From Mme Martin to Pauline CF 185 - January 21, 1877.

From Mme Martin to Pauline

January 21, 1877

My dear Pauline,

I don’t know if I’m going to have time to write you a long letter today because it’s already a quarter to one. At one-thirty I have to go pay a visit to Madame M, later to Vespers, and then to the closing of the retreat at St. Léonard’s at seven-thirty.

However, I have to find enough time to write a long letter to my Pauline to make her happy. I also have to write to your aunt and then to a nasty merchant who wants to make me lose a lot of money, quite unjustly. I’m more appalled by his injustice than by the loss I’m going to bear.

Oh well, I see it’s quite a busy day, and yet my letter must be sent this evening, or tomorrow morning if I finish it too late.

I think you’re going to write me today. I’m almost going to regret it because I would have liked a few words from your aunt for Léonie. There’s quite a story behind this.

Last Wednesday, while Marie was giving the class, Léonie said in a very serious tone of voice, “I want to write to my aunt before she dies and give her my messages for Heaven.”

Marie, very surprised, asked her what it was about. She told her that she wanted to be a religious, and her aunt would have to obtain this grace for her. Marie made fun of her, but she persisted, and Thursday morning she wrote her note, which I think is rather good for her.

I said to Marie that evening, “There’s one thing that surprises me; it’s that she wrote ‘a true religious.’” Marie, also surprised, said, “I really wanted her to erase the word ‘true.’ I pointed out to her that it didn’t mean anything, but she stood firm saying, ‘Please, let me put it in, I want it to be that way.’”

The next day Marie asked her, “What does that mean, ‘a true religious’?” Léonie answered, “It means that I want to be a completely good religious and in the end become a saint.” I don’t know what I should think of all this because the poor child is covered in faults like a blanket. We don’t know how to handle her, but God is so merciful that I’ve always had hope, and I still hope.

Yesterday she had an awful day. At noon I told her to make some sacrifices to conquer her bad mood, and that, for each victory, she should put a hazelnut in a drawer I pointed out to her, and we would count them that evening. She was very happy about this, but there were no more hazelnuts. I made her bring me a cork that I cut into seven little slices.

That evening I asked her how many “practices” there were.

None! She’d done the worst she could. I wasn’t happy and scolded her bitterly, telling her that she certainly shouldn’t ask to be a religious under these conditions.

Then she started to cry because she was sincerely repentant, and she flooded my face with her tears. Today there are already little slices of cork in the drawer.

Now, my Pauline, I’m leaving you. I have to get dressed to go where I told you, and this annoys me very much. Until this evening….

It is now, in fact, this evening, and it’s ten o’clock. We’re just coming from the closing of the retreat. It was magnificent, a beautiful sermon on virginity and a spiritual enlightenment without equal.

Yet it was very hard for me to go, I was thinking about my letters. Marie would have liked to see me stay home. I told her I wasn’t asking her to go with me; that I would go alone. But it was like the Feast of Saint Catherine, and she was seized by remorse and followed me. Now she’s very happy to have gone, and the two of us just made a wonderful late-night snack.

We had a very enjoyable day. I was at the home of the beautiful lady who wasn’t there. That is to say, she was there, but there was a carriage at her door, and she was about to pay her last visits of the day. Marie was very frustrated by this. She was anxious to see her to ask her for information about certain things that interest Marie.

Afterwards we attended Vespers at the Hospice, and we all went for a walk in the country. The weather was so beautiful this afternoon, and it had been such a long time since we’d gone out! So this did us a lot of good.

Now I must tell you about an adventure that happened to us last night. The maid was in the process of drying the dishes. It was already dark, and she was getting ready to cut the bread for the soup when she was interrupted. Léonie, always quick to help her, took hold of the bread and sliced it. Finally, here is the soup ready to serve, with the soup poured over the bread. It was purée of pea soup, which Marie likes a lot. She said, “Papa’s at a grand dinner at Monsieur Vital’s house, but he won’t have soup as good as this!”

We all sat down at the table. I began to serve the soup, but I couldn’t push the spoon in, I felt a tremendous resistance. I said to Louise, “What have you put in here? I can’t find any bread; are there only vegetables on the bottom of the soup tureen?” Finally, I tried to pull out whatever was blocking the spoon, and after many tries I pulled up … the dishtowel. Léonie had cut the bread over it without noticing! The soup wasn’t eaten, but on the other hand, we had a good laugh! Your father said it was like the little shoe of the man from Auvergne! “It’s not that it’s dirty, it’s that it takes up space!” You know the song.

Marie didn’t want me to tell you this. Last night I heard her say, “I’m sure Mama is going to tell Pauline, and the teachers will know. I’m ashamed of it.” I answered, “I’ll tell her all the same, they can laugh about it if they want.”

Now, what else can I tell you? I don’t know anything else very interesting. Last Monday, in Alençon, there was a beautiful and sad ceremony for the transfer of the remains of the soldiers killed in the fighting in Alençon in ’71. There was a huge crowd, and the bishop [Rousselet], the prefect and the mayor gave speeches. The mayor, upon returning home, got dressed to go to a grand official dinner at the prefect’s house. He felt very tired, and his wife advised him not to go and to rest. He gave in and went to bed, soon lost consciousness, and, the next morning, he was paralyzed on one side with a stroke. The doctors expect that his faculties will remain greatly diminished if he comes out of it.

It’s a great tragedy for his wife and daughter because his affairs are in a very bad state, and he’s going to leave them without any resources. His wife wanted too much to be socially prominent, and that’s what ruined them. Nevertheless, when Marie spoke of the mayor’s daughter, she’d tell us everything. Now she no longer envies her fate, if she ever envied it.

I received your letter and your school report which pleased me very much. The few lines that your aunt wrote me made me very happy. Your father said, “We must save this letter,” and he put it away carefully. But I went and got it to learn by heart what your aunt had written.

Good-bye, my Pauline. If your letter hasn’t been sent, all the better because I would very much like a few words for Léonie. This poor child went to the instructions at the retreat every morning at six o’clock; she was very afraid of failing. I didn’t want to wake her up so early, but she woke up on her own. Once she didn’t have time to put on her shoes and, without anyone noticing, she went wearing some kind of worn out slippers. Fortunately it was dark out, but she was strongly scolded, and I told her she wouldn’t do that again.

I kiss you with all my heart.


© Society of St. Paul / Alba House

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