happiness, as one who would return from heaven after having contemplated the splendor and penetrated unfathomable secrets."

 

From that memorable day that we can call the day of God's engagement, the happy child thought of Carmel and could not suffer any delay, she went there shortly. But her visit was prevented by that of her father, who used such used good reasons as a pretext that they agreed, with the promise of never depriving him of his treasure. Knowing nothing, the poor little thing was full of hope. "Oh, I felt joy, she told us, in the parlor of the Carmelites! Fortunately, there was a little hole near the grille, I put my eye up to it and I soon saw appear Mother Aimée of Jesus ...... my heart beat so hard it might burst ... She said, "How old are you, my child?”

 “Mother”, I replied, “I am old, I'm 17!”

 

  That is good, my child, but you want to make a vow of obedience, don’t you? So you will start to practice it by returning to your father. I will tell you when you should enter. "

 

Judge my surprise and my pain! I knew well that I had to wait until my father died; I was shattered. But gradually peace returned to my soul, thinking I was doing the will of God.

 

Claire therefore returned to her father's house, trying to console herself for not being a Carmelite by practicing all the virtues of the cloister. Soon our Lord asked another sacrifice of her; Fr. de Beauregard was appointed Bishop of Orleans and even though he promised never to lose sight of her, there was one less help! She had to choose a director. The girl had already glanced at Fr. de Rochemonteix, superior of her dear Carmel; but to get used to obedience and renunciation of self she entrusted the matter to Miss Therese, her elderly and holy cousin whose wise advice she always followed. "Alas,” thought the poor child, “of course my cousin Therese will send me to some good old canon of the cathedral." She was wrong, God blessed her act of renunciation and the Superior of Carmel was proposed. This wise Director, my Reverend Mother, saw at first glance that he did not before him a common soul. Consequently, he didn’t spare her, humiliated and corrected her at each meeting. Despite this, it must be said, that soul, otherwise so perfect, deceived his vigilance about a small thing. This is the time to share the little infidelity of her youth, "her great infidelities," as she called them. We cannot endorse this word, however, for a soul of so many favors. Is it any wonder that the Lord appeared to be jealous?

 

We'll see how rigorously he later made her atone for this imperfection in the story we are going to tell.

 Released for a long time it seemed into the world she wanted to leave, adorned with all the moral qualities, witty, a perfect judgment, a quiet imagination, it is true, but with a heart that was loving and sensitive to the highest degree. The young woman soon attracted attention; despite her modest position, she was sought in all levels of society; advantageous suitors were offered to her. "For marriage, she told us, I always showed myself to be unshakable, I remained very simply dressed and never thought of trying to please. Except for my personal satisfaction, I kept in my way of dressing a little affectation. I had been given a beautiful shawl, and instead of attaching it with a pin, I let it float freely and gracefully. An inner voice asked me for the sacrifice of this pin but I did not want to hear it. I refused Jesus a pin! What ingratitude ... Fr. de Rochemonteix himself seemed to warn me in the name of our Lord, because the first time that I spoke to him, he reproached me like this: "There is about you my child, a certain style that I would like to see disappear.” “Father,” I said then, “I cannot dress more simply. See, I have a brown dress and shawl was given to me, should I not wear it? " Surprisingly and worthy of note, never was Monsignor de Beauregard warned of this infidelity which Our Mother alone had knowledge and years after, he wrote her in Carmel: "Humble yourself, remain little, remember that you once wore a shawl which displeased God and me. "

 

But apart from this small failing, Claire was a model of all the virtues. Her father loved her so tenderly he could not bear the thought of even unintentionally causing her the least suffering. One day, after asking him for money for household needs, he was not able to give it. Guessing the anguish of his paternal heart, she shed a few tears in secret, but her red eyes betrayed her: "I am an unhappy man”, the good father cried with pain, “I made my daughter cry!”

 

This darling girl really was like the mother of her two brothers, and the examples she gave them, the sweet influence she exercised over them, always keeping them in the paths of duty.

She even used her blessed influence not only within the family, but in the world. Sunday, several ladies had invited her for a walk not far from town. Once there they went to Mass; but what a temple! An abandoned barn with water falling on the altar. And what an altar! Poorer than the crib! The priest’s vestments in tatters, sacred vessels unworthy of the name ... Coming out of the Divine Office, the pious girl, heartbroken, followed the ladies to the hotel, unable to utter a single word.

 

"What’s wrong, Miss?” they asked. “Ladies,” she answered immediately, ”I am surprised that you do not share my sadness, and I wonder how it is possible that you could painlessly attend such a Mass, covered in lace with beautiful hats, while our Lord is housed worse than a street beggar and more poorly dressed than your servants." This speech produced its full effect and soon an elegant chapel replaced the poor barn.

In the countryside, where her father had to spend several months each year, her presence worked wonders; she taught the village children with amazing success. "Mam'zelle”, said a poor woman, “do not refuse to take charge of my daughter, I warn you that she is bad and a halfwit, but that does not matter, you can give her a mind. It's up to you to want to. "This naive confidence was not misplaced. The little halfwit became intelligent, pious and good, and later went to Carmel to thank her benefactress.

 

To visit the poor and do good for them, these were all pleasures of Claire. For a Christmas party after the Midnight Mass, the ladies of the neighboring chateau wanted to have her there; but she had already promised the good farmers and refused the invitation. "Oh, I was much happier in the house of poor people” she told us, “they sang until the daybreak of Christmas in the old dialect of the region, and I sang with them, my heart warmed by their company, they showed such a great faith, a lively piety, I thought I was in Bethlehem."

 

She still practiced charity with a heroic silence when necessary. An aunt invited her to come spend some time at her home in Poitiers. She went joyfully but her piety soon displeased the uncle who had a dark and surly character. Seeing her return one morning from church, he said loud enough to be heard: "If I had a daughter like this, I would put her out of my house." Back in her room the poor child burst into tears; her good aunt herself, deeply pained, advised her to return at the earliest to the country, but this angelic soul did not think like that as a hasty departure would have made known to her father what had happened and probably damaged the harmony of the two families. She remained all the time agreed upon, was more amiable than ever with regard to her uncle, and was silent. O wonderful power of love! This man was struck very much with such conduct, and the wolf became lamb; he was guided later in the ways of God through the guidance of his admirable niece.

 

But the time was approaching, my Reverend Mother, where the doors of Carmel would finally open. The dear aspirant had reached her twenty-fourth year when her excellent father was called to God. It was time to fly to the cloister. Mr. Rochemonteix, to test her, then pretended not to believe in her vocation. However one day he sent her a small book in which, on the angles of the first page, he had written these words: Do not complain about trials... the reward will be great ... Nothing less than Heaven for a dwelling place... God himself will make you happy. ”Oh!” she said to herself, “I will be a Carmelite: "God himself will make you happy!" and she constantly repeated the word. Indeed, on March 26th of that year, 1830, our gentle dove joyfully entered the blessed arch.

 

It was the Reverend Mother Aimée of Jesus, her benefactress and her second mother, who received her on the threshold of the cloister and called her Genevieve of St. Therese, prophetic name, for had she not become one day on Mount Carmel shepherd and guardian of several flocks? Here are the first words this good Mother addressed to her: "My child, if you want to be holy and always happy, remember this well: Never let anyone know what pleases you or displeases you, what is pleasant or unpleasant to you, what you like or don’t like. " This lesson was followed to the letter and our beloved Mother reaped the fruits of peace from it.

 

The Monastery of Poitiers then had venerable older sisters, accomplished types of the perfect Carmelite. These good mothers for the most part had seen the disasters of the Revolution and suffered a thousand ways during those awful days. A heroic perfume of sanctity escaped from them, and the young postulant was at first uplifted. She never forgot that first impression, and when during the time of breaks, novices, her companions agreed on an hour to go together to visit, she always excused himself and went alone, wanting to enjoy at leisure their experience and advice. Guided by such examples, Mother advanced with a quick step on the path of religious perfection, and God who was watching over this soul and wanted to lift it so high, began by lowering it in her own eyes and those of her sisters, sending her a humiliation that the most skillful mistress would never have been able to give her. She had been named second seamstress and surprisingly, this girl who in the world had shown a great aptitude for manual labor could not even sew a tunic belt. Powerless to handle the needle, she was handling the work in such a clumsy way that her companion was annoyed. Not knowing what to do, she had a heavy heart when the feast of her beloved Mother Prioress arrived, having only the canvas for the sacristy to offer her ... Upon receiving a blessing and motherly kiss at her turn, she held back her tears ... but the good Mother Jesus Aimee whispered to him: "Be comforted, my child, for you are the daughter of my heart." Words are tender which put balm on the wound.

 

However, my Reverend Mother, this apparent void was offset by such great qualities, that no one objected to her request for the habit, other than informing her about the uncertainty of the future. It was in 1830, on the eve of a new revolution but the fervent postulant answered without hesitation, she would be happy to follow her mothers and sisters to prison and to death ... Seeing her so resolute, she was given the Holy Habit. This was a new impetus towards good. Six months were spent in happiness and gladness; all the exercises of religious life seemed to her more and more delicious. Returning from the parlor, she lovingly kissed the walls of her cell; solitude was so attractive to this soul of prayer! She lived in an atmosphere of peace, when suddenly this beautiful heaven darkened ... We leave her to tell herself this terrible ordeal while despairing of rendering the tone with which, in the privacy of our souls, she told us so many times.

 

"Six months before my profession, Mr. Rochemonteix preached a retreat for us, and in one of his sermons, he painted us a vivid picture of the three states in which souls in this life can be. In the table of imperfect souls, much less in that of fervent souls, I could not recognize me, but when it came to describing the state of souls in mortal sin, I felt deeply disturbed. As he spoke, I recognized myself more. Troubled beyond all expression, I returned to our cell almost reduced to despair ... Not knowing what to do, unable to pray, I sat beside myself near our bed (it was late, it was after Matins), where, in the silence of the night, a voice that seemed to come from outside said loudly and distinctly: "YOU COULD HAVE AND YOU DIDN’T WANT TO.” Grabbing my crucifix, I held it up towards the place where I had heard that voice and I said: "Excuse me, my God, forgive me.... Here is my bond...”

 

I remained all night in mortal anguish, under the influence of divine justice ready to throw me into the abyss ... In the morning I went to confession, and what was my surprise hearing I was given a penance of a novena of communions! I approached the Holy Table in a desperate state and about to exclaim, "I am damned." But hardly had the Blessed Sacrament touched my lips, I felt tears well up in my eyes and pour in torrents ... peace was restored and I felt only a gentle and deep contrition for my sins. After some time, thinking of what I had suffered, I naively addressed my complaints to our Lord, I said to him: Why, my Jesus did you permit such a storm? Oh it was awful! Tell me why you did that?” - The answer was immediate, "If I allowed it, it is only through love...and to spare you 10 years of Purgatory! "

 

This revelation is very mysterious. When God chose a soul, that to whom he made known his graces, what fidelity does he not ask of it? It is good to remember the complaint of the Spouse of the Song of Songs, "You have wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, by one of your hairs!” "What were the mistakes of youth of our beloved Mother? And by what purifications Our Lord made her expiate them! Letting her know that they merited 10 years of purgatory...... Which shows the merciful goodness of our God who is willing to pay for an hour of suffering in this life, to spare us the rigors of his justice in the other.

 

So passed this awful storm; but when the day of her profession came, new anxieties; not only did our dear Mother not felt the consolation of being the spouse of a God, but God she loved so dearly seemed to cast her aside far from HIM ... sinking in the depths of her nothingness, the poor little professed in the bitterness of her soul begged the divine master to please only suffer in his holy house among his faithful spouses. "Keep me,” she said to him in tears, “keep me as your little slave!" And confiding her suffering to her Mother Prioress, she begged her to give her the job of third nurse, to be the servant of her sisters, which was granted. There were in the monastery many infirm; among them a poor sister whose wounds gave off a foul smell. Sr. Genevieve never left her day or night, although the Doctor himself could only visit her very quickly. The day of death, leaving the poor cell he said with admiration, "She who nursed this religious is obviously a SAINT because without special help from God, it is not possible to stand such a smell for long.

The heroic novice found another way to be happy. In summer, in front of a blazing fire, she was drying linens for another patient who required special care. She did this every day and long enough to have an inflamed face and almost to the quick. But carefully hiding this fatigue, no complaint escaped her lips. It was already too much for her humility to not be put out of the house of God; she suffered everything in silence and suppressing her distress, constantly singing pious hymns to the glory of her Jesus...

 

Always finding her amiable and smiling, they wondered about only one thing: it was to see her in the refectory eating very little and with great difficulty. "My sister Genevieve”, she was told “you must not let the joy of having made profession prevent you from eating.” “Alas,” thought the poor novice, “so I must take care of myself, to make all my sisters believe I have joy in my heart!" Finally, little by little, our Lord let himself touch her; He said nothing this time, but slowly and invisibly, his divine hand parted the clouds; the sun, not consolation but trust subsidiary illuminated her soul, humble wife did not want anything else. His life was to be a cross of life, not of ecstasy. No doubt many times again, it will hear the sweet voice of the bridegroom; but more often his soul will be immersed in the mysterious silence of the faith. Who can tell, my Reverend Mother, the progress of the young novice during this dark night she had just crossed! She had become all humility, charity, detachment and obedience.

 

A priest who had known her in the world asked her this question in the parlor: "My child, tell me what appeals to you? Do you have a particular liking for penitence or prayer?

- “Father, she said shyly, “I only feel attracted to the penitence of the rule in use at the monastery; I also really like the prayer and the Holy Office recited in choir, but I have a particular attraction only for obedience.

“Courage, my child”, said the good priest very edified, “with that attraction you will go far. "

There would be many examples to report of her other virtues, particularly her great courage to conquer herself in all things, her detachment and her charity. On one occasion when she had an extreme need to see Father de Rochemonteix, her superior, it happened that several nuns had asked too. She waited until evening at the door of the confessional, without having had her turn; this caused her a violent headache.

 

"Ah, she said to herself, “it’s like this, Sister Genevieve, that you give yourself a big headache to satisfy your will ... but this is the last time. I will know how to heal you ... "And the next day she spoke to the ordinary confessor, not wanting to suffer anything which could disturb her peace.

 

Another time, when she was ill a long time, it happened that a certain little wool cap she wore in the infirmary caused a visitor to laugh and joke a lot. At heart, the dear little patient experienced annoyance and a slight injury to self-esteem. But immediately recognizing this, her mind was made up. The first day she came back to recreation, she solemnly pulled out of her pocket the famous little cap, and putting it on her head, she laughed: "See, my good sisters how I'm wearing my hair with this hat ...We had so much fun the other day over it, I did not want to deprive the community of this small distraction...." Everyone laughed indeed at the expense of our humble Mother who triumphed then, and blessed God in her heart.

 

Now an example of her detachment and her inner freedom: When Reverend Mother Aimée of Jesus fell ill, justly alarmed, the community showed a lively sorrow. Little sister Genevieve suffered as well, she the "daughter of her heart!" "But to prepare for the test of upcoming separation, she withdrew, expressing her regrets and tears, not outwardly, but only in the presence of her Beloved, for she knew from experience what the author of the Imitation says "The devout man carries Jesus his comforter everywhere with him." A young white veil sister, her novitiate companion, attracted by the charm of her virtue, joined her, both then encouraged each other ... 'They were saying, having left the world to God, God of goodness they would always remain, that besides it was only fair that their dear Mother should go soon to receive the crown, having worked and suffered so long to acquire it ... when you're in Carmel  our venerable Mother said later, “do not too grieve the death of her mother and sisters, did not we come here to die, and soon  we will all not be together in Heaven?”

 

While this good Mother Aimée of Jesus was in the infirmary, Sister Genevieve was assigned to care for her. One day as she began to work to wash her feet, the face of the sick woman became sad and thoughtful. "What is it, my good Mother?" said her little nurse. '' O my child,” replied the holy Prioress, “Must I tell you? ... I am afraid that your love for me will make you lose the merit of this action.“ “Fear not, my Mother,” replied the young professed, “and forgive me if I dare say that with much joy I would wash the feet of the last of my sisters.” The girl was already living up to her mother. Soon, alas, this beloved Mother was found worthy of eternal reward ... Miss Therese then came to the parlor, in tears, and told her cousin: "Well, what will you become now? How you will be unhappy!” - "But I came for God who will never fail me, so I will always be happy."

 

After the death of her good Mother, our virtuous novice was named temporarily in charge. All the sisters were edified and charmed by her exquisite charity in this office that she said can be harder to fill and more meritorious than that of nurse because we are not only responsible for the sick but somehow the whole Community.

 

With a nun who caused her pain she resolved at once to take revenge in the manner of saints. Knowing this sister loved cooked pears, her pleasure was to serve her the most beautiful as well as choosing the best in everything else for her. And telling it later, she said it in a way so sweet and humble that went right to the heart without raising the slightest doubt: "This time I didn’t act like that to vanquish myself, but really from love ... since the dear sister hurt me, I loved her more '' ... “well, my little children,” she added, “see how advantageous it is to forgive, not to be angry, to be considerate and kind to those who offend us. The sister who was angry with me, seeing that I did everything to please her, soon came to throw herself at my feet, and kissed me tenderly, "O my sister Genevieve,” she cried, “we cannot tell you anything, I am overcome by your charity, forgive me! "

 

We would not finish, my Reverend Mother, if we had to tell all the edifying traits of these eight years at the blessed Carmel of Poitiers. We only showed some precious pearls from this incomparable jewelry box; but do not know ourselves the wealth we end with these words of Solomon: "This is the beauty of the Bride without what is hidden within."

 

Our beloved Mother was thus prepared for the great mission that was going to be assigned to her. When it was a question of founding a Carmel in Lisieux, she felt a strong desire to be part of it "to taste the sweetness of poverty..." But the fear of acting by her own will, prevented her from asking. "If God wills it”, she thought, “he will know how to inspire the superiors." The Reverend Mother Prioress indeed had cast her eyes on her daughter Genevieve, and Fr. Sauvage, our founder, had gotten two benefactors and their companions to come to Poitiers to make their novitiate there The Reverend Mother Pauline resolved to appoint her novice mistress. Before telling her about it, wanting to test her, she called out in the middle of a recreation: "My sister Genevieve, it is not the custom in Carmel to remain here in silence, sad and gloomy as a nightcap, so try to be more cheerful." The next day, complete change! But now, leaving recreation, the good Mother, pretending to be more dissatisfied than the day before, said, "Really, my Sister Genevieve, if you continue, I'll be forced to be quiet to listen to you; you’ve become like the village rooster at recess!" Without saying a word, without showing the slightest vexation, the true religious kissed the ground and withdrew. The Reverend Mother Pauline was satisfied and our Lord was even more, because at evening prayer, he announced himself the event of the next day with these words: "MY DAUGHTER, TOMORROW THEY WILL ALLOW YOU TO UNITE YOURSELF TO ME WITH COMMUNION, THEN THE MOTHER PRIORESS WILL CALL YOU, AND AFTER HAVING MADE YOU READ THE SERMON YOU HAVE COPIED ABOUT OBEDIENCE, SHE WILL APPOINT YOU NOVICE MISTRESS ".

"I was very disturbed,” said our mother, “and believing that the only demon could put such a thought in my mind, I banished it with the utmost of my power. But the next morning, at the command of my Mother Prioress, I approached the Holy Table and went to her cell.” “My child,” she said, “take the notebook you have written and read me the sermon on obedience." “ I read it in a trembling voice and then she appointed me novice mistress. So it was that Our Lord spoke to me, I did not doubt anymore, and remained comforted. "

 

She knew she would go to the foundation and rejoiced ... a real supernatural rejoicing probably because we were able to realize the immense sacrifice she had to offer God by leaving her dear religious cradle and the country she loved so much! But all her affections, put in the balance in the face of poverty, could not outweigh this cherished virtue. With her obedience, happy to still have it to practice with regard to the Reverend Mother Elizabeth, named prioress of the little colony this generous soul, this angel, as Mother Pauline called her, took flight towards Lisieux.

We recount the journey, my Reverend Mother, unremarkable, except passing through Orleans. Both founding mothers were the spiritual daughters of Bishop de Beauregard so they went to the bishop's palace. The venerable bishop, 88 years old, was ill and kept to bed. When he knew the names of visitors, expected each day, he got up, with unsteady steps but with a joyful heart, he first approached his daughter Genevieve. He took her head in his hands, "Ah, there you are,” he cried, “the smallest of the people of God." The conversation began; they almost forgot the time for the coach. The holy bishop was radiant. "Little one,” he said to our dear mother upon departure, “be sure to write the story of your foundation and put in it the happiness your visit gave ... I'll say" my Nunc dimittis." After having made a generous offering, he blessed them with all the affection of a father and dismissed them.

 

This blessing was auspicious; God kept and protected his elect amidst many dangers. Finally, they arrived in Lisieux. The lover of poverty could then be satisfied; the temporary house was thatched and the interior so ill situated, the rooms so small, so low that she did not give it any other name than that of her little Bethlehem. They remained like that for several months ... time to prepare another house, although still poor, but larger, where little by little they established regularity, until the monastery and our beautiful chapel were built during the first term of our dear mother as prioress. God blessed these beginnings, subjects were not lacking and these young plants grown by the hands of a saint, educated more by example than by her words, became veritable Carmelites, manly souls, capable of sacrifice in all things for the glory of our Lord. "I always recognize”, said one of the confessors of the monastery later, “novices formed by holy Mother Genevieve."

Four years had scarcely elapsed since the foundation when our good Mother Elizabeth was called to God. This event required an election; all eyes were already focused on the sub-prioress when Father Sauvage received a letter from Poitiers. Incomprehensible thing in such circumstances; thinking it was the return of Mother Geneviève (who had only been lent to Lisieux), he was careful not to open the letter, but came running to Carmel, exposed the Blessed Sacrament during the customary three days, and presided over elections that realized his desires, confirming his hopes.

Now, the evening of the first day, our Lord wanted to approach his humble and very little servant to make her hear his sweet voice. He said: "IT'S YOU THAT I’VE CHOSEN TO GOVERN THIS HOUSE ... OPEN YOUR HEART TO YOUR GIRLS AND I WILL OPEN MINE TO YOU ... AND EVEN AS I REST IN MY FATHER, THE HOLY TRINITY WILL BE YOUR SUPPORT ".

 

O beloved Mother! You could enjoy the sublime reward that was promised to you, because we know how much you have been faithful to the recommendation of the Divine Master ... Yes, during your twenty seven years as prioress you opened your heart to us and what a heart! The goodness of Jesus had descended there entirely: it was a heaven of peace, an abyss of charity, a powerful dike where the waves of all storms came to crash and die.

 

But what did this letter contain that we talked about? It concealed a heavy cross.... From this election onward where he seemed so happy, our good Father Sauvage was not the same with regard to the new Prioress. She, who had previously enjoyed his full confidence, now saw herself deprived. As to the conduct of souls, he had seen her at work and did not doubt her ability, but for exterior matters, he guided her, watched her like a child, without giving latitude even for the least expense. What acts of humility and obedience were to be the fruits of this painful situation!

 

Upon the death of the Rev. Fr. Sauvage 11 years later, we begged our good Mother to please go through her correspondence, and God allowed the mysterious letter to fall into her hands. It contained these words: "Do not name Geneviève prioress because she is not able to complete this difficult task...”

It happened that our humble Mother was very clever at hiding her talents and merit in this dear convent of Poitiers, so the good Mother Pauline (who later acknowledged her error) was mistaken herself. Anyway, while making her understand what had seemed hitherto inexplicable, this revelation did not distress our Mother. On the contrary, she found it a topic of joy. She told her adventure out loud, saying happily: "If I'm prioress, it is only by the will of my God!! So was fulfilled this prophecy of Monsignor de Beauregard:" You will not go to Lisieux to build a house of stone, but to raise up in honor of God, an edifice of living stones which are souls. "

 

 

Since the venerable name of the holy Bishop of Orleans returns to our pen, allow us, my Reverend Mother, to transcribe a single part of his delicious letters. In 1841 he left exile, so it could be that in a supernatural light, he wrote in 1839, while our Mother Geneviève was only Sub Prioress and Novice Mistress:

 

"Read more than once the XXth chapter of the first book of the Imitation ... This admirable chapter of wisdom recommends solitude. How can you observe it because it seems better made for a hermit than a prioress, who must open her heart, her mouth and her cell to all and at all times? However, you need a little corner where you will be alone with the Alone. My child, you must find in the corner of your heart a small place, very little where you will be sure to find it alone worthy of your love, your thoughts. But what furniture will you put into it? It takes two: faith, love, and nothing else. I do not like it when you write me and you tell me about your sins; long ago God forgot this shawl that you paid so much for! And I've been fortunate enough to have you shown the right way, I tell you that all your sins were taken away ... take it as true and certain ... God is not a debater, he easily excuses souls ... He loved you with a love so great, I would see it as a lack of faith to worry now. Oh my God! You are merciful, to give my daughter Geneviève such a beautiful place in your heart! My daughter, sink into a sea of gratitude and keep often at  the feet of Jesus a silent respect and a holy wonderment of what God has done for you, and what happiness he prepares for your poor heart...

 

"Let me tell you or if I remain silent, I will remain united in heart, prayer, memory with the shrub Carmel removed from the Garden of Poitiers. It is spoken and written in my heart. You have been my daughter for so long ... I bless you like a good old father. "

How this would bring consolation to our honorable Mother reading such lines! However, we must say in praise of her detachment and delicacy of her heart: two years before the death of the holy Prelate, she deprived herself of that correspondence, because his letters often contained a single word to address of the Reverend Mother Elizabeth, and she wanted to leave her only the consolation of receiving answers. The sacrifice was shared, as we have proof with this bitter complaint of the worthy and noble old man on his deathbed: "I once received letters from Genevieve that gave me so much pleasure, why doesn’t she write me anymore?” –“He knows now,” she replied with an angelic smile when we gave her knowledge of this touching detail.

 

To return to the first term as prioress of Our Mother, three years expired, the Reverend Mother Pauline asked for her angel ... Rev. Fr. Savage said nothing to the community; it was agreed with the Superiors of Poitiers there would be elections, and if Mother Genevieve remained without a position, she would be returned as soon as possible to her first monastery. Judging easily the result of the election: one voice, our good Mother was re-elected for three years, in the exercise of a duty she had so perfectly satisfied. After this time, new requests from the Superiors of Poitiers, new entreaties from Fr. Sauvage and her poor little Carmel. Msgr. Rochemonteix wrote in these terms to our dearest Mother: "The sisters are eager to bring you back, the hard time they see you again, they fear that the loan they made is turning into a gift; I had difficulty calming them I told them that if your presence in Lisieux was deemed necessary, it would not be wise to withdraw it now. I repeat to yourself. we all have a great desire to see you return to Poitiers, but if your Superior, if you in all honesty and simplicity think it is necessary to extend the permission I gave you, I will do my best so that your sisters do not create obstacles for it.

 

This decision that needed to be referred to the Superior and Community of Lisieux, was quickly given ... The Carmel of Poitiers again granted three years. When at the end of the second year, our good Mother was ill, it took advantage of the opportunity for a final recall. How would this beloved Mother answer? No doubt she was strongly inclined to return ... but a crushing trial weighed on the foundation and putting her dearest hopes aside, she wrote these beautiful words: "Now that the cross is planted in the Carmel of Lisieux, how could I flee from it?" Our revered Founder, meanwhile pleaded her case so eloquently that she won.... Mother Genevieve remained forever in Lisieux, and September 15th, 1849, Archbishop Robin, then bishop of Bayeux, himself announced the happy news to his beloved Carmelites. So, we owe to our Mothers of Poitiers this great favor to have known a saint ... They were willing to forego to enrich us; but today our heritage is shared... and the same gaze that watches over Lisieux turns toward Poitiers! ... The Angel of Mother Pauline spreads her wings over her beloved birthplace and would never leave it again.

 

Since September 15th, 1849 until the death of our beloved Mother what events, what lights, what graces received! It would take a volume to give the interesting details ... The events are known to our dear Carmels; we know that branches from the little shrub removed from Poitiers garden are now a trees in full force, Saigon, Coutances and Caen.

 

Saigon especially was the work of Mother, indirect work probably because she appointed one of her dear daughters for this noble undertaking; but the difficulties without number, contradictions and humiliations of any kind that she suffered, will always make her look like the first Mother of the humble Carmel. Moreover, the venerable founder, Mother Philomena of the Immaculate Conception, of blessed memory, would not hear otherwise. Also hasten to say that the sufferings of which we have spoken were well compensated by heaven ... The illustrious founder of the new Carmel, Archbishop Lefebvre, Apostolic Vicar of Cochin and cousin of Mother Philomena had he not seen in the dark dungeon where he was detained by an unjust sentence, the radiant vision of our Holy Mother Teresa, asking him to establish his Order in Annam, because God would be greatly served and glorified?

 

We will limit ourselves, my Reverend Mother, to speak now of the hidden life of our saint, her virtues, which are summed up in one word: love. She loved her God with all the strength of her soul; that's why she has so loved us! Why she so loved the Church, France, the sinners, and sacrificed herself to them.

 

Not to steal from Jesus a single atom of her heart: this is the inner work of all her religious life. Jealous also about that for her daughters, she prayed God would permit that not one should become attached to her with a sense of human affection. Her biggest caress, excluding maternal kisses of our family parties, simply to put her hand on our heads; it was a sign of well-reported contentment! And yet, what tenderness! Our sorrows were her sorrows, our joys her joys ... She was interested in each of our family members and recommended them urgently to God..Her manner  was soft, easy; her indulgence extreme. She did not hurry souls, but knew how to wait for them and always won. Calm in any event, with a prudence filled with wisdom, she did not break the difficulties, looking only to make peace, preached constantly the union of hearts and charity. She had like the Bride of the Songs, "honey and milk under her tongue." Her exhortations to the Chapter were admirable; one felt the fruit of her prayers, she spoke of the richness of the heart, a blazing heart that wants to spread its flames ... and how exciting to hear these words: '' Our Lord asked me to make this known to the Community ... He wants of you, my children, such and such a thing ... One day, she assured that all his dear daughters present, not one to miss an appointment from the sky ... When she received the vows of the novices, it was never without tears ... it was as if the mystery of divine Nuptials were shown unveiled to her eyes! ... Blessed are the hearts that are offered to Jesus through such hands !!! ...

 

She also knew hot to introduce them to the eternal nuptials ... And in the early years of the foundation, this case was not, alas, all too common. One of these young nuns, subject of hope and greatly beloved of Our Mother, waited, it seems, in the hour of agony, permission to fly to heaven. Then, in a voice choked with tears, this courageous mother said to her, “Child, you have always lived in obedience, die in an act of obedience ... "And her soul immediately, breaking its earthly bonds, went to meet with the Bridegroom of virgins!

 

But to know our incomparable Mother, you had to see her released from the heavy burden of being a superior: it was then the humble little sister Genevieve de Poitiers, so hidden, so obedient that one would have rather taken her for a novice than a former prioress and founder. Such a soul had to go to God by way of filial trust. She had indeed no other relations with Him than as a child with the most loving of fathers. "Here is one who knows how to pray!" said our good Father Sauvage. Indeed, Mother got all from God because she knew how to pray! In difficult situations when we offered her the means of human prudence, she replied: "Yes, that's fine ... but above all prayer, prayer oh!" It was enough to see her praying to realize that she was very close to God, and had his ear ... we really felt that she was not only listened to, but answered. Her humble confidence and faith pierced the Heavens. And how surprising since our Lord himself said: "If your faith only equaled a mustard seed, I tell you the truth, if you order this mountain flows into the sea, it would immediately. "Therefore, the graces received in this fervent prayer were often prodigious. Allow us, my Reverend Mother, to cite a few examples among thousands:

 

In the beginning of the foundation when poverty was so great, we ran out of butter. After listening to the complaints and seeing the deep pain of our good Sister Madeleine of sweet memory, Mother Genevieve replied, "My daughter, I have no money ... But if you still have a little butter, use it and let’s put our trust in God. It was almost two months later and it hadn’t run out when our dear sister the cook, very surprised, said: "Finally, my Mother, I do not understand, my little bit of remaining butter is still in the same state; what does that mean, since I didn’t have enough for two days? Now I can take it and it doesn’t run out! “Rest easy,” said Mother smiling, “your little provision is about to end. "And a few days later when the Community received alms, Sister Madeleine found the jar empty.

 

How often has the Divine Providence responded to her trust through unexpected help at the right time and often the very amount requested!

 

But what seems more admirable to us and perhaps even more touching are the small miracles of indulgence granted on so many occasions because of her filial prayer! So for our laundry, she always got us good weather, so much that in the early years, people of the world came to ask, long in advance, what day we were doing the laundry in Carmel ... And during winter what attentiveness! This good Mother was in anguish when she saw us suffer from the cold. One morning with lots of laundry, the cold was very intense, her heart couldn’t stand it... she went to the foot of the Tabernacle ... and during her absence, the freeze ceased, the weather became so warm that we might have thought it was spring, if the thick ice in the wash basin didn’t remind us of winter.

 

Not so long ago, she began innocently to tell to one of our sisters the following incident that happened the same year, which proves that so many things like this were hidden by her humility.

 

“It froze hard,” they came to tell me. "My Mother, the beautiful apricot tree that you loved so much is lost, there will not be a single apricot.” I directed my pleas then to my good Jesus, I said to him, "Is it possible that you give nothing to our sisters this summer for refreshment?” - An inner voice replied: BE QUIET, THERE WILL BE APRICOTS. When the time came, they carried me to the garden, and without saying anything about my business, I asked to be taken by the alley of my apricot tree. What were my surprise and joy in finding the tree so laden with fruit we could hardly see the leaves! I felt moved to tears "Oh my daughter”, she added, “who can say how good Our Lord is! That his condescension is admirable!"

 

A new proof of this infinite goodness was given to our Mother at the time of her golden anniversary. A few months ago she became troubled, worried even, unlike her, because she would have to lift the veil and show herself to the world. But the divine Bridegroom who did not want to cloud this celebration, said during her preparatory retreat: "FEAR NOTHING, MY DAUGHTER, I NOT PERMIT YOU TO BE TROUBLED BECAUSE I WANT TO GIVE YOU THIS DAY WHAT I HAVE REFUSED YOU 50 YEARS AGO ON THE DAY OF YOUR PROFESSION. THERE WILL APPEAR ON YOUR FACE SOMETHING SPECIAL THAT WILL REFLECT WHAT I AM DOING IN YOUR HEART." Indeed, from the dawn of this blessed feast, a river of peace, following its expression flooded her soul ... On her face, something extraordinary appeared to all eyes. Mother Genevieve seemed rejuvenated, with an unknown beauty; incomparable reflection of her heaven. This was the fulfillment to the letter of the divine word. The happy Jubilarian was not the only one to rejoice ... In all our hearts, what joy! ... Our dear Carmels and our friends wanted to take part in this festival by lavishing upon us the most delicate attentions. Our monastery never had seen shine such a day! It was transformed with the most beautiful decorations ... The night before, our young sisters dressed in their cloaks, carrying lighted candles, went into the heated room at the end of recreation and one of them sang the Calends announcing this blessed day, during which so many tears of joy were shed! ... Ours fell very sweetly, receiving the vows of this venerable Mother, of this saint, who herself nineteen years ago, had offered ours to Lord! And what sweet emotions on hearing the touching words of our good Father Superior on the text chosen by her: "The Lord's yoke is sweet and His burden light!"

 

It seems, my Reverend Mother, after the story of so many graces, we are left with nothing more to say. However, the picture of this beautiful life would be incomplete if, after talking about the love of our Mother for Jesus, we didn’t add something of her love for the Cross.

 

It was in 1849 that the cruel disease that took her from us, made her feel its first attacks. We did not conceal from her the long and cruel suffering she would have to bear. "At this announcement,” she said later, “my heart was flooded with joy; it was the day of the feast of Saint Andrew. Reciting his office, I repeated with jubilation, “O good cross that I desired so long and which is finally granted according to my wishes. I come to you with confidence and joy; receive a disciple of He who has been attached to your sacred wood. Lord, you know I would have been foolhardy to ask you for suffering, I would have been afraid of my weakness, but since you find me worthy, be a thousand times blessed. I considered my soul like a stained copper vessel, and I thought with pleasure that the suffering coming to me would be the charitable hand that would rub forcefully and make clean and shiny this dull and ugly vase.”

 

Seeing this heroic acceptance of the cross, combined with a profound humility, we can assume patience and invincible courage that Mother showed during these years of martyrdom. As long as she could walk, only God was her witness, except in cases of attack in which we found her sometimes lying in pathways, unconscious and almost lifeless. One day, among others, in the freezing cold, she had not thought it necessary to dispense with drying linen; she fainted and fell in the snow. But Divine Providence did not abandon her ... At the same time, our dear Sister Adelaide, of holy memory, heard in her cell a voice say, "Go to the garden.... Go to the garden." she obeyed immediately and saved Jesus’s beloved from this imminent danger.

 

To these dangerous attacks were often joined severe migraines which through the violence of pain, came around her head like a rope in the shape of a crown, first likeness of the bride with the crucified bridegroom. We were surprised that our beloved Mother, despite this painful condition, could follow our holy rule and almost all our exercises from 1849 to the end of her last term as prioress. It was then that the considerable swelling of her legs didn’t allow her to stand anymore, we carried her in an armchair from the infirmary to the choir, and the choir to the discharge of the heated room that she had called the Sainte Baume; she stayed there until evening, working hard, praying and sacrificing in silence under the eyes of God and his angels. It was just one step to come to our recreations; this good Mother was joy there, she inspired them with her cheerfulness and her pleasant comments. There she told us the adventures of her youth, the Carmel of Poitiers, about the holiness of the first Mothers ... Who among us has not heard from her some remarks about virtue piously preserved in her memory and better yet in her heart? On this topic she didn’t peter out ... and we loved to encourage expansiveness, knowing it gave her joy that made her face glow. "Oh, how these good Mothers were holy,” she repeated. “You see,” my poor children, ”you must not fear suffering on the earth. You must walk in their footsteps and use everything to elevate us to God." How many times on this topic did she repeat the verses composed by one of those fervent Carmelites (Mother Victoire, the bishop of Aviau’s sister, Archbishop of Bordeaux. This nun died in the odor of sanctity at the age of 80) about the view she enjoyed at the window of her cell! We transcribe here in its simplicity.

 

                                  At the riverside

                                  From morning until evening,

                                  A poor washerwoman

                                  Up and down his paddle.

                                 Ah! hit me with tenderness

                                 Lord, do not spare me

                                 Purify me constantly,

                                 Until the day of my death.

 

                                   Further, out of sight

                                  In a fairly wide field,

                                  With his plow and plow,

                                  A man goes, cruising ...

                                   He does not spare his sentence,

                                  Because he knows that the wheat

                                  In very little time, a hundred ...

 

                                   Till, till the soil of my heart,

                                    Divine Spouse ...

                                   You are the owner of this field…

                                    It is yours.

                                   Sow the seed there,

                                   Make it grow, Lord.

                                   Enjoy the abundance,

                                   I sing my happiness!

 

Thereby exalting these venerable elders, Mother had no idea that she drew a true picture of herself! But, since he is talking about matters of preference, here is another who had a talent for making her cry and smile at once. It was no longer a mother who charmed her, it was a sister she knew and cherished; the little shepherdess of Domremy, Joan of Arc. A that time, no one spoke, like today, of the brave and gentle martyr.  You could say the affection, the tender devotion of Mother Genevieve for our French heroine surprised us sometimes and seemed to us almost the enthusiasm of another age...... We forget that in her heart, so full of love for God and detached from all things, also ran "the blood of France," and now that all sides praise the Venerable Joan, we see with joy and gratitude that our humble Mother was right ...

 

Also, despite her increasing infirmities, she did not become withdrawn. We noticed the more she was suffering, she appeared the more joyful! Which is all the more admirable because during these years the good Lord weaned her of any kind of consolation leaving only faith and the ineffable memory of its benefits ... But in 1888, when for the first time she nearly taken from us, He made her feel his presence again. Given Extreme Unction, favored with the blessing of the Holy Father, she appeared in profound peace, with great security ... and our expressed desire to know the cause, she said, "Mother, how could I fear death? Our Lord gave me the grace to never judge anyone; I count on his promise: judge not and ye shall not be judged." It was then the divine Master showed her in heaven the image of the cross, light and splendor, and revealed to her that the sight of the cross was the joy and the glory of the elect. Believing it was the day to contemplate this, Mother was radiant and as if transfigured. Poor Mother! It was only the day before her martyrdom. Before this luminous cross, awaited a bloody cross ... still four years of sacrifice before the eternal Easter!

 

Whatever it costs us, my Reverend Mother, we will say nothing of this long and painful vigil, to speak more about the same day of the Passion. She began, with that of Jesus, on Holy Thursday 1890. In the morning at holy Mass during her thanksgiving, this privileged soul heard these sweet words: "MY DAUGHTER, FROM NOW ON, IT'S NO LONGER YOU WHO WILL COME TO, IT IS ME WHO WILL GO TO YOU. " It was the last time she indeed came to the choir, that she received Holy Communion there! She was then in her usual state, and nothing presaged the frightful next day, when suddenly, while we sang the office of Tenebrae, a violent attack happened; the illness during the night made frightening progress, and Friday morning, our good Father Superior came to administer last rites. We were waiting only for the last moment. Our beloved Mother was panting ... constantly asking to drink ... and nothing could quench ... Hearing the cry: I thirst, seeing that face disfigured by pain, those feet that iron nails seemed driven into, we believed we were on Calvary, and we could understand something of the anguish of Mary when she saw her Jesus on the cross! ... Before the true image of the dying Savior, witnessing so much suffering, we longed to hear three o’clock sound, hoping that then everything would be consumed, and that very day, she would go with Jesus to Heaven! ... But our thoughts were not those of God. In his inscrutable designs, he reserved for her longer combats ... after the example of these brave martyrs, who being miraculously healed of their wounds, generously offered their bodies to new torments! ... And just as the blood of martyrs was the seed of Christians, her pain would bring forth souls for God! This God of kindness would have her perhaps undergo her purgatory in this world; she will pay for her, as it was revealed to her ... but first and above all, she will sacrifice for souls because she was told again the evening of that day of agony: "MY DAUGHTER, IT IS TIME, OFFER YOURSELF UP AS VICTIM."

 

O victim full of sweetness, who can say to what degree of heroism your patience rose! ...

A few days after this painful Good Friday, against any human expectation the gangrene disappeared. But alas! What condition did our poor Mother remain in! And what ravages did the twenty months wield over her martyrdom? Her horribly swollen legs became only a wound. Gradually she formed frightful cracks of her feet, several toes and the heel of the left foot fell into decay ... We can imagine such a sight! ... Let us add to this picture the inner evil that devoured and after a few months the loss of sight with excruciating pain ... All of this without being able to make the slightest movement in bed, having only her arms free.  There had to be something extraordinary in this state that our pious and learned Doctor swore himself: "I challenge”, he said, “any of my colleagues to have seen such a case! It’s not possible to live like that without a miracle. "Edified to the utmost to see her suffer such torment with a smile on her lips, he knelt near the bed of our Mother one day, begging her to bless him and his large family, silent tears rolled down his cheeks. ..

 

Saying that our holy martyr had a smile on the lips is not enough ... She did more than smile, she was joyful! ... Many times torn between life and death, she joked amiably about this trip to eternity that she couldn’t complete, and we were deeply moved (knowing her longings) to see her beg our Lord not to call to him when she glimpsed a family celebration: our own, for example, not wanting to disturb our small solemnities with her death. During her sleepless nights, constantly occupied with her Jesus, she composed charming verses, but always with the cheerful note, like this one:

                            Blessed powerlessness,

                            That makes my suffering

                            Evening and morning

                            My daily bread!

                            But the cross is a divine bridge

                            It shortens the path

                            I take ... and going to Heaven,

                            Farewell, farewell, good friends!

 

When her sufferings were excessive, she exclaimed: "Come, my good Jesus! Are you not going to come to the aid of your poor Genevieve? ... In one word: we can never imagine a sick person more forgetful of herself, more compassionate for the slightest suffering of others, more grateful for the least service. We may apply to her this praise that the Venerable Mother Anne of St. Bartholomew had for Mother St. Teresa: "It was such a beautiful soul, she gave marks in all things." One of never approached her bed without feeling closer to God. What she had learned from the lips of the Divine Master, she repeated it to us so appropriate times, as we abide in the greatest astonishment. So, my Reverend Mother, one morning when her second nurse could not go to prayer because she was overwhelmed by her job, and she was distressed, Mother Genevieve called to her, "My child,” she said to her,” you know what our Lord has just revealed to me? Here are his own words:

 

"IT IS NOT THE SOULS THAT HAVE ALL THEIR TIME TO PRAY TO ME THAT ARE THE MOST AGGREABLE:  BUT ONLY THOSE WHO PROVE THEIR LOVE FOR ME BY MAKING SACRIFICES .... ALL IS IN SACRIFICE AND OBEDIENCE! "

 

We leave this dear sister telling herself the following line: "Seeing Mother one day who spoke to several of our sisters and walking near her, I was tempted to stop. They looked like they were discussing interesting things. But our Lord asking me for the sacrifice, I walked by. I hardly entered the infirmary when Mother Genevieve called me and said, "I have a little secret to tell you, a secret for always being happy and to please our Lord. Never seek, my child, to know what is happening ... You see a small gathering, instead of stopping, make a sacrifice for your good Jesus .... In the life of the Fathers of the Desert, have you not read that a brother was always agitated and it will arrive anything, we ended up nicknaming him "Brother Fly"? Well! Do not be like him, do not be "Sister Fly" ... .. The good Mother spoke to me about that for more than a quarter of an hour, and I listened to her without communicating any of my impressions; but in the end, not holding back any longer, I said, “My Mother, did you see me? Looks like you followed me because I just encountered that to the letter, what you’re speaking about.” "I have not seen you,” she answered smiling, “but it is our Lord who allows me to tell you this for your good. Go now, that's my little secret.”

Another of her daughters finding difficulty in the fulfillment of a point of obedience, though she didn’t speak about it, our holy patient said, "O my daughter if we understand well what obedience is! This morning, after Holy Communion, my good Jesus made me understand. Remember well this teaching that is not from me but from Him alone: "AS THE BIRD DEPLOYS ITS WINGS AND FLIES AWAY FREELY IN THE AIR, THUS THE OBEDIENT SOUL TO TAKES OFF TOWARD ITS BELOVED AND IS LIKE A HEAVEN WHERE GOD TAKES DELIGHT! "...

 

We could cite many examples of this kind and also bring some of the wonderful lights that were given to her on the Holy Eucharist, but the limits of a circular, already exceeded, do not allow it.

 

We asked her one day what this voice was that instructed and consoled her, and how she was heard it in her soul ... Without hesitation, she answered with a guileless smile and her usual simplicity: "My good Mother, this voice I hear, I feel that it is a FRIEND’S VOICE, but I do not know anything ... "

 

The day of her approaching diamond anniversary, we did everything possible to make this feast good. The hospital became a real oratory: all the statues of saints in the monastery took their place; garlands of white and red roses, the symbol of virginity and martyrdom, adorned the bed curtains, the bottom of which we hung a beautiful picture of the agony of our Lord. On the altar, adorned with sparkling jewels, was laid the crown coming from her dear Carmel of Poitiers ... flowers from Poitiers also decorated the staff and blessed candle. And the gentle victim, still on the cross, only heard our preparations, (her eyes are closed to earthly light) called us towards evening, and said with the accent of the deepest gratitude, "Here is the slave..." We realized she was referring to her trial of  July 21st, 1831 of which 60 years of grace separated her ...

 

When all was ready, the Community went to the infirmary. She asked forgiveness in the most touching terms, and spoke a few delightful words to us on purity of intention and love, repeating with Jesus at the Last Supper "My little children, love one another as I have loved you. "

 

The day cannot be described ... This passage of Our Lord in the middle of the cloister dotted with greenery and flowers! The infirmary resplendent with lights! This ineffable Communion! ... The touching little speech by our good Father Superior! Finally the vows of our venerable Mother, renewed once again in our hands with such fervor! .... What remains for us is a celestial memory ... However we noticed something serious about the expression of our holy jubilee. On this beautiful celebration of her diamond wedding anniversary, would she be tested like the first day of the divine covenant? Yes, and perhaps more! When we were alone near her bed, she repeated, clasping her hands with an indescribable accent: "Oh no, the greatest sufferings are nothing but not to see God! To be deprived of God!”

 

We believed we were hearing complaints of a soul at the end of life, when it sees itself plunging into a fiery abyss, whose torments barely seem harsh to it compared to deprivation of its God. It was no longer Mother Geneviève, it was a soul in purgatory? ... Probably, my Reverend mother, by calling this state a test, we are wrong ... Was it not rather a grace that signaled that last purification, which gave her like insurance to fly straight from her deathbed to Heaven ... So when we said to this happy victim, “ Courage, Mother, you are doing your purgatory in this world”, she replied with humility and trust "Oh, I hope!"

 

Asking her one day if the desire to be delivered from its cruel suffering was something in her ardent sighs for death, she spoke these beautiful words, "I do not want to die so as not to suffer, but only to see my God. "

 

The blessed moment approached when her eyes were finally going to open to this divine and eternal beauty! We were preparing for our great solemnities of the Centenary, when our beloved Mother found herself worse. '' It is time, Lord”, she cried like another Thérèse, “it is time, take me with you! ... "But, for fear of disturbing our feasts, she asked only for a reprieve of three days and our Lord granted her that.

 

The 24th, feast of Our Holy Father John of the Cross, His Grace Our Bishop, presiding over the ceremonies, was willing to come and honor her with a special blessing, accompanied by a few words which his paternal heart had the secret of! It seemed we saw in the person of our bishop, hair whitened by age and the noble work of the episcopate, Bishop de Beauregard himself, coming to encourage, bless and comfort his beloved daughter on the eve of the last battle, and show her in advance the palm and the crown!

 

The next day, after the close of the Triduum our dear Mother being sicker, received Extreme Unction for the third time ... Excessive suffering caused her weak moans to which we mingled our tears. She was worried about that. "To complain like that, isn’t that lacking in patience?” she asked our Father Superior.  “Ah it would be really regrettable!  My children, pray...... ask God to give me patience. "

 

Around six-thirty, she said in private: "It was 61 years ago today that my great pardon was granted to me and perhaps tonight, Heaven! I hear a whisper: STILL A FEW HOURS! STILL A FEW HOURS! Poor Mother, this friendly voice was not wrong, but the hours were to be very long and many more than she had thought! Soon, we found her a little better; so many times we had seen her at the gates of death that we had some hope. It was the time of the Mass; we went there more reassured. Our holy martyr who had heard us speak in this way to the nurse immediately complained to our Lord in these simple and touching words: "My Jesus, as our Mother found me better and I suffer so much, show me what it is like to be better! "

 

At the same moment, all pain was removed her ... no more suffering! She did not recognize herself! Finding herself like a very healthy person, who rests gently in a soft bed ... This time of feeling better lasted all the time of the Mass, that is half an hour ... Oh! How it is true the Lord works in all things the will of those who love him!

 

After this rest of a moment, prelude of eternal rest, the pains of our poor Mother did not leave her a single moment of rest ... Her crucifixion was complete ...  This sweet victim only lacked the supreme test of abandonment to be fully compliant with her Jesus. This feature will be also given to her. On Friday morning, December 4th, her suffering became such that not being able to take it any longer, she called her charitable nurses all the time to lift her up in their arms ... but nothing relieved her! While we looked at her silently through our tears, she cried in a soft, plaintive voice: "My good Jesus, so you abandoned me?" At that moment, her face lit up with a heavenly beauty, a smile touched her lips and seemed to belie her words. We could apply this verse from Psalm to her, "I have helped you in the day of tribulation. I have answered you in secret during the storm." It was agony, and Jesus was silent ... Jesus, who so many times had made her hear his friendly voice ... What a mystery! ... This morning, our revered Father Superior came in to give her that last blessing. How touching to see him on his knees praying fervently for this holy dying person to obtain help and strength from above! Our devoted and pious chaplain who had her confidence came in turn to comfort her and renew the absolution and the Indulgence of the Order. Finally, that afternoon our good Doctor arrived: "Well, Mother, he said, “you always wanted me to announce to you the time of death. It is here, this happy moment which you hoped for so much!" She smiled sweetly and thanked him.

 

We will not try, my Reverend Mother, to tell you about the cruel night following this day of agony. No expression could render what we saw! Our poor mother seemed immersed in a pure ocean of suffering without any mingling of consolation ... darkness enveloped her Calvary ... And in the morning, while we supported in her arms her weak head, she sighed this bitter complaint, "And I who always said to you IN TE DOMINE SPERAVI" and tears glistened like diamonds on her closed eyelids ... But her sweet face exuded calm and peace ... She said with a touching voice: "Oh ...how my exile is long! Jesus, Mary, Joseph, make that I die peacefully in your holy company! ... Virgin Mary.... help me!!! "

 

The Blessed Virgin heard her prayer and at dawn this Saturday, at the first sound of the Angelus she showed her God. The victim was immolated "all was finished!"

 

At the moment when white dove broke her mortal bonds, all her daughters were gathered around her bed ... Alas! And among them, the three privileged intended soon to join her procession in Heaven.... realizing the words of the Holy Spirit: "Virgins ... her companions, will be brought to him, they will be presented to him with joy; they will enter in the temple of sovereign King."

 

This triple mourning was hidden from us, we only thought then of our beloved Mother.... Added to the distress caused by her departure was the pain of sending away her venerable remains.... Our good Father Superior, unable to resign himself to it, made us try several approaches whose result seemed far from being in our favor ... But the Lord who had looked at the lowliness of his servant now wanted to raise the proportion of her depths and the greatness of her sufferings. He allowed that Mr. Target, former deputy, former Plenipotentiary Minister, should take charge of this issue, with a commitment that we will never know enough to acknowledge, and that he should lead it to a good end despite the apparently insurmountable difficulty.

 

The alternatives of fear and hope, yes and no, we imposed the sweet obligation to keep three weeks on one that seemed not to want to get away from us, and brought him to her even three of the most solemn services. The first of these services, celebrated by the Reverend Hugonin, brother of Bishop, Vicar General of Bayeux, Father ROHÉE, pastor of Saint Pierre de Lisieux, held in honor of speaking. In what terms real, touching and eloquent at the same time he extolled Mother! One felt that he had known and loved, as proved these words: "I can say for having been the lucky witness, I have never met a soul as equal, as serene, calm as the soul of the one the public voice called holy Carmel ... "

 

That voice, my Reverend Mother we ourselves heard ... During the five days that Mother remained exposed to the gate of the Choir, the crowd was considerable. Those of us who were watching over the dear departed had barely time to pray, so great was the number of religious objects: crucifixes, medals, rosaries, etc ... they had to make him feel. The newspaper of our city had also announced the death as "public mourning" in an admirable article, that the most lively faith alone could inspire.

 

We waited for evening impatiently to freely surround our beloved Mother! Impossible to describe the impressions of grace felt near her! Her face so sweet and calm invited us to trust ... What favors already obtained by her beloved relics! They came all the time to ask us for something that had touched the saint ...even if only a rose petal of Christmas that covered her ...Doctor de Corniere, who during these days of anxiety gave us proof of his dedication and reverence for Mother, observed each night with touching happiness that her wounds gave off no smell! ...When the authorities forced us to seal the lead coffin eight days after, we kissed her feet with a pious emotion by watering them our tears ...... Now, alas! We will no longer see our saint ... But what immense consolation knowing she is near the Tabernacle! .... She's there. ! To the left side of the altar, close to our grille.... Today she may well exclaim in the transport of her gratitude: "There is the slave! "Yes, there she is! No longer servant, but Bride and Queen in the palace of her Bridegroom, the King of Kings! ...

 

O beloved Mother, let us address to you, in finishing, this prayer engraved on the marble of your tomb, "Look upon us from heaven. See and visit the vine your right hand has planted, and give it perfection!"

 

We cannot doubt, my Reverend Mother, the one we are lamenting is with God. She was so humble, so hidden, she loved so much and suffered so much! But since on earth her happiness consisted in doing good to all, she will be very grateful to you for the prayers which you add to the prayers of the Order, reserving for itself the distribution, if, as we have every reason to believe, her blessed soul enjoys glory in heaven.

 

 

 

 

Although the circular bears the date of the venerable Mother’s death, it was written later as evidenced by the note to the circular of Sister Fébronie of the Holy Childhood on January 6th, 1892: everyone is asking for the circular of our venerable Mother Genevieve. The sad days we have just passed (epidemic of influenza) have prevented us from taking care of it, but we hope soon to respond to the wishes so fraternally expressed.

 

Although it bears the signature of the Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzaggue, the writing of this circular, besides the entry which seems to be her style, had been entrusted by her to the young Sister Agnes of Jesus, a year before her first term as prioress. (1892)

An edition in the form of a booklet 21 ½ x 14 appeared in 1896, dated June 21st of the same year, 1892, and a revised edition around 1923 including the accounts of Thérèse with the founder.

 

DEATH OF MOTHER GENEVIEVE    (December 5th, 1891)

 

Here are the terms, the Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzague, then Prioress, announced this death to the Monasteries of her Order and promised her circular:

 

J.M.J.T.

My Reverend and Most Honored Mother,

Peace and humble salvation in Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has just taken from our tenderness our dear and revered Mother Marie Radegonde Claire Genevieve de Saint Therese, Professed of Poitiers, Founder of our Carmel.

 

Our beloved Mother was 86 years, 4 months, 17 days old, of which 60 years, 4 months and 14 days of Religious Profession.

 

Her departure plunges us all into the deepest grief. This venerable Mother was a relic for our little Carmel, the accomplished model of religious virtues.

 

We shall endeavor later, my Reverend Mother, to speak to you of the examples that she leaves to us as a precious inheritance, in spite of her expressed desire not to have a circular. Today, we merely wish, my Reverend Mother, to ask for the prayers of our Holy Order for Our Beloved Mother, adding, according to her intentions, a Communion in reparation, to the Blessed Sacrament, one to the Holy Heart Of Mary, and a Plenary Indulgence, demanding that these prayers of the Order and other prayers be applied to the souls of Purgatory.

 

It is at the foot of the Cross that we dare to say, my Reverend and most honored Mother,

Your very humble Sister and Servant, Sr Marie de Gonzague, R.C. ind.

 

* * *

 

A modern appreciation of the medical problems of Mother Genevieve

 

Her health problems are mentioned as starting around 1849 meaning she was 44. They are serious health problems.

 

Fainting and falling. Some cardiology departments now have “Faint and Fall clinics.  Maybe she would have gotten a pacemaker along with medication in modern times.

 

Severe migraines, described as circling her head like a rope, often with fainting and falling but not always. Contemporary neurologists still aren't sure but there are many medications now to treat different kinds of migraines.

 

A lot of swelling of the legs so Mother Genevieve couldn't walk anymore. This started at the end of her last term as prioress.  She had to be carried. Swelling of the legs means that some organs are not eliminating water well. Congestive heart failure ? or kidney problems ? or both.

 

When the narrative skips to Holy Thursday 1890, Mother Genevieve has a frightening attack with unquenchable thirst. Congestive heart failure causes unquenchable thirst, among other illnesses.

 

The narrative then mentions gangrene. Mother Genevieve had already been suffering gangrene but this is the first that it is mentioned.  It says it disappeared but her legs became an open wound and parts of her feet fell off. This then is mentioned as lasting during her last 20 months of life, devouring her internally with loss of sight and horrendous pain.

It sounds like diabetes and when diabetes gets bad, it can be internal, with loss of eyesight;  amputations are needed because of the gangrene.

 

Insomnia is mentioned, with again incessant thirst.

 Back to the page of Mother Geneviève

 

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Circulaire de la révérende Mère Gnevieve de Ste Thérèse

co-fondatrice du carmel de Lisieux

 

Claire BERTRAND 1838-1891

 

Ma révérende et très Honorée Mère,

Paix et très humble salut en Notre Seigneur Jésus‑Christ.

 

Nous venions de goûter de grandes consolations aux fêtes du troisième Centenaire de Notre Père Saint Jean de la Croix, lorsqu'il a plu au Divin Maître de nous donner part aux amertumes de son calice et de nous plonger dans une profonde douleur en retirant du milieu de nous, le 5 décembre 1891, notre vénérée Mère Marie‑Claire Radegonde‑Geneviève de SAINTE THERESE, âgée de 86 ans 4 mois 17 jours, dont 60 ans 4 mois et 14 jours de Profession religieuse.

C'est en tremblant, ma Révérende Mère, que nous prenons la plume pour vous parler de cette chère relique, vrai trésor de notre Carmel.... Peut‑être trouverez‑vous que nous avons parfois dé­passé les bornes de la discrétion en révélant quelques mystères de cette belle âme. Il y a bien des choses que nous aurions en effet passées sous silence, si nous n'étions certaine que, dans sa grande simplicité, notre humble Mère ne les eût elle‑même rapportées à plusieurs de ses filles ; ce que Dieu a permis sans doute pour votre édification et la gloire de cette âme d'élite.

O Mère bien‑aimée! avant tout bénissez votre fille, et pardonnez‑lui, si, malgré vos désirs exprimés de ne pas avoir de circulaire, elle consacre par obéissance ces quelques pages au sou­venir de vos vertus. Dormez en paix, ma Mère, dans votre humilité.

Notre vénérée Mère, née à Poitiers d'une famille éminemment chrétienne, reçut au Baptême le nom de Claire. Cette enfant de bénédiction fit présager dès le berceau ce qu'elle serait un jour: jamais elle ne pleurait, ce qui étonnait grandement sa bonne mère. A l'âge de deux ans, étant tombée malade, elle ne cessait de sourire et de faire entendre, au lieu de cris, un chant gracieux et enfantin, prélude de cette force d'àme et de cette joie dans la souffrance que nous admirerons bientôt, non plus dans un berceau et sur les genoux d'une mère, mais au Calvaire, sur la Croix sanglante de Jésus.

En attendant, suivons notre petite Claire au printemps de sa belle vie: jour lumineux, dont le couchant devait jeter tant de splendeur! Quelques traits seulement suffiront à faire connaître les rares qualités dont le ciel l'avait douée. Toute jeune encore, elle fut confiée à une institutrice qui, malheureusement n'était pas irréprochable. L'amabilité et les grâces de l'enfant ne lui donnaient, ce semble, que le droit de la maltraiter davantage ; et les jeunes élèves, se croyant autorisées par l'exemple de leur maîtresse, se faisaient un jeu de l'assaillir. Mais le Seigneur avait déposé dans son âme le germe de la charité, cette plante céleste qui devait croître avec l'âge et devenir le plus bel arbre de ce jardin délicieux: c'est pourquoi, au lieu de se plaindre et de se venger, elle témoignait sans cesse la bonté et la délicatesse de son coeur.‑ Une de ses petites compaqnes pleurait un jour parce que le peloton de laine de son tricot était tombé dans une fosse: ‑"Maman va me gronder ce soir! Que j'ai de chagrin! s'écriait‑elle. ‑ Oh! ne pleure pas!" lui dit Claire ; puis, tirant la laine souillée et l'essuyant à mesure avec son petit tablier, elle lui rendit le peloton, heureuse et fière de son exploit. Spirituelle et très sérieuse, elle savait parfaitement lire, à peine âgée de trois ans et demi. Déjà le Saint‑Esprit illuminait sa jeune intelligence, comme le prouve le trait suivant: Tandis que les enfants jouaient et couraient dans le jardin, Claire se retirait souvent à l'écart et lisait... ‑ "Il y a sans doute de belles images dans ce livre, et il doit être bien intéressant, n'est‑ce pas ma petite ?" lui dit une dame, fort étonnée de la voir aussi attentive. ‑ "Oui, Madame, répondit‑elle, ce livre est très intéressant, car c'est l'Imitation de Notre‑Seigneur Jésus‑Christ.

Dès cette époque, ma Révérende Mère, cette pieuse enfant avait attiré le regard non seulement de Dieu, mais de l'un de ses saints. Nous voulons parler du vénérable curé de la paroisse Saint Pierre, M. l'abbé de Beauregard, plus tard évêque d'Orléans, dont les Mémoires si intéressants de sa déportation à Cayenne font bien voir que si le martyre lui a manqué, ce n'est pas lui qui a manqué au martyre. Cet admirable confesseur de la Foi, qui avait baptisé la chère petite, ne la voyait jamais passer, sans lui donner les marques d'une particulière affection. Souvent même, la prenant dans ses bras, il la portait dans sa chambre et lui montrait ses tableaux et ses images. L'enfant tremblait! ‑ "Tu trembles, pécheresse!'' lui disait‑il en souriant ; puis il la regardait avec complaisance. Regard prophétique sans doute, et qui explique ce mot d'une de ses lettres: "Dès votre plus tendre enfance, j'ai vu qu'il y avait en vous de quoi faire une sainte., mais qu’il vous faudrait passer par des croix »

Cependant la pauvre petite restait toujours sous la direction de cette maîtresse dont nous.avons parlé, et sa mère, la croyant en très bonnes mains, ne s'inquiétait pas. Des années se passèrent ainsi, jusqu'au moment de la Première Communion, où le bon Dieu permit que tout fut découvert. Surprise du silence de sa fille, Madame lui en demanda la cause. "Maman, répondit cet ange de paix, comment vou­liez‑vous que je vous dise du mal de ma maîtresse ? J'aimais mieux souffrir... » Réponse et conduite au‑dessus de tout éloge, tant elles supposent de force de caractère dans un âge encore si tendre.

Voyant cette vertu précoce, ma Révérende Mère, il est facile de juger avec quelle ferveur la jeune enfant s'approcha pour la pre­mière fois du Divin Banquet. D'ailleurs, ce fut son bon Père de Beauregard, comme elle l'appelait, qui la prépara à cette  grande action, et lui donna lui‑même le Pain du Ciel. Dès lors, il ne cessa plus de cultiver ce beau lys, veillant avec un soin jaloux à ce que rien de terrestre n'en vint ternir la blancheur. Un jour, lui voyant les cheveux frisés et relevés avec grâce: "Pourquoi, petite, lui dit­-il, toutes ces frisures ? Coiffez‑vous plus simplement. Avec des ban­deaux, vous seriez bien mieux ; demandez donc à votre mère des couleurs rembrunies."  Et pour l'humilier, il ajouta: “D'ailleurs, vous n'êtes point jolie, vous n'êtes point riche, et vous n'avez point l'air agréable ; à qui donc prétendez‑vous plaire ?”

Il n'y avait  rien à répliquer! dès le lendemain, les cheveux de la jeune fille étaient lisses et formaient deux bandeaux plats au goût du sévère directeur. Mais quand ma mère m'aperçut, nous dit‑elle, ce fut des exclamations sans fin ; très heureuse de son déplaisir, je repris ma première coiffure et m'excusai devant mon Père de Beauregard, en lui disant: "Mon Père, j'ai vu que cela contrariait maman..." Cette innocente défaite prouve assez que la jeune pénitente n’était pas insensible aux attraits de son âge. D'un caractère vif et ardent, elle connut même  l’enthousiasme. Quand la noble fille de Louis XVI vint à Poitiers, toutes les grandes dames de la ville, dans leur plus brillante toi­lette, se trouvèrent sur son passage. Claire se glissa devant elles, et s'écria "Vive la duchesse d'Angoulême!" Avant même de répondre aux saluts des grandes dames, la princesse regarda la jeune fille, lui fit un signe d'amitié et lui sourit gracieusement. Celle‑ci, dans le transport de sa joie ne cessait de dire à son frère: “Jules, y penses‑tu ? la duchesse d'Angoulême qui m'a souri!”

Mais l'heure approchait où Notre‑Seigneur se préparait, lui aussi, à sourire à cette âme d'élite, et comme les sourires de Jésus ne sont que pour les âmes crucifiées, Il commença par lui faire don de sa Croix. Madame  Bertrand  tomba gravement malade, et ce fut Claire, alors âgée de 16 ans, qui l'exhorta à faire le sacrifice de sa vie. Ecoutant les conseils de cet ange de la terre, cette pieuse mère rendit peu de temps après sa belle âme à Dieu, abandonnant ses enfants à la Divine Providence, heureuse de quitter l'exil, et dans les sentiments de la plus vive piété. Monsieur de Beauregard était là encore, au chevet de cette mère mourante, ce qui lui fit écrire plus tard à notre bien‑aimée Mère ces paroles qui l'attendrissaient toujours: "Souvenez‑vous, mon enfant, que c'est moi qui ai conduit votre mère au Ciel, et que j'ai été son ami!"

Cependant ma Révérende Mère, ce deuil si cruel apporta de bien douloureux changements dans la vie de la pauvre enfant. Elle était l'aînée et comprenait l'importance de sa tâche. Son excellent père la lui fit bien sentir, quand le jour même de la mort, prenant l'anneau de sa mère, il lui passa au doigt, disant: "Ma fille, c'est toi maintenant qui remplaceras ta mère." A l'exemple de Notre Mère Sainte Thérèse, elle s'adressa dès ce jour à la Reine du Ciel, la priant de lui aider dans ses nouveaux devoirs ; mais tout était tristesse à ce foyer, hier encore si joyeux! Des embarras financiers venant bientôt se joindre aux regrets de l'absence maternelle, on parla de vendre la maison, cette maison si chère, gardienne de tant de souvenirs Le pauvre père dissimulait mal ses craintes, sa fille devinait tout. Submergée dans un océan de tristesse, elle ne savait même pas jeter un cri vers le Ciel ; mais les heures désespérées sont les heures du secours divin, celle de la grâce allait sonner.

" Un soir, dit‑elle, mon père étant sorti pour la vente de la maison, je restai seule avec mon plus jeune frère, alors âgé de sept ans. Les sanglots m'étouffaient, mais je ne voulais pas pleurer, de peur d'affliger ce pauvre petit, qui m'aimait au delà de ce qu'on peut dire. Déjà voyant bien que j'étais triste, il me comblait de caresses, ce qui perçait le coeur! Pour me servir de contenance, je pris un livre qui se trouvait sous ma main, et l'ouvrant au hasard, mes yeux tombèrent sur une petite image représentant Jésus Sauveur du monde. En un instant cette image devint comme lumineuse, il se fit en mon âme une révolution subite et admirable ; le prix des croix, le mérite des souffrances me furent montrés dans une clarté si vive, que j'en étais toute ravie et hors de moi‑même. Mes larmes coulaient en abondance, mais je ne les cachais plus, car c'étaient des larmes de joie... Je me sentais toute transformée et prête, s'il le fallait, à mendier mon pain pour l'amour de Jésus

Notre‑Seigneur se contenta de l'acceptation du sacrifice, et la Divine Providence vint au secours.du père et des orphelins. Par l'entremise d'une cousine dévouée, la Très Révérende Mère Aimée de Jésus, alors Prieure du Carmel de Poitiers (connue dans le monde sous le nom de Mademoiselle d'Ulys), s'intéressa vivement à cette famille éprouvée ; elle nomma régisseur de son immense fortune Monsieur Bertrand et le sauva d'une ruine trop justement appréhendée. On garda la maison, et la confiance, la paix, presque la joie vinrent à renaître dans ces coeurs désolés. Une année se passa ensuite sans aucun événement grave. Claire remplissait tous ses devoirs avec une grande perfection et ne songeait à l'avenir que pour le recommander à Dieu, pensant bien qu'il ne lui refuserait pas sa lumière au temps marqué. Elle ne se trompait pas, déjà Notre‑Seigneur était à la porte, prêt à faire la conquête entière de ce jeune coeur. Nous la laisserons encore parler elle‑même:

“J'allais atteindre ma dix‑septième année ; un jour que j'étais seule dans ma chambre, agenouillée pour faire ma prière du matin, tout à coup l'appartement disparut à mes yeux, je ne sais où j'étais, si j'avais un corps ou si je n'en avais plus... Plongée dans une lumière éblouissante et dans une joie impossible à décrire, j'entendis le son d'une voix si mélodieuse que tous les concerts d'ici‑bas n'en peuvent donner la plus faible idée. Cette voix disait ou plutôt chantait, laissant entre chaque parole un intervalle mystérieux:

ETRE L’EPOUSE D'UN DIEU.... QUEL TITRE......QUEL PRIVILEGE !......

« Puis tout disparut... le silence se fit, je me retrouvai inondée de larmes et dans un bonheur enivrant, comme une personne qui reviendrait du Ciel après en avoir contemplé les splendeurs et pénétré les insondables secrets."

A partir de ce jour mémorable, que nous pouvons bien appeler le jour des fiançailles divines, l'heureuse enfant pensa au Carmel et ne pouvant souffrir aucun retard, elle se présenta bientôt.Mais sa visite fut prévenue par celle de son Père, qui allégua de si justes raisons qu'on lui donna gain de cause, avec promesse de ne le jamais priver de son trésor. Ne sachant rien, la pauvre petite était pleine d'espérance. "Oh! que J'éprouvai de joie, nous disait‑elle, dans ce parloir de Carmélites! Par bonheur, il y avait près de la grille un petit trou, J'y mis un oeil, et bien­tôt je vis paraître la Mère Aimée de Jésus...... Mon coeur battait à se fendre... Elle me dit "Quel âge avez‑vous, mon enfant ?

‑ Ma Mère, répondis‑je, je suis bien vieille, j'ai 17 ans!    

‑ C'est bien, mon enfant, mais vous voulez faire voeu d'obéissance, n'est‑ce pas ? Vous allez donc commencer à le pratiquer en retour­nant près de votre père, je vous ferai dire quand vous devrez entrer."

Qu'on juge de ma surprise et de ma douleur! Je compris bien qu'il me faudrait attendre la mort de mon père, J'étais brisée.  Mais peu à peu le calme revint dans mon Ame en pensant que je ferais la volonté du bon Dieu.

Claire rentra donc à la maison paternelle, cherchant à se consoler de n'être pas carmélite en pratiquant toutes les vertus du cloître. Bientôt Notre‑Seigneur exigea d'elle un nouveau sacrifice ; Monsieur de Beauregard fut nommé évêque d'Orléans et bien qu'il lui promit de ne jamais la perdre de vue, quel appui, quel secours de moins! Il fallait choisir un Directeur, la jeune fille avait déjà jeté les yeux sur Monsieur l'abbé de Rochemonteix supérieur de son cher Carmel ; mais pour s'habituer à l'obéissance et à la démission d'elle‑même elle confia cette affaire à Mademoiselle Thérèse, sa vieille et sainte cousine dont elle suivait toujours les sages conseils. "Hélas! se disait la pauvre enfant, bien sûr que ma cousine Thérèse va m'adresser à quelque bon vieux chanoine de la cathédrale." Elle se trompait, le bon Dieu bénit son acte de renoncement et le Supérieur du Carmel lui fut justement proposé. Ce sage Directeur, ma Révérende Mère, vit du premier coup d'oeil qu'il n'avait point devant lui une âme vulgaire. En conséquence, il ne la ménageait pas, l'humiliait et la reprenait en toute rencontre. Malgré cela, faut‑il le dire, cette âme, d'ailleurs si parfaite, trompa sur un léger point sa vigilance. C'est ici le moment de faire connaître la petite infidélité de sa jeunesse, "ses grandes infidélités", comme elle les appelait. Nous ne pouvons soutenir ce mot, et cependant, pour une âme comblée de tant de faveurs, est‑il étonnant que le Seigneur se soit montré jaloux ? Nous verrons avec quelle rigueur il lui fit expier plus tard cette imperfection dont nous allons faire le récit.

Rejetée pour longtemps semblait‑il dans le monde qu'elle voulait quitter, ornée de toutes les qualités morales, pleine d'esprit, d'un jugement parfait, d'une imagination très calme, il est vrai, mais d'un coeur aimant et sensible au plus haut degré, cette jeune fille attira bientôt les regards et fixa l'attention ; malgré sa position modeste, on la recherchait dans toutes les sociétés ; des partis avantageux lui furent offerts. "Pour le mariage, nous dit‑elle, je me montrais toujours inébranlable, je restais même simplement vêtue et ne pensais point à plaire. Seulement, pour ma satisfaction personnelle, je gardais dans ma manière de m'habiller une petite recherche: On m'avait donné un très beau châle, et au lieu de l'attacher avec une épingle, je le laissais flotter librement et avec grâce. Une voix intérieure me demandait bien le sacrifice de cette épingle. mais je ne voulais pas l'entendre. Je refusais à Jésus une épingle! Quelle ingratitude!... Monsieur de Rochemonteix lui‑même semblait m'avertir au nom de Notre‑Seigneur, car la première fois que je m'adressai à lui, il me fit ce reproche: « Il y a sur vous, mon enfant, une certaine harmonie que je voudrais voir disparaître. ‑ Mon Père, répondis-je alors, je ne puis pourtant m'habiller plus simplement, voyez: j'ai une robe brune, et ce châle on me l'a donné, ne faut‑il pas que je le porte ?" Chose étonnante et digne de remarque, jamais Monseigneur de Beauregard ne fut prévenu de cette infidélité dont Notre Mère seule avait connaissance et des années après, il lui écrivait au Carmel: "Humiliez‑vous, tenez‑vous bien petite, souvenez‑vous que vous avez autrefois porté un châle qui a déplu à Dieu et à moi."

Mais, à côté de cette légère défaillance, Claire était un modèle de toutes les vertus. Son père l'aimait avec tant de tendresse, qu'il ne pouvait supporter la pensée de lui causer même involontairement la moindre peine. Un jour, qu'après lui avoir demandé de l'argent pour les besoins du ménage, il ne se trouvait pas en mesure de la satisfaire, devinant l'angoisse du coeur paternel, elle versa en secret quelques larmes, mais ses yeux rouges la trahirent: "Que je suis un homme malheureux, s'écria ce bon père avec douleur, j’ai fait pleurer ma fille!

Cette fille chérie était vraiment aussi la mère de ses deux frères, et les exemples qu'elle leur donna, le doux empire qu'elle exerçait sur eux, les maintinrent toujours dans les sentiers du devoir.

Elle usait encore de son influence bénie, non seulement au sein de la famille, mais au milieu du monde. Un dimanche, plusieurs dames l'avaient invitée à venir faire une promenade non loin de la ville. Aussitôt arrivées, on se rendit à la Messe ; mais quel temple! une grange abandonnée, l'eau tombait jusque sur l'au­tel. Et quel autel! plus pauvre que la crèche! Les ornements du prêtre en lambeaux, les vases sacrés indignes de ce nom... En sortant de l'Office divin, la pieuse jeune fille, le coeur brisé, suivit ces dames à l'hôtel, sans pouvoir proférer une seule parole.

« Qu'avez‑vous donc, Mademoiselle ? lui demanda‑t‑on. ‑ Mesdames, répondit‑elle aussitôt, je suis étonnée que vous ne partagiez pas ma tristesse, et je me demande comment il est possible que vous ayez pu sans douleur, assister à une pareille Messe, couvertes de dentelles, avec des chapeaux magnifiques, pendant que Notre‑Seigneur est plus mal logé qu'un mendiant des rues et plus mal vêtu que vos serviteurs. »Cette parole produisit tout son effet et bientôt une élégante cha­pelle remplaça la pauvre grange.

A la campagne, où son père devait passer de longs mois chaque année, sa présence fît encore merveille ; elle instruisait les enfants du village avec un succès étonnant. "Mam'zelle, lui dit une pauvre femme, ne me refusez pas de vous charger de ma fille, je vous avertis qu'elle est mauvaise comme une chouette et à moitié idiote, mais ça ne fait rien, vous pouvez lui donner de l'esprit, ça ne tient qu'à vous de l'vouloir. » Cette confiance naïve ne fut pas trompée, la petite idiote devint intelligente, pieuse et bonne, et se rendit plus tard au Carmel pour remercier sa bienfaitrice.

Visiter les pauvres, leur faire du bien, c'étaient tous les plaisirs de Claire. Une fête de Noël, après la Messe de minuit, les dames du château voisin voulurent la retenir ; mais elle avait promis déjà à de bons paysans et refusa l'invitation. "Oh!que je me trouvais bien plus heureuse dans la maison de ces pauvres gens, nous racontait‑elle, ils chantèrent jusqu'au jour de vieux Noëls dans le patois du pays, et je chantais avec eux ; mon coeur s'échauffait en leur compagnie, ils montraient une si grande foi, une piété si vive, que je me croyais à Bethléem."

Elle exerçait encore sa charité par un silence héroïque quand il était nécessaire. Une de ses tantes l'invita à venir passer quelque temps chez elle à Poitiers. Elle s'y rendit toute joyeuse ; mais sa piété déplut bientôt à l'oncle d'un caractère sombre et bourru. La voyant un matin revenir de l'église, il dit assez haut pour être entendu: "Si J'avais une fille comme cela, je la mettrais à la porte de ma maison." Rentrée dans sa chambre la pauvre enfant fondit en larmes ; sa bonne tante elle‑même, vivement peinée, lui conseilla de retourner au plus tôt à la campagne, mais cette âme angélique ne pensait pas ainsi ; un départ aussi précipité aurait fait connaître.à son père ce qui venait d'arriver et rompu sans doute l'union des deux familles. Elle resta donc tout le temps convenu, se montra plus aimable que jamais à l'égard de son oncle, et garda le silence. O merveilleuse puissance de la charité! Cet homme si dur fut touché d'une telle conduite, et de loup, il devint agneau ; il se laissa guider plus tard dans les voies de Dieu par les conseils de son admirable nièce.

Mais le temps approchait, ma Révérende Mère, où les portes du Carmel allaient enfin s'ouvrir. La chère aspirante avait atteint sa vingt‑quatrième année quand son excellent père fut rappelé à Dieu. C'était l'heure marquée pour voler vers le cloître. Monsieur de Rochemonteix, pour l'éprouver, feignit alors de ne point croire à sa vocation. Cependant un jour, il lui envoya un petit livre où, sur les angles de la première page, il avait écrit ces mots: Ne plaignez pas la peine... la récompense sera grande... Rien moins que le Ciel pour demeure... Dieu lui‑même fera votre bonheur. 'Oh! se dit‑elle, c'est  bien dire que je serai carmélite: "Dieu lui‑même fera votre bonheur!" et sans cesse elle répétait cette parole. En effet, le 26 mars de cette même année 1830, notre douce colombe entrait joyeuse dans l'arche bénie.

Ce fut la Très Révérende Mère Aimée de Jésus. sa bienfaitrice et sa seconde mère, qui la reçut au seuil du cloître et l'appela Geneviève de Sainte Thérèse, nom prophétique, car ne devait‑elle pas devenir un jour sur la montagne du Carmel, bergère et gardienne de plusieurs troupeaux ? Voici les premières paroles que lui adressa cette bonne Mère: "Mon enfant, si vous voulez être sainte et toujours heureuse, retenez bien ceci: Qu'on ne sache jamais ce qui vous plaît ou déplaît, ce qui vous est agréable ou désagréable, ce que vous aimez ou n'aimez pas. » Cette leçon fut suivie à la lettre et notre bien-aimée Mère en recueillit les fruits de paix.

Le Monastère de Poitiers comptait alors de vénérables anciennes, types achevés de la parfaite Carmélite. Ces bonnes Mères, pour la plupart, avaient vu les désastres de la Révolution et souffert de mille manières pendant ces jours affreux. Un parfum d'héroïque sainteté s'échappait de leurs personnes, et la jeune postulante en fut tout d'abord embaumée. Elle n'oublia jamais cette première impression, et quand, aux époques des licences, les novices, ses compagnes, convenaient d'une heure pour aller ensemble les visiter, elle s'excusait toujours et s'y rendait seule, voulant profiter à loisir de leur expérience et de leurs conseils. Guidée par de tels exemples, Notre Mère s'élança d'un pas rapide dans le sentier de la perfection religieuse, et Dieu qui veillait sur cette âme et voulait l'élever si haut, commença par l'abaisser à ses propres yeux et aux yeux de ses soeurs, en lui envoyant une humiliation que la plus habile maîtresse n'aurait jamais su lui donner. On l'avait nommée seconde robière et chose surprenante, cette jeune fille qui dans le monde avait donné les preuves d'une grande aptitude pour le travail manuel ne pouvait même venir à bout de coudre une ceinture de cotte. Impuissante à manier l'aiguille, elle tournait et retournait l'ouvrage d'une façon si maladroite, que sa compagne en était exercée. Ne sachant plus absolument rien faire, elle eut le coeur bien gros, quand vint la fête de sa bien‑aimée Mère Prieure: n'ayant à lui offrir que de la toile pour la sacristie!... Au moment de recevoir à son tour la bénédiction et le baiser maternel, elle retenait ses larmes... mais la bonne Mère Aimée de Jésus lui dit tout bas: "Consolez‑vous, mon enfant, car vous êtes la fille du coeur " Paroles bien tendres qui mirent du baume sur la plaie.

Cependant, ma Révérende Mère, cette nullité apparente était compensée par de si grandes qualités, qu'on ne fit d'autre objection pour la recevoir à la prise d'habit, que celle de lui représenter l'incertitude de l'avenir. On était en 1830, à la veille d'une nouvelle révolution ; mais la fervente postulante répondit sans hésiter, qu'elle serait trop heureuse de suivre ses Mères et soeurs en prison et à la mort... La voyant si résolue, on lui donna le Saint Habit. Ce fut alors un nouvel élan vers le bien. Six mois se passèrent ainsi dans le bonheur et l'allégresse ; tous les exercices de la vie religieuse lui semblaient de plus en plus délicieux. Revenant du parloir, elle baisait avec amour les murs de sa cellule ; la solitude avait tant d'attraits pour cette âme d'oraison et de prière! Elle vivait dans une atmosphère de paix, quand tout à coup ce beau ciel s'obscurcit... Nous la laisserons raconter elle‑même cette terrible épreuve, tout en désespérant de rendre l'accent avec lequel, dans l'intimité de nos âmes, elle nous la confia tant de fois.

“Six mois avant ma profession, Monsieur de Rochemonteix nous prêcha la retraite, et dans l'un de ses sermons, il nous fit une peinture saisissante des trois états dans lesquels les âmes en cette vie peuvent se trouver. Dans le tableau des âmes impar­faites, encore moins dans celui des âmes ferventes, je ne pus me reconnaître: mais quand il vint à décrire l'état des âmes en péché mortel, je me sentis profondément remuée ; à mesure qu'il parlait, je me reconnaissais davantage. Troublée au delà de toute expression, je rentrai dans notre cellule presque réduite au désespoir... Ne sachant plus que faire, incapable de prier, je m'assis hors de moi près de notre lit, (il était tard c'était après Matines), lorsque, dans le silence de la nuit, une voix qui me semblait venir du dehors me dit très haut et distinctement: "TU AS PU... ET TU N’AS pas VOULU! Saisissant mon crucifix, je le présentai vers l'endroit d'où j'avais entendu cette voix et je répondis: "Pardonnez-moi, mon Dieu, pardonnez‑moi!.... Voici ma caution...  ­

Je demeurai alors toute la nuit dans une angoisse mortelle, sous le coup de la justice divine prête à me précipiter aux abîmes... Dès le matin, j'allai me confesser, et quelle ne fut pas ma surprise en m'entendant donner pour pénitence une neuvaine de communions! Je m’approchai de la Sainte Table dans un état  désespéré et sur le point de m’écrier: “je suis damnée”.  Mais à peine la Sainte hostie avait-elle touché mes lèvres, que je sentis les larmes monter à mes paupières et couler par torrents…la paix m’était rendue, et je ne gardai plus de mes péchés qu’une contrition douce et profonde. Quelque temps après, pensant à ce que j’avais souffert, j’adressai naïvement mes plaintes à N.S., je lui dis: Pourquoi mon Jésus avez-vous permis un pareil orage ? Oh que c’était affreux!Dites- moi donc pourquoi vous avez fait cela ? – La réponse ne se fit pas attendre: “Si je l’ai permis, ce n’est que par amour…..et pour t’épargner 10 ans de Purgatoire! “

Cette révélation est bien mystérieuse:Quand Dieu s’est choisi une âme, qu’il l’a prévenue de ses grâces, quelle fidélité ne lui demande-t-il pas!C’est bien le cas de se rappeler la plainte de l’épouse des Cantiques « Vous avez blessé mon cœur, ma sœur, mon épouse, par un seul de vos cheveux! »Qu’étaient les fautes de jeunesse de notre Mère bien-aimée ? Et cependant par quelles purifications Notre Seigneur les lui fit expier! lui laissant même à entendre qu’elles avaient mérité 10 ans de purgatoire……Ce qui fait voir aussi la miséricordieuse bonté de notre Dieu, qui veut bien se payer d’une heure de souffrance en cette vie, pour nous épargner les rigueurs de sa justice en l’autre.

Ainsi se passa cette tempête affreuse ; mais quand vint le jour de sa Profession, nouvelles angoisses; non seulement notre chère Mère ne sentit point la consolation d’être l’épouse d’un Dieu, mais ce Dieu qu’elle aimait si tendrement semblait la rejeter loin de LUI…s’abimant alors au plus profond de son néant, la pauvre petite professe dans l’amertume de son âme supplia le divin maître de bien vouloir seulement la souffrir dans sa sainte maison au milieu de ses épouses fidèles. « Gardez-moi, lui disait-elle avec larmes  gardez moi comme votre petite esclave! » et confiant sa peine à sa Mère Prieure, elle la supplia de lui confier l’office de troisième infirmière, pour se faire la servante de ses sœurs ; ce qui lui fut accordé. Il y avait alors au monastère, de nombreuses infirmes ; parmi elles une pauvre sœur dont les plaies exhalaient une odeur fétide. Sr Geneviève ne la quittait ni le jour ni la nuit, bien que le Docteur lui-même ne put la visiter que très promptement. La veille du décès, en sortant de la pauvre cellule il dit avec admiration: “Celle qui a soigné cette religieuse est évidemment une SAINTE  Car sans un secours particulier de Dieu, il n’est pas possible d’avoir pu soutenir si longtemps une pareille odeur.

L’héroïque novice trouva bien encore le moyen de se satisfaire. En plein été, devant un feu ardent, elle séchait des linges pour une autre malade qui exigeait des soins particuliers ; cela chaque jour et assez longtemps pour avoir le visage enflammé et presqu’au vif. Mais cachant avec soin cette fatigue, aucune plainte ne s’échappait de ses lèvres. C’était encore trop pour son humilité de n’être point chassée  de la maison de Dieu ; elle souffrait tout en silence et refoulait ses angoisses, en chantant sans cesse de pieux cantiques à la gloire de son Jésus...

La trouvant toujours aimable et souriante, on ne s’étonnait que d’une chose: c’était de la voir au réfectoire manger très peu et avec une peine extrême. « Ma soeur Geneviève, lui disait-on, il ne faut pas que la joie d’avoir fait profession vous empêche de manger. –Hélas pensait la pauvre novice, il faut donc que je prenne bien sur moi, pour faire croire à toutes mes sœurs que j’aie la joie dans le coeur!» Enfin, peu à peu, Notre-Seigneur se laissa toucher ; Il ne lui dit rien cette fois, mais doucement et invisiblement, sa main divine écarta les nuages ; le soleil, non pas des consolations mais de la confiance filiale  illumina son âme, l’humble épouse ne souhaitait pas autre chose. Sa vie devait être une vie de croix, et non pas d’extases. Sans doute bien des fois encore, elle entendra la douce voix de l’Epoux ; mais le plus souvent son âme sera plongée dans le mystérieux silence de la foi. Qui pourra dire, ma révérende Mère, les progrès de la jeune novice pendant cette nuit obscure qu’elle venait de traverser! Elle était devenue toute humilité, charité, détachement et obéissance

Un prêtre qui l’avait connue dans le monde, lui fit au parloir cette question: « Mon enfant, dites-moi donc quel est votre attrait ? Avez-vous un goût particulier pour la pénitence ou pour l’oraison ?

- Mr le curé, répondit-elle timidement, je ne me sens portée que vers la pénitence de règle et en usage au monastère ; j’aime aussi beaucoup l’oraison et le St Office récité en chœur, mais je n’ai d’attrait particulier que pour l’obéissance.

- Courage, mon enfant reprit le bon prêtre très édifié, avec cet attrait vous irez loin.»

Il y aurait à rapporter bien des exemples de ses autres vertus, particulièrement de son grand courage pour se vaincre en toute chose, de son détachement et de sa charité. Dans une circonstance où elle avait un extrême besoin de voir monsieur l’abbé de la Rochemonteix, son supérieur, il se trouva que plusieurs religieuses l’ayant aussi demandé, elle attendit jusqu’au soir à la porte du confessionnal, sans avoir eu son tour, ce qui lui occasionna une violente migraine.

" Ah! se dit‑elle, c'est donc ainsi, soeur Geneviève, que tu te donnes un si grand mal de tête pour satisfaire ta volonté... mais c'est la dernière fois, je vais bien savoir te guérir..." Et dès le lendemain elle s'adressa au confesseur ordinaire, ne voulant rien souffrir qui pût troubler sa paix.

Une autre fois, ayant été longtemps souffrante, il arriva qu'un certain petit bonnet de laine qu'elle portait à l'infirmerie, fit beaucoup rire et plaisanter une des aimables visiteuses. Au fond du coeur, la chère petite malade en éprouva de l'ennui et une légère blessure d'amour‑propre. Mais, le reconnaissant aussitôt, son parti  fut pris:  le premier jour qu’elle revint à la récréation, elle tira

gravement de sa poche le fameux petit bonnet, et le mettant sur sa tête, elle dit en riant: « Voyez, mes bonnes sœurs, comme je suis bien coiffée avec ce bonnet!….On s’est tant amusé l’autre jour à son sujet, que je n’ai pas voulu priver la communauté de cette petite distraction……....." Tout le monde rit en effet aux dépens de notre hum­ble Mère qui triomphait alors, et bénissait Dieu dans son coeur.

Voici maintenant un exemple de son détachement et de sa li­berté intérieure: Quand la Révérende Mère Aimée de Jésus tomba ma­lade, la communauté justement alarmée témoignait une vive douleur. La petite soeur Geneviève souffrait bien aussi, elle "la fille du coeur"!" Mais pour se préparer à l'épreuve d'une séparation pro­chaine, elle se retirait à l'écart, répandant ses plaintes et ses larmes, non pas au dehors, mais en présence seulement de son Bien­-Aimé, car elle savait par expérience ce que dit l'auteur de l'Imi­tation: "L'homme pieux porte avec lui partout Jésus, son consolateur!" Une jeune soeur du voile blanc, sa compagne de noviciat, attirée par le charme de sa vertu, se joignit à elle ; toutes deux alors s'encou­rageaient...'Elles se disaient qu'ayant quitté le monde pour Dieu, ce Dieu de bonté leur resterait toujours, que d'ailleurs il était bien juste que leur Mère chérie allât bientôt recevoir la couronne, ayant travaillé et souffert si longtemps pour l'acquérir... quand on est au Carmel disait plus tard notre vénérable Mère, il ne faut pas trop se désoler à la mort de ses mères et de ses soeurs ; ne sommes nous pas venues ici pour mourir, et bientôt ne serons‑nous pas toutes réunies dans le Ciel ?''

Tandis que cette bonne Mère Aimée de Jésus était à l'infir­merie, on chargea Soeur Geneviève de la soigner. Un jour que celle-­ci se mettait en devoir de lui laver les pieds, le visage de la ma­lade devint triste et pensif: ‑ "Qu'avez‑vous, ma bonne Mère ?" lui dit sa petite infirmière. ‑ ''O mon enfant, répondit la sainte Prieure, faut‑il vous l'avouer ?... J’ai peur que votre affection pour moi ne vous fasse perdre le mérite de cette action. ‑ Ne craignez pas, ma Mère. reprit la jeune professe, et pardonnez‑moi si j'ose vous dire qu’avec autant de joie, je laverais les pieds de la dernière de mes soeurs.‑ La fille n'était‑elle pas déjà à la hauteur de sa mère. Bientôt, hélas! cette Mère tant aimée fut trouvée digne de la ré­compense éternelle... Mademoiselle Thérèse  vint alors au par­loir, tout éplorée, et dit à sa cousine: "Eh bien! que vas‑tu devenir maintenant ? que tu vas être malheureuse! –" mais j'y suis venue pour Dieu qui ne me manquera jamais, ainsi je serai toujours heureuse."

Après la mort de sa bonne Mère, notre vertueuse novice fut nommée provisoire. Toutes les soeurs furent édifiées et charmées de son exquise charité dans cet office qu’elle disait, peut‑être plus difficile à bien remplir et plus méritoire encore que celui d'in­firmière, parce qu'on n'y est pas seulement chargé des malades, mais en quelque sorte de toute la Communauté.

Une religieuse lui ayant causé de la peine elle résolut aussitôt de s'en venger à la manière des saints.Sachant que cette soeur aimait les poires cuites, son plaisir était de lui en servir des plus belles, comme aussi de lui choisir ce qu'il y avait de meilleur en toute autre chose. Et racontant cela plus tard, elle disait avec cet accent si doux et si humble qui allait droit au coeur, sans soulever le moindre doute: “Cette fois, je n'agissais pas ainsi pour me vaincre, mais vraiment par affection... depuis que cette chère soeur m'avait fait de la peine, je l'aimais davantage''... Eh bien, mes petits enfants, ajoutait‑elle, voyez comme il est avantageux de pardonner, de ne point se fâcher, d'être prévenante et aimable avec ceux qui nous offensent: la soeur qui était mécontente contre moi, voyant que je faisais tout pour lui faire plaisir, ne tarda pas à venir se jeter à mes pieds, et m'embrassant avec tendresse: "O ma soeur Geneviève s’écria‑t‑elle, on ne peut rien vous dire, je suis vaincue par votre charité, pardonnez‑moi!"

Nous ne finirions pas, ma Révérende Mère, s'il fallait raconter tous les traits édifiants de ces huit ans passés au béni Carmel de Poitiers. Nous avons seulement montré quelques perles précieuses de cet incomparable écrin ; mais, n'en connaissant pas nous-même la richesse nous terminons par cette parole des Cantiques: "Voici la beauté de l'Epouse sans ce qui est caché au dedans, "

 

Notre Mère bien‑aimée était donc prête pour la grande mission qui allait lui être confiée. Quand il fut question de la fondation d'un Carmel à Lisieux, elle sentit un vif désir d'en faire partie "pour goûter les douceurs de la pauvreté..." Mais la crainte d'agir par un mouvement de volonté propre, 1'empêcha de rien demander. "Si le bon Dieu le veut, pensait‑elle, il saura bien l'inspirer aux Supérieurs." La Révérende Mère Prieure, en effet, avait jeté les yeux sur sa fille Geneviève, et Monsieur l'abbé Sau­vage, notre fondateur, ayant obtenu que les deux bienfaitrices et leurs compagnes vinssent à Poitiers pour y faire leur noviciat, la Révérende Mère Pauline résolut de la nommer maîtresse des novices.Avant de l'en prévenir, voulant l'éprouver elle l'interpella ainsi au milieu d'une récréation: "Ma soeur Geneviève, ce n'est pas l'ha­bitude au Carmel de rester ici sans mot dire triste et sombre comme un bonnet de nuit, tâchez donc d'être plus gaie." Le lendemain, changement  complet! Mais voilà qu'au sortir du chauffoir, la bonne Mère, feignant d'être plus mécontente que la veille, lui dit: "Vraiment, ma soeur Geneviève, si vous continuez ainsi, je serai  bientôt forcée de me taire pour vous écouter ; vous voilà devenue comme un coq de vil­lage à la récréation!" Sans répondre un mot, sans montrer la moindre contrariété, cette vraie religieuse baisa la terre et se retira. La  révérende Mère Pauline était satisfaite et Notre‑Seigneur l'était plus encore, car, le soir à l'oraison, il lui annonça lui‑même l'événement du lendemain par ces paroles:" MA FILLE, ON TE PERMETTRA DEMAIN DE T'UNIR A MOI PAR LA COMMUNION ; ENSUITE LA MERE PRIEURE T'APPELLERA, ET APRES T’AVOIR FAIT LIRE LE SERMON QUE TU AS COPIÉ SUR L'OBEISSANCE, ELLE TE NOMMERA MAITRESSE DES NOVICES."

« J'étais bien troublée, nous racontait Notre Mère, et croyant que le démon seul pouvait me mettre une telle pensée dans l'esprit, je la chassais de tout mon pouvoir. Mais dès le lende­main  matin, sur le commandement de ma Mère prieure, je m’approchais de la Sainte Table et me rendis à sa cellule: "Mon enfant, me dit­-elle, prenez le cahier que vous avez écrit et lisez‑moi le sermon sur l’obéissance." Je le lus d'une voix tremblante puis elle me nomma maîtresse des novices. C'était donc Notre‑Seigneur qui m’avait parlé, je n'en doutais plus, et demeurai bien consolée".

Elle comprit alors qu'elle irait à la fondation et s'en réjouit... d'une réjouissance bien surnaturelle sans doute car nous avons pu nous rendre compte de l'immense sacrifice qu'elle eut à offrir à Dieu en quittant son cher berceau religieux et son pays qu'elle aimait tant! Mais, toutes ses affections, mises dans la balance en face de la pauvreté, ne purent l'emporter sur cette vertu chérie. Forte de son obéissance, heureuse de l'avoir encore à pratiquer à l'égard de la Révérende Mère Elisabeth, nommée Prieure de la petite Colonie, cette âme généreuse, cet ange, comme l'appelait Mère Pauline, prit son essor vers Lisieux.

Nous ne raconterons du voyage, ma Révérende Mère, aucune particularité, si ce n'est le passage à Orléans. Les deux Mères Fondatrices étant les filles spirituelles de Monseigneur de Beauregard, on se rendit au palais épiscopal. Le vénérable Evêque, âgé de 88 ans, était alors malade et gardait le lit. Quand il sut le nom des visiteuses, attendues de jour en jour avec impatience, il se leva, et d'un pas chancelant mais le coeur dans l'allégresse s'avançant d'abord vers sa fille Geneviève, il lui prit la tête de ses deux mains: "Ah! vous voilà, s'écria‑t‑il, la plus petite du peuple de Dieu." La conversation s'engagea, on oubliait presque l'heure de la diligence, le saint Evêque était radieux. "Petite, dit‑il encore à notre chère Mère, au moment du départ, ne manquez pas d'écrire l'histoire de votre fondation et mettez‑y bien surtout le plaisir que me cause votre visite... J'en dirais bien “mon Nunc dimittis. »Après leur avoir fait une généreuse offrande, il les bénit avec toute l'affection d'un père et les congédia.

Cette bénédiction fut de bon augure ; Dieu garda et protégea ses élues au milieu de plusieurs dangers ; enfin, on arriva à Lisieux. L'amante de la pauvreté put alors se satisfaire ; la maison provisoire était couverte en chaume et 1'intérieur si mal disposé, les pièces si petites, si basses, qu'elle ne lui donna point d'autre nom que celui de son petit Bethléem. On resta ainsi quelques mois... le temps nécessaire pour préparer une autre maison, bien pauvre encore, mais plus grande, où l'on s'établit à peu près en régularité, en attendant le monastère et notre ravissante chapelle qui fut bâtie sous le premier priorat de notre si chère Mère. Dieu bénit ces commencements, les sujets ne manquaient pas et ces jeunes plantes cultivées par les mains d'une sainte, instruites plus encore par ses exemples que par ses paroles, devenaient de véritables Carmélites, des âmes viriles, capables de s'immoler en toutes choses pour la gloire de Notre-Seigneur. "Je reconnais toujours, disait plus tard un des confesseurs du Monastère, les novices formées par la sainte Mère Geneviève."

Quatre ans s'étaient à peine écoulés depuis la fondation lorsque notre bonne Mère Elisabeth fut rappelée à Dieu Cet événement nécessitait une élection ; tous les yeux déjà se portaient sur la Mère Sous‑Prieure, quand M.l'abbé Sauvage reçut une lettre de Poitiers. Chose incompréhensible dans une pareille circonstance ; croyant qu'il s'agissait du rappel de Mère Geneviève (qui n'avait été que prétée à Lisieux), il se garda bien d'ouvrir la missive, mais vint en toute hâte au Carmel, exposa le Saint‑Sacrement pendant les trois jours d'usage, et présida les élections qui réalisèrent ses désirs en confirmant ses espérances.

Or. le soir du premier jour, Notre‑Seigneur voulut bien s'approcher de son humble et toute petite servante pour lui faire entendre encore sa douce voix. Il lui dit: "C'EST TOI QUE J'AI CHOISIE POUR GOUVERNER CETTE MAISON... OUVRE TON COEUR A TES FILLES ET JE T'OUVRIRAI LE MIEN... ET DE MEME QUE JE REPOSE EN MON PERE, LA SAINTE TRINITE SERA TON APPUI”.

O Mère bien‑aimée! Vous avez pu jouir de la récompense sublime qui vous était promise, car nous savons à quel point vous avez été fidèle à la recommandation du Divin Maître... Oui, pendant vos vingt‑sept ans de priorat vous nous avez ouvert votre coeur. et quel coeur! La bénignité de Jésus y était descendue tout entière: c'était un ciel de paix, un abîme de charité, une digue puissante où les flots de tous les orages venaient se briser et mourir.

Mais, que contenait donc cette lettre dont nous avons parlé ? Elle cachait une lourde croix.... A partir de cette élection dont il avait semblé si heureux, notre bon Père Sauvage ne fut plus le même à l'égard de la nouvelle Prieure. Elle qui avait jusque‑là joui de son entière confiance, s'en voyait maintenant privée. Quant à la conduite des âmes, il l'avait vue à l'oeuvre et ne doutait pas de sa capacité: mais pour l'extérieur, il la guidait, la surveillait comme une enfant, sans lui donner de latitude même pour la moindre dépense. Que d'actes d'humilité et d'obéissance durent être les fruits de cette pénible situation!

A la mort de Monsieur l'abbé Sauvage, 11 ans après, on vint prier notre bonne Mère de bien vouloir dépouiller sa correspondance, et Dieu permit que la lettre mystérieuse tombât entre ses mains. Elle contenait ces mots: "Ne nommez pas Geneviève Prieure car elle n'est pas capable de remplir cette charge difficile…

Il fallait donc que notre humble Mère fut bien habile à cacher ses talents et son mérite dans ce cher couvent de Poitiers pour que la bonne Mère Pauline (qui plus tard reconnut son erreur) s'y laissât tromper elle‑même. Quoi qu'il en soit, tout en lui faisant comprendre ce qui lui avait paru jusque‑là inexplicable, cette révélation n'affligea point notre Mère.. Au contraire, elle sut y trouver un sujet de joie et n'en fit aucun mystère. Elle racontait tout haut son aventure, ajoutant avec bonheur: "Si je suis Prieure, ce n'est donc bien que par la seule volonté de mon Dieu!! Ainsi se réalisa cette prophétie de Monseigneur de Beauregard: « Vous n’allez pas à  Lisieux pour y bâtir une maison de pierres matérielle, mais pour y élever en l'honneur de Dieu un édifice de pierres vivantes qui sont les âmes. »

Puisque le nom vénérable du saint Evêque d'Orléans revient sous notre plume, permettez‑nous, ma Révérende Mère, de transcrire ici un seul fragment de ses lettres délicieuses. En 1841, il avait quitté l'exil, ainsi ce ne pouvait être que dans une lumière surnaturelle, qu'il écrivait en 1839, alors que notre Mère Geneviève n'était que Sous‑Prieure et maîtresse des novices:

« Lisez plus d'une fois le XXme chapitre du ler livre de l'Imitation... Ce chapitre admirable de sagesse recommande la solitude. Comment pourrez‑vous la garder, puisqu'elle semble mieux faite pour un ermite que pour une Prieure, qui doit ouvrir son coeur, sa cellule et sa bouche à tous et à tous moments ? Cependant, il faut un petit coin où vous serez seule avec le Seul. Mon enfant, il faudra trouver dans le coin de votre coeur un petit lieu, tout pe­tit, où vous serez assurée de trouver ce Seul, digne de votre amour, de vos pensées. Mais, quels meubles y mettrez‑vous ? Il en faut deux: foi, amour, et pas autre chose. Je n'aime pas, quand vous m'écrivez, que vous me parliez de vos péchés ; il y a longtemps que Dieu a oublié ce châle que vous avez payé si cher! Et moi qui ai été assez heureux pour vous avoir montré la bonne voie, je vous déclare que tous vos péchés vous ont été abondamment remis... tenez-le donc pour vrai et certain... Dieu n'est point un disputeur, il excuse facilement les âmes... Il vous a aimée d'un amour si extraordinaire, que je regarderais comme un manque de foi de vous inquiéter désormais. O mon Dieu! que vous êtes donc miséricordieux, pour donner à ma fille Geneviève une si belle place dans votre Coeur! Ma fille, abîmez‑vous donc dans une mer de reconnaissance et gardez.souvent aux pieds de Jésus le silence du respect et un saint étonnement, de ce que Dieu a fait pour vous, et de ce qu'il prépare de bonheur à votre pauvre coeur...

" Que je vous le dise, ou que je garde le silence, je resterai uni de coeur, de prière, de souvenir, à l'arbrisseau du Carmel retiré du Jardin de Poitiers. C'est une chose dite et écrite dans mon coeur.Vous avez été si longtemps ma fille!... Je vous bénis comme un bon vieux père."

Quelles consolations devait apporter à notre vénérée Mère la lecture de semblables lignes! Cependant, nous devons le dire à la louange de son détachement et de la délicatesse de son coeur: Deux ans avant la mort du saint Prélat, elle se priva de cette correspondance, parce que ses lettres ne contenaient souvent qu'un simple mot à l'adresse de la Révérende Mère Elisabeth, et qu'elle voulait à l'avenir lui laisser seule la consolation de recevoir des réponses. Le sacrifice fut partagé, comme nous en avons la preuve par cette plainte amère du digne et noble vieillard sur son lit de mort: "Je recevais autrefois des lettres de Geneviève qui me faisaient tant de plaisir! pourquoi donc ne m'écrit‑elle plus ?  -Il le sait maintenant! répondit‑elle avec un sourire angélique, quand on lui donna connaissance ce de ce touchant détail.

Pour revenir au premier priorat de Notre Mère, les trois ans expirés, la Révérende Mère Pauline réclama son ange... Monsieur l'abbé Sauvage ne dit rien à la communauté ; il fut convenu avec les Supérieurs de Poitiers qu'on ferait les élections, et que si Mère Geneviève restait sans charge, elle serait rendue au plus tôt à son premier monastère. On juge sans peine du résultat de l'élection: d'une commune voix, notre bonne Mère fut réélue pour trois années, dans l'exercice d'une charge qu'elle avait si parfaitement remplie. Au bout de ce temps, nouvelles demandes des Supérieurs de Poitiers, nouvelles instances de Monsieur l'abbé Sauvage et de son pauvre petit Carmel. Monsieur de Rochemonteix écrivait en ces termes à notre bien chère Mère: " Les soeurs pressent pour vous faire venir, le temps leur dure de vous revoir, elles craignent que le prêt qu'elles ont fait ne dégénère en une donation ; J'ai eu bien de la peine à les calmer. Je leur ai répondu que si votre présence à Lisieux était jugée nécessaire, il ne serait pas sage de vous retirer en ce moment. Je vous le répète à vous‑même: nous avons tous un grand désir de vous voir rentrer à Poitiers, mais si votre Supérieur, si vous‑même en toute franchise et simplicité, vous pensez qu'il soit nécessaire de prolonger la permission que je vous ai donnée, je ferai mon possible pour que vos soeurs n'y mettent pas d'obstacles.

Cette décision qui devait être renvoyée au Supérieur et à la Communauté de Lisieux, fut vite donnée... Le Carmel de Poitiers accordait encore trois ans, lorsqu'à la fin de la seconde année, notre bonne Mère étant malade, il profita de l'occasion pour un rappel définitif. Comment y répondra cette Mère bien‑aimée ? Sans doute, elle inclinait fortement vers le retour... mais une écrasante épreuve pesait alors sur la fondation et refoulant ses plus chères espérances, elle écrivit ces belles paroles: "Maintenant que la Croix est plantée au Carmel de Lisieux, comment pourrais‑je la fuir ?" Notre vénéré Fondateur, de son côté plaida si éloquemment sa cause qu'il la gagna …. Mère Geneviève restait pour toujours à Lisieux, et le 15 septembre 1849, Monseigneur Robin, alors Evêque de Bayeux, annonçait lui‑même à  ses chères Carmélites, l'heureuse nouvelle. Ainsi, nous devons à nos Mères de Poitiers cette faveur insigne d'avoir connu une sainte... Elles ont bien voulu se priver pour nous enrichir ; mais aujourd'hui notre héritage est commun... et le même regard qui veille sur Lisieux se dirige vers Poitiers!... L'Ange de Mère Pauline étend ses ailes sur son cher berceau et ne le quittera plus jamais...

Depuis ce 15 septembre 1849, jusqu'à la mort de notre Mère tant aimée, que d'événements, de lumières, de grâces reçues! Il faudrait un volume pour en donner l'intéressant détail... Les événements sont connus de nos chers Carmels ; on sait que du petit arbrisseau enlevé du jardin de Poitiers se sont encore détachés de faibles rameaux, aujourd'hui des arbres en pleine vigueur, Saïgon, Coutances et Caen.

Saigon surtout fut l'oeuvre de Notre Mère, oeuvre indirecte sans doute, puisqu'elle chargea de cette noble entreprise une de ses chères filles ; mais les peines sans nombre, les contradictions et humiliations de toute sorte qu'elle souffrit alors, la feront toujours regarder comme la première Mère de cet humble Carmel ; d'ailleurs, la vénérable Fondatrice, Mère Philomène de l'Immaculée‑Conception, de si sainte mémoire, ne l'entendait pas autrement. Hàtons‑nous de dire aussi que les peines dont nous venons de parler étaient bien compensées du côté du ciel... L'illustre Fondateur du nouveau Carmel, Monseigneur Lefebvre, vicaire apostolique de Cochinchine et cousin de Mère Philomène n'avait‑il pas vu dans le sombre cachot où il était détenu par une injuste sentence, la radieuse vision de notre Sainte Mère Thérèse, lui demandant d'établir son Ordre en Annam, parce que Dieu en serait grandement servi et glorifié ?

Nous nous bornerons, ma Révérende Mère, à vous parler maintenant de la vie cachée de notre Sainte, de ses vertus, qui se résument en un seul mot: l'amour. Elle aimait son Dieu de toute la force de son âme ; voilà pourquoi elle nous a tant aimées! pourquoi elle a tant aimé l'Eglise, la France, les pauvres pécheurs, et s'est immolée pour eux.

Ne pas dérober à Jésus un seul atome de son coeur: voilà le travail intérieur de toute sa vie religieuse. Jalouse aussi de celui de ses filles, elle priait Dieu qu'il ne permît point qu'on s'attachât à elle par un sentiment d'affection humaine. Sa plus grande caresse, hors les baisers maternels de nos fêtes de famille, consistait simplement à poser sa main sur nos têtes ; encore était‑ce un signe de contentement bien signalé! Et pourtant, quelle tendresse! Nos peines étaient ses peines, nos joies, ses joies... Elle s'intéressait à chacun des membres de nos familles et les recommandait instamment à Dieu..Son abord était doux, facile ; son indulgence extrême Elle ne pressait pas les âmes, mais savait les attendre et les gagnait toujours. Calme en tout événement, d'une prudence pleine de sagesse, elle ne brisait pas les difficultés, ne cherchait qu'à faire régner la paix, prêchait sans cesse l'union des coeurs et la charité. Elle avait, comme l'Epouse des Cantiques, "le miel et le lait sous la langue". Ses exhortations du Chapitre étaient admirables ; on y sentait le fruit de ses oraisons, elle parlait de l'abondance du coeur, d'un coeur embrasé qui veut répandre ses flammes... et quel stimulant d'entendre ces paroles: ''Notre‑Seigneur m'a priée de faire connaître ceci à la Communauté... Il veut de vous. mes enfants, telle ou telle chose... Un jour, elle assura que de toutes ses chères filles présentes, pas une ne manquerait au rendez‑vous du ciel... Quand elle recevait les voeux des novices, ce n'était jamais sans verser des larmes... on eût dit que le mystère des Noces divines se montrait à ses yeux sans voiles!... Heureux les coeurs qui se sont offerts à Jésus par de telles mains!!!...

Elle savait aussi les introduire aux Noces éternelles... Et dans les premières années de la fondation, ce cas n'était, hélas que trop fréquent. Une de ces jeunes religieuses, sujet d'espérance et grandement chérie de Notre Mère, attendait, il semble, à l'heure de l'agonie, sa permission pour s'envoler au ciel. Alors, d'une voix entrecoupée de larmes, cette courageuse Mère lui dit: Mon enfant, vous avez toujours vécu en obéissant, mourez dans un acte d'obéissance..." Et son âme aussitôt, brisant ses liens terrestres, alla se réunir à l'Epoux des Vierges!

Mais pour bien connaître notre incomparable Mère, il fallait la voir déchargée du lourd fardeau de la supériorité: c'était alors l'humble petite soeur Geneviève de Poitiers, si cachée, si obéissante, qu'on l'eût prise plutôt pour une novice que pour une ancienne Prieure et fondatrice.Une telle âme devait aller à Dieu par la voie de la confiance filiale. Elle n'avait point en effet d'autres rapports avec Lui que ceux d'une enfant avec le plus tendre des Pères. "En voilà une qui sait prier!" disait notre bon Père Sauvage. En effet, Notre Mère obtenait tout de Dieu parce qu'elle savait prier! Dans les occa­sions difficiles., quand on lui proposait les moyens de la prudence humaine, elle répondait: "Oui, c'est bien... mais la prière surtout, oh! la prière!” Il suffisait d'ailleurs de la voir à l'oraison pour se rendre compte qu'elle était tout près de Dieu, et comme à son oreille... On sentait bien alors qu'elle était non seulement écoutée, mais exaucée. Son humble confiance et sa foi pénétraient les Cieux. Et comment s'en étonner ?  puisque Notre‑Seigneur a dit Lui‑même: "Si votre foi égalait seulement un grain de sénevé, je vous le dis en vérité, si vous commandiez à cette montagne de se jeter dans le mer, elle le ferait aussîtôt.”  C'est pourquoi, les grâces reçues dans cette prière fervente tenaient bien souvent du prodige. Nous nous permettrons, ma Révérende Mère, d'en citer quelques exemples entre mille:

Au commencement de la fondation alors que la pauvreté était si grande, on vint à manquer de beurre.... Après avoir écouté les plaintes et vu la douleur profonde de notre bonne soeur Madeleine, de si douce mémoire, Mère Geneviève lui répondit: "Ma fille, je n'ai pas un sou... Mais. s'il vous reste encore un peu de beurre prenez  touiours et mettons notre confiance en Dieu.Il y avait bientôt deux mois que ce peu ne s'épuisait point, quand notre chère soeur cuisi­nière, fort étonnée, lui dit: "Enfin, ma Mère, je n’y comprends rien, mon petit reste de beurre est toujours dans le même état ; qu’est‑ce que ça veut dire, puisque je n'en avais pas pour deux jours ? A présent j'ai beau prendre, ça ne diminue pas!. ‑ Soyez tranquille, reprit Notre Mère en souriant, votre petite provision est sur le point de finir." Et quelques jours après, la Communauté ayant reçu une aumône, soeur Madeleine trouva le pot vide.

Combien de fois le Divine Providence répondit‑elle encore à sa confiance, par des secours inattendus, arrivés à point nommé, et souvent juste la somme demandée!

Mais, ce qui nous semble plus admirable et peut‑être plus touchant encore, ce sont les petits miracles de complaisance, accordés dans tant d'occasions à sa prière filiale! Ainsi, pour nos lessives, elle nous obtenait toujours du beau temps, si bien que, dans les premières années, les personnes du monde venaient demander, longtemps à l'avance, quel jour on ferait la lessive au Carmel... Et pendant l'hiver, quelle sollicitude! Cette bonne Mère était dans l'angoisse quand elle nous voyait souffrir du froid. Un matin d'une forte lessive, ce froid étant très intense, son coeur n'y put tenir... elle se rendit au pied du Tabernacle... et pendant son absence, la gelée cessa, le temps devint si doux, qu'on aurait pu se croire au printemps, si la glace épaisse du lavoir ne nous eût fait souvenir de l'hiver.

Il y a moins longtemps encore, elle se prit à raconter naï­vement à une de nos soeurs le trait suivant, arrivé dans l'année même, et qui prouve que bien des choses de ce genre nous ont été cachées par son humilité: "Il avait gelé très fort,

on vint me dire: “Ma Mère, le bel abricotier que vous aimiez tant est perdu, il n'y aura pas un seul abricot. ‑ J'adressai alors mes plaintes à mon bon Jésus, je lui dis:" Est‑ce possible que vous ne donniez rien à nos soeurs cet été pour se rafraîchir? - Une voix intérieure me répondit: SOIS  TRANQUILLE, IL Y AURA DES ABRICOTS….Au temps venu, on me porta au jardin, et sans rien dire de mon affaire, je demandai qu'on me fit passer par l'allée de mon abricotier. Quelles ne furent pas ma surprise et ma joie en le trouvant si chargé de fruits qu'on voyait à peine les feuilles! Je me sentis émue jusqu'aux larmes  « Oh! ma fille, ajouta‑t‑elle, qui pourra dire combien Notre Seigneur est bon! Que sa condescendance est admirable!”

 

Une nouvelle preuve de cette bonté infinie fut donnée  à Notre Mère à l'époque de ses Noces d'or. Quelques mois auparavant elle vint à s'affliger, à se troubler même, contre son habitude, parce qu'il faudrait lever le voile et se montrer au monde. Mais l'Epoux divin qui ne voulait pas de nuages à cette grande fête, lui dit pen­dant sa retraite préparatoire: "NE CRAINS RIEN, MA FILLE, JE NE PER­METTRAI PAS QUE TU SOIS TROUBLÉE, CAR JE VEUX TE DONNER CE JOUR‑LA, CE QUE JE T'AI REFUSÉE, IL Y A 50 ANS, LE JOUR DE TA PROFESSION. IL PARAITRA MEME SUR TON VISAGE QUELQUE CHOSE D’EXTRAORDINAIRE QUI SERA LE REFLET DE CE QUE J'OPERERAI DANS TON COEUR." En effet, dès l'au­rore de cette fête bénie, un fleuve de paix, suivant son expression inonda son âme... Sur son visage, ce quelque chose d'extraordinaire apparut à tous les regards ; Mère Geneviève semblait rajeunie, d'une beauté inconnue ; reflet incomparable de son ciel intérieur C'était l'accomplissement à la lettre de la parole divine. L'heureuse jubilaire ne fut pas seule à se réjouir... Dans tous nos coeurs, quelle allégresse!... Nos chers Carmels et nos amis voulurent prendre part à cette fête en nous comblant des plus délica­tes attentions. Jamais notre Monastère n'avait vu luire pareil jour!.Il était transformé sous les décorations les plus gracieuses... La veille, nos jeunes soeurs, revêtues de leurs manteaux, portant des cierges allumés, entrèrent au chauffoir à la fin de la récréation, et l'une d'elles chanta la Calende annonçant ce jour béni, pendant lequel tant de larmes de joie furent versées!... Les nôtres coulèrent bien douces, en recevant les voeux de cette vénérable Mère, de cette sainte, qui elle‑même, dix‑neuf ans passés, présentait notre offrande au Seigneur! Et quelles suaves émotions en entendant les touchantes paroles de notre bon Père Supérieur sur ce texte choisi par elle: "Le joug du Seigneur est doux et son fardeau léger"!

Il semble, ma Révérende Mère, qu'après le récit de tant de grâces, il ne nous reste plus rien à dire. Cependant, le tableau de cette belle vie serait inachevé, si, après avoir parlé de l'amour de Notre Mère pour Jésus, nous n'ajoutions quelque chose de son amour pour la Croix.

C'est en 1849 que la maladie si cruelle qui nous l'a enlevée, lui fit ressentir ses premières atteintes. On ne lui dissimula pas les longues et cruelles souffrances qu'elle aurait à supporter. "A cette annonce, dit‑elle plus tard, mon coeur fut inondé de délices ; c'était le jour de la fête de saint André: en récitant son office, je répétais avec transport: O bonne croix que j'ai désirée si longtemps et qui êtes enfin accordée à mes désirs, je viens à vous avec confiance et joie, recevez le disciple de Celui qui a  été attaché sur votre bois sacré. ‑ Seigneur, vous le savez, je me serais crue téméraire en vous demandant la souffrance, j'aurais eu peur de ma faiblesse ; mais puisque vous m'en trouvez digne, soyez‑en mille fois béni. Je considérais alors mon âme comme un vase de cuivre maculé, et je pensais avec bonheur que la souffrance qui venait à moi serait la main charitable qui frotterait avec force et rendrait net et brillant ce vase terne et sans beauté. »

En voyant cette acceptation héroïque de la croix, jointe à une si profonde humilité, on peut supposer la patience et le cou­rage invincibles que Notre Mère fit paraître pendant ces années de martyre. Tant qu'elle put marcher, Dieu seul fut son témoin, hors le cas de crise, où nous la trouvions parfois étendue dans les che­mins, sans connaissance et presque sans vie. Un jour, entre autres, que par un froid glacial, elle n'avait pas cru devoir se dispenser d'étendre le linge, elle s'évanouit et tomba dans la neige. Mais la Divine Providence ne l'abandonna pas... Au même instant, notre chère Soeur Adélaïde, de si sainte mémoire, entendit dans sa cellule une voix qui lui disait: "Va au jardin....Va au jardin., "Elle obéit aussitôt et sauva la bien‑aimée de Jésus de ce péril imminent.

A ces crises dangereuses se joignaient souvent encore de fortes migraines où, par la violence du mal, il lui était venu autour de la tête comme un cordon en forme de couronne, première ressemblance de l'épouse avec l'Epoux crucifié.On s'étonne que notre chère Mère, malgré cet état si pénible, ait pu suivre notre sainte Règle et presque tous nos exercices jusqu'en 1849 vers la fin de son dernier Priorat. C'est alors que l'enflure considérable de ses jambes ne lui permettant plus de se tenir debout, nous la portions dans un fauteùil de l'infirmerie au choeur, et du choeur à la décharge du chauffoir, qu'elle avait surnommée la Sainte‑Baume ; elle y restait jusqu'au soir, travaillant avec ardeur, priant et s'immolant en silence sous le regard de Dieu et de ses Anges. Il n'y avait là qu'un pas à faire pour venir à nos récréations ; cette bonne Mère en était la joie: elle les animait par sa gaieté et ses propos aimables ; là elle nous parlait des aventures de sa jeunesse, du Carmel de Poitiers, de la sainteté des premières Mères... Laquelle d'entre nous n'a pas entendu de sa bouche le rapport de quelques traits de vertu conservés pieusement dans sa mémoire et mieux encore dans son coeur ? Sur ce chapitre, elle ne tarissait pas... Et nous aimions à provoquer son expansion, sachant bien lui causer une joie qui de suite épanouissait son visage. "Oh! que ces bonnes Mères étaient saintes! répétait‑elle. Voyez‑vous, mes pauvres enfants il ne faut pas craindre sa peine sur la terre ; il faut marcher sur leurs traces et se servir de tout pour nous élever à Dieu." Combien de fois à ce propos nous a‑t‑elle redit les vers composés par une de ces ferventes Carmélites (La Mère Victoire, soeur de Monseigneur d'Aviau, archevêque de Bordeaux. Cette Religieuse mourut en odeur de sainteté à l'âge de 80 ans) sur la vue dont elle jouissait à la fenêtre de sa cellule! Nous les transcrivons ici dans leur simplicité.

 

                                 Tout au bord de la rivière

                                 Dès le matin jusqu'au soir,

                                 Une pauvre lavandière

                                 Lève et baisse son battoir.

                                Ah! frappez‑moi par tendresse

                                Seigneur, ne m'épargnez pas

                                Purifiez‑moi sans cesse,

                                Jusqu'au jour de mon trépas.

 

                                  Plus loin, à perte de vue

                                 Dans un assez vaste champ,

                                 Avec son soc et sa charrue,

                                 Un homme va, sillonnant...

                                  Il n'épargne pas sa peine,

                                 Car il sait que le froment

                                 En très peu de temps, un cent...

 

                                   Tournez, retournez la terre

                                   De mon coeur, divin Epoux...

                                  Vous êtes propriétaire

                                  De ce champ...  il est à vous.

                                  Répandez‑y la semence,

                                  Multipliez‑la, Seigneur.

                                  Jouissez de l'abondance,

                                  Je chanterai mon bonheur!...

En exaltant ainsi ces vénérables anciennes, Notre Mère ne se doutait pas qu'elle traçait d'elle‑même un portrait fidèle! Mais, puisqu'il est ici question des sujets de sa préférence, en voici un autre qui avait le talent de la faire pleurer et sourire à la fois: ce n'était plus alors une mère qui la charmait, c'était une soeur connue et chérie: la petite bergère de Domrémy, Jeanne d'Arc.A cette époque, on ne parlait pas, comme aujourdhui, de la vaillante et douce martyre: aussi l'affection, on pourrait dire la tendre dévotion de Mère Geneviève pour notre héroïne française nous surprenait quelquefois et nous semblait presque de l'enthousiasme d'un autre âge…… Nous oubliions que dans son coeur, si plein d'amour pour Dieu et détaché de toutes choses, coulait aussi "le sang de France", et maintenant que de toutes parts retentît l'éloge de la Vénérable Jeanne, nous voyons avec bonheur et reconnaissance que notre humble Mère avait raison...

Aussi, malgré ses infirmités croissantes, elle ne savait pas se replier sur elle‑même. Nous remarquions même que plus elle souffrait, plus elle se montrait joyeuse! ce qui est d'autant plus admirable que pendant ces années le bon Dieu la sevrait de toute espèce de consolations ne lui laissant que la foi et le souvenir ineffable de ses bienfaits... Mais en 1888, quand pour la première  fois elle faillit nous être enlevée, Il lui fit sentir de nouveau sa présence. Munie de l'Extrême‑Onction, favorisée de la bénédiction du Saint‑Père, elle paraissait dans une paix profonde, une sécurité très grande... et sur notre désir exprimé d'en connaître la cause, elle répondit: "Ma Mère, comment aurais‑je peur de la mort ? Notre‑Seigneur m’a fait la grâce de ne jamais juger personne ; Je compte sur sa promesse:Ne jugez point et vous ne serez point jugé " C'est alors que le divin Maître lui montra dans le Ciel l'image de la croix, lumineuse et toute resplendissante, et lui révéla que la vue de cette croix faisait la Joie et la gloire des élus. Se croyant à la veille de la contempler à son tour, Notre Mère était radieuse et comme trans­figurée. Pauvre Mère! c'était seulement la veille de son martyre. Avant cette croix lumineuse, l'attendait une croix sanglante…..encore quatre ans d'immolation avant la Pâque éternelle!

Quoi qu'il nous en coûte, ma Révérende Mère, nous ne dirons rien de cette longue et pénible veille, pour nous étendre davantage sur le jour même de la Passion. Elle commença, avec celle de Jésus, le Jeudi Saint 1890. Dès le matin, à la sainte Messe, pendant son action de grâces, cette âme privilégiée entendit ces douces paroles: "MA FILLE, DESORMAIS CE N’EST PLUS TOI QUI VIENDRAS A MOI, C'EST MOI QUI IRAI VERS TOI!" C'était la dernière fois en effet qu’elle venait au choeur, qu'elle y recevait la sainte Communion! Elle se trouvait alors dans son état habituel, et rien ne faisait présager l'affreuse journée du lendemain, quand tout à coup, pendant que nous chantions l'office des Ténèbres, une crise violente se déclara ; le mal fit dans la nuit des progrès effrayants, et le vendredi matin, notre bon Père Supérieur vint l'administrer. Nous n'attendions plus que le dernier moment. Notre Mère bien‑aimée était haletante... demandant sans cesse à boire... et rien ne pouvait la désaltérer!... En entendant ce cri: J'ai soif! en voyant ce visage défiguré par la douleur, ces pieds où des clous de fer semblaient enfoncés, nous nous croyions au Calvaire, et nous avons pu comprendre quelque chose des angoisses de Marie quand elle vit son Jésus attaché à la croix!... Devant cette image fidèle du Sauveur mourant, témoin de tant de souffrances, il nous tardait d'entendre sonner trois heures, espérant qu'alors tout serait consommé, et que ce jour‑là même, elle irait avec Jésus en Paradis!... Mais nos pensées n'étaient pas celles de Dieu. Dans ses impénétrables desseins, Il la réservait pour de plus longs combats... à l'exemple de ces vaillants martyrs, qui se trouvant par miracle guéris de leurs blessures, offraient généreusement leur corps à de nouveaux supplices!... Et de même que le sang des martyrs était une semence de chrétiens, ses douleurs devaient enfanter des âmes à Dieu! Ce Dieu de bonté lui fera faire sans doute son purgatoire en ce monde ; elle paiera pour elle, comme il le lui fut révélé... mais d'abord, et surtout, elle s'immolera pour les âmes car il lui fut dit encore le soir de ce jour d'agonie: « MA FILLE, IL EN EST TEMPS, OFFRE-TOI COMME VICTIME. »

O victime pleine de douceur, qui pourra dire à quel degré d'héroïsme s'est élevée votre patience!...

Quelques jours après ce douloureux Vendredi‑Saint, contre toute prévision humaine la gangrène disparut. Mais, hélas! dans quel état restait notre pauvre Mère! et quels ravages exercèrent sur elle les vingt mois de son martyre! Ses jambes horriblement enflées ne devinrent plus qu'une plaie. Peu à peu il se forma sur les pieds d'affreuses crevasses, plusieurs doigts et le talon du pied gauche tombèrent en pourriture... On ne peut se figurer un tel spectacle!... Ajoutons à ce tableau le mal intérieur qui la dévorait, et au bout de quelques mois la perte de la vue avec des douleurs atroces... Tout cela sans pouvoir faire dans son lit le moindre mouvement, n'ayant absolument de libres que les bras. Il fallait bien qu'il y eût dans cet état quelque chose d'ex­traordinaire pour que notre pieux et savant Docteur l'avouât lui­-même: "Je défie, nous dit-il, n'importe lequel de mes confrères d'avoir jamais rencontré un pareil cas ; on ne peut vivre ainsi sans miracle! » Edifié au plus haut point de voir souffrir de tels tourments avec le sourire sur les lèvres, il s'agenouilla un jour près du lit de notre Mère, la priant de le bénir, lui et sa nombreuse famille ; et des larmes silencieuses coulaient le long de ses joues..

En disant que notre sainte martyre avait le sourire sur les lèvres, ce n'est pas assez... Elle faisait plus que sourire, elle était joyeuse!... Maintes fois ballottée entre la vie et la mort, elle plaisantait aimablement sur ce voyage de l'Eternité qu'elle ne pouvait accomplir, et nous étions profondément émues (connaissant ses ardents désirs), de la voir supplier Notre‑Seigneur de ne point l'appeler à Lui, quand elle entrevoyait une fête de famille: la nôtre, par exemple, ne voulant pas troubler par sa mort nos petites solennités. Durant ses nuits d'insomnie, sans cesse occupée de son Jésus, elle composait de charmants couplets, mais toujours avec la note gaie, comme dans celui‑ci:

                            Bienheureuse impuissance,

                            Qui fait de ma souffrance

                            Du soir et du matin,

                            Mon pain quotidien!..

                            Mais la croix est un pont divin,

                            Elle abrège le chemin

                            J'y passe... et vais au Paradis,

                            Adieu, adieu, mes bons amis!.....

Quand ses souffrances étaient excessives, elle s'écriait: « Voyons, mon bon Jésus! n'allez‑vous pas venir au secours de votre pauvre Geneviève ?...Pour tout dire en un mot: jamais on ne peut imaginer une malade plus oublieuse d'elle‑même, plus compatissante pour les plus légères souffrances des autres, plus reconnaissante du moindre service. Nous pouvons bien lui appliquer cet éloge que la Vénérable Mère Anne de Saint‑Barthélemy faisait de Notre Mère Sainte Thérèse: "C'était une si belle âme, qu'elle en donnait des marques en toutes choses."On n'approchait jamais de son lit sans se sentir plus près de Dieu.  Ce qu'elle avait appris de la bouche même du Divin Maître, elle nous le répétait à des moments si opportuns, que nous en demeurions dans le plus grand étonnement. Ainsi, ma Révérende Mère, un matin que sa seconde infirmière n'avait pu se rendre à l'oraison à cause des surcharges de son emploi, et qu'elle se désolait en elle-même, Mère Geneviève l'appela: "Mon enfant, lui dit‑elle, savez‑vous ce que Notre-Seigneur vient de me révêler ? Voici ses propres paroles:

« CE NE  SONT  POINT  LES  AMES QUI ONT TOUT LEUR TEMPS POUR  ME PRIER QUI ME SONT LES PLUS AGRÉABLES: MAIS CELLES‑LA SEULEMENT QUI ME  PROUVENT LEUR AMOUR EN FAISANT DES SACRIFICES.... TOUT EST DANS LE SACRIFICE ET DANS L'OBÉISSANCE! »

Nous laissons cette chère soeur raconter elle‑même le trait suivant: "Voyant un jour Notre Mère qui parlait à plusieurs de nos soeurs et passant auprès d'elle, j'eus la tentation de m'arrêter. On avait l'air de rapporter des choses si intéressantes! Mais Notre Seigneur m'en demandant le sacrifice, je passai outre. A peine entrée dans l'infirmerie, Mère Geneviève m'appelle et me dit: "J'ai un petit secret à vous confier, un secret pour être toujours heureuse et contenter Notre‑Seigneur. Ne cherchez jamais, mon enfant. à savoir ce qui se passe... Vous voyez un petit rassemblement ; au lieu de vous arrêter, faites-en le sacrifice pour votre bon Jésus.... Dans la vie des Pères du désert, n'avez‑vous pas lu qu'un certain frère étant toujours en l'air et pour cela n'arrivant à rien, on finit par le surnommer « frère mouche » ? Eh bien! ne faites pas comme lui, ne soyez pas « soeur mouche » ….. La bonne Mère me parla dans ce sens pendant plus d'un quart d'heure, et je l'écoutai sans lui communi­quer aucune de mes impressions ; mais à la fin, n'y tenant plus, je lui dis: Ma Mère, m'avez‑vous vue ? On dirait que vous m'avez sui­vie, car je viens de rencontrer à la lettre, l'occasion dont vous me parlez: "Je ne vous ai point vue sans doute, répondit‑elle en sou­riant, mais c'est Notre‑Seigneur qui permet que je vous dise cela pour vous faire du bien. Allez maintenant.... Voilà mon petit secret."

Une autre de ses filles trouvant de la peine dans l'accomplissement d'un certain point d'obéissance, sans qu'elle se fût ouverte en rien, notre sainte malade lui dit: "O ma fille! si nous comprenions bien ce que c'est que l'obéissance!... Ce matin, après la Sainte Communion, mon bon Jésus me l'a fait connaître. Retenez  bien cet enseignement qui ne vient pas de moi, mais de Lui seul: « COMME  L'OISEAU QUI DEPLOIE SES AILES ET S'ENVOLE LIBREMENT DANS LES AIRS, AINSI L'AME OBÉISSANTE PREND SON ESSOR VERS SON BIEN‑AIME ET ELLE EST COMME UN CIEL OU DIEU TROUVE SES DELICES! »...

Nous pourrions citer encore bien des exemples de ce genre et rapporter aussi quelques‑unes des lumières admirables qui lui furent données sur la Sainte Eucharistie, mais les bornes d'une circulaire, déjà bien dépassées, ne nous le permettent pas.

Nous lui demandâmes un jour quelle était cette voix qui l'instruisait et la consolait, et de quelle manière elle se faisait entendre en son âme... Sans la moindre hésitation, elle répondit avec un sourire ingénu et sa simplicité habituelle: "Ma bonne Mère, cette voix que j'entends, je sens que c'est une VOIX AMIE, mais je ne sais pas autre chose...”

Le jour de sa soixantaine approchant, nous fîmes tout notre possible pour rendre cette fête bien solennelle. L'infirmerie devint un véritable oratoire: tout ce qu'il y a de statues de saints au monastère y prit sa place ; des guirlandes de roses blanches et rouges, symbole de la virginité et du martyre, ornaient les rideaux du lit, au fond duquel nous avions suspendu un magnifique tableau de l'agonie de Notre‑Seigneur. Sur l'autel, garni d'une brillante parure, était déposée la couronne venue du cher Carmel de Poitiers... des fleurs de Poitiers ornaient également le bâton et le cierge béni.  Et la douce victime, toujours sur la croix, entendait seulement nos préparatifs, (ses yeux étant fermés à la lumière d'ici‑bas) nous ap­pela vers le soir, et nous dit avec l'accent de la plus vive reconnais­sance: "La voilà donc l'esclave!..." Nous comprîmes qu'elle faisait allusion à sa grande épreuve du 21 juillet 1831 dont 60 ans de grâces la séparaient...

Quand tout fut prêt, la Communauté se rendit à l'infirmerie.. Elle demanda pardon dans les termes les plus touchants et nous adressa quelques paroles délicieuses sur la pureté d'intention et la charité, répétant avec Jésus au soir de la Cène: "Mes petits enfants, aimez-vous les uns les autres comme Je vous ai aimés. »

Le lendemain ne se peut décrire... Ce passage de Notre Seigneur au milieu du cloître parsemé de verdure et de fleurs!. l'infirmerie resplendissante de lumières!. Cette Communion ineffable!…la petite allocution si touchante de notre bon Père Supérieur! Enfin les voeux de notre vénérable Mère, renouvelés une fois encore dans nos mains avec une si grande ferveur!.... Il nous reste de cet ensemble un souvenir tout céleste… Cependant nous remarquâmes quelque chose de grave sur les traits de notre sainte jubilaire.En cette belle fête de ces Noces de diamant, serait­-elle  éprouvée comme au premier jour de l'alliance divine ?.... Oui.....et peut‑être plus encore! Quand nous fûmes seule près de son lit, elle répétait en joignant les mains avec un accent inexprimable: "Oh non! les plus grandes souffrances ne sont rien. mais ne pas voir Dieu!., Etre privée de Dieu!... 

Nous croyions entendre les plaintes d’une âme au sortir de la vie, quand elle se voit plongée dans un abîme de feu, dont les tourments ne lui semblent point rigou­reux auprès de la privation de son Dieu.. Ce n'était plus Mère Geneviève c'était une âme du purgatoire ?...Sans doute, ma Révérende Mère, en appelant cet état une épreuve, nous nous trompons... N'était‑ce pas plutôt une grâce signalée que cette dernière purification, qui lui donnait comme l'assurance de s'envoler tout droit de son lit de mort au Ciel ?... Aussi, quand nous disions à cette heureuse victime: Courage, ma Mère, vous faites en ce monde votre purgatoire, elle répondait avec humilité et confiance: "Oh! je l'espère!"

Lui demandant un jour si le désir d'être délivrée de ses cruelles souffrances n'était pas pour quelque chose dans ses ardents soupirs vers la mort, elle prononça ces belles paroles: "Je ne désire pas mourir pour ne plus souffrir, mais uniquement pour voir mon Dieu. »

 

Le moment bienheureux approchait où ses yeux allaient s'ou­vrir enfin sur cette beauté divine et éternelle! …..Nous nous préparions à nos grandes solennités du Centenaire, quand notre bien-­aimée Mère se trouva plus mal.'' Il en est temps, Seigneur, s'écriait­-elle comme une autre Thérèse, il en est temps, prenez‑ moi avec vous!… » Mais, de peur de troubler nos fêtes, elle demanda seu­lement un sursis de trois jours, ce que Notre‑Seigneur lui accorda.

Le 24, fête de Notre Père Saint Jean de la Croix, Sa Grandeur Monseigneur Notre Evêque, présidant les cérémonies, voulut bien entrer et l'honorer d'une particulière bénédiction, accompagnée de quelques paroles dont son coeur paternel a le secret! Il nous semblait voir en la personne de ce vénérable Pontife, aux cheveux blanchis par l'âge et les nobles travaux de l'épiscopat, Monseigneur de Beauregard lui‑même, venant encourager, bénir et consoler sa fille chérie à la veille du dernier combat, et lui montrer d'avance la palme et la couronne!...

Le lendemain, après la clôture du Triduum, notre si chère Mère étant au plus mal reçut l'Extrême‑Onction pour la troisième fois... L'excès des souffrances lui arrachaient de faibles gémisse­ments auxquels nous mêlions nos larmes ; elle en eut de l'inquiétude: "Se plaindre ainsi, n'est‑ce pas manquer de patience ? demanda‑t‑elle à Notre Père Supérieur. Ah! ce serait pourtant bien malheureux! Mes enfants, priez!……demandez au bon Dieu qu'il il me donne la patience. »                             

 

Vers six heures et demie, elle nous dit dans l’intimité: « Il y a aujourd’hui  61 ans que mon grand pardon m'a été accordé et peut‑être ce soir, le Ciel ! J'entends tout bas: ENCORE QUELQUES HEURES! ENCORE QUELQUES HEURES!….. Pauvre  Mère, cette voix amie ne la trompait pas, mais les heures devaient être bien longues.. et plus nombreuses qu'elle n'avait pensé! Bientôt, nous la trouvâmes un peu mieux ; tant de fois nous l'avions vue aux portes de la mort que nous eûmes un peu d’espoir. C'était au moment de la messe, nous y allâmes plus rassurée. Notre sainte martyre qui nous avait entendu parler dans ce sens à l'infirmière, se plaignit aussitôt à Notre‑Seigneur, en ces termes naïfs et touchants: "Mon Jésus! puisque Notre Mère me trouve mieux et que je souffre tant, montrez‑moi donc ce que c'est que d'être mieux!”

Au même instant, et comme avec la main toutes ses douleurs lui furent enlevées... plus la moindre souffrance! Elle ne se reconnaissait pas! se trouvant comme une personne en pleine santé, qui repose doucement dans un lit moelleux... Ce mieux dura tout le temps de la messe c'est‑à‑dire une demi‑heure... Oh! comme il est vrai que le Seigneur fait en toute chose la volonté de ceux qui l'aiment!

Après ce repos d'un moment, prélude du repos éternel, les douleurs de notre pauvre Mère ne lui laissèrent plus un seul instant de trêve... Son crucifiement était complet... Il ne manquait à cette douce victime pour être entièrement conforme à son Jésus que l'épreuve suprême de l'abandon. Ce dernier trait de ressemblance va lui être aussi donné. Le vendredi matin 4 décembre, ses souffrances devinrent telles, que n'y pouvant plus tenir, elle appelait à toutes minutes ses charitables infirmières pour la soulever quelque peu dans leurs bras... Mais rien ne la soulageait! Tandis que nous la regardions en silence à travers nos larmes, elle s'écria d'une voix douce et plaintive: "Mon bon Jésus, vous m’avez donc abandonnée ? » Au même instant, son visage s'illumina d'une beauté céleste, un sourire effleura ses lèvres et semblait démentir ses paroles. Nous aurions pu lui appliquer ce verset du psaume: "Je vous ai secouru au jour de la tribulation, . je vous ai exaucé en secret pendant la tempête. » C'était l'agonie, et Jésus se taisait... Jésus, qui tant de fois lui avait fait entendre sa voix amie... Quel mystère!... Ce matin même, notre vénéré Père Supérieur entra pour lui donner une dernière bénédiction Qu'il était touchant de le voir à genoux priant avec ferveur pour obtenir à cette sainte mourante le secours et la force d'en‑haut! Notre dévoué et pieux Aumônier qui avait toute sa confiance vint à son tour pour la consoler et lui renouveler l'abso­lution et l'Indulgence de l'Ordre. Enfin, l'après‑midi, arriva notre bon Docteur: "Eh bien, ma Mère, lui dit‑il, vous vouliez toujours que je vous annonce le moment de la mort. Il est arrivé, ce moment bien­heureux après lequel vous avez tant soupiré!” Elle sourit doucement et le remercia.

 

Nous n'essaierons pas, ma Révérende Mère, de vous retracer la nuit cruelle qui suivit cette journée d'agonie. Aucune expression ne saurait rendre ce que nous avons vu! Notre pauvre Mère semblait plongée dans un océan de pure souffrance sans aucun mélange de consolation... les ténèbres enveloppaient son Calvaire!... Vers le matin, alors que nous soutenions dans ses bras sa tète défaillante, elle soupira cette plainte amère: "Et moi qui vous disais toujours: IN TE DOMINE SPERAVI!...» et des larmes brillaient comme des diamants sur ses paupières fermées!... Mais son doux visage respirait le calme et la paix... Elle dit encore d'une voix touchante: "Oh!...que mon exil est long! Jésus, Marie. Joseph, faites que j'expire paisiblement en votre Sainte compagnie!…Vierge Marie.... à mon secours!!!...»

La Très Sainte Vierge entendit sa prière et dès l'aurore de ce samedi, au premier son de l'Angelus elle lui montrait son Dieu. La victime était immolée "tout était consommé!"

Au moment où cette blanche colombe brisait ses liens mortels, toutes ses filles se trouvaient réunies autour de son lit... Hélas! et parmi elles, les trois privilégiées destinées bientôt à lui faire cortège dans les Cieux!.... réalisant ces paroles de l'Esprit‑Saint: "Des vierges... ses compagnes, lui seront amenées, elles lui seront présentées avec allégresse ; on les introduira dans le temple du souverain Roi."

Ce triple deuil nous étant caché, nous ne pensions alors qu'à notre Mère bien‑aimée …. A la peine causée par son départ, se joignait encore la douleur d'envoyer au loin ses restes vénérés.... Notre bon Père Supérieur, ne pouvant lui‑même s'y résigner nous fit tenter plusieurs démarches dont le résultat semblait loin de s'annoncer en notre faveur... Mais le Seigneur qui avait regardé l'humilité de sa servante voulait maintenant l'élever en proportion de ses abaissements et de la grandeur de ses souffrances. Il permit que Monsieur Target, ancien député, ex‑ministre plénipotentiaire, prît en main cette cause, avec un dévouement que nous ne saurons jamais assez reconnaître, et qu'il la menât à bien malgré les difficultés en apparence insurmontables.

Les alternatives de crainte et d'espoir, de oui et de non, nous imposèrent la douce obligation de garder trois semaines entières celle qui semblait ne pas vouloir s'éloigner de nous, et lui valurent à elle‑même trois services des plus solennels. Au premier de ces services, célébré par Monsieur l'Abbé Hugonin, frère de Monseigneur, vicaire général de Bayeux, Monsieur l'Abbé Rohée, curé de Saint‑Pierre de Lisieux, tint à honneur de prendre la parole. Dans quels termes vrais, touchants et éloquents à la fois il exalta Notre Mère! On sentait qu'il l'avait connue et appréciée, comme le prouvaient ces paroles: "Je puis dire, pour en avoir été l'heureux témoin, que je n'ai jamais rencontré une âme aussi égale, aussi sereine, aussi calme que l'âme de celle que la voix publique nomme la sainte du Carmel..."

Cette voix, ma Révérende Mère nous l'avons nous‑même entendue... Pendant les cinq jours que Notre Mère resta exposée à la grille du Choeur, l'affluence fut considérable. Celles d'entre nous qui gardaient la chère Dépouille trouvaient à peine le temps de prier, tant était grand le nombre des objets de piété: crucifix, médailles, chapelets, etc... qu'elles devaient lui faire toucher. Le journal de notre ville avait d'ailleurs annoncé cette mort comme "un deuil public” dans un article admirable, que la foi la plus vive a pu seule inspirer.

Nous attendions le soir avec impatience pour entourer librement notre tant aimée Mère! Impossible de rendre les impressions de grâce ressenties près d'elle! Ses traits si doux et si calmes nous invitaient à la confiance... Que de faveurs obtenues déjà par ses chères reliques! On venait à tout instant nous demander quelque chose qui eût touché à la sainte... ne fut‑ce qu'un pétale des roses de Noël qui la couvraient….Monsieur le Docteur de Cornière, qui pendant ces jours d'inquiétude nous donna des preuves signalées de son attachement et vénération pour Notre Mère, constatait chaque soir avec un bonheur touchant que ses plaies n'exhalaient aucune odeur!….Quand les autorités nous obligèrent à sceller le cercueil de plomb, huit jours après, nous baisâmes ses pieds avec une pieuse émotion en les arrosant de nos larmes……Maintenant, hélas! nous ne verrons plus notre sainte... Mais quelle immense consolation de la savoir auprès du Tabernacle!.... Elle est là. au côté gauche de l'Autel, à deux pas de notre grille!.... C'est aujourd'hui qu'elle peut bien s'é­crier dans le transport de sa reconnaissance: "La voilà donc l'escla­ve! » Oui, la voilà! non plus servante, mais Epouse et Reine dans le palais de son Epoux, le Roi des Rois!…

O Mère bien‑aimée, laissez‑nous vous adresser, en finissant, cette prière gravée sur le marbre de votre tombeau: "Regardez‑ nous du haut du Ciel! Voyez et visitez la vigne que votre droite a plantée, et donnez‑lui la perfection!”

Nous ne pouvons douter, ma Révérende Mère, que celle que nous pleurons soit près de Dieu... Elle était si humble, si cachée, elle a tant aimé et tant souffert!... Mais comme sur la terre son bonheur consistait à faire du bien à tous, elle vous sera très recon­naissante des prières que vous voudrez bien ajouter aux suffrages de l'Ordre, s'en réservant la distribution, si comme nous avons tout lieu de le croire, son âme bienheureuse jouit de la gloire des Cieux..

 

Nous avons la grâce de nous dire, ma Révérende et très ho­norée Mère

Votre très humble soeur et servante,

Sr MARIE DE GONZAGUE.r.c.ind.

De notre Monastère du Sacré‑Coeur de Jésus et de l'Immaculée‑Conception des Carmélites

de Lisieux, le 5 décembre 1891

 

 

                                                              

Bien que  la circulaire porte la date du décès de la vénérée Mère, elle fut écrite plus tard comme en témoigne la note adjointe à la circulaire de la  Soeur Fébronie de la Sainte‑Enfance, le 6 janvier 1892: « On nous réclame de toutes parts la circulaire de notre vénérée Mère Geneviève ; les tristes jours que nous venons de  passer (épidémie d'influenza) nous ont empêchée de nous en occuper, mais nous espérons bientôt répondre aux désirs si fraternellement  exprimés".

 

Bien qu'elle porte la signature de la Révérende Mère Marie de Gonzague, la rédaction de cette circulaire, à  part l'entrée en matière qui semble bien être de de son style, avait été confiée par elle, à la jeune Soeur Agnès de Jésus, un an avant son premier Priorat.(1892)

Une édition sous forme de livret 21/½ x 14 parut en 1896, datée du 21 juin de la même année 1892, et une réédition remaniée vers 1923 incluant les rapports de Thérèse avec la fondatrice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORT de MERE GENEVIEVE  (5 décembre 1891)

 

Voici en quels termes, la Révérende Mère Marie de Gonzague, alors Prieure, annonça ce décès aux Monastères de son Ordre et leur promit sa circulaire:

 

J.M.J.T.

Ma Révérende et très Honorée Mère,

Paix et très humble salut en Notre‑Seigneur Jésus‑Christ qui vient d'enlever à notre tendresse notre chère et Vénérée Mère Marie‑Radegonde‑Claire Geneviève de Sainte Thérèse, Professe de Poitiers, Fondatrice de notre Carmel.

Notre tant aimée Mère était agée de 86 ans, 4 mois, 17 jours, dont 60 ans, 4 mois et 14 jours de Profession religieuse.

Son départ nous plonge toutes dans la plus profonde douleur ; cette vénérée Mère était une relique pour notre petit Carmel, le modèle accompli des vertus religieuses.

Nous nous efforcerons plus tard, ma Révérende Mère, de vous entretenir des exemples qu'elle nous laisse comme précieux héritage, malgré son désir exprimé de n'avoir point de circulaire. Aujourd'hui, nous tenons simplement, ma Révérende Mère, à réclamer les suffrages de notre saint Ordre pour Notre Mère Bien‑aimée, y ajoutant, selon ses intentions, une Communion en réparation, une amende honorable au Très Saint Sacrement, une au Saint Coeur de Marie, et une Indulgence plénière, demandant que ces Suffrages et autres prières soient appliqués aux Ames du Purgatoire.

 

C'est au pied de la Croix que nous osons nous dire, Ma Révérende et Très Honorée Mère,

Votre très humble Soeur et Servante, Sr Marie de Gonzague, R.C. ind.