From Mme Martin to her brother Isidore CF 87 - March 1, 1873.

From Mme Martin to her brother

March 1, 1873

After you left Alençon, my little Thérèse was perfectly fine. She was growing stronger before my very eyes, and I was very proud of myself. But today, things are very different. She’s very sick, and I don’t have any hope at all of saving her. This poor little girl has been suffering horribly since yesterday. It’s heartbreaking to see her. However, she’s sleeping well. Last night I picked her up only once. She drank and then slept until ten o’clock this morning. But now, here she is up until ten o’clock at night.

The doctor is leaving here. I don’t know why, but I have no confidence in his remedies.

Now I have to tell you a story. It dates from my little one’s first illness. The night you arrived, I’d just mailed a letter to my sister in Le Mans telling her that little Thérèse was dying and that she didn’t have more than two days to live.

So there’s my sister, who begins to pray to Saint Francis de Sales with extraordinary fervor and makes a vow that, if the little girl is cured, we’ll call her by her second name, Françoise. The vow made, she goes to find Marie and Pauline, who were very despondent, and says to them, “Don’t cry anymore. Your little sister is not going to die.” And she announces to them what she has just done. The Superior adds: “You must write to your sister right away so she begins to call her Françoise.”

When I received this famous letter, I was dumbfounded. My sister told me that she’d made this vow, being sure that I would confirm it, and that she had said to Saint Francis that if I didn’t agree to call this child by his name, he was free to take her back. In that case, she added, I had nothing to do except to have a coffin made.

This made an impression on me in spite of myself, and yet I haven’t decided to give a name to my little girl that I don’t like. So I wrote to Le Mans that Saint Francis hadn’t cured her because she was already much better before my letter had arrived. And this is true, because if you remember, from Sunday morning the baby was cured, so to speak, and did nothing but sleep all day, though Saint Francis hadn’t been prayed to yet.

Oh well, what do you say about all this? Was I guilty? Should I have called her Françoise? I hadn’t been the instigator of this vow, and besides, what would it matter to Saint Francis de Sales whether I called her by one name or another? My refusal couldn’t be a reason for him to make her die!

If I hadn’t had the misfortune of giving her, among her names, the name of Françoise, my sister wouldn’t have had this idea. Even before the baby was born, she’d already written to me believing that it would be a boy, so I wouldn’t give him the name Joseph, but Francis, as if she suspected good Saint Joseph of having taken my children!

I told her that he would die from it or not die from it, but I would call him Joseph because I would not agree to give him a name that I didn’t like.

However, I’m confiding to you that a vague concern remains with me over “this coffin that I had to have made if I didn’t want to agree with my sister’s vow.” Please write me by return mail, because if you delay, my little Thérèse will probably be dead. I prefer to call her Françoise or any other name and not to have to make a coffin. It makes me tremble just to think about it!

You’ll write me a long letter and tell me what I should call her so that she doesn’t die. If anyone sees this letter, they’ll think I’ve lost my mind! I’d like my sister not to know about what I’ve written you because I wouldn’t want to hurt her. She’s so good, and she loves us so much! But this time, she surprises me.

I often think of the mothers who have the joy of feeding their children themselves. As for me, I have to see them all die one after the other!


 © Society of St. Paul / Alba House