From sr Genevieve (Celine) to sr Francoise-Therese (Leonie) - October 29 & 30, 1909

From sr Genevieve (Celine) to sr Francoise-Therese (Leonie) - October 29 & 30, 1909

 + Jesus                        29th and 30th October 1909

Darling Léonie,

Your letter contained sad news. Will you all be going into exile? I don’t think you’ll leave your lovely monastery and I imagine that just a few of you have left to smooth the path so that at the first sign of danger, you’ll be able to settle into a perfectly orderly life in the first few days following your arrival over there. I hope I’m not mistaken, and if I’m wrong I’ll be very upset, because it would mean you are leaving us. It feels like you’re not far from us in Caen, whereas over there . . . . In any case, may everything be according to Jesus’ will. Are we not all in exile on this miserable earth, and all separate from one another, even when living under the same roof? Oh, yes! After all, even though we live together, we very often don’t talk, and deep down I aspire to the reunion in heaven, when we’ll be free of the dark shadows of this fleeting life and from the weight of our bodies.

Our Mother is so happy to be going to heaven! And yet we are immensely distraught to be losing her. We have prayed novenas to all the Saints, make no mistake. Upon the advice of Mgr Touchet, we prayed one to Joan of Arc. We’re currently praying to “the Angel of daily Communion”, the little girl who died at the age of 4 and a half in the odour of sanctity in England. She is working miracles. 2 months before she died, she was taking Communion every day. She would meditate for up to 8 hours at a time and Jesus appeared to her. It’s delightful how God makes saints. I so love the divine originality of His choices and of His means! If only He could make unworthy me into a vessel of honour! Oh, very often I beg that “He might have designs on me”. To quote the Sacred Songs, I ask Him to look on His servant in her lowliness and, since He has no desire to call me to heaven, to call me to Him through the path of holiness. I pray that my darling little sisters are granted the same, because I don’t want anything for me alone.

At the moment I’m making little sacrifices for a poor sinner. He’s a priest who is currently in prison in Lisieux. The very evening of our celebration in honour of Joan of Arc, he was caught on the path that runs beside our monastery. He was no doubt going back to take the train. The following day, Francis came and announced the scandal in tears. Good people who go to so much trouble to defend priests are devastated. His Lordship has issued the order for him to renounce his duties as priest. I’ll tell you, Léonie, even if everyone is filled with indignation and even if people despise this wretched man for falling into the mire, I myself am filled with compassion. Very often, I send my guardian Angel to the prison so that he might radiate a light of repentance on him and whisper a few words of hope to the poor heart that is half dead with sin. I don’t think it is the time to abandon a soul when everyone else abandons them. Oh, how I’d like to be a prison chaplain, and go and lift up broken souls when I please. I don’t know whether God approves of my desire. If it displeases Him, may He forgive me! But I have much more compassion than disgust for wilted lilies. Ah, what would have become of us if God had not protected us? After all, we’re capable of anything, anything at all.

Léonie, I was going to finish my letter, thinking that we were all going to write to you, but apparently I alone have this pleasure, so I’ve taken another sheet of paper to tell you all the news, because I’ve much to tell you. Since I’ve mentioned the celebration for Joan of Arc, I must tell you that we decorated the monastery sumptuously. At the double door by the grate, there was a huge life-sized wallpaper print of Joan of Arc (we bought it). It looked lovely after I had touched it up with my paintbrush and added some gold embellishments, because she was hardly beautiful before. Above it was a big arch bearing the inscription: “O Bl. Joan, protect us.” Then, at her feet, there was a lattice-work of beautiful red, white and blue flags interlaced with palm leaves and gold laurel branches, and also her coat of arms. It was very pretty and the ensemble surmounted the grate. Auguste said that the whole town would come out to see it and that it would attract passers-by. Yet this is what happened: the day was horrible. It was windy, stormy and rainy. The streets were empty apart from a few old dogs and hatless girls walking arm in arm. Lastly, a young man passed and threw a stone at Joan of Arc. It didn’t hit her but lost its way among the bars of the grate. After a while, following my initial sadness that all my hard work had come to nothing, I laughed at our misfortune. It was so funny! An unfriendly neighbour had already torn down one of the flags the previous day, and it was a national flag, if you please. The French show respect for their homeland!  

Ah, the storm, which was bordering on a hurricane the night before the celebration, was a fitting omen for the carnival of evil spirits that was supposed to take place in our poor district! You really would have thought that hell had been set loose here. In the evening, the lights of our Turn Sisters’ neighbours refused to switch on. No doubt the angels didn’t want the scene taking place a few metres away from us to be lit. However, we set off a firework, which delighted Our Mother. We positioned her bed by the window so that she could see our pretty inner courtyard all lit up in red and green.

But I see I’m wasting my time telling you this nonsense when I’m so busy. Quick; onto the messages.

Have you received the small parcel that I gave to Ninette to pass on to you? It contained your case, some letters written by Uncle and a little note. She mislaid it and then found it again hidden in her bag when she arrived in Paris. I wasn’t pleased. Did Ninette make a good impression on you? Jeanne and Francis don’t want to see her again. She shamed them in front of some people they invited to the house when Uncle died. They say she’s a bit crazy.  

Speaking of Jeanne and Francis, they can only go to Caen on 6th, 7th or 8th September, so you mustn’t go on retreat before then, or otherwise you ought to see them during you retreat. They can’t alter their trip because the dates correspond with a “French Women’s Union” meeting. They would be most upset if you couldn’t see them. We must be very kind to them because they are being very devoted. I assure you, I’m edified to see them accomplish our uncle’s wishes so faithfully. They’re all we have left, so we must treat them with affection and respect.

As for Mgr Roumani, I’m going to make you laugh. We didn’t know where Tripoli was, and after having looked for it in the dictionary, we sent the book and picture of the Holy Face to Barbary in Africa. Thankfully, we haven’t yet heard anything. There was a letter, if you please, sent to the same address. We don’t even know if there is a bishop in those parts! I think someone must have sent a note to Asia to inform the true addressee.

Now for news of our little 13-year-old postulant. She’s English. Her father was a minister in America and her mother is German, but she was born in France and speaks French. She’s 13 years old and while she’s no Little Thérèse, we think we can train her, because she is willing and loves the exercises of religious life passionately, even though, in themselves, they form only its basic skeleton. She had no idea what religious training was like. It is hard, as you know, and yet it constitutes the bone marrow of the religious state. Her parents are admirable people; Saints in fact. They are anxiously tracking their dear child’s difficulties, to the extent that everyone is suffering. The little girl is just awakening to life and is experiencing her first heartbreaks and rebelliousness, while her parents, not expecting this, fear we’re spoiling her, and Little Mother has more important things to do than train a little schoolgirl for religious life. I say little, but she’s very tall, and looks 18. Don’t repeat these details; they’re for you and your dear Mothers only. Speaking of good works, a first class miracle has just taken place in England. An enormous tumour disappeared instantaneously. The patient was practically raised from the dead.  

The statue will be splendid. Mgr Lemonnier was astonished and delighted when he saw the photograph the other day. We’ll show it to you when it is finished. Francis and Jeanne don’t know about it. Don’t mention it to them.

Now for some more very important news. Believe it or not, Marie Martel, Tilly’s fortune teller, came to Lisieux to visit Thérèse’s burial place, and claimed that Thérèse spoke to her and would soon appear to her. Several fine ladies have written to us, full of enthusiasm. Far from enthusiastic, we sent for his Lordship. Our Mother spoke to him about it the day before yesterday. He is very displeased and says that “it’s a diabolical machination” against the Cause, and that if we said a word or replied to M. Martel’s letters, the Cause could be aborted. He says that M. Martel is a little crazy. “Think about it,” he said, “She has seen the Bl. Virgin 2000 times. Next it’ll be the angels, Joan of Arc, and later St Thérèse. There’ll be no end to it.” He told us to reply to the ladies by saying that the Bishop of Lisieux and his predecessor are dealing with Tilly, and that we’ll believe in what she says when the Holy See recognises it. His Lordship strictly forbids us from saying a word more. So if you hear about Thérèse in relation to Tilly or to M. Martel, don’t say anything. Inform your dear Mothers so that they do the same. His Lordship doesn’t believe Tilly, of course, but imagine what a difficult situation this is for us! I send a quick kiss.  

Your Céline

Best wishes to your dear Mothers. I don’t have time to reread what I’ve written.

Sr Geneviève of St Teresa

P.S. by Mother Agnes of Jesus

Hello little sister and beloved daughter. I dreamt about you all night. How I loved you in my dream, but I love you even more awake. Pray for our dying Mother and for your poor Little Mamma.

If you go to England, don’t forget to pass by the Carmel.