the Carmel

Biography of Sister Marie-Philomène

Noémie Colombe Alexandrine Jaquemin (1839-1924) 1839-1924
Novitiate Companion of Saint Therese

Childhood and Youth

Noémie - Colombe - Alexandrine Jacquemin was born on October 28, 1839 in Langrune-sur-Mer, in Calvados. Her father being a carpentry contractor, she considered it a privilege to have spent her childhood in a workshop reminiscent of that of Nazareth. She was the third in a family of six children. One of his younger brothers will be a priest and will become parish priest of Saint-Michel de Vaucelles in Caen. It is he who will preach his Taking of the habit before dying prematurely. One of his nephews, Father Troude, a priest in his turn, will take communion to Thérèse on July 16, 1897 and two of his nieces will become nuns of the "Faithful Virgin" (now Our Lady of Fidelity) at Délivrande. It seems that his instruction was somewhat neglected. Her intellectual abilities also appear to have been quite modest and she had no sense of organization, but all the testimonies praise her great humility, her kindness, her helpfulness, her courage and her practicality. She devoted her youth to the service of her family and her many nephews and nieces who called her "aunt mom" before responding to God's call. She thought herself unworthy of being a Carmelite, it took a Father from Délivrande giving her firm advice and presenting her to Carmel as "a treasure of virtues and humility personified" for her to dare to cross the threshold in October 1876. Her postulancy was about to end when she learned that her mother had just fallen very seriously ill. She felt it was her duty to return home to nurse her despite a very urgent letter from her priest brother. Her mother was not delighted with this decision since she received her with these words: “It's you, my daughter! How!

So you left your convent! You were, however, of much greater help to me in the cloister than at my side..."

After the death of Mrs. Jacquemin, she asked to return to Carmel. Mother Geneviève, the foundress, opposed him a categorical refusal until the diplomacy of Mother Marie de Gonzague managed to obtain a reluctant agreement. She therefore returned to Carmel again on November 7, 1884, after nine years of waiting. She is 45 years old. Thérèse soon joined her in the novitiate. “What do you think of our two very different vocations? Sister Marie-Philomène asked him one day. You who give yourselves so generously to the Good Lord at fifteen and I only at forty-five!” "I think," replied Thérèse, "that the Good Lord chooses fruits of all seasons. Is it not the charm of a garden that the diversity of flowers and fruits? »

He was entrusted with the Office of Altar Bread, his tall stature bent there prematurely under the excess of an overwhelming task which led him to deprive himself very often of recreations to keep turning and turning the iron on his furnace. Then she devoted herself to dressmaking, where she rendered great service, without taking herself too seriously. When they congratulated her, she replied: “You do this out of charity, I am very grateful to you for putting up with me and finding me work. Around 1914, she lost the use of her left eye but nevertheless continued to fulfill her role. It was on August 21, 1921 that she had to be taken down to the infirmary, she was suffering from myocardia and the slightest movement made her suffocate. She recovered and for more than two years edified the whole community with her profound serenity, her kindness and her gratitude. In December 1923, her condition worsened, a slight cerebral haemorrhage caused paralysis on the left side and she suffered from very acute pain. She fell asleep peacefully on January 5, 1924, repeating “Thérèse! My God, I love you”.

Physically, Sister Marie-Philomène is tall, with real dignity of bearing, she is not particularly beautiful, but her face expresses so much kindness and peace that it becomes pleasant to look at.

Sister Marie-Philomène and Thérèse

Sister Marie-Philomène of Jesus felt a deep sympathy for Thérèse who, for her part, appreciated this elder whose ideas however did not tally with her own. As a very young postulant, she did not hesitate—at the risk of scandalizing her somewhat—to reproach her for her excessive fear of purgatory: “You are not confident enough, you are too afraid of the Good Lord; I assure you that he is distressed by it. Do not be afraid of Purgatory because of the pain one suffers there, but do not wish to go there to please the Good Lord who imposes this expiation with so much regret. As soon as you seek to please him in everything, if you have the unshakable confidence that he will purify you at every moment in his love and leave no trace of sin in you, be sure that you will not go to purgatory. » Sister Marie-Philomène liked to be close to Thérèse during recreation: « We only spoke of the Good God » and very often Thérèse confided to her her hope of dying young, which shocked the realism of this good Norman. Finally, one does not ask for rest before having worked and completed all one's work! One day, Thérèse answered him: “Saint Louis de Gonzague, he had not been dead two years since he had already done wonders for the glory of God and the good of souls. If he had died in old age, he would have been a great saint, but he would not have done the good that he did. (DE pp. 426-427).

She liked to tell the postulants that, living in the cell next to Thérèse's, every evening after Matins, the latter waited for her as she passed, to give her a gracious smile before closing her door. "Oh! sweet smile! he compensated me for all the fatigue of the day!” In order to give all its spiritual dimension to her work as a baker, Sister Marie-Philomène asks Thérèse to compose a few verses for her, these will be “the sacristans of Carmel” (November 1896):
"Here below, our sweet office Is to prepare for the altar, The bread, the wine of the sacrifice Which gives to the earth: "Heaven"!
Our happiness and our glory It is to work for Jesus. Her beautiful sky is the ciborium That we want to fill with the elect..."

In January 1897, Thérèse wrote “A mon Ange Gardien”, intended and perhaps at the request of Sister Marie-Philomène. It suits this nun whose simplicity and humility we have mentioned, “What intelligence in this innocent! And how much love is unaware of God,” her confessor would say of her.

... Always your sweet voice invites me Don't With your wing dry their tears Sing how good Jesus is... When we know the attachment of "Aunt Mom" ​​for her family, these verses must have been very sweet for her to sing .

After Thérèse's "entry into life"

Thérèse's mission with Sister Marie-Philomène was not to end on September 30, 1897, she would continue to comfort her former companion in the novitiate. One night she was awakened by “an inexpressible sweetness” and she felt, as if she had seen him, the presence of God and Therese. Her cell seemed all lit up to her and she had the revelation of God's tenderness and mercy. Several times, she says she breathed in a mysterious perfume in a moment of trial. So she resolutely committed herself to a life of abandonment, of filial trust, in a word, of spiritual childhood. She made the offering to Merciful Love which she will now recite every day.

On August 14, 1921, she had the joy of learning that Benedict XV declared Thérèse Venerable. She repeated: "There is too much happiness on earth!" to know through the Vicar of Jesus Christ that the way of spiritual childhood is the secret of holiness! Now I can go to Heaven! Note that she no longer speaks of Purgatory!

On her sickbed, she prayed to her little sister: "My beloved little sister, get me to help you save souls" and she repeated with incredible vehemence for a nature as peaceful as hers: "My God , make yourself known! Make yourself loved.”

The future patroness of the Missions had in her a good disciple.

One of his last words is very much in the Theresian spirit: “I have come to believe that the Good God is not only good like a Father, but like a Grandfather; it seems that the older it gets, the better it tastes! Therese no longer had any reason to take her back as before: "It pains me that you are too afraid of the Good Lord." »

P. Gires