From Mme Martin to Mr and Mme Guérin CF 209 - June 24, 1877.

From Mme Martin to her brother and his wife

Alençon, June 24, 1877

I think you must be worried about how my trip went. I wish I could have sent you a joyful telegram, but unfortunately, I’m not cured. On the contrary, the trip made my illness worse.

However, I’m not at all hopeless. I believe I’ll be cured, and this idea came to me at my last good-bye at the Grotto, so I was very happy on the return trip. I sang as well on the return trip as I did while going, but the children didn’t do the same, they’re desolate.

I had quite a hard time calming them down. Pauline didn’t want to eat anymore. I had to say to her an hour after we left, “I truly believe I’m getting better.” A sudden joy lit up her face, and she told me that she was overcome with hunger. She ate well and fell asleep.

I’ll remember this trip for a long time because of the misery and fatigue I endured. I wanted to bring three children, believing it better to do so and more easily obtain the grace we wished for so much, but it cost me a lot of trouble and turmoil of every kind.

First, in Le Mans, an extern Sister had to lend me a “very handy” container to put some water in. We already had one, but it was full of good wine, and we needed water. She filled it, and there we were on our way when we noticed it was leaking. We had to bring it back to her.

After arriving in Angers we went to the Visitation Monastery, it was three o’clock. There we waited a long time for Vespers to finish, and around four o’clock we saw the Superior and the Sister who used to be headmistress of the boarding school in Le Mans.

At six o’clock, I wanted to leave so my daughters could have dinner. The Sister wanted to keep them until eight o’clock. I didn’t want that, we were dying of hunger. She told me to take them to the hotel and afterwards bring them back right away, but it was too far. To go and come back would be a league508 and I couldn’t agree to this arrangement.

Finally, the good extern Sister took it upon herself to give them a piece of bread with a little chocolate. I wasn’t very happy, but Sister Marie-Paula wanted so much to keep them with her and the girls wanted so much to stay, that I didn’t dare hurt any of them. Pauline was as happy as a queen with her piece of bread!

They gave us another container. We brought it with us to the hotel, and the next day, upon leaving, we filled it with water. This one, too, leaked like a watering can. The manager gave us a bottle, and off we went.

But this was only the beginning of my trials and tribulations. In spite of the loving protests of my daughters to let them take care of me, it was I, in fact, who took care of them. Sometimes one of them was thirsty, sometimes another one was hungry. What’s more, Marie was afflicted by a big speck of dust in her eye and moaned about it for four hours. Finally, Léonie’s feet were swollen, and she cried because her shoes were hurting her.

At the end of the journey I was so worn out by fatigue, I was afraid I would faint. Finally, towards the end of the night, I slept for two hours, during which Léonie, while dreaming, got up, came to throw herself on top of me and from there against the door which, fortunately, was closed.

I let out such a cry of surprise and terror, not knowing where this had come from, that I woke up all the other travelers, who laughed heartily. Finally, I made Léonie sit near the door so that the same thing wouldn’t happen again.

We arrived in Lourdes at five o’clock in the morning. At that early hour I couldn’t bother Father Martignon, whom I’d first asked to find me a place to stay. Then later, having indicated to him another address that had been recommended to me, I didn’t know if he’d received this second letter. Finally, I nevertheless decided to go to this second address.

We were beginning to get settled when this good priest arrived and said to me, “I saw you pass by my window and, based on the information you’d given me, I thought I wasn’t mistaken. You mustn’t stay here. I reserved a room for you with the Sisters from the orphanage in Nevers.” And he said to the proprietor of the hotel, “Madame, yesterday I came to see you twice but in vain, so I looked for other accommodations for Madame Martin whom, first of all, we must take care of.”

I was only half pleased by all of this. Finally, haphazardly, we had to pick up our luggage again and follow Father Martignon, who got us settled with the Sisters while asking them to treat us well.

This was all well and good, but I said to myself, “I wouldn’t normally put up with this arrangement for a long time. Oh well, I’ll live with it for the moment.” The children were hungry so I ordered a good tapioca. As for me, I took nothing because I wanted to go first to the Grotto and then to the spring, although I was completely worn out.

When I arrived at the Grotto, my heart was so tight I couldn’t even pray. During Mass I was very close to the altar, but I was so exhausted I didn’t understand a thing.

I left in a state of total collapse, and from there I went to the spring. I looked with terror at the freezing water and the deathly cold marble. But I had to do it, and I courageously threw myself into the water. Yes, but … I almost couldn’t breathe, and I had to get out almost immediately. I should have gone in more gently.

Then I went into the first restaurant I could find to have a cup of chocolate, and at eleven o’clock we had lunch at the Sisters’. There was a magnificent table with many rich pilgrims, but the menu was quite meager.

I said to myself, “Here’s a meal, but there won’t be two of them because I’m uncomfortable with all these people, and I prefer to stay in my room with my daughters.” So I told the Sisters that I’d brought enough provisions, and I would tell them when I needed anything.

I did the right thing because I wouldn’t have had enough money. Nevertheless, I’d brought a sufficient amount, and I returned with five francs!

Father Martignon was to see us again at noon in order to let us know the time of the Mass. I wanted to go to his house to spare him the trouble of going out, but he was entering the Sisters’ house as I was leaving.

He celebrated Mass for me on Wednesday (June 20) at six o’clock at the altar of the Sacred Heart in the Basilica in Lourdes. Léonie became sick during the journey and was unable to receive Communion.

This good priest is truly a saint. I wanted to see him again, and I went to his house four times. On my first visit, he was at the Bishop’s house, so I went there, that’s how much I wanted to speak with him. They told me he’d left and handed me a letter from him. While leaving Lourdes I tried one last visit, but again he wasn’t home. I was very sorry about that. Oh well, I’ll write him soon, and I fully intend to be able to tell him that I’m cured because I still have hope.

I’m going to continue the novenas with the Lourdes water that I’ll apply every day. I brought back three liters, but what trouble I had with the containers! Again, one of the containers I bought was leaking, and I had to return it to the shopkeeper. Only countless misfortunes and miseries happened to me.

I lost my sister’s rosary that I’d brought with me, hoping it would bring me happiness. However, I was so afraid of losing it that I never put it down for one minute, and I constantly had it intertwined between my fingers.

I said I didn’t put it down for one minute, but unfortunately, while I was buying some groceries, I gave it to Marie to keep. When we returned there was no more rosary. This hurt me very much; it was the only relic I had of my sister and the one I wanted the most.

Pauline also lost her rosary to which two of her aunt’s medals were attached. She cried over her poor rosary. As for me, I didn’t cry over mine, but it left me with a pain deep within my heart. Oh well, God allowed it, an ordeal for which He’ll compensate me.

I had many other distressing adventures, but they were of little importance, and it would take too long to tell you about them. Finally, we arrived in the Angers train station at eight-fifteen on Friday night (June 22). The good Sisters at the Visitation Monastery had asked me to have breakfast with them Saturday morning.

The Mother Superior wanted me to go to “Our Lady of the Underground” (a shrine) in Angers, where miracles occur, but I declined and thanked them for all their offers because I wanted to take the first train to Le Mans.

When I arrived at the hotel I told the manager that I was going to return to the station to inquire about the exact time of the train. He declared that there was no need, that he had all the fares and that the schedules had changed the day before, and consequently, there was only the seven o’clock train.

So I relied on that and didn’t go to the station. Besides, I’d just torn my dress in such a way that I couldn’t walk anymore because my two feet got caught in the tear. I even almost got crushed by a carriage that I clearly saw coming towards me, but I couldn’t get out of the way. Finally, I had dinner and then repaired my dress.

The next morning at a quarter to seven I was at the station. The employee who was selling tickets said to me, “The train left an hour ago. The new schedule doesn’t start until the 25th.”

I knew that Louis would be waiting for me in Alençon at five-thirty, and I had to bring Pauline to the Visitation Monastery in Le Mans. What could I do with only my half-hour stop in Le Mans? When we arrived there, I decided to put Pauline alone on the omnibus. She was crying and was very unhappy. I wasn’t happy, either…. I was worried the whole rest of the journey and still am. I’m afraid the conductor took her I don’t know where. I’m going to write to her today to find out if she got back safely.

Not having been able to leave Angers until noon, I forgot to tell you that I went back to the Visitation Monastery and, at the plea of the Superior, went to Notre-Dame de Sous-Terre. I was still hoping to obtain my cure there, but I wasn’t cured. That will be for another time. Let’s wait patiently for God’s time, who wants to test us for a while.

The good nuns wanted to see me cured as much as I did. They said endless prayers and novenas, those in Angers, as well. The Sister in this town, who taught my oldest children, cried part of the day on Thursday because she didn’t receive the telegram I’d promised her.

At eight o’clock in the evening they heard a little bell in the cloister sound only once. It did no good to try and find out who rang it, nobody had touched it. They believed it was a miracle and that it was Our Lady of Lourdes letting them know that a miracle had taken place … or rather, that it hadn’t!

I lit a beautiful candle for you in the Grotto of Lourdes and three others for Monsieur Fournet, the Maudelonde family and the ladies of the P family [Pigeon]. I plunged into the spring four times. The last time was two hours before we left. I was in the icy water just above my shoulders, but it wasn’t as cold as the morning. I stayed there more than a quarter of an hour, still hoping that the Blessed Mother was going to cure me.

While I was in there I didn’t feel any pain anymore, but as soon as I got out, the sharp pains began as usual.

The Blessed Mother left more people than me with a trial to bear. I saw many sick people, among them a young thirteen-and-a-half-year-old girl whose poor mother carried her around on her shoulders during the processions and throughout the day. She was in a pitiful state with paralyzed legs and a hideous sore covering her entire back which I only had the courage to look at from a distance.

She left Lourdes without being cured, as well as two poor sick people who came there for the second time. I saw the funeral of a seventy-two year old man who had died almost unexpectedly on Tuesday because the day before he drank too much water from the Grotto while being in a sweat.

Last Wednesday, while taking down a vase full of water, I missed two steps and strained my neck so badly on the side that isn’t sick, that it’s impossible for me to make any movement in bed. This morning I needed a lot of help to be able to get up. However, today I’m feeling better than yesterday.

Tell me if one could have a more unfortunate trip? Of course, there are great graces hidden at the bottom of all this that will compensate me for these miseries. With faith, I put the miraculous water on my Léonie’s forehead.

I’m finishing my letter; I think you know enough about my trip. I thank you, as well as the good ladies of the P family, for all you’ve done for me. I would have been twice as happy to be cured because of you. Unfortunately, the Blessed Mother says to us, as she did to Bernadette, “I will make you happy not in this world but in the next.”

I don’t regret having gone to Lourdes, although the fatigue has made me sicker. At least I won’t blame myself for anything if I’m not cured. Meanwhile, let us hope.

Many people here know that I’m returning from Lourdes, although I hid it as much as I could. But one person would tell another, so now almost everybody knows.

I don’t like it because I see some smiles of disbelief on the part of even those who advised me to go on the pilgrimage. These people were thinking that I wouldn’t be cured because they don’t believe in the miracles of Lourdes. So they have a triumphant air, not that they wish me ill, of course. Finally, to tell you the truth, I’m very unhappy over it and don’t know where to hide myself.

Good-bye, I look forward to hearing from you. Today I’m starting another novena, and I won’t stop saying it unless I’m cured or I die. Meanwhile, I kiss you with all my heart. My husband asks me to give you his best wishes. He had a hard week, always hoping to receive the “miraculous” telegram which never came!


© Society of St. Paul / Alba House

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