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From sr Genevieve (Celine) to sr Francoise-Therese (Leonie) -January 8, 1930

From sr Genevieve (Celine) to sr Francoise-Therese (Leonie) -January 8, 1930

+ Jesus                                                               Carmel of Lisieux 8th January 1930

Dear little sister,

I’m writing to wish you a happy feast day as Queen. You certainly are lucky at this game. In the 36 years that I’ve been at the Carmel, I’ve never found the charm. Of course, I’ve had one in my slice of cake several times when the baker has put a dozen inside, but the “special” one that our Mother hides inside, the only one that counts, has never fallen to me. Sr Marie of the Trinity has had it several times, as have some young Sisters that have only been here for 5 or 6 years. It doesn’t surprise me. For instance, when our Mother gives out pious pictures, there’s sure to be something wrong with mine. It often has to be changed.

Léonie, you congratulated me for being on the council. The old canvas has had a frame put round it; that’s all. For a long time, this canvas has been exhibited out of necessity and, as it’s often useful, it couldn’t be stored upside-down in the loft. So as the old support was beginning to buckle, and the edges of the canvas fraying, it was thought that a frame should be put around it. This frame is a very plain, modest oak moulding, with no gold trim. That’s my life story.

No, I’m not replacing Sr Marie of the Sacred Heart. She was never a councillor, although the question as to whether she should be was sometimes raised because of her good judgment. Yet our Mother’s premise was to keep us in the background, and rightly so. It was preferable that her authority be shared with people other than us. Moreover, it was thought, in my case at least, that it would be impossible to get me to leave. As a result of a misinterpretation of the customs, the 3rd blood sister had neither a voice nor a seat in the Chapter. This is why, despite her 9 years of religious life, our little Thérèse was never part of the Chapter. She would leave with the Lay Sisters once she had confessed her transgressions. I inherited the habit when she died. Being the 3rd sister, I continued leaving the Chapter after confessing until 1916, that is to say 16 years after leaving the Novitiate. During a canonical visitation, a surprised Mgr Amette protested, saying to me, “You say that you have no voice in the Chapter, but you do have a seat.” I said that I didn’t, without quite understanding what he meant. And we were none the wiser, because the certainty that the 3rd sister was sidelined was firmly anchored since Marie de Gonzague’s time. Finally, in 1915, we learnt that I should have a seat, and I was given it, but I didn’t have a voice and I never voted. Only in the last 6 months, since our Carmelite Fathers have been our superiors, have all the rights that I should have had been given back to me. Apparently, according to the code, it is not permitted to deprive a nun of this right. If the Community didn’t want three blood sisters, it shouldn’t have admitted them. Léonie, I cannot say that, though I had no desire for honour, I didn’t suffer from being excluded from the Chapter for so long, from not hearing Our Mother’s instructions or not knowing what was going on when novices’ candidacies were being discussed. Things were kept a secret from me. I saw first my Novitiate companions then all the young Sisters join, while I stayed outside the door. But I’m not sorry to have had this suffering to offer up to God! Ultimately, however, I’ve spent my whole religious life being a councillor in all but title, and I’ll admit that holding an office without credentials is not very practical. That is why I’ve felt uncomfortable many times giving orders to the architects or being consulted, while the bursar has been by my side like a modern day St John. I’ve admired her virtue many times, because it’s not in the natural order of things. You know the conclusion. And now, darling little sister, once again happy feast day! Whatever you do, don’t keep the Crucifix as you did the other one, for I would be most upset! I send you all my love.

Sr Geneviève of the Holy Face u.c.n.