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Biography of Marie de Gonzague

 

At dawn on Saturday, December 17th, Mother Marie de Gonzague entered into life. To date, the Church started again the cycle of major “O” antiphons in the liturgy, antiphons preparatory to the feast of Christmas, which all begin with the appreciative O. "O Wisdom," we sing at Vespers this evening. Oh yes, wisdom of Providence who chose Mother Marie de Gonzague for the Prioress of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, the greatest part of her Carmelite life.

We may wish to know a little more about she who Thérèse called "My dear Mother – my beloved Mother" (Manuscript C). Céline wrote: "She had a side of her character that was childlike. It was joy to spoil, to pamper, to protect her as one does with a small child. Something in her provoked that. Also, it was not by guile that she was surrounded with kindness and care, it was often a need of the heart." Note to Fr. Piat about Marie de Gonzague. - September 1947. And when the nephew of Aimée of Jesus made his first communion, Marie de Gonzague wished to offer him a souvenir. Sister Aimée asked her sister if he preferred a rosary or a prayer book, "You will want to write me a few lines to please our Reverend Mother who shows me her affection for you. This especially touches me all the more because she belongs to a noble family. Her good heart needs to make people happy! "

 

 gonzague sign

Biographical summary

 

February 20th, 1834 in Caen Birth of Mary Davy Virville.
November 29th, 1860 Enters the Carmel of Lisieux.
May 30th, 1861 Clothing
June 27th, 1862 Profession
July 16th, 1862 Taking of the veil
July 8th, 1866 Sub-Prioress.
August 8th, 1869 Re-election as a sub-prioress, for 3 years.
January 20th, 1871 took refuge with her family (advance of the Prussians).
March,1871 Back to Carmel.
October 28th, 1874 Prioress.
November 10th, 1877 Re-election as Prioress.
November 16th, 1880 Appointment maintained for 2 years by Bishop Hugonin.
January 28th, 1883 She leaves office; is replaced by Mother Geneviève. She is the bursar and novice mistress.
February 3rd, 1886 Prioress.
February 13th, 1889 Re-elected prioress.
February 13th, 1892 Appointment extended for one year.
February 20th, 1893 She leaves the office; replaced by Mother Agnès. She is bursar and novice mistress.
March 21th, 1896 Prioress and novice mistress (assisted by Thérèse).
March 22th, 1899 Re-elected prioress.
April 19th, 1902 Leaves appointment definitively; replaced by Mother Agnes. Is bursar until death.
Spring 1904 cancerous tumor of the tongue.
December 17th, 1904 death.
Mother Marie de Gonzague has spent 6 years as sub prioress and 21 as prioress.

 

 

1. - 1834-1860 : Marie de Virville

 

 

The entry of the Prussians in Normandy, in January 1871 triggered panic. Several local families claim their daughters, Lisieux Carmelites, for safekeeping. Among that number is Sister Marie de Gonzague, staying in Caen on January 20th. It is probably during this short family stay that a painter put on canvas the features of the Carmelite (painting, 59 x 73 cm). She was thirty-seven years old. Strong features and an intelligent face that photography will show later: shapely face, well-shaped mouth, prominent nose, beautiful eyes and very high eyebrows, similar to those of Teresa of Avila in paintings.

On the top left is the family coat of arms. The coat of arms reads: "Blue with a golden chevron accompanied by three harps with two facing and one at the top. "Marie de Virville therefore belongs to the ancient family of Davy des Harpes, represented by Davy du Perron, Amfreville, Virville, Boisroger with countless sub-branches (according to the Davy Family History, by Father Jean Canu, 1958, from which we borrow so much information). Absent from the picture, the motto of the Davy aux Harpes read, "Let the world rejoice in this harmony." How not to think of other coats of arms painted at the end of a poor school notebook in January 1896 by a little unknown Carmelite? Included is also a harp (Ms. A, 86) whose melody would soon cause rejoicing though out the world. But let’s not get ahead.

 

An illustrious house

The first certain ancestor of Marie de Virville is Jean Davy, Lord du Perron, Virville and Wood. He died July 24th, 1414, buried in Périers (Manche). Twelve generations lead us to our heroine. Davy du Perron forms "one of the most curious and interesting families of Cotentin." It will give a "Cardinal Grand Chaplain of France, one of the glories of the Church and of French literature; an archbishop, several ambassadors, two Grand Bailiffs of Cotentin, a Chamberlain of Francis I, a Wing Chief of Naval Armed Forces, Commander of St. Louis, buried by the King in the castle chapel of Vincennes, a Commander of the Order of the Militia of Christ, two lieutenant generals of the King's armies, many officers of land and sea, magistrates, an archdeacon, canons, "etc.
The youngest son, the father of Marie de Virville will move towards the judiciary. His two older brothers, Adrian and Alexander, first opt for a military career.

 

A secular stronghold

"The stronghold of Virville, located in Saint-Aubin-du-Perron, Aubigny, Marchesieux, Saint-Christophe d'Aubigny and Saint-Pierre-de-Feugères, still belongs to the Davy since 1300. They still have a manor house with a chapel founded in honor of St. Avoye. "The estate is approximately within the triangle of Périers/Saint-Sauveur - Lendelin/Le Mesnil-Vigot.
This is where on January 9th, 1802, Pierre-Louis Amadée Davy, Earl and then Marquis of Virville, father of our Carmelite is born.

 

In the Palais de Justice of Caen

At the time of his marriage (11-30-1827), Pierre Davy Devierville (sic) is housed through legal entitlement with his mother in Saint-Aubin-du-Perron, but in fact on Pémagnie Street in Caen, between Place Saint-Martin and the Place Saint-Sauveur, behind the Court. He "lives off his property." He takes as his wife Adelaide-Corbel Zoé, daughter of a lawyer living "near the Royal Court of Caen" at 32, Place Saint-Sauveur, near the Palais de Justice. The young couple settled in the sturdy house. This is where seven children were born; Stephanie (10-22-1828), Adrien (4-21-1830), Alexander (3-12-1832), Marie (2-20-1834), Leon (8-7-1836), Hervé (5-29-1838), Thérèse (2-7-1841). This is also where the parents died, Madame de Virville on 7-30-1872, her spouse on 1-9-1876.
At the birth of the two eldest, Mr. Virville is still reported as "living off his property." We find him next as an "attorney near the Royal Court". The household lives rather modestly. Mother Marie de Gonzague reports unashamedly the saying that their father quoted when he could not procure for his children what the rich have: "The number of starlings makes them thin," a saying about the troubles caused by having a large number of children. But one day fortune smiled on him, and he inherited titles and estates. (Note G). Only four of the seven children will found a home: Stéphanie who marries Jean-Charles-Edouard Pays on 9-18-1855 (the only wedding that involved our Marie: she entered the Carmel before other marriages);
then Alexander, who has to give up his military career after being wounded in the battle of Sevastopol (1855) and who marries Louise de Boctey (9-3-1861); then Thérèse (2-9-1866), who is left with an aunt for stepmother since Louis Martin de Bouillon, widower age 40, is her own first cousin.
Adrien Virville finally, a former officer in the 3rd Regiment of Chasseurs d'Afrique, who participated in the Italian Campaign (1859), married a descendent of Joan of Arc - more precisely Jehan d'Arc du Lys, second brother of Jeanne - Marie-Blanche Desazarts of Montgaillard (11-14-1866). Leon and Hervé, single, one dying in Caen (1-15-1877), the other in Havana (2-11-1866) as ensign. Mother Marie de Gonzague will survive all her brothers and sisters.

 

Child of the Visitation

Of Marie de Virville’s youth, the circumstances of her Carmelite vocation, we know nothing. We only know that she was raised at the Visitation of Caen, not far from her home monastery. In January 1895 she reminds Leonie Martin, then a novice in the same convent, "Give my wishes, I beg you, to your worthy Mothers who I still love as a child of the Visitation." Among her school companions was Marie d’Aisy who later joined the Carmel.
Is it from this stay that her ardent devotion to the Heart of Jesus dates?

 

Abominable pages

In 1926, Mother Agnès becomes alarmed about "indiscreet and even scandalous publications ", which dishonor in particular Mother Marie de Gonzague and her family. She is also angered by the article of Fr. Ubald, "abominable pages he presents during the Process about poor Mother Marie de Gonzague." Former Deputy Promoter of the Faith, Fr. Dubosq, attempts to refute this article. He protested: "But they are there, close to us, the members and friends of the family who are ridiculed! " He protests, "What does this disclosure have to do with the psychology of St. Therese of the Child Jesus?" Excellent question! Which on July 6th, 1915 he asked the author “witness” of these painful pages that were to become the "historical source" of the Ubalds, Van der Meerschs (1947) and other lovers of gossip. But in 1915, no one expected that the Summarium (1920) would be found among bric-a-brac dealers after the canonization of Thérèse (1925). The boomerang effect has not finished playing out ...

Nothing is known of Sister Marie de Gonzague’s religious youth with one exception: her attraction to the distant mission (and it is to Therese that we owe this recollection). However, the documents are not lacking that cast an indirect light on this Carmelite so little known. A retrospective on the early days of the Lisieux foundation will show by the same token, that Thérèse of the Child Jesus is "the reward of an exemplary family" (Cardinal Mercier). It is also the result of a half century of heroism hidden in "the poorest and smallest of the Carmels" of the last century.

 

2. Sister Marie de Gonzague, novice (11/29/1860-6/25/1860)

 

Sister Marie de Gonzague has the privilege of starting her Carmelite life auspiciously. In 1857-1860, a young prioress, Mother Aimée of Jesus (1818-1867) gave a boost to the monastery founded twenty years earlier. She built a significant part of regular buildings and received valuable future Carmelites: a triennium "full of blessings." January 18, 1860, she turns over the leadership to Mother Geneviève of Sainte-Thérèse. On March 22, Bishop Didiot approves the foundation of a Carmel "in the land of Annam." A great missionary air motivates the Carmelites of this generation. Conditions could not be more stimulating for the postulant Marie Davy de Virville who enters the cloister November 29th, 1860.

A young community

Slender, refined, pleasant voice, the newcomer has a proud bearing. No sooner had the convent door closed behind her, the row of "veiled statues" who were waiting for her, unveiled themselves ... Smiling faces, young. Led by Mother Geneviève (55), the postulant embraces her sisters one by one. Let’s meet them:
Fébronie of the Holy Childhood, sub-prioress (41 years old); Sr Marie-Thérèse of St. Joseph, counselor and novice mistress (age 52); Sister St. John of the Cross (age 43); St. Joseph Sister (age 51); Adelaide of Providence (age 47); Aimée of Jesus, bursar (age 42); Philomene of the Immaculate Conception (40); Isabelle of the Angels (age 45); St. Stanislaus (age 36); Emmanuel of the Presentation (36); Marie-Baptiste (29); Aimée of Mary (33); Xavier Heart of Jesus (24); Heart of Jesus (26). Then three lay sisters: Madeleine of the Blessed Sacrament (43); Marie of the Incarnation (32); St. Dosithée (28); finally a choir sister novice, Marie of Jesus (24). Missing Sister Marie of the Cross (Gosselin, 48), one of the founders, who stayed in the hospital for eleven years. With an average age of 39, these are the lifeblood of service to God and community.

 

A monastery under construction

They lead the postulant into the choir, the same experience Therese of the Child Jesus would know and it still remains. (The chapel was blessed on September 6th, 1852.) They showed her her cell, no doubt in the new building (first stone: 5/15/1858; blessed 7/11/859), the first wing of the red brick quadrangle that is now world famous. On the ground floor, along a cloister, is the refectory, kitchen and laundry facilities, the heated room (recreation room), a small library. In the basement, a cistern and a cellar. On the upper floor on either side of a corridor, thirteen cells, three infirmaries, kitchenette. Extending along the dormitory, a tribune overlooking the choir of Carmelites that will serve as Chapter room. It is there that Professions will take place until 1876.

In 1858-1859 again, Mother Aimée did construct a building near the convent door. It has the sacristy, the confessional and upstairs some attic rooms, including a linen room and the novitiate. This one, very poor, will train twenty Carmelites, including the young Thérèse Martin, until July 1890.

Thus freed up, the first building of rue Livarot (it will be torn down in 1889) is transformed into the turn sisters’ house and parlors. They made seven cells in the attic for the sisters from the inside. At the time of her entrance, this November 29th, 1860, Sister Marie de Gonzague does not suspect that it will fall to her to finish the regular monastery.

 

A valuable mistress

Mother Thérèse of St. Joseph (Athalie Gosselin), one of the founders of Lisieux, was educated at Poitiers. Since the untimely death of the first prioress of Lisieux (Mother Elizabeth of Saint Louis, 1/3/1842), she became the right arm of Mother Geneviève. Her obituary described her as endowed with rare intelligence and an unusual ability, a penetrating mind very appropriate for the conduct of souls. Demanding, energetic, she can also win the hearts and raise the courage of her followers.
When, in 1858 Mother Aimée undertakes the construction spoken of, "it was Mother Thérèse that her superior commissioned to make the plan." The manager adopted the plan and she supervised its execution with zeal and skill ... "In the evening she gave the living stones of her monastery the time her occupation as an architect left to her; those living stones she shaped carefully and she saw them carry the good seed she had planted in their souls to the most remote countries." Indeed, through her were formed the future founders of Saigon, Jerusalem, Coutances and Caen.

 

A fervent novitiate

Emulation reigned under the leadership of such a mistress. The eldest of the novitiate, Sister Xavier (professed May 18th, 1859) provides the impetus for her young companions. Sister Heart of Jesus, "with a superior intelligence and a great piety", gave up a brilliant teaching job and professed on December 2nd, 1859. The young Marie of Jesus is almost always one of the first in "challenges" of virtue that the novices offer to do, like the Madre of Avila. With a singular fidelity to grace, she will die tuberculosis, at 26 (May 31st, 1862), fourteen months after her profession.
Enthusiastic, generous, Sister Marie de Gonzague fully enters into this youthful momentum. She takes the habit on May 20th, 1861 on the feast of the Blessed Sacrament. The following year, the trip to Rome of the superior, Fr. Cagniard (May-June) defers her profession until June 27th, 1862, feast of the Sacred Heart, her great devotion. She receives the black veil on July 15th. Several days later an old boarding school companion, Marie-Thérèse d’Aisy, an intelligent and spirited artist, joins Carmel.


Novitiate tests

"Challenges" started again. Both young sisters ask for more! "Mother, give us trials" So be it! One day the novice mistress approached Sister Marie-Thérèse (Aisy), busy finishing a painting. "Well”, she exclaimed. ”Here’s an idea! You put shadows on that side? They should be on the other side."---" But, Mother, I assure you ..."---"Well, well,” replied Mother Therese.Give us trials ..." And the mistress departs, leaving the novice crestfallen in her faith about her talents and in her humility!
Meanness? These were the methods of the time. In twenty-five years, Mother Marie de Gonzague, prioress, will not act otherwise in respect to Sister Therese of the Child Jesus, cobwebs in the cloister, "walks" of the apprentice gardener. Everything will be the opportunity to test her with humiliating remarks.
Before leaving the novitiate (June 27th, 1865), Sister Marie de Gonzague welcomes three more companions: Marie of St. Joseph (Regnault) on 2-14-1863, Sister Marie-Vincent de Paul (2-2-1864) and Thérèse of the Sacred Heart (6-3-1864). Eight novices in less than seven years; a good performance.

 

A missionary breeze

The foundation of the first "mission Carmel" marks the young Marie de Gonzague for life. We know the story. Sister Philomène of the Immaculate Conception informs her cousin Archbishop Lefebvre, the apostolic vicar in Cochin, of her profession (2-9-1846). The latter, while in prison and sentenced to death, receives (before the letter of Lisieux) a "visit" from St. Teresa of Avila who asked him to introduce the Carmel in Annam. "God will be greatly served and glorified by it." Released, the bishop replies to his cousin Rosalie requesting French Carmelites. Mother Geneviève (Prioress in 1842-1848) immediately adopts the heroic project. But not until the end of the persecution. The taking of Saigon by the French in 1859 marks the starting signal. For months, years, they had gathered with difficulty outfits and articles in Lisieux required for the four founding sisters designated as: Philomène, Emmanuel of the Presentation, and Sister Marie-Baptiste Xavier. Bishop Didiot, Bayeux, came to bless them June 21st, 1861. On June 30th, the evening recreation sees unfold in the choir a farewell ceremony inspired by the Foreign Missions. The outgoing were placed at the gate of the choir, and all the sisters, in order of religion, come to kneel and kiss their feet during the singing of psalms and antiphons. The last to appear was Sister Marie de Gonzague, novice of a month. Moments of intense emotion. The "missionaries" are mostly affected by this thought: "it is the poorest and smallest of the Carmels that was chosen by God to go to establish the Carmelite Order on the soil of Annam." It will shelter the daughters of the confessors of the faith or of martyrs, or even Christian young people themselves who wore the cangue and confessed Jesus Christ. (Do not forget that Theophane Venard was beheaded on February 2nd, 1861.)

After a long and difficult sea journey, they reached Saigon on October 9th, 1861. The following March 23rd, the Emmanuel sisters and Marie-Baptiste return to Lisieux, defeated by the difficulties of adapting. Who will replace them? Volunteers abound. It was then (or the following year) that Marie de Gonzague offered herself, as Thérèse reminded her twice in 1897. It is "prevented by the will of her superior" (LT 221). Therese gently commented, "Often the desires of mothers are echoed in the souls of their children. O my dear Mother, your apostolic desire is in my soul, you know, a very faithful echo. "(Ms C v 9 /10 r°).

And thus focused from the start of her own novitiate on the distant mission, Mother Marie de Gonzague will understand and support the aspirations of she who would one day become "patroness of the missions" on a par with St Francis Xavier.

 

3. 1866-1872: First responsibilities

 

"Right out of the novitiate, the superior, Father Cagniard, put her in charge, hoping thereby to develop her real abilities and remedy her strange mood. It was a fatal error" (testimony of Mother Agnès in the Apostolic Process). The verdict falls like a guillotine blade. Let’s put our mind at ease. At the time (1866), the 1915 witness is a fragile little girl, age five, who must be strengthened with cod liver oil. At that same time, future co-signatories of the report were respectively 21 (a novice in Carmel), 10 years old, 6 years old, younger and younger in years. If "error" there was, it must be attributed to the fourteen fully professed voting members of the chapter in 1866. But let’s leave these imputed motives to return to the facts.

 

Skilled embroiderer

Pictures of 1895-1896 show Mother Marie de Gonzague sewing, rinsing the laundry, haying (VTL, nos. 16, 17, 24, 25, 36). The aristocrat knew how to work. What were her jobs as a young Carmelite? She probably embroidered liturgical vestments, then one of the paid jobs of the monastery. In 1865, her sisters paid for supplies for the beautiful scarf which was embroidered by her. "The sacristy of Carmel still has the white humeral veil, adorned in the center with a Sacred Heart in high relief and golden ornaments at the ends. The Mesdames de Virville ordered several embroidered ornaments for various parishes.
Incidentally, let’s note the other work which ensured the Carmelites their livelihood. Msgr. Cagniard lists it in the style of the time, during a clothing sermon: "The Carmelite without interrupting her loving communications with God, working with wool and flax, grows herbs and roots, the only luxury allowed at her table; fashions her wool habit and cord shoes; she makes priests’ tunics; embroiders with gold and silver the altar ornaments; prepares with the finest wheat flour the unleavened bread of the sacrifice. It is again she who prepares the Levites’ white gowns; makes incense; enriches her monastery with all the instruments of penance and arranges the flowers with a wonderful art. Thus she earns her bread by the sweat of her brow! "(11-24-1858).

Mother Marie-Baptiste, prioress (1866-1868). Mother Geneviève, the founder, was re-elected prioress January 30, 1863, with sub-prioress Fébronie sister. It does not take her long to resign. Marie-Baptiste succeeded her. In the elections of February 1st, 1866, she was elected prioress. Mother Geneviève having completed six years, Mother Aimée of Jesus becomes sub-prioress. The fiery temperament of the young superior (35 years old) and the circumstances are going to shake up things on rue de Livarot!

 

Foundation of Coutances

On March 30, Good Friday, Mother Marie-Baptiste receives an unexpected request of Msgr. Bravard, Bishop of Coutances. He wants a Carmel in his episcopal city, as the one in Valognes is English speaking. He therefore asks the Carmel of Lisieux to give him some religious. The business is conducted smoothly. The superiors of Lisieux soon give their consent: they will send four founding sisters, provided that Bishop Bravard assumes all expenses. It was necessary to visit the place before purchase. Fr. Cagniard and Mother Marie-Baptiste, joined by Sister Marie de Gonzague and Marie-Thérèse d’Aisy (her mother lives Coutances) depart Sunday, April 29th, 1866. Stop in Caen. The Virville brothers and sisters gather together to embrace their sister. The delegation from Lisieux dines and sleeps at the place Saint-Sauveur. The rest of the trip on Monday. In Coutances, they lodge this time with Madame Aisy. Agreement concluded. The foundation is set for the 30th of July. Those designated: Mother Aimée of Jesus as Prioress (she died in eighteen months not yet 50 and leaving the memory of a saint) Sister Heart of Jesus, sub-prioress (who will return to Lisieux in 1882); Emmanuel of the Presentation, bursar (had been chosen unsuccessfully twice for Saigon); Marie-Thérèse (Aisy) as a third counselor. Sister St. John the Evangelist from Coutance who came to Lisieux to begin her postulat, is part of the group. The departure of Aimee of Jesus leaves a vacant place in Lisieux of sub prioress. A replacement is needed for her.

 

Sister Marie de Gonzague, sub-prioress (1866-1872)

The election takes place on 8 July. The elected, Marie de Gonzague, is 32 years old. Actually, when browsing the list of eligible sisters of 1866, the choice is restricted. The foundations of Saigon and Coutances, and the death of Sister Marie of Jesus (1862) deprived Lisieux of nine sisters in five years. Mother Thérèse of St. Joseph (Gosselin) asked to have no position. Two very infirm sisters, Sister Marie of the Cross and Sister Louise, keep a sister busy day and night.
The sub-prioress "must always be in the Community ... take care of the Choir and that the Office is well spoken and sung unhurriedly" (Constitutions of 1581, chap. XIV). She presides instead of the prioress (choir, recreation, dining, etc.) when she is unable to. She is in charge of ceremonies such as clothings, professions and organizes small community celebrations. For this, there are expectations of health, skills and it excludes any other incompatible employment. It seems that Sister Marie de Gonzague has these qualities.

 

Buildings and living stones

Mother Geneviève seems more inclined to consolidate than to undertake (although the founding of Saigon implied boldness). She did not have the “building disease”. Barely elected, Mother Marie-Baptiste starts up construction of the monastery again. In August 1866 the first stone of the choir’s cloister. At the other end of the land, the building of a laundry room, the opening of a door for carts (where Tom, Thérèse’s spaniel, would sneak in, in 1889). In 1868, they build the small building known as "the Heart of Mary" with the proceeds of a lottery (5730 Francs).

They welcome three postulants in two months: Sister Saint-Pierre, converse (10-22-1866); Sister Mary of the Angels (October 29th) and Lydia William (December 14th). The latter, English, daughter of a pastor, was an Anglican religious was before her conversion. In 1866, she was a lady’s companion in Orbec. The superior, assisted by an interpreter, will make sure of the abilities of the "young person" age 29. The postulant is admitted without further examination, not even French. She became Marie-Thérèse of the Heart of Jesus.

Clothings and professions took place; work for the sub-prioress Marie de Gonzague.
What happened exactly on July 16th, 1867 at the clothing of Sister Saint-Pierre? Was the sub-prioress bored with the sermon of Father Lelasseur? ... On a "deplorable whim," we are told, “she goes to sulk in the garden several hours. Impossible to find her. She is finally discovered. An argument with the Prioress Marie-Baptiste in her cell. The "runaway" steps to the window: is it really to jump from it? We will never know the last word of the incident. No smoke without fire. It would be hushed up for nearly 50 years, but the 1915 report (PA 143) would stir up the ashes.

A different story with the joyous bells of St. Peter's Cathedral a few months earlier. Did a good wind carry its echo to Carmel September 11th, 1866? The admirable bells welcomed the union of Isidore Guérin and Céline Fournet, unknown then to the Carmelites. Let us skip twice eleven years (1877, 1888); the presence of the pharmacists of Place St. Pierre’s will weigh heavily on the destinies of the monastery.

 

They found again (October 19, 1868)

For now, it is a death which closely touches Carmel. November 6th, 1867, M. Roger, principal of the college, lost his young wife (age 28). Born Marie-Adelaide Alexander, she is the sister of Thérèse of the Sacred Heart (Henriette Alexander), still in the novitiate. To console his grief, and that of his stepmother who lives in Caen, M. Roger has only one idea; to work on the restoration of the Carmel of Caen and bring to his sister there. Entreaties to the Superior of Lisieux and Mother Marie-Baptist. They join the project. Already before the founding of Saigon, Lisieux was asked to rebuild the ancient Carmel of Caen, the twelfth of the Order in France (1616), dispersed during the Revolution. Sister St. John of the Cross (Gueret) had strongly desired to participate. Efforts had failed. In spring 1868, the hour of Providence sounded. But the secret is safe vis-à-vis the community, including, apparently, the sub-prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague.

Having left on December 1st, 1862 for the fragile foundation of Saigon, Sister St. John of the Cross returned to Lisieux in May 1868. In late August, Marie-Baptiste Mother informs the sisters that she will go the next day with the returned missionary and Thérèse of the Sacred Heart to visit a house in Caen (77, rue Sainte-Paix) for the new Carmel of this city. That's the surprise.

In October, a Franciscan, Father Pacifique, gives the retreat. On the evening of October 19th, astonishment! Fr. Cagniard, superior, enters the cloister by the door left ajar by the four fugitives: Mother Marie-Baptiste, Sisters St. John of the Cross, Thérèse of the Sacred Heart and Lydia William, professed since March 25th. Departure without return, he announces! The community says the chronicle is "terrified". To make it at the earliest time frame, the elections are set for October 23rd. Dramatic four day interim for Mother Marie de Gonzague. Still in shock, the eleven professed voting members of the chapter are for the prioress Mother Geneviève of Saint Thérèse. Gentle and conciliatory, she will work to restore calm. Marie de Gonzague remains sub-prioress. In August 1869, she will be re-elected for three years. The bursar and first counselor is Sister Saint-Stanislas. Third counselor: Mother Thérèse of St. Joseph.

 

The misfortunes of 1870

Ah! the good old days! How the Carmelites used to live quietly behind their grilles in the past! ...
Having founded three times in eight years - willingly or unwillingly - the Lisieux monastery begins to breathe when a series of bad events begins. From September 1869 to March 1870, the community is overwhelmed by disease, including typhoid and smallpox. Sometimes seven patients at once. However, no deaths.
War broke out with Prussia (July13th,1870). The superior taking a cure in Vichy, dies suddenly (July 20th), followed closely in Carmel by Sister Aimée-Marie (July 29th). And there is the frightening advance of the invader.
A new superior takes office on September 14th, Fr. Delatroëtte. Should we say, this time, that misfortune is on his side? This excellent parish priest probably did not have the
charism required to direct the Carmelites. Above all, his trajectory was to meet that of the too young Therese Martin. This would result in some sparks. Mother Agnès of Jesus, eager to prove that her little sister "was not spoiled," transmitted the story of a few sharp words by the Superior (PA, 140-141).
Barely in office, Mr. Delatroëtte opens wide the cloister door for the exodus of seven of his daughters, three September 16th-20th, 1870 (Sisters St. Raphael, Fébronie and Marie of St. Joseph), four January 20th, 1871: Mother and Sister Marie de Gonzague, Saint Vincent de Paul, Sister Mary of the Angels and Sister Marie of the Incarnation. Finally the Prussians turn back and the Carmelites return to their convent (March 19th, 1871).

The end of the year will be calmer. The 7th and 13th of October 1871, Sisters St. Jean- Baptiste and Aimee de Jesus entered. October 27th, elections confirm all positions from October 23rd, 1868.
In August 1872 the "very Honoured Mother subprioress" - as she was called - finished her second triennium. She is replaced by Sister Isabelle of the Angels and "returns to the ranks". On July 30th, she lost her mother, Mme. de Virville.

On July 22nd (1872), the pharmacists of Place St. Pierre had been able to read in the writings of their sister, Mrs. Martin, the announcement of "an event that will probably happen at the end of the year." But, added the letter, "that only interests me for the moment" (Family Correspondence, p. 135). The happy birth took place in Alencon, January 2nd, 1873.

 

 

4. 1844-1877: First term as prioress

 

After six years as sub-prioress (1866-1872), Sister Marie de Gonzague found herself again as a simple religious under the pacifying leadership of Mother Geneviève of Saint-Thérèse. A page will soon turn for her.

 

1873, a pivotal year

On the threshold of 1873, a Thérèse is born, a Thérèse dies.

In Alençon, the ninth child of the Martins smiled at life on January 2nd. Through her the Carmel of Lisieux will acquire a worldwide fame.  In Lisieux, the first professed of the monastery, Mother Thérèse of St. Joseph, died on February 6th at 64. Without her, this Carmel would not even exist. It’s from her in fact, and her sister (Marie of the Cross), that the initiative of a foundation in that city came. The Carmel of Poitiers was the providential instrument. It would not have voluntarily assumed the burden.  In October 1874 Mother Thérèse of St. Geneviève, 69, completed her second triennium. She cannot be re-elected. Who to choose?

 

October 28th, 1874: a consoling election  

The Community then has twenty nuns, fifteen choir sisters and five converses. One is mentally ill and four young trainees "have no voice in the chapter" (for voting). Of the ten fully professed voting members, once excluding the outgoing prioress or the very ill (Adelaïde, for example), there remain eight eligible then by rank of profession: St. Joseph, Sisters Fébronie, Isabelle of the Angels then sub- prioress, St. Stanislas, Marie de Gonzague, Mary of St. Joseph (Regnault), Mary of the Angels (29 years old), Saint-Raphael. The choice is not an issue, "Sister Marie de Gonzague was elected prioress, Mother Geneviève 1st bursar and Sister Stanislas 3rd bursar. These elections gave a great consolation to the Superior," say the Chronicles. Mother Isabelle is kept in the position of sub-prioress that she has held since the summer of 1872. She died in it June 24th, 1877, at age 62. Mother Geneviève was appointed mistress of the novitiate. The new prioress is 40 years. Fr. Delatroëtte is happy.

 

First daughters

It is a great time for a prioress, especially newly elected. Receive a profession, admit a postulant, help a dying person, it makes her experience her spiritual motherhood in a vital way. She can better determine her responsibility towards her sisters, her "daughters"; she must precede and accompany them on the path of love. She must each day develop or restore fellowship, without respect of persons, with an unbiased justice. St. Teresa of Avila gives to the prioresses of her reform the golden rule: to be loved and to be obeyed.  Mother Marie de Gonzague has an innate authority. She is made to order, protect, to lead. Distinguished, she does not dominate, she emerges. No one would say she "reigns". Writing and pictures show this. Facts will confirm it.  She soon has the joy of greeting two novices, Thérèse of Jesus and Mary Margaret, March 18th, 1875. She opens the cloister door to the young Thérèse of St. Augustine, 19, soon conquered by the charm of her prioress. April 21st, 1876, it will be the turn of Sister St. John of the Cross.

 

First feast    

The celebration of a mother is that of the whole family. It was no different with the feast of the prioress. The feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, June 21st, becomes in 1875 a joyous day, on rue Livarot. It will be twenty more times. Theresa will participate in her time. We know the importance in her life of June 21st, 1888 and 1896, for example (cf. Theatre au Carmel).  In 1875, Pius IX grants the Catholic world the indulgences of a great Jubilee. To emphasize the "great favor" the young Carmelite chaplain, Father Youf (33 years old and 2 on this job) offers this June 21st "a magnificent portrait of His Holiness" to Mother Marie de Gonzague. She has it placed inside the interior oratory.

 

July 7th, 1875: a catastrophic flood

A storm of unusual violence rumbled uninterrupted July 7th from one to eight o’clock. A downpour falls in the evening between Bernay and Lisieux. Located in the basin, Carmel is submerged in a quarter of an hour. At eleven o’clock, the flow reaches 6 feet in the monastery (about 1.80 m). The community took refuge upstairs. Will the two turn sisters be drowned outside? Mother Marie de Gonzague has the wooden grille upstairs of the Superior’s parlor sawed to collect the "shipwrecked" into the cloister; they were already knee deep. But the chapel? The young Marie of the Angels, very thin, proposes to slip in through the tiny door for passing things through. She takes the ciborium that Mother Isabelle carries to the tribunal of the chapter room, above the ante-choir. That's where we regrouped in an intense prayer.

The violence of the waves broke the big workers gate. And the cloister? Mother Marie de Gonzague proceeded to go close the gate, helped by a sister. She has to turn back. The water rushes down the stairs noisily. And the flood still grows! The prioress then made a vow in the presence of all. They will have 15 Masses said for the souls in purgatory. They will also offer a novena of communions and fasting. "This vow was a barrier that the water respected so much that at 4 am it was entirely gone." Alas! A new "mortal anxiety" replaces the previous one; Mother Marie de Gonzague felt "very guilty" for having taken the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Delatroëtte, arrived on the scene at six o'clock in the morning, reassures and approves all her initiatives.

But what a sight! Loose paving stones in the refectory and cloisters, the garden turned upside down. "A foul and oily mud" has invaded the entire ground floor. Gendarme Bugeau notes the damage and makes a report. President MacMahon will send an emergency 1000 francs. It will take more than a year to absorb the moisture.

In Alençon, Madame Martin was concerned for the Guérin pharmacy, situated on higher ground, which did not suffer. She finds the moral of the story: "These are great scourges, but the wicked do not benefit. "(Letter of 7-11-1875.) She sends her contribution to" those flooded in Lisieux. "

 

Completion of the Monastery (1876-1877)

"A time to destroy, a time to build." A flood submerged the first wing of the monastery. To St. Médard (simple coincidence ...) was entrusted the foundation stone of the new buildings (6-8-1876). For it is not enough to repair. Vocations look to be numerous. It is time to complete a regular monastery. The funds are lacking but the prioress moves forward with resolution. By mail, she begs tirelessly from Carmels and old friends from her youth; noble women and wealthy ladies will answer her call. No doubt that a methodical "research of writings" would update an epistolary collection invaluable for the knowledge of its author and this almost unexplored time period in the history of Carmel.

The parlor also requires Mother Marie de Gonzague "to deal with material issues, solicitations multiplied to obtain the essential funds, declarations of gratitude which then engendered a lot of conversations." (André Noché). "More than is desirable for a Carmelite?" This would cause her complaints. The interviews, moreover, willingly turn into spiritual direction. St. Teresa of Avila first experienced the same obligations, pitfalls and constraints.

The "bold project" takes shape in less than eighteen months. The two new wings are blessed September 30th, 1877 (twenty years to the day before the death of Thérèse). Stage right: a cloister along a single ground floor. The Doctors Notta and James recommended not building the planned floor: "The air would be too concentrated, the monastery would not have this safety if necessary for the health of the sisters. "A terrace therefore covers the hermitage of the Sacred Heart and the two adjacent apartments. Thérèse will love praying there on summer evenings.

The fourth side of the quadrangle is that of the infirmaries. It offers, on the upper floor, "a beautiful chapter room, a library, a working space for the sacristy and five cells."

On September 30th, Fr. Delatroëtte and Fr. Youf accompanied by sisters in cloaks and veils, also bless the granite Calvary. The figure of Christ was given by the family of Thérèse of St. Augustin. With this Calvary, "its lawn and sandy paths," the courtyard gives the monastery "a religious and severe appearance" soon brightened flowers.

The triennium ends. Circumstances have allowed the young prioress to manifest her talents. It is the community to decide. Its vote confirms her success. November 10th, 1877, "the elections were held, Mother Marie de Gonzague was re-elected prioress, Sister Fébronie the Holy Childhood was elected sub-prioress, Mother Geneviève reelected 1st bursar and Sister St. Stanislas reelected 3rd bursar. The agreement that reigned in these elections was very consoling for Superior and Chapter members."

The nest finished, birds can fly to it and multiply...

 

A second mother

Mother Agnès would one day give to Mother Marie de Gonzague the title of "second mother of our Carmel". It takes on a strange resonance when one considers the Martin girls. In those weeks when erecting a cross at Carmel crowns forty years of efforts, Mr. Martin and his five daughters climb another Calvary. Death strikes Madame Martin, less than 46 years old on August 28th, 1877. Her brother, Isidore Guérin, a pharmacist of Lisieux, discovered on September 10, not far from home, the perfect dwelling for the bereaved family; the Buissonets. They take possession on November 16th, ten days after the re-election of one who would one day become a "second mother" to four of the five orphans: Pauline Martin (1882), Marie (1886), Thérèse (1888), Céline (1894). There is a mystery in the synchronicity.

 

A five year triennium (11-10-1877 to 1-28-1883)  

 

Here is Mother Marie de Gonzague re-elected prioress for three years on November 10th, 1877. If "the harmony which reigned in these elections was very consoling for the Superior and chapter members" (AL, March 1986), we bet it was no less so for the prioress. She has a great need of another's trust. It will one day be her stumbling block.

 

The interest of the circulars

The Carmel archives have only 26 letters of Mother Marie de Gonzague (inventory of 1973 in CG II, 1245). It is very little. Nearly all have been published in the Centennial Edition or Vie théresienne. To know her style a little - also very marked by the romance - they still have twelve circular obituaries printed with her name between 1877 and 1898. In these biographical sketches, destined for other Carmels, the prioress is often involved (this then goes for any writer, whatever her monastery). Here is the story of the death of Mother Isabelle, after an ill-defined disease of thirty-three years, ending in twenty-four hours of terrible vomiting, June 24th, 1877:

"Returning close to this bed of pain for all our hearts, it did not take us long to see that the last moment was approaching; we had the community summoned and around 7 o’clock in the evening together with the dear dying person, we repeated again for her the prayers of the recommendation of the soul ... the supreme moment had arrived! ! ! Oh how touching were these last moments! Kneeling beside her bed, we held her dying in our arms, we pressed her against our heart, watered her with our tears, brought to mind comforting words, saying to her the Name of He who had been her all on earth and to which her beautiful soul flew to receive the reward of virtue. The sobs of all the Community spoke again the affection of all hearts to this good Mother. "Despite the consoling impression this sweet death left us, we beg you, my Reverend Mother, to have offered as soon as possible the prayers of our holy Order for our dear Mother Sub-Prioress; etc. »

 

Homecoming

The rather special conditions under which the foundation of Caen had taken place - with the approval of the Superior of Lisieux - had left a certain awkwardness. After the death of Fr. Cagniard (7-20-1870), epistolary relationships had virtually ceased between the two monasteries. Once prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague, who retained a great affection for Mother Marie-Baptiste (left for Caen October 19th, 1868), worked to revive the fraternal bonds. The union of the two Carmels would prove to be unfailing. Similar reunion with one of the founders of Saigon. Only she persevered with Mother Philomène since 1861, the young Xavier Heart of Jesus. There was an extraordinary heroism. The two Carmelites had the personality and virtue required for such an undertaking. The downside: over the years, "Paul and Barnabas" had need of separate apostolates, in their own way. Mother Xavier had long dreamed of founding a Carmel in Jerusalem. Negative circumstances can also be providential. So she left Saigon in 1872, returned to France, passes through Lisieux, her hometown, not daring to knock at Carmel. She set foot in the Holy City on August 26, 1874. To build the monastery on the Mount of Olives (founded with the assistance of Carmel of Carpentras), she must beg from the Carmels in France. Delicate situation vis-à-vis Lisieux. Then one day, a nice surprise, Mother Xavier told to a friend: "In the same mail, we received a letter from the Carmel of Lisieux; it is Mademoiselle Virville who is Prioress, Sister Marie de Gonzague. We were novices together. She had to write to them as with all other Carmelites at the risk of offending more than ever. Their response was done mail by mail, and was very friendly (...). I’m going to take advantage of the nice reception to get closer to them. Our Mother asked me to thank them for the promised 25 francs, which is a good opportunity for me; I'll take the opportunity to explain certain things that must have been incomprehensible to them. "(Letter to Madame de Preaulx May 24th, 1877.)

The warm relations between Lisieux and Jerusalem will continue beyond the death of Mother Xavier (1889). So, in 1896-1897, Mother Marie de Gonzague will often speak of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, her "angel", will send her poems and inform them of her illness and death.

 

Family Dates

Entrances, professions, many celebrations follow in succession. A simple enumeration: Mother Marie de Gonzague receives the vows of Thérèse of St. Augustin on May 1st, 1877, those of Sister Saint John of the Cross on January 17th, 1878. She receives on January 3rd, 1879 a widow aged 50, Sister Marie -Emmanuel, who will profess on October 7th, 1880. For the prioress’s feast Day, June 21st, 1878, a novice who was not able to persevere, Marie Gahéry, offers a sculpted group of the Sacred Heart appearing to Margaret Mary. No artistic merit, it has value today as a remembrance; it is at her feet that Mother Agnès of Jesus will beg for Thérèse, September 30th, 1897, to have the strength to endure to the end her terrible agony.

 

Like the morning star

The very first turn sister, Sister Louise (who wore the Falaise headdress of her native country), died March 25th, 1878. Did her companion, Sister Desirée notice one summer afternoon of 1879 in the courtyard of the chapel "a nice old man" giving his hand to a beautiful little girl? During their daily walk, Monsieur Martin and the "little queen" enter the chapel of Carmel for the first time. "Papa showed me the choir grille, telling me that behind it were religious. I was far from suspecting that nine years later I would be among them! "(Ms A, 14 r °.)" This little star will become brighter in the Church of God ... It is still only the morning star in the middle of a small cloud. But one day it will fill the House of the Lord. "(Fr. Louis, Passionist, 11-30-1898). Who can foresee it then?

 

Macabre interlude

Mother Isabelle had been buried inside the cloister in June 1877 like her predecessors. A public funeral, certainly, since it was presided over by the Superior accompanied by numerous clergy of the city. But they failed - and that since 1870 - to seek permission from the City Council. A new city council, nothing less than clerical takes argument to request in February 1878, the exhumation of the entire convent cemetery (nine sisters). Great anxiety for Mother Marie de Gonzague. Controversy in the local press, for or against the decision ... After three months of alarms, the storm subsides. "Let the dead sleep in peace among their sisters!" But they will no longer bury in the cloister. The deceased will be buried in the city cemetery. In 1897, Monsieur Guerin will buy a small enclosure there for the Carmelites. Thérèse will be the first on October 4th.

 

Where they played around with extensions

Mother Marie de Gonzague was prioress for three six year terms in accordance with the Constitutions: 1874-1880; 1886-1892; 1896-1902. The first six-year term was extended for two years (and 2 months) by Bishop Hugonin, at the request of the community, because of the misfortunes of the times. The second will be a year of "entreaties" from the sisters after the terrible influenza of the winter 91-92. Of these extensions, we can deduce that Mother Marie de Gonzague always managed to retain power. Obsessed, in short, with a belief like, "If I go, everything collapses!" Let’s leave to the 'witness' responsibility for her assertion. The generous Providence will indeed good measure to compensate for this "abuse" in 1923, the community will request confirmation from the priory life of Mother Agnès of Jesus. She will thus carry the load in 1893-1896; 1902-1908, 1909-1951 without interruption. Unique in the annals of the Order. Let us return to chronicle: "In the same year 1880 ended the second triennium of the Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzague; the times were too unhappy to think about having an election. The Community, happy under the administration of this good Mother, asked for the extension of her position, which the Bishop granted for 2 years.

"This really bad year for religious orders saw all the men of convents expelled; women seemed to have the same fate, which caused consternation in the Carmel. "Already preparing civilian clothes for dispersal.”

In November 1880, changes in power would have had Mother Geneviève of Saint Thérèse take charge (no others eligible at the time). She is now 75 years and has many infirmities. Would the community have felt more secure, in such conditions, with a prioress, 46, who has the upper hand, initiative, high connections? Simple question. Doubts remain, however. We read: "Community, happy under the government of this good Mother (Marie de Gonzague)." Is it possible? Would it not be a misdeal?

In 1947, "Mother Agnès of Jesus, consulted about the truth of this passage said she and the sisters united with Mother Geneviève in regards to Mother Marie de Gonzague and the strange contrasts of a great affection and suffering of shocks caused by the swings of her unfortunate personality. Mother Marie de Gonzague was not afraid of Mother Geneviève, but wasn’t jealous of her. "(Geneviève, Note) Interesting text. If we proceed by elimination, the only one prioress who caused jealousy was Mother Agnès (1893-1896). God be praised; we still (in 1880) have thirteen years of respite before us.

At the request of the community and with the approval of Bishop Hugonin, Mother Marie de Gonzague thus sees her second term as prioress extended for two years (16-11-1880). Providential situation that will allow her to welcome two "postulants" of the Buissonets ... but let’s follow her for a few moments with her sisters.

 

Good Samaritan

St. Teresa of Avila recommends in her Constitutions to care for the sick sisters "with much love, compassion and good treatment in accordance with our poverty" (Chap. XII). We should add with the remedies of the time. It is like that that Mother Marie de Gonzague cares for three of her sisters, who die in 1880-1882.

Sister Adelaïde of Providence first. A true saint. Stricken in 1875 with a cancer of the face (for which Dr. Notta advised against an operation), and a "cancer within", endured great suffering with heroic patience. The last few months, this almost illiterate sister pours her heart out in innocent poetry. She dedicates it to the Prioress (whom she addressed in an intimate way for the circumstance):

Oh! It is to you that I speak, my tender Samaritan whose care filled with tenderness surrounds me around at night, in the morning (...)

I hear you, O good Mother. Come, come, my good Samaritan who gives herself entirely to me wishing to be my sweet support. Etc.

The community participates in the Sunday Eucharist, July 17, 1881, when the last moment comes. "Left alone with her, we (the Prioress) received her last breath just as the priest was giving Holy Communion to all our sisters. It would be impossible to say what we felt at that moment so painful for the mother's heart. "(Sister Adelaïde, Circular.)

The previous year, Mother Marie de Gonzague had already assisted Marie of St. Joseph with the great crossing (August 15th, 1880), who died of breast cancer at age 45. The tumor had taken on "enormous proportions". The last few days, the patient (who never complained ...) asked her prioress "with touching tenderness not to leave her." “Oh, my Mother,” she told us often”, you will always have our sisters, but soon you will not have me any more, do not leave me! "... It would have been difficult for us - concludes Mother Marie de Gonzague – to not come as our beloved daughter wished. "(Circular).

Since 1849, Sister Marie of the Cross (Gosselin) lived as a recluse in her cell. "Her intelligence was locked in a dungeon that prevented the intellectual light to dispel the hallucinations that made the practice (Sacraments) impossible." From 1866, she refused any visit; neither confessor, or doctor, or superior, not even her own sister.

She only accepted Sainte Geneviève of Saint Thérèse and her nurse (Sister Adelaïde and Sister Marie of the Angels). At the end of 1881, she declined visibly. Mother Geneviève complained to the Lord to carry alone such a responsibility. Suddenly, on January 1, 1882, Sister Marie of the Cross called, "I want to see my Mother Marie de Gonzague." (She barely recognized her) "This is very good Mother promptly went to her dear daughter’s side and until her death she had the consolation of giving her care that the patient received with great happiness. (...) The good God having perfectly restored peace to this dear victim, her death was so mild that Mother Prioress who was near her with Mother Geneviève, was hardly able to perceive her last breath." This was January 28th, 1882.

Later, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, second nurse to Mother Geneviève (December 5th, 1891), will witness the vigils and fatigues of Mother Marie de Gonzague at her bedside. Sister Geneviève will pay tribute to the care, as novice, she received from the same prioress. As for the way Thérèse will be treated by the Prioress in 1897 - who they wanted to pass off as an executioner - simply reread Last Conversations, including letters written daily (pp 665-774). The facts speak for themselves.

 

The daughter crowns the Mother

Mother Geneviève had made profession July 22nd, 1831 in the Carmel of Poitiers. The year 1881 was therefore that of her golden wedding. "For a long time we were waiting with a holy impatience for the happy day when we would be able to celebrate the fiftieth of our Venerable Mother Geneviève." The prioress spares nothing to give all its brilliance to the founder of jubilee. Monastery decorated (they spent the day before and part of the night), gifts, solemn offices, etc. The most moving moment was when Mother Geneviève renewed her vows "in the hands of the one she herself had consecrated as bride of Jesus a few years earlier:

When the daughter crowned Mother
When in her hands
She received her vows
Oh! The moment was not of the earth
Very sweet tears flowed from every eye.

"In her name and on behalf of the community, Mother Marie de Gonzague addresses words to the jubilarian dictated with tender affection, the most exquisite delicacy, the brightest and the most profound veneration recognition." Unfortunately this exhortation has not been found. A solemn Mass was crowded with "a large and distinguished throng." Was there some representative from the Buissonets? No document allows us check that.

 

Swallow of a new spring

Sister Marie of the Cross, one of the two founding benefactors of Lisieux, entered into the light January 28th, 1882. On February 16th, Pauline Martin attends Mass at 6:00 at St. Jacques Church with her father and her sister Marie. She is twenty years ago. She is quietly waiting for her 22nd or 23 birthday to enter the Le Mans Visitation. "Suddenly, she said, there was a very bright light in my soul, God clearly showed me that it was not at the Visitation he wanted me, but in Carmel. (...) I never thought of Carmel, and in an instant I found myself there, drawn by an irresistible attraction. "The same day, Pauline – a woman of resolution - confides her secret to Marie and Monsieur Martin. Soon she will ring at rue Livarot. "On my first visit to the Carmel of Lisieux, I was not expecting to do anything but ask the Mother Prioress of Carmel to introduce me to Caen for they had told me that places were lacking in Lisieux.

"Mother Marie de Gonzague who was prioress appeared very kind and told me not to think of Caen, she would find me a cell in her monastery. It was in the parlor then, I think that she gave me a small holy card that delighted me:

Dream of youth. The Shepherdess. A shepherdess dreamed ... and she told me that I would be called Sister Agnès of Jesus." ( Souvenirs intimes de Mère Agnès de Jésus)

In 1897, Thérèse will write to her "little mother", "privileged of our family, you who show us the way as the swallow we always see at the head of her companions and trace in the air the way that must lead us to our new home." (LT 216) Indeed, the first" swallow "of Buissonets doesn’t come alone!

 

A nine year old postulant

On June 26th, 1882 Sister Emmanuel of the Presentation died in the Carmel of Coutances, one of the founders given by Lisieux in 1866. Mother Heart of Jesus, very tired, then asked to return to her religious cradle. It was in July, Sister Veronica, extern sister in Coutances, accompanies her. In Lisieux, in the Turn building she meets "a graceful child dressed in blue with her beautiful blond hair on her back. It was Thérèse Martin." She is presented to Véronique as a future novice; Véronique and said pleasantly, "My little girl, you will still eat many bowls of soup before entering Carmel! »

Without a doubt it is shortly after this meeting that the "little girl" must face another, a decisive one, that of Mother Marie de Gonzague. She has "big secrets" to tell her (Ms 1, 26 r °). Let’s be patient a bit, before entering the parlor...

 

6. First encounters with little Thérèse (1882-1883)

 

So we left St. Therese with the turn sisters. It's a Sunday in summer of 1882, probably in July. With an amazing presence of mind, the child has invented a small ploy to leave her cousin, Marie Guérin at the door (Ms. A, 26 v °). She is introduced alone in the parlor where Mother Marie de Gonzague, age forty eight, receives her, a prioress "on borrowed time".

 

First face to face

The Story of a Soul can reconstruct the "big secrets" of the girl. Shortly before, she learned by surprise of the upcoming departure of Pauline for Carmel: "It was as if a sword had plunged into her heart ..." Pauline tenderly consoled her and "explained the life of Carmel ". Thérèse thought about it in her heart and she says, "I felt that Carmel was a desert where God wanted me to go as hide ... I felt so strongly that there was no doubt in my heart. " I want to be a Carmelite, "not for Pauline but Jesus only." The day after this grace, the child told her secret to "Pauline who, looking upon (these) desires as the will of Heaven, said that soon she would go with her to see the Mother Prioress of Carmel and should say what the Good God made her feel ... "(Cf. Ms. A, 26 r °) Well, it's done, she entrusted her secret.

Mother Marie de Gonzague listened carefully. No doubt she had the same impression that Pauline little before: Thérèse speaks the truth. Already in April 1877 during the first "confession" about her vocation, the four year old had struck Pauline by her seriousness: "She looked at me thoughtfully. Her little face had an expression so candid, all she told me came so well from the bottom of the heart that it was impossible to not take an interest "(Pauline’s letter to Louise Magdelaine April 4th, 1877).

The Prioress of Carmel is immediately convinced. "God put in her heart a deep knowledge of souls," wrote Thérèse novice (LT 93, 7-14-1889). She knows from that day she is in the presence of an authentic being, totally true. She believes Thérèse. She believes in Thérèse. It would be like this until September 30th, 1897.

"Mother Marie de Gonzague believed in my vocation, but she told me they didn’t accept 9 year old postulants and I would have to wait until I turned 16. ... I resigned myself despite my strong desire to enter as soon as possible and to make my first Communion on the day of Pauline taking the habit.” (Ms. A 26 v°)

 

“My little girl”

Pauline entered the Carmel October 2nd, 1882, "a day of tears and blessings" (Ms A, 26 v °). Huge heartbreak in the life of the child. Soon after, Thérèse again sees Mother Marie de Gonzague in the parlor, accompanied this time by the whole community, curious to meet the little sister of Sister Agnès of Jesus, the nine year old postulant! The prioress asked the sisters what name to give her, when the day comes. Then, "the thought came to her of calling her the name she had dreamed of". Thérèse of the Child Jesus (cf. Ms. A, 31 v °). Great joy for little Thérèse!

But soon the psychological problems arise. The girl resents the authority - a little irksome – of her new "mom" at the Buissonets, Marie; and the memory of Pauline becomes obsessive. Confided to Mother Marie de Gonzague continue writing. Thérèse opens the dialogue (we correct the mistakes ...)

"My dear Mother, it’s been a long time since I saw you, so I am glad to write you to tell you my little concerns. Pauline told me you were on retreat and I have come to ask you to pray the baby Jesus for me because I have many faults and I want to correct myself.

"I have to make my confession to you. For some time now I always reply back when Marie tells me to do something. It seems that when Pauline was small and she apologized to my aunt of Le Mans, she told her, "As many holes as pegs,"(an old expression for making excuses). But me, it's much worse. Also I want to correct myself and in every little hole put a pretty little flower that I will offer to baby Jesus to prepare for my First Communion. Mother dear, you will pray for this? Oh yes, that beautiful moment will come soon and how happy I will be when little Jesus comes into my heart to have so many beautiful flowers to offer him.

"Goodbye, dear Mother. I embrace you tenderly as I love you.

Your little girl Teresita. "(LT 9, November-December 1882)

Wonderful frankness! This is a future Carmelite who does not take detours to beat her breast (admit her guilt). Even more wonderful is the audacity. Already, this little Therese, who changes her faults into flowers to offer to Jesus... But soon, the continual headaches affect the health of the child. It's time for Mother Marie de Gonzague to put pen to paper:  "I learned that my little girl Thérèse of the Child Jesus wasn’t sleeping a lot and she was ill; I just tell my angel of a child that she must not think all day of Agnès of Jesus, our little heart would tire and could harm our health! ... 

"I allow my future daughter to think of her holy Carmelite sister before Jesus in her heart but never at night; Thérèse will sleep all night, will eat all that her beloved sister Marie wants her to eat and from now on, in preparation for her First Communion, she will be very obedient.

"If my darling little girl follows what I advise her to do, it will strengthen her health and she able to come find her Agnès of Jesus and, like her, become a good and fervent Spouse of Jesus! ! !

"I kiss you with all my heart, angel child, and pray to Jesus to bless his little bride. (...).

"You have a big place in my heart.

"My Theresa, let’s love Jesus well.

Sr. Marie de Gonzague R. C. ind. »    (LC 6, end Dec 1882 or January 1883;. GC I, p 135).

Motherly affection, educator virility, common sense: the tone is set. Thus, Mother Marie de Gonzague will treat "her child angel" to the end.

 

Our good mother    

On January 31st, 1883 the community elections were held. "Mother Geneviève was elected prioress, Sister Marie of the Angels Sub-Prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague 1st bursar and Sr Fébronie third bursar.” Furthermore, Mother Geneviève of Saint Thérèse, previously novice mistress, entrusts this duty to Mother Marie de Gonzague.

What request did she receive from her Teresita? She did not keep her letter, but replied, one morning during Lent at dawn:

"My dear little Teresita,

"I embrace you with all my heart love you very much; after Easter I will see you, and I will give you a good answer, according to your wishes; hope and confidence!

"The holy time of penance forces me to silence today; you can write to me as often as your little heart pleases; our good Mother is quite happy with our relationship, darling angel ...

Your Mother Sister Marie de Gonzague R. C. ind.

"I am writing with eyes of faith, I cannot see, it's 5:30 and I’m without light.

"Let us sleep well and eat a lot!" (SC 9, GC I, pp. 138 s.)

But the time for advice is no more. In the midst of all these "mothers" lost and found, at the Buissonets or Carmel, the heart of little Therese cannot withstand it. Her nerves come undone on Easter evening, March 25th, 1883.

 

"Mother" (Ms A, 57 r °)

We know the rest (Ms A, 27 r ° / 31 ° v): "strange illness" for almost two months, before which science capitulated. Finally, on Pentecost Sunday, May 13th, 1883 is the final attack: "Finding no help on earth, poor little Thérèse had also turned to her heavenly Mother, she prayed with all her heart to finally have mercy on her ... "(Ms A, 30 r °). The only true" Mother "of all humans responds with a "charming smile ". Marie (Martin) understands all: "Thérèse is cured!" She runs to bring the news to Carmel.

Teresita, the aspiring postulant, should not make us lose sight of the real postulant October 2nd, 1882, Pauline Martin, Sister Agnès of Jesus. Mother Marie de Gonzague welcomes her as Prioress, Mother Geneviève as novice mistress. The roles are reversed in the elections of January 31st, 1883.

 

7. Mother Marie de Gonzague, novice mistress (1883-1886)   

 

Postulants and novices for 1883, "Our Mother" becomes "My Mother". The novitiate then comprises:

- Marie-Emmanuel sister, 54-year-old widow, professed since 10-7-1880;

- Sister Marie of St. Joseph, 24, the "Centennial professes" 10-17-1882, designated as "angel" of Sister Agnès;

- Sister Isabelle of the Angels, a postulant who is still here at Christmas 1882 (cf. LC 5) but does not stay.

Two new recruits will be added to the group in 1883-1884:

- Sister Marie of Jesus, 21, 26 April 1883;

- Sister Marie-Rosalie, 45, November 7th, 1884.

Mother Marie de Gonzague is on the eve of her fiftieth year in all her maturity. "I became attached to her a lot, Mother Agnès confided later. She was tall, distinguished, she showed me a very special affection ... pious too and a great frankness, with a certain candor that had charms. "

 

Clothing of Sister Agnès of Jesus (April 6th, 1883)       

On March 13th, 1883, Mother Geneviève of St Thérèse informed Mr. Martin: "It is with pleasure that I inform you of the reception of your dear daughter; the whole community is in joy, which tells you, Sir, how we much we love her."(LD 449) Parents are always happy with such compliments. And in fact, sweet Pauline knows how to win hearts. Ceremony set for Friday, April 6th, the feast of St. Joseph that was put back.

Although bed ridden at the Guérins since Easter (March 25), little Thérèse can meet her Pauline dressed as a bride in the outer parlor before the ceremony. She sits again on her knees, showers her with caresses (cf. Ms A, 28r °). But they soon return her to the Buissonnets. Sister Agnès recalls: "I can still see her enter the parlor, so sweet, so beautiful! She had a sky blue cashmere dress, the same color silk belt, a large white hat with an ostrich feather. "

During the illness of the child, there is hardly a letter from Pauline which doesn’t transmit a message like this: "When I see your mother Marie de Gonzague, both of us speak of you like a good little girl -loved, spoiled ... She cherishes you very much too, this sweet Mother of your soul. "(LC 12, May 1883.)

 

Pauline waits for Thérèse (March-May 1884)    

Having taken the habit April 6, 1883, Sister Agnès can hope to make her profession April 7th, 1884 according to the customs of the time. She must therefore be presented, according to the traditions, for the vote by the Chapter members about a month before. In fact, the admission is delayed for one month. A later text attributes this to "an unconscious jealousy" of Mother Marie de Gonzague, who wished to reserve the honor of that profession for herself, after returning as prioress or in 1886 ... The "legend" doesn’t make sense. Let us return to the facts.

On March 28, 1884, Sister Agnes exults: "My darling little Father, I come to share my joy with you, I am in Carmel for life! (...) Mother Marie de Gonzague wants me to tell you, dear Father, that she is very happy to always keep your Pauline."(LD 482).

Mother Geneviève confirmed the same day: "It is with a joy equal to that of your dear child I am sharing her admission to holy Profession. Her desire is that this day, so long awaited, would be on the same date as the first communion of your dear Angel. We hope Sir, to be able to vouchsafe this desire. You are a very happy Father as God pours out in torrents his blessings on your interesting family. "(LD 483, March 28th, 1884.)

To help the "little girl" to prepare for "the first kiss of Jesus" in the Eucharist, Sister Agnès has crafted for her a prayer book for March-April (see GC I, pp. 156 ff.). First Communion will be held in May and the novice asks about the exact date (LC 26 and 27). Finally the good news: it is May 8th (LC 28). Every week, little Thérèse received a letter from Pauline (no Lent that restrains her!). As in 1883, she can read almost every time, "Mother Marie de Gonzague kisses her daughter and loves her with all her heart. "(LC 23, etc.)

 

"We have never seen that! "(May 7th, 1884)    

Mother Geneviève is now too infirm to climb up to the Chapter Room on May 8th. It was decided that the ceremony of the vows will take place on the ground floor, in the inner oratory. The sub-prioress, the excellent Marie of the Angels, assisted by Sister Marie of St. Joseph and other sisters never cease decorating the small sanctuary. Nothing is too good to celebrate both the beloved founder, the young professed and first communion (future postulant)! It is almost like a return to the Jubilee of July 22nd, 1881.

The 7th night after the office of Matins begins the prayer vigil in choir, around the young professed. Previously, Mother Marie of the Angels begs Mother Marie de Gonzague to go "to admire the decorations" of the Oratory, with Sister Agnès. This is hardly the time. The mistress refused and remains in the choir. After a moment, however, she joins Sister Agnès in the oratory ... and cannot believe her eyes: interlaced crowns, crests, flowers, lamps and relics on the altar, two doves (Agnès and Thérèse). She gets angry for good: "It's far too much, we never saw that, etc." Certainly, nothing too much for the Martin misses; but let’s think a little about some of the other young sisters, without family or almost no feast ... And Mother Marie de Gonzague returns to the choir. Poor Pauline has a broken heart ("How many things can make a sensitive heart like mine bleed!" she would soon reveal (LD 489, June 12th, 1884). She took refuge in the shrine of the Sacred Heart, and weeps bitterly. She especially wants - she confided one day - to feel such anguish because of her mistress, instead of all the joy of union with Jesus. She begged the Virgin Mary to "detach her heart from her Mistress"... 

 

As on Tabor (May 8th, 1884)        

On the morning of May 8th, the novice pulled herself together and took her vows "in great peace." "Mother Geneviève spoke to me as a saint and I forgot my troubles. (...) At the end of the afternoon, I saw my little Thérèse in the parlor, "with her white veil like mine. "She looked at me with a look so deep and so soft! What moments for both of us! ... I left the parlor all comforted, much like the apostles when they came down from Tabor. A heavenly atmosphere around me. "

Mother Marie de Gonzague offers a holy card to Thérèse with these lines:

"Mother Marie de Gonzague to her darling child, her Teresita. Remembrance of a day doubly dear to the heart of the mother of her beloved children!

Her Thérèse receives her Jesus for the first time.

Her Agnès joins the Bridegroom of the virgins! The King of kings!

Oh! Yes I understand! (LD 523)

They have sometimes presented Mother Marie de Gonzague as a kind of executioner (of herself and others) with strong health. The documents, on the contrary however, show her as often ill: asthma? allergy? In any case, frequent bronchitis, (cf. Ms C, 14 ° v). On Tue 28: 1884 Pauline begs for "plugs of tobacco" from her father: "My poor Mother M. de Gonzague is ill, her poor chest is so oppressed that it is pitiful ... there is only that – sucking on wads of tobacco - that does her good. "(LD 482) Mrs. Guérin will soon give rhubarb jam, "Mother Marie de Gonzague hid her jars as treasures, she was afraid that someone would steal them from her for the infirmary, I couldn’t help laughing yesterday while helping her."(LD 492, end June 1984)

Only Thérèse would know how to talk about the ”loving heart" of Mother Marie de Gonzague (LT 190). It allowed her to understand many things, about human life as well as the spiritual life. Her early education at the Visitation of Caen could only develop this gift, centering it on the Heart of Jesus, and trust and abandonment.

It is the Pauline of 1884 that writes these lines:

"I saw my mother now, and she was telling me about this abandonment of the soul, source of delight and peace even in suffering. I understand: this confidence, this abandonment full of tenderness that delights here below the Heart of Our fathers and mothers, how could it not touch the Heart of our Father in Heaven? "(LD 491, June 26th, 1884.)

Great heartbreak for Marie Martin this time when Father Pichon sailed for Canada (October 4th, 1884). In July 1885 she received a flower from him "plucked on the rock near Niagara Falls. This turns the knife in the wound. "For a flower (herself) everything is broken", Marie wrote to Sister Agnès ... Mother Marie de Gonzague reread that sentence several times and said to her novice: "Oh! Yes, I understand that! "(LD 523, July 27th-28th, 1885). And shortly after, coming out of a parlor, "I have told our entire parlor to the only Mother you know, if you knew how she understands everything. I like her more and more. I believe her affection for you again redoubled mine. "(LD 525, August 1885.)

Watch out "Swallow Mary", watch out! ...

Mother Geneviève of Saint Thérèse painfully completes her last term as prioress. Since 1884, the swelling of the legs is such that she no longer can stand an upright position. They carry her in a chair (without wheels) from the infirmary to the choir, the choir to the heated recreation room where she spends her days in a small adjacent room, Sainte-Baume as she calls it. She is over eighty years old when she finally enters into the shadows, so "hidden", so obedient that one would have taken her for a novice rather than an elder prioress and founder. "

 

8. A fruitful term as prioress (1886-1889) 

 

Elections take place on February 3, 1886. "The Mother Marie de Gonzague was elected prioress, Sister Fébronie sub-prioress, Sister Marie of the Angels is first bursar and Sister St. Stanislaus third bursar." Sister Marie of the Angels is named novice mistress.

The Community then has twenty-four sisters, five are converses and several infirm. In the novitiate, two young professed: Agnès of Jesus and Marie of Jesus and an older, mature novice, Sister Marie-Rosalie. She professes in the hands of Mother Marie de Gonzague March 25th, 1886.

 

Pious plots

The preliminary works multiply around Marie Martin since summer 1885, which Father Piat called "a pious plot." In the parlor or in writing, Pauline "pressures her for an answer." "When will you live the same life and under the same roof as me? ..." (LD 528) "I call the future with all my heart, you know what future ..." ( LD 550) "May this year (1886) be for you and for me the great year! Ah! if you knew how I want you, as I feel more and more your place beside me in this small blessed cloister! "(LD 555).

Mother Geneviève, still prioress, congratulates Marie on the "vocation which his love honors you", and already choses her name: "Marie of the Cross" (LD 546).

But Marie dug in her heels. "I will come when God tells me, but he has not shown me his will clearly enough. - Do not think, retorts Sister Agnès, he will appear to you for that. You are going to be 26 years old, it's time to make a decision. - I will not do it myself. Since he knows that I want to do his will, he will send me an angel instead to tell me. "(Cf. Father Piat, Marie Martin, 89. p.) Alerted in secret by Sister Agnès - with the indispensable help of Mother Marie de Gonzague -"the angel" appears ... through the pen of Father Pichon while in Canada, "Answer my question. When you will be Marie of the Sacred Heart? What do you think about your presence in your family? Is it still necessary? "(LD 558) This must be carried out ... Admission is set for October 15th, 1886.

 

Mirroring water...

Sister Agnès had written shortly before: "Our Mother really loves her Marie, it makes me very happy. I said to myself: At least she will be understood by that heart!" (LD 564).

Understood, and even infatuated with "that heart"! Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart becomes passionately attached to Mother Marie de Gonzague. Indulgently, the prioress overlooked many things with the postulant and then the novice, certainly generous, but unconventional, and hardly “regular". On the evening of her life, she had to recognize she owed to such broad mindedness the reception of the habit (March 19th, 1887) and making profession (May 22nd, 1888).

The coin has two sides. Sister Agnes, who completed her novitiate June 21st. 1887, understands only too well from experience: the "charm" of a Mother Prioress has many pitfalls for a young nun. She therefore tries to sober up her sister Marie, "Our Mother is a ray of God's goodness, a clear and transparent stream of water arising from the eternal river, you can drink it, but to no longer thirst we must go back to source "(LD 600). "My dove has the eyes of a dove, but when she goes to drink at the fountains of this world, the little sparrow who watches finds the mirroring waters of this life have too much effect on her heart" (LD 604 ). It will for years to come ... and "godmother" will only admire more the heroism of her goddaughter became a Carmelite nun, Thérèse will learn to deprive herself early of drinking "from this enchanted source" (LT 75).

Let no one think too much of weakness in Mother Marie de Gonzague, but she has her methods ... Almost octogenarian, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart laughing, reported this anecdote to her nurse. One day as a young nun she was exhausted from "fighting" with a sister. She knocks on the door of the prioress to unload her irritation. Mother Marie de Gonzague wrote, listening to the deluge of words without even looking up. When the complainant had exhausted her complaints, Mother turned to her and was pleased to simply conclude by reiterating one question in an expressive crescendo: "And you, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart? And you, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart? And you, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart! ..." Stunned, speechless, Marie withdrew without further ado.

 

Soon the time so long wished for   

First appalled by the announcement in August 1886 of the imminent departure of Marie, their second (or third) mother, Céline and Thérèse pull themselves together little by little. After the Christmas metamorphosis, the youngest (14 years old in January 1887) is experiencing unexpected human fulfillment. Queens and mistresses of the Buissonnets, the girls taste the "ideal of happiness" (Ms. A, 49 v °). Not for long! Driven by irresistible grace, Thérèse takes giant steps to realize her vocation. If Marie of the Sacred Heart is more than reluctant, Sister Agnès of Jesus is the best advocate of her little sister to Mother Marie de Gonzague. The Prioress goes all out for the project, yet so little sense to human eyes. She begins - or rather she develops her role as educator to her "darling Teresita". Céline complains that the latter does not eat enough? The reprimand arrives:

"Where is the promise made by my child to eat a lot a lot? We have to do things as if we were in Carmel; well! When we are in the refectory, we must take everything obedience gives us; if you have a headache that is weak, you must eat more; agreed?

"Doesn’t my angel want to come find her elders so happy in the service of God? If we do not take the necessary food, we cannot succeed! Courage, child of the heart, patience and hope, years are on the move, the months are short, the days are hours and soon the much desired hour strikes." (LC 53).

And during trip to Rome, when Thérèse’s business seems to become confused:

"All Jesus wants is marked with the seal of the cross, and do not drag the cross but carry it! The more you go, treasure of a child, the more you will understand the grace of the vocation that Jesus has given you, deserves sacrifices for his love ... "(LC 62).

After the "fiasco" of the audience with Leo XIII (11-20-1887) and before the annoying intransigence of Fr. Delatroëtte, Sister Agnès of Jesus is confused. Mother Marie de Gonzague does not give up however, and speaks to Mr. Guérin:

"I really fear the stubborn Superior; for you alone this word; we really do not know the child’s mind." (LD 656)

And December 15th, 1887, the same:

"I can do nothing for now; the child must remain silent, how to get us out of this? It seems to me, sir, there's nothing that your acumen can make happen. (...) I think we need a miracle for the dear child to be answered in her Christmas wish "(LD 658). The miracle does not take place. But on Dec. 28, Bishop Hugonin authorizes Mother Marie de Gonzague to receive the fifteen year old postulant. Alas! "This time it was the holy ark which refused entry for the poor little dove" (Ms A, 68 r °). "Pauline" was suddenly worried about the rigors of Lent for her little girl which begins on February 15th, 1888. She requests a postponement; wait until after Easter! We don’t know the reaction of Mother Marie de Gonzague, but she agrees with this.

 

Work

Officially completed with the erection of the Calvary in 1877, the monastery still needed construction. The prioress decided in 1887 to end the moisture that still persisted in the refectory and cloisters from the great flood (1875). "Concrete and filth", cleaned up the land and the red cobblestones (reused in the attics) were replaced by black, gray, white, drawing a kind of checkerboard. We rebuilt the four porches of the courtyard, opposite the alleys leading to the Calvary. Improvements and painting in the refectory; new paint and paneling in heated recreation room. In its poverty, the little Lisieux Carmel is ready to celebrate its fifty years of existence (the founders arrived March 15th, 1838) and to welcome the young Thérèse Martin.

 

9. Strong and maternal education (1888-1893)

 

Here is Thérèse, postulant age fifteen, determined to "give herself entirely" to Jesus, to "live only for him" (LT 43). Mother Marie de Gonzague, Prioress, took over the realization of this ideal. "Everything is perfect"; such is the assessment she made after a month of observation: "Never would I have believed in judgment as advanced in a 15 year old ... not a word to say to her!" Yes, "perfection". Why doubt the sincerity of these lines sent by the prioress to Aunt Guérin (May 17th, 1888)? Thérèse knows this; her Mother loves her and says all the best possible of her (Ms. 1, 70 v °). The temptation is all the greater to use this tendency to be fawned upon. Mother Marie de Gonzague is too perceptive, and the postulant too faithful to grace for such a "misfortune" to compromise the work of God. By design, the prioress will therefore be 'very severe'. Should it be noted that in several years, that the novices will say as much of their young mistress, Thérèse of the Child Jesus (Ms C, 23 r°)? In Story of a Soul (1898), Mother Agnès will report two reprimands of Mother Marie de Gonzague; one in front of the sisters: "It is clear that our cloisters are swept by a child of fifteen! It is a pity! Go and remove the cobwebs and be more careful in the future." The other concerns gardening imposed on the postulant by Sister Marie of the Angels, novice mistress, to give her exercise before the time of prayer at 5 pm: "But, this child does absolutely nothing! Why do we have to send a novice for a daily walk?" Slow, lack of dedication to jobs are the usual complaints that Thérèse hears about in her rare interviews with her prioress. Moreover, these methods are part of the novitiate of the time period. The postulant, far from feeling "persecuted", must overcome an excessive attachment to Mother Marie de Gonzague. She finds "umpteen permissions to request" to justify office visits to the latter, only to "find a few drops of joy," "satisfy her nature" (Ms. C, 22 r °). She must cling to the banister to refuse these "consolations of the heart." One day her eldest sister Marie of the Sacred Heart is the tempting demon: they walk together past the cell of the prioress. Actually Marie enters there. She motioned to Therese to follow, but the latter goes quickly down the stairs. "Seeing her heroism, I confess I was confused by comparing myself to her," noted Marie in her preparatory notes for the Process.

 

Spiritual advice

In Thérèse’s papers after her death, we found several notes addressed to her by the Prioress, either for her own retreats or for the clothing. The tone is more affectionate but the guidance maintains with virility the aspirant to holiness on the paths of faith.

"I do not want the child of my affection to indulge in a great sadness. I don’t know anything for the clothing ... Before getting upset, wait "(letter of 6/10 December 1888).

"Let my youngest, my little grain of sand, tell everything to her mother, she understands. What joy ...a humiliation! This is worth all the treasures of Panama! [Reference to the losses of Mr. Martin with his investment for the construction of the Panama Canal]. Let us repeat when we happen to make a mistake: happy fault that gains this humiliation for me! As for our misery, we have only one thing to do; to make a little package of them and place it in the Heart of Jesus so that he changes them into as many merits possible for the Fatherland "(letter of December 10th, 1888).

"A very small humiliation well received, accepted with joy, is worth more to the Heart of Jesus than all the major crosses of the world, if there is in their acceptance a little self interest, a small grain of vanity, a tad self-esteem, one iota of something unworthy of the Heart of Jesus! ... "(LC 95).

And when Thérèse laments to see her clothing postponed 24 hours - what a disappointment; January 10th instead of 9th ... - Mother Marie de Gonzague reasons: what matters is not to take the habit on a particular date, but to listen to Jesus ask "her soul united with His love: did you understand my heart has chosen you to become one with me?... "(SC 103) All that matters is God's gift! A few months later, it is a call and a prophecy that Mother Marie de Gonzague dedicates to her, "I'm not going to make you laugh but there must be truth in all things! Jesus shaped my violet to suffer and I do not want to be a prophet today, but I can say though to my little girl that it is suffering along with sacrifice that will make you a great saint '"(SC 118).

On the back of a holy card, one Christmas night:

"Remaining a child close to our beloved Husband and his crib, we learn the simplicity and humility that will make my beloved daughter a great and holy Teresa of Jesus" (CG, 1097).

There is no end to quote these writings that are too little known. "Often, very often I think of my little girl, I am ambitious for her," wrote Sister Agnès of Jesus (LC 77). Mother Marie de Gonzague could sign with both hands this statement.  Each has her way, these two spiritual mothers guide the young Carmelite to great holiness.

 

A perfect religious

The day after the profession of Thérèse (9-8-1890), the prioress wrote to the prioress of Carmel Tours: "This angel child is 17 and a half years old with the maturity of a 30 year old and the religious perfection of an old novice consumed and in possession of herself; she is a perfect religious, not an eye was dry yesterday at the sight of her great and complete immolation. "But the gift of self takes place daily. And the Mother must support the courage of Thérèse.

"I know that my child is generous and she seeks only the cross of her beloved, who was abandoned by all ..." "O beloved child, I will not abandon you in my heart for you there are much earlier. We suffer, Jesus is far away but yet I see him near the heart of his Bride! More so, because she lives entirely in this infinite Love ... I envy your fate, dear child ... "(SC 143).

"You have to walk as a strong and vigorous soul. I do not think my lamb is without blemish, far from it, I know very well that she has her troubles and it is these that make our lives worthy, an apostolic life because they are victories over defects that obtain everything we want! Souls, souls for Jesus! What mercy ... Let us love Jesus, child of his affection, let’s live love, to die of love; as our Blessed Mother had this desire, we can walk in the footsteps of our Mother! We will love so much in heaven, let’s start our heaven here below ... "(SC 144).

These are the lessons of this prioress, Jansenist it seems.

Everything would be for the best in the best of worlds? Because they made Mother Marie de Gonzague, at a time still not far, into a wicked and monstrous virago - and legend dies hard – that we must now glorify her with holiness? It is certainly not sin by backbiting that remained her dominant fault, widely reported in the statements of the Process but jealousy. Questioned extensively by Father Piat (in order to refute Van der Meersch), Sister Geneviève has circumscribed evil "only when her authority was at stake." Thérese herself has at least two instructive experiences in this area.

One dates from a retreat in October 1891, preached by Father Alexis. According to the custom of the time, each sister goes to confession, by "religious rank," once at the beginning, once at the end of the retreat. She has the right to return in between. Does the reported incident come from the first or second turn? It doesn’t matter. For Thérèse, the time to spend in the confessional is during the refectory. Mother Agnès reports: "Mother Marie de Gonzague realized she had taken the time, called me and did not hide her anger. She had a thousand suspicions, she could not understand that we were not content with her leadership, and what could be said to this child, etc. "Frightened, Sister Agnès went in secret to the confessional, knocks on the door and begs Thérèse to return to the community ... But as this does not come from the prioress, the penitent replied calmly and in a resolute tone: "No, I will not go, the good Lord wants me to be here right now; I have to take advantage of his graces and his lights. Then I will bear all the pains he sends. "And she goes to confession. Result: the prioress forbade her to go back to Father Alexis! A difficult order "that restricted her freedom of conscience." Sacristan, Thérèse heard the preacher pacing in the next room (he has few "customers" ..) She confides her pain to her mistress of the novitiate, who advised her to urge Mother Marie de Gonzague. "But for more perfection, she preferred to remain silent and obeyed Our Lord obedient unto the Cross. "(Cf. PO 418; PA, 361.)

 

The other fact is well known. This is the fraternal warning from Thérèse to her novitiate companion, Sister Martha of Jesus, around December 8th, 1892. The prioress allowed them to have spiritual conversations. But even so, it should not be displayed openly, for fear of upsetting the superior. And Thérèse is aware of that very big risk on the day she decides to caution Sister Martha against any human affection for Mother Marie de Gonzague. It's again Sister Agnès expressing her dismay; "You may be betrayed, while Mother cannot stand you, and you will be sent to another monastery. I know that, but since I am certain now that it's my duty to speak, I must not look at the consequences. "(CGI I, 668.)

Yes, "perfect religious", this Sister Thérèse! She can be quiet with Father Alexis or talk to Sister Martha, because she keeps her eyes fixed on Jesus alone. It is he alone that she seeks in obedience, even if it appears "that superiors are mistaken" (Ms. C, 11 r °).

 

10. Toe the line ... (1893- 1896)

 

February 13th, 1889 had seen an election without surprise. The community vote maintained support for the three "elected" in 1886: Prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague; subprioress, Sister Fébronie; bursar (and novice mistress), Sister Marie of the Angels; third councilor, Sister St. Stanislaus. But the "succession" does not augur well at the end of the triennium because Mother Geneviève of Saint Theresa is now bedridden and Mother Marie de Gonzague will not be re-eligible in 1892.

 

Sister Agnès, heir apparent 

Towards the end of 1891, Sister Agnès enters the infirmary of Mother Geneviève. She finds Mother Marie de Gonzague there. At her entrance, both Mothers lower their voices and look at her mysteriously. Subsequently, they let her know that it was about her, of her possible election as prioress ... Winter 1891-1892 is detrimental to Carmel. Death of the founder (12-5-1891), influenza epidemic that takes three older sisters in six days and leaves the helpless community weakened. Canon Delatroëtte listens to the entreaties of the sisters who ask to postpone the elections. Bishop Hugonin allows a period of one year. The outgoing prioress put that time to good use to prepare minds for the desired solution: the election of Sister Agnès.

 

"The finger of God" (20 February 1893)

Let's hear from Aunt Guérin, who announced the "big news" the same day to her daughter Jeanne.

"Can you guess who is appointed superior? ... It's your cousin Pauline. So you cannot believe how emotional she is today. Your papa went to see her ... She could not say anything ... The only sound was of little sobs. (So he has) encouraged her in her new position. Fortunately she will have Mother Marie de Gonzague to guide her because it is a great weight that falls on her shoulders, young as she is (...). The situation was quite delicate, Mother Marie de Gonzague was present and it required great tact. It is certain that our dear Pauline has what it takes to make a good superior, but she is so shy, so

easily upset, her health is weak and she is very young. Once she takes over, and she has adapted I'm sure it will be fine. I think, my dear Jeanne, it will be good for you to write her a little note, just remember that Mother Marie de Gonzague could see it, and you, you will be maintain a certain reserve. (...) I forgot to tell you that our little Pauline was elected by unanimous vote. Apparently it is very rare for an election to be so. It showed the finger of God. "(CG II, 687.) The finger of God ... guided by Mother Marie de Gonzague, has designated a younger sister, thirty-one years old, totally inexperienced, shy, emotional, but naturally gifted for command. "Fortunately," Mother Marie de Gonzague will be able to guide her! ... Indeed!

 

Honeymoon

The docility of the "Lamb" facilitates the reports, while Céline and Guerin are involved in spoiling she who they call from now on "Grandmother" (Mother Marie de Gonzague was only 59 years old) ... Serious warning in April: the old prioress has asthma attacks:

"How we were afraid last night! How sick she was! ... She spoke like a dying person, I was broken, I cried! She told me that God would help me, she was no longer necessary to me, that Mother Geneviève would be with me, etc. and gave me her last recommendations ... consider my pain! "(Mother Agnès to Céline, April 1893.)" Strawberries gave great pleasure to my dear Mother who is still suffering. "(Around May 6th)" Mother Marie de Gonzague was whacked in the eye yesterday, she did not see that day and was in great pain....One can say it’s always something with her. I’m very miserable. "(End of May). But there are also hints of this style:

"You're going to receive a letter addressed to me in a few days; I beg you not to send it to me but to bring it to me yourself then, there’s no rush. Mother Marie de Gonzague shouldn’t know about it. "(May 93).

 

 

 

To be completed soon

 

 

 

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Polished Diamonds

Mrs. Guérin spoke correctly: it requires "tact" to live in the shadow of an ill tempered "grandmother" ... It's from Canada this time that the first echoes of the foreseeable difficulties arrive. Father Pichon writes to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart:

"I know the soul of my daughters (strong and weak) much better than you think; you aren’t informing me of anything. My heart feels the awkward position from Jesus to the dear Lamb and I know all the resources it takes from Heaven to cope. My thoughts go farther than your pen and I feel at one with your thoughts ... In reading the history of big and little storms that your pen tells me, upon reflection I am reminded of this lovely word from Fénelon: "God polishes a diamond with another diamond! I dream of it. Dear little shepherdess, help her to smile as a bundle of myrrh! "(9-19-1893)

 

Amid the storms

The word is out: "little and big storms." But we do not know much more because if the process extensively talks about anger and "appalling scenes" of Mother Marie de Gonzague to her young prioress - under the influence of jealousy, we are assured - we looked in vain for documents known to date for specific examples. How about those explosive scenes? Under what circumstance did this anger of “Grandmother” manifest itself? Couldn’t find anything about it, even sifting through archival papers. Disappointment for the reader, perhaps, but we cannot invent what is not known. To note, however, the reaction of Sister Saint Vincent de Paul, the official adulator on record of Mother Marie de Gonzague, and witness to a terrible scene, "O Mother Marie de Gonzague - she said indignantly - it's very wrong to make your mother prioress suffer like this!" (AP, 145) Indeed that day, Mother Agnès, also so emotional, came close to fainting ...

 

Thérèse, no man’s land  

Although these outbursts were not aimed at her, Thérèse couldn’t help but feel the backlash. Sister Marie of the Angels leaves us a moving testimony. "Witness at times to painful difficulties Mother Marie de Gonzague occasioned Mother Agnès of Jesus who had become prioress; she suffered horribly in silence. But one day she told me, her heart full of tears and with sadness painted on her face, "I now understand what our Lord suffered seeing his Mother suffer during his Passion "(NPPA, unpublished).

The strength, however, outweighed the tears, as evidenced by an uncompromising witness, Sister Marie-Madeleine: "Another time I could judge how her love [Thérèse] for our Mother Agnès of Jesus was supernatural. There had been a violent scene with Mother Marie de Gonzague and as I lamented about Mother, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus said: "I am jubilant, the more I see her suffer, the happier I am! Ah! Sister Marie-Madeleine, you do not know the price of suffering! If you knew the good it did to her soul! "On occasions like that of which I speak, she was never absent from a community exercise, even for a moment, to go to console her sisters. It was only when sent for that she came to restore peace. "(NPPO)

Sometimes indeed we came to look for Thérèse to "restore peace" ... As if her presence, her holiness, loving and strong calmed the fury of Saul against little David! Her contagious peace playing the role of a sort of no man's land for Mother Marie de Gonzague. The day is coming when, at the expiration of this stormy triennium, and after a difficult election (March 21, 1896), she will have to "console" the old Mother, appalled, unconscious no doubt of reaping what she had sown.

Later, Mother Agnès judges things with hindsight:

"Poor Mother Marie de Gonzague! Yet it was she who had worked for my election but she could not bear that I take too much authority. She would have always wanted me under her domination. What I have suffered and cried for three years! But I recognize that this yoke was necessary for me. It matured me and detached my soul from honors. "(Souvenirs intimes).

 

Novice mistress  (1893-1896)    

Having turned over the leadership of prioress on February 20th, 1893 to Mother Agnès of Jesus – who will often be tempted to regain control over before time was up - Mother Marie de Gonzague does not stay long without responsibilities. The community elected her "first custodian. "At the time, the bursar was in practice related to this title. In addition, Mother Agnès of Jesus designates her as novice mistress, Sister Mary of the Angels’ replacement, mistress since 1886. This one, the same elections, is elected as prioress; the third councilor was Sister Saint Raphael. This means that Mother Marie de Gonzague attends all board meetings, initiating her young prioress in her new responsibilities.

 

The novitiate of 1893  

In February 1893, the novitiate brings together two professed and a postulant. First of all Thérèse, 20, who completed her training normally following September 8th. Next comes Sister Martha of Jesus, converse, 28, who pursued her own until September 1893. Needless to recall her boundless affection for Mother Marie de Gonzague. Thérèse employs a comparison one day without complacency, that of a "dog who is attached to his master" (Ms. C, 21 ° v). As for Mary Magdalene of the Blessed Sacrament, 23, a postulant for seven months (the converse at that time do a year of novitiate), her little liking for her mistress shows clearly in her testimony for the Ordinary Process. Her dislike of Therese is no less great, too. Ultimately, she will never love anyone but Mother Agnès of Jesus. We unfortunately don’t know the theme of the teachings of Mother Marie de Gonzague to the novices she met with according to the custom of the time each day from 2: 30 to 3pm.

 

A sub-mistress

"When I entered the Carmel, I found Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus novice mistress," said Sister Marie Madeleine in notes from 1910 (NPPO, unpublished). False statement: at her entrance July 22nd, 1892, Sister Marie of the Angels is the mistress. At the Ordinary Process, she also rectified that, "In the beginning of 1893, six months after I joined, Mother Agnès became prioress, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus became novice mistress. "(PO 477). What the Tribunal interrupts: "Didn’t Mother Marie de Gonzague then have the title and position of novice mistress?"

- "Yes, “says Marie Magdalene without bothering with circumlocutions, “Mother Marie de Gonzague, former prioress, was officially appointed novice mistress; but it was to have peace. She could not train novices as was necessary, and Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had received the official mission of making up for that as discretely as possible in this ministry of training. "(PO 477). Mother Agnès of Jesus did not speak otherwise, a few months earlier: "She (Thérèse) was appointed an auxiliary in the formation of novices (1893), being 20 years old. This duty was first assigned by me who was prioress in 1893. "(PO 143). Judge's question: "Why only an assistant to help the novitiate, not mistress? "Response of Mother Agnès:" Having become prioress in 1893, I felt obliged to give the title of novice mistress to Mother Marie de Gonzague who then left the position of Prioress. '(W, 144). The judge insists: "But why the appointment of Thérèse as an auxiliary?" Mother Agnès had this explanation:" I believed out of a sense of propriety I was obliged to appoint Mother Marie de Gonzague novice mistress. But joined with real qualities, she had gaps and shortcomings that I hoped to counterbalance the bad influence of by including Sister Thérèse in carrying this burden. "(Ibid.)

At the Apostolic Process, same story: "To mitigate the harm as much as possible, I told Sister Thérèse to watch over her two companions. In reality, it was Sister Thérèse that I counted on to lead the novitiate." (PA 148) "It was actually her that I had in charge of novices," she wrote elsewhere (NPPA/Prudence).

How tortuous and very feminine all of that is! Mother Marie de Gonzague had Sister Agnès elected prioress and hoped to rule by proxy through her disciple. Recall that at the beginning of being prioress, Mother Agnès is under the influence of Marie de Gonzague and it is only gradually that she will gain her autonomy. She named Mother Marie de Gonzague official mistress of the novitiate but gave her an auxiliary in the person of Therese.

 

Thérèse   “hunting dog’ (1894)

On September 7th, 1893, Sister Marie-Madeleine received the habit of Carmelite and began her canonical novitiate year. Then most likely, Mother Agnès of Jesus "obliges" her to meet Therese half an hour every Sunday (CG II, 924). The novice will tell herself how she hid at the appointed time: "Then she (Thérèse) was looking for me and when she could not find me and then met me, she told me: "I have searched and could not find you." I replied coldly, "I was busy." And during this, she kept her face calm and smiling (CG II, 728). Imagine, after this "hunt", what the docility might be of Marie-Magdalene to the good advice of Thérèse ...

She was happier from June 1894 when Sister Marie of the Trinity came to rejuvenate the novitiate. One can think this moment as the start of Mother Agnès’ approach with Mother Marie de Gonzague, "I will make Mother Marie de Gonzague, titular novice mistress, understand that Sister Thérèse might perhaps be useful to her in accomplishing her task with the novices. She used sister Thérèse who she called "her little hunting dog." "(PA 148). Thérèse described her role to Céline with the newcomer "Now she likes me, but I try to touch her only with gloves of white silk... However I have a title that gives me trouble, I am a "little hunting dog", I'm going after the game all day. You know, the hunters (the novice mistresses and prioresses) are too big to slip into the bushes, but a little dog ... it has a good nose and then it runs everywhere! ... So I watch my daughter closely and the hunters are not unhappy with their little dog ... I do not want to hurt my little bunny but I lick it, saying compassionately its fur is not smooth enough, its gaze is too much that of a cottontail rabbit, then I try to make it as my hunters wish: a small simple rabbit that only busies itself with the small patch of grass that it must graze on.  I have fun, but basically I think the rabbit is better than the little dog ... "(LT 167). Prudence and humility of Mother Marie de Gonzague’s auxiliary! Moreover, Mother Agnès does not make her task easy by giving her secret missions. For if she was given as "angel" to Sister Marie of the Trinity, according to the custom of the Order, to learn the external practices of the Rule, the prioress recommended what’s more that the postulant "take her advice for her training as if she had been novice mistress "(testimony PO). Always these ambiguous  "as ifs", creating a position as false as can be.

What surprise then if Mother Marie de Gonzague, noticing the influence of Thérèse had become too effective, took umbrage and snubbed her auxiliary? (See PA, 148). "Thérèse always spoke to the novices as a companion, or the jealousy of the poor Mother M. de G. awoke and scenes would take place "(NPPA / Prudence). We will see how, even after 1896, "the Servant of God continued until her death the ill-defined role with the novices" (PA 149). But what did Mother Marie de Gonzague ultimately think in her heart? She wrote one day in the margin of the act of Thérèse’s profession: "She fills the difficult obedience of novice Mistress with wisdom and perfection that was matched only by her love for God.” For the years 1896-1897, this text is no less valuable and to the credit of its author.

 

The death of Mr. Martin (7-29-1894) leaves Céline with the freedom to follow her vocation. "She was ready to fly far to find Jesus, but Jesus made her fly close ... He just accepted the great sacrifice which was very painful for little Thérèse. "(Ms. A, 82 v °)  In these few lines of 1895, Thérèse recalled Fr. Pichon’s project that awaited Céline in Canada to found a kind of secular institute before the letter. The three sisters Thérèse were waiting for Céline in Carmel! This was as well her deep desire. It seems that no one informed Mother Marie de Gonzague of Father Pichon’s plan: "Poor mother, she knows nothing at all ... you see how we are discrete" (LT 168). However, she is informed, before sending the letter to Mr. Céline Delatroëtte, requesting admission to the Carmel, even as converse. "Mother M. de G. cried while reading your letter" (ibid.). She will throw in the balance all the weight of her prestige with the superior who fears however that "the entry of a fourth sister is opposed to the spirit and even the letter of the Rule." Fr. Delatroëtte keeps from dealing "with whom this serious and important issue may concern" (CG II, 783). Bishop Hugonin -the "whom this may concern" - grants admission to Celine "as a benefactor." It will result in no privilege for the new postulant, which thus brings to five recruits the young battalion entrusted to Mother Marie de Gonzague.

The prioress, Mother Agnès of Jesus, with all the more reason renews for Celine the decision made three months earlier corcerning Marie of the Trinity. Thérèse will be her "angel" but, in fact, with full power to her spiritual training, in parallel with that provided by the Mistress title. Immense joy for Thérèse. How often had she not dreamed of it! "Ah! if my Céline was there with me! But no! It would be too great a happiness on the earth ... And it seemed like an impossible dream. Yet it was not by nature I desired this happiness, it was for her soul, that she walk our path ... And when I saw her come in here, not just in, but given to instruct me completely of all things; when I saw that God was doing this, exceeding my desires, I realized how immense the love he has for me ... "(CJ 16.7.2)

In fact, the sisters resume their spiritual conversations Belvedere (1887), extended since then with frequent parlors. Mother Marie de Gonzague cannot but agree. But the role of trainer itself, granted to Thérèse, did deploy gradually, as evidenced by an interesting episode about the "method" of the Mistress title.

We are at the end of February 1895 or early March. Thérèse just composed one of her most beautiful poems: Living on love! Sister Marie of the Trinity is so excited that she dreams of it ... One night she commented in a dream for her younger sister on one of the most beautiful verses of Thérèse: "Loving you, Jesus, what a fruitful loss! "" I felt good, says the novice, my words penetrated her soul and I was thrilled with joy." (Ms. C, 24 ° v) Bright Idea; after Lent, Marie of the Trinity would write to her sister telling her that "Jesus wants everything for Himself." Agreed, replied Thérèse, but we must first "ask permission of our Mother" (how novices call their mistress at the time). Mother Marie de Gonzague is surprised by such a premature request because Lent is far from coming to an end. She answers the novice, "It was not by letters that the Carmelites must save souls but by prayer" (C, 25 r °). We are now seeing the good sense of Mother Marie de Gonzague and especially her Carmelite sense: priority of prayer over any other form of apostolate. Thérèse tells us the outcome of the case; by prayer alone and before any letter, the sister of Mary of the Trinity dedicates herself to God before the end of Lent: "It was a miracle of grace" (ibid).

 

By introducing this episode in her Manuscript C, Thérèse said: "I took care of the only novice who was here and whose angel I was" (C, 24 ° v). Indeed, Martha and Marie Magdalene, both professed, are strictly speaking not "novices", or at least Thérèse is no longer involved in their training. She even seems to forget her dear Céline, who took the habit February 5th, 1895 and takes little care of her. Sister Marie of the Trinity was especially entrusted to her.

 

Saints

Did Mother Marie de Gonzague have knowledge of Thérèse’s offering to the merciful Love? The earliest days, probably not. It is Mother Agnès, prioress, who Thérèse speaks to on June 9, 1895, especially to ask permission to include her sister Céline in such an important move. But soon after, Sister Genevieve expressed her happiness to her spiritual father, then Father Lemonnier of Deliverande, who replied promptly (CG II, 808). As a Mistress, Mother Marie de Gonzague sees all mail of the novices, incoming and outbound. So she is informed.  

A few days later, on June 14th, making her Stations of the Cross, Thérèse receives the wound of love that consecrates her offering and designates her - without her knowledge - as a leader of a spiritual lineage. Would this grace of a high intensity have physical repercussions that Mother Marie de Gonzague would have noticed? An oral tradition establishes a link between the aforementioned "wound of love" and the note that follows (see CG II, 809 s.). It is worth quoting in full because it tells us about the mentality or the spirituality of the Novice Mistress. "J.M.J.T. From what I was told tonight, I am happily mistaken, my double novice and beloved daughter has nothing but fatigue. Thanks be to God ...

"I prefer the wounds done to my daughter to the wound of poor Mother Saint Ephrem [religious of Providence of Lisieux - Mother Geneviève had written her - see here]. O child, how there are illusions in these heads filled with great things ... How we are happy to prefer the cheerfulness, simplicity of our Holy Mother compared to all these devotions that tire, even to hear about them. How she knew how to unite kindness that charms the heart with her paths, she knew how to love and be loved! Long live her drum and her flute ... These lines were started last night but our beloved little Mother came to rest on the heart of her poor and unworthy old maid; I have left my daughter for my mother by loving both from the bottom of my heart.

"Let us be saints, but not by a false devotion.

Your poor mother"

 

A 6th novice (August 15th, 1895)   

Marie Guérin had felt her Carmelite vocation confirmed by attending on September 24th, 1890 Thérèse’s taking of the veil. Her entrance took place in 1893 without a "mucous fever" which weakened her for several months. In 1895, she seems strong enough for the rigors of the Rule. But four sisters and a cousin in an average of 25 community members, isn’t it a lot? And the door to the creation of a "clan"? Mother Marie de Gonzague did not seem to think so at the time. No doubt her credibility with the superior and the bishop weighed in favor of the admission - as "benefactress" also.

The small group that enlivens the Mistress with much youthfulness of heart is thus enriched by a sixth member. The average age is twenty-five (Therese is only twenty-two and a half). Even more than Mother Marie de Gonzague, Thérèse feels herself fulfilled; in full discovery of her little way, she attempts to make her companions followers. In fact she really only succeeds with sister Geneviève and especially the youngest of the group, Marie of the Trinity.

*

To the author of these lines who asked Sister Geneviève, octogenarian, 30 years ago about Mother Marie de Gonzague, she replied with conviction: "But we loved her! But you would have loved her! Only - she continued with an appropriate facial expression – she was feared as a storm is feared when you have no umbrella ... "

 

(Unfinished text - Sr. Cecile (1929-2010) Carmelite of Lisieux)

 

Back to the page of Marie de Gonzague


 

On the threshold of 1873, a Thérèse is born, a Thérèse dies.

In Alençon, the ninth child of the Martins smiled at life on January 2nd. Through her the Carmel of Lisieux will acquire a worldwide fame.

In Lisieux, the first professed of the monastery, Mother Thérèse of St. Joseph, died on February 6th at 64. Without her, this Carmel would not even exist. It’s from her in fact, and her sister (Marie of the Cross), that the initiative of a foundation in that city came. The Carmel of Poitiers was the providential instrument. It would not have voluntarily assumed the burden.

In October 1874 Mother Thérèse of St. Geneviève, 69, completed her second triennium. She cannot be re-elected. Who to choose?

 

October 28th, 1874: a consoling election   

The Community then has twenty nuns, fifteen choir sisters and five converses. One is mentally ill and four young trainees "have no voice in the chapter" (for voting). Of the ten fully professed voting members, once excluding the outgoing prioress or the very ill (Adelaïde, for example), there remain  eight eligible then by rank of profession: St. Joseph, Sisters Fébronie, Isabelle of the Angels then sub- prioress, St. Stanislas, Marie de Gonzague, Mary of St. Joseph (Regnault), Mary of the Angels (29 years old), Saint-Raphael. The choice is not an issue, "Sister Marie de Gonzague was elected prioress, Mother Geneviève 1st bursar and Sister Stanislas 3rd bursar. These elections gave a great consolation to the Superior," say the Chronicles. Mother Isabelle is kept in the position of sub-prioress that she has held since the summer of 1872. She died in it June 24th, 1877, at age 62. Mother Geneviève was appointed mistress of the novitiate. The new prioress is 40 years. Fr. Delatroëtte is happy.

 

First daughters

It is a great time for a prioress, especially newly elected. Receive a profession, admit a postulant, help a dying person, it makes her experience her spiritual motherhood in a vital way. She can better determine her responsibility towards her sisters, her "daughters"; she must precede and accompany them on the path of love. She must each day develop or restore fellowship, without respect of persons, with an unbiased justice. St. Teresa of Avila gives to the prioresses of her reform the golden rule: to be loved and to be obeyed.

Mother Marie de Gonzague has an innate authority. She is made to order, protect, to lead. Distinguished, she does not dominate, she emerges. No one would say she "reigns". Writing and pictures show this. Facts will confirm it.

She soon has the joy of greeting two novices, Thérèse of Jesus and Mary Margaret, March 18th, 1875. She opens the cloister door to the young Thérèse of St. Augustine, 19, soon conquered by the charm of her prioress. April 21st, 1876, it will be the turn of Sister St. John of the Cross.

 

First feast     

The celebration of a mother is that of the whole family. It was no different with the feast of the prioress. The feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, June 21st, becomes in 1875 a joyous day, on rue Livarot. It will be twenty more times. Theresa will participate in her time. We know the importance in her life of June 21st, 1888 and 1896, for example (cf. Theatre au Carmel).

In 1875, Pius IX grants the Catholic world the indulgences of a great Jubilee. To emphasize the "great favor" the young Carmelite chaplain, Father Youf (33 years old and 2 on this job) offers this June 21st "a magnificent portrait of His Holiness" to Mother Marie de Gonzague. She has it placed inside the interior oratory.

 

July 7th, 1875: a catastrophic flood

A storm of unusual violence rumbled uninterrupted July 7th from one to eight o’clock. A downpour falls in the evening between Bernay and Lisieux. Located in the basin, Carmel is submerged in a quarter of an hour. At eleven o’clock, the flow reaches 6 feet in the monastery (about 1.80 m). The community took refuge upstairs. Will the two turn sisters be drowned outside? Mother Marie de Gonzague has the wooden grille upstairs of the Superior’s parlor sawed to collect the "shipwrecked" into the cloister; they were already knee deep. But the chapel? The young Marie of the Angels, very thin, proposes to slip in through the tiny door for passing things through. She takes the ciborium that Mother Isabelle carries to the tribunal of the chapter room, above the ante-choir. That's where we regrouped in an intense prayer.

 

The violence of the waves broke the big workers gate. And the cloister? Mother Marie de Gonzague proceeded to go close the gate, helped by a sister. She has to turn back. The water rushes down the stairs noisily. And the flood still grows! The prioress then made a vow in the presence of all. They will have 15 Masses said for the souls in purgatory. They will also offer a novena of communions and fasting. "This vow was a barrier that the water respected so much that at 4 am it was entirely gone." Alas! A new "mortal anxiety" replaces the previous one; Mother Marie de Gonzague felt "very guilty" for having taken the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Delatroëtte, arrived on the scene at six o'clock in the morning, reassures and approves all her initiatives.

But what a sight! Loose paving stones in the refectory and cloisters, the garden turned upside down. "A foul and oily mud" has invaded the entire ground floor. Gendarme Bugeau notes the damage and makes a report. President MacMahon will send an emergency 1000 francs. It will take more than a year to absorb the moisture.

In Alençon, Madame Martin was concerned for the Guérin pharmacy, situated on higher ground, which did not suffer. She finds the moral of the story: "These are great scourges, but the wicked do not benefit. "(Letter of 7-11-1875.) She sends her contribution to" those flooded in Lisieux. "

 

Completion of the Monastery (1876-1877)

 

"A time to destroy, a time to build." A flood submerged the first wing of the monastery. To St. Médard (simple coincidence ...) was entrusted the foundation stone of the new buildings (6-8-1876). For it is not enough to repair. Vocations look to be numerous. It is time to complete a regular monastery. The funds are lacking but the prioress moves forward with resolution. By mail, she begs tirelessly from Carmels and old friends from her youth; noble women and wealthy ladies will answer her call. No doubt that a methodical "research of writings" would update an epistolary collection invaluable for the knowledge of its author and this almost unexplored time period in the history of Carmel.

The parlor also requires Mother Marie de Gonzague "to deal with material issues, solicitations multiplied to obtain the essential funds, declarations of gratitude which then engendered a lot of conversations." (André Noché). "More than is desirable for a Carmelite?" This would cause her complaints. The interviews, moreover, willingly turn into spiritual direction. St. Teresa of Avila first experienced the same obligations, pitfalls and constraints.

The "bold project" takes shape in less than eighteen months. The two new wings are blessed September 30th, 1877 (twenty years to the day before the death of Thérèse). Stage right: a cloister along a single ground floor. The Doctors Notta and James recommended not building the planned floor: "The air would be too concentrated, the monastery would not have this safety if necessary for the health of the sisters. "A terrace therefore covers the hermitage of the Sacred Heart and the two adjacent apartments. Thérèse will love praying there on summer evenings.

The fourth side of the quadrangle is that of the infirmaries. It offers, on the upper floor, "a beautiful chapter room, a library, a working space for the sacristy and five cells."

On September 30th, Fr. Delatroëtte and Fr. Youf accompanied by sisters in cloaks and veils, also bless the granite Calvary. The figure of Christ was given by the family of Thérèse of St. Augustin. With this Calvary, "its lawn and sandy paths," the courtyard gives the monastery "a religious and severe appearance" soon brightened flowers.

The triennium ends. Circumstances have allowed the young prioress to manifest her talents. It is the community to decide. Its vote confirms her success. November 10th, 1877, "the elections were held, Mother Marie de Gonzague was re-elected prioress, Sister Fébronie the Holy Childhood was elected sub-prioress, Mother Geneviève reelected 1st bursar and Sister St. Stanislas reelected 3rd bursar. The agreement that reigned in these elections was very consoling for Superior and Chapter members."

The nest finished, birds can fly to it and multiply...

 

A second mother

 

Mother Agnès would one day give to Mother Marie de Gonzague the title of "second mother of our Carmel". It takes on a strange resonance when one considers the Martin girls. In those weeks when erecting a cross at Carmel crowns forty years of efforts, Mr. Martin and his five daughters climb another Calvary. Death strikes Madame Martin, less than 46 years old on August 28th, 1877. Her brother, Isidore Guérin, a pharmacist of Lisieux, discovered on September 10, not far from home, the perfect dwelling for the bereaved family; the Buissonets. They take possession on November 16th, ten days after the re-election of one who would one day become a "second mother" to four of the five orphans: Pauline Martin (1882), Marie (1886), Thérèse (1888), Céline (1894). There is a mystery in the synchronicity.

 

A five year triennium (11-10-1877 to 1-28-1883)  

 

Here is Mother Marie de Gonzague re-elected prioress for three years on November 10th, 1877. If "the harmony which reigned in these elections was very consoling for the Superior and chapter members" (AL, March 1986), we bet it was no less so for the prioress. She has a great need of another's trust. It will one day be her stumbling block.

 

The interest of the circulars

 

The Carmel archives have only 26 letters of Mother Marie de Gonzague (inventory of 1973 in CG II, 1245). It is very little. Nearly all have been published in the Centennial Edition or Vie théresienne. To know her style a little - also very marked by the romance - they still have twelve circular obituaries printed with her name between 1877 and 1898. In these biographical sketches, destined for other Carmels, the prioress is often involved (this then goes for any writer, whatever her monastery). Here is the story of the death of Mother Isabelle, after an ill-defined disease of thirty-three years, ending in twenty-four hours of terrible vomiting, June 24th, 1877:

"Returning close to this bed of pain for all our hearts, it did not take us long to see that the last moment was approaching; we had the community summoned and around 7 o’clock in the evening together with the dear dying person, we repeated again for her the prayers of the recommendation of the soul ... the supreme moment had arrived! ! ! Oh how touching were these last moments! Kneeling beside her bed, we held her dying in our arms, we pressed her against our heart, watered her with our tears, brought to mind comforting words, saying to her the Name of He who had been her all on earth and to which her beautiful soul flew to receive the reward of virtue. The sobs of all the Community spoke again the affection of all hearts to this good Mother. "Despite the consoling impression this sweet death left us, we beg you, my Reverend Mother, to have offered as soon as possible the prayers of our holy Order for our dear Mother Sub-Prioress; etc. »

 

Homecoming 

The rather special conditions under which the foundation of Caen had taken place - with the approval of the Superior of Lisieux - had left a certain awkwardness. After the death of Fr. Cagniard (7-20-1870), epistolary relationships had virtually ceased between the two monasteries. Once prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague, who retained a great affection for Mother Marie-Baptiste (left for Caen October 19th, 1868), worked to revive the fraternal bonds. The union of the two Carmels would prove to be unfailing. Similar reunion with one of the founders of Saigon. Only she persevered with Mother Philomène since 1861, the young Xavier Heart of Jesus. There was an extraordinary heroism. The two Carmelites had the personality and virtue required for such an undertaking. The downside: over the years, "Paul and Barnabas" had need of separate apostolates, in their own way. Mother Xavier had long dreamed of founding a Carmel in Jerusalem. Negative circumstances can also be providential. So she left Saigon in 1872, returned to France, passes through Lisieux, her hometown, not daring to knock at Carmel. She set foot in the Holy City on August 26, 1874. To build the monastery on the Mount of Olives (founded with the assistance of Carmel of Carpentras), she must beg from the Carmels in France. Delicate situation vis-à-vis Lisieux. Then one day, a nice surprise, Mother Xavier told to a friend: "In the same mail, we received a letter from the Carmel of Lisieux; it is Mademoiselle Virville who is Prioress, Sister Marie de Gonzague. We were novices together. She had to write to them as with all other Carmelites at the risk of offending more than ever. Their response was done mail by mail, and was very friendly (...). I’m going to take advantage of the nice reception to get closer to them. Our Mother asked me to thank them for the promised 25 francs, which is a good opportunity for me; I'll take the opportunity to explain certain things that must have been incomprehensible to them. "(Letter to Madame de Preaulx May 24th, 1877.)

 

The warm relations between Lisieux and Jerusalem will continue beyond the death of Mother Xavier (1889). So, in 1896-1897, Mother Marie de Gonzague will often speak of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, her "angel", will send her poems and inform them of her illness and death.

 

Family Dates

 

Entrances, professions, many celebrations follow in succession. A simple enumeration: Mother Marie de Gonzague receives the vows of Thérèse of St. Augustin on May 1st, 1877, those of Sister Saint John of the Cross on January 17th, 1878. She receives on January 3rd, 1879 a widow aged 50, Sister Marie -Emmanuel, who will profess on October 7th, 1880. For the prioress’s feast Day, June 21st, 1878, a novice who was not able to persevere, Marie Gahéry, offers a sculpted group of the Sacred Heart appearing to Margaret Mary. No artistic merit, it has value today as a remembrance; it is at her feet that Mother Agnès of Jesus will beg for Thérèse, September 30th, 1897, to have the strength to endure to the end her terrible agony.

 

Like the morning star

 

The very first turn sister, Sister Louise (who wore the Falaise headdress of her native country), died March 25th, 1878. Did her companion, Sister Desirée notice one summer afternoon of 1879 in the courtyard of the chapel "a nice old man" giving his hand to a beautiful little girl? During their daily walk, Monsieur Martin and the "little queen" enter the chapel of Carmel for the first time. "Papa showed me the choir grille, telling me that behind it were religious. I was far from suspecting that nine years later I would be among them! "(Ms A, 14 r °.)" This little star will become brighter in the Church of God ... It is still only the morning star in the middle of a small cloud. But one day it will fill the House of the Lord. "(Fr. Louis, Passionist, 11-30-1898). Who can foresee it then?

 

Macabre interlude

 

Mother Isabelle had been buried inside the cloister in June 1877 like her predecessors. A public funeral, certainly, since it was presided over by the Superior accompanied by numerous clergy of the city. But they failed - and that since 1870 - to seek permission from the City Council. A new city council, nothing less than clerical takes argument to request in February 1878, the exhumation of the entire convent cemetery (nine sisters). Great anxiety for Mother Marie de Gonzague. Controversy in the local press, for or against the decision ... After three months of alarms, the storm subsides. "Let the dead sleep in peace among their sisters!" But they will no longer bury in the cloister. The deceased will be buried in the city cemetery. In 1897, Monsieur Guerin will buy a small enclosure there for the Carmelites. Thérèse will be the first on October 4th.

 

Where they played around with extensions

 

Mother Marie de Gonzague was prioress for three six year terms in accordance with the Constitutions: 1874-1880; 1886-1892; 1896-1902. The first six-year term was extended for two years (and 2 months) by Bishop Hugonin, at the request of the community, because of the misfortunes of the times. The second will be a year of "entreaties" from the sisters after the terrible influenza of the winter 91-92. Of these extensions, we can deduce that Mother Marie de Gonzague always managed to retain power. Obsessed, in short, with a belief like, "If I go, everything collapses!" Let’s leave to the 'witness' responsibility for her assertion. The generous Providence will indeed good measure to compensate for this "abuse" in 1923, the community will request confirmation from the priory life of Mother Agnès of Jesus. She will thus carry the load in 1893-1896; 1902-1908, 1909-1951 without interruption. Unique in the annals of the Order. Let us return to chronicle: "In the same year 1880 ended the second triennium of the Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzague; the times were too unhappy to think about having an election. The  Community, happy under the administration of this good Mother, asked for the extension of her position, which the Bishop granted for 2 years.

"This really bad year for religious orders saw all the men of convents expelled; women seemed to have the same fate, which caused consternation in the Carmel. "Already preparing civilian clothes for dispersal.”

In November 1880, changes in power would have had Mother Geneviève of Saint Thérèse take charge (no others eligible at the time). She is now 75 years and has many infirmities. Would the community have felt more secure, in such conditions, with a prioress, 46, who has the upper hand, initiative, high connections? Simple question. Doubts remain, however. We read: "Community, happy under the government of this good Mother (Marie de Gonzague)." Is it possible? Would it not be a misdeal?

 

In 1947, "Mother Agnès of Jesus, consulted about the truth of this passage said she and the sisters united with Mother Geneviève in regards to Mother Marie de Gonzague and the strange contrasts of a great affection and suffering of shocks caused by the swings of her unfortunate personality. Mother Marie de Gonzague was not afraid of Mother Geneviève, but wasn’t jealous of her. "(Geneviève, Note) Interesting text. If we proceed by elimination, the only one prioress who caused jealousy was Mother Agnès (1893-1896). God be praised; we still (in 1880) have thirteen years of respite before us.

At the request of the community and with the approval of Bishop Hugonin, Mother Marie de Gonzague thus sees her second term as prioress extended for two years (16-11-1880). Providential situation that will allow her to welcome two "postulants" of the Buissonets ... but let’s follow her for a few moments with her sisters.

 

Good Samaritan

 

St. Teresa of Avila recommends in her Constitutions to care for the sick sisters "with much love, compassion and good treatment in accordance with our poverty" (Chap. XII). We should add with the remedies of the time. It is like that that Mother Marie de Gonzague cares for three of her sisters, who die in 1880-1882.

Sister Adelaïde of Providence first. A true saint. Stricken in 1875 with a cancer of the face (for which Dr. Notta advised against an operation), and a "cancer within", endured great suffering with heroic patience. The last few months, this almost illiterate sister pours her heart out in innocent poetry. She dedicates it to the Prioress (whom she addressed in an intimate way for the circumstance):

Oh! It is to you that I speak, my tender Samaritan whose care filled with tenderness surrounds me around at night, in the morning (...)

I hear you, O good Mother. Come, come, my good Samaritan who gives herself entirely to me wishing to be my sweet support. Etc.

The community participates in the Sunday Eucharist, July 17, 1881, when the last moment comes. "Left alone with her, we (the Prioress) received her last breath just as the priest was giving Holy Communion to all our sisters. It would be impossible to say what we felt at that moment so painful for the mother's heart. "(Sister Adelaïde, Circular.)

The previous year, Mother Marie de Gonzague had already assisted Marie of St. Joseph with the great crossing (August 15th, 1880), who died of breast cancer at age 45. The tumor had taken on "enormous proportions". The last few days, the patient (who never complained ...) asked her prioress "with touching tenderness not to leave her."  “Oh, my Mother,” she told us often”, you will always have our sisters, but soon you will not have me any more, do not leave me! "... It would have been difficult for us - concludes Mother Marie de Gonzague – to not come as our beloved daughter wished. "(Circular).

Since 1849, Sister Marie of the Cross (Gosselin) lived as a recluse in her cell. "Her intelligence was locked in a dungeon that prevented the intellectual light to dispel the hallucinations that made the practice (Sacraments) impossible." From 1866, she refused any visit; neither confessor, or doctor, or superior, not even her own sister.

She only accepted Sainte Geneviève of Saint Thérèse and her nurse (Sister Adelaïde and Sister Marie of the Angels). At the end of 1881, she declined visibly. Mother Geneviève complained to the Lord to carry alone such a responsibility. Suddenly, on January 1, 1882, Sister Marie of the Cross called, "I want to see my Mother Marie de Gonzague." (She barely recognized her) "This is very good Mother promptly went to her dear daughter’s side and until her death she had the consolation of giving her care that the patient received with great happiness. (...) The good God having perfectly restored peace to this dear victim, her death was so mild that Mother Prioress who was near her with Mother Geneviève, was hardly able to perceive her last breath." This was January 28th, 1882.

Later, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, second nurse to Mother Geneviève (December 5th, 1891), will witness the vigils and fatigues of Mother Marie de Gonzague at her bedside. Sister Geneviève will pay tribute to the care, as novice, she received from the same prioress. As for the way Thérèse will be treated by the Prioress in 1897 - who they wanted to pass off as an executioner - simply reread Last Conversations, including letters written daily (pp 665-774). The facts speak for themselves.

 

The daughter crowns the Mother

 

Mother Geneviève had made profession July 22nd, 1831 in the Carmel of Poitiers. The year 1881 was therefore that of her golden wedding. "For a long time we were waiting with a holy impatience for the happy day when we would be able to celebrate the fiftieth of our Venerable Mother Geneviève." The prioress spares nothing to give all its brilliance to the founder of jubilee. Monastery decorated (they spent the day before and part of the night), gifts, solemn offices, etc. The most moving moment was when Mother Geneviève renewed her vows "in the hands of the one she herself had consecrated as bride of Jesus a few years earlier:

When the daughter crowned Mother

When in her hands

She received her vows

Oh! The moment was not of the earth

Very sweet tears flowed from every eye.

"In her name and on behalf of the community, Mother Marie de Gonzague addresses words to the jubilarian dictated with tender affection, the most exquisite delicacy, the brightest and the most profound veneration recognition." Unfortunately this exhortation has not been found. A solemn Mass was crowded with "a large and distinguished throng." Was there some representative from the Buissonets? No document allows us check that.

 

Swallow of a new spring

 

Sister Marie of the Cross, one of the two founding benefactors of Lisieux, entered into the light January 28th, 1882. On February 16th, Pauline Martin attends Mass at 6:00 at St. Jacques Church with her father and her sister Marie. She is twenty years ago. She is quietly waiting for her 22nd or 23 birthday to enter the Le Mans Visitation. "Suddenly, she said, there was a very bright light in my soul, God clearly showed me that it was not at the Visitation he wanted me, but in Carmel. (...) I never thought of Carmel, and in an instant I found myself there, drawn by an irresistible attraction. "The same day, Pauline – a woman of resolution - confides her secret to Marie and Monsieur Martin. Soon she will ring at rue Livarot. "On my first visit to the Carmel of Lisieux, I was not expecting to do anything but ask the Mother Prioress of Carmel to introduce me to Caen for they had told me that places were lacking in Lisieux.

"Mother Marie de Gonzague who was prioress appeared very kind and told me not to think of Caen, she would find me a cell in her monastery. It was in the parlor then, I think that she gave me a small holy card that delighted me:

Dream of youth. The Shepherdess. A shepherdess dreamed ... and she told me that I would be called Sister Agnès of Jesus." ( Souvenirs intimes de Mère Agnès de Jésus)

In 1897, Thérèse will write to her "little mother", "privileged of our family, you who show us the way as the swallow we always see at the head of her companions and trace in the air the way that must lead us to our new home." (LT 216) Indeed, the first" swallow "of Buissonets doesn’t come alone!

A nine year old postulant 

On June 26th, 1882 Sister Emmanuel of the Presentation died in the Carmel of Coutances, one of the founders given by Lisieux in 1866. Mother Heart of Jesus, very tired, then asked to return to her religious cradle. It was in July, Sister Veronica, extern sister in Coutances, accompanies her. In Lisieux, in the Turn building she meets "a graceful child dressed in blue with her beautiful blond hair on her back. It was Thérèse Martin." She is presented to Véronique as a future novice; Véronique and said pleasantly, "My little girl, you will still eat many bowls of soup before entering Carmel! »

Without a doubt it is shortly after this meeting that the "little girl" must face another, a decisive one, that of Mother Marie de Gonzague. She has "big secrets" to tell her (Ms 1, 26 r °). Let’s be patient a bit, before entering the parlor...

 

6. First encounters with little Thérèse (1882-1883)

 

So we left St. Therese with the turn sisters. It's a Sunday in summer of 1882, probably in July. With an amazing presence of mind, the child has invented a small ploy to leave her cousin, Marie Guérin at the door (Ms. A, 26 v °). She is introduced alone in the parlor where Mother Marie de Gonzague, age forty eight, receives her, a prioress "on borrowed time".

 

First face to face

The Story of a Soul can reconstruct the "big secrets" of the girl. Shortly before, she learned by surprise of the upcoming departure of Pauline for Carmel: "It was as if a sword had plunged into her heart ..." Pauline tenderly consoled her and "explained the life of Carmel ". Thérèse thought about it in her heart and she says, "I felt that Carmel was a desert where God wanted me to go as hide ... I felt so strongly that there was no doubt in my heart. " I want to be a Carmelite, "not for Pauline but Jesus only." The day after this grace, the child told her secret to "Pauline who, looking upon (these) desires as the will of Heaven, said that soon she would go with her to see the Mother Prioress of Carmel and should say what the Good God made her feel ... "(Cf. Ms. A, 26 r °) Well, it's done, she entrusted her secret.

Mother Marie de Gonzague listened carefully. No doubt she had the same impression that Pauline little before: Thérèse speaks the truth. Already in April 1877 during the first "confession" about her vocation, the four year old had struck Pauline by her seriousness: "She looked at me thoughtfully. Her little face had an expression so candid, all she told me came so well from the bottom of the heart that it was impossible to not take an interest "(Pauline’s letter to Louise Magdelaine April 4th, 1877).

The Prioress of Carmel is immediately convinced. "God put in her heart a deep knowledge of souls," wrote Thérèse novice (LT 93, 7-14-1889). She knows from that day she is in the presence of an authentic being, totally true. She believes Thérèse. She believes in Thérèse. It would be like this until September 30th, 1897.

"Mother Marie de Gonzague believed in my vocation, but she told me they didn’t accept 9 year old postulants and I would have to wait until I turned 16. ... I resigned myself despite my strong desire to enter as soon as possible and to make my first Communion on the day of Pauline taking the habit.” (Ms. A 26 v°)

 

“My little girl”

 

Pauline entered the Carmel October 2nd, 1882, "a day of tears and blessings" (Ms A, 26 v °). Huge heartbreak in the life of the child. Soon after, Thérèse again sees Mother Marie de Gonzague in the parlor, accompanied this time by the whole community, curious to meet the little sister of Sister Agnès of Jesus, the nine year old postulant! The prioress asked the sisters what name to give her, when the day comes. Then, "the thought came to her of calling her the name she had dreamed of". Thérèse of the Child Jesus (cf. Ms. A, 31 v °). Great joy for little Thérèse!

But soon the psychological problems arise. The girl resents the authority - a little irksome – of her new "mom" at the Buissonets, Marie; and the memory of Pauline becomes obsessive. Confided to Mother Marie de Gonzague continue writing. Thérèse opens the dialogue (we correct the mistakes ...)

"My dear Mother, it’s been a long time since I saw you, so I am glad to write you to tell you my little concerns. Pauline told me you were on retreat and I have come to ask you to pray the baby Jesus for me because I have many faults and I want to correct myself.

"I have to make my confession to you. For some time now I always reply back when Marie tells me to do something. It seems that when Pauline was small and she apologized to my aunt of Le Mans, she told her, "As many holes as pegs,"(an old expression for making excuses). But me, it's much worse. Also I want to correct myself and in every little hole put a pretty little flower that I will offer to baby Jesus to prepare for my First Communion. Mother dear, you will pray for this? Oh yes, that beautiful moment will come soon and how happy I will be when little Jesus comes into my heart to have so many beautiful flowers to offer him.

"Goodbye, dear Mother. I embrace you tenderly as I love you.

Your little girl Teresita. "(LT 9, November-December 1882)

 

Wonderful frankness! This is a future Carmelite who does not take detours to beat her breast (admit her guilt). Even more wonderful is the audacity. Already, this little Therese, who changes her faults into flowers to offer to Jesus...

But soon, the continual headaches affect the health of the child. It's time for Mother Marie de Gonzague to put pen to paper:

"I learned that my little girl Thérèse of the Child Jesus wasn’t sleeping a lot and she was ill; I just tell my angel of a child that she must not think all day of Agnès of Jesus, our little heart would tire and could harm our health! ...

"I allow my future daughter to think of her holy Carmelite sister before Jesus in her heart but never at night; Thérèse will sleep all night, will eat all that her beloved sister Marie wants her to eat and from now on, in preparation for her First Communion, she will be very obedient.

"If my darling little girl follows what I advise her to do, it will strengthen her health and she able to come find her Agnès of Jesus and, like her, become a good and fervent Spouse of Jesus! ! !

"I kiss you with all my heart, angel child, and pray to Jesus to bless his little bride. (...).

"You have a big place in my heart.

"My Theresa, let’s love Jesus well.

Sr. Marie de Gonzague R. C. ind. »

(LC 6, end Dec 1882 or January 1883;. GC I, p 135).

Motherly affection, educator virility, common sense: the tone is set. Thus, Mother Marie de Gonzague will treat "her child angel" to the end.

 

Our good mother    

On January 31st, 1883 the community elections were held. "Mother Geneviève was elected prioress, Sister Marie of the Angels Sub-Prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague 1st bursar and Sr Fébronie third bursar.” Furthermore, Mother Geneviève of Saint Thérèse, previously novice mistress, entrusts this duty to Mother Marie de Gonzague.

What request did she receive from her Teresita? She did not keep her letter, but replied, one morning during Lent at dawn:

"My dear little Teresita,

"I embrace you with all my heart love you very much; after Easter I will see you, and I will give you a good answer, according to your wishes; hope and confidence!

"The holy time of penance forces me to silence today; you can write to me as often as your little heart pleases; our good Mother is quite happy with our relationship, darling angel ...

Your Mother Sister Marie de Gonzague R. C. ind.

"I am writing with eyes of faith, I cannot see, it's 5:30 and I’m without light.

"Let us sleep well and eat a lot!" (SC 9, GC I, pp. 138 s.)

But the time for advice is no more. In the midst of all these "mothers" lost and found, at the Buissonets or Carmel, the heart of little Therese cannot withstand it. Her nerves come undone on Easter evening, March 25th, 1883.

 

 

 

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