coffre a trois cles
the three key safe
There must be a safe with three keys to keep records, writings and alms of the convent.
The prioress will have a key and the two oldest bursars the other two (Constitutions).

In Carmel they call depository the room where the bursar works, that is to say, the treasurer of the monastery.

The bursar is chosen by the Prioress from the 3 sisters elected by the community to become her counselors during the time of her triennium. During Thérèse’s time, the bursars were Marie of the Angels (1886-1893) and Marie de Gonzague (1893-1896), followed by Agnès of Jesus.

But she is also responsible for providing for the material needs of the sisters. In her work room and other annexes, she stocks what is necessary for the sisters and distributes it to them according to their needs: stationery, household goods and hygiene products. She is also responsible for the maintenance of buildings, and therefore contacts the companies and the workers who are asked to build or repair.

The work of the bursar is to do the accounting of the monastery and report regularly to the Prioress and her Council several times a year. For this, she registered regular expenses daily in small notebooks for workers, the baker, the sacristy, etc., small notebooks that are re-copied each month into the general accounting ledger - a task accomplished today with accounting software used in religious communities. Here are the revenues and expenses of the community during the nine years that Thérèse lived there.

See the revenues                          See the expenses

The Community ledger - 1888 à 1897

The Carmel keeps accounts of its revenues and expenditures. Accurate. Annual. Interpretation is delicate because any accounting reveals financial invalidations but also a way of “counting” which is not always obvious. Here is an extensive documentation that provides great light into the life of the Carmel of Thérèse’s time if one is willing to pay some attention to it. One can even browse it and be disoriented by identifying the high consumption of matches or the slender contribution from the sale of penitential instruments. One may also seek to find information to understand how in concrete terms the Carmelites lived. This is the aim of this short essay on the accounting of the Lisieux Carmel.

Read here the analysis by the historian Claude Langlois.


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