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The English text of the speech by Bishop Germain which Therese of Lisieux, a pilgrim at Montmartre, heard on November 6, 1887

The Martin family pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre: November 6, 1887


Therese in April 1888, aged 15, five months after her visit to Montmartre

Today, on the anniversary of Therese's visit to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre, I have, thanks to the generosity of the Basilica, the joy of presenting for the first time an English translation of the speech she heard the bishop of Coutances give to the pilgrims that morning.  To relive the occasion with Therese, read on:

On Sunday, November 6, 1887, the 14-year-old Therese Martin, with her father, St. Louis Martin, and her 18-year-old sister, Celine, came to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre, on a hill outside Paris, to assemble, together with 194 other persons with whom they were to go on a pilgrimage to Rome.  The pilgrimage had been organized by the diocese of Coutances in honor of the 50th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Pope Leo XIII.  It was widely seen as a demonstration of the loyalty of the French church to the Pope, who was more or less a prisoner in the Vatican, and it was covered in the French and Italian press.  

Mgr Abel-Anastase Germain, bishop of Coutances. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The bishop of Coutances, Mgr Abel-Anastase Germain, accompanied the priests and lay persons from his diocese to Rome. Bishop Germain, who strongly encouraged exterior manifestations of the faith such as pilgrimages and processions, was known as an eloquent preacher.  The pilgrimage was directed by his vicar-general, abbé Legroux.   Therese’s own diocese, that of Bayeux and Lisieux, also participated in this pilgrimage as a diocese.  Her bishop was represented by his vicar-general, Msgr. Reverony.  Therese hoped that Msgr. Reverony might intercede with Bishop Hugonin to obtain permission for her to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen. 

Construction of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre in 1882, five years before Therese arrived. Photo credit: Wikipedia.This assembly at Montmartre, where only the crypt of the basilica was completed, was the first time that all the pilgrims had come together.  The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a massive undertaking that took nearly 50 years to complete, was the fruit of a "national vow" made by the French Catholics after the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.  Read the story here.  

The Martins had arrived in Paris early on Friday morning,  November 4, and Louis had spent two days showing his two youngest daughters the sights of the capital.  Therese remembered chiefly visiting the Shrine of Notre Dame des Victoires, where she received an important Marian grace 

Discovering What the Pilgrims Did in the Basilica That Day 

I knew that all the pilgrims had participated in Mass and other ceremonies at Montmartre on Sunday, November 6, and had been consecrated to the Sacred Heart there before leaving Paris the next morning. I had often wondered whether any record of the ceremony existed, and I wrote to the Secretariat of the Basilica at Montmartre to inquire.  To my amazement, the Basilica had a copy of the November 10, 1887 issue of the Bulletin Mensuel de l’Oeuvre du Voeu National au Sacré Coeur de Jésus (Quartorzieme Annee) [Monthly Bulletin of the Work of the National Vow to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Fourteenth Year], T. XII, No. 11.  See the cover below:

Monthly Bulletin of the Work of the National Vow to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, published November 10, 1887, four days after Therese's visit

Recovering Bishop Germain's Speech to the Pilgrims 

The November 1887 issue contained a detailed description of the ceremony and the speech, verbatim, that Mgr Germain addressed to the pilgrims.  With the utmost kindness the Basilica sent it to me with permission to publish it and other illustrations.  I thank the Basilica for the honor of allowing you to read the very words heard by Therese on that Sunday 129 years ago.  First, see the original in French below: 

Detailed description of the ceremony and transcript of Bishop Germain's speech


Next, the English translation, which is copyright 2016 by Maureen O'Riordan.  All rights reserved.

"II. November’s pilgrimages and pilgrims

November’s pilgrimages were not as numerous as the autumn leaves falling from the trees, but they made up in their importance for what they lacked in numbers.

On November 6, 1887, at 9 o’clock in the morning, Mgr Germain, Bishop of Coutances, made his solemn entry into the apse of the crypt where 200 people of the dioceses of Coutances and Bayeux awaited him; these were pilgrims en route to Rome. Mgr Germain had told them “The first station of our great voyage to the tomb of the Apostles will take place in the sanctuary of Montmartre, at the altar of St Peter, erected by the generous gifts of the people of my diocese.”

This altar, placed in the center of the crypt, in a form like the buttress of the Chapel of Purgatory and the pedestal of the great dome. One reaches it via a great semi-circular stairway shared by six ranks of columns.  From the altar of St Peter, ornamented with lights and flowers, one sees the pilgrims grouped on the platform or scattered among the seven side chapels. 

Statue of St. Peter, seated, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre. Photo credit: TripAdvisor.

St Peter, seated at his doctoral rostrum, a facsimile of the statue in Rome, seems to preside over the assembly; one might believe oneself part of a scene in the catacombs amidst a meeting of the first Christians around the first Pope. 

After celebrating Mass and distributing Holy Communion to the pilgrims, Mgr Germain, inspired by the place where he found himself, with a heart and in a language full of faith and love for the Sacred Heart and for St Peter, showed how their pilgrimage to Rome was the complete realization of the motto of the national Vow: Sacratissimo Cordi Jesu Cristi Gallix poenitens et devota ["France penitent and devoted to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ"], and how, in their station at Montmartre, the pilgrims from Coutances and Bayeux would learn to make this holy voyage with a spirit of penitence and devotion.

“1. We are gathered in the chapel of St Peter, he said. Isn’t Peter a model of penitence? You know [it] by how many tears, and what tears! He cried during his triple denial… Wasn’t Peter a model of devotions?

---Devotion of Knowledge by faith…. Don’t you hear him say to the Lord: You are the Christ, living son of God?... 

--Devotion of the will by obedience…  What does he respond to Jesus who commands him to toss out his net after a fruitless night of fishing? Master,  you tell me and I throw out my net again.

----Devotion of the heart through love… Don’t you seem to hear coming from this statue paid for by your pennies this response made by the head of the Apostles to the Savior: “Oh, yes, Lord, you know that I love you!”

“During our voyage let us all be moved, like St Peter, by the spirit of penitence, the spirit of faith, the spirit of obedience, and above all by the spirit of love: Oh! Yes, let us love like Peter!

II We are in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.. What shall we learn from the Heart of Jesus if not sacrifice and devotion! Didn’t he love men so much that he died for their torturers… even for the one who plunged the god-killing lance into the Heart of Him who loved him to excess?

III We are on the Martyrs' Hill…  Now, who were these martyrs? Their spilled blood cries to us: Penitence, devotion, faith, obedience and love!”

Detail of the procession singing the Magnificat, November 6, 1887

After the greeting, the pilgrims organized themselves into a procession under the leadership of the Abbé Legoux, vicar general. They wandered throughout  the crypt singing the Magnificat  and proceeded into the upper apse [in the open air] where Monseigneur the Bishop blessed, in the name of the people of his diocese, the decorative molding of an arch placed before the altar of the Holy Virgin.  The diocese of Coutances proves itself so generous to the Sacred Heart that there would soon be in all parts of the monument some important evidence of its devotion.

Procession of pilgrims singing the Magnificat, November 6, 1887

“I am preparing another one for you,”  Mgr Germain told us:  “upon my return from Rome, I will address my dear diocesans with a new appeal: it will be our honor to donate the statue of St Michael which will crown the pinnacle of the choir.  My people are not rich, but I know them: they love the Sacred Heart. and they love St Michael.”

This was a promise, and an episcopal promise, but in his inexhaustible and industrious charity, and with the lively satisfaction of his pious bishop, Abbé Legoux thought that, without prejudice to the promised gift for the future, ……

Can We Find the Missing Page of this 1887 Article?

Here the account breaks off, for, miraculous as it is that this record has been preserved, the next page is missing.  The Bulletin Mensuel, which was published from Paris, showed, in 1887, subscription prices for France, Algeria, and foreign countries.  If any of you can find a copy of the November 10, 1887 edition that contains the complete account (perhaps in a library or in the archives of a religious order that subscribed), please do let me know, for I hope to publish the complete article in English and to restore it to the Basilica in French. 

Image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the chapel of St. Pierre in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre

The Chapel of St. Peter at Montmartre


We know that the Martin family received Communion at this Mass at Montmartre.  I believe that they participated in the Mass from the Chapel of St. Peter.  Although this art was not there in 1887, that chapel today contains an image of the Sacred Heart based on the one Charles de Foucauld had in his chapel at Beni-Abbes.







The Consecration to the Sacred Heart


Before leaving the Basilica for lunch, all the pilgrims were consecrated to the Sacred Heart and given small badges of the Sacred Heart.  Below is a sketch of Therese at the moment of consecration. 


 Therese kneeling in the Basilica at Montmartre at the moment of her consecration to the Sacred Heart 

Therese wrote that she had asked for a special grace, "the grace," for her cousin, Jeanne Guerin.  We do not know what this grace was.  For more about the devotion to the Sacred Heart at that time and for Therese's unique experience of the Heart of Jesus, which departed radically from the accepted interpretation of the "Sacred Heart devotion," please read my article "The Abysses of Love and Mercy of the Heart of Jesus: St. Therese of Lisieux and the Sacred Heart."

A plaque on the wall near the altar of St. Peter commemorates the visit of St. Therese, Celine, and St. Louis.

Therese Offered Her Gold Bracelet for a Monstrance for the Basilica 

The plaque mentions that when Therese, the jeweler's daughter, returned to Lisieux, she sent her gold bracelet to the chaplains of Montmartre to be melted down in order to form part of the great monstrance for the basilica, a sacramental sign of her desire to keep vigil near the Eucharist day and night.  That monstrance is pictured below:

The gold monstrance for which St. Therese sent her gold bracelet

Perpetual Adoration of the Eucharist at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre 

Perpetual adoration of the Eucharist in the basilica has continued day and night since 1885, two years before Therese's visit.   

Perpetual adoration of the Eucharist in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre. Photo credit: TripAdvisor.

If you go: following in the footsteps of St. Therese at Montmartre


Although Therese did not have the chance to adore the Eucharist in the Basilica at night, pilgrims now have that opportunity.  If you are staying elsewhere in Paris, you can do so just by getting a ticket at a certain time in the evening that will admit you to the basilica after it closes for the night.  If you are seeking a more complete retreat experience, you may stay overnight at the guest house operated by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of Montmartre, whose vocation is to animate the spiritual experience of the pilgrims to the Basilica.  You will have the opportunity to sign up for your chosen time of adoration.  This is a powerful way to follow in the footsteps of St. Therese in Paris and also to honor her father, St. Louis Martin, and her uncle, Isidore Guerin, who were leaders in the movement of nocturnal adoration at Alencon and at Lisieux.  Night and daytime pilgrimages are offered to individuals and to groups.  

A Carmelite monastery on Montmartre


The friends of St. Therese will be happy to know that there is also a Carmelite monastery on Montmartre.  It was founded in 1927.  

I was delighted to see that the Basilica has now described the November 6, 1887 ceremony on its Web site in French.  

The relics of St. Therese venerated at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre


Several times the relics of St. Therese have visited the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre in November to commemorate her visit in 1887.  See photos and videos of the visit in 2015.  Could the devout teenage girl have guessed in 1887 that "she would return, more than a century later, in the form of relics offered for the veneration of the faithful?'

I renew my fervent gratitude to the Basilica for permitting me to share with you these precious texts and images.  Please pray for the flowering of the great work of prayer and adoration that takes place there.  And please add a prayer for my own ministry for the Martin family, too.  If you can visit Montmartre, please share your experience there with me by clicking "e-mail me" at the left side of the Web site. Thank you.  

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