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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

Entries in Marie of the Trinity (3)

125 years ago with St. Therese: Sister Marie of the Trinity enters the Carmel of Lisieux on June 16, 1894

 

With thanks to Deb Thurston for this logoOn June 16, 1894, Marie-Louise Castel, later named Sister Marie of the Trinity, entered the Carmel of Lisieux as a postulant.  This day turned out to be an important event in St. Therese's life.  At last, she was no longer the youngest in the community.  She was to develop an intimate friendship with Marie of the Trinity, who would be one of the most important witnesses at the process for the beatification and canonization of Therese.

The novitiate of the Lisieux Carmel

At that time, "first vows" (temporary vows) were not made.  A young woman's postulancy usually lasted six months, followed by her reception of the habit.  At the end of a year as a novice, the candidate was usually permitted to make her perpetual vows.  After making her vows, each woman usually spent another three years living on the novitiate corridor under the authority of the novice mistress, an extended period of initial formation.  Then she left the novitiate and moved into the community.  Thus, St. Therese, who professed her vows on September 8, 1890, would normally have left the novitiate on September 8, 1893.  On that date she asked to remain in the novitiate forever.  Her sister Pauline, Mother Agnes of Jesus, then prioress, granted the request.  Mother Marie de Gonzague was then novice-mistress, and her touchy character would not have allowed Mother Agnes to appoint Therese officially as assistant novice-mistress.  By leaving Therese in the novitiate and calling her "senior novice," Mother Agnes hoped that she could discreetly give the other novices the benefit of a good example and some quiet advice.   

The youth of Marie-Louise Castel

Marie-Louise was born on August 12, 1874, at St.-Pierre-sur-Dives in Normandy, the 13th of 19 children of a devoutly Catholic family. Her father, a teacher, refused to accept the 1882 decree of the state declaring the schools secular. Continuing the practice of morning prayer with his students, he was forced to resign, and the family moved to Paris.  Like little Therese Martin, Marie-Louise experienced the call to religious life while she was still very young, and, at age 12, she understood that he was called to Carmel.  Like Celine, she took a private vow of chastity while still a young laywoman. 

Her entrance to two different Carmels

She was received as a postulant by the Carmel of the Avenue de Messine in Paris on April 30, 1891, still more than three months short of her seventeenth birthday.  Two years later, her health suffering, she was forced to leave.  Her father took her to Trouville to regain her health, and she sought consolation at the Lisieux Carmel in an interview with Mother Agnes of Jesus and Mother Marie de Gonzague.  As she recovered, she asked to rejoin the Carmel in Paris, only to find that the priest in charge refused to permit the nuns to receive her until she was 21.  The prioress in Paris suggested that she might try the Lisieux Carmel; her native air in Normandy might be better for her health.  There she encountered the same obstacle Therese had found: Canon Delatroette, the priest-supervisor of the Carmel, found her too young.  Noticing that June 16 was the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, to whom she and her family had a particular devotion, she begged Our Lady to obtain her entrance on that feast, and her prayer was answered.  See in this video the enclosure door through which she entered on that very feast, as Therese had entered on April 9, 1888. 

Entrée du monastère from Carmel de Lisieux on Vimeo.

In the novitiate of the Lisieux Carmel with Therese

There was a great social divide between Paris and the provinces at that time.  Even though Marie-Louise had been born in Normandy, many of the Lisieux nuns considered her a "Parisienne."  That, and the fact that she had already spent time in another Carmel, worked against her in their opinion.  Mother Agnes named Therese as the new postulant's "angel" (the nun charged with instructing her in the many customs of Carmel).  Marie-Louise was the first choir postulant entrusted to Therese.  The close spiritual friendship that developed between these two young women is recounted in Pierre Descouvemont's book "Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity: The Transformative Relationship between St. Therese of Lisieux and Her Novice Sister Marie of the Trinity."  I recommend this book especially to those who are looking for new incidents about St. Therese, new reported sayings, and the perspective of someone who lived close to her in Carmel, but was not a blood relative.  Sister Marie wrote down and testified about many incidents and sayings of Therese not found elsewhere  (Purchases through the links on this page support this Web site).  

Like Therese, Marie of the Trinity had to endure a longer than usual wait for her profession, which would usually have taken place about December 1895.  Therese suggested that Marie need not wait for her profession to offer herself to Merciful Love, and Marie made that offering, with Therese at her side, on December 1, 1895.  When, on April 30, 1896, Marie of the Trinity made her profession, Therese was triumphant and grateful; she told Marie it was one of the happiest days of her own life.  

The Castel family and St. Therese

Many links developed between the Castel family and St. Therese.  Marie of the Trinity had two brothers and two sisters who entered religious life; her priest-brother served as a chaplain at Lisieux, and her sister entered the Visitation at Caen where Therese's sister Leonie lived.  Two other sisters for many years were in charge of Les Buissonnets, Therese's childhood home, and welcomed pilgrims there.

More stories about Marie of the  Trinity and St. Therese of Lisieux

To read more about the life of Marie of the Trinity, especially her contributions to the Process of Therese and to making her known and loved and the long trial of the disease of lupus she bore so patiently, visit also the following online sources:

  1.  "Sister Marie of the Trinity," the June 2007 issue of the "spiritual newsletter" of the Abbey of Saint-Joseph de Clairval.
  2. Fr. Descouvemont's brief online biography of Marie of the Trinity on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
  3. The obituary circular of Sister Marie of the Trinity, which goes into considerable detail about her life, on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
  4. Marie of the Trinity's testimony at the diocesan inquiry into Therese's holiness, March 13-15, 1911, on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.

 

Posted on Sunday, June 16, 2019 at 02:33PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan in , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Marie of the Trinity offers herself to Merciful Love in the Lisieux Carmel: the First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 1895

On the First Sunday of Advent, November 30, 1895, St. Therese confided to her close friend, the novice Marie of the Trinity, that she had offered herself to Merciful Love on June 9, 1895.  Marie of the Trinity at once expressed a desire to do the same, and the two agreed that Marie would offer herself the next day.  Thinking it over, Marie told Therese that, because she was so unworthy, she needed a longer time to prepare for such an important act.  Saint Therese's face "immediately lit up with joy," and she replied:

Yes, this Act is important, more important than we can imagine, but do you know—the only preparation which the good God asks of us? Well, it is that we recognize humbly our unworthiness! And since He has given you this grace, abandon yourself to Him without fear. Tomorrow morning, after thanksgiv­ing, I will kneel near you in the oratory where the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed. And while you pronounce your act, I will offer you to Jesus as a little victim which I prepared for Him.

Circular of Sister Marie of the Trinity on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.  Chapter IV.

So Marie of the Trinity offered herself to Merciful Love on December 1, 1895.  She was the second disciple of St. Therese to follow Therese in making the offering; Therese's eldest sister, Marie of the Sacred Heart, had offered herself in the summer.  About her experience on December 1, Marie of the Trinity wrote:

I was so flooded with graces on that beautiful day, the most beautiful day of my life, that all day long I experienced in a very tangible way the presence of the Eucharistic Jesus in my heart.  I confided this to Sr. Therese of the Child Jesus, who was not at all surprised and answered me simply:

"Is not God omnipotent?  If we so desire, it would not be difficult for him to make his sacramental presence in our souls remain from one communion to the next.  [Therese had, in fact, asked this favor in her offering:  "Remain in me as in a tabernacle . . ."]  Through this extraordinary feeling that you experienced today, he wishes to give you the pledge that all the requests you have made of him in the Act of Oblation will be granted.  You will not always enjoy these feelings, but their effects will be no less real.  One receives from God as much as one hopes for."

Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity, by Pierre Descouvement.  Staten Island, New York: Society of St. Paul/Alba House, 1997, pp. 68-69.  I recommend this book to everyone who wants to konw Therese as she was in her intimate relationships.  

May we, like Marie, let Therese encourage us, in this Advent, to forget our ideas of our own unworthiness and to abandon ourselves to God without fear.

Thanksgiving with St. Therese of Lisieux: gratitude drawing down grace; gratitude in community life

formal portrait of Celine, age 12, standing next to Therese, age 8, both in matching best dresses and boots.  Celine leans on a pile of books on a table; Therese holds a jumping-ropeCeline, left, aged 12, and Therese, aged 8

The spirit of gratitude is a vital element of the way of confidence and love of St. Therese of Lisieux.  We can't be surprised that the saint to whom "everything is grace" radiated a spirit of gratitude.  In reading Story of a Soul, Therese's letters, poems, prayers, plays, and reported conversations, I have noticed again and again how often she spontaneously overflows with gratitude to God, to the person to whom she is writing, to Mary, to the saints, or to anyone she is remembering who has been good to her.  

St. Therese's counsel on the importance of gratitude to God

In the words of her sister Celine, writing of the years when Therese was her novice mistress at Lisieux Carmel:

"It is the spirit of gratitude which draws down upon us the overflow of God's grace," our holy Mistress said to me one day, "for no sooner have we thanked Him for one blessing than He hastens to send us ten addiitonal favors in return.  Then, when we show our gratitude for these new gifts, He multiplies His benedictions to such a degree that there seems to be a constant stream of divine grace ever coming our way."  She added, "This has been my own personal experience; try it out for yourself and see.  For all that Our Lord is constantly giving me, my gratitude is boundless, and I try to prove it to Him in a thousand different ways."  . . . . 

One day, when I was lamenting the fact that  God seemed to have abandoned me completely, Therese energetically admonished me:

"Oh! don't speak like that.  You know that at times I, too, become perplexed about circumstances or the turn of events, but I try to keep on smiling; I even turn to Our Lord and say 'Thank You.'  We are disloyal to His love whenever we do not trust Him completely.  Please!  never any 'imprecations' against divine Providence, but only, and always, a spirit of deep and lasting gratitude!"

My Sister Saint Therese,  by Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine Martin).  Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1997, pp. 97-98.

St. Therese on showing gratitude to those around us

Celine speaks of the tender gratitude Therese felt and expressed to anyone who did her the slightest favor; 

Even in her human contacts, Therese was always outstanding for this virtue of gratitude, however trifling the favor might be.  There was an added dimension to her spirit of gratitude, however, with regard to those priests who, in Our Lord's place, had, from time to time, solved her spiritual difficulties; to these benefactors she was eternally grateful.

My Sister Saint Therese, p. 97.

Celine's remarks about the gratitude Therese showed to the persons around her are echoed by another novice, Marie of the Trinity, who entered in June 1894, shortly before Celine.  Therese was her "angel" (in charge of instructing the newcomer in the community's customs), and Marie reports that Therese had done her quite a few favors for which she was grateful, but for which she had never expressed thanks.  Then Therese said to her:

You must get used to letting your gratitude be seen, to saying thank you with an open heart for the least little thing.  This is the practice of charity, to act this way; otherwise, it is indifference which, even if it is only exterior, freezes the heart and destroys the cordiality that is necessary in community.

Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity, by Pierre Descouvement.  Staten Island, New York: Society of St. Paul/Alba House, 1997, p. 110.

These two sources are a valuable look at St. Therese through the prism of two important relationships. Both were written by novices who lived under her care from 1894 until her death in 1897: Celine, the sister whom she called "the sweet echo of my soul;" Marie of the Trinity, for whom Therese experienced a deep spiritual affection.  The translationof Celine's memoir, My Sister Saint Therese, reflects that it was written in the 1950s, but this little book is rich in details of Celine's relationship with Therese and in conversations not reported elsewhere.  Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity, a more contemporary work, tells much about the relationship between the two young women and also about the life story of this early disciple of Therese and of what happened in the Lisieux Carmel after the death of Therese.  Which of her counsels to these two novices can you adapt to suit your own formation in the life of the spirit and in community life?  

       

 To cultivate the spirit of gratitude so important to St. Therese, consider these two other resources: the TED talk "Want to be happy?  Be grateful," by Brother David Steindl-Rast (a 14:30 video accompanied by a transcript) and his marvelous book, "Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer: A Guide to Life in Fullness."  He remarks that "it's not happy people who are grateful, but grateful people who are happy."

 

I rejoice to think of the gratitude St. Therese has inspired in me and in her countless other friends; every day she is, as St. Paul wrote, "increasing the amount of thanksgiving that God receives."