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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

Entries in bombing of Lisieux (4)

163 photographs of Lisieux after the bombing of June 1944

Thanks to the Mediatheque de Lisieux and Photos Normandie, we can mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Lisieux (August 23, 1944) with this show of 163 photographs of Lisieux taken after the bombing of June 1944.  See several photos of the ruins of the Benedictine Abbey where Therese made her First Communion; photos of the rue du Livarot, on which the Carmel is located; and the destruction of three-quarters of the city.  These photos give you an idea of the horrific destruction and of the ruins seen by Therese's sisters and the other Carmelites when, on the evening of June 7, 1944, they were obliged to leave their monastery and climb up to the Basilica to seek refuge, with other civilians,in the crypt.  May these images of destruction inspire us to pray for peace today. 

"Residents of Lisieux View as 'Miracle' Sparing of Carmelite Convent and Basilica of 'The Little Flower' - September 30, 1944 - two Canadian war correspondents interviewed Carmelites at Lisieux

 Lisieux basilica.jpg

"Lisieux basilica". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Immediately after the liberation of Lisieux on August 24, 1944, two Canadian newspapermen interviewed the Carmelites and other townspeople and cabled the story to Canada.  See substantial excerpts from both stories about the "miracle of Lisieux" in the Southern Cross, September 30, 1944.

 "[On the night of June 8, 1944] [f]lames roared and crackled over blocks of the town, creeping nearer and nearer to the convent.  At the edge of the convent, perilously close to St. Therese's own chapel, the fire mysteriously slackened, then died out completely.  The townsfolk observed this, and today they are convinced that St. Therese herself intervened .  . . .

Devout brown-clad nuns of the Carmelite Order, to which Saint Therese belonged, today told me they believed the Saint had also intervened to spare the Basilica which bears her name. . . . I talked to Sister Anne of Jesus, aged 65 . . . to my surprise, I discovered the stooped, pale little nun was a Canadian, formerly Anne Goyer of Montreal . . . .

Tomorrow, a silent brown-garbed procession will walk quietly through the ruins of Lisieux, and the Carmelite nuns will once more step into silence and invisibility, which most will never leave again.

               Richard Sanburn, writing from Lisieux for the Ottawa Citizen

I found the nuns eating a simple meal on benches in one of the little side chapels, the chapel of the Virgin of the Smile.  In this and other side chapels of the crypt they have slept while men, women, and children have also been living and sleeping in close proximity, very different from the seclusion these women have known for years.  There were mattresses even on the flagged floor on each side of the altar.

                              Frederick Griffin, writing from Lisieux for the Toronto Star

St. Therese's sisters live through the bombing of Lisieux in the summer of 1944

You can read about the experience of St. Therese's two surviving sisters during the bombing of Normandy in 1944 at the  Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux,

Click on the English translation of the obituary circular of St. Therese's sister Pauline, Mother Agnes of Jesus, prioress of the Carmel, and scroll down to Section VII, "Her Last Days."  The circular notes that on May 3,1944, Pope Pius XII signed the decree declaring St. Therese of the Child Jesus secondary patroness of France, the equal of her "dear sister," Joan of Arc.  Due to the war, Mother Agnes did not receive this document until June 12, 1944, by which time she and the other Carmelites had taken refuge with other townspeople in the crypt of the basilica of the new Patroness of France.  Let's pray that St. Therese, whose protection extended to so many during both World Wars, will obtain from God a renewal of the faith in France and in the whole world. 

Click on the English translation of the obituary circular of St. Therese's sister Celine, Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, and scroll down to Chapter V, "Sunshine and Shadows Over Carmel," to read of Sister Genevieve's experience that summer and of what a great sacrifice it was to her, in the crypt, to put up with the requests of the townspeople to speak to the sisters of St. Therese. See a photo of the crypt of the basilica taken in 1944

We thank the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux and their collaborators for making the story of the lives of the sisters of St. Therese available on the Web. 

"How Lisieux Was Bombed: Little Flower's Sanctuaries, House, and Her Surviving Sisters Safe," by Maurice Desjardins. The Catholic Herald, October 6, 1944


 A journalist reports on how the bombing of Lisieux affected the Carmelites and tells the circumstances of the deaths of many other nuns: he learned the story from the Pilgrimage Director, Mgr Germain, three weeks after Lisieux was liberated.  Read the story of "How Lisieux Was Bombed."