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From sr Francoise-Therese (Leonie) to Mother Agnes of Jesus – November 7, 1920

From Sr Francoise-Therese (Leonie) to Mother Agnes of Jesus – November 7th 1920

V + J! From our monastery in Caen on this 7th November 1920

Dearly beloved little Mamma,

As you can see, this letter bears the same date as the one that was stolen. To give you the illusion that it was never lost, I’m going to rewrite it as best I can for your pleasure and consolation, because nothing distresses me more than knowing you’re upset. (But once and for all, dearly beloved little sisters, never, never again will I entrust the unreliable post with my letters! Three have been stolen from me now, which is more than enough reason to bid it a final farewell). This will certainly cause me difficulties, especially on your feast days when my letters will necessarily arrive late, me being at the mercy of Divine Providence more than ever on such occasions (which essentially is immensely sweet) but at least I’ll be sure that my wishes will reach you sooner or later, and this is what I am resolved to put all my strength into achieving. So you are forewarned. I hope it won’t cause you any pain, darling little Sisters; it is bad enough that it inconveniences me! Besides, you know very well that the poor wishes I express on paper are merely a shadow and very dim picture of the inexpressible love that Jesus has put in my poor heart. This heart is so big and little at once, and yet so loving, that He alone is capable of revealing its feelings for you. That is why I often take Communion for your intentions. It’s the only way I can pay back the increasing number of debts I owe you. Dearest little sisters, I’m rich in Jesus and can pay you everything back, because He is Everything.

I was entering the season of Advent with a heavy heart, and your letter and delightful Christmas poem arrived just in time to comfort me, beloved Mamma. Yes, of course we shall sing it. It will be a great pleasure for me and a lovely surprise for our dear Mother and the Community. – Here are my retreat resolutions:

By strictly practicing modesty of the eyes, I’ll no longer be tempted to speculate on things that don’t concern me. This continual self-denial will allow me to remain perfectly united to Our Lord, making me meek and humble of heart like Him. I’ll no longer be inclined to judge my neighbour unkindly, as I don’t want to see or become involved in anything at all, and will uniquely apply myself to pleasing my Beloved. – In this way, my life will be completely hidden in God with Christ Jesus and, in the words of my darling Thérèse (my ideal saint), I’ll be able to say, “Since I have abandoned all thought of self-seeking, I live the happiest life possible.” You have broken my chains, Lord. I will offer you a sacrifice of praise and invoke your Holy Name.

The older I become, the more I see that human glory is merely vanity and vexation of spirit. That is why I like my life in dim shadow. I spend almost all of it in this dear little cell, darning for the linen room, and singing strophes from poems I love written by my little Mamma or my darling Thérèse. I sample and experience her pleasant Little Way more and more. Like her, “I no longer tend the herd, now my sole aim is love.” “I floated so high above all things that I became strengthened by humiliation.” This thought is extremely dear to me and strengthens me on the frequent occasions I realise I’m good for nothing, and on the scrap heap (my true place which I love and cherish). My inferiority used to cause me great suffering. At heart I felt very isolated from everything . . . . At present, thanks to the great grace of my retreat and its delightful fruit, all that rubbish hardly troubles my soul at all! Tell me, little Sisters, whether you recognise the work of our darling Saint in this. She must be fitting me to the taste of the divine Thief, “our adored Eagle” who will soon swoop upon the very unworthy and miserable prey of his love, so that from heaven I can attend the Beatification celebrations of She whom He sees fit to call “the joy of His Sacred Heart”. There shall be no grieving, not even one shadow over the celebrations here below, because the end of exile for one of us will bring you happiness. Your happiness will be all the greater as on this occasion, you will lift your hearts particularly high. This is what is special about our splendid religious celebrations; they are the “mirror image” of the unparalleled and indescribable beauty of the heavens.

In short, these were the private things I said in the letter that was so disgracefully stolen from me. But let’s forget about that, and, on this day of celebration in heaven and on earth, leave behind the sorrows of exile in order to breathe the fresh air of our true Homeland beside our beloved God’s crib. Are there any sweeter, more enviable wishes we can exchange than those of love, my singularly loved Sisters? Because Love is everything; everything can be summed up in this one word! And may Love alone remain for eternity, because He is the Verb incarnate, and has brought the heavenly fire to earth in order to set every soul on fire and set alight as many fires as there are hearts. Ah, if men were willing to let down their resistance; if they understood the Love of this adorable tiny Child, who’s reaching out to us from His manger as He will do later on the Cross, earth would already be heaven.

Alas! I eat this Fire each morning and my icy heart remains frozen. Jesus sinks in and secretly does His work, I’m sure, so I fear nothing more than missing a Communion. Since we have had daily Communion, I’ve only missed one, and that was because I was too sick. A few days ago, I nearly missed another, feeling unwell just as I was going to receive the Host. But taking some air in the cloisters made me feel better and, taking advantage of the blessing that I’ve had every day for over two months now, which is wheeling a dear and very frail Sister in her wheelchair (I act as deacon and place a paten under her chin. Is this not devout? I wouldn’t change places for a whole empire), I nimbly slipped in front of the first wheelchair, because the hassock was going to be removed, and I stole Jesus. Having done so, o bliss, I took hold of the little wheelchair and fulfilled my usual duty. It all worked brilliantly; I was really lucky!

We’re all feeling fluey, but it’s very harmless. After periods of bitter cold, the thaw always brings problems.

Has my little Carmel been spared? I suffer doubly in harsh winters, knowing your cloisters are exposed to all weathers. You’re going to say I’m repeating myself again, dear eldest sister, and yet, at least admit that I’m right when I say it’s enough to make you all ill and may have very dire consequences for the young Sisters, what with people’s health being what it is nowadays.

The group statue is so beautiful! Thank God, it no longer looks like a Descent form from Cross. It’s exactly how I dreamt it would be. It’s perfect! Will it be painted? What do His Excellency and Fr Duboscq think of it? And what do they think of the perfect portrait of Thérèse drawing her last breath? – Have the Spiritual Letters by Mgr Gay been published? You didn’t answer me on that point! Thank you for your wishes, beloved sisters. Mine won’t reach you until Wednesday. I’m extremely sorry for the delay. You know that the only cause for it is the unreliable postal service. My heart overflows with love and affection for my trio; you are dearer to me than life itself.

Sr Françoise-Thérèse Martin

B.B.G.

Mr Tardy has seen to our grille mechanism. Our Turn Sisters are in awe of the building work he’s doing for our holy little Sister. It’s so beautiful! So let’s be patient, all’s well that ends well . . . .

Thank you for the slide of Bethlehem. I would also like one of the lovely group statue for our stereoscope, please! I’m glad of everything you send.