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Officially appointed Witness 1 - Armand-Constant Le Monnier

 

The first officially appointed witness was Father Armand-Constant Lemonnier (or Le Monnier, as the Trial copyist wrote). Born in Vassy (Diocese of Bayeux) on 1st November 1841, he entered the Congregation of Our Lady in La Délivrande very young and was ordained priest on 15th June 1867. A much appreciated preacher and director of spiritual exercises, he was esteemed by eminent men, including dom Vital Lehodey, a Father at the Trappist Abbey of Bricquebec, and theologian on the subject of abandonment to Providence. The Separation of Church and State in 1904 brought about the dissolution of the Congregation of La Délivrande and Father Lemonnier had to leave the Marian shrine of Bayeux. Hence after having worked some fourteen years in the secondary schools of his Institute and about twenty years in the service of diocesan missions, he was nominated chaplain of the Nuns of the Holy Family in Bayeux. He testified in both Theresian Trials and died on 20th February 1917*.

He directed the spiritual exercises at the Carmel of Lisieux in 1893, 1894 and 1895, which gave him the opportunity to become more familiar with the monastery, and also hear Thérèse’s confession and come into contact with the Martin family. He was also Céline’s director for a time and was instrumental in her admission to the Carmel. It was to him that Mother Agnès submitted the entitled “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love” during the exercises of October 1895. He in turn submitted it for examination to his Superior who was also called Lemonnier and who famously changed the expression “infinite desires” into “immense desires”.

Among other things, the witness recalled Father Youf’s extraordinary esteem for Thérèse and her method of training the novices.

He testified on 7th April 1911, in the 75th session, pp. 1185v-1189v of our Public Copy.

[Session 75: - 7th April 1911, at 8:30am]

[1185v] [The officially appointed witness answers the first question correctly].

[Answer to the second question]:

My name is Armand-Constant Le Monnier, I was born in Vassy, in the Diocese of Bayeux, on the first of November 1841, of the legitimate marriage between Auguste Le Monnier, a farmer, and Victoire Groult. I am a priest, and was ordained on 15th June 1867. I belonged [1186r] to the Congregation of diocesan Missionaries of Our Lady in La Délivrande. Since its dispersion (1904), I’ve been chaplain for the Nuns of the Holy Family, at the convent Notre Dame de la Délivrande. I spent the best part of my sacerdotal life in secondary education (about 14 years) and carrying out diocesan missions (20 years).  

[The witness answers questions three to seven correctly].

[Answer to the eighth question]:

On three occasions, in 1893, 1894 and 1895, I preached and directed the annual retreat at the Carmel of Lisieux. It was in these circumstances that I directed and heard the confession of the Servant of God and of the other nuns in the monastery, who then gave me their impressions on the Servant of God and on the community as a whole. It was also on this occasion that I spoke to Father Youf, who was the ordinary chaplain of the Carmel and who died in October 1897; he also shared with me his opinions on Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and on the community. [1186v] At that time I also knew the Servant of God’s Carmelite sisters, as well as the other members of her family, notably her sister Céline before she entered the Carmel, and her sister Léonie, a nun of the Visitation convent in Caen. I’ve partially read “Story of a Soul”, but I haven’t used it for my testimony.

[Answer to the ninth question]:

I trust the Servant of God, but I haven’t adopted any personal devotional practices towards her. I ardently hope and wish that her beatification trial will be successful, for it will, I believe, be for the glory of God and the good of souls, because she has already done a great deal of good to those who pray to her.

[Answer to questions ten to thirteen]:

I don’t know any other details relating to these questions other than what I’ve read in “Story of a Soul”.

[Answer to the fourteenth question]:

[1187r] Among the nuns I direct at the Holy Family in La Délivrande, there is one, Sister Alice Dumoulin, who was the Servant of God’s companion at the Benedictine boarding school in Lisieux, which is known as the “Abbey”. She was then about 7 years old and the Servant of God 10 or 11. Sister Alice Dumoulin often told me that the Servant of God stood out even then on account of her immense piety and her charity towards her young classmates. Sister Alice has a very great devotion for the Servant of God Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

[To questions fifteen to seventeen inclusive, the witness says he knows nothing other than what is related in the book “Story of a Soul”]:

[Answer to the eighteenth question]:

When I preached and directed the Carmel retreats in the years 1893, 1894 and 1895, I learnt from the nuns, when speaking to them privately, that the Servant of God, who was then between 20 and 22 years old, performed the function of Novice Mistress, without holding the title. I noticed that the novices [1187v] trusted her immensely. They considered her very virtuous and very enlightened. Her judgments, especially in things concerning spiritual life, appeared to them to be particularly wise. My personal conviction, which is determined by the knowledge I was able to gain of Sister Thérèse’s temperament, was also that they couldn’t have found a better guide, and I encouraged the nuns to trustingly follow her advice and example. What is also remarkable about this is the opinion that Father Youf, the Carmel’s chaplain, had of her. He was a priest and director of a spirituality that was rather severe. The Servant of God, on the other hand, was an expansive soul and preached trust in everything. It would therefore seem that Father Youf would have been reserved in his judgments about Sister Thérèse’s influence. Yet it was quite the opposite, he expressed to me very plainly, and I can remember this very clearly, that he had absolute trust in the directives that the Servant of God gave the novices. He had also noticed that everything she wrote on spiritual things bore the mark of a very sure and very enlightened doctrine.

[1188r] [Answer to the nineteenth question]

I only know the majority of her writings because they are published in “Story of a Soul”. However, I can relate a fact concerning the “Offering of herself as a Victim of Holocaust to Merciful Love”, which the Servant of God wrote in about June 1895. During the retreat that took place on 8th to 15th October later that year, the Reverend Mother Prioress sent me the text asking whether we could give it as a consecration formula to the nuns who wished to adopt it. I took it and passed it on to the reverend Father Superior of our Congregation for a closer examination. We both thought it very beautiful and perfectly conform to a sound doctrine.

[Answer to questions twenty to twenty-two]:

When communicating with me in spiritual direction, the Servant of God proved very simple and very self-forgetful. She didn’t give me any details about the particular graces she received from God. It was impossible however not to recognize [1188v] an immense fervour in her and the constant care she took to be faithful in all things. As my contact with her was limited to these three retreats, each of which lasted a week, I am not able to provide more details about her inner life or virtues.

[Answer to the twenty-third question].

I mentioned above, in answer to the eighteenth interrogation, what the nuns in her monastery and Father Youf, the Carmel’s chaplain, thought of the Servant of God in 1893-1895. I can add that Father Youf said he believed that the presence of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was a treasure for the Carmel, on account of not only the wisdom of her counsel, but also the influence of her fervour.

[To the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth questions, the witness says he doesn’t know anything].

[Answer to the twenty-sixth question]:

I went to the Servant of God’s grave once, in September 1910; I noticed many people came to pray there during the quarter of an hour [1189r] I was there.

[Answer to the twenty-seventh question]:

In the community of the Holy Family in La Délivrande, where I am chaplain, we allow the faithful, living in the world, to join in our spiritual exercises and who thus, at certain times of the year, come on a retreat. My ministry puts me in contact with a large number of pious people from all over the diocese. I am struck by the intense devotion and trust that the majority of these people show for the Servant of God.

[Answer to the twenty-eighth question]:

I’ve never heard anyone criticize the Servant of God or what is being undertaken in view of obtaining her beatification.

[Answer to the twenty-ninth question]:

I know of her general reputation for miracles that has now become universal and the facts related in different publications, but [1189v] I’ve never personally been in contact with anyone who has received such favours.

[Answer to the thirtieth question]:

I’ve said everything I know.

[Concerning the Articles, the officially appointed witness says he knows nothing other than what he has already deposed in answer to the preceding questions. – Here ends the interrogation of this officially appointed witness. The Acts are read out. The officially appointed witness makes no amendment to them and signs as follows]:

Testis deposui ut supra secundum veritatem, ratum habeo et confirmo.

Signatum: Ar. LE MONNIER