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From sr Genevieve (Celine) to sr Francoise-Therese (Leonie) - August 10, 1913

From sr Genevieve (Celine) to sr Francoise-Therese (Leonie) - August 10, 1913

Jesus +                        10th August 1913

Dear little Léonie,

As you can see, I’ve taken a large sheet of paper today, because I hope to spend quite a while with you. I thank you very much for your letter and for the wishes it contained. It brought me great pleasure to see that you don’t forget your little sisters’ feast days or anniversaries, however hidden away we may be. We haven’t forgotten our Léonie, either, and we would like to initiate you more into both the inner and outer workings of our lives, so that you might resemble us perfectly, and share the same views, desires, and tastes as us.

I’m saying this because I’ve noticed that Fr Robert was intending to give you some spiritual direction, or that you were intending for him to give you some direction (we understood this from your affection for him and from what he said to the sacristan about you feeling discouraged. Hearing this upset me, and yet it’s true that I would prefer to know than to not know). I won’t hide from you that I don’t think that this is where God’s will lies. At our age, at 50, we no longer need direction, especially when we lead religious lives and we have Mother Superiors like the ones that you and I have. Directors are there to guide young people and young ladies, and those who experience out of the ordinary happenings, such as raptures or revelations. For those of us who don’t walk down such paths, and for those of us who are the sisters of a Saint, one who became holy without a director by seeking only Jesus’ pleasure, it would be strange if we were seen to seek one. Feeling our souls’ pulse in this way is futile. It’s a pointless and self-serving occupation; it’s self-seeking, and a waste of time. If we have a matter of conscience to resolve, Fr Pichon is there, and it’s dealt with in a letter and a reply. Little sister, believe me and leave Fr Robert out of things. When he comes here, we don’t even go to see him in the visiting room. In the long time that he has corresponded with our Mother, he has always seemed a little crazy, and we have treated him as such. Keep this to yourself, but don’t see him in the visiting room more than once a year, and don’t let your conversations be too intimate. He’s a saint, no doubt, but there are all sorts of people out there, and as we cannot know them all, it’s better to talk to none of them.      

If only you knew how hardened we’ve become with regards to all holy priests and friars. We don’t write to a single one anymore, and we no longer go to the visiting room. The Postulator in Rome wrote to our Mother telling her to meet no one in the visiting room except Cardinals, Bishops and princesses of royal blood, and we hardly even do that.

The day before yesterday, the Archbishop of Aix visited the monastery, and today, a bishop from America came (a real Prince). Do you think that Sr Marie of the Sacred Heart and I introduced ourselves? Not at all. People ask to see “Marie” and “Céline” but our Mother deflects the question and we don’t go. This way, we are managing to restrict our activities more and more, and our line of conduct is becoming narrower and narrower. A few days ago, Mr de Mallet, the Countess of Clermont-Tonnerre, etc., etc. asked our Mother to the visiting room. She didn’t go and prefers displeasing people than sacrificing her religious life. We’re also going to print a note explaining that it’s pointless sending people to see us, because other monasteries of our Order and influential people give out referral cards, but at the rate things are going, we would spend all day in the visiting room, and that would just be with those who have been referred. Our policy is even stricter for the keepsakes, and devout visitors are being requested to wait until a specific room is built so that they can see the keepsakes through a grate.  

Dear little sister, I could tell you a great deal about how I perceive God’s designs on us, and how He manages to keep everything balanced and makes sure that we give equal consideration to humiliation and prosperity. There is a certain tactfulness in us wanting to remain hidden now that we are living in glory, and His Divine Providence is helping us with indescribable love. For instance, Sr Marie of the Sacred Heart and I have aged considerably, and put on weight, and I assure you that those who believe they will see ideal people in little Thérèse’s sisters will leave very disappointed. This counterweight of glory is intended by God, and we consider it a grace. You are not pretty, either, and it is for the same merciful purpose that He didn’t give you a sharp intellect, because you are more at risk than us. God planned all this so that, as you are of sound judgment and aware of your limits, you might have the good sense to want to be hidden, to remove yourself from the gaze of creatures like a humble violet, and to not even try to do good through writing or speaking, believing yourself to be incapable of anything other than loving Him as our little Thérèse did. Love Him actively by going about your little daily duties. That’s all God asks of you: “Perform your daily little duties whilst singing.” And you know, we can sing even while weeping. Thérèse will teach you this secret if you are faithful. For instance, this morning I was feeling very bad tempered. Everything upset me and was difficult. I was on the brink of despondency, but I said, “God, I want to feel sad and irritated, and I want everything to seem hard. It is this that makes me happy today.” So whilst I stayed morose and almost fierce, I had peace in my heart. I think that’s what is called weeping while singing, or rather, singing while weeping.  

Darling Léonie, have I included you sufficiently in our life and our way of doing things? Are you pleased with this private chat? Oh, how I’d love to feel that you are firm in the way of the truth, that is, not like a poor bedfellow who tosses and turns all night long in search of a comfortable position, but like someone simple who follows her little path straightforwardly, putting one step in front of the other on the course that has been set out for her, like a little child or a little donkey.

I’m afraid you still harbour some illusions. Glory creates an intoxicating atmosphere, one that we could easily let ourselves live if we weren’t careful. It would be a bit difficult for us, I admit, due to the many ordeals we have to face, which are like drops of poison that ruin the best dishes. As for you, it’s the counterweight I mentioned above, and which you must embrace. You must not drag it behind you, but press it against your heart. For your sake and ours, Jesus has surrounded His vines with protective hedges. In the centre, He has built a press in which the grapes are constantly trodden upon. What would we go and seek outside our divine Wine-grower? Any other hand but His is unholy to us, and He lavishes us with immense love.

Goodbye little sister, and I hope your next letter tells us that you are firm on the path that our Saint has set out.

Your Céline,

Sr Geneviève of St Teresa

u.c.n. 

I offer my affectionate respects to your Mothers. Concerning the projection slides, the set you have is the one we bought to sell. We therefore need it in the shop now that the pilgrimage season is here. I think it would be best if you sent it back to us when you have the opportunity, and in return, we’ll send you the one we have in the shop when you intend to use it, which will no doubt be this winter. Then you’ll be able to keep it for a while.