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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

Entries in Celine Martin (6)

An essay illustrated with 19th century photos to celebrate the annniversary of the day St. Therese of Lisieux entered Carmel, April 9, 1888

Therese Martin entered Carmel on Monday, April 9, 1888.  That year April 9 was the feast of the Annunciation, which had been transferred from March 25 because of Lent.  This photo essay is to celebrate the anniversary of her entrance.

Therese a few days before she entered on April 9, 1888

Let's listen to some accounts of her entrance.  First, Saint Therese's own:

"On the morning of the great day, casting a last look upon Les Buissonnets, that beautiful cradle of my childhood which I was never to see again, I left on my dear King's arm to climb Mount Carmel. Chapel entrance of Lisieux Carmel photographed shortly after Therese's death

 As on the evening before, the whole family was reunited to hear Holy Mass and receive Communion.  As soon as Jesus descended into the hearts of my relatives, I heard nothing but sobs around me. 

The sanctuary of the chapel of the Lisieux Carmel in the time of St. Therese

 I was the only one who didn't shed any tears, but my heart was beating so violently it seemed impossible to walk when they signaled for me to come to the enclosure door.  I advanced, however, asking myself whether I was going to die because of the beating of my heart!  Ah! what a moment that was.  One would have to experience it to know what it is.

 

Louis Martin, probably at age 58, about 1881

 My emotion was not noticed exteriorly.  After embracing all the members of the family, I knelt down before my matchless Father for his blessing, and to give it to me he placed himself upon his knees and blessed me, tears flowing down his cheeks.  It was a spectacle to make the angels smile, this spectacle of an old man presenting his child, still in the springtime of life, to the Lord!

 

Space where Louis knelt to bless Therese when she entered, April 9, 1888A few moments later, the doors of the holy ark closed upon me, and there I was received by the dear Sisters who embraced me.  Ah! they had acted as mothers to me in my childhood, and I was going to take them as models for my actions from now on.  My desires were at last accomplished, and my soul experienced a peace so sweet, so deep, it would be impossible to express it." 

(Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of LIsieux, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 3rd ed., 1996.  Used with permission).

 

Canon Delatroette

St. Therese writes "A few moments later."  She tactfully omits what other witnesses report happened in those few moments.  Canon Jean-Baptiste Delatroette, the parish priest of St. Jacques, was the ecclesiastical superior of the Lisieux Carmel (the priest charged with supervising, from the outside, this community of women religious).  He had bitterly opposed Therese's entrance, believing her too young, but was overruled by his bishop, who left the decision up to the prioress.  Before Therese crossed the threshold, and in the presence of her father and her sisters, Canon Delatroette announced "Well, my Reverend Mothers, you can sing a Te Deum.  As the delegate of Monseigneur the bishop, I present to you this child of fifteen whose entrance you so much desired.  I trust that she will not disappoint your hopes, but I remind you that, if she does, the responsibility is yours, and yours alone."  He could not have foreseen that twenty-two years later Pope St. Pius X would call this girl "the greatest saint of modern times."

Much less well known than Saint Therese's account of her entrance is Celine's description of her experience of the same moment. Celine and Leonie were present with their father at the short ceremony. 

Celine and Leonie the year after Therese enteredAfter writing of how inseparable she and Therese had been, Celine continued:

It took much yet to get to Monday, April 9, 1888, where the little Queen left her own, after we heard Mass together in the Carmel, to join her two older sisters in the cloister.  When I gave her a farewell kiss at the door of the monastery, I was faltering and had to support myself against the wall, and yet I did not cry, I wanted to give her to Jesus with all my heart, and He in turn clothed me in his strength.  Ah! how much I needed this divine strength!  At the moment when Thérèse entered the holy ark, the cloister door which shut between us was the faithful picture of what really happened, as a wall had arisen between our two lives."  (from the obituary circular of Celine Martin, Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, copyright Lisieux Carmel; translation copyright Maureen O'Riordan 2013).

The enclosure door which shut between Celine and Therese on April 9, 1888Saint Therese continues, writing of her impressions that first day:  "Everything thrilled me; I felt as though I was transported into a desert; our little cell, above all, filled me with joy."  St. Therese occupied three cells in Carmel, and until now few people have seen even a photograph of that first cell, for the photo commonly published was of Therese's last cell.  Thanks to the generosity of the Archives of the Lisieux Carmel, we can at last see early photos of the room Therese saw that day.  It was on the corridor near the garden:

The corridor with the door to Therese's first cell standing openThis cell looked out on the roof of the "dressmaking building" where habits were made:

 Carmelite postulants wore a secular dress with a little capelet, and a small net bonnet on the head.  The photograph below of Marie Guerin as a postulant (she entered August 15, 1895) shows how St. Therese and all postulants dressed until they received the habit.

 Learn more about the Carmelite life Therese began to live on April 9, 1888.

The feast of the Annunciation is usually celebrated on March 25, just nine months before the feast of Christmas.  Celine wrote that Therese loved the feast on March 25 "because that's when Jesus was smallest."  Therese began her Carmelite life on the feast of Mary's "Yes" to her Lord.  May each of us enter every day of our own lives with Therese's fervor and joy, for every day is a doorway for each of us to intimacy with God, to wholeness, and to sainthood.

Note: the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux are being digitized and posted online in English at the Web site of the Archives of Carmel of Lisieux.  All the above photos are displayed courtesy of that site.  Please visit it here to see thousands of pages of photographs, documents, and information about St. Therese, her writings, her family, her environment, the nuns with whom she lived, and her influence in the world.  It is a true doorway to Saint Therese!

 

125 Years Ago with Saint Therese: the wedding of Henry Maudelonde, Celine's second suitor, in April 1892

Let’s look at the life of Therese and her family 125 years ago, in April 1892.

Isidore Guerin's house in Lisieux (rear entrance)

 Life in the Lisieux Carmel in early 1892


From the first few months of 1892, few documents have been published.  The ranks of the Carmelite monastery had been depleted.  On December 5, 1891, Mother Genevieve of St. Teresa,1 the revered foundress, had died.  On December 26 the epidemic of influenza that swept over France reached the Carmel.  In eight days the three eldest nuns died: the Lisieux Carmel’s first postulant, Sister St. Joseph of Jesus (ACL); the subprioress,  Sister Febronie of the Holy Childhood (ACL), who found Therese’s belief that souls who trusted in God’s mercy would not go to purgatory excessively bold;  and Sister Madeleine of the Blessed Sacrament (ACL), the senior lay-sister, who had “a heart of gold.”  In this crisis, in which all but three of the nuns were bedridden, Therese, who turned 19 on January 2, 1892, showed such presence of mind in arranging the funerals, serving as sacristan for the Masses, and discharging other responsibilities that Canon Delatroette (ACL), the priest appointed ecclesiastical superior of the Carmel, who had thought her too young to enter at age fifteen, changed his mind and said prophetically “She shows great promise for this community.” 

Early in the year Father Pierre Faucon (ACL) completed his term as extraordinary confessor (the priest who, under canon law, visited the Carmel occasionally to give the nuns some variety and freedom in choosing a confessor other than their chaplain).  He was replaced by Father Eugene-Auguste Baillon (ACL).

The community's triennial elections should have been held in February, but, in view of the circumstances, the Carmelites obtained permission to extend the term of Mother Marie de Gonzague as prioress until February 1893. 

The correspondence of the Martin-Guerin family shows that Isidore Guerin had decided that Louis Martin could now return to his family (ACL) from the Bon Sauveur asylum in Caen, where he had been interned since February 12, 1889.  He would be brought back to Lisieux on May 10, 1892.

Before that, a big social event happened in the circle of the family of Therese’s uncle and aunt, Isidore and Celine Guerin (ACL): the wedding of Celine’s nephew, Henry Maudelonde (ACL), a former suitor of Therese’s sister Celine.    

The life of Leonie and Celine Martin with the Guerin family, beginning in 1889


Therese’s uncle, Isidore Guerin, had married Celine Fournet (ACL),  a daughter of the town’s leading family.  Her sister Rosalie (ACL) had married Cesar Maudelonde (ACL), with whom she had five children.  The Guerin and Maudelonde families were intimate, so that Therese and her sisters grew up as friends of the Maudelonde girls, too.  No photo of Henry has been found yet, but the Web site of the archives of the Carmel of Lisieux shows a photograph of the three Maudelonde daughters (ACL) with their mother and members of the Guerin family in 1893.

With the death of Celine Guerin’s cousin, M. David, in 1888, Isidore (through the property laws then in effect, which awarded a married woman’s inheritance to her husband) received a substantial fortune from his wife’s family.  This changed his way of life.  He sold the pharmacy (ACL), moved from the living quarters over the pharmacy to a bigger house in Lisieux (ACL)and every summer, in a kind of time-share, split with the Maudelondes the use of the Chateau La Musse (ACL), near Evreux.  (He had inherited the chateau jointly with them).  He gave even more energy to charitable and religious work and to writing to defend the Church.

Isidore’s new position gave him more leisure and placed more social demands on his family.  Leonie and Celine Martin became members of his family in May 1889, when they returned from Caen, where they had boarded for a few months at the beginning of Louis’s hospitalization at the Bon Sauveur asylum there.  Their uncle’s social position and his intimacy with the Maudelonde family obliged both young women to participate in the rather formal and structured social life then the custom for families like the Guerins.  This was in marked contrast to the sheltered life they had led at the little villa of Les Buissonnets, located some way from the center of town, where they had seen few people socially except the Guerins

Henry Maudelonde's courtship of Celine Martin (1890-1891)


In Celine’s memoirs (ACL) at p. 96, she notes that the Maudelonde young people were of an age to be married.  

“I arrived in the midst of this group of joyful and charming young people. It was a veritable change from life at Les Buissonnets . . .  One of the nieces of my aunt was engaged and there was an exchange of dinners between the two families.  . . . We found ourselves, therefore, often in the company of the nephews of my aunt. One of them . . . . developed an affectionate regard for me. Whether at his house, or at our house, he always managed to be close to me. Since he strongly protested when he was not so placed, one finished up finally relenting and placing him next to me at the dinner table so as to avoid making a scene.” 

Henry Maudelonde (1864-1937), five years Celine’s senior, was a lawyer at Caen.  His pursuit of Celine seems to have dated chiefly from 1890 and the first half of 1891.  At the wedding of Celine’s cousin, Jeanne Guerin (ACL), on October 1, 1890, Celine was a maid of honor.  Henry spent all day next to her and finally asked her aunt for permission to kiss her.  Then, on July 23, 1891, Therese wrote to Celine in terms that suggest that Henry had just made a definite proposal of marriage:  “The solicitor [pun on his profession] really made me laugh.  One must admit that he is not shy to come seeking the King of heaven’s fiancee.”  Letters of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Volume II, tr. John Clarke, OCD (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1988), LT 130, p. 792.  Therese never doubted that Celine was called to Carmel, and she firmly resisted the idea of marriage for Celine.  Celine, who had already refused a proposal on the night of Therese’s entrance, was attracted by the idea of marriage as well as by the cloister, and this posed a severe internal conflict for her.

But in 1889 she had made a private vow of chastity, and Henry finally must have accepted her refusal, for he became engaged to Marie Asseline. 

Henry Maudelonde's wedding in Caen, April 20, 1892


Leonie received a letter from her cousin Jeanne Guerin La Neele
 (ACL) 
(who now lived in Caen with her husband), written April 11, describing the elaborate preparations for this wedding on April 20.

Celine is suddenly, mysteriously unable to dance


Henry Maudelonde’s wedding was the occasion at which Celine was unable to dance.  Tberese recounts in Story of a Soul (ACL) how agitated she was at the thought of Celine’s consenting to dance at this party.  Celine’s memoir (ACL) shows (at pages 96-97) that Therese was vehement in urging her not to dance.  Perhaps Therese considered that a young unmarried woman’s consenting to dance was tantamount to announcing that she was on the marriage market, or perhaps she could not stand the thought of a young man's touching her sister.  Therese, who seldom cried, was so upset that she wept for a long time at the mere prospect of Celine’s dancing, and begged God to prevent it. Her reaction to a formal dance in public at a wedding that united two respectable families seems rather hysterical.  But, sure enough, when the evening came, Celine could not refuse the invitation, but found herself unable to dance and merely walked through the dance.  Her partner was embarrassed; he disappeared and did not return.  Therese said the incident “made me grow in confidence and love for the One who set his seal on my forehead and had imprinted it at the same time upon that of my dear Celine.”  (Story of a Soul, 82r).   

What happened to Celine's second suitor?


Marie and Henry Maudelonde had two children together, but Henry was left a widower in 1895.  He married again in 1899 and had three more children: an interesting contrast with Celine’s first suitor, Albert Quesnel, who, after Celine refused him, became a priest. Celine was the only one of the Martin girls to whom anyone is known to have proposed marriage.

[Note: I am especially grateful to the Lisieux Carmel for digitizing its archives.  I encourage you to visit the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, which tells us so much about the background of Therese's life].

This is an interactive article.  To see photographs and background for the persons and events I mention, please click on the links in this article.

1 This link leads to the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.  In this article, all links to that site are indicated by the notation "ACL" next to the text link.  

Learn more:

To learn more about this period in Therese's life, please see the links above and these books:

Therese's own recollections, at folios 78r-82r

Are you interested in learning more about Therese than she tells in Story of a Soul?  I highly recommend Guy Gaucher's indispensable complement to Story of a Soul:

and Therese's letters and those of her family, with rich introductions and notes:

Finally, a biography of Celine by Stephane-Joseph Piat:

 Purchases through these links support the Web site.  Thank you.

The Abysses of Love and Mercy of the Heart of Jesus: St. Thérèse of Lisieux and the Sacred Heart - for the feast of the Sacred Heart

"Sacred Heart" icon by Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS. Order through this link to support this Web site.

 

Therese Martin at 15Thérèse Martin grew up in the Church of late 19th century France, in which the cult of the Sacred Heart was omnipresent, a cult of reparation shaped most recently by the humiliation of France during the Franco-Prussian war.  Her family’s spiritual director, Father Almire Pichon, was called an apostle of the Sacred Heart.  Her sister Marie took “of the Sacred Heart” as her religious name, and the Carmelite monastery Thérèse entered was dedicated to the Sacred Heart.  Basilica of the Sacred Heart at MontmartreIn 1887 Thérèse participated in a pilgrimage to Rome intended to show the French church’s loyalty to the embattled Pope Leo XIII on his priestly jubilee.  With the other pilgrims, before leaving Paris Thérèse was consecrated to the Sacred Heart in the crypt of the unfinished Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre.  Later she sent her gold bracelet to form part of the large monstrance at the basilica.  And, like all the pilgrims, she wore the badge of the Sacred Heart. 

But Thérèse had no interest whatever in any cult of the Sacred Heart which was focused on making reparation for the outrages of sin.  Nor did she relate to the Sacred Heart as a national symbol.  The pilgrim Thérèse was seeking only Jesus.   She appropriated the Heart of Jesus in an intensely personal and relational way.  For Thérèse the Heart of Jesus is always for her, and it always seeks a response from her heart.  At fifteen she called Jesus “Him whose heart beats in unison with my own.”[1]  At seventeen she wrote to her sister Céline, who was at Paray-le-Monial with their sister Leonie for the second centenary of the death of then-Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, who received visions of the Sacred Heart:

Pray to the Sacred Heart; you know that I myself do not see the Sacred Heart as everybody else.[2]  I think that the heart of my Spouse is mine alone, just as mine is His alone,[3] and I speak to Him then in the solitude of this delightful heart to heart, while waiting to contemplate Him one day face to face. . .  [4]

In June 1895, the “year of the Sacred Heart” for Thérèse, she had a new experience of the heart of God:

I was thinking about the souls who offer themselves as victims of God’s Justice in order to turn away the punishments reserved to sin­ners, drawing them upon themselves.  This offering seemed great and very generous to me, but I was far from feeling attracted to making it.  From the depths of my heart, I cried out:

"O my God!  Will Your Justice alone find souls willing to immolate themselves as victims? Does not Your Merciful Love need them too? . . . .  On every side this love is unknown, rejected. . . . . .  O my God!  Is Your disdained Love going to remain closed up within Your Heart? It seems to me that if You were to find souls offering themselves as victims of holocaust to Your Love, You would consume them rapidly; it seems to me, too, that You would be happy not to hold back the waves of infinite tenderness within You.[5]

 Thérèse experienced God not as outraged justice exacting atonement from her but as rejected love arousing her compassion and inviting her to be a channel of God’s infinite love to humanity.  In her poem “To the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” written either in June or in October 1895 for her sister, Marie of the Sacred Heart, Thérèse returns to many of the themes of her “Offering of myself as a victim of Holocaust to Merciful Love.”[6]   The editors of her poetry write:

 “Thérèse does not linger over the symbol of Christ’s Heart wounded by the lance, which was so popular in her day.  She goes straight to the reality: the loving Person of Jesus, his deep feelings, and the love that fills his Heart.”[7]

She speaks of the heart her own heart desires: 

I need a heart burning with tenderness

Who will be my support forever,

Who loves everything in me, even my weakness…

And who never leaves me day or night.”[8]

She finds this heart in the humanity of Jesus and in the Eucharist:

You heard me, only Friend whom I love.

To ravish my heart, you became man.

You shed your blood, what a supreme mystery!...

And you still live for me on the Altar.

Deprived of palpable consolation, she can rest on the Sacred Heart:

If I cannot see the brilliance of your Face

Or hear your sweet voice,

O my God, I can live by your grace,

I can rest on your Sacred Heart!

The Heart is not a distant symbol to her: it is all her joy.

O Heart of Jesus, treasure of tenderness,

You Yourself are my happiness, my only hope.

You who knew how to charm my tender youth,

Stay near me till the last night.

She does not propitiate the Heart, but always locates herself inside it:

It’s in your ever-infinite goodness

That I want to lose myself, O Heart of Jesus!

The Heart of Jesus does not demand atonement; it simply burns with love.  Faced with her human weakness and the justice of the law, Thérèse takes refuge in that heart, which not only protects her but also is itself her virtue (reminiscent of her offering of herself:  “I beg You, O my God, to be Yourself my Sanctity!”[9]):

Ah! I know well all our righteousness

Is worthless in your sight.

To give value to my sacrifices,

I want to cast them into your Divine Heart.

I do not fear, my virtue is You!...

You did not find your angels without blemish.

In the midst of lightning you gave your law!...

I hide myself in your Sacred Heart, Jesus.

Thérèse’s confidence reaches its height in her daring prayer choosing the Heart of God as her purgatory and asking to go straight to the Heaven of that Heart:

To be able to gaze on your glory,

I know we have to pass through fire.

So I, for my purgatory,

Choose your burning love, O heart of my God!

On leaving this life, my exiled soul

Would like to make an act of pure love,

And then, flying away to Heaven, its Homeland,

Enter straightaway into your Heart.

 In another poem she wrote in October 1895, she audaciously prays to love Jesus with His own heart:

Remember that on earth I want

To console you for the forgetfulness of sinners.

My only Love, grant my prayer.

Ah! give me a thousand hearts to love you.

But that is still too little, Jesus, Beauty Supreme.

Give me your divine Heart Itself to love you.[10]

Several months later she again appropriates the Heart of her Spouse “to love more tenderly.”  She writes to her Visitandine sister Léonie:

Dear Sister, I love you a thousand times more tenderly than ordinary sisters love each other, for I can love you with the Heart of our celestial Spouse.[11]

Far from demanding reparation, the Heart of Jesus (“more than maternal”) repairs us.  In 1896 Thérèse writes that this heart “restores innocence:” 

O you who knew how to create the mother’s heart,

I find in you the tenderest of Fathers!

My only Love, Jesus, Eternal Word,

For me your heart is more than maternal.

***

Your heart that preserves and restores innocence

Won’t betray my trust![12]

Thérèse writes often of “resting” or “sleeping” on the heart of Jesus

And if sometimes Jesus sleeps,

You will rest beside Him.

His Divine Heart that always keeps vigil

Will serve as your sweet support.[13]


The little child . . . sleeps always on the Heart of the Great General. Close to this Heart, we learn courage, and especially confidence.[14]

Three months before her death, writing to Maurice Bellière, the seminarian who was her spiritual brother, Thérèse gives her most powerful witness to her experience of the Heart of Jesus:

When I see Magdalene walking up before the many guests, washing with her tears the feet of her adored Master, whom she is touching for the first time, I feel that her heart has understood the abysses of love and mercy of the Heart of Jesus, and, sinner though she is, this Heart of love was not only disposed to pardon her but to lavish on her the blessings of His divine intimacy, to lift her to the highest summits of contemplation.

Ah! dear little Brother, ever since I have been given the grace to understand also the love of the Heart of Jesus, I admit that it has expelled all fear from my heart.  The remembrance of my faults humbles me, draws me never to depend on my strength which is only weakness, but this remembrance speaks to me of mercy and love still more.[15]

On July 17, 1897 she ends her last letter to Léonie, promising to be her sister’s messenger to the Sacred Heart:

You want me to pray in heaven to the Sacred Heart for you.  Be sure that I shall not forget to deliver your messages to Him and to ask all that will be necessary for you to become a great saint.[16]

The next day Thérèse writes once more to Maurice Bellière about the heart of Jesus.  For more than a century her message has echoed in the heart of humanity, as it echoes today:

Ah! how I would like to make you understand the tenderness of the Heart of Jesus, what He expects from you![17]

 ______________________________

[1] Excerpt from LT 67, letter from Thérèse to her aunt, Mme. Guerin, November 18, 1888.  Letters of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Volume I, 1877-1890.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1982, p 478.  The next three notes are drawn from that work.

 [2] “Crowned with thorns, with a big cross set up in the center,” as Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart wrote to Celine on October 13, quoting P. Pichon.

 [3] See Canticle of Canticles 2:16.

 [4] Excerpt from LT 122, letter from Thérèse to Cèline, October 14, 1890.  The second centenary of Blessed Margaret Mary’s death, October 17, 1890, attracted crowds to Paray-le-Monial.  Letters of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Volume II, 1890-1897. Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1988, pp. 709-710.

 [5] Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D., 3rd edition.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1996, pp.180-181.

 [6] This prayer is often called the “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love,” but Thérèse never called it that. 

 [7] PN 23, Introductory notes to “To the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” June or October 1895, in The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, tr. Donald Kinney, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1996, p. 117.

[8] PN 23, “To the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” June or October 1895, in The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, ibid., pp. 117-120.

 [9] Story of a Soul, op. cit., p. 276.

 [10] PN 24, “Jesus, My Beloved, Remember!” October 21, 1895. The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, ibid., p. 130.

[11] LT 186, from Thérèse to Léonie, April 11, 1896.  Letters, Volume II, op. cit., p. 951.

[12] PN 36, “Jesus Alone,” August 15, 1896. The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, op. cit., p. 165.

 [13] PN 13, “The Queen of Heaven to her Beloved Child Marie of the Holy Face,” December 25, 1894.  The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, op. cit., p. 78.

 [14] LT 200, from Thérèse to Sister Marie of St. Joseph, end of October 1896? Letters, Volume II, op. cit., p. 1013.

[15] LT 247, from Thérèse to abbé Bellière, June 21, 1897.  Letters, Volume II, op. cit., p. 1133.

[16] LT 257, from Thérèse to Léonie, July 17, 1897.  Letters, Volume II, op. cit., p. 1149.

[17] LT 258, from Thérèse to abbé Bellière, July 18, 1897.  Letters,  Volume II, op. cit., p. 1152.

Louis Martin is found at Le Havre, June 27, 1888 (125 years ago with St. Therese)

From June 23-27, 1888 (125 years ago), a great anxiety came to the family of Blessed Louis Martin.    Louis, whose health had begun to decline, suddenly disappeared from his family home, Les Buissonnets, on Saturday morning, June 23.  His daughters Leonie and Celine, with the maid, searched everywhere for him.  In town, at the pharmacy belonging to his brother-in-law, Isidore Guerin, he had not been seen.  An anxious night followed; Louis was still missing.  On Sunday, June 24, a letter arrived from him (probably addressed to the Guerins, but now lost), sent from the Post Office at Le Havre, asking for some money.  His three daughters in Carmel were finally told of his disappearance, and began to pray fervently.  On Monday the "intrepid Celine" set off for Le Havre, together with her uncle, Isidore Guerin, and his nephew, Ernest Maudelonde.  They planned to search for Louis, but they had no address for him.

 Except for the maid, Leonie was alone at home when, at five o'clock in the morning on Tuesday, June 26, the small house of a neighbor, very close to Les Buissonnets, burned down.  Le Normand, June 26, 1888: 

This morning (Tuesday), shortly before five o'clock, a fire broke out in Lisieux, chemin des Bissonnets [sic], in a little house rented by a M. Prevost, who had left the previous night for Saint-Martin-de-Mailloc after having shut his door; the house, belonging to Madame d'Angot, rue du Bec, was destroyed, as well as the greater part of the furniture. . . . Under the direction of Captain Lepage, two pumps were put in action and extinguished the fire; the first from the hydrant at the City Hall, brought into action by Corporal Lemineux, was able to preserve the house occupied by M. Martin and his family; a piece of wood in the roof was beginning to burn." 

In July M. Martin bought the burnt property in order ot enlarge Les Buissonnets.  Its site today is occupied by the stairs and the embankment.

Read the letter Mme. Guerin, Louis's sister-in-law, sent later that day to his three Carmelite daughters.  At that time Louis had not yet been found. If you read French, you can also read Mme. Guerin's letter to her husband at Le Havre that same day (not yet translated into Englsh).

Finally, on Wednesday, June 27, Celine, Isidore, and Ernest found Louis at the Post Office at Le Havre. Although he was lucid, he had become fixated on idea of going away to live in solitude.  They brought him home safe and sound, although he had shaved off his beard. 

[Sources: Letters of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Volume I (1877-1890), tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1982, p. 439, LD, June 26, 1888 from Celine Guerin to her nieces, footnote 3) and Sainte Therese de Lisieux (1873-1897) by Guy Gaucher, O.C.D.  Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2010, pp. 289-290].

 

The sudden disappearance of Blessed Louis Martin from Les Buissonnets on June 23, 1888 (125 years ago with St. Therese of Lisieux)

On the morning of Saturday, June 23, 1888, there was panic at Les Buissonnets, the little villa where Blessed Louis Martin, the father of St. Therese of Lisieux, was living with his daughters Celine and Leonie.  Louis had suddenly disappeared without notifying anyone.

Louis was then sixty-four years old.  This photograph had been taken about three years before. In the months of May and June 1888 he had made several business trips to Paris, where he invested (and lost) 50,000 francs on the Panama Canal.

Louis had recently experienced many losses.  A widower, he had given his second daughter, Pauline, to God as a Carmelite nun in 1882.  In 1886 his oldest daughter, Marie, followed Pauline.  On Monday, April 9, 1888, Louis escorted his youngest, Therese, his "little Queen," to the Carmel.   Six weeks later, on Tuesday, May 22, Marie made her vows.  The next day, on Wednesday, May 23, Louis assisted in the public ceremony at the Carmel chapel in which Marie received the black veil of the professed Carmelite choir nun.  Father Almire Pichon, the Jesuit "spiritual director of the Martin family," preached the sermon.

At this time, despite his losses, Louis was experiencing consolation in prayer.  Therese speaks of his eyes being flooded with tears after he received communion.  Referring to an incident in May 1888, a passage inserted into Story of a Soul by Pauline reads: 

"O Mother, do you remember the day and the visit when he said to us "Children, I returned from Alencon where I received in Notre-Dame Church such great graces, such consolations that I made this prayer:  My God, it is too much! yes, I am too happy. it isn't possible to go to heaven this way!  I want to suffer something for you!  I offer myself . . . . the word 'victim' died on his lips; he didn't dare pronounce it before us, but we had understood."1

Sometime in 1888 Louis sent this note to his Carmelite daughters:

I want to tell you, my dear children, that I have urgent desire to thank God and to make you thank God because I feel that our family, although very humble, has the honor of being among the privileged of our adorable Creator.2

This privilege did not come cheap.  On Friday, June 15, Celine told her father that she also had a vocation to Carmel.  She writes: 

"June 15.  I announced to Papa my vocation for Carmel, and these were the circumstances.  I was showing my dear father a painting I had just completed; he was in the belvedere, seated at his little work table, and he seemed to be meditating.  He turned to me, and he studied my canvas with joy and suggested that he take me to Paris to have me pursue a course in painting.  I immediately answered that I would prefer to give up this art completely rather than expose my soul to any danger, that, having given my heart to Jesus a long time ago, I wanted to keep it pure . . . ." (Sister Genevieve, CMG IV, pp. 183-184).3

Louis readily gave his consent.  "You can all leave.  I will be happy to give you to God before I die.  In my old age, a cell will be enough for me."4  In fact, Celine planned to become a Carmelite only after the death of her father.  Deeply moved, Louis pressed Celine to his heart and said, "Come, let us go together to the Blessed Sacrament to thank the Lord for the graces He has bestowed on our family and for the honor He gave me of choosing His spouses in my home.  Yes, if I possessed anything better,  I would hasten to offer it to Him."5

We leave his family searching for him and the Carmelites praying for his safety.  Please return for the rest of this little adventure, which ends on June 26.  

1 Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 2005, p. 237.

2A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, 1863-1885 Tr. Ann Connors Hess, ed. Dr. Frances Renda.  Staten Island, N.Y.: Society of St. Paul, 2011, p. 365.

3Letters of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Volume I (1877-1890), tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1982, p. 435 (LT 53, footnote 3). 

 4Celine, soeur et temoin de Sainte Therese de l'Enfant Jesus, by Stephane-Joseph Piat.  Office Central de Lisieux, 1964, p. 37 (my translation).

4Story of a Soul, op. cit., p. 239.

 

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