The Last Years of Saint Therese: Doubt and Darkness, 1895-1897, by Thomas Nevin, is available for pre-order.
Thomas Nevin's first book about St. Therese, Therese of Lisieux: God's Gentle Warrior, drawing on previously unused material, was a major breakthrough in studies of St. Therese in English. I am happy to announce that his long-awaited second book about St. Therese, The Last Years of Saint Therese: Doubt and Darkness, 1895-1897, will be published by Oxford University Press on July 15, 2013. Pre-order it here ($29.66 and free shpping). A big pre-order helps to launch a book successfully, so, if you plan to purchase the book, you can help it achieve a wider distribution by ordering it now.
The editorial description:
For over a century, the Carmelite Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (1873-1897) has been revered as Catholicism's foremost folk saint of modern times. Universally known as "the Little Flower," she has been a source of consolation and uplift, an example of everyday sainthood by "the Little Way." This book puts aside that piety and addresses the torment of doubt within the life and writing of a saint best known for the strength of her conviction.
Nevin examines the dynamics of Christian doubt, and argues that it is integral to the journey toward selfless love which Thérèse was compelled to take. Thérèse's metaphors for doubt were "tunnel," "fog," and "vault," each one suggesting darkness, dimness, and enclosure. What, Nevin asks, did doubt mean to her? What was its source and nature? What was its object? He gives close attention to her reading and interpretations of the Old and New Testaments as pathways through her inner wilderness. Her Carmel of spiritual sisters becomes a vivid setting for this drama, with other women challenging Thérèse by their own trials of faith. One of Thérèse's indispensable lessons, Nevin concludes, is the acceptance of helplessness.
If you have not read Therese of Lisieux, God's Gentle Warrior, learn more about it here.
Today there is much excitement in France about the release on April 22, 2013, just four days from now, of the album "Thérèse: Vivre d'Amour," the poetry of St. Thérèse set to music. For more about this unique project, see my article of April 7th. Previews of the individual songs "Vivre d'Amour" and "Jeter des Fleurs" were already released. Now a third song, "La Fiancée," has been released in preview. Hear an excerpt above.
The text of "La Fiancée" in the preview above consists of verses 7, 8, and 9 of Thérèse's poem "The Responses of St. Agnes." Saint Thérèse wrote this beautiful "engagement poem" for the feast of her sister, Mother Agnès of Jesus, on January 21. 1896. She based it on the "responses" from the Office of the young Roman martyr, St. Agnes. It was on this same feast day in 1896 that she gave to Mother Agnès the just-completed first manuscript of her memoir, later to be published as Story of a Soul.
Some Background on Thérèse as a Poet
In the last four and a half years of her life, St. Thérèse wrote 54 poems. Many were written at the request of her fellow nuns; some were composed for special occasions, such as when a nun received the habit or made her vows. All her poems were written to be sung to the music of her favorite songs. To read the text of the poems sung on the album "Vivre d'Amour," please consult the bilingual edition, The Poetry of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, tr. Donald Kinney, O.C.D., ICS Publications, 1996. In English, it contains a valuable preface by Jean Guitton; a superb General Introduction by Guy Gaucher, O.C.D.; and the text of each poem together with notes and introductions. In French, the text of each poem appears. To learn more about the book, click the image.
The English text of each poem, together with Therese's handwritten manuscript and the musical score to which Therese meant it to be sung, may also be read at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux. The French text with manuscript and score, is available at the Archives site. The French text is downloadable from that site.
The music on this album is to presented live in France, not in concert halls but before altars. According to Charts in France, various churches are hosting the team of artists for a short tour in September. If it is successful, "Vivre d'Amour" may be the subject of a tour of the Zéniths (a series of large theatres or concert halls, like indoor arenas but seating at least 3,000 people, found in many cities in France) in 2014. So, through these artists, Saint Thérèse will continue to "sing the Mercies of the Lord" in venues outside the churches. Pray and hope that these performances and this album '"Vivre d'Amour" create a wave of interest in St. Thérèse's poems that will lead many listeners to engage with her life and spirituality. Look forward to its release on Monday, April 22! What do you think of the previews?
Almire Pichon, S.J., and Marie Martin, the sister of St. Therese of Lisieux: The Anniversary of a Friendship (April 17, 1882)
When St. Therese entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux on April 9, 1888, her two blood sisters were already there. Pauline, the second daughter, had entered at age 21 on October 2, 1882, when Therese was nine years old. On April 6, 1883, Pauline received the habit and the name Sister Agnes of Jesus. , recovered just long enough for the ceremony. Pauline made her profession on May 8, 1884, the same day Therese received her First Communion.
Marie, the eldest daughter, is pictured at left. She was a "free spirit" with little interest in social conventions. In this photograph she wears a medallion on a velvet band around her neck. Later she wrote to Pauline: "If you remember, Mother, Papa gave each of us a beautiful gold locket. It was still fashionable then to wear it around the neck on a black velvet ribbon. Far from being drawn to vanity by it, I experienced a kind of shame. It seemed to me that I looked like a little lapdog when I wore the famous velvet band around my neck." ( Souvenirs autobiographiques, 1909, copyright Archives of the Lisieux Carmel. Translation copyright Maureen O'Riordan 2013).
Marie had entered the Lisieux Carmel four years after Pauline, on October 15, 1886, the feast of St. Teresa of Avila. She was then twenty-six years old. On the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1887, Marie received the habit. Thus, when Therese, 15, entered in April 1888, Marie, 28, was approaching the end of her year of formation as a novice. Because choir nuns remained in the novitiate for three years after profession, Marie and Therese were together in the novitiate for almost three years. On March 19, 1887 Marie had also received her religious name: Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart. This name had been chosen for her by her spiritual director, the Jesuit Almire Pichon, a preacher well known in Normandy who came to have a significant influence on the Martin family. He preached devotion to the Sacred Heart fervently.
Marie was the first of her family to meet Pere Pichon. She recounts it in her Souvenirs autobiographiques, the autobiographical reflectons she wrote at Pauline's request in 1909 (available in French at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, and soon to be posted in English). Early in April 1882, when Marie was twenty-two years old and preparing to part with Pauline, she met a friend who told her that a holy Jesuit priest was to preach a mission at the Lambert factory outside Lisieux. (In France, at this time, priests came to factories to preach to the workers. The Franciscan, Pere Alexis Prou, of whom Therese said that he "launched me full sail upon the waves of confidence and love" when she confessed to him in October 1891, was a last-minute replacement. He was not expected to be wildly popular among the Carmelite nuns at Lisieux because "he preached in factories").
Marie's friend said enthusiastically about Pere Pichon "He is a saint whom one does not often see." Marie went to the mission out of curiosity to see a saint and went into the confessional for the same reason. With her usual candor, she told Pere Pichon that she had come to see him because she'd heard he was a saint. He laughed a little and invited her to confess. She did so briefly, but went home feeling disappointed. This meeting was on April 17, 1882, 131 years ago today, and from then on the two friends kept this date as the anniversary of the beginning of their friendship. The priest was then 39 years old.
That evening, though, Marie felt drawn to confide in Pere Pichon again. As she never went out alone, she asked the maid, Victoire Pasquer, to accompany her to Pere Pichon's Mass the next day. Victoire Pasquer, a maid at Les Buissonnets 1877-1884Then she entered his confessional again, explaining that she had felt irresistibly drawn to talk to him again but didn't know why. He asked her whether she wanted to be a nun. No. Did she want to get married? Oh, no! Well, did she want to be an old maid? No. Pere Pichon had to catch a train, but two weeks later he was to return to Lisieux to preach a reteat at the Refuge. He gave Marie some homework: write down all your impressions of the religious life, why you don't want to become a nun, and all the thoughts that come to you during these days on the subject of your vocation. "For my part, I hope very much to give you to Jesus." Several weeks later, when Marie entered his confessional again, he read the eight pages she had written and began to ask her questions. They began a lively correspondence which lasted for several years, even after he was missioned to Canada. He returned to France, and in 1886 he finally "nudged" Marie into the Carmel. I will write more about Marie and about Pere Pichon as we approach the 125th anniversary of Marie's profession in May.
One week after Therese's entrance, Pere Pichon wrote to Marie from Poitiers. The mail service, by train, was excellent, so he could write on April 16 and know that she would get his letter for their anniversary on April 17th. His letter shows his tender affection for the young sister, his proprietary pride and gratitude for her vocation, and something of his spirituality. Read the full text of this letter at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, which was accessed April 17, 2013.
Almire Pichon will appear again in the story of the Martin family. He was to have considerable influence on the Martin family, especially on Marie, so April 17, 1882 was the date of an important event in the family's history. His role in the lives of the Martin family is sensitively analyzed in chapter two of Thomas R. Nevin's superb book Therese of Lisieux: God's Gentle Warrior (New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 38-42). I recommend it highly.
Pere Pichon's letters to St. Therese appear in Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Volume I (1877-1890), tr. John Clarke, O.C.D. (Washington, D.C., ICS Publications, 1982) and in Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Volume II, (1890-1897), tr. John Clarke, O.C.D. (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1982). These two volumes are a gold mine of information about Saint Therese and the Martin family.
The story of Pere Pichon's life and of his association with the Martin family and with the family of Jean Vanier, founder of l'Arche (Pere Pichon was the cherished spiritual director of Jean Vanier's grandmother, Therese de Salaberry Archer, who was the mother of Pauline Vanier) is told in The Hidden Way: The Life and Influence of Almire Pichon, by Mary Frances Coady (Toronto: Novalis, 1999).
125 years ago with St. Therese of Lisieux: letters of her family n the day or two after she entered the Carmelite Monastery at Lisieux, April 9, 1888
On the morning of April 9, 1888, after the 7:00 a.m. Mass, St. Therese was accompanied to the enclosure door by her father and her sisters Leonie and Celine, as well as other relatives. For a few moments all five daughters were near each other, although two (Pauline and Marie) remained inside the enclosure, where they were already living as Carmelites. Later that same day Celine wrote to the Carmelites to tell them how generously Louis was accepting the loss of his little Therese. His oldest daughter and his favorite, Marie, wrote to him at once to praise his generosity. "What Celine tells us is worthy of you." She ended her letter, "Our Mother [the prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague] couldn’t help crying as she read Céline’s account. Ah! What a remarkable father you are!!"
(Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart to her father, Louis Martin, April 9, 1888. Read the whole letter on the Web site of the Archives of the Lisieux Carmel. Photos courtesy of the Web Site of the Archives of the Lisieux Carmel).
The next day Louis wrote to his friends the Nogrix family to announce Therese's entrance.
Thérèse, my little Queen, entered Carmel yesterday! God alone could demand such a sacrifice, but He’s helping me so powerfully that through my tears, my heart abounds with joy.
One who loves you,
François-Julien Nogrix was an intimate friend of Louis Martin's from Louis's time in Brittany, where Louis studied watchmaking. In 1883, when Louis was 59 or 60 years old and Therese was ten, M. Nogrix wrote to tell Louis that he had returned to the Church. Louis answered with a joyful letter in which he recalls the happy times they had together as young men. Read the letter here at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
[Text of both letters from A Call To A Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, 1863-1885 Staten Island, N.Y.: Society of St. Paul/Alba House, 2011].
Sketches of St. Therese entering Lisieux Carmel on April 9, 1888 - from the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux
After I published the photo essay of St. Therese entering Carmel, I discovered at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux the section "St. Therese's Life in Pictures" (103 documents, many never published before, depicting sixty scenes in Therese's life). I post below several sketches of Therese's entrance day. At the Archives site the images are a little bigger and are accompanied by text from Therese and some details; to visit them there, please click on the images below.
Note: to see the above sketch at the Archives site, click on the image above. Then click on the highlighted word "sketch' on the page where you land.