Biography of Sr Therese of St Augustin



TH-de-St-Augustin sign lt

helpful in the night

st augustin

Her parents' favorite

It was a frail little girl who was born in the Chateau of de la Cressoniere, not far from Orbec, in Calvados, on September 5th, 1856. Her parents, Louis Leroyer and Elise Valentin, married for a year are a servant and maid in the chateau. Very young parents: hardly twenty-two and eighteen years old. Fervent Christian, the mother offers her first child to God who would be the only one.

Julia grew up in pampered isolation, but wasn’t spoiled. M. Leroyer soon set himself up as café owner in Lisieux, 125 Grande Rue. One August 15th, the girl wore a pretty outfit for the first time. And then she lingered in front of the mirror, "making nice little gestures ..." Mother appeared, a strict educator; she strongly reprimanded the coquette! Innocent childish peccadillo, which annonced perhaps a trend of the future Carmelite. Her spiritual notes all reveal a highly developed reflex life as a need to "look at herself." A confessor blamed her one day; "Are you a bourgeois virtue ... to see yourself as virtuous?"

Julia is entrusted to the Benedictine boarding school. A February 2nd (1870), the divine call is heard. Father Hodierne, vicar of Saint Pierre and interim chaplain of Carmel received her confidences. Carmel, with its austere life, lonely, united to God, determines the choice of the teenager. She at once opened up to her parents. "If this vocation really comes from God, I do not oppose it," replied the father, a man of great faith. But two months later he is carried away by smallpox (May 11th, 1871), Julia leaves for boarding school to keep company with her mother. The intimacy will be of short duration.

Impatient and strong-willed, what Julia wants she takes without delay. Bizarre tests imposed by Father Hodierne, reproaches from the family (“heartless") do not stop her; Madame Leroy is her best ally. She allows her daughter to leave on May 1st, 1875. She even dreams of joining her one day. Expert advice turns her away from it. She died February 27th, 1911 after a lifetime devoted to childhood poverty.

Fulfilling her dream

The postulant rejoices: "If you could see how I am merry, you wouldn’t recognize me (...) And if you knew the souls of Carmel, those souls with whom I have the happiness to live, you would see, you would see how they are sublime, these privileged souls. What charity! What sacrifice! What abnegation!” (Letter to her aunt, Mme. Hue, 5-6-1875). The young Thérèse de Saint-Augustin rushed to the assault of this “sublime” holiness. She considers herself one day "privileged among the privileged." "Her sincere good will, even though lacking sometimes in foresight, would never lessen" (Circular).

The postulant is admitted to the clothing October 15, 1875 under the condition, states Mr. Delatroëtte, that she does not make profession before her twenty-one years. The novice is in love with her young prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague (41 years old) but is not able to feel comfortable with her mistress, Mother Genevieve, who is 70. She is very impressionable, imaginative, given to exaggerating. Her insistence eventually swayed the superior. In order to "not appear obstinate and unreasonable", as he wrote himself, Fr Delatroette authorizes the taking of vows on May 1, 1877, subject to the consent of Mrs. Leroyer (it is taken for granted!). In a crisis of scruples, the younger sister gets this consoling response from Father Youf: "My poor child, all I can tell you is that you already have one foot in hell, and if you continue, you will soon put the second one there "... The open minded  Marie de Gonzague soothes the beleaguered novice: "Don’t worry, I already have both of them there! "

The young Carmelite gains control of herself, subdues herself, with force. They have left us this portrait of her: "Little person like a cherub, all to her rule and duty, not losing an inch of her small size and no opportunity to practice an act of virtue or fidelity to smaller things. Willing will and her battle-cry: "It's settled," rushes to storm the heavens with a fearlessness that would challenge any of the most illustrious warriors. "(CG II, p. 1175, Sister Marie of the Angels, 1893). Thérèse of St. Augustine becomes a "model of religious gravity and recollection, a living and formal example of regularity" not without "a little sharp stiffness in her words and ways of acting" (Circular).

Meeting young Therese

In August-September 1882, Pauline Martin, aspirant to Carmel, presents her little sister Therese to the Community. The candor of the nine year old strikes all the sisters. "She is pretty! What an angel,” Sister Therèse of St. Augustine keeps repeating, forgetting her usual reserve. Little Therese is embarrassed by it: "I wasn’t planning to come to Carmel to receive praise" (Ms A, 26 v°). But for the serious Carmelite the die is cast: "As soon as we knew each other, we experienced for one another an irresistible attraction.” Indeed!

After compliments, small gifts: "Thank Sister Thérèse of St. Augustine very much for me, for the pretty chaplet of practices and for having embroidered the beautiful cover of my book" (LT -11, March 1884), the preparation booklet for Therese's first communion done by Sr Agnes of Jesus. Four years later, Sister Therese of the Child Jesus launches a "glorious war" to respond to the advances of the elder, because it was necessary the "irresistible attraction" was mutual.

At her insistence, Therese wrote and dedicated her first poem to her, “The Divine Dew” (PN 1) and one of her latest, “Abandonment is the sweet fruit of love” (PN-52). The "Souvenirs d’une sainte amitié" gathered together in 1898 some of her secrets.

"There is a way to achieve holiness without too much trouble; there is a thing, do you know it?” asked Thérèse (but, of course, her elder knew ...). "I will die soon ... in two or three years" (April 1895).

The famous dream for Therese

There is also the famous dream of January 8th, 1897, which will so help to Thérèse in her anguish. In a dream, Sister Thérèse of St. Augustin finds herself in front of a heavy black door. On the other side of the very dark door, everything was bright, there was a brilliant sun (...) There was no gap between the black door and bright place. A voice asked for Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus on behalf of M. Martin: "She must be very beautiful." And they prepared the little Queen in the dark. The story moved Thérèse a lot: "The black door is so much the image of what is happening in me. (...) It seems that after this mortal life there is nothing more. (...) Everything is gone for me; love is all that is left for me. " (read here the full dream, on n°12)

During the summer of 1897, the elder visits her friend in the infirmary whenever possible. It is the one day "in a vivacious joy." The reason? A sister had just reported to Therese the kind thought of Sister St. Vincent de Paul: "I do not know why they speak so much of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, she does nothing remarkable; we see her no practice virtue; we can’t even say she is a good religious. "Ah!” exclaimed the patient, "To hear on my deathbed I'm not a good religious, what joy! Nothing could give me greater pleasure. "(PO, 403; PA, 339) This time the visitor is overwhelmed, she who accepts being wrong badly.

Appointed sacristan in 1898, elected third Counselor in 1902 (she will remain twenty years), "angel" of the postulants from 1909 to 1916, she offered herself to Merciful Love at Christmas 1908. In 1909 a stomach illness forced her on a strict diet, "a bowl of liquid, always the same (milk - eggs), without bread, without any variant" for almost twenty years. She must abandon part of community life, saving her strength for the sacristy. She is in active control of the growing movement of crowds pouring into Lisieux. She deposed at both Processes (1911 and 1915) and knows the great years of overexertion: beatification in 1923, canonization in 1925. Mother Agnes reminds her in her jubilee song (5-13-1927) What I saw, about the "intimate graces of her existence" but also "the incomparable solemnities that had shone on her last years. "

The last years

In the infirmary, where she lives since 1919, her austere devotion is tinged with sweetness and kindness. The grace of truth floods her on June 9, 1929; "I saw all my shortcomings, how I was unpleasant, tiring for the sisters, but far from saddening me, I felt happy to have all this burden to throw into the fire of Merciful Love. This Love made especially for our impoverishment." The little Julia of long ago finally discovers her true face in the mirror of mercy!

July 18th, 1929: last rites - as they called them then. "We should never be afraid of death; it is God who does it all! See how easy it is for me! " Her last hours, July 22nd, lived in an apparent unconsciousness, however, are very difficult. Sister Thérèse of St. Augustine entered into life the evening of July 22nd, 1929.

"In Purgatory? But you won’t go there," Therèse assured her. "Oh! Yes, I will come at the moment of your death."

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