Circular of Sr Marthe of Jesus


Désirée Florence Cauvin   (1865-1916)


Peace and very humble greetings in Our Lord, who came to call unto Him in the holiest mood, our dear sister DESIREE-FLORENCE MARTHE OF JESUS, professed of our Community and doyenne of our white veil sisters. She was 51 years and 1 month old and had spent 28 years, 9 months and 12 days in Carmel.

     Our very dear sister was born in Giverville, a village in the Eure department, on July 16, 1865, the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. When she was four years old she lost her mother. Her only sister, 9 years older than she, stayed with her father whereas young Florence was admitted to the Orphanage of the Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul in Paris through the intervention of a cousin who was a religious in this holy house. The child stayed there five years and was then sent to the Orphanage of Bernay, to live closer to her father who died three years later.

     Her dear and devoted Mothers of the convent were from then on her only family; they formed her in piety as well as work and our dear sister had always the most grateful memory of them. When grown, she herself became the mother and mistress of little orphans. Several of them still gave her signs of affectionate gratitude a few days before her death.

     Florence entered our Carmel at age 22 and a half on the 23rd of December 1887. We gave her the name of Sister Marthe of Jesus.

     Afterwards, because of an unfortunate influence that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus tried to overcome without being entirely successful, the religious life of Sister Marthe had many hours of weakness and hard battles. Under these circumstances at least, she showed a rare discretion by not speaking to anyone of the private warnings from her holy companion in the noviciate. It can be truly said that the poor child who had a mediocre intelligence, suffered and caused suffering around her without wanting to through a spirit of contradiction. Despite real efforts, she was never able to correct this entirely. But on the other hand, her frankness, her good heart and her devotion which were tireless, and finally her great piety, edified us very often.

     The grace of God was particularly at work in her soul during these last months. Allow me, my Reverend Mother, to cite you an example:

     Needing to make a comment on the work with alpargates that she was in charge of, we spoke in general to our white veil sisters without even looking at her so as not to humiliate her personally. Several moments later, she knocked on our door. “My Mother,” she said to me kneeling down, “have pity on me, I beg you! Your reproach should have been addressed to me earlier. But I certainly see that you are sparing my bad character. Oh! Don’t do that anymore. I’m at the end of my life and I want to merit like my companions the graces of humiliation.” The next day we had the opportunity to speak to her again about the incident of the previous evening and from the expression on her face, we sensed peace in her heart, “so deep,” she swore to us,” that it is like one of the greatest graces of my life to have understood what I did yesterday.”

     Two years ago, Sister Marthe of Jesus became ill with the infectious flu followed by laryngitis. Since, then, she grew thinner and worried us at times. At last, in spite of her energy, she had to accept moving down to the infirmary in February of that year. She continued working there on the alpargates until July 3rd when she took to her bed never to rise from it again.

     During this last period of her illness, my Reverend Mother, our dear daughter was always forgetful of self, sweet, patient and concerned only with preparing herself for death. To encourage her, one day when certain memories of the past troubled her very painfully, we reminded her of other memories that should console her, especially of having had the honor of being a witness at the Beatification Process of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

   And as well, the Servant of God wrote on this page of her Life where she said that “her companion in the noviciate had an upright heart.” Sister Marthe naively replied, shaking her head, “Yes, my Mother, but since she is no longer here, I’m afraid of having knocked it down. However, it’s wrong to say she isn’t here anymore because in spite of everything I did to make her suffer during her life, never has she abandoned me. Oh, how many times have I felt her making tender reproaches to me about my conduct.” And she told me with a touching simplicity about this incident, which we wrote down at her request and that she wanted to sign in her own handwriting: “One day during the first months following the death of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, I was at the oven cooking and was very irritated with sisters who asked me for services. Being very busy, I received them badly! Several moments later when I was alone, I felt someone behind me pulling gently on my veil, approached my cheek and kissed it. I turned around quickly and I saw Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus as when she was alive, so much so that I didn’t think she was dead anymore. She said to me with kindess: “Sister Marthe, be nicer with the sisters if you want to be happy.” After that, she suddenly disappeared and I found my feelings were very different. Written down from my dictation,

SISTER MARTHE OF JESUS r.c.i. August 18th, 1916.

     Our very dear daughter piously received Extreme Unction on August 28th. She told us afterward with joy; “Until then, my Mother, I had a terrible fear of death, but the mercy of God is great! Now everything is changed in me; and since my soul is completely purified, I wish to go to Heaven very quickly to see the good God and to love him without ever offending him again. I want nothing more to do with the earth, I want to pray all the time.” And drawing us close to her, “during the ceremony, I felt the presence of our little saint. It was like a celestial voice that spoke in my ear: “You too, if you want despite your poor life, you could go straight to Heaven.” And I understood that the greatest sinners could obtain this grace through confidence and humility. Our edifying sick person never left off from these sentiments and told us still Sunday evening, the night before her death: “It’s incredible, the peace I feel. I can’t get over it! The good God is only sweetness, never would I have thought to find him so sweet; my confidence in him is unbounded.” And when we reminded her of this word from Holy Scripture: “For it is easy for the Lord suddenly, in an instant, to make a poor man rich.” She looked at us with a smile of happiness and told us: “Isn’t this poor person me, my Mother! The more than one is wretched, the more he is merciful.”

     During the night, she never stopped talking of God, of her gratitude for dying in Carmel and repeated several times: “this in Carmel of the way of love.”

     Her last words when we invited her to repeat with us: “My Jesus, I love you,” were to answer with enthusiasm: “with all my heart.”

     Toward 4 o’clock, without giving any further sign of consciousness, our dear dying person began her death throes and after having received a last absolution, she passed away quietly at a few minutes after 6 o’clock, at the same time of the consecration of the Host during a Mass celebrated for her in our Chapel.

   We beg you, my Reverend Mother, to please offer as soon as possible for our dear Sister Marthe of Jesus, the intercessory prayers of our Holy Order, by grace a communion by your devout Community, the indulgence of the Way of the Cross and six Pater/Our Fathers. She will be very grateful to you as are we, who have the grace to tell you, my Reverend and Very Honorable Mother, Your humble sister and servant in Our Lord,
Sister Agnès of Jesus,
r. c. i.  
From our Convent of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Immaculate Conception of the Carmelites of Lisieux, September 8th, 1916.

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