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What happened in the life of St. Therese of Lisieux on June 11, 1895?

Many people know that on Trinity Sunday, June 9, 1895, St. Therese was suddenly inspired to offer herself "as a victim" to the Merciful Love of God, "asking this Love to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my heart, that thus I may become a martyr of Your love, O my God!"  It's slightly less well known that, within moments of making the offering, Therese was inspired to share it with those around her.

On the morning she received the inspiration and spontaneously offered herself, she was in choir. Her sister Celine, Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, describes what happened next:

After Mass, she took me with her to Mother Prioress; she seemed beside herself and did not say a word.  When we found Mother Agnes, for it was she who was then prioress, she asked her if both of us could offer ourselves as victims to Merciful Love, and gave her a short explanation of what that meant.  Mother Agnes was at a loss; she did not seem to understand too well what was going on, but she had such confidence in Sister Therese's discretion that she gave her full permission.  It was then that she composed the Act called "An Offering to Love," which she carried next to her heart ever afterwards.1

When they were alone again, Therese explained more fully to Celine the inspiration she had received.  During her free time that Sunday, she gathered her thoughts and put them on paper, and, on Tuesday, June 11, the two sisters met in the anteroom to Therese's cell, where the statue of the Virgin from their childhood home, the one before which they had been praying when Mary suddenly appeared to Therese and smiled at her and she was cured, had been placed.  Kneeling before the statue, the two young women made the offering together. See a period photograph of that little room and the statue on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.

Therese considered the anniversary of her own Offering to be June 9; she listed June 9 in the list of "days of grace granted by the Lord to his little spouse" she placed at the end of her first manuscript.  But June 11 is an important day, for it's the day she first shared the Offering with her first disciple and the day she read the words of the Offering in Celine's presence. 

This prayer contained the words

"Most of all, I offer you the love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dear Mother.  It is to her I abandon my offering, begging her to present it to You." 

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Sees
Photo credit:  L'Instantane

On the same day, June 11, 1895, that Therese and Celine knelt before the statue of Our Lady of the Smile to offer themselves to Merciful Love. about thirty thousand people assembled at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Sees to offer Our Lady a gold crown with precious stones given by the people of the whole region. This Cathedral was bound up with the history of the Martin family.  Mary appeared at Lourdes in the spring of 1858, during Louis and Zelie's engagement.  After she said "I am the Immaculate Conception," their bishop raised funds all over France to build the first church in France in honor of the Immaculate Conception at Sees, the seat of their diocese, now a famous pilgrimage site.  The year before Therese was born, the chapel was consecrated before a vast crowd.   Every year Zelie visited the church in Sees on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a feast on which she had received several important graces.  In 1874 she brought Leonie with her3 to ask for the grace to make a good First Communion. 

     While the crowd offered Mary a gold crown with precious stones, the two sisters prayed "I want no other throne, no other crown but You, my beloved!"  Was it a coincidence that these two different events--one so public, one so hidden--happened on June 11, 1895? 


1 St. Therese of Lisieux by those who knew her, ed. Christopher O'Mahoney, O.C.D.  Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1975, pp. 128-129.

2 A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, ed. Dr. Frances Renda, tr. Ann Connors Hess.  Staten Island, New York: Society of St. Paul/Alba House, 2011.  CF 125, p. 160, footnote 301.

3 A Call to a Deeper Love, CF 125, p. 160, footnote 299.

 

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