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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

Archbishop Pontier invites all Catholics in France to a day of prayer and fasting on Friday, July 29, 2016 after the murder of Father Jacques Hamel

Mgr Georges Pontier, archbishop of Marseille and President of the Bishops' Conference of France, invited Catholics to a day of fasting and prayer Friday, July 29.

“From Krakow, where I learned of the unthinkable and horrible drama of Seine-Maritime [the section of Normandy where the terrorist attack took place this morning], I want to convey to the family of Father Hamel, to the parish of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, and to the Archbishop of Rouen the assurance of my closeness and my prayer and solidarity.  This tragedy, which occurred in a church, shakes up and disturbs all the French people.

I thank all those who, in their diversity, have expressed their friendship to the Catholic family.

We have various feelings in such moments as these.  We know, however that one of them, fraternity, dear to our country, is the way that leads to lasting peace. Let's build it together.

I invite all the Catholics of France to participate in a day of fasting and prayer for our country and for peace in the world this Friday, July 29th.

Here in Krakow, with all the French bishops present, I invite the youth of our dioceses and our movements to live the Way of the Cross with Pope Francis for this intention. We follow Christ in his victory over hatred, revenge, and death.

It is our light and hope.

Mgr Georges PONTIER

Archbishop of Marseille

President of the Bishops' Conference of France

(translated with thanks from the Web site of the Catholic Church of France).

Let's show our solidarity with the suffering people of France by joining them in this day of prayer and fasting on Friday.

To meditate on the life story of Fr. Jacques Hamel, please see "Jacques Hamel, 85, a beloved French priest killed in his church" in the New York Times.

Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 10:04PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Saint Therese of Lisieux and the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne," July 20, 2016

St. Thérèse of Lisieux
and the Martyred Carmelites of Compiègne

 The martyrdom of the Carmelites of Compiegne in Paris, 1794. Photo credit: Wikipedia

 On July 17, 1794, sixteen nuns of the Carmel of Compiègne (the whole community, except three who were away at the time of the arrest) were guillotined in Paris.  They had offered their lives for God’s peace in the world and for those in prison, and they went to their deaths as to a wedding, chanting of God's mercy. Ten days after their execution, the Reign of Terror ended.  Read their story online in Regina Magazine or read To Quell the Terror: The True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne.[1]  In this article I explore the bond between the Carmel of Lisieux and that of Compiègne and the influence of the martyrs on St. Thérèse.

1835-1838: Refounding the Carmel of Compiègne and Founding the Lisieux Carmel

Mother Camille de SoyecourtA short-lived attempt to restore the Carmel of Compiègne began in 1835, led by the tireless Mother Camille de Soyecourt of the Carmel of the rue de Vaugirard in Paris.  After the French Revolution, Mother Camille did much to bring about the rebirth of Carmel in France.  Like Lisieux, Compiègne is in Normandy, but much closer to Paris.  Because Mother Camille had contributed nuns for the refoundation of Compiègne, she was one of six Carmelite prioresses who had to refuse to send nuns for a new monastery in Lisieux.  Fr. Nicholas Sauvage, the priest who was to establish the Carmelite foundation in Lisieux, had several young candidates and was searching for experienced nuns (“foundresses”) to join them.  He wrote to Mother Camille de Soyecourt, who answered about January 1837 that she had furnished nuns for the refounding of Compiègne and had no other sisters to spare.[2]  (The Carmel of Poitiers opened its doors to Père Sauvage’s candidates.  In 1838, when they were ready to make their vows, Poitiers sent the foundresses, including Mother Genevieve of St. Thérèse, with whom St. Thérèse lived for almost four years, with the new nuns to found the first Carmel of Lisieux).[3] 

That first refounding of the Compiègne Carmel was short-lived.  During the revolution of 1848, the nuns had to return to their Carmels of origin.  In 1866 nuns from Troyes settled in a temporary house in Compiègne; the monastery was completed in 1872, and the chapel inaugurated in 1888, the year Thérèse entered the Carmel of Lisieux.   In 1992 the Carmelites of Compiègne moved to the nearby village of Jonquières.[4]

1870-1871: Sister Fébronie of the Holy Childhood, a Carmelite of Lisieux, lived with the Carmelites of Compiègne

Sister Fébronie (1820-1892) entered the Lisieux Carmel on January 15, 1842.  Due to the exigencies of the Franco-Prussian war, she spent several months in 1870-1871 with the Carmelite nuns of Compiègne in Rennes.  The war threw Normandy into a panic. The families of some nuns asked to take their daughters home to keep them safe.  Three nuns, including Sister Fébronie, left Lisieux at the end of September 1870; four others, including St. Thérèse’s future prioress, Marie de Gonzague, left in January 1871.[4a]  Sister Fébronie declined her father’s offer of shelter in his home in Rennes.  Instead, no doubt to continue her Carmelite life, she sought refuge at the Carmel of Rennes, which had already taken in all the Carmelites of Compiègne.  At the end of January 1871 the armistice was signed, and by March 19, 1871, the seven nuns who had fled had returned to Lisieux.[5]  Sister Fébronie always maintained a lively friendship with the nuns of Compiègne.  She was subprioress when she died in the flu epidemic on January 4, 1892, and  Thérèse, who had worked with her for several years, assisted her in her last moments.  Her prioress, Mother Agnes, wrote in her death notice:

Many times in letters she left, we could see how she edified one of our dear Carmels intimately united with ours, where in a particular situation she had spent several months. Learning of her sudden death a few weeks ago, we received from the Reverend Mother Prioress a new proof of a good remembrance that they have of her in that beloved Community.[6]

The Carmel “intimately united with ours” could have been Rennes, but it seems much more likely to have been Compiègne.  Later, on April 23, 1896, Mother Marie de Gonzague wrote to the prioress of Compiègne

… I do not need to remind you, Mother, of our fraternal union. You know how strongly it is cemented by our dear Sister Fébronie, who is and will be remembered so reverently by present and future generations.[7]

1888:  The origin of the religious name of Sr. Thérèse of St. Augustine of Lisieux

When Thérèse Martin entered in April 1888, her life was touched by a nun whose religious name derived from that of Madame Lidoine, the martyred prioress of the Compiègne Carmel, known in religion as Mother Thérèse of St. Augustine. (The feast of the blessed martyrs is listed as “Blessed Teresa of St. Augustine and companions, martyrs”).  Madame Lidoine, in turn, had been named for the first Mother Thérèse of St. Augustine, “Madame Louise,” a princess of France, the daughter of King Louis XV, who entered the Carmel of Saint-Denis in 1773 and who was beatified in 1873, the year Thérèse Martin was born.[8] 

Sister Thérèse of St. Augustine of Lisieux was the nun whom St. Thérèse said “had the faculty of displeasing me in everything.”

1894: The two Thérèses help to decorate the chapel of Compiègne for the centenary of the martyrdom

The centenary of the martyrdom, which fell on July 17, 1894, led to much excitement in the French Carmels and to a shift in public opinion about the Carmelites of Compiègne. For this occasion the Carmel of Compiègne had asked the Lisieux Carmel to help them decorate their chapel.  No doubt because of her religious name, Sister Thérèse of St. Augustine was assigned to work with the future Saint Thérèse on this project.  In Thérèse’s diocesan process Sister Thérèse of St. Augustine testified; 

I witnessed the zeal, the devotion that she demonstrated on this occasion. She couldn’t contain herself for joy, and said “How happy we would be if we could have the same fate! What a grace that would be!”[9]

A photo of the chapel at Compiègne on this occasion appears in Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux: La vie en images.[10] The banners created by the Lisieux Carmel are seen in the nave.  

In 1896, the Lisieux Carmel prays successfully to the Carmelite martyrs of Compiègne for healings that might advance the beatification

The cause of the Carmelite martyrs of Compiègne was very much “current news” in the time of St. Thérèse, and the Carmel of Lisieux was fervently devoted to the martyrs and eager to assist their cause.  The cause was opened at the diocesan level in 1896.  This probably happened early in the year, for on April 23, 1896, Mother Marie de Gonzague wrote to the prioress of the Carmel of Compiègne to report two healing that had taken place after the Carmelites of Lisieux had prayed to “our Holy Martyrs.”  Each concerned a blood relative of a Carmelite of Lisieux.  The first sick man was a dying captain, the father of three young children.  He was the cousin of Mother Marie of the Angels, Thérèse’s novice mistress; he had had no hope of recovery.  After the nuns prayed to the martyrs of Compiègne and to the Blessed Virgin, he was cured.  The second was a young girl in England, the niece of one of the Lisieux Carmelites, who was in terrible pain after an operation on her foot.  After the Carmelites prayed to the martyrs of Compiègne, she was able to walk again.  The letter suggests that the Carmelites of Lisieux had asked for a novena, perhaps a novena of Masses, at Compiègne and that Mother Gonzague is sending an offering for it.[11] 

Read Mother Gonzague’s letter to the prioress of the Compiègne Carmel at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux. [12]

September 1896 - Msgr Roger de Teil, Vice-Postulator for the Carmelites of Compiègne and Thérèse’s future vice-postulator, speaks to the Carmelites of Lisieux about the cause of the martyrs

Early in September 1896 (before September 7th), Msgr Roger de Teil, who had been appointed vice-postulator for the cause of the martyrs and was touring the French Carmels, arrived at Lisieux to speak and to ask the nuns to pray that a miracle might be worked at the intercession of their martyred sisters to permit their beatification.  He addressed the community in the speakroom

Shortly after the death of Msgr. de Teil in 1922, Thérèse’s sister Pauline, Mother Agnes of Jesus, recalls his presentation and her sister’s reaction:

Even during the lifetime of our Venerable, Mgr de  Teil entered into relations with our Carmel. Then he gathered together all the necessary documents for the Process of our Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne and delivered an enthusiastic conference to the community.  In leaving the speakroom, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus said to us, very much edified, “Isn’t he touching and zealous, the Postulator!  How one would wish to be able to report to him miracles worked by our Martyrs of whom he speaks with such great affection.”[13] 

Thérèse is said to have remarked that, with such a vice-postulator, the Carmelites of Compiègne would surely be raised to the altars soon.[14]  How could she have guessed that Msgr de Teil would be appointed vice-postulator for her own cause and that she would be canonized first?  (The cause of the blessed martyrs remains open).  During his conference Msgr de Teil said “If any of you who are listening to me have the intention of being canonized, please have pity on the poor vice-postulator and work plenty of miracles!” . . . .  Msgr. de Teil’s comment, years later, was “Soeur Thérèse, obedient child, did precisely as she was told.”[15]  In 1899 Msgr de Teil would read Thérèse’s Story of a Soul and speak very favorably of it.[16]

In 1909, at the request of Mother Marie-Ange of the Child Jesus, then prioress of Carmel, Bishop Lemonnier appointed Msgr. de Teil, a distinguished canon lawyer who was then a canon of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, as vice-postulator for the cause of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. (He was also postulator for Madame Louise of France, for the martyrs of September 1894, and for Pius IX).[17]  He shepherded  Thérèse’s cause until his death just a year before she was beatified.

September 1896:  The Carmelite community at Lisieux offers novenas to the martyrs of Compiègne and seeks  a relic for the cure of their Sister Marie-Antoinette

A few days later, at the request of Mother Gonzague, Mother Marie of the Angels, Thérèse’s novice mistress, wrote to the prioress of Compiègne asking for “a little relic of our holy Mother Martyrs” to place on the body of Sister Marie-Antoinette, a young turn-sister who was dying of tuberculosis.  She had returned from Lourdes without a cure “and is nothing but a walking skeleton.”  The Carmelites were “trying a second novena to our Mother Martyrs” and “having a novena of Masses said so that her miraculous healing might favour the beatification of our holy Mothers.”  Mother Marie of the Angels writes “we recently heard Father de Teil, who informed us of his progress, his desires. How happy we would be if the miracle we are soliciting could recompense his zeal and dedication.”[18] 

Read the letter of Mother Marie of the Angels to the prioress of Compiègne at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.

Sister Marie Antoinette was not cured; she died November 4, 1896.

These martyrs of the French Revolution would naturally have appealed to Thérèse, the granddaughter of two soldiers of Napoleon.  But Msgr. de Teil’s visit stimulated her devotion to the Carmelites of Compiègne.  “After that date, she had for these martyrs a great veneration.”[19]  Her encounter with Msgr. de Teil reactivated in Thérèse what she wrote a few days later to Marie of the Sacred Heart in her famous “Manuscript B:” “Martyrdom was the dream of my youth, and this dream has grown with me within Carmel’s cloisters.”

Saint Thérèse treasured images of the Carmelites of Compiègne

Saint Thérèse kept three holy cards with images of the Carmelite martyrs of Compiègne.  In her breviary she kept a holy card made from a photograph of a tableau painted a little before the centenary in 1894 by Mother Marie of Jesus of Leindre [sic], a Carmelite of Compiègne.[20]  View Thérèse’s holy card of the Carmelite martyrs of Compiègne.  

The painting is now at Jonquières, where the Carmelites of Compiègne moved in 1992.[21]

Thérèse had two copies of the other holy card, which listed the name of each nun and her place of birth, with a short account of their martyrdom and a prayer for their beatification.  I believe that this card was probably distributed in 1896 when the cause was opened.  This image accompanied Thérèse to the infirmary in July 1897.  She placed it in her little “book of graces at the table," which was constantly by her.  She kept the second image, which was exactly the same, in the volume of John of the Cross she had in the infirmary (the Spiritual Canticle followed by the Living Flame of Love).[22] That these images accompanied her into the little infirmary where she died confirms that her devotion to these martyrs, made stronger in September 1896,  remained fervent until her death a year later. 

See the image of the Carmelite martyrs of Compiègne cherished by St. Thérèse at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.

July 17, 1897.  Was St. Thérèse’s famous remark about her posthumous mission inspired by the Carmelites of Compiègne?

According to Last Conversations, on Saturday, July 17, 1897,  Thérèse coughed up blood.  Her sister Pauline, Mother Agnes of Jesus, writes that she said these words:

I feel that I'm about to enter into my rest. But I feel especially that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I love Him, of giving my little way to souls. If God answers my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth. This isn't im­possible, since from the bosom of the beatific vision, the angels watch over us.

"I can't make heaven a feast of rejoicing; I can't rest as long as there are souls to be saved. But when the angel will have said: 'Time is no more!'" then I will take my rest; I'll be able to rejoice, because the number of the elect will be complete and because all will have entered into joy and repose. My heart beats with joy at this thought.[23][24]

An early version of Thérèse’s reported words was the “green notebook” prepared by her sister Pauline, Mother Agnes of Jesus.  The typescript of the green notebook mentions, after the words quoted above, only Pauline’s notation “I observed that July 17 was the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Carmelites of Compiègne.”  Bishop Gaucher asks:

Was it a coincidence that the announcement of Thérèse’s posthumous mission took place on the feast of her martyred sisters? Perhaps.  But one can read here also the extraordinary fruitfuless of the hidden life, of the martyrdom of love to which Thérèse always aspired, of suffering offered for the salvation of the world.[25]

But there is more.  Bishop Gaucher notes that the penciled lines on the handwritten “green notebook,” lines sadly erased in part, go beyond the typescript.  The words “Sister Constance” and “novice” can still be seen.  Sister Constance, born Marie-Genevieve Meunier, was the youngest of the martyrs.  Shortly before she was eligible to make profession, the government passed a law forbidding the taking of religious vows, so, after six years in Carmel, she was still a novice.  She was the first to die, after having made her vows at the foot of the scaffold.  It was she who, mounting the scaffold, uddenly began to chant Psalm 117, the psalm Teresa of Avila had chanted whenever she made a new foundation:

Praise the Lord, all ye nations!

Praise Him, all ye peoples!

For His mercy is confirmed upon us,

And the truth of the Lord endureth forever.

The other nuns intoned the psalm with Sister Constance, and the chanting of the psalm continued, voice after voice cut short, until the last nun was executed.[26]

Bishop Gaucher asks:

Isn’t it plausible that Thérèse had been struck by this novice, the first offered?  She who remained in the novitiate her whole life, she who loved the young saints so well, did she not envy the fate of her young sister?[27]

June 6, 1905: The brief for the beatification of the martyred Carmelites of Compiègne and a petition for the opening of Thérèse’s cause

Pope Leo XIII, of whom Thérèse had begged permission to enter Carmel, declared the Carmelites of Compiègne venerable in 1902.[28]

Despite the immense popularity of St. Thérèse’s Story of a Soul, the Carmelites did not think of her canonization.  But petitions arrived from many countries asking for her cause to be opened.  Then, on June 6, 1905, Pope St. Pius X, who would soon call St. Thérèse “the greatest saint of modern times,” promulgated the brief of beatification for the martyred Carmelites of Compiègne.[29]  On that same evening the Lisieux Carmel received a petition with 53 signatures from the seminary of Tournai in Belgium with  asking them to introduce Thérèse’s cause.  “The Carmelites could not help but see a sign in this coincidence.  It seemed to them that the Carmelites of Compiègne were asking them to work for the glorification of their little sister.”[30]

St. Thérèse had always had a special love for many young martyrs: St. Agnes, St. Cecilia, St. Joan of Arc, Theophane Venard . . . In offering herself as a victim of holocaust to Merciful Love, she prayed to “become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!”  She wrote that “the martyrdom of the heart is not less fruitful than the pouring out of one’s blood.”  If the martyrs of Compiègne, who shed their blood for the faith, asked their sisters of Lisieux to work for the canonization of Thérèse, the martyr of love, might the Church one day recognize St. Thérèse of Lisieux as a martyr?

Further reading:

 To Quell the Terror: The True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne, by William Bush


[1] by William Bush.  (Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc., 1999).

[2] Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, accessed 7/17/16

[3] Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, accessed 7/17/16

[4] Catholiques de Compiègne - Carmel de Jonquières, accessed 7/18/16

4a.  Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, accessed 7/23/16

[5]  Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux,  accessed  7/18/16

[6]  Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, accessed 7/18/16

[7]   Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux accessed 7/16/16

[8] To Quell the Terror: The True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne, by William Bush.  (Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc., 1999), seriatim. 

[9]   Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, accessed 7/16/16

[10] Pierre Descouvement and Helmut-Nils Loose.  Paris: Editions du Cerf [Orphelins Apprentis d’Auteuil – Office Central de Lisieux – Novalis], 1991, p. 341. 

[11]  Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux,  accessed 7/16/16

[12]  Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux accessed 7/17/16

[13] Quoted and cited in Guy Gaucher, O.C.D., “Thérèse de Lisieux, des seize martyres de Compiègne, et Georges Bernanos,”  Bulletin de la Société historique de Compiègne, Bulletin No. B34 (Les Carmelites de Compiègne), 1995, p. 146.  Accessed 7/17/16.  My translation.

[14] Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Life, Times, and Teaching, ed. Conrad De Meester, O.C.D., in chapter 14, “Thérèse’s Universal Influence,” by Pierre Descouvement and Raymond Zambelli, (Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc., 1997), p. 259. 

[15] Storm of Glory, by John Beevers.  Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Image Books, 1955, p. 118.

[16] Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Life, Times, and Teaching, ed. Conrad De Meester, O.C.D., in chapter 14, “Thérèse’s Universal Influence,” by Pierre Descouvement and Raymond Zambelli, (Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc., 1997), p. 256.

[17] Gaucher, “Thérèse de Lisieux, des seize martyres de Compiègne, et Georges Bernanos,”  op. cit., p. 146, accessed 7/17/16.

[18]  Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, accessed 7/17/16

[19] Letter of Mother Marie-Ange of the Child Jesus to Msgr. de Teil, 22 January 1909, quoted and cited in Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux (1873-1897) by Guy Gaucher, O.C.D.  Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2010, p. 404.  My translation.

[20] Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux: La vie en images, Pierre Descouvement and Helmut-Nils Loose.  Paris: Editions du Cerf [Orphelins Apprentis d’Auteuil – Office Central de Lisieux – Novalis], 1991, p. 340.

[21]  Catholiques de Compiègne - Carmel de Jonquières, accessed 7/17/16

[22] Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux: La vie en images, op. cit., pp. 338-339. 

[23] St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations, ed. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, p. 102.

[24] Last Conversations (reported words of Thérèse) cannot be held on a level with Thérèse’s writings.  But Thérèse’s letter of July 14, 1897 to her spiritual brother, Fr. Adolphe Roulland, expresses similar desires. Letters of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Vol. II (1890-1897), tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, 1988, p. 1142.

[25] Guy Gaucher, O.C.D., ‘Thérèse de Lisieux, des seize martyres de Compiègne, et Georges Bernanos.”  op. cit., p. 148, accessed 7/17/16.  My translation.

[26] To Quell the Terror: The True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne, op. cit., seriatim.

[27]  Quoted and cited in Guy Gaucher, ‘Thérèse de Lisieux, des seize martyres de Compiègne, et Georges Bernanos,” op. cit., p. 149, accessed 7/17/16)

[28] The Tablet, July 8, 1905, accessed 7/17/16. 

[29] They would be beatified on May 27, 1906, the first martyrs of the French revolution

[30] Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Life, Times, and Teaching, op. cit., p. 258.

Copyright 2016 by Maureen O'Riordan.  All rights reserved.

Anniversary of the blessing of the Basilica in Lisieux, by Cardinal Pacelli, July 11, 1937: Seven Things You May Not Know About That Day


Basilica of St. Therese, Lisieux. Photo credit: Dee Cursi

Today is the anniversary of the blessing of the basilica of St. Therese at Lisieux by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, on July 11, 1937.  At Lisieux today the anniversary is being commemorated with a conference on ‘The Basilica, A Tribute  to Mercy” and other spiritual events

The devotion of Pope Pius XI to St. Therese

In 1937, Pope Pius XI had been gravely ill for some time.  For many years he had had an intense personal devotion to St. Therese, whom he called “the star of my pontificate.”  When he fell sick, he prayed to St. Therese, and he believed that the improvement in his health which extended his life until 1939 was due to her intercession.  He publicly thanked the saint “who has so effectively and so obviously come to the aid of the Supreme Pontiff and still seems willing to help him: Saint Teresa of Lisieux.”1  To show his gratitude to St. Therese, Pope Pius had intended to come to Lisieux himself to address the Eucharistic Congress and to bless the basilica, but, as his health and his workload did not allow it, he missioned his Cardinal Secretary of State, Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, who, as Pope Pius XII, would succeed him, to travel to Lisieux to speak to the Congress and to bless the basilica.  [This was not the basilica’s actual consecration, for in 1937 only the crypt was completed. The cornerstone had been laid in 1929.  World War II delayed the construction, and the basilica was not finally consecrated until 1954].  This basilica was close to the heart of Pope Pius XI; he had expresed the desire that it be “big, beautiful, and built as quickly as possible.”

Cardinal Pacelli Blesses the Basilica and Speaks to the Eucharistic Congress, Denouncing Nazi Racism

The Eucharistic Congress at Lisieux that summer was of worldwide importance, and Cardinal Pacelli’s visit was very big news spiritually, ecclesiastically, and politically.  Please read a contemporary account in the Montreal GazetteThe “Papal Legate” was greeted by a quarter of a million people, including five cardinals, 80 archbishops and bishops, and 1,200 priests.  On Sunday morning, July 11, he blessed the basilica, sprinkling the foundations with holy water and blessing the interior walls. See this two-minute video of the blessing and the Eucharistic procession.

After the blessing, the Cardinal Legate stood on the esplanade outside the basilica and addressed the immense crowd for 90 minutes.  Read much of the text of Cardinal Pacelli’s address in The Tablet

His remarks included a clear condemnation of the actions of the fascist and communist governments which increasingly dominated Europe:

"Rise, basilicas of France, aged ancestors of the Middle Ages, and younger sisters of yesterday ! Rise aloft to greet a new-born sister, the Basilica of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, the House of God among His own. Here . . .  it is the Word that speaks, Truth and Justice, in the threefold law and duty to God, to one's neighbour and to oneself, with a serene, yet clear condemnation of all unjust violence and all criminal cowardice.

At the foot of this pulpit and at the door of this church St. Ambrose stopped Theodore and forced him to his knees in the presence of a crowd, dumbfounded with wonder. From this pulpit, in all the churches of a mighty and noble nation, whom evil pastors would mislead into the idolatry of race, the indignant protest of an eighty-year-old Pontiff suddenly thundered forth, like the voice from Sinai, to recall the inalienable rights of God, the Incarnate Word, and the sacred magisterium of which he is the trustee. . .  .

All those who wish to live in Christ must suffer persecutions, but these weigh particularly hardly on the present Pontiff, drawing from him, as they afflict his children in various countries, cries of pain and of protest. Yet neither the revolutionary and sacrilegious violence of masses blinded by false prophets, nor the sophism of doctors of impiety, who would deChristianize public life, could break the resistance or fetter the words of this intrepid old man."2

“The Nazi press interpreted the cardinal’s words as a direct attack on National Socialist ideology . . . . the most direct attack Pacelli ever made on Nazi racism.”3

In a reference to the Pope’s gratitude to St. Therese for obtaining his healing from God, Cardinal Pacelli continued:

It is with a feeling of special gratitude to the wonderworker of Lisieux that His Holiness, unable to come himself as he would have wished, desired to be present by means of an Ambassador extraordinary and a messenger of his grateful heart.4

After his long speech, the Cardinal celebrated Mass.   The vast congregation was then informed that the Holy Father himself was about to address the congress by radio. 

Pope Pius XI Speaks to the Congress at Lisieux by Radio

The Holy Father spoke from an armchair in the private study of his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, with his eyes fixed on a marble bust of Therese and a relic of her that stood on his table.  The press reported at length that his voice was stronger and clearer than it had been for months; it echoed through the big basilica.  The Pope spoke for twelve minutes.  He spoke on the theme “Pray always and do not grow weary.” 

Living Basilicas

“Let us pray, well-beloved sons, so that, as the Divine King of the Tabernacle created our souls and gave for them all his precious blood, he also condescended thus to sanctify and save them, making of them henceforth, in the expectation of celestial glory, a living basilica where he pleases to reside, above all by the Holy Eucharist, today triumphant with its sanctifying grace and with its blessing on the beautiful and magnificent basilicas, to which no beauty in the world can be compared, not even the ravishing splendors of the new basilica of Lisieux.

Let us pray, well-beloved sons, for all those who have charge of and watch those living basilicas which are your souls, . . .

And now falls on you, on all and on each . .  .. the benediction of a  father, of an old father, whom your prayers have called back on the road of life for a new step, for how long and how far only God knows . . . 5

Read the full text of the speech of Pope Pius XI in the Montreal Gazette.

St. Therese's Sisters Hear the Pope's Speech On Radio in Their Monasteries

As you read the Pope's speech above, you will read what the sisters of St. Therese heard.  The Pope had expressed the wish that the sisters of St. Therese should hear his address, so radios were set up in the Carmel of Lisieux and in the Visitation monastery at Caen, where Leonie lived.  Read Leonie's letter to her sisters sharing the indescribable excitement of the whole community at Caen; she tells her Carmelites that "your poor little sister watered the floor with her tears."  Read Celine's reply in which she describes her private conversation with Cardinal Pacelli and the community's exhaustion after the visits of so many ecclesiastical dignitaries.

The Eucharistic Procession Closes the Day

More pilgrims were still pouring in, bringing the total to some 300,000.  The Eucharistic procession in the afternoon began at the Basilica and proceeded to Ouilly-le-Vicomte, where the Martin family used to go on outings. 

Cardinal Pacelli Visits the Carmel of Lisieux

In the evening Cardinal Pacelli visited the Carmelite monastery and spoke to Mother Agnes.  The next morning he returned to the Carmel to offer Mass in the infirmary where Therese died.  That morning he met her sisters Marie and Celine; Celine photographed him in the cloisters.  See the photograph and a detailed account of his interactions with Marie and Celine in my article "Cardinal Pacelli's Visit With the Sisters of St. Therese at Lisieux Carmel, July 12, 1937."

How You Can Observe the Anniversary Today

Today at Lisieux there is a Jubilee Procession, and pilgrims will celebrate the Year of Mercy by passing through the Holy Door.  From your own home, make a ‘virtual pilgrimage” to the Basilica at Lisieux, which itself has been a Door of Mercy to so many for so long, by viewing this film with excellent narration in English:

Laurence Panontin of the Pilgrimage Office at the Basilica of Lisieux

 View "The Basilica of St. Therese at Lisieux" in the "Catholic Destinations" series at Catholic TV

On the anniversary of the blessing of the Basilica of St. Therese, let’s unite our prayers with the prayers of those celebrating at Lisieux today that we may continue to be drawn through St. Therese, herself a living door of mercy, to the heart of Christ.



1. "The Popes and Little Teresa of the Child Jesus" in 30 Days in the Church and in the World.

2. "Radio Talk Shows Pope is Improved" in The Montreal Gazette, July 12, 1937.

3.  A Cross Too Heavy: Pope Pius XII and the Jews of Europe, by Paul O'Shea. Palgrave MacMillan: New York, New York, 2011.

4.  "Cardinal Pacelli at Lisieux" in The Tablet, July 17, 1937.

5.  "Radio Talk Shows Pope is Improved" in The Montreal Gazette, July 12, 1937.

Remembering with joy "Therese's bishop," Guy Gaucher, O.C.D., on the second anniversary of his death - July 3, 2016

 Guy Gaucher, O.C.D. Photo credit: Jacques GauthieJuly 3, 2016 is the second anniversary of the death of “Therese’s bishop,” Guy Gaucher, O.C.D  Therese led him to Carmel, and he served her not only as her Carmelite brother but also as auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux and him, as a great scholar of St. Therese.  In thanksgiving for all he gave to Therese and to us, I gather here a look at the announcements of his death and funeral; several tributes; and the homily from his funeral Mass.


Posted on Saturday, July 2, 2016 at 11:55PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

The miracle that made Elizabeth of the Trinity a canonized saint: the healing of Marie-Paul Stevens. June 20, 2016


Photo of Marie-Paul Stevens, whose cure was certified as the miracle for the canonization of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. Released by the Dijon Carmel June 20, 2016

The story of the healing of Marie-Paul Stevens

The first photograph of Marie-Paul Stevens, the Belgian woman whose healing was accepted as the miracle for the canonization of Elizabeth of the Trinity (announced by Pope Francis today to take place on October 26, 2016) was released today by the Carmel of Dijon, with new details about her story.

Diagnosis with Sjogren's syndrome; treatment

In 1997 Marie-Paul Stevens, a Belgian woman, was a professor of religion at the Institute of the Marist Brothers in Malmedy.  She was then 39 years old.  In May she started to have trouble speaking and developed other symptoms.  On the advice of a friend, she underwent various medical tests, and, some weeks later, was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease.  Her sickness advanced; the government asked her to retire early, and she had to leave her profession in 1998.  Although Marie-Paul received chemotherapy and other treatment, her health grew worse.  In 2000 and 2001, she became more and more disabled and was in unbearable pain.

Prayer for healing

Since her adolescence, Marie-Paul had loved Elizabeth of the Trinity and had prayed for her intercession.  Now all her friends, together with the nuns of the Carmel of Dijon (now in Flavignerot, where the nuns had moved in 1979), continued to pray the novena to Blessed Elizabeth to ask for Marie-Paul's healing. The patient herself did not ask to be cured, but she wanted to go on pilgrimage to the Carmel of Flavignerot before she died to thank Elizabeth, who had accompanied her so powerfully during her illness.

The patient makes a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to pray at Elizabeth's Carmel before she dies

Accompanied by friends, Marie-Paul came as a pilgrim to the Carmel of Flavignerot.  On April 2, 2002, in the chapel of the Carmel, she prayed and gave thanks to Elizabeth for sustaining her during her five-year illness.  Coming out of the chapel exhausted, she sat down to rest on one of the rocks that edged the monastery's parking lot. All at once she stood up, raised her hands to heaven, and cried out in amazement and happiness "I'm not in pain any more!"  From that day she has been well.

Restored to health, Marie-Paul makes a second pilgrimage of thanksgiving on foot

Just a few months later, Marie-Paul was able to walk 350 kilometers (217 miles) on a pilgrimage to give thanks.  It took some time, and many medical examinations, till the happy day when, on March 3, 2016, Pope Francis authorized Cardinal Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to promulgate the decree approving the cure of Marie-Paul Stevens as a miracle attributable to the intercession of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.  It was this which opened the way for Elizabeth's canonization, and Pope Francis announced today that she will be canonized on Sunday, October 16, 2016. 


Marie-Paul, we thank you for your faith and endurance, and we rejoice in your cure and in God's having chosen you as an instrument to make soon-to-be-Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity known and loved.  May she accompany you more and more closely.

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