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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

Entries in Les Buissonnets (2)

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.