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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

Entries in St. Pius X (2)

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!

 

On June 10, 1914, Pope St. Pius X signed the decree for the Introduction of the Cause of the future St. Therese of Lisieux 

 Pope Pius X in 1914

The Church in Rome gave its first recognition to the possibility of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face becoming a canonized saint when, on June 10, 1914, Pope St. Pius X signed, with his own hand, the commission issued by the Sacred Congregation for Rites the day before, recommending to the Pope that he introduce the cause for the beatification and canonization of Sister Thérèse.  The text of this decree is below:

 DECREE OF THE INTRODUCTION OF THE CAUSE
OF SISTER THERESA OF THE CHILD JESUS

DIOCESE OF BAYEUX AND LISIEUX

DECREE OF THE SACRED CONGREGATION OF RITES
CONCERNING THE BEATIFICATION AND CANONIZATION OF

THE SERVANT OF GOD SISTER THERESA OF THE CHILD JESUS,

PROFESSED RELIGIOUS IN THE MONASTERY

OF THE ORDER OF DlSCALCED CARMELITES AT LISIEUX

The Servant of God, Theresa of the Child Jesus, a Professed Discalced Carmelite nun in the Monastery of Lisieux, the Introduction of whose cause before the Sacred Congregation of Rites is now in question, the youngest of nine children of Louis Stanislaus Martin and Marie ZelieGuerin (his wife), was born at Alenson in the Diocese of Seez on January 2nd, 1873, and two days later in Holy Baptism was given the name of Marie-Francoise Therese.

Having being carefully trained in habits of piety by the good example of all around her in her home, on the death of her mother and the removal of the family to Lisieux, as a little girl of nine years old she was entrusted by her father to the nuns of the Order of St. Benedict for her education. Her constant reading was of that excellent book ” The Imitation of Christ ” as well as of the Sacred Scriptures, both of which she made use of to further her own and her neighbour’s edification. After having been cured in a wonderful way of a serious malady by which she had been attacked, she began more ardently to yearn for the ” better gifts,” especially setting her heart on devoting herself entirely to the perpetual service of God. Accordingly her own sisters having elected to become enclosed nuns, she after returning home from school, never desisted until, her wish being fulfilled, in the year 1888 she entered the Monastery of the Carmelite nuns at Lisieux, where clothed with the religious habit, taking the name of Theresa of the Child Jesus, and having passed through her noviciate in an exemplary manner, on September 8th, 1890, she pronounced her solemn vows. Three years later being appointed to aid with the duties of Mistress of Novices, she faithfully and holily continued to discharge the duties of this office until her death. Towards the close of her 23rd year, the Servant of God being afflicted with a deadly malady of the lungs, was obliged to take to her bed. For five months having lain prostrate in consequence of the steady progress of the inroads of the disease, borne by her most patiently, she eventually passed away in the Lord on September 30th, 1897, and after all the last funeral rites had been duly carried out, she was buried in the Cemetery of Lisieux.

The fame for sanctity which Sister Theresa had acquired during her lifetime, after her death became notably so widespread and so enduring that an enquiry for the taking of evidence regarding her was set on foot by the authority of the Bishop of her Diocese. This enquiry having been brought to a close, and the evidence having been transmitted to the sacred Congregation of Rites, as soon as all preliminaries were duly carried through, at the instance of the Most Reverend Father Roderick of St. Francis of Paula, Postulator General of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, who petitioned for the Introduction of the Cause, due consideration having been given to the Betters of certain of the Most Eminent Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, of many Bishops, as well as of the heads of Orders and Congregations of both sexes, the Most Eminent and most Reverend Lord Cardinal Jerome Gotti, the Cardinal in charge of the Cause, at an ordinary Meeting of the sacred Congregation of Rites held at the Vatican on the date mentioned below, submitted the following question for discussion Should the Commission for the Introduction of the Cause be signed in the present case, and to the given effect ?

Whereupon the Most Eminent and Reverend Fathers, the Cardinals on the sacred Congregation of Rites, after hearing the statement of the Most Eminent Cardinal in charge of the Cause, as well as the views given in writing and by word of mouth, by the Right Reverend Father Alexander Verde, Promotor of the Holy Faith, after carefully weighing the matter in all its bearings, decided that it should be written in answer : Yes, that is, that the Commission should be signed, if. approved by His Holiness. June 9th, 1914.

Later on an account of these matters having been given to our most holy Lord, Pope Pius X by the undersigned Secretary of the sacred Congregation of Rites, His Holiness giving his approval to the Rescript of the said Congregation, with his own hand was pleased to sign the Commission for the Introduction of the Cause of the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus, Discalced Carmelite of the Monastery of Lisieux, the tenth day of the same month and year.

Fr. S. Card. Martinelli, Prefect.

* Peter La Fontaine, Bp. of Carystus, Secretary.

*  Note that the Roman documents mistake the baptismal names of Therese's mother, which were, in fact, "Azelie-Marie."  

(Source: The Unfolding of the Little Flower: Sanctity in Our Day, by William M. Cunningham, 1916).

This event, introducing a new phase in Therese's cause, was the culmination of many steps already taken.  First, see below the events that happened before 1914:

1898

March 7: Bishop Hugonin, bishop of the diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux, approves the publication of “Story of a Soul.”

October 20: First publication of Histoire d’une Âme (Story of a Soul). 2,000 copies are printed.

1899-1900

The first pilgrims begin to visit the grave of Thérèse. The first miracles are reported.

1906:     July 6.  Univers publishes a story by François Veuillet saying that the Carmel is working to introduce the cause of Sister Therese at Rome.

1907:     The newly appointed bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, Bishop Lemonnier, authorizes a prayer asking for the canonization of Sister Thérèse.

October 15:  Bishop Lemonnier asks the Carmelites to write down their memories of Sister Thérèse.

1908

May 26:  A four-year-old blind girl, Reine Fauquet of Lisieux, is cured at the grave of Sister Thérèse

1909:     January:  Father Rodrigue, O.C.D. is named Postulator of the Cause; Mgr de Teil is named Vice-Postulator.

1910

March 5: the Sacred Congregation for Rites invited Bishop Lemonnier to examine the writings of Thérèse.

May-June:  The Process of the Writings takes place at Lisieux.

August:  The diocesan tribunal is set up at Lisieux to hear the testimony of witnesses about Sister Thérèse’s life and her reputation for sanctity.

1911

August:  The hearing of witnesses is completed.

September:  The process of non-cultus is held at Lisieux.   

December 12:  The diocesan tribunal is solemnly closed at Lisieux.  The file is sent to the Sacred Congregation for Rites in Rome.

March 13, 1912:  The Sacred Congregation for Rites in Rome begins its examination of the diocesan process for Thérèse.

June 9, 1914:  The Sacred Congregation for Rites issued its Commission for the Introduction of the Cause of Sister Thérèse.

June 10, 1914:  In one of the last official acts of his papacy, Pope St. Pius X signs the decree with his own hand.  He would die on August 20, 1914.