Witness 25 - Adolphe Roulland F.M.P.



The last witness to testify in the Apostolic Process of Bayeux and Lisieux is the well known and friendly “spiritual brother” of Thérèse, Adolphe Jean Roulland of the Foreign Missions of Paris.

Story of a Soul revealed the spiritual relationship that Thérèse had with the young missionary, who was her second spiritual brother, and to whom she wrote six epistolary letters. The new “centenary” edition of Family Correspondence recently publicised the letters that Fr Roulland wrote to Mother Marie de Gonzague and Thérèse, and these reveal his ardent and smiley character. Born in Cahagnolles (Calvados) on 13th October 1870, he joined the Foreign Missions of Paris at a very young age and was ordained priest on 28th June 1896. Shortly beforehand, Mother Marie de Gonzague had given him Thérèse as his sister, describing her as “the best of the nuns” in the Carmelite Convent of Lisieux. On the following 3rd July, Fr Roulland celebrated one of his first Masses in the Carmel and spoke to Thérèse. After a few years in China (1896-1909), he returned to France to work in the service of his Institute. He died in Dormans (Marne) on 12th June 1934.

In his testimony he reiterates the information and facts he had already declared in the 1912 Process. He refers first and foremost to his correspondence with Thérèse, and adds a few details on the spread of devotion to the Carmelite Saint in the East among his colleagues in the Foreign Missions and Trappist nuns.

The witness testified in the sacristy of Bayeux Cathedral on 14th April 1917, in the 71st sitting, and his testimony can be found on pages 1384-1391 of the public transcription.

 [Sitting 71: 12th April 1917, at 9 o’clock.]

[1384] [The witness answers the first question satisfactorily.]

 [Answer to the second question:]

My name is Adolphe Jean Roulland. I was born in Cahagnolles on 13th October 1870 to Eugène Roulland, a farrier, and Marie Ledresseur. I am a priest of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris and currently Director of the Seminary of Foreign Missions in Paris.

 [The witness answers questions three to five satisfactorily].

 [Answer to the sixth question:]

My only concern is to speak the truth.

 [Answer to the seventh question:]

I did not know the Servant of God or her family before 1896. At that time, I had recently been ordained a priest, and was about to go on mission. Reverend Father Norbert, a Premonstratensian priest from Mondaye in the diocese of Bayeux, a fellow countryman, contacted the Carmelite Convent of Lisieux at my request to ask the prioress for a nun of the convent to be designated to pray especially for me and my mission. Sister Thérèse, who was hitherto unknown to me, was designated. I went to the Carmel to say Mass there in early July. On that day, I spoke to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus in the visiting room before and after my Mass. Once on mission in SutChuen, I stayed in epistolary contact with the Servant of God for [1385] that last year of her life. I received about six letters from her.

 [Answer to the eighth question]:

Yes, I have a great devotion to the Servant of God and hope she will be beatified, 1stly because I believe she had the virtues of a saint, and 2ndly because I believe her beatification will serve for the glory of God and the redemption of many souls.

 [Answer to questions nine to thirteen inclusively]:

Given what I have just said about the circumstances surrounding my relationship with the Servant of God, it is obvious that I myself know no details on these points.

 [Answer to questions fourteen to forty-six inclusively]:

As I knew the Servant of God only through two meetings in the visiting room and the exchange of half a dozen letters, I cannot go into each virtue in detail. I can, however, in answer to your question, say what I observed from these few exchanges.

Sister Thérèse’s correspondence (which I submitted for the Process of her Writings) is always very edifying, even in light-hearted passages. She reveals her wholly trusting love of God.

WITNESS 25: Adolphe Roulland, F.M.P.

I tend to believe that her “way of spiritual childhood” comes down to a complete self-surrender to the Will of God, [1386] whom she loved for His own sake. This love for God is the reason why she accepted to associate herself with the work of a missionary. Her wish was that this union be known to God alone. As I promised that I in turn would pray for her, she wrote down in a letter the words I should use: “Ask Him to set me on fire with His Love so that I may enkindle it in hearts” [LT 189]. Shortly before she died, she wrote, “I do not want you to ask God to deliver me from the flames of purgatory; instead say this prayer: ‘Allow my sister to make you still loved (after my death)’” [LT 221].

The Will of God was everything to her. She wrote, “Outside this lovable will we would do nothing either for Jesus or for souls” [LT 201].

She spoke in one letter about “her conversion”. I asked her to explain it, and she acknowledged that “her conversion” signified the powerful action of God on her intelligence and heart [LT 201].

She envisaged God’s Justice from a point of view that made it another reason to have trust. “It is because He is just that He is compassionate,” she said. “He knows our frailty, He remembers we are only dust.... I do not understand souls who fear a Friend so tender.... When I read certain spiritual treatises in which perfection is shown through a thousand obstacles, surrounded by a crowd of illusions, my poor little mind quickly tires; I close the learned book that is giving me a headache and drying up my heart. I take up Holy Scripture, and then all seems luminous to me. I see it is sufficient to recognise [1387] one's nothingness and to abandon oneself as a child into God's arms” [LT 226].

 [Answer to questions forty-seven and forty-eight]:

Yes, I’m convinced that Sister Thérèse practised the virtues as saints do. I see a unity of direction in her life, one assumed by the pre-eminence of perfect surrender as a result of pure love. This idea, so to speak, she had from birth. Then it grew, and was purified either by a divine intervention of Providence, as with her so-called “conversion”, or unconsciously through the very exercise of religious virtues. I see from her letters that she really saw nothing but God and desired nothing but God as a result of a pure and absolutely disinterested love.

Right at the end of her life, she wrote, “I am not at all worried about the future; I am sure God will do His will, it is the only grace I desire. I am asking Him to be content with me, that is, to pay no attention to my desires of loving Him in suffering or of going to enjoy Him in heaven.... It is with joy that I come to announce to you my coming entrance into that blessed city. What attracts me to the homeland of heaven is the Lord's call, the hope of loving Him finally as I have so much desired to love Him, and the thought that I shall be able to make Him loved by a multitude of souls who will bless Him eternally” [LT 221 and LT 254].

Her prayer (which she made known to me in her letters) indicates that she wished to reach “the level of glory” that God had prepared for her only in order to perfectly accomplish God’s Will: “Make me a martyr [1388] of your love, O my God!” [Prayer 6]

It is precisely because she never lost sight of this pure love that her virtue appears heroic to me. Many priests and monastics esteem love of suffering above all else: this is one way of understanding perfection. Surrender and complete trust, and accepting “to die or to live” indifferently is another. Monsignor Gay calls such resignation the “heaven of heavens” and is, in his opinion, the highest form of holiness.

 [Answer to questions forty-nine and fifty]:

I do not know.

 [Answer to the fifty-first question]:

The writings that have been published are well known. I personally received a number of letters from her, as I’ve said, and it is from these letters that I know her and judge her. Yet I have no hesitation in acknowledging that her letters are the absolutely true and certain expression of her spiritual disposition: the simplicity and naturalness of her letters make the truth evident.

I have read her other writings carefully and I don’t think there is anything in her doctrine that is contrary to the Catholic truth. Her “little way” in particular, if it is correctly understood, does not in any way encourage souls to forget the struggles and battles that perfection demands. It does not exclude what mortifies nature, but she has the secret of making it loved. The love she preaches is not an idle [1389] love. Moreover, experience has taught me that those who study her writings find them a stimulus to generosity and to the exercise of fervour.

 [Answer to questions fifty-two to fifty-five inclusively]:

I was in China when these events took place.

[Answer to the fifty-sixth question]:

I have prayed at the Servant of God’s burial place each time I’ve been able to come to Lisieux, that is to say, twice. I also know that my colleagues in the Foreign Missions Society readily come here. They have told me, and I have seen for myself, that several people can usually be seen praying at her grave, and we have been particularly struck by the reverence and faith that the pilgrims demonstrate.

WITNESS 25: Adolphe Roulland, F.M.P.

 [Answer to the fifty-seventh question]:

Personally, I have reason to believe wholeheartedly in the holiness of Sister Thérèse and in the power of her intercession. On 8th September 1890, I was having doubts about my vocation and joining the seminary. While I was praying in the chapel of Notre Dame de la Délivrande, my mind became suddenly and definitively made up. I found out later that on that same day, 8th September 1890, the day the Servant of God was professed, she asked Jesus to give her a priest’s soul, and she herself pointed out the link between these two events. I unhesitatingly attribute a great number [1390] of spiritual blessings to her intercession.

I can tell you that, particularly in our missions in Japan, China and India, not only is faith in Sister Thérèse’s holiness and power of intercession very widespread, but also, she exerts a truly remarkable influence when it comes to the conversion of souls and their progress in virtue. In Japan in particular, many Trappist nuns say they owe their vocation to the influence of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, as a result of reading her life story.

I do not believe that anything has been done to create a reputation for holiness and miracles for Thérèse, or to hide what could be adverse to her Cause.

 [Answer to the fifty-eighth question]:

I know of no opposition to this Cause; quite the contrary, I hear people everywhere say they hope she will be beatified.

 [Answer to questions fifty-nine to sixty-five inclusively]:

I have not witnessed any actual miracles firsthand.

 [Answer to the sixty-sixth question]:

I have nothing to change in my testimony.

[1391] [As regards the Articles, the witness claims to know nothing other than what they have already declared in response to the preceding questions. - Here ends the questioning of this witness. The statements are read out. The witness makes no alteration to them and signs as follows]:

Signatum: ADOLPHE ROULLAND, testis, ita pro veritate deposui, ratum habeo et confirmo.