Please support the site: use this portal for your Amazon shopping. Thank you!


 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

Entries in Marie Asseline (1)

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
(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.