Witness 9 - Adolphe Roulland, M.E.P.


Sister Thérèse was designated her first spiritual brother on 15th October 1895, on the feast day of Saint Teresa of Avila. He was Maurice Barthélemy Bellière (1874-1907), a future White Father missionary. But she was to be designated a second brother, Adolphe-Jean-Louis-Eugène Roulland, who became the ninth witness in the Ordinary Informative Trial.

Fr. Roulland was born in Cahagnolles (Calvados) on 13th October 1870. Having joined the Foreign Missions in Paris with the intention of preparing for priesthood, he felt the need of a cloistered Sister’s prayers for his future apostolate. It was through Fr. Norbert, of the Premontratensians of Mondaye, that he came into contact with the Carmel of Lisieux. Mother Marie de Gonzague did not hesitate in choosing Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. “She’s the best of my nuns”, she confided to Father Roulland before his sacerdotal ordination (28th June 1896). He met Sister Thérèse on 3rd July when he celebrated one of his first Masses at the Carmel. The letters that they subsequently exchanged were kept secret from the community. In their eyes, he was “our Mother’s missionary”. Mother Marie de Gonzague showed great breadth of vision. During the last months of her life, Thérèse wrote to Fr. Roulland no less than seven times. Out of these letters, one was lost because it was given as a blessing to a little Chinese girl who was ill, and was not removed when she was buried. The Prioress sent a photograph of Thérèse to the priest, on the back of which was marked the important dates of her life and the missionary sent a portrait of himself that Mother Marie de Gonzague allowed Thérèse to keep in her cell. The portrait was accompanied by a piece of paper on which the priest had in turn written, for his “sister”, a list of the most significant events in his life. Thérèse, who carried her bible next to her heart, slid the picture of her “brother’s” sacerdotal ordination between its pages. On the back of the picture, he had written: “Here below, let us work together, in heaven we shall share the reward.” Fr. Roulland similarly carried with him a picture painted by Sister Thérèse representing a Heart dripping blood on Su-Tchuen in China, where the priest was on mission, accompanied with this invocation written by the Saint: “O divine blood of Jesus, water our mission. Allow the germination of elected leaders.” (20th August 1896). The priest said Thérèse’s name every day at Mass and recited the prayer she had given him: “My God, enkindle my sister with your love”. The prayer, at the Saint’s request, became the following after her death: “My God, allow my sister to make you better loved” (cf. p. 532r).

In a letter that Fr. Roulland wrote in Shanghai between the 24th and 26th August 1896, Sister Thérèse was surprised to read, among the most important events of her spiritual brother’s life: “Vocation saved by O. L. of the Délivrande: 8th September 1890.” It was the very same day she was professed at the Carmel, when “bidding an everlasting adieu to the world, she had one goal, to save souls, especially the souls of apostles. From Jesus, her divine Spouse, she asked particularly for an apostolic soul; unable to be a priest, she wanted that in her place a priest may receive the graces of the Lord, that he have the same aspirations, the same desires as herself”, as she wrote to the priest on 1st November 1896 - LT 201 - (Letter 178, p. 348). It is worth remembering that the poem-prayer “To our Lady of Victories, Queen among Virgins, of Apostles and Martyrs” was written on 16th July 1896, with Father Roulland in mind.

In 1909, after a few years of missionary life in China, the priest was called back to Paris to be director at the seminary in rue du Bac, also fulfilling the function of bursar in 1913. Without pushing himself to the fore, he nevertheless became an increasingly staunch apostle of Thérèse of Lisieux and her act of oblation to merciful love. In 1922, after a year in Rome, he became responsible for the novitiate of the friars in Dormans (Marne), where he died on 12th June 1934 (V.T.3-1953).

He testified on 19th January 1911, in the 49th session, pp. 528r-540r of our Public Copy.

[Session 49 - 19th January 1911, at 2pm]

[528r] [528v] [The witness answers the first question correctly].

[Answer to the second question]:

My name is Adolphe-Jean-Louis-Eugène Roulland, born in Cahagnolles, in the Diocese of Bayeux, on 13th October 1870, to Eugène Roulland and Marie Ledresseur. I am a priest, and a member of the Society of Foreign Missions in Paris; I was a missionary in Su-Tchuen from the year 1896 to the year 1909. Since June 1909 I have been living in our seminary in rue du Bac, 128, where I fulfill the function of procurer to the Society of Foreign Missions.

[The witness correctly answers questions three to six inclusive].

[Answer to the seventh question]:

The only sentiments prompting my testimony are God’s glory and love of the truth.

[Answer to the eighth question]:

[529r] I knew the Servant of God in the following circumstances. In 1896, when I was about to be ordained a priest and leave on mission, I had the idea of soliciting the special prayers of a Carmelite nun who would become spiritually associated to my apostolate. With this in view, I wrote to the Reverend Prioress of the Carmel of Lisieux, who designated Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. I didn’t know her beforehand. Before leaving for the missions, I came to Lisieux in July 1896. I celebrated Holy Mass at the Carmel and in the space of half a day I had several interviews with the Servant of God. We subsequently wrote each other letters until the Servant of God died, that is to say for one year. I received about eight letters from her in that time. For my deposition I also used what I have heard from different missionaries in our Society. I didn’t draw on her “Story written by herself” when preparing my testimony; I am exclusively using my personal information.

[Answer to the ninth question]:

[529v] Without a doubt I wish for this Cause to be successful, because the knowledge I’ve acquired of the Servant of God’s dispositions has inspired in me a profound devotion for her, and because this beatification will allow her to better achieve what she intends to do, namely save souls and do good.

[Answer to questions ten to nineteen]:

I know nothing particular about the Servant of God’s “curriculum vitae”.

[Answer to questions twenty and twenty-one]:

I had the pleasure of knowing Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus through the letters we exchanged from 23rd June 1896 until her death, and I feel that a perfume of virtue emanates from these letters to such an extent that, to testify in her favour, I can do no better than to quote from them:

Defiance of self – Trust in God. – In her letter written on 23rd June 1896, she wrote: “I am assured my heavenly Spouse will make up for my feeble merits (upon which I in no way rely), and that He will listen to the desires of my soul by rendering your apostolate fruitful” - LT 189 –. On 1st November 1896, she wrote [530r]: “how would you have to be pitied if Jesus Himself were not to hold up the arms of your Moses!” - LT 201 -. And on 9th May 1897: “I know one must be very pure to appear before God of all Holiness, but I know, too, that the Lord is infinitely just; and it is this justice which frightens so many souls that is the object of my joy and trust. To be just is not only to exercise severity in order to punish the guilty; it is also to recognize right intentions and to reward virtue. I expect as much from God’s justice as from His mercy. It is because He is just that ‘He is compassionate and filled with gentleness, slow to punish, and abundant in mercy, for He knows our frailty, He remembers we are only dust. As a father has tenderness for his children, so the Lord has compassion on us!’ - *Ps. 102: 8, 14, 13 -. This is what I think of God’s justice; my way is all confidence and love. I do not understand souls who fear a Friend so tender” - LT 226 -.  

Faithfulness to the voice of God. – She was one of those strong souls for whom it costs nothing to obey the voice of God. Here is how she described to me her entrance into the Carmel. The Lord saw fit to ask her for her heart when she was still in her crib [530v], if I can put it this way - LT 201 from 1st November 1896 -: “The night of Christmas 1886… the night of my conversion,” she said, “Jesus saw fit to have me come forth from my swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood. He transformed me in such a way that I no longer recognized myself. Without this change I would have had to remain for years in the world. Saint Teresa said to her daughters: ‘I want you to be women in nothing, but that in everything you may equal strong men,’ - Saint Teresa of Avila, vol. II, The Collected Works, Way of perfection, p.70 – Saint Teresa would not have wanted to acknowledge me as her child if the Lord had not clothed me in His divine strength, if He had not Himself armed me for war… I sympathize sincerely with her suffering, (a young girl whom I had mentioned to her) knowing by experience how bitter it is to be unable to respond immediately to God’s call. I hope she is not obliged like me to go even to Rome… Jesus has said: ‘The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and only the violent take hold of it.’ It was the same for me concerning the kingdom of Carmel. Before becoming the prisoner of Jesus, I had to travel very far to take hold of the prison that I preferred to all the palaces of this earth.” Speaking about her Father Superior who refused to receive her, she said: “His conduct [531r] was prudent, and I do not doubt that, in trying me, he accomplished the will of God, who willed to have me conquer the fortress of Carmel at the point of the sword” - LT 201 -.

At rest in God’s will. – Her acceptance of God’s will was so great that only there did she find rest, and the way to perfection. She said on 1st November 1896: “May God’s will be done! In it alone is rest to be found; outside this lovable will we would do nothing either for Jesus or for souls” - LT 201 -'. And on 19th March 1897: “I am not at all worried about the future; I am sure God will do His will, it is the only grace I desire” - LT 221 -'. Lastly on 9th May 1897: “At times, when I am reading 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 breaking my head and drying up my heart, and I take up Holy Scripture. Then all seems luminous to me; a single word uncovers for my soul infinite horizons, perfection seems simple to me, I see it is sufficient to recognize one’s nothingness and to abandon oneself as a child into God’s arms” - LT 226 -.

Love of God and souls. – God and Souls! It was for these that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had the greatest [531v] affection. When telling me about a favour she had received she added: “How pleased Jesus is to grant the desires of souls who love Him alone” - LT 189 –. Love of souls, especially, is constantly in her writing; it was the love that made her apostolic union so pleasing. For on 23rd June 1896 she wrote: “I shall be truly happy to work with you for the salvation of souls. It is for this purpose I became a Carmelite nun; being unable to be an active missionary, I wanted to be one through love and penance.” She continued by saying: “On the day of your first Mass… ask Him to set me on fire with His love so that I may enkindle it in hearts” – LT 189 -. Before I left for the missions, she asked me to say this prayer for her every morning when celebrating the Eucharist: “My God, allow my sister to make you ever more loved by souls” - LT 189 and 221 -. In her letter of 1st November 1896 she reiterated her reason for entering the Carmel: “On September 8th 1890… a little Carmelite became the spouse of the King of heaven. Bidding an everlasting adieu to the world, she had one goal, to save souls, especially the souls of apostles” - LT 201 -. On 19th March 1897 she wrote: “I hope that if you were to leave this [532r] exile, you would not forget your promise of praying for me… I do not want you to ask God to deliver me from the flames of purgatory; Saint Teresa said to her daughters when they wanted to pray for her: ‘What does it matter to me to remain until the end of the world in purgatory if through my prayers I save a single soul?’ – Way of Perfection, ch. 3 -. These words find an echo in my heart. I would like to save souls and forget myself for them; I would like to save them even after my death. So I would be happy if you were to say then, instead of the little prayer you are saying and which will be always realized: ‘My God, allow my sister to continue to make you loved.’” And on 14th July 1897: “I shall be more useful to you in heaven than on earth… you will thank the Lord for giving me the means of helping you more effectively in your apostolic works. I really count on not remaining inactive in heaven. My desire is to continue working for the Church and for souls. I am asking God for this and I am certain He will grant my request. Are not the angels continually occupied with us without their ever ceasing to see the divine Face and to lose themselves in the Ocean of Love without shores? Why would Jesus not allow me to imitate them?” - LT 254 –. The same letter, which was written [532v] shortly before her death, reveals how pure and great her love of God and souls was within her. She said: “What attracts me to the homeland of heaven is the Lord’s calling, 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 254 -.

Love of suffering. – She wrote on 9th May 1897: “On this earth, where all changes, one single thing remains, and this is the conduct of the King of heaven regarding His friends. Ever since He has lifted up the standard of the Cross, it is under its shadow that all must fight and carry off the victory” - LT 226 -. To this conduct of the King of heaven, Sister Thérèse asked only to surrender herself. Again, her letters testify to her love of suffering and of trials, and simultaneously to her peace in the midst of tribulations. I’ve already quoted the sublime use she made of Saint Teresa’s words (letter of 19th March 1897), choosing to remain in purgatory until the end of the world to save a single soul. Here are some other passages that reveal the same love of the cross. On 30th July 1896 she wrote: “I would even wish my brother to always have consolations, and I trials; perhaps this is selfish?... But, no, since my only weapon is love and suffering” - LT 193 -. And on 19th March 1897: “I would be happy to work and suffer a long time for Jesus. So 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” - LT 221 -. Then, on 14th July 1897: “you see that if I am leaving the field of battle already, it is not with the selfish desire of taking my rest. The thought of eternal beatitude hardly thrills my heart. For a long time, suffering has become my heaven here below, and I really have trouble in conceiving how I shall be able to acclimatize myself in a country where joy reigns without any admixture of sadness. Jesus will have to transform my soul and give it the capacity to rejoice” - LT 254 -.

Unlimited trust in God, profound defiance of self, conformity and total surrender to divine will, love of God and of saving souls, and to reach this goal, acceptance of perpetual suffering: are these not the characteristics of heroic virtue and do I need to say that the simplicity and humility with which she wrote is, for me, even though I’ve never lived near her, the guarantee that she was really infused with these elevated sentiments and that she followed them in everything she did?

[533v] [Answer to the twenty-second question]:

I know nothing on this point.

[Answer to the twenty-third question]:

When Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzague, the Prioress of the Carmel of Lisieux, designated Sister Thérèse to be spiritually associated to my apostolate, she said to me: “She’s the best of my nuns.” Having always been far away on mission, I haven’t had the opportunity to become more familiar with what people thought of her during her lifetime.

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

I know nothing particular on these points.

[Answer to the twenty-seventh question]:

When I was away on mission, and shortly after the Servant of God’s death, I observed that several of my colleagues prayed to her, as a powerful assistant of their works. Since then, having had to travel, either for my [534r] mission, or through other countries on my way back to France, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing that Sister Thérèse is known, loved and prayed to in many places. Missionaries entrust themselves to her protection. Mr. Deronin, whose duty was to found a community of Chinese virgins in Chungking (Su-Tchuen), entrusted himself and his work to Sister Thérèse’s protection, and his community is making great progress. Mr. Arlas, a missionary in Chendu (China), remembers with joy his pilgrimage to Sister Thérèse’s grave, on which he placed a few verses that he had written and which expressed his admiration for Sister Thérèse’s virtues and asked for her protection. Mr. Holhann and Mr. Guénan, from Hong Kong, feel the same. In a conversation, Mr. Ferlay from Siam told me about the good that Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had done him. Mr. Vial, from Yunnan, when he sent me a letter to give to the Carmel, said: “Now she is always present in my mind, and I absolutely want to love Jesus like her.” He said Sister Thérèse had saved him, and he asks her to transform him. Mr. Nassoy, a missionary in the Indies, wrote to me saying: “I personally have a profound devotion for Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, for through her God has given me great graces. I have done everything to make her known in India and I only have one desire; to [534v] do all I can for her glorification.” He promised to send me more information which I haven’t yet received. I will add that our young departing missionaries know Sister Thérèse’s life story, and that they love her and pray to her. Several come to her grave before going on mission, to recommend their ministry to her prayers. The distance that separates France from our missions is great and our colleagues heard about this Trial quite late on, which explains why I only have a few testimonies. Yet these few suffice to prove that Sister Thérèse is attaining her goal, which is to save and sanctify apostles’ souls. She has a beneficial influence not only in Normandy and in France (for I often receive testimonies in Paris), but also in the furthest of countries. In France, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to several people who reveal that praying to Sister Thérèse is particularly efficient in developing a very great fervour in religious communities. I believe that her renown for holiness is independent of the recent large-scale dissemination of various publications (booklets, pictures, etc.) about Sister Thérèse.  

[535r] [Answer to the twenty-eighth question]:

I’ve heard people remark upon whether or not it was appropriate to print the very numerous publications relating to Sister Thérèse, but I’ve never heard anyone criticize the Servant of God’s reputation for holiness.

[Answer to the twenty-ninth question]:

The favours I’ve obtained through the Servant of God’s intercession prove to me once again that she had a high degree of virtue, and that the Lord, who liked to test her, amply rewarded her, even during her lifetime, by granting her desires. Without wanting to dwell on the spiritual favours I’m convinced I obtained through her intercession, I like acknowledging that I owe her in part for my missionary vocation. She wrote to me on 1st November 1896: “On 8th September 1890, your missionary vocation was saved by Mary, Queen of Apostles and Martyrs; on that same day, a little Carmelite became the spouse of the King of heaven… She had one goal, to save [535v] souls, especially the souls of apostles. From Jesus, her divine Spouse, she asked particularly for an apostolic soul; unable to be a priest, she wanted that in her place a priest may receive the graces of the Lord, that he have the same aspirations, the same desires as herself. You know the unworthy Carmelite who offered this prayer. Do you not think, as I do, that our union confirmed on the day of your priestly ordination began on September 8th? I believed I would meet only in heaven the apostle, the brother whom I had asked from Jesus; but this Beloved Saviour, raising a little the mysterious veil that hides the secrets of eternity, has seen fit to give me in this exile the consolation of knowing the brother of my soul, of working with him for the salvation of poor infidels” – LT 201 -. Here is a temporal favour that I also attribute to her. Some bandits, taking advantage of my absence, were preparing to ravage my residence. As they were about to set off, they offered a last prayer to their gods, lighting bangers in their honour. One of these bangers set their gunpowder alight: the explosion destroyed the Buddhist monastery, and killed or burnt quite a few [536r] bandits; the other survivors fled in all directions. The alarm was sounded; my Christians were saved before they knew about the danger. I didn’t doubt for a moment that Sister Thérèse had protected us. She had promised to watch over me and my Christians, and I recommended my mission to her prayers every day. This event took place in around 1904.

[Answer to the thirtieth question]:

I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything.

[Concerning the Articles, the witness says he knows nothing other than what he has already deposed in answer to the preceding questions.

[Session 50: - 20th January 1911, at 9am.]


[Here ends the interrogation of this witness. The Acts are read out. The witness makes no amendment to them and signs as follows]:

Ita pro veritate deposui, ratum habeo et confirmo.

Signatum: AD. ROULLAND