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Biography of sr Aimee of Jesus

 

      1851-1930

aimee-de-jesus sign lt

Childhood and Youth


A true Norman from Cotentin! Strong physically and morally, talented, thrifty, well endowed in common sense, quiet, hard worker. Her name is Leopoldine Marie Céline Feron, and she was born on January 24th, 1851 in Anneville-en-Saire. Ambroise-Auguste, her father was a farmer and had married Cecile Énault, probably in Quettehou, near Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. From this union were born seven children, four boys and three girls. Leopoldine was the second of this small tribe.
One of her relatives was a Carmelite in the monastery of Valognes and at times the family commented on this vocation with amazement, that contemplative vocation whose usefulness did not seem obvious. And Leopoldine, who since childhood dreamed of being a religious, retorted: "Well! whatever is said, one day I will imitate my cousin. "

Reading the Lives of the Saints awakened in her heart such a generous ardor that without losing time, she was training for martyrdom! She had an uncompromising character and fought with her mother so hard and sometimes violently so that her parents were heartbroken by her aggressive behaviour. But about age eleven she became aware of her mischief and began to change. A temper but a good background.


She entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Saint-Pierre-Église, run by the canons of Saint Augustin of the Congregation of Our Lady (the Sisters of Our Lady). Leopoldine was very good at studies and her curious mind would have served if her desire to be a Carmelite and the fear of imposing an expenditure on her parents had not brought her to interrupt her studies. "I wanted to stay in class just enough time to learn what is essential to know to suffice the community; How I regretted it after! "
Her spiritual adviser, "the director of conscience" then a former missionary who had been chaplain of the Carmel of Saigon, helped her much in her vocation but directed her to the Chartreuse. She remained there three weeks. Three weeks of tears. Really, that was not her way. On the 11 (or 13) in October 1871, Mother Geneviève of Saint Teresa, none other than the founder of the Carmel of Lisieux then prioress, opened the doors of her monastery. She was twenty and a half years old. "I was lucky”, she said, “the Carmel of Lisieux was depleted by the foundations of Saigon and Caen! Without that they would have never received me, especially as choir sister, because my director would not offer me as white veil sister and I had to sacrifice my wishes."


Carmel


After several months of postulancy, she took the habit on the feast of St. Joseph in 1872 and received the name Sister Aimee de Jesus of the Heart of Mary. The May 8th, 1873, she made her profession at the same time as Sister Saint John the Baptist and the superior of monastery Mr. Delatroëtte, handed her the black veil and gave the homily.
After her profession, she was appointed as aide to the main nurse, Sister Adelaide, and at the same time appointed to the Office of relics. She thus learned to care for the sick, and displayed in this work ingenuity and charity that will later delight little Thérèse. This task often required her to give up her spare time that she would have gladly spent writing to her family that she loved so much. She will suffer much from being cloistered in Lisieux when relatives confront disease: "If you knew,” she wrote to her sister Marie in September 1896, how painful it is to be away from family at the time of the trials and death, you would complain a little. This cry is not a complaint but a regret. I bless the good Lord still through my tears. "
Sr Aimee keeps deep ties with the land, as can be seen in the shipment of fresh butter sent by her family. She describes her sister Marie the joy of Mother Marie de Gonzague receiving such a gift, "If you had seen her emotion receiving the small basket, you would have enjoyed taking the liberty to have enter our carmel a nice and excellent messenger. I love everything that comes from my family and my country In the season where we are, it's surprising that your butter is so firm and delicate. All the sisters made that remark. It is our dessert right now! (June 1899) ... I recognized from the delicate taste of the butter that the spring grass was purple. "(May 1901).


She suffered from her brief education when she had to recite the office in Latin, evidently without understanding the first word! She hammered away at it and after years of effort, she entered the beauty of the liturgical breviary texts and soon it had no more secrets for her. No category eluded her but mostly she enjoyed the riches of liturgical texts.
Accustomed to hard “useful” work, she had never taken an interest in the subtleties of the needle and she suffered in her youth, from being so clumsy in the art of embroidery where her novice sisters excelled. Her spirit of poverty was remarkable, her obedience scrupulous. They admired her humility and fraternal charity. Sister Aimee cheerfully undertook the heaviest tasks and what is remarkable, she never refused any service, so that the sisters suspected her of having made a vow.
However, she appeared to have a character that was complex and difficult to grasp, with a modesty that kept her from expressing her feelings. "It's not easy to say anything you want when you yourself do not express your thoughts," she wrote to her sister (May 9th, 1900). Gifted with great intelligence, she hid deep qualities of heart and solid piety as a rough shapes that recalled her rural origins and were disconcerting at first. Moreover, she was meticulous, which could complicate the simple things.
We selected some testimonials Carmelite who is well known: "It was good, good, but she was a farmer, she had a complex, she was not up to this environment. With Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart finding fault all the time, I understood why she did not want Sister Geneviève. She was not comfortable with the Martin family. On days off she came to the kitchen to talk with the sisters of the White Veil. There she was good. "Another took her defense:" She relaxed and was folding laundry while all the others would relax during the holidays! Ah! she made of her own work for others. "Yet another:" Ah! This good Sister Aimee de Jesus, she earned merits in the attics keeping an eye on the laundry whatever the weather! "


They laughed at her sayings, such as this one duly declared "My habits are invariable and never change." But, as a nurse, it was in her arms Mother Geneviève of Santa Teresa who went blind died. She could not do without her charitable nurse and it is to her that the venerable founder confided a few minutes before her death "Sister Aimee, how we must suffer to die!"
In 1899, we called her back to the infirmary; she was also appointed to various manual labors, like carpentry which was remarquable at the time, but she mainly worked with the laundry. She also took on the hardest laundry work, overlooked by elderly and sick converse sisters, and she was constantly inventing techniques to improve her work.


With Thérèse


So she was in Carmel for more than sixteen years when Therese entered in the spring of 1888. She admits herself that their relations were not particularly intimate and that many things had escaped her. At the Process, however, she said: "What struck me particularly in the life of the Servant of God was her humility and modesty. She knew how to pass unnoticed and keep the hidden graces and gifts she received from God and many, like me, knew only after her death (...) Sister Therese even upon entry at age 15 [me] appeared very judicious and prudent in all things. There was nothing indiscreet in her way of practicing the virtues. "She still recalls, speaking of Therese, her accuracy, perfect serenity, her religious demeanor, and her exterior, nothing childish or frivolous despite her young age, so, she added, that nobody in the community thought to treat her like a child.


We know that Sister Aimee was very opposed to the entry of Céline in Carmel. Not only because she feared, probably like many other sisters, the influence of four sisters united in a small community, but also because she felt that Carmel did not need artists. It should only aim for the practical: have good nurses, seamstresses, dressmakers. Thus, she wondered, why put flowers in the inner courtyard? Potatoes would be much more useful than the roses surrounding the calvary!
Thérèse knew Sister Aimee's opposition to entry of Celine, she says in the Story of a Soul (Manuscript A, folio 82 v °) she prayed: "You know, my God, how I wish to know whether Father went straight to heaven, I do not ask you to speak to me, but give me a sign. If Sister Aimee of Jesus consents to the entry of Céline or does not put up an obstacle, it will be the answer Papa went straight to you. "As soon as she exited the chapel, Sr. Aimee approached Therese and told her about Celine, tears in her eyes!
An incident was to explode later between Therese and Sister Aimee de Jesus, always about Celine who became Sister Genevieve of St. Teresa. She could indeed be admitted to profession from February 6th, 1896 and therefore do it in the hands of Mother Agnes, whose term as prioress ended a few weeks later. Mother Marie de Gonzague decided to delay this profession, presumably to help Celine to create some distance from her family. But here in recreation, Sister Aimée de Jesus, who was not aware of the details of this decision, said out of the blue, "Mother Marie de Gonzague has a right to test this novice as another." Then Thérèse replied with emotion, “That is a kind of test that one should not give." This answer surprised Sister Aimee, who took some time to understand that it emanated from a spirit of profound discernment more than a natural affection too. Narrating the incident many years later, Sister Aimee added, speaking of Therese: "I'm sure she would have been an excellent prioress, she would always have acted with prudence and love and never abuse the right of authority. "
Sister Aimee left the employment of nursing in the beginning of Therese’s disease. Once only could she approach her to help change the bed. It was Thérèse who suggested this. "I believe my sister Aimee of Jesus could easily take me in her arms; she is tall and strong, and very gentle around the sick. "And during the Process, Sister Aimee still remembered the heavenly gaze so full of gratitude and affection then that Therese gave her. She kept the memory as a token of her protection, and also as a consolation of being the only one not to hear the bell summoning the infirmary sisters at the time of Therese’s death. She helped soon, however, at her burial.


After the death of Thérèse


Sr Aimee wrote to her family shortly after.. "I often think of death This is not surprising. The memory of our dear Sister Therese of the Child Jesus who died on September 30th at the age of 24 years, the departure for heaven of Fr. Youf 15 days later are not erased from my memory.Death visits us often in the space of one year, three premature deaths as it were: a 36 year old young portress [Sr Marie Antoinette], the youngest of our sisters [Therese], and the chaplain who was only fifty years old. "
Sister Aimee is pleased to send a copy of Story of a Soul to her family: "A treasure,” she wrote to her sister Mary, you will read it, you will understand, you'll know how to enjoy it ... a pleasant surprise. " Sister Aimee sends it to her shortly after the prospectus"to publicize the book of my sister Therese of the Child Jesus by going to the market in Barfleur or St Vaast, and if you can put some in bookstores, you will make us happy however without making a trip on purpose. " But when it was a question of the beatification of Thérèse, Sister Aimée de Jesus was shocked. What we think of Mother Genevieve, the revered founder, is accepted, but Therese, who did nothing extraordinary! "This is at the instigation of her sisters that we owe this, do not doubt it ... wait! the truth will come out certainly. "This deduction led to her being called as witness in the Beatification Process, the Promoter of the Faith (Bishop Verde, the devil's advocate) requested it to hear a different story aboutThérèse!
She quickly changed her mind, and her great joy in the last twenty years of her life was to work in the service of nascent pilgrimage and hear every day in the mail received from around the world, of her "Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. "
September 30th, 1922 was a great day for her and for Carmel. We celebrated in anticipation the next celebrations of the Beatification of Therese, her own golden jubilee. The ceremony was presided by Bishop Lemonnier, who spent long hours at the monastery. The bishop blessed the statue of Thérèse at the entrance of the courtyard, a relic room was inaugurated in cloister (known as the Magnificat) and the next day, novices interpreted in honor of the jubilee a play they had composed: "The unpetalled rose, "where we saw Therese prepare one of her most beautiful roses for Sister Aimee.
But years were added inexorably to years. She became deaf. Cruel ordeal for her not being able to hear the liturgical chants! One night in September 1925, she heard a delightful concert. Surprised she looked in the dark and saw nobody. The event was repeated the next day and she saw it as a delicacy of Thérèse.
In 1927, an anthrax strongly shook her health and she had to undergo several surgeries. She suffered a lot but she offered her sufferings so that the necessary resources for the construction of the Basilica abound. She recovered however from this serious wrinkle in her health, aggravated some time later by pneumonia. Recovered, she went back to work with her usual energy.
It seems that during her last years she was favored with special graces from Therese. Age was there, however, she gradually lost her sight, which almost totally deprived her of the Divine Office that she loved so much. She even had to give up going to the dining hall, the day she felt a violent pain in the shoulder and the right side. She then had no illusions about her end. The doctor called diagnosed double pneumonia. Weakened, they heard her murmur: "... the grace of a holy death ... through the intercession of our Blessed Therese ..." She fell asleep in peace on January 7th, 1930 at 3 am.

P. Gires   

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