the Carmel

Biography of Sister Marie of the Eucharist

Marie Guerin 1870–1905

Excerpts from the biography of Marie Guérin written by the Father Stéphane-Joseph Piat, Franciscan (1899-1968). The book, out of print, was published by the Central Office of Lisieux in 1967. These extracts are posted online with the kind authorization of the Central Office of Lisieux. Father Piat met Thérèse's sisters at length in the visiting room and obtained very precise information from them; it is still consulted today based on the rigor of its dates and the events mentioned.

At the Guérin pharmacy

Pierre-Célestin Fournet was united, on November 11, 1839, to Elisa Petit. He had four children, two of whom died in infancy. Two daughters survived. The youngest, Céline, born March 15, 1847, married Isidore Guérin. The eldest, Marie-Rosalie, was married on July 7, 1861, to César Maudelonde, and gave birth to five children: Ernest, Henry, Marguerite, Céline and Hélène.

In the shadow of the high towers of Saint-Pierre Cathedral, in the heart of picturesque and medieval Lisieux, the Guérin pharmacy once stood its austere silhouette, lining up, in a corner position, on the Place and the Grande-Rue, its classic double facade with four floors.

Without regard for the line of apothecaries who, since 1550, had succeeded one another in this place, without regard above all for the relic of Theresian history that this residence constituted, the bombardments of 1944 destroyed this witness of the past. Les Buissonnets survive in their mystery enclosure. Of the haughty house which was for a time fraternally associated with them, there is no stone left on stone.

The one who received it from the hands of Mr. Fournet, in the summer of 1866, Isidore Guérin, was destined to become one of the most prominent personalities of his adopted city. Born on January 2, 1841 in the barracks of Saint-Denis-sur-Sarthon, in Orne, transplanted three years later to Alençon, he grew up, mischievous and flighty, under the indulgent gaze of his parents, among the caresses of his two sisters, Elise and Zélie, whom he followed, as a somewhat spoiled youngest, almost a decade apart.

At the end of brilliant studies at the school of the Brothers, then at the public high school, abandoning the medical career that his family coveted for him and which had been the subject of his first aspirations, he had allowed himself to be tempted by the demon of chemistry. A brief on-site internship, several years at the Ecole de Pharmacie de Paris, an internship in the surgical department of the Bicêtre hospital, and finally, in May 1866, the diploma of first-class pharmacist won after a hard fight, had enabled him to seek the succession of Mr. Pierre Fournet. He had been lucky enough to gain the attention of his predecessor's second daughter. The marriage, concluded on September 11, 1866, had definitively sealed his entry into office and his introduction into Lexovian society.

Isidore Guérin was a pretty guy, with his expressive and mobile face, his vast forehead crowned with opulent artist's hair, his lively and straight gaze, his well-trimmed mustaches, the slender and martial appearance of a officer of the Second Empire. Through his turbulent morals, he had long worried the jealous tenderness of those close to him. In the equivocal environments of the Latin Quarter, his faith, without capsizing, had suffered some decline. He had come close to an adventure, and people were whispering behind the scenes about the tragic episode of a certain brawl in which he had narrowly escaped a sword blow. Complete character, combative and willingly rebellious, he defied the reprimands of his sister Visitandine Elise, "the holy Daughter of Le Mans", as she was called, who accused him with amusing indignation, and not without exaggeration, of "drinking the 'iniquity like water'.

It is true that Sister Marie-Dosithée scolds him unceremoniously. Although she occasionally recalls the saying dear to her mother, that "you give people a beard like their chin", Isidore, in the absence of humble docility, needs a real philosophy to accept certain things without flinching. algarades. A few prolonged silences occasionally highlight the limits of his patience. He wants to become an auditor of Father Félix at Notre-Dame, recite three Hail Marys at the end of the day... but fasting during Lent and attending two Masses during the week is, for the moment, forcing the dose ! Tenderness, moreover, always takes over and renews the thread of the missives. Wasn't it his eldest who, with her prayers, saved him as if by a miracle when croup once threatened to take him away? And then, the votes of an exemplary nun are not to be disdained when facing an exam or thinking about settling down?

Finer and better aware of the realities, Zélie Guérin, Thérèse's future mother, had an obstinate confidence in her younger brother. His letters were insinuating to encourage him to visit the sanctuary of Notre-Dame des Victoires every day. She warned him against unhealthy promiscuity, citing memories of the valiant M. Martin, who had once known how to valiantly defend himself from the "smells of Paris." On occasion she urges him to woo a light-headed, all-frontal beauty on which one cannot rely.

She will not rest until the day when the alliance with Céline Fournet will have given Isidore a companion of choice and, what is more, related to the best families of Lexovian high society, counting in the gallery of ancestors Thomas-Jean Monsaint , former vicar of Orbec-en-Auge, massacred, in hatred of the faith, on September 2, 1792, at the Abbey. Tall and well made, although of delicate and rather sickly complexion, the young wife seduced above all by her exquisite sweetness. In her early childhood, was she not punished for her carelessness by tying her to the foot of a table with a light thread that she would not have broken for an empire? Her enveloping kindness will contribute powerfully to temper what was abrupt and authoritarian in her husband's character.

The Guérin pharmacy is in the best location. On market days, you can see the horse-drawn carriages of the most exclusive houses in the Pays d'Auge stop at the door. Mr. Guérin loves his job and spares no effort. His probity is universally recognized. His competence will cause him to be designated as a chemical expert by the Court and as a member of the Council of Hygiene. He likes to isolate himself for experiments in his apartment on the second floor, which will become legendary in the family and will give chills to the little girls, because of the visceral analyzes he had to perform there. Not lacking commercial qualities, success seemed assured. However, the start will be difficult. The cash is often dry. The drugstore, bought on June 16, 1870, became a cause of setbacks, before burning down in an unfortunate fire on March 27, 1873. Restored, it had to be closed on November 1, 1883. Mrs. Martin supported the young couple with her encouragement and for his prayers, Mr. Martin for his advice and, if need be, his credit, until the business had overcome the initial difficulties and reached a degree of real prosperity. Between Alençon and Lisieux a regular correspondence is established, interrupted by rare visits which are an event.

It is above all on the spiritual plane that the examples of the rue Saint-Blaise prove to be opportune. Isidore Guérin only gradually returned to a fully lived faith. His wife, certainly religious, of an astonishing maturity of judgment and a fine moral balance, had not received special lessons in fervor at home. Her father only attended church at weddings and funerals. The Fournets, of public notoriety, were richer in crowns than in religious convictions. From the word "Fournet", by inverting the letters, the smart ones composed "fortune". Although it sometimes appeared as a "poor relative" in this world lavishly endowed with investment firms and mansions, the Guérin household sacrificed somewhat to the tyranny of salon relations. It took the influence exerted by Mr. and Martin for the Lexovians to adopt little by little, first the wife, then, in due course, her impetuous and loyal husband, the joyous tone and rhythm of an exemplary existence. Christian. The evolution will be sensitive enough for Isidore to soon be counted among the notables of the parish of Saint-Pierre. We see him, in 1874, taking part in the founding of the Saint-Vincent de Paul Conference and the Catholic Circle, then entering the Council of the Cathedral, of which he was appointed treasurer. Later, he will help to constitute the Civil Society of the new School of the Brothers and will bring for a time his assistance to the Saint-Louis de Gonzague Conference.

More than any other. Sister Marie-Dosithée will applaud this transfiguration. The Visitandine's letters to Isidore are now imbued with serene joy. She notes her noble motto: “I will do the good Lord’s business and HE will do mine. » She admires his faith; she goes so far as to compare it to that of Abraham. She congratulates him on having, in the days of his youth, passed through the storms of the Capital unscathed. We are far from the somewhat preachy tone with which, in the past, she took up the jokes, all in all venial, of the gavroche student. However, she does not believe her mission is complete. The Visitation of Le Mans remains the “high place” from where the Spirit breathes on the whole family. This is where the advice comes from, immediately but in practice, to establish Saint Joseph as steward of the pharmacy. Regular correspondence brings to Lisieux as to Alençon the scent of Salesian spirituality, with formulas in which we already sense certain features of the “Little Way”:

“Me, writes the Visitandine, I go to God just as I would to my Father, even with much more trust and abandon. » — « God loves with an extremely tender love those who abandon themselves to Him, and the mother does not have so much tenderness for her little child as the Lord has for the abandoned soul. » — « We must have faith and confidence, do what depends on us, live in peace, and God will take care of us without fail. “Our Lord does not want convicts in his service. »

To punctuate and illustrate these teachings, the "Holy Daughter" sends to her brother the Introduction to the Devout Life and also the Holy Year of the Visitation, twelve hagiographic volumes of eight hundred pages, which are disputed, it is said — happy times or happy illusion of the letter-writer! — at the parish library of Le Mans.

In 1875, when Mr. Guérin, worried about his health, went to the Grotto of Lourdes, he received this encouraging note:

“It is not a question of being worthy to obtain a miracle; the most unworthy are often the best granted; and who is worthy here below? They are the most miserable, but have the most confidence; to these, all graces. However, it is certain that we must submit our will to that of God and only want what he wants, but go with a large and open heart to resort to his goodness; you have to be a child towards him, but a confident child... Me, I am happy... I go to God as to my Father, and with that I do not worry about anything... and do you think that I will have to repent of acting in this way, and that I will find my God less generous than I thought? »

The youngest, from now on, responds to the advances of his big sister. At the same time as he sends him many medications and largesse, he entrusts him with "his sinners", because here he is, in turn, improvising himself as a converter of souls, particularly at the bedside of his sick friends. Above all, he recommends the intentions of the home to Le Mans.

*

The cradles were quick to brighten up the house. On February 24, 1868, a little Jeanne was born who will always be the object of paternal predilections. On August 22, 1870, Marie-Louise-Hélène, whose memory inspires these pages, made her entry into life. She was rippled the very day of her arrival. The complementary ceremonies of the baptism took place on September 14. Mr. Martin acted as godfather. He will always tenderly love this pretty brunette, whom he will call "the Greek" because of her large, deep, expressive jet-black eyes, and who will soon be his Thérèse's playmate.

On October 16, 1871, a boy, ardently awaited, will appear only to die as soon as he receives the sacrament. This cruel ordeal will be for Mrs. Martin the occasion to address to the grieving parents a moving letter of condolences where, with the authority of her multiple bereavements heroically borne, she sings the honor of the Christian mothers who give the elect to Heaven. Ms. Guérin corresponds to these sentiments, judging by the abandoned tone of her response:

“If God took this child away from me, it is certainly for his greater good. He showed himself to be a good Father for us since he allowed him to be baptized. This poor child has not known the sufferings of life. God put him immediately in his beautiful Heaven. All these thoughts give me resignation, because, you know it better than I for the rest, it is only there where one can draw courage. »

Sister Marie-Dosithée intervenes in turn to bandage the wound. She will continue to soothe the worried soul of her sister-in-law, she will invite her to worry less and also to show more firmness in the education of little Jeanne. When she feels death approaching, she will still encourage her family in this testament which has a prophetic accent in places:

“God, God alone will be your reward. I have handed you over to his care, I am confident about you, you will succeed; but then in prosperity, do not rise, that your tastes and your small train of house are modest; share your abundance with the poor, and you will see your last day come with a laughing face. »

This is the line of the Doctor of Geneva right to the end: “Spread the thread of small virtues”.

No sooner had the relics of the Visitandine been shared than a new mourning would darken and, ultimately, bring the homes of Alençon and Lisieux closer together. On August 28, 1877, Mrs. Martin was struck down by the terrible illness that had been plaguing her for a long time. Before leaving, she, with a final look, entrusted the future orphans to her sister-in-law. Already, in view of his death, Mr. Guérin had proposed the transfer of Mr. Martin's home to Lisieux where the neighborhood of their Aunt would help complete the children's education. The offer, renewed with insistence the day after the funeral, having been accepted, he set out in search of a house and discovered, on the edge of the Parc de l'Etoile, the graceful cottage of Buissonnets which, through his initiative, would enter into the story. On Wednesday, November 14, 1877, he himself brought his five nieces to Lisieux, whom the father would join shortly after, his affairs completely liquidated. Marie, the eldest, was seventeen and a half years old. Pauline was sixteen, Léonie fourteen, Céline eight and a half. As for Thérèse, she would reach five years old on the following January 2.

The two families, from now on, will merge to the point of appearing to be one. However, the climate was far from being exactly the same on both sides. We know the patriarchal simplicity which governed the solitary existence of Mr. Martin and the training of his daughters. Mr. and Mrs. Guérin did not have such rigid principles in matters of education. In the repression of these initial defects which require constant supervision and unwavering firmness, they showed a certain weakness. Their Jeanne was somewhat adored. As for Marie, she was a cheerful child, sparkling with mischief, who knew the art of making up for her pranks with a good word. Very small in size and very quickly sick, she must also have known the perilous precautions required by delicate health. These nuances appear in the passages of The Story of a Soul which relate to the relationships between cousins.

Age affinities orienting preferences, Céline Martin had become a chosen friend for Jeanne, while Marie became attached to Thérèse, three years younger than her. Together we attended the Benedictine classes. We happily made an appointment at Place Saint-Pierre, to go to the Abbey together, under the watchful eye of the servants of both families, Victoire and Marcelline. On Thursdays, we found ourselves quite often in the company of Mrs. Maudelonde's little girls, for a walk or shared games, and, on Sundays, in turn, Mr. Martin's children were invited to the pharmacy, where their father , in the evening, by the light of the stars, he himself came to pick them up. It was in such circumstances that Marie Guérin and Thérèse turned into anchorites, withdrawing into a poor cabin, cultivating a meager plot of land, taking turns in contemplation. The fiction, one day, captivated them so much that they continued down the street, imitating innocently, and went off, with their eyes closed, to violently collide with some merchant's display.

During the summer holidays, a group excursion takes parents and children, in a station wagon rented for the occasion, to Saint-Ouen-le-Pin, where Grandma Fournet owns a modest holiday home.

The stay at the beach adds to these meetings the pleasure of common life. In 1878, 1885, 1886, 1887, Mr Guérin rented on the coast for one or two months and in turn invited his nieces to come and share the charms of the Colombe chalet in Deauville, the Marie-Rose villa or the Lilas chalet in Trouville. Thérèse will go there several times. She graciously recounted how, having wanted to attract attention by imitating Marie's grievances during her chronic migraines, she had only succeeded in repeating at her expense the fable of the donkey and the little dog. Complaining suited her so badly that we imagined that her tears hid some serious scruple from which we tried in vain to relieve her.

*

To tell the truth, throughout this period, Thérèse played the role of guardian angel for her cousin. The one she kindly called “Loulou” carried the weight of premature growth for a long time. She often had to helplessly watch the antics of her companions, sitting apart, chillily wrapped in a blanket. Frequent headaches tormented her; fluxions disfigured his face. It was not without mood swings or whims, which Therese did her best to appease with charming care and infinite good grace.

At the Beatification Process of the Carmelite, her sister Léonie and the former servant of the pharmacy, Marcelline, testified how she tried to distract and surround the sick woman until she made her forget her infirmities.

Besides, Marie did not only have phases of languor. With a sharp intelligence, she had placed herself, despite her frequent absences, in the first ranks of her class. In her hours of health, light as a butterfly, she animated the rounds, joked willingly and ran wildly without worrying about obstacles, which earned her many accidents.

Madame Guérin, imitating what Martin had once done for her elders, insisted on preparing her daughter for her first Communion herself. She composed for her use small prayers, simple, concrete, inspired by liturgical events or incidents of the day, in which she reviewed the faults to be pruned, the virtues to acquire. Everything ends in resolutions and supplication to God. The emphasis is on humility of heart and the sanctification of state duties. The arrogance towards domestic staff is ruthlessly repressed. Here is a modest sample of this maternal literature:

“O my Jesus, yesterday I promised you to be very good, and now I happened to answer the right one the wrong way. Ah! how ungrateful I am! So I forgot that this poor girl is not happy like I am. She is deprived of her mother and of all kinds of joys. O my lovable Jesus, make sure that I never fall back into this fault; help me to be polite and gentle with the maids.

May I remember that they are my equals and that one day, in Heaven, they will perhaps have a much higher place than mine. Forgive me, Jesus, forget my ingratitude, and, for my First Communion, adorn my soul with the virtues that please You, especially humility. »

Although there was a question of delaying her for her thoughtlessness, such as because of the illnesses which had shortened her catechism time, Marie made her First Communion in the chapel of the Benedictines on June 2, 1881. This ceremony, prepared with blows of sacrifices, made a strong impression on her, if we judge by this passage from a letter which, from Carmel, she would later address to Marcelline, who had also entered the cloister:

“No one can tell you better than I that on this day, the happiest of my life, Jesus called me to religious life, and we promised each other fidelity. »

As she grows up, the little girl will gradually be introduced to the cult of effort. Her health gradually strengthens, she will want to imitate her cousins ​​in their frequent exercises of piety, slowed down in this by her parents anxious to spare her the slightest fatigue and perhaps secretly worried about seeing symptoms of vocation awaken in her . She will not be allowed to read the biography of Saint Thérèse of Avila that Pauline, who entered the Carmel on October 2, 1882, had sent to Les Buissonnets.

Marie had opened herself early to the attraction of humility. Believing that she only had the aptitude for the most obscure tasks, she had, when she was very young, forced herself to learn domestic tasks for a few days. The attempt was undoubtedly conclusive, because his young imagination was calmed, now assured of a situation. In reality, she was brilliantly gifted with the gifts of the mind and the heart. An artistic temperament, his voice had a crystal clarity and celestial vibrations which delighted Mr. Martin and earned him the nickname “little nightingale” from his father. A trained pianist, his fingers ran over the keyboard with the agility of a virtuoso, while his soul passed entirely into his playing.

She was the only one to misunderstand his talents, only anxious to step aside, seeming to hold on to nothing. One of her cousins, Céline Maudelonde, having asked her for a piece of music which was her triumph, she stripped herself of it on the spot, and there was never any question of it again. It was because grace was already working on her in depth. The terrible ordeal of scruples that will pursue her to the end affected her from childhood, helping to disgust her with the world and its vanities. Thérèse's example encouraged him to supreme detachment.

We know the active role played by Mr. Guérin in the vocation of his niece. Resolutely hostile at first to this departure of a fifteen-year-old child, troubled despite everything by the eminence of her virtues, the Uncle and guardian finally bowed under the motion of the Holy Spirit. He will even go so far as to review and correct in his own hand the letter of petition addressed by the future postulant to the Bishop of Bayeux, upon his return from Italy.

This phase of steps and uncertainties was not without moving the ardent soul of Marie Guérin. She is grieved to lose her sweet confidante; she loves him enough, however, to espouse his cause. In a letter she addresses to him in the Eternal City, she inserts these sentences which take on the appearance of prediction from a distance:

“...Nothing new in our Lisieux, but, for Rome, it's something else! It contains a treasure which he does not suspect and which he would do well to return to me soon, for my little Thérèse's absence is beginning to seem to me to be very long. Finally, to pass the time, I pray a lot for his great intention and the success of his journey. »

With the one she loves “not like a cousin, but like a sister and a true sister”, she fulfills a mission that has historic significance:

“Pauline asked me to tell you that she strongly wanted you to speak to the Sovereign Pontiff about your entry into Carmel. If he doesn't pass by you, she would like you to go ahead of him to ask for the grace you so earnestly desire. »

On Monday, April 9, 1888, Marie Guérin, her eyes moist, kissed her cousin at the closing gate, already desirous, by the best of herself, to join her one day on the Montagne du Carmel.

Victory over the world

The pharmacy on Place Saint-Pierre was booming when a sumptuous succession opened up for its owner. Mr. Auguste David, former notary in Évreux, remained a widower and without descendants at the head of an opulent fortune, wanted to rectify the inequalities of certain previous divisions by choosing as heirs his first cousins, the children of Madame Fournet. He had never shown Christian feelings, any more than his very worldly wife, née Léonie Charvet, died suddenly in her carriage on August 29, 1869. When he felt mortally wounded, at the age of seventy-five, he sent for Isidore Guérin at his bedside, in his sumptuous home in La Musse. He brought with him the only object missing from the decor, a Crucifix. He was happy enough to reconcile the old man with God, who died on August 22, 1888, after expressing his gratitude in these words: “Guérin, I owe my salvation to you. »

Céline Fournet's husband also had the task, as universal legatee, of unraveling the complicated tangle of the will. A princely hotel in the capital of Eure, a summer residence two leagues away, artistic furniture, values ​​and land formed an imposing heritage that the Maudelonde and Guérin families distributed amicably , responsible for providing for a certain number of secondary legacies allocated in life annuity. The spirit of fraternal understanding was so lively, the disinterestedness so sincere that no shadow of chicanery ever altered the sometimes delicate solution to these thorny financial questions. We even left it undivided, with the intention of occupying it in turn in the summer, the property of La Musse, this former seigniorial estate which overlooked its pretty villa and its forty-one hectares of gardens. , woods and parks, the winding Iton valley.

This unexpected acquisition, relieving Mr. Guérin of any concerns for the future, allowed him to completely change the direction of his work. On December 8, he sold his pharmacy. On April 20, 1889, he acquired a mansion in Lisieux, 19, rue Paul Banaston. He occupied it towards the end of the year, after a brief visit to rue Condorcet and to Les Buissonnets, alas! deserted, since the departure of Mr. Martin for the Good Savior and the temporary exodus of his two daughters to Caen.

The existence of the former pharmacist will henceforth be that of a notable, in the sense of “social authority” which was then attached to this word.

A member of the Literary Circle since 1869, he was finally able to satisfy his passion for scientific studies and things of the spirit at leisure. In the evening, at the evening, he likes to read to his daughters, and also to his nieces, when Léonie and Céline are staying under his roof, selected pieces of classical theater: Corneille, Racine, Molière, or sparkling scenes from Shakespeare. Voltaire, it will be noted, is not in his repertoire. He interacted with high political figures and counted among his brothers in arms in the field of the apostolate Paul-Louis Target who was minister plenipotentiary in The Hague, before becoming deputy for Calvados.

An inveterate monarchist, Mr. Guérin also ranks among the enthusiasts of the “Free Speech” of Drumont. Conservative, in every sense of the word, his librarian's instinct, his archivist's flair, lead him to examine, classify and keep up to date the papers on which the destiny of the family is recorded, which, later, will providentially facilitate the research of the historians that the prestigious Teresian adventure will attempt. His notebook will be the book of reason from which they will draw, as in a notarized document, the genealogical and chronological details, while posterity will owe him many letters, meticulously cataloged, from Mrs. Martin and her daughters.

Above all, it is the interests of faith which require his devotion. If, in terms of sacramental practice, he stuck to the habits of the time, only approaching the Holy Table on feast days, he founded, in 1885, at the instigation of Thérèse's father , the Nocturnal Adoration group which, unfortunately, will not survive. During the Corpus Christi processions where he held a cord from the canopy, the Blessed Sacrament stopped at the resting place which he built in his home and which he wanted to be sumptuous. Thus, in a particularly bad year, he had a cross of colored glass erected bearing this inscription: “ The more we outrage it, the more it shines. » He realizes, in the bourgeois style of the time - and the expression here is in no way pejorative - the type of man of works, whose purse opens widely to all distresses and for all good causes, and who does not hesitate to take action, chair a meeting, make a speech or write an article, whenever the glory of God or the good of souls is at stake. The support he gave to the Missions even earned him the chance to become godfather of a black king; but it is not the honoraria that he seeks. An activist, he paid in person, with the taste for protest and response that the approaches to persecution aroused at the time in the Catholic elite.

This end of the century smells of gunpowder. We are not yet at the “abject regime”, but already, following in the footsteps of Jules Ferry, the secularizers are at work; the slogans of the Lodges are gradually becoming part of the legislation.

Faced with this vast strategic offensive which will find, alas! believers divided and distraught, Mr. Guérin quickly discerned the two key positions to defend at a cost

what does it cost: school and the press. He is part of the Lexovian School Committee; he supports with his funds the tenacious effort of the sons of the Champagne Canon that Leo XIII will soon bring to the altars, Jean-Baptiste de la Salle. He honors with his presence, and often with his word, their distribution of prizes. To house the girls' school, he personally purchased a commercial building which would retain the title of Good Shepherd in its new use. Until his last breath, remembering the crises of his youth, he will fight to keep the soul of the rising generations to Christ, this “raising wheat” that René Bazin will sing tomorrow.

To confront the enemies of the Church and defend the sacred cause of its freedoms, the newspaper seemed to him an arena of choice. Images, news items and advertising have not yet invaded the columns of renowned periodicals. Battles of ideas are fought there feverishly. Mr. Guérin, with an incisive and lucid pen, advocates the truth. Unconcerned about bringing his prose to so-called "republican" pages, with the very particular meaning that the word took on at the time, he willingly collaborated with Le Normand which, since 1833, has been published twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, in the city and district of Lisieux. Local political events led him, in October 1891, to play a leading role.

The bitter debates in Parliament gradually spread to the province. The calm face of the bountiful Norman country, its peaceful and wise morals are soon turned upside down. Lisieux itself awakens to the disputes of the forum under the impetus of a follicular, then in May of careerism, and whose age and Power will calm the mood, Henry Chéron. Either from the desire to entertain the gallery, or from the need to carve out a clientele, this young twenty-four-year-old lawyer launched an advanced organ: Le Progrès Lexovien, where, as they said then, “he eats the priest”. On October 23, 1891, his usually light-hearted spirit suddenly became surly. On the occasion of a Letter from Leo XIII to Mgr Gouthe-Soulard, he attacks the peat of the “Vaticanards” and the Papa himself, whom he dares to accuse of “going off the rails”.

Mr. Guérin jumped with outrage; he personally knows the insulter. In 1884, he spent a few months in her service as a pharmacy student, which gave him the opportunity to give accordion lessons to Marie and to make himself heard by little Thérèse. At the time, Henry Chéron did not disdain playing hymns; he even brought a colleague who had fallen back into indifference to Easter. All the more reason not to tolerate scandal.

This is how, on November 3, 1891, the polemicist of Norman unleashes himself to repress the insolence of his former trainee who suddenly turned into a grandmaster of anticlericalism. The article, spiced up with piquant formulas, has breath, momentum, almost passion. He asks his titles to the kid who wore short pants yesterday and who today looks down so highly on the most unquestioned moral authorities. He is ironic about his pretensions. Then, raising the debate, he nobly avenges the Pope “of genius whose recent Encyclical rerum Novarum on “the condition of workers” has just aroused a vast wave of admiration throughout the world:

“He is derailed, the one whom heretical nations choose as mediator.

“He is derailed, the one whose immense knowledge is recorded in luminous and profound writings which will live longer than the prose of Progress.

“He is derailed, he who alone was able to find the solution to this infrangible Gordian knot which we call the social question, which neither the most skilful economists, nor the most profound philosophers, nor the most perspicacious politicians, were still able to unravel.

“He is derailed, he who gives France the marks of solicitude and a very paternal affection, who groans over her misfortunes, who rejoices in her glories and who declares her his privileged daughter.

“He is derailed, the one who, EVER, mind you, has only spoken words of peace, mercy and forgiveness, the one who has never begged for the vain applause of the crowd.

“He goes off the rails, he who, alone, without an army, without an ally, laughs, in the middle of his Vatican, at the impotent rage of the revolutionary pack…”

The conclusion springs itself: “On which side is the impropriety? Which one “goes off the rails”, from the Holy Father or the Progress ? » The signature, straight as a sword blade, is preceded by this proud protest: “A Vaticanard who demands that his religious faith be respected as he intends to respect that of others. » [1]

[1] Promoted to the most extensive municipal, parliamentary and governmental responsibilities, Henry Chéron gradually stripped away the sectarianism of yesteryear. From the bottom of his heart, he held true esteem for Mr. Guérin. When the star of Saint Thérèse rises on the horizon, he will like to recall the hours of his youth when he met her with his cousin in the pharmacy in Saint Peter's Square. His goodwill for the Martin family and for Carmel will never fade. As Mayor of Lisieux, he will facilitate grandiose events in honor of the Saint and the development of pilgrimages. We owe him the creation of the triumphal avenue which leads to the Basilica. The nun who buried the statesman found on him, with a gold cross and a medal of the Blessed Virgin, a Teresian image. If the vigilance of those around him did not allow the priest to approach the dying person's bed, an absolution given by stealth joined what remained in him, alive, of the pious memories of the early years and allows us to hope that the one who knew Thérèse child now knows her in her glory.

The response is not limited to this vengeful apostrophe. THE Norman, despite its sixty years of existence, was then very close to foundering, due to a lack of collaborators and credits. Mr. Guérin knew the house, having more than once contributed his literary talent. Asked to commit fully, after a period of hesitation, he came to her aid, bailed her out financially and assumed the role of principal editor, devoting himself to this apostolate, for him essential - has it not been said that “Saint Paul, if he returned, would become a journalist? » — with an undeniable attraction for contradictory contests, a cult of truth, a tight dialectic, a respect for the adversary, in a word, an intellectual probity and a righteousness of heart, which commanded admiration.

This attitude is not without risks. We try to dirty him, we challenge him to a duel. He dismisses the insult with contempt and refuses to fight other than with arguments, showing that true courage consists of remaining intractable in one's faith, counting the false honor of the world for nothing. For six years, he held the position, despite attacks of rheumatic fever which frequently tortured his right side, which made Thérèse say, with legitimate pride:

“Is it not for the glory of Our Lord that the arm of my Uncle never ceases to tire in writing admirable pages which must save souls and make demons tremble.”

In this newspaper column, Mr. Guérin, without being a professional, demonstrates his undeniable qualities as an editorialist. The numerous articles signed by him - there are, unless I am mistaken, seventy-four for the year 1893 alone, sometimes two in the same issue, and always on the first page - address the whole range of complex problems raised at the time. , the French internal situation and international events. They range from the Russian alliance to tax studies, from social laws to the Panama affair, including the irritating debates on local elections.

Religious issues, however, take center stage. It is the Concordat whose spirit must be avenged against those who claim to make it "a gag, a halter, a straitjacket, with which they can muzzle, tie up and suffocate theInfamous ". It is, courageously denounced, the action of Freemasonry, its mysterious rites, its camouflage or penetration maneuvers, the organized corruption of the administration, the assault carried out against the judiciary, the favoritism taking hold in the Power and determining advancement in politician love rating. Above all, it is academic freedom, defended step by step against the assaults of secularism, and the interests of the faith constantly asserted, with the honor of the Holy See and obedience to the Church.

The conservative spirit animates these writings, not in its narrow, stubborn and retrograde concept, but with the enlargements mixed with impatience of an admirer of Veuillot who would have had a taste of Albert de Mun. Obviously, Mr. Guérin is not a democrat. He willingly reissues the historic words: “Universal suffrage, universal lie”. He nonetheless accepts the Rally's directives with perfect submission. He summarized the teachings of Leo XIII in these words: “Accept frankly, loyally, without ulterior motives, the established form of Government, but combat anti-Christian legislation by all legal means. » From February 6, 1892, The Norman was reorganized by situating itself “on the constitutional and religious level”.

Same fidelity to the Roman instructions relating to the social question. Did Mr. Guérin foresee the full extent of it? He was poorly placed for this, too far away, through his profession and his relationships, from the world of the factory. He nonetheless affirms his love of children and his disapproval of the excesses of industrialism. In a leader entitled "Work and Capital", he points out - and this shows that he was aware of the theses of La Tour du Pin and his disciples - the insufficiency of the powers granted to the Unions with a view to organizing the profession.

“To resist socialism,” he said again, “one would need... the immutable principles of a sound philosophy and the knowledge of the reciprocal rights and duties which fall to both the worker and the boss. Christianity alone can give him this knowledge. »

He is even more comfortable stigmatizing the ravages of extremism and the hypocritical exploitation that certain men of the left make of popular poverty. “In every Jacobin,” he wrote, “there is a dictator. »

Having long frequented the rough and biting prose of the Director of L'Univers, Mr. Guérin brings to support his ideas a precise and piquant pen, willingly handling the image and the word which are bullet. His style is gradually stripped of the oratorical emphasis which betrayed the influence of the times. He becomes more nervous, more direct, that of an excellent debater, expert in clearing up a question, asking it in clear terms and grasping the weak point of the opposing argument.

Mr. Guérin is not the man who does a job and writes a “paper” to order. It is a conviction in the service of a cause. He endorses the oft-repeated formula: “Journalism is a priesthood. » “We recognize,” he declares, “no other authority than that of God, no other persuasive person than reason, no other guide than our conscience. » To lovers of compromise, he happily serves this refrain:

Forbid the gods that I sleep
With you under one roof!
Behind those whose mouth
Blow hot and cold!

It is this “inner soul” which makes one of his studies devoted to Renan and Voltaire a true anthology page, shot through with sparkling verve and a superior sense of irony.

This courage and talent would soon be overcome by illness. At the beginning of 1896, Mr. Guérin handed over responsibility for the editorial to a newcomer. His name still appears on the front page, at the bottom of certain general political columns; then the signature takes a space to disappear after a last homage to the risen Christ and a supreme analysis of the “Waste” into which the rising persecution risks plunging the country. From his retirement, the old fighter will always follow the Norman campaigns with passionate interest; he will never stop supporting it with his advice and his funds.

*

To this patronage exercised towards all Catholic organizations, Thérèse's Uncle added the status of eminent benefactor of the Carmel. The latter, burdened with onerous work, then went through a phase of extreme poverty. Money was lacking more than once for the most necessary purchases. A furtive piece of information, or if necessary a discreet letter, alerted Rue Paul Banaston from where help immediately came. The little Queen underlined the gesture with effusion, taking advantage of her Aunt's birthday, November 19, birthdays, New Year's wishes or some family event, to reiterate her gratitude to her adoptive parents. Without mentioning the messages addressed to his cousin Marie, to which we will have to return, the thirty-one letters thus preserved shine for their playfulness, the simplicity of their tone and the sincerity of a tenderness expert in constantly renewing its register.

Mother Marie de Gonzague, for her part, expressed the gratitude of the Community by sending some photos taken inside the cloister. It is to this circumstance that we owe the profusion, unusual in religious life, of Teresian clichés, and also - because it was an amateur device and handled as such - their necessarily imperfect character.

The parlor offered new opportunities for meetings, as well as the Vetting or Veiling ceremonies. Not content with participating in the festivals in which one of his nieces happened to be the heroine, Mr. Guérin accepted the sponsorship of a lay nun, who no longer had any family. Sister Marie-Madeleine of the Blessed Sacrament, and, as such, led her to the altar during her Taking of the Habit. The letter he wrote to her for her Profession, on November 20, 1894, aroused the moved and enthusiastic reflections of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

The moral barrier of the fence had not been able to break family ties. The ordeal which struck Les Buissonnets brought them even closer together. During Mr. Martin's hospitalization in Caen, Mr. Guérin welcomed Léonie and Céline into his home and treated them like his daughters. On May 10, 1892, he himself brought his brother-in-law back to Lisieux, who was installed at 7 rue Labbey, near his own home. In the summer of 1893 and 1894, he took it to the Château de la Musse, despite all the difficulties of the enterprise, because it involved transporting it by rail to La Bonneville, then, from there, by road, not only the old man, but his car and his paralytic's bed. Touched by this devotion, as delicate as it was eager — one could not have done better for a father — the patient thanked with a word that spoke volumes: “ In Heaven, I will repay you for that. »

In reality, Mr. Guérin retained deep admiration for his brother-in-law. What, in the eyes of the world, could appear decline and bankruptcy, this old age doomed to impotence and humiliation, appeared to his believing eyes as the august crowning achievement of a life of immolation. Shortly after Thérèse entered the cloister, he addressed the eldest of his nieces. Sister Marie of the Sacré-Cœur, this letter in which we feel a reminiscence of Montalembert offering his daughter or King of kings:

“What intoxicating words does this jealous God use to attract to Himself all these young hearts hungry for the Ideal and thus break the sweetest bonds? I am not worthy of having such adopted daughters and of always wanting to make advice of human prudence heard in ears so close to the lips of infinite wisdom. One day, God showed me an old tree loaded with five beautiful fruits waiting to ripen; He ordered me to transplant it into my garden. I obey; the fruits ripened successively; the Child Jesus, as before, during the flight into Egypt, passed three times and made a sign; the old tree bent lovingly and, each time, without murmuring, let one of its fruits fall into the hand of the Child-God. What an admirable spectacle is that of this new Abraham! What simplicity! What faith! What greatness of soul! We are just pygmies compared to this man! »

While writing these quivering lines, did Mr. Guérin suspect that he too would one day have to sacrifice his youngest daughter to the Spouse of Virgins!

*

Marie had not let herself be intoxicated by her father's sudden accession to fortune and notoriety. If her parents saw themselves, more than in the past, subjected to the brilliant servitudes of high society, she herself felt only displeasure and repugnance. She escaped whenever convenience permitted. With the strengthening of his health, his character had taken a real development. Primaautière, teasing, she was the ray of sunshine of the family. Toward strangers, his welcome was tinged with reserve. No desire to appear, a real fear of performing, a discreet art of slipping away to highlight others. This shyness, this somewhat wild defensiveness, was part of her humility, also a desire to discourage advances or hopes that would have been justified, in her new situation, by her real qualities.

Flower of the fields and the woods, it was in the solitary paths of the Musse or perched on an oak with auspicious foliage that Marie felt alive, that she was fully herself. A letter to Léonie Martin depicts her in her entirety, with the verve of a child who is enchanted by beautiful nature:

“Here, on my branch, no need for blotting paper; the sun takes care of this office... My hand is a little shaky. It’s because I just had a terrible fear on my perch. A little squirrel crossed the path next to me, then, dangling me from the neighboring tree, it positively seemed to be taunting me. He probably recognizes that I am a climber but not a rodent.

“I will tell you that here, at Musse, everyone is upside down. The birds come to me and ask me: Where is Léonie? I see the Iton flowing its clear water with a taciturn air, because it cannot reflect your face there. On the side of the stables, the same lament: I see Bichette's head raise towards the skylight, in search of his side-saddle, and there are endless neighings. Hens, roosters and rabbits tear off each other's combs, tails and ears; the hares from the park, who came the first evening of our arrival, twenty in number, almost all disappeared, because they no longer recognized your dear silhouette in the distance... Oh! misfortune ! a gust of wind almost carried away my letter! How can you not chase such a masterpiece? Forgive me for all my mischief and this scribbling. In the position I am in, I cannot do better. »

This banter hides a soul in need of deeper insight and which tears itself away a little more each day from the fascination of the trifle. We saw this clearly on October 1, 1890, when, forced to play a ceremonial role at her sister's wedding, the young girl put on with complete indifference, and without even a glance at the mirror, the shimmering toilet required by the ceremony. Obviously his heart was elsewhere.

This marriage which, we remember, was the opportunity for Thérèse to write the announcement of her union with the Divine Spouse, introduced Jeanne Guérin into a family originally from La Manche, but then based in Caen. Francis La Néele was born on October 18, 1858, in Paris, where his parents ran a business. Having lost his father, he followed his mother and sister to Venoix, near the capital of Calvados, studied humanities with the Jesuits, earned the rank of first-class pharmacist, then a doctorate in medicine and became finally installed as a pharmacist, he had in the meantime lost his mother.

This good giant of serious morals was a Christian by race. He did not fear, in 1901, in Lisieux, to improvise as a speaker to bring the contradiction to the defrocked Charbonnel in the middle of a meeting. The apostate spewing the worst insanities against the confession, he will protest with all his faith amidst applause. To the cry thrown by the speaker: “What is your flag?” », he will respond boldly: “My ideal is written on my forehead. I am Catholic. » The success will be decisive enough to suspend the tour of the renegade priest in Normandy.

Later, informed by a third party that Mr. David's former servant, the faithful Arsène, is in danger, Francis La Néele will rush to his bed in agony and remind him of the promise he had made long ago, in front of the pious death of his old master, not to leave like a dog. The affair did not go smoothly, but with the grace of God, the Doctor's persuasive eloquence got the better of the brave man and his human respect.

He was therefore a believer, even an apostle, who had won the heart of Jeanne Guérin. It would not spoil the family traditions. Having restored his image through his marriage, he sold his business and opened a medical practice in Caen. We will soon see honorable customers, horses, cars and coaches in small liveries. Personally of very simple tastes, he will start modestly. It was only later, in Lisieux, when he settled with Mr. Guérin, who had become a widower, that he lent himself more to social relations. The more worldly atmosphere, also the ordeal of the home, the child so ardently desired and who never comes, will incline in the direction of exteriorization, which, on certain days, will somewhat modify the atmosphere of the street Paul Banaston.

Marie Guérin followed a completely opposite evolution. In his soul, torn by scruples, nostalgia for the cloister was haunting, counterbalanced, it is true, by the painful feeling of its unworthiness. Each year, choosing for this purpose a slack period, when receptions were idle, she devoted herself to spiritual exercises, going deep into the woods of La Musse to do, four times a day, half an hour of prayer. She wouldn't have missed her monthly retreat for anything, emphasizing in particular preparation for death.

She also served God in the poor, imitating her father who had once desired wealth in order to be more generous, and who, having acquired it, also required personal sacrifices to come to the aid of a greater number of destitute. Together with her cousin Céline and a few friends from Lisieux, the young girl took part in weekly meetings where they made something to put together the wardrobes of the most miserable families.

Every two weeks, she went to Carmel and spent half an hour in the visiting room. Mother Marie de Gonzague had taken a liking to her. This Prioress was a master woman, and who enjoyed a well-deserved reputation in Lisieux in terms of spiritual direction.

She had shown real broad-mindedness by admitting Thérèse as a postulant when she was fifteen. She will not be less favorable to the admission of Céline, then of her cousin Guérin. History owes it this justice which it did not prevent, which it even facilitated - even if it later took some umbrage - this gathering, altogether unusual, of five members of the same family in a community which could not in principle exceed twenty-one nuns and, by special authorization, numbered twenty-seven at the time. It was with this nun, then at the height of her credit, that Marie sought support in her interior anxieties. She also poured out into the heart of Sister Agnès of Jesus and enjoyed a few minutes of conversation with the one who remained for her “the little Queen”.

The letters happily completed these intimate communications. He often had to write them in secret, because his parents, without showing open hostility to his aspirations - they were too Christian to hinder God's plans - were suspicious of the impulsiveness of their youngest daughter and did not intend to encourage her. tendency towards mysticism.

*

Thérèse's Taking of the Habit, on January 10, 1889, deeply impressed the young girl. Between the novice and her childhood friend a correspondence will be exchanged, which will begin with affectionate banalities, ending in a breathless dialogue in which the Saint's incomparable mastery in art will be increasingly affirmed. to govern souls. The first four messages from Carmel take place in a half-joking, half-tender manner, interspersed with thanks for the gifts received and kindnesses lavished on the entire household. The emotional note appears in the missive of April 24, 1889, on the occasion of the cross which afflicts Mr. Martin:

“It’s incredible,” writes Thérèse, “how our bonds have become closer now; it seems to me that after our terrible ordeal we are even more sisters than before... If you knew how much I love you, how I think of you all. Oh ! it feels so good, when we suffer, to have friendly hearts whose echo responds to our pain!... How I thank Jesus for having given us such good parents, such kind little sisters... J I saw that the heart of my little Marie had touched the heart of my Céline, and that brought great joy to my poor heart..."

An SOS from her cousin will allow the Saint to raise her voice and already reveal herself to be the perfect mistress of novices that she will one day be. In May 1889, the Guérin family, accompanied by Léonie and Céline, visited the International Exhibition organized in the Capital for the centenary of the French Revolution. Marie finds herself lost in this hubbub of worldly affairs. His imagination, driven wild by so much frivolity, makes him see evil everywhere. It's a real obsession. In her distress, she turned to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus in whom she already sensed treasures of experience. After telling him about her torments, she admits that she does not dare approach the Holy Table in such a state:

“It’s the biggest test,” she emphasizes. I had never felt so much love for Communion; I feel that I would be flooded with consolations, I would feel strengthened if I could have the good Lord in my heart. Otherwise, it is so empty, my poor heart; he is filled with sadness; nothing can distract me. Oh ! what a city this Paris! We are much happier in the little house on rue Condorcet. Do you know where I feel the most happiness? It’s when I’m at church; at least there I can rest my eyes on the tabernacle; I feel that I am in my center. Everything else is not for me; I don't know how we can live here. For me, it's pure hell. »

The response arrived, soothing, by return mail, this letter of May 30, 1889, of a Eucharistic doctrine so sure and, for the time, so audacious, that Pope Pius will encourage her to hasten the introduction of the Cause of the servant of God.

Recalling that she too passed through “the martyrdom of scruples”, the Saint immediately removes the main obstacle:

“You have not done the shadow of evil... We must despise all these temptations, pay no attention to them. »

She then reveals the infernal trap:

“When the devil has succeeded in keeping a soul away from Holy Communion, he has won everything... and Jesus cries!... O my darling, think that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone, He burns with the desire to enter your heart..."

Anticipating resistance, she pulverizes the objection of indignity with one word.

“It is impossible for a heart that rests only in the sight of the tabernacle to offend Jesus so much that it cannot receive him. What offends Jesus, what hurts his heart, is the lack of confidence. »

The final instruction to the soul which has been struggling for too long in the inextricable web of its imaginary falls, is the invitation, then very original, and which anticipates the views of moralists, to see in the Host not the reward but the tonic, the pain of the road:

“Communicate often, very often... This is the only remedy if you want to heal”
(to Latvia, May 30, 1889)

This advice, and the wise direction of Abbot Domin, chaplain of the Abbey, brought the young girl a brief lull. But the insidious thought suddenly wakes up, infiltrates the most innocent details and sows disarray once again. A letter dated July 10, 1889 acknowledges these internal debates where all bite is blunted. She also confesses this hypersensitivity from which Mary will suffer throughout her life and which constitutes an endearing, but very perilous, trait of her moral physiognomy:

“I have a heart that I only feel too much; he has too much ardor. When he loves, his love no longer has limits; at times I feel like my body is too tight to contain him. There is an affection between us that is not of the earth; it is through the bonds of the soul that we are united. How sweet this affection is! Nothing can describe it. The word sister, which is nevertheless one of the sweetest names, is not the expression that should be used.

" Well ! yes, my little Thérèse, the good Lord delights in breaking my poor heart. When he wants to make me suffer, that's always the way he turns. My share is inner suffering. At times, I feel as if I have been abandoned to myself, I feel mortal boredom. You must not believe that I love life. No, we only encounter disappointments. There are people who would be happy if they were in a castle and swallowed everything they wanted. So let them come in my place! I gladly cede it to them. For me, there is no place where I am happier than in Les Buissonnets.

“I would really like you to recommend my vocation to the good Lord. Above all, pray for this. I see that I am not at the end of my suffering. If the good Lord wants to catch me in his nets, as you already told me, oh! I throw myself into it with love. I only have one fear, that of making a mistake. »

Thérèse takes up this psychological inventory point by point. To calm the worried conscience, she appealed to the judgment of Mother Marie de Gonzague whom she had previously consulted, and whose “deep knowledge of souls and all their miseries” she noted in passing. With great finesse, she diverts from any withdrawal into itself and any selfish search this affectivity which would quickly become morbid if it were not purified by the fire of the Spirit:

" Oh ! Mary, how happy you are to have a heart that knows how to love like this... Thank Jesus for having given you such a precious gift and give him your whole heart. Creatures are too small to fill the immense void that Jesus dug in you, do not give them room in your soul. »

We recognize here the Teresian optimism which is all out to lead straight to Christ. In the paragraphs that follow, the horizon widens further. It is through the co-redemptive apostolate that the Saint intends to rescue her overly fearful correspondent from her excesses of introspection. At the same time, she invites him to strip away his bare faith:

“Do not worry about not feeling any consolation in your Communions, it is a trial that must be borne with love, do not lose any of the thorns that you encounter every day; with one of them, you can save a soul!... Ah! if you knew how much the good Lord is offended! Your soul is so well made to console him... Love him madly for all those who do not love him.”
(to Latvia, July 14, 1889)

This provocation to the peaks delights Marie Guérin and, together, makes her dizzy. The stake of the terrible battle which, every day, is waged within her, and which, many times, leaves her exhausted and panting, is the gift of herself to the Lord. She wrote it down with a burning pen to her cousin on July 23:

“How do you expect the good Lord to call to Himself a child who does not seek to obtain His glory? If I had more will, wouldn't this thought alone give me more ardor to overcome myself? So I must be a completely lukewarm and cowardly soul! If you only knew how much pain this thought causes me, because I feel that I am such a weak soul! »

She nevertheless admits that meditation is “a moment of delight” for her, that she would spend her days in this exercise, that she feels “ablaze with love” there. At the Château de la Musse, she carved out a sort of “ritiro”, a quasi-monastic cell where she lives “alone with the One”. She has already adopted a religious name: “Marie du Saint-Sacrement”. The thought of God follows her everywhere. When she gets lost in the countryside, it is to deplore the dilapidation and the repulsive dirt of a certain village church where Christ remains a solitary captive. It was also - did she remember a similar lesson from which Tamerlan took advantage? — to draw an example of courage and tenacity from the contemplation of an anthill at work.

This is fertile ground for a director of soul, and which offers Thérèse the theme of a reply in which the certainty of principles and the precision of touches of the “Doctor of the Way of Childhood” already shine through.

“Mary, if you are nothing, you must not forget that Jesus is everything; so you must lose your little nothing in its infinite everything and no longer think of anything other than this uniquely lovable whole... You must not desire to see the fruit of your efforts either, Jesus likes to keep these little nothings for Himself alone. who console him..."

This is, radically straightened from a Christocentric perspective, the axis of existence. But how to stay there? How to progress? The response comes immediately, which evokes a Salesian statement, or better, which prefigures the dazzling elevations of the letter of September 15, 1896 to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart:

“For me, I know no other way to achieve perfection than love... To love, how well our hearts are made for that!... Sometimes I look for another word to express love , but in the land of exile words are powerless to convey all the vibrations of the soul, so we must stick to this single word: Love!..."
(to Latvia, July 27-29, 1890)

*

It was at the Taking of the Veil of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, on September 24, 1890, that this interior drama unfolded. While the Saint was lying on the ground, in great prostration, in the choir of nuns, Marie Guérin felt her last doubts disappear. Divine grace, this time, attracted him invincibly. She would be a Carmelite.

Céline was the first to receive this confession. She herself was destined for religious life, held back only in the world by her father's illness. Between her and her cousin, thanks to living together or living close together, close relationships had been created.

At the pressing invitation of Thérèse, and also on the advice of Father Pichon, the Jesuit who was the appointed director of the Martin family, Marie had chosen Céline as her confidante.

“I revealed my whole soul to him,” she writes. There is not a shadow hidden from him. I threw everything into his heart. To her now, my soul is an open book. What a balm for my poor heart! I feel understood, loved and consoled. »

Between the two young girls, a deep friendship was formed, sealed by the same ideal. Mary's piety increased there. With this passionate something that was in her character, she cultivated this spiritual union to the point of suffering even the slightest separations. This even earned him a pleasant lesson from his saintly cousin. One day when she confessed her sorrow at being temporarily deprived of Céline, who was wandering in Paray-le-Monial, Thérèse gently reproached her for lacking a spirit of detachment. The young girl protests, defends herself and ends up, in the heat of the dialogue, by throwing the word “heartless” at her interlocutor. The latter, who was miming to delight, puts on her most offended expression and closes the gate in his face... only to reopen it shortly after, laughing at the stunned look of her visitor.

Over the years, Marie's temperament matured. The solidity of his vocation could not be doubted. Mr. and Mrs. Guérin courageously accepted the possibility of separation. On June 23, 1893, Léonie had attempted a third cloister trial at the Visitation of Caen where she would take the Habit - for a short time, it is true - on the following April 6. Marie's entry into the Carmel of Lisieux was then considered, but an attack of influenza which debilitated her health caused the deadline to be postponed until 1895.

In the meantime, Mr. Martin had died at La Musse on July 29, 1894. Until the end, the most delicate attentions had surrounded him there. He remained sensitive to the charms of the landscape. The nightingale's rolls in the depths of the woods held attractions for him, as did the beguiling voice of his goddaughter, or his fairy fingers playing his favorite piece on the piano, “Rêverie” by Rosellen. This end, cradled by the affection of an entire family, took on, at the end of heartbreaking adventures, the serenity of a beautiful evening. On August 10, 1893, Thérèse expressed her gratitude to Mme Guérin:

“I cannot tell you, dear Aunt, the happiness I feel thinking that my dear little Father is in your midst, filled with tenderness and care. The good Lord did the same thing for him as for his servant Job: After having humiliated him, he showers him with his favors and it is through you that all these goods and this affection are given to him. »

Shortly after the death of the august old man of whom she had been the protective angel, Céline, freed from all bonds, reached the cloister of her dreams. On Friday September 14, 1894, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Marie Guérin, all in tears, escorted her soul sister to the door of the monastery on rue de Livarot. The letters replace the presence, while waiting to join her, she recounts in detail the smallest incidents of her life, she communicates with her first impressions, she speaks to him of the dear deceased whose image haunts the memory of her Carmelite daughters .

On May 17, 1895, returning alone, this time, to her spring residence, she immediately wrote:

“How I miss you, if you only knew!... and how painful it is to be at La Musse without your sweet company. »

She relates her visits to the room where Mr. Martin died and the instructions of exquisite charity which seem engraved on these walls: “Judge not and you will not be judged. »

“I also saw again,” she continues, “the slightest incidents of his last days, our conversations together, while we both remained near my uncle, and his beautiful face which I imagine there, even better than anywhere elsewhere, and whose vision is so present to me. I also remember with a broken heart the pain of my Céline that I could not console; I see the scene of the last kiss again, and then, despite myself, tears well up in my eyes.

“So my stay is mixed with sadness and joy; I seem to hear, every evening, the sound, in front of the steps, of the little car where my good Uncle was being taken, and I am quite surprised, when I lean out of the window, not to see it. »

Soon the anniversary of this death of the predestined will be ringing: it is a new consoling message which carries for Lisieux:

“I want you to receive a note from me today, showing you that I am thinking about you a lot these days. I do not forget, I assure you, everything that happened a year ago, and my pilgrimages to my Uncle's room will become more frequent than ever. As I told you in May, I cannot pass by this apartment without being, despite myself, seized by a serious, calm feeling, which speaks of the other world and which, in a word, fills my mind. soul. This happens to me very often and without any premeditation, I am completely taken by it.

“I don't know why, but this birthday, which is sad in itself, does not have that effect on me at all, it is so certain that my Uncle entered Heaven that day, that I rather feel a feeling of happiness thinking of his deliverance. How happy he is now, but how well he deserved it!... Oh! tomorrow, I promise to ask him for many favors. When one has, engraved in the mind, his beautiful celestial figure and expressing such happiness, it is impossible that this does not fill the soul and not lead it to love the good God. »

The time would soon come when these epistolary outpourings would give way to the most moving of dialogues. Mary would join in Carmel those she loved like sisters. His entry was decided for August 15, 1895, the very day of his name day and the triumph of the Virgin in her glorious Assumption.

Shortly before, the young girl received this note which was intended to be a supreme comfort for the chosen one of the Lord and for all her family.

“To my darling little sister, from her little Thérèse who thinks a lot about her!... And who above all hopes (trembling) that her dear Marie keeps her promises, remaining as calm as a little child in the arms from his mother...

“I pray very much for you, my darling little sister, and for all the dear inhabitants of Musse who must at this moment make rapid progress in perfection since they so generously accept the sacrifice of separation. »

It was, written in the hand of Saint, the antiphon of hope before the farewell ceremony.

At Thérèse's school

Mary's entry into Carmel was full of sunshine with the grace of the Assumption. Mr. Guérin saw nothing more than the honor done to him in giving a daughter to the Lord:

“We can now die,” he wrote, “since we leave behind us a burning lamp which will never cease to burn before the divine Eucharist. »

The mother shares her faith:

“What a beautiful life yours will be,” she asks the postulant, “if you want to remain obedient and humble!... I am very convinced that the good Lord wants you to belong to Him. But what have we done to Him to deserve such favor? Nothing, absolutely nothing! It was He who made the first advances and everything came from Him. How good it is to have opened my eyes by making me understand the beauty of the religious vocation! »

Not even Jeanne La Néele, long reluctant, if not hostile, to her sister's aspirations, gave in to the contagion of the offering. She shared it with her younger sister, a few days after saying goodbye:

“We were so convinced that it was Our Lord who was calling you that, for my part, I was deliciously consoled as I had never been in my life. I felt the good Lord present in our midst and looking at us with joy. »

The enthusiasm is not less among the applicant. She is proud of her new title of Mary of the Eucharist which was once awarded to her in the parlor by Pauline, and which corresponds so well to her attraction to the Host. With what emotion, entering her poor cell, did she discover on the bed, surrounded by flowers, the poem Vivre d'Amour, recently composed by Thérèse. She also savors the piece of circumstance written for her by the Saint. She sings it, according to custom, in front of the Community, at evening recess. The melody evokes a secular tune then in vogue: Cute, do you know the country? but the basic theme is borrowed from the one hundred and fifteenth psalm: Dirupisti, Domine, vincula mea! The title is worth an entire program: Song of a soul having found its resting place. The first stanza magnifies the broken bonds, the world left for the cloister, and the celestial favors which sanction this admirable exchange. The second, playing on the new name that the future nun will bear, traces the line of total gift.

Marie fully appreciates her new condition. To her parents' former maid, Marcelline Husé, who, having entered religion with the Benedictines of Bayeux, took it upon herself, to congratulate her, to use the colloquial appellation of servant, she responds with emotion:

“I allow myself to scold you, my dear Sister; you must change your signature; The word servant hurts my heart, because you are a beloved little sister to me. Never do it again; we are both the brides of Jesus. »

This new nobility enchants him. She confides it to her father on a poor white sheet, “a miserable scrap of paper”, but which will have more value for the paternal heart than “the beautiful missives of great ladies, all perfumed and marked with a coat of arms”:

“My own coat of arms is too beautiful, too celestial to be seen on earth; and yet, I put it in the corner of each of my letters, but many do not understand it or look at it with indifference. A cross and the name of Jesus, that’s my coat of arms! this is what delights my heart and that of my dear little father. »

It's not that she gives in to I don't know what temptation of angelism, so enamored of the supernatural that she would deny its kinship by blood. She will always remain the ardent creature with a hypersensitive heart, who devotes exquisite tenderness to her family:

“You have to come to Carmel,” she writes, “to know what it is to truly love. To give oneself to God, people of the century say, is to abandon one's parents. Let those who speak like this come to me. I will show them that I, poor Carmelite, did not share my heart with the creature, I gave it to Jesus alone, and He returns it to me a hundredfold to cherish my beloved parents. »

If the renovation of the parlors deprived her of visits from her family for a time, her missives exposed to them without disguise her impressions as a beginner. From now on it is she who will act as "the little beggar of the good Lord" to her father, each time - and this will be frequent at the time - that the monastery experiences the most complete shortage. At his call, without miracle but not without sacrifice, the gesture of Cana and that of the multiplication of the loaves are renewed as necessary.

Above all, the amiable letter writer recounts her new existence, which unfolds, regular and dense, to the pious rhythm of the conventual exercises now marking all her actions.

*

Mother Agnès of Jesus shows, at the head of the Community, a gentle and equal authority. The former Prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague, continues to take care of the nuns in training. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was assigned to her as “under-mistress”. Marie Guérin will therefore remain in immediate contact with her holy cousin. With her, she will learn the recitation of the Office, the customs of monastic life, while the appointed Mistress will preside over the meetings where the Rule, the Constitutions, the Ceremonial, the Books of usage, reveal their secrets to the neophytes of Carmel. In the meantime, she helps in the refectory or the sacristy. Later, she will assume the function of “Headmaster”, which includes certain responsibilities in supplying the monastery, maintaining the garden, and relations with the Sisters of the White Veil. Recess time sees her laughing and lively, almost childish at times, which is not a good idea for relaxing the nerves and resting the mind in a climate of contemplative life. Thérèse herself underlines this trait in a letter of October 14, 1895 to her cousin Jeanne:

“It is a great consolation for me, the old dean of the novitiate, to see so much joy surrounding my last days; it rejuvenates me, and, despite my seven and a half years of religious life, gravity often fails me, in the presence of the charming elf who delights the whole Community... All the Carmelites are very happy to have such a kind postulant. Her beautiful voice makes us happy and the charm of our recreations, but above all, what rejoices my heart, much more than all the talents and external qualities of our dear Angel, are her dispositions to virtue. »

Mary had fully entered Carmelite life. The splendor of the world had slipped upon her. His spells had broken against a very clear desire for degradation. More than the splendors of La Musse, she appreciates the bare walls of her cell:

“Poverty has a special attraction for me,” she confessed to her Father. I like to practice it in everything, and the good Lord comes to serve me himself when I lack something... I use small means to make myself pleasing to Jesus. The thought of becoming a saint never leaves me. »

It is in this spirit that she avoids asking for objects she lacks, that she shows a sort of predilection for worn or out-of-date equipment, that she welcomes with a smile the frequent changes of cell and, everywhere and in everything, be careful not to “settle”. In the classic style of the litanies of humility, she composed a prayer which, every day, invites her to forget herself.

Mr. Guérin who receives these confidences is capable of understanding them. As he arrives at his summer residence, he feels a pang in his heart as he recalls the woman he would no longer see as in the past fluttering with Céline along the large, shady alleys. However, he overcomes the first impression and pulls himself together in prayer:

“God cauterized the wound. It is not regret, it is rather a calm and sweet happiness and a sort of pride which accompany your image always present in my eyes... I thought that your divine Spouse was walking you with love in a park much more beautiful, much more captivating than ours, that, every day, it discovers new horizons for you, enchanting flowers that you must undoubtedly pick among the thorns, but which make you a thousand times happier than ephemeral flowers from here below... When I think of all this, I understand the extreme suffering of parents who, not having faith, see their beloved children buried in cloisters. It seems to me that their affection must be dulled and even extinguished, while ours has increased by becoming purer. It was coupled with gratitude for the One who chose our child, and for this child herself, now the advocate and protector of her entire family. »

God responding royally to the generosity of the postulant, it was in a sort of euphoria that she completed her probationary period. She was also helped by spiritual events which from time to time cut the monotony of the conventual itinerary. In October 1895, she participated in the Community retreat preached by Father Lemonnier, of the Missionaries of Deliverance. On February 24, 1896, his companion from La Musse, Sister Geneviève de la Sainte-Face, made profession on the feast of the Agony of Our Lord.

The following March 17, the same day brought the two cousins ​​together at the foot of the altar. In the morning, Céline takes the Veil in a touching ceremony presided over by Mgr Hugonin and where Abbot Ducellier, dean of Trévières, demonstrates his customary eloquence. In the afternoon, Marie Guérin, dressed as a bride, walks to the closing gate on her father's arm. The appropriate sermon is delivered by Mr. Levasseur, parish priest of Navarre, near Evreux, the spiritual director who guided his life in the world and whose visits will still contribute to bringing peace to his quickly troubled soul.

She receives the Virgin's Habit from the hands of Mother Agnès of Jesus. The latter did not fail, in approving the official request of her young relative in the Community, to end her speech with the most austere of instructions: “I give you the advice to always consider yourself the last in the house, the little servant of all, whom each has the right to command and rebuke at any point. It is by doing this that you will be happy and that you will find peace in Carmel. » It is truly a family celebration which brings together under the eye of God, as in the past at Les Buissonnets or at the pharmacy of Place Saint-Pierre, those whom the bonds of grace, doubling the bonds of blood, have united so intimately for joy as for trial.

A chorus rose that evening from the musical soul of Sister Marie of the Eucharist, the one she expressed in this passage from a letter to her mother:

“Since I have been here, I have never had the shadow of a regret, I am always in perfect joy. I often wonder how it is that we can find ourselves so happy in a life of continual death. Despite all the glimpsed pleasures that I could obtain in the world, I prefer, without hesitation, my life of deprivation and suffering. »

*

Four days after Mary took the Habit, on Saturday March 21, 1896, the first 3-year mandate of Mother Agnès de Jésus came to an end. The Chapter meets. It took no less than seven rounds of voting to achieve a majority on Mother Marie de Gonzague. She emerged somewhat ulcerated from this eventful election. She kept the charge of the novitiate for herself, and confirmed in her role as assistant mistress Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, whose virtue impressed her.

The Saint has entered the decisive phase which will put the seal on her mission. The previous June 9, on the feast of the Trinity, she offered herself as a victim to Merciful Love. Five days later, during a Stations of the Cross, the fire in his heart brought him the answer from Heaven. At the beginning of the year, she gave her “Little Mother” the memories that will constitute the first eight chapters of the Story of a Soul. In a few days, on April 3, 1896, an attack of hemoptysis will ring for her like a prelude to eternity. She is in the full flowering of her grace, and, if we dare to hazard such an expression for her who was always flexible and moving like life, in full possession of her spirituality.

After her dear Céline and Sister Marie of the Trinity, Sister Marie of the Eucharist will offer her a supreme and providential opportunity to instill her “little way” in souls. Not that we should imagine methodical teaching proceeding ex professa. The deputy mistress of novices did not have to give conferences or talks. Considered as the always accessible big sister, who answers the questions asked of her, who helps with her advice to overcome the first obstacles of religious life, to adapt to its customs, to its work, she had a way so natural to raise the debate, to emphasize; the sanctifying significance of the most humble gestures, which his doctrine passed imperceptibly through, a remark, an explanation, a kind line, if necessary, a call to order. No systematic presentation: it was not his way; but, about everything and nothing, she revealed her deep thoughts. The majesty of his example did the rest. It was like an envelopment, a slow impregnation that touched and left its mark forever.

“I have nothing to teach anyone who does not want to love me,” said Socrates. Thérèse did not seek to win hearts. There was in her a mixture of simplicity and authority, familiarity and grandeur that inspired both attraction and reverential awe. Souls that were still fragile felt drawn towards her and, at certain points, feared her, as one does of divine demands.

Sister Marie of the Eucharist will experience this complex of impulse and intimidation towards him: “I am only your cousin,” she would sometimes say to him, by way of teasing. The Saint, then, kissing her affectionately, reprimanded her with a distressed air: “Oh! don't say that, you are my real little sister. If you knew how much I love you! » She was all the more vigilant in preventing or correcting any errors of orientation in the novice. She was no longer the willingly indulgent relative, she was the great Mistress whose every word was surrounded by a halo of holiness, the one in whom theory and life were so closely fused that she disarmed all objection and forbade all criticism. . We did rebel a little against the height of the ideal that she assigned to her disciples, we argued about the impossibility of achieving it, we pleaded, in the event of infidelity, the weakness of the average man, but we always ended up giving up our weapons and proving him right.

Teaching of this quality. Sister Marie of the Eucharist offered a truly good job. There was a certain element of lightness in her which led Mme Guérin to doubt her daughter's perseverance in such an austere vocation. Above all, there was a soul that was too withdrawn, too trembling, too preoccupied with itself. The unhealthy complexion readily develops, if one is not careful, this inclination towards introspection. From there, with a violent propensity for scruple, a self-distrust which risked turning into pusillanimity. Hence also an excess of sentimentality which, in the secluded atmosphere of the cloister, will seek its outlet in passionate attachments to this or that Superior. Moreover, a very upright nature, of complete good will, even of incontestable generosity.

The intuitive Thérèse immediately grasped this psychological complex where sensitivity dominates. She will play on it wonderfully to turn it entirely towards the One who is the only one worthy of being loved without measure, the only one capable of satisfying the burning desires of a human heart. It is the subject of a poem that she gives to her novice, for her anniversary of entry into religion, August 15, 1896. The title is: Jesus alone. Borrowing the voice of Sister Mary of the Eucharist, and in the familiar mode of a personal prayer, the Saint marks the radical reversal, the interior conversion that all work of perfection requires.

Peacefully accepting one's helplessness, believing desperately in the excessive charity of "Papa the good Lord", striving in all things to please him and to win souls for him: we recognize here the essential steps of the "little way". For the troubles which torment Sister Marie of the Eucharist, as for the shortcomings of her first formation, there is no more specific remedy.

*

With the diligent affection of a big sister, Thérèse strives to instill these principles into her cousin's mind. She uses the active method. “Everything is grace,” she says readily. It is through the smallest actions that the demands of eternal Wisdom gradually enter the fabric of daily existence. Even in her most winged poems, it is the heroic prose of the Rule and the duty of state that our Saint teaches. The Memories collected by Marie Guérin show us in this “art of arts” which is the direction of a soul. How many times did she not repeat to her novice, who came to confide in her some secret worry:

“Please worry a little less about yourself, get busy loving the good Lord and leave yourself to yourself. All your scruples are so many searches for yourself. Your sorrows, your sorrows, it all rolls on you, it always revolves around the same pivot. Ah! please forget yourself, think about saving souls. »

The young nun struggles. She is frightened, at certain times, by the summons of holiness made to her in the name of God. With mutinous grace, she seeks an alibi: “I promise to be holy when you have gone to Heaven; at that moment, I will throw myself into it with all my heart. » The reply bursts out immediately, loaded with a pathetic personal experience:

" Oh ! don't wait for this. Get started now. The month which preceded my entry into Carmel remained for me as a sweet memory. At the beginning, I said to myself like you: I will be holy when I am in Carmel. In the meantime, I won't bother... But the good Lord showed me the price of time. I did the complete opposite of what I thought; I wanted to prepare for my entry by being very faithful, and it is one of the happiest months of my life. Believe me, never wait until tomorrow to start becoming holy. »

Conventual relationships offer beginners a thousand opportunities to practice. Temperaments clash, characters rub against each other. It is the “hair shirt of common life” with its asperities as fatal as they are involuntary, to which we must adapt at all costs during this period of “breaking in” that is the novitiate. Let us collect from the pen of Sister Marie de l'Eucharistie some episodes of this masterfully directed fight.

“It’s so pretty,” Sister Thérèse told me, “a little novice who is humble, who exudes humility in everything, who always humbles herself instead of rebelling, who admits her wrongs, who is humble in her manners.” , in the tone of his voice!
“One day when I had a little argument with one of our Sisters, I was in no way wrong, she agreed, but she advised me to ask for forgiveness all the same. I rebelled and didn't want it; then she said to me: Only ask for forgiveness when you have been wrong, but that is not where the merit lies; it's asking for it when you really have done nothing wrong.
“Another time, still with the same Sister, I had done everything wrong and I said to Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, with a slightly lighthearted air: Well! I'm going to go and ask for forgiveness. - Oh yes, she continued, you are going to ask him for forgiveness again, laughing. When you ask for forgiveness, you must always do it humbly, in a serious manner and not laughing.
“With another Sister with whom I had not had any real wrongs, she advised me to go and humble myself near her and to respond: It is true to all the little remonstrances that she would make to me. »

Things did not always go smoothly with the young disciple who had not achieved the serene indifference of her saintly cousin. This then directed her towards the book which had nourished her youth to the point that she was capable of reciting it entirely from memory:

“I advise you, when you have fights against charity, to read this chapter of Imitation: That we must bear the faults of others. You will see that your battles will fall; he has always done me a lot of good. He is very good and very true. »

In these irritating conflicts which bring together, for the same work, unequally gifted souls with diametrically opposed methods, the Saint preached renunciation:

“That’s where virtue lies,” she emphasized; and taking up the example of the Desert Fathers, she added: “You only have to do what you are ordered. When your first job orders you to plant cabbages upside down, you would just have to obey. It is by acting like this that you will have peace, I know that it is very annoying, but also that is where the merit lies. » Sometimes, shortening the lesson, she would stop complaints and protests with an “Oh! Yes, but..." which said a lot.

The government of Mother Marie de Gonzague could be open to criticism, under the sharp eyes of the young novice. It was time for her Mistress to suggest to her the views of faith in matters of obedience: “It always pains the good Lord a little bit when we reason a little bit about what the Mother Prioress says. ; and it does him a lot when you reason a lot, even in your heart. »

Added to this were the repeated invitations to meditation and silence. Sitting next to her cousin in the refectory, the Saint, whose modest gaze was never disturbed by any incident, called her neighbor to order “with a little flick skillfully and gently given”, if necessary, with a sigh...

— “You will never manage to keep your eyes down,” she told him, “if you do not mark on your rosary of practices each time you fail to do so. It's the only way... Out of love for the good Lord, you don't want to lower your eyes? Think that you are doing an act of love every time you don't lift them... that you are saving a soul. »

At recess, there was no question of silence or lowered eyelids, but of that delicacy of kindness which makes one repress one's sadness to cheer up others, that one does not seek oneself, that one rushes to help the most disadvantaged, the oldest, even the least sympathetic. Here too, the golden rule is “Mr. God, first served!” » The Mistress reveals the secret of her own conduct:

“Why do you go to recess?” To satisfy yourself and find pleasure in it? You have to go there like another Community exercise, out of loyalty, without ever stopping while going. When leaving the refectory, you must immediately go to recess; you are not allowed to stop at anything else, not even for a single minute to talk to a Sister... Then, during recreation, practice virtue, be kind to everyone, no matter who you are near; be cheerful by virtue and not by whim. When you are sad, forget yourself and show cheerfulness. It would seem that during recreation we must seek only pleasure without thinking of practicing virtue, without worrying about the good Lord. But it is a Community exercise like any other; have fun, but above all out of charity for others. Never go beyond yourself, remain virtuous in the very midst of pleasure. You should make the sacrifice of not putting yourself next to those you love. »

The student cries out: “Do we always have to constrain ourselves like this? »

— “Yes, you should always deprive yourself of it. Then, it's good to be cheerful during recess, but there is a certain religious way of being cheerful, of distracting others. You are sometimes wildly cheerful, you think that pleases the Sisters. They laugh at your follies, it's true, but that doesn't edify them... Be charitable, considerate... At recess, oblige the elders by going to get them chairs, then, on all occasions, be obliging: a little novice should always overdo it. That would be so pretty! »

The tenderly merciless Mistress who does not hesitate to recall the divine demands has the art of softening the sacrifice by constantly raising the perspective. If she recommends “never wasting time, not a single minute”, it is because she already lives and makes people live in eternity. His trained eye observes the slightest failures which will, at the appropriate moment, be the subject of a supernatural focus.

It is not always convenient to be in the school of holiness. Nature sometimes balks and would prefer a virtue on the hillside to these thrilling peaks. If Marie Guérin did not reach the heights, she nevertheless benefited from this vigorous treatment. She owed it to him to escape mediocrity and to be counted among the fervent nuns with whom a Monastery is honored. The testimonies that Thérèse gives him in her correspondence with the Guérin family, although, by chance, out of filial complacency, they exaggerate the point a little, are nevertheless conclusive in this regard.

*

After a year of effort, which was fortunately interrupted by the Community retreat preached in October 1896 by Father Godefroy Madeleine, Premonstratensian Prior of Mondaye, our novice was admitted to profession on Thursday March 25, 1897.

This very intimate ceremony took place, following the ordinary rite, in the Chapter Room, without the family being involved. The Canticle of circumstance, the one which is sung in honor of the professed, on the evening of this beautiful day, was written by Thérèse herself. On this occasion, the Saint rhymed the feelings that she would have wanted to express to her Céline if Sister Marie des Anges had not written her Profession song to her. This is a brave piece which borrows the catchy rhythm of the Song of the Departure of the Missionaries, composed by Gounod for the Société de la rue du Bac. Under the title My Arms, it is a sort of review of the spiritual equipment that poverty, chastity and obedience constitute for the bride of Christ.

The heroine of the ceremony, to associate other souls with her joy, had asked her father to offer to the Anti-Slavery Work of Monseigneur de la Passardière, the sum necessary for the redemption of two black children, a little boy who would receive the name of Joseph-Marie-Isidore, a girl who would be baptized Marie-Céline.

The Taking of the Veil, preceded by a sermon by Father Levasseur, took place on June 2, 1897. It was sixteen years ago, to the day, that in the Benedictine chapel, Marie Guérin had received Jesus for the first time . Her holy Mistress gave her, during the celebration, an Image of the Child God which she had kept for quite a long time in her breviary. It bore a charming dedication on the back and was accompanied by a note which, symbolically linking the white toilet of the communicant and the habit of the Carmelite, ended with these words:

“It is no longer the graceful veil with long snowy folds which should envelop Mary in the Eucharist, it is a dark veil which reminds the wife of Jesus that she is exiled, that her Spouse is not a Husband who must lead her in celebrations, but on the mountain of Calvary. From now on, Mary must no longer look at anything here below, nothing but the merciful God, the Jesus of the Eucharist!..."

Under Thérèse's pen, it was almost a testament. Already the seal of death could be read on his features.

The family gatherings which brought joy to the day only heightened this funereal presentiment in the hearts of all those close to him. Mother Agnès of Jesus, knowing what treasure she would lose in her young sister, wanted to collect her supreme thoughts on religious life. The same evening of June 2, she asked Mother Marie de Gonzague to give the Saint the order to continue writing her memories. The action was taken the next day. A month later, on July 2, Thérèse gave her Prioress the notebook [which would later correspond to manuscript C].

In the agony of a saint

Providence, which seems to have arranged everything so that nothing is lost in the words and examples of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, constitutes Sister Marie of the Eucharist as an authorized witness to the slow death of the “Little Queen”.

From June 1896, the young novice served as an intermediary to alert her parents to the weakening of their niece. To their multiple sendings of remedies, fortifiers, sweets - Mr. Guérin is for the moment the main, if not the only benefactor of the Carmel - she is responsible for responding with messages of gratitude. Daughter of a pharmacist, sister-in-law of Doctor La Néele, her somewhat naive faith in the art of Hippocrates accumulates in these pages details and details on the symptoms of the disease and the treatments practiced. This will earn us, when the crisis becomes acute, nineteen health bulletins which constitute a valuable contribution to Teresian history and which we will use widely.

Three or four days after Mary took the Veil, a brief missive expressed the Community's concern. Although destroyed and shaken by mortal anguish, the patient remains peaceful.

“Dying will be my happiness,” she confided the day before to those around her. Living will still be because I only want what the good Lord wants.”

Then, alluding to the novena begun for her Intention, to the Masses requested by Mother Marie de Gonzague at the Sanctuary of Notre-Dame des Victoires:

“Either the Blessed Virgin will heal me, or she will take me away. This can't last long. »

Rue Paul Banaston, we follow the events with a sadness nuanced with respect. Witness this note sent on June 18 by Mr Guérin to Sister Geneviève:

“I keep silence... which is a silence of admiration and love for God and for the poor dear little creature whom he raised to such high perfection..."

July 7, sudden worsening. Doctor de Cornière diagnosed pulmonary congestion on the right side, complicated by bacillary outbreaks. The hemorrhages multiply, the fever rises, which makes Thérèse say that “in Purgatory we must not burn any more”.

“When we go to see her,” writes Sister Marie of the Eucharist, “she is very changed, very thin; but always the same calm, and a laugh. She sees death coming with joy and has not the slightest fear of it. This will sadden you, my dear little Father, that is understandable, we are all losing the greatest of treasures, but she is not to be pitied! Loving the good Lord as she loves him, how well she will be received up there! She will certainly go straight to Heaven. When we spoke to her about Purgatory, for us, she said to us: Oh! how sad you are to me! You are doing a great insult to the good Lord by thinking you are going to Purgatory. When we love, there can be no Purgatory.

“Tell you what state the Community is in!” There are tears, sobs, desolation on all sides... Mother Agnès of Jesus is admirable in her courage and resignation. Our Mother has such maternal kindness for all of us in the midst of the greatest sorrows, because my Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was her greatest treasure.

" Oh ! my dear little Father, I don't know what to say to you, we are broken, devastated and cannot believe the misfortune that threatens us... Oh! no, we cannot believe that the good Lord would take our Angel from us, but he is so ripe for Heaven! Last night, I asked the good Lord to make me dream of her, and then last night, I saw her of dazzling beauty, surrounded by little Angels and playing with them. Is this not the reality, because in its simplicity it resembles little children? Some time ago, our Mother had given M. de Cornière her poem Vivre d’amour; she was not yet ill at that time, she simply had her mucous condition, but when he read it, he said to our Mother: I will never cure her for you, she is a soul who cannot is not made for the earth. »

On the evening of July 8, taking advantage of a truce, Thérèse was transported to the infirmary, facing the statue of the Virgin of Smiles. The next day's press release was more reassuring:

“If you saw our dear little sick girl, you couldn't help but laugh, she always has to say something amusing. Since she thinks she's dying, she's been as happy as a finch. There are times when you would pay for your place to be near her. Suddenly, this morning, she started to say: If I was going to be one of the two!..., We looked at each other and asked ourselves what that meant, she continued: Yes, one of the two out of the hundred ! How unfortunate would that be! Quite simply because our Mother had told her that Mr. de Cornière said that, in his state, only two out of a hundred would survive. And she was afraid that she was one of those who could be saved.

“It's something amusing to see his laugh and his mischievous look when he tells us that. As I told him that I was going to write to you to reassure you a little: Tell them that I love them and that I am a little girl of contradictions: they think I am dying and I have not yet turned a blind eye... I am believed to be alive and I am almost at death, I am pure contradiction; but above all tell them that I love them all very, very much...

“Our Father [Mr. Canon Maupas, parish priest of Saint-Jacques de Lisieux, Superior of Carmel] came to see her this morning and he exclaimed: Oh! but, you want us to believe, you are not at death's door, and soon you will be running in the garden, you do not have the face of a dying person. Give you Extreme Unction? but the sacrament would not be valid, you are not sick enough.

"When he was gone, she said: Another time, I won't take so much trouble to be polite: I sat down on our bed, I acted nice, and he refuses me what I ask him ! another time, I will use "pretence", I will have a cup of milk before his arrival, because I always look much worse afterwards, then, I will barely respond to him by telling him that I am dying, and she was positively acting out for us. Yes, I can see that I don't know my job, I don't know how to do it. »

If she longs for the ineffable encounter, Thérèse does not remain insensitive to the emotion of human separations. There is nothing of stoic impassivity about her. She maintains until the end this crystal transparency, or, to put it better, this childlike simplicity which makes her remain so open, so close to us, so natural, at the very moment when she approaches the highest peaks of the holiness. She has delicate thoughts for all her family, and it is once again Sister Marie of the Eucharist who, on July 10, is responsible for transmitting them to those concerned:

“I will be with you even more than before, I will not leave you. It is I who will watch over my Uncle, my Aunt, over my little Léonie, over everyone in fact. When they are ready to enter Heaven, I will quickly go to meet them. »

Made aware of her aspirations, the Superior teases her:

“You will soon go to Heaven: but your crown is not made! You're just getting started! » — So, continues the letter writer, eagerly she also had to collect her Novissima Verba, she answered him so angelically: Oh! my Father, it is very true, I did not make my crown, but it was the good Lord who made it. »

If the pulmonary engorgement gives way to the pressure of the remedies, tuberculosis continues its ravages, with its own rhythm, discontinuous, panting, broken by relaxations followed by phases of paroxysm. On July 12, the bulletin is optimistic. It's time to tell an anecdote:

“Little Queen is always very cheerful; she was lowered into Mother Geneviève's infirmary bed, and as Mother Geneviève also more than once expected and desired death, and as she was more than once also frustrated in her hope. Little Queen often says: What a bed of misfortune! When you're inside, you always miss the train... Then: The thief went far away, he left me to go steal other children. When will it be my turn? I don't know anything about it now... Tell my dear little Uncle, my Aunt, Léonie, and finally everyone that, when I am in Heaven, what will give me the most happiness will be to be able to express all my love. I cannot do it on earth: my love is too strong, but in Heaven, when I get there, I will be able to make them understand. This is what makes me happy. This morning, as I asked her what she would do, what she would say when she saw the good Lord for the first time, she replied: Don't talk to me about that, I can't think of it, it makes me so sad. made of happiness. What I will do... I will cry with joy. »

*

Madame Guérin follows with an anxious gaze the harsh stages of her niece's ordeal. Her daughter's confidences upset her. On July 12, she wrote to him about Thérèse:

“We are in admiration of everything that we are told about her. But that is not enough: we must imitate it. And how can we achieve such detachment, such happiness in dying? Until now I had only read this in the lives of the Saints. Today we have the example before us. »

Later still:

“It seems to me that the good God must contemplate with happiness the Image of his Son in this heart of the Bride that he chose for himself. She is so pure, our little Thérèse, so holy. For me, she entered Carmel with her baptismal innocence, and what degrees she must have traveled in so few years! My dear Marie, I often find myself thanking the good Lord that you were able to see this dear little soul up close, that you lived her life... too short a time, alas! »

Mr. Guérin expresses the same sentiments:

“My thoughts do not leave the dear and sweet patient. I see her with her little angelic face, awaiting death with joy. I am in the deepest admiration of his supernatural wisdom, his intimate knowledge of the secrets communicated by divine love, and his courage. No, it is not courage, because when we have penetrated so far into the mysteries of Heaven, like Saint Paul, it is not surprising that we aspire to break the bonds which still hold us on the earth. What teaching she gives us, this little girl, and how I will engrave in my memory everything she says and does, to try to reproduce it on the day of my death! I stride towards that day, I decline on the rapid slope of years. What are ten years, even twenty years? And yet, after this long life, I will not have the baggage of this child to present myself before God. »

It was on July 16, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, that the Saint sent her farewell letter to her adoptive parents. Let’s take a look at this passage:

“I wanted to talk to you in detail about my Communion this morning, which you made so touching, or rather so triumphant, with your wreaths of flowers. I will let my dear little Sister Marie of the Eucharist tell you the details and only want to tell you that she sang, before Communion, a little verse that I had composed for this morning [1]. When Jesus was in my heart, she sang again this verse from Vivre d'Amour: Dying of love is a very sweet martyrdom. I cannot tell you how high and beautiful his voice was; she had promised me not to cry, to please me; my expectations were well exceeded. The good Jesus must have perfectly heard and understood what I expect from Him, and that was precisely what I wanted. »

[1] It is a Eucharistic stanza flowed, like poetry Live on love, in the melody of the song He is mine.

You who know my extreme smallness
You are not afraid to stoop to me!
Come into my heart, O white Host that I love,
Come into my heart, it longs for you!
Ah! I would like your kindness to leave me
To die of love after this favor.
Jesus! hear the cry of my tenderness.
Come into my heart!

{ Additional Poetry 8  : You who know my extreme smallness, Stanza 1, line 5 }

The response came from La Musse on July 24. Mr. Guérin lets his pain and his pride overflow:

“You were the little pearl, late come, of your good Mother; you display the Little Queen of your old father, and you are the most beautiful flower of this crown of lilies which surrounds me, embalms me and gives me a foretaste of the perfections of Heaven. Whatever the pain that, at certain moments, obsesses and grips me, it never occurred to me to seek to compete with you for the tenderness of the Bridegroom who calls you. »

Marie Guérin shares these feelings of veneration. Having begged her cousin to obtain great graces for her when she is in her eternity, she hears her say:

" Oh ! when I am in Heaven, I will do many things, great things... It is impossible that it is not the good Lord himself who gives me this desire, I am sure that he will grant me! » And then again: “When I get up there, it’s really me who will follow you closely…”

“Perhaps you will scare me,” ventures the timid soul.

“Does your Guardian Angel scare you? However, he tails you all the time; well ! I will follow you in the same way, and even more closely! I won't let you miss anything. »

The spiritual student becomes more and more aware of the lessons given to him and their specific characteristics. In a letter addressed on July 20 to her cousin Céline Maudelonde, she testifies, with beautiful lucidity, to the originality of the Teresian virtues:

“It is not an extraordinary holiness, it is not a love of extraordinary penances, no, it is the love of the good God. The people of the world can imitate her holiness, because she only studied to do everything out of love and to accept all the little annoyances, all the little sacrifices that happen at every moment, as coming from the hand of the good God. She sees the good Lord in everything and does all her actions as perfectly as possible. Always duty first! And she knew how to sanctify pleasure, while tasting it, offering it to the good Lord. Oh ! what merits she has acquired! What discoveries we will make in Heaven!... I asked her the other day: Have you ever refused something to the good Lord?... She answered me: I don't remember. Even when I was very little, from the age of three, I began not to refuse anything that the good Lord asked of me. That says it all, doesn't it? »

Although the bacillus seems to temporarily slow down its offensive, the daily spitting of blood, the persistent fever, and the presence of several cavities in the lungs leave no doubt about the fatal outcome, which makes the little sick girl "joy." She has regained the use of her limbs, she gets up for an hour every day, but she is at the mercy of hemoptysis.

“When M. de Cornière says that she cannot go for many months like this, she cannot help but smile and has great difficulty hiding her contentment. We see his face light up with happiness. »

She is the one who comforts her nurses. She still has “a joke”.

As for the Community, it comes to accept the prospect of separation. This is what Marie Guérin confided to her Parents on July 20:

“Now we are resigned and ready to sacrifice. The good Lord has given us enough warnings as it is. It is a consolation for us not to see her suffer more and to see the joy with which she leaves for Heaven. »

This very hope will be disappointed. The expected deadline will move back beyond all expectations. The drama will continue for more than two months, in a tragic crescendo which can only be explained - Thérèse will admit it herself - by her extreme desire to cooperate in the redemption of souls.

*

The letter of July 30 reveals an acute crisis and makes the end seem imminent. Hemorrhages occur frequently. The back burns like fire. The oppression is so strong that even the aspirations of ether cannot stop the feeling of suffocation. The day before, we thought that Mr. Martin would come to collect his “Little Queen” to celebrate the third anniversary of her death.

On the advice of the Doctor, the Saint received Extreme Unction and Viaticum on the 30th at six o'clock in the evening.

“It was very touching,” writes Sister Marie de l’Eucharistie, “to see our little sick person still with her calm and pure air. When she asked the entire Community for forgiveness, more than one burst into tears... it is impossible to imagine her happiness at dying; it's like a little child who desires with all his heart to go and find his Father... What do you want, she tells us, why would death scare me? I have never acted except for the good Lord. And when we say to her: You will perhaps die on a certain feast day... - I do not need to choose a feast day to die on, she replies, the day of my death will be the greatest of all the days of celebration for me.”

Then alluding to his persistent cheerfulness:

“She enjoys telling us about everything that will happen after her death. The way she tells us this, where we should be crying, we laugh out loud, she's so amusing... She goes over everything, it's her happiness, and tells us about it in farms that make us have a good laugh. I think she will die laughing because she is so happy. »

The threat appearing momentarily averted, Mr. and Mrs. Guérin decided to take their annual cure in Vichy. At Carmel, the feast of Mother Marie de Gonzague is brought forward by four days to associate Thérèse with it. It is she who gives the Prioress, with a charming expression, the gift brought back from Evreux by her Aunt.

August 15, where Sister Marie of the Eucharist in turn receives gifts and wishes, passes in relative relaxation; but, the very evening of that day, a violent pain in the left side aroused new fears. Swelling of the legs indicates heart failure. The next day, Doctor Francis La Néele, passing through Lisieux, was admitted to examine his young cousin.

“This visit really moved him,” writes Marie Guérin. He found Thérèse very ill and only gave her fifteen days before leaving for Heaven... He told us that tuberculosis had reached the last stage... He found our little sick girl admirably cared for and I! said that with all the care that Mr. de Cornière had given her, if she had not recovered, it was because the good Lord wanted to take her for himself despite everything.

" Oh ! if you knew, my dear little Father, how kind your Little Queen is and how she loves you both. When she talks to me about you, we feel that she has such great affection and that, when she is in Heaven, she will ultimately watch over you! We must not believe that his desire to go to Heaven is an enthusiasm. Oh ! no, it's very peaceful. She told me this morning: If someone told me that I was going to get better, don't think that I would be caught. I would be just as happy as dying. I have a great desire for Heaven, but it is above all because I am in great peace that I am happy, because, to feel an immense joy like sometimes when your heart beats with happiness, oh! no!... I am at peace, that is why I am happy. »

On August 18, from Vichy, Mr. Guérin spoke to his niece from whom he could not detach his thoughts. Abandoning himself to his lyrical inspiration and his journalistic verve, he complacently traces the striking contrast between the spa town where the Casino, the Eden, the theater and the ball mobilize pleasure seekers, and the modest Carmel , without gilding or sculpture, from which rises the murmur of prayer, where floats like an odor of incense, in front of the bare cross:

“On a bed of pain lies a pure young girl, already consumed by the fires of this divine love with which she longs to be completely and forever confused. She does not desire death, but she loves it as a liberator. She asks for suffering to be more conformed to her Master, and she offers everything: prayers, mortifications, suffering, not in expiation for the sins she has committed, but for those of this crowd who runs dancing to the strains of the violins. infernals, rushing happily into hell.

“And I heard the sweet voices of my five little daughters crying out to Heaven: Grace, Lord! Mercy and forgiveness! And my eyes got wet, as they still get wet writing this vision of the day before yesterday, and, from the bottom of my soul, I cried out: Thank you, a thousand and a thousand times thank you. Lord, for giving me such angels here below; rather thank you again, Lord, for having made me feel, preferentially to so many others, the beauties of your Love and the holiness of your Law. »

These accents, in which the faith of the great Christian shudders, deliciously stir Thérèse's soul. Marie Guérin, on August 22, hastened to transcribe the feelings of the Saint:

“This morning, for my birthday, she gave me a picture that she wanted to sign. All she could do! She thought she couldn't finish. Also, she can't respond to Dad's letter, which hurts her a lot. She said to me: You will not be able to express everything I feel, you will not tell them enough how much I love them and how touched I am by their affection. She never tired of hearing this letter! You had to see her pretty little pensive face while I read; I had to start again several times, she couldn't get enough and said: Oh! How good he is, my Uncle! what a great soul he has! But, to say these few words, she is forced to stop for a minute between each word because of the oppression. »

A line measures the physical annihilation of the little victim.

“When the Holy Eucharist is brought to him, we all enter chanting the Miserere; the last time, she was so weak that to hear us, she was suffering martyrdom. »

In fact, her Communion of August 19, the one that the Saint offered for the conversion of the apostate Carmelite, Father Hyacinthe Loyson, will be the last here on earth. From now on she will be obliged “to deprive herself of the happiness of receiving the good Lord”.

The letter of August 27 paints an even darker picture:

“You are impatiently awaiting news from your Little Queen. They are always the same: weaker and weaker, no longer able to bear the slightest noise around her, even the rustling of paper or a few words spoken in a low voice. There has been a lot of change in his condition since the day of the Assumption. And we have even come to desire her deliverance, because she suffers martyrdom. She told us yesterday: Fortunately I did not ask for suffering, because if I had asked for it, I would fear not having the patience to bear it, whereas coming from the pure will of the good God, he can deny me the patience and grace necessary to endure it.

“The oppression always makes her suffer a lot, but what is at the moment her greatest suffering, a real torture, is her intestinal pain. Despite this, she said yesterday: I ask that all the prayers that are said for me do not serve to alleviate my suffering, but that they all be for sinners. »

*

Madame Guérin had anticipated her return from Vichy. The outcome still delayed, her husband was able, against all expectations, to bring his treatment to a successful conclusion. To the mortification of our pious curiosity, letters will henceforth become rare, replaced by oral news given almost daily at the Tour or in the Carmel parlor.

Reduced to a state close to agony, the Saint survived by a true miracle. On this night, his faith still remained alive, his hope still invincible. The refinements of physical suffering, the icy fog of obsessive doubt, do not hinder moral development. It is the miracle of virtue to dominate them with a smile. By the way in which she avoids, in such circumstances, withdrawing and feeling sorry for herself, we recognize what metal a soul is made of. Sister Marie of the Eucharist never tires of sketching the portrait of the heroic patient. She also records her supreme instructions.

Thérèse still found the strength to give her novices, during their brief visits to her bedside, judicious and profound advice. His keen observation did not abandon him. Thus, on August 2, to inspire in her cousin a more effective desire to repress any movement of self-esteem, she made this confidence to her:

“I find no natural pleasure in being loved, pampered, but I find a very great one in being humiliated. When I did something stupid that humiliates me and makes me see what I am, oh! then, this is where I experience a natural pleasure; I feel a true joy like you would feel in being loved. »

On September 11, she again addressed this pressing call to order to Sister Marie of the Eucharist:

“You should become very gentle; Never harsh words, harsh tone; never appear harsh, always be gentle. So, yesterday, you hurt Sister X... A few moments later, a Sister hurt her too. What happened ? She cried. Well ! If you had not treated her harshly, she would have better accepted the second sentence, which would have gone unnoticed. But two sentences so close together put her in a state of great sadness, whereas if you had been gentle, nothing would have happened. »

Until the end, the Saint will maintain this astonishing self-control. She will never fall into the egocentrism usual for patients. She will remain "the watchman" on the lookout for the failings of her dear novices, "the little brush" applied to painting in the smallest details on the canvas of their soul the image of the perfect nun. Sister Marie of the Eucharist will benefit above all from this experience.

On September 17, she sent her father a final communiqué which ended with these words from the Little Queen, touched to tears by her family's thousand treats:

" Oh ! If I thought I was well loved, I would never have believed that they loved me so much! »

The young profess follows Thérèse’s terrible agony in detail. She brings the story to the parlor gate where her parents eagerly come to get the news of the day. In the unusual prolongation of the tortures which tear this body and this virginal soul apart, there is something mysterious which gives rise to wonders. Speaking of the imminent death of his niece, Guérin declared with a prescience that does credit to his judgment: “This eventuality which saddens us is the dawn of a triumph. »

On Thursday September 30 in the morning, she wrote to her daughter Jeanne:

“It’s really a little victim that the good Lord chose for himself. In the midst of her suffering, she still has the same face, the same angelic air. »

That very day, at XNUMX:XNUMX p.m., Thérèse gave up her soul to God, with a last cry: “ I love you ».

On Monday October 4, 1897, on the feast of the Patriarch of Assisi, a reduced procession, in which several priests were noted, took the funeral remains to Christian land. Mr. Guérin, detained by illness, had the pain of not being able to attend the ceremony. At least it was he who had prepared his niece's final resting place. Shortly before, he had purchased, in the Lisieux cemetery, a vast piece of land, part of which he had reserved for himself, the rest being intended for the tombs of the Carmelites, the old concession of which no longer had any vacant space. It is in this enclosure that the Little Queen was buried, at a depth of three meters and twenty. It was there that the crowds went, increasingly dense, to pray to her, before bringing her back to the Monastery, in a triumphant translation, on March 26, 1923, for the honors of Beatification.

Sister Marie of the Eucharist was to keep a special memory of the dear Saint. She would receive as a festive gift, on August 15, 1898, one of the cloths on which Mother Agnès of Jesus had collected the tears of the dying woman.

No less preciously would she keep these Ultima Verba of the interview by which Thérèse had prepared her for her Taking the Veil, and which she rightly considered as the spiritual testament of her Mistress towards her, urging her to tend more and more towards holiness.

The death of the righteous

“O Jesus... When a soul has allowed itself to be captivated by the intoxicating smell of your perfumes, she cannot run alone, all the souls she loves are dragged after her; this is done without constraint, without effort, it is a natural consequence of his attraction towards you. »

From these words of the dearly departed, Sister Marie of the Eucharist will have the sweet experience. Until April 1900, she was placed under the tutelage of Sister Marie des Anges, who had served as Novice Mistress to Thérèse and who took over the charge, from the hands of Mother Marie de Gonzague, the very day after the death of the Saint. . In fact, she continued to exercise a preponderant influence over her cousin.

Everything contributed to deepening this posthumous action. The graces received through her maintained the image of the little Queen in hearts. The return of his natalis dies, as the Liturgy speaks, that is to say the anniversary of his birth to Beatitude, was henceforth celebrated with fervor. Sister Marie of the Eucharist shared this with her parents:

“The little celebration of the 30th! Ah! truly, it was a day from Heaven. »

She narrates the recreation given to the novices, the meal on solemn days:

“At seven o'clock, singing of a little hymn composed by Mother Agnès of Jesus, which was sung to Little Jesus where Thérèse was flowering. I have rarely spent such a happy day. »

She collected in writing the memories which would perpetuate the memory of the one who had initiated her into religious life.

The publication of the Story of a Soul was the subject of the care of the Prioress and Mother Agnès of Jesus. The authorization obtained, on March 7, 1898, from Mgr Hugonin Bishop of Bayeux, Mr. Guérin himself was responsible for the costs, and it was on his advice and as a culmination of his efforts that the Carmel entrusted the Imprimerie Saint -Paul de Bar-le-Duc the modest pages destined to experience one of the greatest bookstore successes of modern times. He himself supervised the edition and reviewed the proofs with the probity and attention to detail that characterized him. The work, printed in two thousand copies, came out of the press on September 30, 1898 [official date – in reality October 10], on the first anniversary of the Saint's death. It was immediately sent, instead of the traditional obituary circular, to all Carmels in France and abroad. Our nun was therefore able to meditate at leisure, presented, this time, together, with the teachings that Thérèse gave her day by day.

She was to draw from it an increasingly acute sense of humility and a spirit of oblation which made her commit, through the act of offering, to the small Legion of souls victims of Merciful Love. On November 21, 1898, expressing her birthday wishes to her mother, she confessed, in a cheerful way, the work taking place in her soul:

“One day I complained to our Angel that I did not feel his protection, and I asked Thérèse to take me by the hand again, leading me to walk the path of pure love. However, I told him that it was impossible for my love to become as strong as his.

“The next day, at prayer, I no longer remembered my prayer of the day before, while thinking of the ardent love of my little Sister in Heaven, and, all of a sudden, it presented itself to my mind this inspiration: every soul has in its heart a spark of this love - which it possessed; she herself had only had this little spark of love at the beginning; but she knew how to feed it, to revive it, so well that it had become an immense inferno. Ah! I said to myself, I found my thing! I have, like Thérèse, in my heart, a spark of love of God; but great care must be taken so that it does not go out; you must give her food, bring a little fine ember near her, give her from time to time small blows with the bellows, not too violent; then, when the embers are well set, we add small pieces of wood, then larger ones and the brazier becomes bright; but all fire, whatever it may be, is preserved under the ashes. So I set out to find all the instruments necessary to fuel my spark: embers, small pieces of wood and the largest. This represents first of all small sacrifices, everything smallest, sometimes even good will alone; then we take courage for the big sacrifices, knowing that it takes time and patience to get there. If we put the big pieces in the first time, it would snuff out the little spark. For the bellows, I have the acts and the sighs of love, which will rekindle the spark.

The day after this prayer, I asked the good Lord how it was that our hearts, which were like a furnace every morning at the time of Communion, then cooled down. Oh ! it's not surprising, my Jesus made me understand, the fire is preserved under the ashes. And immediately, I found that my ashes would be represented by my little immolations of each day, which will be consumed by Love and in Love. “Here is my little festive bouquet, my dear little mother, so you will see how Jesus and little Thérèse enjoy teaching your little daughter. »

The climb was not vertical. Sister Marie of the Eucharist always carried as an elf the double torment of an overly effervescent heart and a mind inclined to scruple. She had her weaknesses, but Thérèse had instilled in her the precious art of not being upset about them and of turning them to love:

“The path by which our little Angel leads me,” she confided to her mother, “is Love. It is not beautiful thoughts that are necessary to go to Heaven, it is love. My little sister teaches me a lot about this subject. »

There was no shortage of difficulties. There were the maneuvers of the “Grippé” – as our friend describes the evil spirit – who preferably chose the time for spiritual exercises to sow in this quivering imagination a thousand reasons for doubt and anxiety. There was continued effort! of detachment. Will we believe that Marie Guérin had difficulty accepting, as past memories held so strong a hold on her, the possibility of the sale of La Musse? For her to resign herself to it, it took the sudden shock of this verse from the psalmist: “ All that is most beautiful in the countryside is found in me. »

The Saint also taught him to overcome the depressing crises of poor and always threatened health. Let us judge by this epistle sent to Mr. Guérin, after eight days spent in the solitude of the Hermitage.

“A retreat at Carmel, my dear little father, can be compared to holidays in the world. During the holidays, we travel, we rest: I did all that. I have traveled in the regions of Heaven, and I have seen such beautiful things that I had to rest to savor their delights.

“Between my prayers, I cut altar bread, near the infirmary from where our Angel Thérèse left for Heaven. So everything carried me up, and during recreation I sang with all my might, in the company of a large number of little birds who sang softly. In the distance, I heard a blackbird whose whistle didn't hurt in the concert. The more I raised my voice, the higher they got too. But, the most curious thing is that the fools shut up at the same time as me and did not start again before me. I remained as surprised as I was delighted.

“Listen, my dear little father, since, for the good Lord, you have deprived yourself of hearing the rolls of your nightingale, I think that in Heaven you will enjoy all the more, listening to your darling daughter modulate the song new, the song of the virgins.

“In the meantime, I cannot sing enough, on the iron, of the inestimable grace of being the wife of a God. No, the beautiful day of my Profession has not passed, it will never pass, because it is an eternal day whose dawn was yesterday. »

Obviously, Thérèse's hand remained placed on the shy forehead of the Young nun. In his too quickly frightened soul, the premature end of his Mistress had acted as a beneficent grace and awakened magnanimous desires:

“It is certain,” she wrote, “that since the death of our little Saint, I no longer feel the same, and others notice it too. It's incredible how much she loved and how she still loves my soul. »

Her letters, which became, by special permission, weekly, established a dialogue between her and her parents in which collective ascension was reflected. In this spiritual exchange, Mr. Guérin reveals himself to be movingly sincere. He simply delivers, as one does to a Director of conscience, his depressing hours followed by magnificent bursts. The confidence always ends in a cry of hope.

“Fortunately,” he writes with humor, “that all our holy parents and my little Queen will give me the short ladder, while my other daughters will push me from behind. Perhaps Saint Peter will let me in like a donkey loaded with relics. »

*

It is especially through the correspondence she maintains with her cousin, Céline Maudelonde, that we can follow the progress of Sister Marie de l'Eucharistie. Since childhood, these two souls were fraternally united. Marie Guérin's entry into the cloister had been a real heartbreak for her young companion, now a wife and soon to be a mother. She compensated for the absence by regularly sending to Carmel the exact echo of her struggles, her disappointments, her efforts, a real interior diary to which were responded to missives imbued with playfulness and supernatural serenity. From this epistolary exchange, we have kept seventy-three letters which span from 1894 to November 24, 1904. They are punctuated with timely advice on the sanctification of state duties, fidelity to exercises of piety, the art of use illness and trial, books to read and meditate on.

What interests us most in these squared sheets, loaded - sometimes in both directions - with fine and tight writing, without repetitions or erasures, is the moral portrait that they reflect. Elevated to the rank of spiritual director of a soul who has more than one trait in common with her, the Carmelite dispenses to her, first with a certain awkwardness, then in a tone of authority which asserts itself from year to year. , the lessons from which she herself benefited. As she writes, we think we see Thérèse's clear face silhouetted, leaning on her shoulder.

“My great resolution every day is to try to do everything out of love for the Good Lord. We sometimes do our actions out of habit, or because we must practice virtue, but what touches God the most is doing them out of love. When we love a person, and we do a little work for them, as we do with love, we do not fear their pain, their work. What wouldn't we do to please him? Well ! the good Lord also asks that everything we do be done for Him, out of love for Him, with the sole aim of pleasing Him! He so needs our work, our suffering, our little sorrows, disappointments and humiliations, to save souls for Him. Why refuse them to Him?... We would not refuse the slightest service to a person of the world out of politeness, but for the good Lord, we know how to be rude to Him. Well ! Me, my Céline, it touches me a lot to see how much the good Lord is repelled by even Christian hearts, even virtuous ones, and I want to compensate for this by doing my best. He offers his love to everyone, and we refuse it to Him! Well ! I ask him to pour into me all the love that other souls ignore so well! and I will do my best not to refuse it. And I know that my little sister over there will also do like me..."

A dialogue will take place, where the nun will have to respond to the objections that she herself has formulated so many times. How can we break down the resistance of nature, the weariness or the fundamental revolt with regard to divine demands?

“When some little pain or annoyance happens, say a Thank you without taste, without fervor... but say it all the same... It is not necessary to feel the sweetness... This Thank you snatched away as in spite of pleases us to Jesus. It's like a spiritual communion..." — "To be holy, there is only one way: Love. Doing everything out of love leads to holiness, and you will see that it is not necessary to feel this love to possess it, but that one must do the works in a dark night when one feels good for nothing. . »

Are the banality of existence, the monotony of occupations obstacles to such growth? Not at all:

“You will see souls perfectly supporting great trials and stumbling over nothing. A pinprick is often more painful than a spear. You do not yet know fidelity in small things, and yet the good Lord makes a big deal of it. »

Will we have to exhaust ourselves by controlling all our actions and holding our breath to observe our slightest movements?

" Oh ! far from me this thought of wanting to make you a candied soul, as they commonly say! The spirit of our good Jesus, his way is a way of love, a broad way and not of constraint. »

It is pleasant to see her, once devoured by scruples and so easily pessimistic, sweep away the morbid swarm of dark thoughts from her correspondent:

“Above all, don’t let yourself be troubled, don’t let the demon tighten your heart. This is the temptation of temptations. When he put sadness in a soul, he gained everything. On the contrary, joy is its cruelest enemy. He knows that he can do nothing against a cheerful, abandoned soul, while he easily enters a heart through despair and discouragement. »

Is it Thérèse, is it her little Marie who writes down these urgent lines?

“Your letter of June 30 made me sad. So you don't know how to serve the good Lord widely, greatly, kindly, above all without contentment of mind. It was the demon who wanted to make you see an impossible perfection in order to completely disgust you with your rules of life. The service of the good Lord is done with joy, with abandonment, with trust. We do what we can, what we know is pleasing to Him, and He does the rest. But all this without worries. He is a Father, you know, and the best of Fathers; he does not put the knife to our throats. Good will is enough for him. It is she whom he crowns; and even very often IT rewards the good will of wanting to accomplish something, even though it is not accomplished. If you knew how infinite his mercy and goodness are! »

Céline Maudelonde has been hit hard by her health and that of her loved ones. At certain times, she collapses under the weight of anxiety, she complains of no longer knowing how to pray. Her cousin sympathized with the ordeal. She has been there many times. She can tell the price:

" Disease ! there is no better guide to go to Jesus. I have had the sweet experience of it many times; but it is above all abandonment which attracts this Divine Master into souls. When he sees a soul say Fiat to everything, this is the moment when he gives himself to her with the most happiness. » — “Sometimes it happens to me, when I cannot say anything to the good Lord, to take my rosary and, on each bead, to tell Jesus again that I love him. At the end, I feel so full of love. But the suffering, but the fiat repeated! Oh ! the most beautiful prayer, especially when it comes from an oppressed, anguished heart! »

The most touching thing, when we remember the trembling of Marie Guérin before the Eucharistic mystery, and the famous letter of May 30, 1889 where Thérèse became the inspired apostle of frequent Communion to her, is to see her now play the same encouraging role with this dialectic of the heart that stops no obstacle.

The document would take too long to reproduce. He peremptorily demolishes the objection of unworthiness and shows in the Host not the reward, but the primary source of holiness. Truly, the “little Doctor” had not wasted his time with his humble disciple. This goes so far as to repeat its familiar comparisons. Kindly playing on the mother's tenderness for her two little girls, she gently provokes her to the virtues of childhood:

“You have before your eyes models of what you should be with the good Lord. Your grandchildren are real little masters. Study seriously, attentively, their feelings, their movements towards you, and you will draw charming and profound deductions for your soul... Surrender yourself to the love of the good God. It is He who formed the hearts of mothers, and your love for them is only an outflow of His. He does for you what you do for your children. Fall asleep on his heart in your sorrows. »

As for faults and imperfections of all kinds, there is no need to rehash them bitterly with bitterness or spite.

“There may be some wrong notes in the performance of your piece, but tell me, if your little Marguerite, on any occasion, played you a piece of music that she had learned to make you a surprise, if she got confused and didn't play perfectly, would you blame her? Would you blame him?... Well! my Céline, the good Lord has a heart even more tender than that of mothers..."

No need to lengthen the quotes. We in turn note that the Carmelite has learned her piece well and that she conveys Teresian thought without false notes. For the self-effacing and modest student as for his prestigious novitiate mistress, could there be a greater tribute?

*

A cruel ordeal would not take long to tear the filial heart of Sister Marie of the Eucharist. During 1899, Madame Guérin's health deteriorated dangerously. She faced the danger with complete serenity. Since the entry of his youngest daughter into the cloister, his piety, already lively and sincere, had taken on greater depth. We have kept from her, addressed to one of her friends, a rule of life which shows her to be an expert in asceticism and gifted with a real gift for penetrating souls. Obviously, the divine hand was preparing her for the eternal encounter.

A treatment carried out in July, in Royat, brought only a superficial improvement. The following January 29, an attack of influenza, sneakily undermining an already debilitated body, quickly led her to the doors of the tomb. She welcomed death with her customary gentleness. Two days previously, her son-in-law, in a desperate effort to save her, had applied sinapisms to her legs; the reaction was atrocious. After a long period of insomnia, she made this confession:

“I suffered a lot, but my little Thérèse looked after me with tenderness. All night I felt her near my bed. On several occasions she caressed me, which gave me extraordinary courage. » Father Ducellier, parish priest of Saint-Pierre, who administered the last sacraments to him, subsequently declared: “In the twenty-five years that I have been a priest, I have never seen anyone receive the supreme aid of religion with “such angelic piety.” »

She spent whole hours hugging her crucifix, repeating with communicative faith: “ Come, my Jesus, come... How happy I am to die! Oh ! no, I'm not afraid of death. » Seeing at her bedside a Sister of Carmel sent by Mother Marie de Gonzague, she said to her with a smile: “ Sister Marie-Elisabeth, it seems to me that I see in you my little Marie and that the whole Community is assisting me at this moment. »

On February 10, she received the good Lord in viaticum and gained, along with her husband, the Jubilee indulgence.

When she felt her last hour approaching, she humbly asked forgiveness from everyone, especially her servants; she had her dearest relics brought to her: a cross that Thérèse had received for her first Communion, and the Profession candle of Sister Marie of the Eucharist. Mingling her holocaust with that of her daughter, she cried out: “ My God, I renew my sacrifice to you, I give you my little Mary a second time. » Then, after a time of contemplation to form his final intentions: “ My Jesus, I love you, I offer you my life for the priests, like my little Thérèse of the Child Jesus. »

Until the end, a slight smile floated on his decomposed features. It finally died out in a final gesture of prayer. It was Tuesday, February 13, 1900, the feast of the Agony of Our Lord. She was going to be fifty-three years old.

The blow was cruel for the loving heart of Sister Marie of the Eucharist, whose health was momentarily impaired. Since entering the Monastery, she had become so accustomed to opening up to her mother and receiving her confidences! She took refuge in her favorite devotion to the mystery of Gethsemane. A few signs, daringly requested, convinced her that the sweet deceased had quickly escaped from the flames of Purgatory. She found total peace in the complete acceptance of the sacrifice. Shouldn't she devote herself entirely to consoling her paternal solitude with her delicacies?

This premature mourning deprived Mr. Guérin of the attentive and ingeniously devoted companion in his voluntary self-effacement, who had been able to make his life overloaded with work and responsibilities a backdrop of affection and beauty. If he painfully felt the immense emptiness of his home. He did not allow himself to be distraught by the event.

“God can test us, pressure us,” he wrote, “we will love him all the same. »

The nobility of his hope is reflected in the letters he then sent in response to the encouragement of his Carmelite:

“At the very hour of separation, I said: My God, it is a bottomless abyss that you open in my heart. Your love alone can fill it... I taste a peace, a consolation within myself, which almost makes me happy. God makes me see at every moment his hand which supports me, directs me, and, at every moment too, I cry out: Ah! that God is good! I bless suffering and I almost ask for it, because at certain moments it makes me see God. »

His daughter Carmelite is the first to rejoice at such an ascension:

“Dad,” she wrote to Marcelline Husé, “is always affected by the suffering which never leaves him, we can say that. But his resignation is still as great, and his love for the good God is very edifying. During his last visit, he moved us greatly by speaking to us about this love. Never had we heard it spoken with such ardor and conviction: O my children, he said to us, ask for love... Pursue it until you obtain it... and finally die of love. The love of the good Lord invaded his heart so much that he could not hold back his tears, and sobs escaped him. He spoke to us like this for more than a quarter of an hour about the goodness of the good God. »

Those close to him no less regret his isolation. They insist - and Marie does so with all her Carmelite authority - that, overcoming his reluctance to impose on his family an exodus and cohabitation which could hamper their married life, he welcomes his daughter Jeanne's home to Lisieux. The bereaved house on Rue Paul Banaston will soon return to its usual bustle. Doctor La Néele, leaving his medical practice in Caen, came, in 1900, to settle there with his wife. This rejuvenation will subsequently contribute to giving the old residence a note of worldliness which Mr. Guérin himself, satisfied to find an interior, will accommodate without too much difficulty.

*

On April 19, 1902, Mother Agnès de Jésus succeeded Mother Marie de Gonzague as Prioress. Sister Marie of the Eucharist, who had an almost passionate attachment to the “Little Mother” of Thérèse, thrilled with joy at this news. Her sometimes fearful soul postulated until the end a meticulous and almost maternal direction, in the most human sense of the term. The frequent failures of his health aggravated this need of the heart. From 1899, she found herself unable to follow, in her strict observance, the austere Rule of Carmel. This impotence excited his alarm. She suffered from feeling incapable and useless. She accused herself of being a dead weight for the Community. When we tried to appease her by representing to her that she was in fact its notable benefactor, she cried out: “ I want to be a little benefactress of my Sisters by attracting to them, through my virtues, all the benefits of Heaven; but I do not want to be so as to have the right to fail in poverty and mortification. If I do not follow the Rule, I prefer to have the humiliation of it, as if I had brought nothing to the Monastery. »

From year to year, the crises became more acute and more threatening. The patient keeps her composure. At the school of pain, she strips herself of the easy romanticism with which preachers and letter writers too often treat the mystery of the cross. The experience gives weight to his reflections:

“I am not a soul to desire suffering, no, but to accept it when it arrives and to rejoice in it for the glory of the good God. »

This modesty reassures us. She wrote again to her cousin Maudelonde:

“Not doing one's will but that of God, that is the only joy. Yes, my little Céline, I suffered a lot, but the good Jesus spoiled me. He made me find such peace in suffering that I look back on these two months that have just passed as the most beautiful and sweetest of my life. And this without any merit on my part. Jesus carried me in his arms. I just had to let myself be carried away. At every moment, my happiness consisted of doing God's will, accepting what he sent me. »

At the end of July 1903, a dry cough, resistant to any treatment, denounced the aggressive awakening of the bacillus which had been sleeping inside her since the infectious flu contracted ten years earlier. Tuberculosis will prolong, for twenty-one months, its undermining work, with alternatives of improvement and crisis which multiplied for the young nun the opportunities to acquiesce to the divine will. This “aristocratic” evil, as some have called it, which seems to preferentially strike chosen beings and gnaws away at bodies while sparing or even refining the lucidity of souls, reveals itself in experience as an incomparable school of abandonment. For Marie Guérin it brought an unprecedented luxury of physical pain. She had faith in the science of doctors. They made him pay dearly for it. His father summoned a medical luminary from the University of Paris to his bedside, who, trying a new remedy, gave him repeated injections of horse serum. The clearest result was an eruption of enormous abscesses which cruelly tortured the patient and from which, on two occasions, she almost died. It showed itself, in the hands of practitioners, to have exemplary endurance.

With a tired hand, in pencil, she still sends her impressions and advice to her faithful correspondent:

“I cannot tell you about these six months of illness; it would be too long. I suffered a lot. If only I had suffered for the good Lord! Because that is the only thing that will last forever, suffering well borne. »

In union with Mr. Guérin who was keenly interested in a work of priestly reparation and offered for this purpose the acute crises of weakened health, she liked to consecrate the treasury of her merits to the clergy. She also remembers the words of her mother who once invited her in her teenage trials to look lower than herself, towards the humble people of this world:

“I see,” she wrote to her sister Jeanne, “these poor workers alone from morning to evening in their long illnesses. A neighbor comes from time to time, maybe twice a day, to give them what they need, then it's complete solitude for the rest of the day. Or I see poor sick people in hospitals, more or less well treated, not having a friendly heart to console them. And so I think that, even in my poverty, even in my ordeal, I am happier than them. »

One more thought comforts her, this “devotion to the present moment” that Thérèse sang in her beautiful canticle: just for today. She even wants to remain to the end the one "whose grace is to amuse others", and she dares to claim as her gift the voice of her father recorded in due form on a phonograph record, in this Bluebeard tune. who made Thérèse tremble as a child, and who, with theStory of a Soul “is making its world tour”.

This joke does not prevent him from confiding to Mother Agnès of Jesus:

“Ah! my Mother, since I am told that I will have even more capacity to enjoy, after this life, than I had to suffer here below, I will therefore have a beautiful place in Heaven, because, truly , I suffered a lot on earth! I don't know if I suffered much, I only know that the greatest peace reigns in the depths of my soul. It seems to me that Thérèse communicates her feelings to me, and that I feel the same abandonment. Oh ! if I could die of love like her! It wouldn't be surprising since I joined the Legion of little victims that she asked from the good Lord. My Mother, during my agony, if you see that suffering prevents me from performing acts of love, I implore you, remind me of my desire. I want to die telling Jesus that I love him. »

She does not have the presumption to face the challenge. “Dolorism” is not his doing. In this she remains Thérèse’s daughter. Mr. Guérin having misunderstood the mystical terms of a poem composed for her by Mother Agnès of Jesus, she hastens to reassure him. No, she in no way requested the cross or called Heaven. The offering to Merciful Love is of a completely different essence:

“The rule of my life has always been to let God do his thing... to be carefree like a little child in his mother's arms. »

Illness is an exercise in mortification for nature. In those who lend themselves to it generously, it softens, it disintegrates, it slowly crushes self-esteem. Sister Marie de l’Eucharistie suspects Mme Guérin of having imposed this austere discipline on her:

" For what ? Ah! because she was humility itself and she only feared one thing for her children: pride, domination over others. It was one of the last recommendations she made to our Mother about me: Ah! above all, my Pauline, watch over Marie, so that she does not be proud! So she found it quite natural to send me an illness which keeps me in humiliation, which means that I am subject to everyone and that I cannot believe myself more or as much as others. »

On January 15, 1905, on the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, the patient herself announced to her family that she had been administered:

“I have just received Extreme Unction. I am very happy and in great peace. How happy Dad’s letter made me! Don't think I'm afraid of death; I am very abandoned to the good Lord, I do not wish to live or die... My little Mother wants me to bless you. »

On March 10, a note scribbled in pencil again expressed affection to the family: of the little youngest who wants to bring glory to her Dad and her Mom by becoming a saint, following in the footsteps of her dear little Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who is for her a true Guardian Angel, guiding her at each moment and proving his love to him with all kinds of little delicacies that can only come from Heaven. »

Mr. Guérin followed the progress of consumption with anxiety. Gone are the heavenly hours he spent in the parlor with his Carmelite! Each visit to the Tour to take the health report caused him real heartbreak. When he felt his death approaching, he had the admirable courage to announce his imminent release to his daughter. It was April 14, 1905, the feast of Our Lady of Compassion. Inspired by the liturgy of the day, he passed this farewell note to the dying woman:

“My beloved little Angel,

I bless you and I thank you for all the happiness you have given me... Do not fear to sadden me; I took communion this morning; Our Lord strengthened me, and I gave you my last kiss on his adorable Heart.

May Mary, Mother of Sorrows, take you in her arms and take you away from this miserable life! May Jesus finally give you the reward he has prepared for you in heaven, and may he pay with ineffable joys for all your sufferings here below!

Be sure, my darling, that after the first heartbreak has passed, my heart will exult in knowing you are in glory... I felt that when your mother died. God came like a kidnapper to seize his prey, and at the same time spread his sweetest consolations over us. It seems that he wants to lavish them to make amends...

My darling, my little beloved, wife of Jesus, living portrait of your mother, I embrace you with all the strength of my soul, and I kiss the hand of the Lord with love and resignation.

Your father "

The denouement took place this very morning at a quarter past ten. Sister Marie of the Eucharist was thirty-four years and seven months old. She had always felt an instinctive repulsion before the mystery of death. She had begged her Thérèse to help her cross the great passage without difficulty. She was granted beyond all her hopes. Her calm, her serenity, struck the assistants to the point that, nine years later, one of the witnesses, Mother Isabelle of the Sacré-Cœur, still spoke of it with tenderness: “ When we saw Sister Marie of the Eucharist die, we can no longer fear death. »

The miraculous statue of the Virgin of Smiles had been brought into the infirmary. At the sight of her, the face of the dying woman lit up with a reflection of Heaven. She held out her arms to him. " Oh ! that she is beautiful ! »

The closer the decisive moment approached, the more vehement his aspirations became:

“I’m not afraid of dying!” Oh ! what peace! We must not be afraid of suffering... He always gives strength... Oh! How I would love to die of love! of love for the Good Lord! »

His desire was fulfilled. She expired, like Thérèse, in a final prayer: “ My Jesus, I love you! » The student would join in Heaven the one who had been his Mistress in holiness, while her mortal remains would rest near his, there, on the side of the hill where it stands, among the clumps of yews and the hedges of privets, the picturesque Lexovian cemetery.

Still under the influence of emotion, on the following April 24, the Prioress confided her impressions in a letter addressed to Léonie, nun at the Visitation of Caen:

“Ah! dear sister, how I suffered! If you knew ! I am rather relieved now that I know my little Marie is happy and free. Her last days, especially the last night that I spent completely with her, my heart was torn... She died like a saint. It was absolutely heavenly.

“We will send you the photo of our little Marie. How pretty she was! The whole town came to see her. She looked like an angel. At the burial, there were so many people that the chapel was too cramped. Our parlors and the sacristy were full. Never, for any ceremony, have we seen this. »

In addition to the tribute paid to the deceased, this crowd testified both to the esteem that surrounded her family and to the supernatural attraction that Thérèse's growing fame brought to Carmel.

*

On May 6, 1905, Mother Agnès de Jésus was confirmed in charge for a new triennium. Mr. Guérin is delighted with this re-election, he who considered himself the foster father of the Community and who, not content with lavishing it with largesse during the year, took the honor of repaying it generously at the end of the financial year. , the budget still in deficit. In fact, it was necessary to live on meager incomes supplemented by a few alms, which, taking into account the maintenance and repair of the buildings, left a gap of ten thousand francs annually. The payment of such a sum during the gold franc era was not without merit.

The lord of La Musse did not stop there. To strengthen the ties which attached him to the Order of the Virgin, he made profession in its Third Order on September 11, 1901, under the name of Brother Elie of the Blessed Sacrament. He intended that this filiation should not be platonic. Having learned that the monks of Mount Carmel were soliciting offerings from Catholics, to raise a surrounding wall around the Monastery which would protect them from the invasion and depredations of infidels, he was among the first to generously subscribe: “ It is my duty, he declared, I am a son of Carmel. » The spirit of poverty that he practiced for himself had instilled in him “the intelligence of the poor” and multiplied in his hands the means of relieving all misery.

When persecution raged in our country, the old fighter felt doubly affected in his love of the Church and the Fatherland. The decrees of expulsion which, by cartload, sent the teaching Congregations to the borders and increasingly threatened the contemplatives, struck him personally to the heart. In 1903, he had helped with his advice and his efforts Mother Agnès de Jésus who had thought it prudent to prepare a fallback position for her daughters, in the event of a forced departure. Doctor La Néele had rented a property located in Westmeerbeck in Belgium, in the Province of Mechelen, for this purpose. Providence did not allow the Carmel called to such destinies to be exiled, but Mr. Guérin, who had closely directed this affair and taken the lease into his charge, nevertheless followed with an anguished eye. the progress of anticlericalism which preluded with its moral ruins the losses that the world war would accumulate on our soil.

Did this active sympathy for the Community of rue de Livarot induce Thérèse's Uncle to support the efforts undertaken to introduce the Cause of the little Queen? iIt's far from it. He certainly retained, deep in his soul, the cult of the ideal child whose virtues he had so often admired. However, he had another image of canonized holiness. Under the influence of ambient prejudices, he saw her crowned with extraordinary charisma, escorted by sensational macerations and dazzling exploits. He was too essentially prudent to take the risk of a trial in the Court of Rome on this occasion and expose himself to a failure that the Norman clubs and salons would perhaps laugh at. It is a fact that he in no way encouraged the steps taken in this direction. When the publication of theStory of a Soul and the echo of the first miracles began to hit the Lexovian chronicle. He even felt a feeling of annoyance which inspired him for a moment to plan to leave the city. If he did not follow up on this first movement, he nevertheless persisted, under the influence of Jeanne and Francis La Néele, in doubting the success of an enterprise that socialites readily described as a "story of nuns”, and who never failed to somewhat disturb the tranquility of his retirement.

Whatever his hesitations on this subject, he would not leave this earth without having been able to foresee the growing glory of Thérèse. In 1907, for the first time, a chapter of the Rain of Roses is appended to the Autobiography.

On May 8, 1908, the same day of her election, the new Prioress of Carmel, the Young Mother Marie-Ange of the Child Jesus, asked her Bishop for the introduction of the Cause of the Servant of God. “We were waiting for this request,” replied Mgr Lemonnier kindly.

At the beginning of 1909, the Very Reverend Father Rodrigue de Saint-François de Paule, a Discalced Carmelite from Rome, was promoted to Postulator, and Mgr Roger de Teil, vice-postulator in France. Mr. Guérin found this eagerness unreasonable; but it was said that in this dazzling adventure reason would lose all its rights. God would play games with the calculations and predictions of human wisdom. The honest pharmacist who had hailed his niece as "privileged little flower", the day when, as guardian, he had authorized her entry into the cloister at fifteen, would only know in Heaven to what extent he had been a good prophet and that this pure child, expert in self-effacement, would quickly become, in the judgment of a Pope, “the greatest Saint of modern times”.

Mr. Guérin had a more active role in the expansion of the cult of the Holy Face of which the Carmel of Lisieux would be the ardent propagator. This devotion had arisen in him when reading the life of the “Holy man of Tours”, Mr. Dupont. He had the august image placed in Saint-Pierre Cathedral, with a lamp constantly maintained by him, he had a moving copy of it at home, and it was in front of the bloody features of the tortured Christ that he united his for family prayer.

When the first works on the Holy Shroud of Turin appeared, both out of scientific taste and out of an apologist's conviction, he became passionate about this type of study. He recounted to his daughter in the parlor the turmoil caused in the world of scientists by the photographic discoveries which accompanied the ostension of 1898. In 1902, he obtained the work of Paul Vignon on The Shroud of Christ ; he lent it to Sister Geneviève, who was touched and captivated by this subject, and who henceforth used all her art to paint the Face of the Savior line by line. Three years later, he sent for a complete reproduction of the Holy Shroud for his niece, bearing the stamp of the Archbishop of Turin and Baron Antonio Mansio, President of the Exhibition of Sacred Art. Such was the origin of the pathetic painting of Céline, which was to draw a cry of admiration from Pius After having contributed so much to the development of this masterpiece, Mr. Guérin put all his piety into ensuring its dissemination, which provided him with the opportunity to express, in beautifully elevated letters, his love for the Passion of Christ and for the Priesthood which prolongs its sacrifice.

*

With the years, the devotion of the valiant Christian became more tender. " Oh ! my poor children, he confided one day, it’s over! I can no longer do my Stations of the Cross: I cry too much, it makes me sick. »

As he aged early, the thought of death imposed itself more and more on him. She didn't scare him. In the decline of his health, he only regretted his inability to still serve by word or by pen the cause he had loved so much. “Jesus knows very well that he is my life and my everything, but I cry for being so indifferent to him!... and yet I would like to die for him! » He also resigns himself to this incapacity to act in which he sees the most refined form of detachment. It is in this spirit that he writes to his close friends:

“I wish you as much happiness as can be had on earth. I have no other choice than to do the will of Jesus who wants to be humiliated, suffering and deprived of Him! »

For several years, Mr. Guérin had suffered from a serious liver condition complicated by acute rheumatic fever. Gifted with indomitable energy, surrounded by the enlightened care of his daughter and Doctor La Néele, he had victoriously repelled several attacks from evil. A more violent crisis struck him down. He himself requested the Sacraments of the Church and the Indulgence of the Third Order, which he received with little knowledge. In the excess of his torments, he could be heard moaning: “ Call me, Jesus! » These were his last words. He died holy in his home on Rue Paul Banaston, on Tuesday, September 28, 1909, at a quarter past ten in the morning. He was sixty-eight and a half years old.

The funeral took place on Friday October 1st. The immense nave of Saint-Pierre Cathedral was filled with a collected crowd where we noticed all the notables and Christians in Lisieux, humble and great united in unanimous homage. The religious ceremony was of noble magnificence, but it was in the hearse of the poor, and at his expressly expressed wish, that Mr. Guérin reached his final resting place.

To still respect the testamentary provisions of the deceased, the burial was done simply, without speech, but the next day, The Dispatch from Lisieux, heiress of Norman, dedicated a magnificent obituary article to its former editor from which we detach these few lines.

“We mourn in him the surest of friends, the most discreet of confidants, the friend whose door was always open to us, whose smiling welcome never faltered during the seventeen years that we had the honor to approach him, the experienced advisor whom, knowing his profound knowledge of men and things, we liked to consult in difficult circumstances, and who, obliging in the extreme, was happy to be useful.

“These are things that we take pleasure in repeating through tears, because it is a need of the heart to repay this debt of gratitude. Open character, keen mind, very cultivated intelligence, Mr. Guérin was also gifted with a singular energy which forced confidence; his frankness sometimes seemed a little like brusqueness, but he went about it with such a good heart, and his desire to be useful was so obvious that instead of holding it against him we were grateful for this kind of roughness. . This is because, deeply religious and obeying only his conscience, Mr. Guérin admitted no transaction with principles. We had also experienced his enlightened liberalism and his breadth of views too often not to accept his opinions with the most respectful deference.

“A man of duty, Mr. Guérin was above all. In an envied situation, he multiplied the benefits around him and perhaps only God knows how many misfortunes his generosity came to the aid of. It was his pleasure to make people happy: he was one of those, all too rare, who regard the privileged ones of fortune as the treasurers of Providence, and whose motto is: It is only to give that the Lord gives us ...

“Mr. Guérin, it is needless to add, supported with his funds all good works and brought his personal assistance to all enterprises whose aim was the glory of God and the honor of the Church. The old Saint-Pierre factory had in him a devoted treasurer; the Christian School Committee counted him among its most zealous members, and the Conference of Saint-Vincent de Paul had none more assiduous.

“Mr. Guérin loved to do good, he achieved it in all forms: through his example, through his advice, through his dedication, through his generosity. May his memory be in veneration for all as it is for ourselves. »

Doctor La Néele only survived his father-in-law by a few years. He died without leaving posterity, on the feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, 1916. Only Jeanne La Néele had the joy of experiencing the Teresian triumphs here below. She died in turn, on April 25, 1938, under the roof of her adopted daughter, in Nogent-le-Rotrou.

In the graceful Lisieux cemetery, an inscription alerts passers-by to the funerary monument of the Guérin family. Solid and severe, dominated by the sign of salvation, it bears engraved the prayer where the faith of several generations shines: O Crux, Ave, Spes unica... The valiant tertiary, Brother Elie of the Blessed Sacrament, is with his family right next to the Carmelite tombs where Sister Marie of the Eucharist, exhumed in 1923, rests in the vault formerly occupied by the Saint.

In the lower alley, a few dozen meters away, emerge bouquets of thujas, the austere granite cross in the shade of which, in 1894, Mr. Guérin had wanted to group, next to Mr. Martin's coffin, that of his wife and their four children who died early.

The statue of Thérèse dominates the decor. She seems to cover with her tenderness and her prayer all those who, rue Saint-Blaise, aux Buissonnets, at Place Saint-Pierre, surrounded the little Queen with their vigilance and devotion. Is this not, in favor of those close to her, the realization of the sublime prayer that she had dared to borrow from the Savior himself: “ My God, I hope that where I am, those you have given me will also be there with me, and that the world will know that you loved them as you loved me. »