Witness 4 - Jean-Jules Auriault, S.J.


As has already been said (vol. 1, p. 390), Fr Auriault had not known Thérèse, and his testimony directly concerns her reputation for holiness and the doctrinal value of her teaching.

A long-admired Professor at the Catholic University of Paris, then a much sought-after preacher for spiritual instructions, Fr Auriault went to the Carmel of Lisieux for a retreat towards 1908-1909. He henceforth became a fervent admirer of Thérèse and her doctrine.

Fr Auriault’s testimony bears primarily on the efficacy of Thérèse’s message, although of course also appraises the young Carmelite nun’s virtues, the heroic nature of which he considers certain and well proven: “1) as a result of the intensity of love that she put into all her actions; 2) as a result of the continuity of her faithfulness to both the rules of observance and divine inspiration; 3) as a result of her truly extraordinary patience in terms of remaining even-tempered and meek in adversity; 4) through the great courage she showed when conquering her nature in particularly sensitive struggles” (p. 291).

The following appraisal is also worth underlining: “Her prudence comes through remarkably well in her letters and spiritual advice, which clearly and powerfully reflect the doctrine of the most authoritative masters on spiritual life . . . . In her duties as spiritual director, it is also worth noting the perfect dependency in which she remained with regards to the Holy Spirit. She is akin to an instrument in the hands of a craftsman” (p. 291).

Fr Auriault testified on 3rd May 1915, in the 7th sitting (pp. 285-296 of the Public Transcription).

 [Sitting 7: - 3rd May 1915, at 8:30 am and 2:30 in the afternoon]

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

 [Answer to the second question]:

My name is Jean-Jules-Raoul Auriault. I was born in Brie, in the diocese of Poitiers, on 19th February 1855. I am a professed Jesuit priest,

WITNESS 4: Jean-Jules Auriault, S. J. 121

an honorary Professor at the Catholic University of Paris, and currently reside at n° 5 Rue du Regard.

[The witness answers the third question satisfactorily].

[286] [Answer to the fourth question]:

I have twice appeared before the examining magistrate of the criminal court of Paris charged with practising the ministry, as a member of an unauthorised and legislatively abolished Congregation.  Both investigations were dismissed.

 [The witness answers the fifth question satisfactorily, and also the sixth].

 [Answer to the seventh question]:

I did not know the Servant of God personally.  What I do know of her comes from the following sources:

1stly The attentive reading of her autobiography and also the letters and other writings that were appended to that book.

2ndly I have preached two retreats at the Carmel of Lisieux; the first was about six or seven years ago (in 1908 or 1909), and the second two years later.  On both occasions, I discussed the Servant of God with not only her Carmelite sisters but also all of the community’s nuns.

3rdly In the exercise of my ministry (spiritual direction, confession, preaching, etc.) in Paris and in the provinces, I have been conveyed many people’s sentiments regarding the Servant of God.

4thly Many Jesuit friars and priests have also shared with me their opinion of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

[Answer to the eighth question]:

[287] For seven or eight years, I have had both a true devotion to the Servant of God and great trust in her.  These sentiments developed as a result of studying her life story and of my conversations with the Carmelite nuns of Lisieux.  I ardently desire her Cause to succeed because I believe it to be well-founded and I esteem also that its success will be very valuable for the Church.

 [Answer to questions nine to twelve]:

Concerning the historical details of Sister Thérèse’s biography, I know nothing bar what I have read in Story of a Soul, which is a widely known book.

 [Answer to questions thirteen and fourteen]:

I know nothing in particular.

 [Answer to questions fifteen to twenty-one]:

I was struck by the swiftness with which she adhered to even the smallest of the Church’s directives.  A detailed and careful reading of her writings reveals her preoccupation with conforming to the Church’s thinking.  I remember this characteristic particularly as it I think it is significant.  When in a flush of enthusiasm one nun told her that she would follow her spiritual path even were the Church to disapprove it, she said, indignant: “Poor soul! We must always strive to obey the Church,” or something similar.  

[288] What is also remarkable about her from the point of view of faith is the continuity of her spiritual aspirations.  Her spirit of faith also gave her an innate, deep and spiritual respect for the Sovereign Pontiff, bishops and priests.

She had a very marked and particularly remarkable appreciation of Holy Scripture, which she used in her writings constantly with a seldom seen relish.

All that I have just said results from my study of her writings.

 [Answer to questions twenty-two to twenty-six]:

I think that complete surrender to God is the prominent characteristic of her spiritual physiognomy.  This comes to light in her vision of God as a father.  I could quote any number of passages from her autobiography to prove this disposition.

Moreover, it is remarkable how she keeps professing that sin is not a reason to turn away from God, but to appeal to His mercy.  She says at one point that she trusts in God not because she has committed no sins; even had she committed the greatest of sins, her reliance on His trust and divine goodness would remain the same.  This surrender to God comes through also in her unreserved submission to all of her superiors’ directives. It could be said that she obeys indiscriminately, because she always saw God’s fatherly [289] will in creatures.

What is more, she is a tireless preacher of this absolute surrender to God.  All of her spiritual advice is founded on this path of surrender.

 [Answer to questions twenty-seven to thirty-one]:

She was so infused with love for God that she was not able to focus on anything else, even for a moment; it can be said that loving Him came as naturally to her as breathing.  She reminds me of Saint Louis de Gonzague, who suffered agonising torment because his superior asked him to think less of God in order to think more about earthly practicalities.

 [Answer to questions thirty-two to thirty-six]:

What she wrote on the subject of neighbourly charity is remarkable in terms of its depth and practicality.  It is akin to a commentary on Jesus’ words following the Last Supper.

What also strikes me is the way she put this thoughtful charity into effective practice over and over.  It can be summarised in these two terms: “Nemini obesse, omnibus prodesse.”

The spiritual nature of her charity is shown in that, in the convent, she did not direct her love and affection towards her three blood sisters more than the other nuns; rather, she did the opposite.

Her zeal for saving souls attained a degree that I esteem as unparalleled.  This disposition of hers appears in

WITNESS 4: Jean-Jules Auriault, S. J

that superb passage where she [290] expresses regret for not being able to simultaneously be a priest, missionary, martyr, etc.; but to compensate for this, she employs her littleness and dwells in the very heart of the Church that, through her prayers and love, she might shine a light throughout the world to help the Pope, bishops, priests, missionaries and all those working for the redemption of souls.  This zeal was particularly visible in her union with missionaries, and in her desire for a ministry that is, so to speak, eternal: “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth” (Last Conversations 17-7).

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

Her prudence comes through remarkably well in her letters and spiritual advice, which clearly and powerfully reflect the doctrine of the most authoritative masters on spiritual life . . .

Notably, with Sister Thérèse, surrender to God is not a doctrine that is exclusive of other elements of spiritual life, such as fear of God, abhorrence of sin, etc.; instead these are an integral part of it, except they take the form that renders them most efficient and accessible.

In her duties as spiritual director, it is also worth noting the perfect dependency in which she remained with regards to the Holy Spirit.  She is akin to an instrument in the hands of a craftsman.

Her prudence is also shown in her personal conduct, particularly in her relations with the community, where she needed to reconcile obedience and charity [291] in tricky situations.

 [In answer to questions thirty-nine and forty, the witness has nothing particular to say.]

 [Answer to questions forty-one and forty-two]:

Love for suffering grew so intense in her person that it became almost a prevailing passion, to the point that she rejoiced in suffering. It was on days of suffering that she appeared the most joyful, the result being that several people mistakenly thought she was suffering little.

 [In answer to questions forty-three to forty-six, the witness has nothing particular to say.]

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

In general terms, it seems to me that she practised all these virtues to a heroic degree. This is shown: 1stly as a result of the intensity of love that she put into all her actions; 2ndly as a result of the continuity of her faithfulness to both the rules of observance and divine inspiration; 3rdly as a result of her truly extraordinary patience in terms of remaining even-tempered and meek in adversity; 4thly through the great courage she showed when conquering her nature in particularly sensitive struggles. The words used to describe Saint John Berchmans [292] can also be applied to her: she did all ordinary things extraordinarily well.

 [Answer to questions forty-nine and fifty]:

I am not aware of there having been anything of the sort.

[Answer to the fifty-first question]:

1stly I know of no other writings except those that have been published.  I have not specifically verified the authenticity of these publications, but others have, and I do not doubt the truth of their findings.  I have even held the original biographical manuscript in my hands.

2ndly It is my belief that these writings can be deemed authentic and that they provide evidence for the reality of the Servant of God’s virtues. This is because 1/ as, thanks to their public renown, I was already aware of her heroic virtues, holy death and blessings granted through her intercession, her writings gained authority before reaching me; 2/ upon studying them, I found intrinsic characteristics that guarantee their authority.  Each sentence breathes truth and grace, and one cannot imagine, even for an instant, that the author was not expressing what she felt.  Therefore, the extrinsic testimonies corroborated the internal appraisal, conferring an unquestionable value to the documents.

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

I know nothing particular as regards these points.

[Answer to the fifty-sixth question]:

For the eight years that I have been in contact with the Carmel of Lisieux, for reasons of devotion I have not failed to visit the Servant of God’s burial place every time that circumstances have taken me to Lisieux, that is to say, on five or six different occasions, amounting to twenty or so visits.  On these pilgrimages I observed a regular concourse of pilgrims, sometimes despite bad weather conditions. What is more, their number is increasing.  Yesterday for instance, which was a Sunday, for the three quarters of an hour that I was there, I saw at least twenty people come and go. They included men, women, soldiers, etc., and were reverent and prayerful.  I have never heard it said that any enterprise was undertaken to initiate or maintain this pilgrim movement.

 [Answer to the fifty-seventh question]:

I do not know whether or not the Servant of God had [294] a reputation for holiness during her lifetime.

Since her death, her reputation for holiness, that is to say for heroic virtues, is evident to me, not only as a result of reading published accounts of them, but also from directly hearing reports from by several earnest and particularly learned Jesuit priests. One such priest was Reverend Father Longhaye, a nigh 80 year old Professor at the Seminary of Canterbury.

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In addition, I have verified the spread of her renown for holiness by noting the devotion that exist to her firstly in the Carmel of Lisieux, then in the other Carmelite monasteries with which I am in contact, and also in a good number of religious communities. As for devotion among the ordinary faithful, I see it every day and everywhere I go.  Now, the existence of this devotion indicates a belief in her holiness.

As for the reputation for miracles and spiritual favours obtained through her intercession, I am aware of it not only from reading editions of “Shower of Roses”, which relate the most remarkable cases, but also from hearing numerous accounts in person, particularly when requests are made for Masses, or when novenas are prayed for miracles, healings, favours, etc.  I know a very great number of people who pray to her assiduously.

I am not aware of anything having been done to create her renown for holiness.  Its spread can in my view be explained only by the reality of her [295] heroic holiness and healing power.  The means of publicity used by the Carmel of Lisieux have had, with regards to her reputation, a relationship that has been effect-cause rather than cause-effect. If her reputation had had no basis, all the publicity would have damaged rather than benefitted the spread of devotion to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

 [Answer to the fifty-eighth question]:

I have never heard anyone emit an opinion that was contrary to the Servant of God’s virtue or reputation for holiness.

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

In general terms, I have often heard people attribute spiritual or corporal favours to the Servant of God’s intercession; it would not be untruthful to say that I personally have heard fifty or so testimonies of this kind.  Allow me to provide a few examples: a young man who experienced a religious crisis and denied God’s existence promptly converted during a novena to the Servant of God that had been requested by his mother.  Another young man who needed an operation following a tubercular tumour made a dramatic recovery over the course of a novena prayed to Sister Thérèse, much to his doctor’s astonishment.  I could relate other favours, but as there will be no lack of first-hand accounts of more significant examples, I do not [296] believe it useful to labour the point.

 [Answer to the sixty-sixth question]:

No, I believe to have said all that I considered useful.

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

Signatum: J. Auriault