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 Saint Therese of the Child Jesus

of the Holy Face

Entries in Story of a Soul (11)

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!


A timeline of the last year of St. Therese (September 1896 - September 1897) from the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux

The Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux has created an illustrated "timeline" (in fact, a photo essay) of the last year of St. Therese.  From October 8-15, 1896 Fr. Godefroy Madelaine, a Norbertine of the Abbey of Mondaye, preached the community retreat.  

(Fr. Madelaine was the first editor of the manuscripts that became Story of a Soul, and, with some difficulty, he obtained from Bishop Hugonin the imprimatur for its publication.  He wrote a preface to the first edition.  The Carmel of Lisieux called him the "godfather of Story of a Soul."  He testified at both inquiries into the sanctity of Therese.  See Fr. Godefroid Madelaine's testimony about St. Therese at the diocesan process in 1910).

Therese confided to him the temptations against faith she had been suffering since Easter.  He advised her to write out the Creed and to carry it with her always.  She was prepared to write it in her own blood.  For the first time, the Carmel has published a beautifully detailed photograph of this document (scroll down to October 1896).  

Together with a narrative, see also photos of Therese during this period, of her writings, her companions, her correspondents, her doctor, the chaplains who visited her, the Saigon Carmel where she had hoped to go, the little music-box sent to entertain her, and a photograph of another sister, several years later, occupying the infirmary where Therese died.  

Below are several books which, together with Story of a Soul, will be useful to you if you are especially interested in Therese's life in 1896 and 1897. the years in which she tried especially to articulate her spirituality:

The Passion of Therese of Lisieux, by Guy Gaucher, O.C.D.

 Light of the Night: The Last 18 Months of Therese of Lisieux, by Jean-Francois Six

 St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D. Therese's last words as recorded, and perhaps rewritten, by those around her, with letters of others who were by her sickbed.


Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Volume II: 1890-1897. Therese's rich writings and much information from the last period of her life.

St. Therese's sister Celine entered the Carmel of Lisieux 120 years ago today, on September 14, 1894


image of cover of book "Celine. Sister and Witness of St. Therese of the Child Jesus," by Stephane-Joseph Piat. The cover shows Celine, left, at twelve; Therese, right, at eight, 1881.

120 years ago today, on September 14, 1894, Therese's sister Celine entered the Carmel of Lisieux at the age of 25. She had taken care of her father until his death six weeks before, on July 29, 1894.

Celine's story is told in the book Celine: Sister and Witness of St. Therese of the Child Jesus by a Franciscan priest, Stephane-Joseph Piat, who knew her well in her later years.  (She died on February 25, 1959, at the age of 89).  She herself tells the story of the three years she spent with Therese in Lisieux Carmel in her memoir My Sister Saint Therese, first published in French in the 1950s.

Celine had lived much longer "in the world" than her sisters.  From the age of seventeen she had been in charge at Les Buisonnets.  She had accompanied her father during his confinement in a mental hospital; nursed him, together with Leonie, and managed his household after his release; participated in the social life of the family of her uncle Guerin; refused two proposals of marriage; considered joining the Jesuit Father Almire Pichon in an apostolate in Canada; been an active member of her parish; organized other young women in charitable and apostolic works in Lisieux; and vigorously pursued studies in art, photography, and other fields.  Because she had looked after her father and managed his household, and because of her strong personality, incredible energy, and many talents, Celine's early adjustment to the Carmelite way of life, which at that time was so rigid (for a guide to all its minute customs, see the "Paper of exactions" at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux) was a challenge. Like so many of us do, she often compared herself with Therese and became discouraged despite her courageous efforts.

Read her eyewitness testimony about Therese at the 1910 diocesan process in the book St. Therese of Lisieux by those who knew her at

At the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, read the circular of Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, an account of her life which was prepared at Lisieux and sent to other Carmels at Celine's death.

Read an online biography of Celine on the Web site "Martin Sisters."

September 14, 1894 was an historic date in Carmel not only because of the entrance of the young woman who would give us such valuable testimony about her sister-saint but also for several other reasons:

To make room for Celine, the cells were moved around, and it was to prepare for September 14 that Therese moved into her last cell, which she occupied from then until she left it for the infirmary on July 8, 1897

color photo of small wooden writing-desk (a lap desk) on which Therese wrote her manuscripts.  Manuscripts open on top.  An open drawer shows pen, inkstand, and spare nibswriting-desk on which St. Therese wrote the three manuscripts of "Story of a Soul"

 When Celine entered, Therese passed on to Celine the ecritoire (small wooden writing-desk held on one's lap) that she herself had been using. Therese replaced it with another, no longer fit for use, which she had found in the attic. So it's on this last, somewhat battered writing-desk, which was displayed in the United States in the summer of 2013, that Therese wrote the three manuscripts of "Story of a Soul"

and all her letters to her spiritual brothers, the young priest Adolphe Roulland and the young seminarian Maurice Belliere.

Celine brought with her a small notebook in which she had copied out extracts from her uncle's Bible. She passed this notebook on to Therese. Since the nuns did not have Bibles, some of the passages were new to Therese. It was in this notebook that Therese found the Scripture passages that were the foundation of her "way of confidence and love": "If anyone is little, let that one come to me." "For to the one that is little, mercy will be shown." "You shall be carried on the knees and fondled at the lap."

Celine also brought that day another object that would be important to the spread of Therese's message: the photographic apparatus with which most of the photographs of Therese as a Carmelite were taken.

May Celine (Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face) obtain for us the grace to enter into following her sister's way of confidence and love with the same energy and courage with which she entered Carmel. 

"Saint Therese in the turmoil of the war, 1914-1918," an exposition at Lisieux open until November 11, 2014

color photo of poster advertising exposition; it shows soldieers praying by the tomb of Therese in the Lisieux cemetery

poster credit: Sanctuaire de Lisieux

From May 1 through November 11, 2014, at St. Jacques Church, the Shrine at Lisieux presents an exposition of previously unpublished materials, "Thérèse in the turmoil of the 1914-1918 war."

Thérèse of Lisieux held a privileged place in the heart of the soldiers in the trenches, both the French and the Germans.  In the horror of the carnage, the little Carmelite of Lisieux, was a sister, a confidante, and a protectress for the "Poilus," as the soldiers were called.  Between 1914 and 1918, the cemetery at Lisieux became a place of very frequent pilgrimage, and the Carmel was flooded with letters which the Carmelites published as "Shower of Roses" (7 volumes!) 

At the time of the First World War, Story of a Soul had been translated into 10 languages and had appeared in 16 editions. 

The Carmelites had also published an abridged version of Story of a Soul titled "The unpetalled rose."  At that time, Thérèse was called only "the Servant of God;" she did not yet have an official title.  Word of mouth works well; it was said that when one came to her tomb, Therese granted all the favors asked.  The soldiers came to the tomb of Thérèse.  They were from different regiments, in the Carmelite enclosure in the town cemetery.  They planted stakes onto which the pilgrims could clip their petitions, their photos, and also their thanks.  Some put their flags on the tomb.  Throughout the whole war, the tomb of Thérèse became "the mailbox of paradise." 

It mattered little to the "poilus" that Thérèse had not yet been canonized.  Her process of beatification had been opened in 1910.  It was sent to Rome in 1914. 

Thérèse spoke to them of God, and especially she spoke to them about the essential: Thérèse spoke to them about love.  Love for their families, their relatives, their parents . . . And love for God also.  For them, Thérèse was at once sister, mother, confidante, and protectress. She is with them.  Moreover, the "poilus" gave her plenty of nicknanes, like "the little sister of the trenches," "the little sister in turmoil."  

Admission to the exposition, at St. Jacques Church (rue au Char) in Lisieux, is free.  Open daily from 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. until November 11.

If you are fortunate enough to be in Lisieux, please do not miss this exhibit. 

[With thanks to the Shrine at Lisieux, this article is translated from the French at the Web site of the Shrine at Lisieux].

"'Little Flower" artifacts draw faithful closer to St. Therese" - a story by the Catholic News Agency, October 5, 2013

St. Therese of Lisieux's writing desk sits on display in front of a drawn image of the saint holding it in her lap. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

.- As a weathered wooden writing desk tours the U.S., its drawers stained black with century-old ink, its presence helps bring the faithful closer to the saint who used it to pen “Story of a Soul” –  Thérèse of Lisieux.

Read more about the 2013  tour of the writing-desk of St. Therese in the United States.

Posted on Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 05:40PM by Registered CommenterMaureen O'Riordan in , | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint
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