Julia-Marie-Elisa Leroyer 1856-1929
Peace and very humble greetings in Our Lord who, in the Octave of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, invited to the joys of the Fatherland, we have the sweet confidence, our dear Sister Julia, Marie, Elise, THÉRÈSE DE SAINT -AUGUSTIN, professed and councilor of our Community. She was seventy-two years, ten months and seventeen days old, of which fifty-four years, three months, twenty-two days spent in religion.
It was in Lisieux that the peaceful and uniform existence of our dear Sister passed away entirely. She was born there on September 5, 1856, of honorable and deeply Christian parents whose sole concern, she said, was to turn her heart to the good God. Little Julia showed, moreover, a natural disposition for piety. She was only a few months old, and already the mere sight of a Crucifix made her burst into tears, without anyone managing to console her. In the evening, to fall asleep, he needed a rosary with, on the Cross, a good Lord who is, according to his childish expression, in order to be able to kiss him at leisure during the night. The only child of an exemplary home which she was the joy of, our dear Sister was brought up very seriously: "My father and my mother showed themselves to be of unequaled kindness to me, she confided to us, however, they did not spare me anything. and applied themselves to correcting my faults as soon as they perceived them. Mom was especially careful, with great care, not to let me develop a taste for coquetry. One day, on the occasion of a distribution of prizes, my little companions having described to me the toilets that were being prepared for them, asked me if there would be ruffles on my dress, if they would be, following the fashion of that time “fluted or crumpled”. My first concern, on returning home, was to question my Mother: “Ruffled or crumpled flounces, she replied, dissatisfied with my curiosity, you will take them as they are! Should a little girl take care of her toilet? Don't ask me such questions from now on." The lesson was good, but the future reserved for our heroine an even more profitable adventure that she liked to tell as follows:
“It was Assumption Day; I had collected at Saint-Pierre Cathedral with a charming white dress and a hat trimmed with silk tulle. Returning to my room and finding myself there alone, I felt like seeing how I looked. I approached the mirror and turned around, making nice little manners. Alas! I hadn't noticed the lighted candle, placed near the mirror, and suddenly the tulle of my hat began to burn without my noticing! Fortunately, my mother came in at that moment: - "How, she said to me, are you looking at yourself in the mirror, how naughty?" I did not look at myself. However, a smell of smoke came to tell him of the misfortune. “You can't deny it,” she went on severely, “there's your hat that's on fire!... And seizing it, she succeeded in extinguishing the flame; but my fault was told to Papa and, for my penance, they did not replace the hanging pieces of tulle which had been burned.
It was at the Benedictine Abbey, my Reverend Mother, at the boarding school which was later to receive Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, that Julia completed her education.
At the age of fourteen, when she first felt the desire for religious life, her whole ideal was to imitate her holy mistresses. She opened up about her attractions to a priest friend of her family, who advised her, before making a decision, to examine several communities in the city, and, lastly, named the Carmel for her. " Oh! for Carmel, never! She had immediately replied. And on this very clear assertion, she had moved away. Two days later, as she wondered, thinking about this conversation, what the life of a Carmelite could be like, a whole program of life mortified, solitary and united to God unfolded in the eyes of her soul, and she immediately understood that this part of the choice was to be his... From then on, his route was traced; she was not going to have a moment's hesitation. She immediately told her parents of her pious resolution, not thinking, in her naivety as she explained to us later, that it could hurt them. The Lord doubtless permitted it, in order to spare his virtuous father, whose earthly career was so near to an end, the merit of having subscribed in advance to the sacrifice of his only child. To such a confidence, he replied with a spirit of faith: "We will have to study this vocation, and if it really comes from the good God, I will not oppose it." Two months later, on May 11, 1871, the terrible epidemic of smallpox which devastated our city, delighted the head of the family with the affection of his family. Five days of illness had sufficed to consummate this great pain. The blow was so severe that Madame Leroyer almost succumbed to it.
Julia then left the Abbey for good to devote herself to her mother's happiness. And a life of fervent intimacy began for them both. Every day they attended mass together at six o'clock; then, in the evening, they returned in the same way to the old cathedral, there to pay their visit to the Blessed Sacrament. "The good Lord spoiled me a little," confessed our Carmelite; as soon as I was on my knees before the Tabernacle, lit only by the lamp of the sanctuary, I remained motionless, my eyes fixed on the little door which spoke to my heart in such a sweet way. These words: Jesus is my life, made all my prayer; they delighted me without my being able to add a single word.
Three years passed thus; the young girl was seventeen and Our Lord was attracting her more and more, in secret. His disgust for the world and his love of solitude grew together. Already was dawning that desire for constant union with his God which would be the dominant attraction of his long existence. She was surprised, stopped in the middle of her daily occupations, asking herself anxiously: “How to achieve this coveted union? Then a thought reassured her: "I will learn it at Carmel!" There, finally, I will realize my dearest dream. »
In the opinion of his Director, the time was coming to prepare his mother for the great sacrifice. This admirable Christian who, even before the birth of her child, had asked the Lord to reserve her for Himself alone, did not want to take anything from her offering, although the trial had forever bereaved her life, and the entry of our dear Sister was fixed for May 1 of the following year. But what suffering for these two loving hearts at the prospect of separation! One evening, the anguish was so terrible that Julia, no longer knowing how to console her mother, came to promise never to leave her. The faith of the latter then took a leap: “No, no, she protested, it won't be like this, you will respond to God's call. "And in fact, on the morning of May 1, 1875, our aspirant, aged eighteen, presented herself at the door of the monastery, accompanied by her mother and her good aunt, today so distressed to survive her." I had not placed my trust in Our Lord in vain, she testified, with emotion; mother made her sacrifice very courageously and everything passed off very calmly.”
The young postulant was overjoyed. I immediately found myself at ease, she liked to say, so much so that on my way to the Choir, I took the arm of the Mother Prioress without ceremony, repeating to her, during the whole journey: “Oh! How happy I am, how happy I am!” She was delighted with everything that first day, except her bed! which, she said, looked like a coffin to her, and to which, for this reason, she endeavored to turn her back as soon as she entered her cell.
Postulancy passed easily and joyfully. However, the new arrival had trouble getting used to the coarse food of Carmel, but she dared not say anything, for fear of being sent away. On Sundays, for example, dinner invariably consisted of a portion of cabbage, which her stomach could not tolerate and which she soon rejected, remaining until evening without taking anything. One of those famous Sundays, having met the nurse who brought an infusion of orange blossom to a patient, she began to think that this relief would do her great good, but, immediately, she made the sacrifice to Jesus. considering herself lucky to have this deprivation to offer her.
We liked to hear later our dear Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin, who had become a model of religious seriousness and recollection, confess that at that time, it happened too often to her to run and even to jump under the cloisters! She added: “I did not shine much, either, by my modesty, in those days; at the Choir, I always had my eyes raised. Also, during my retreat for Taking the Habit, one of our Sisters asked me mischievously how I would manage to keep my eyes lowered for three days. “I assure you, I replied, that I will not raise them once, and that nowhere”. " - We will see! Said this Sister to me, unconvinced.» What had been promised was, in fact, carried out to the letter, and so scrupulously that, on the eve of the Vestiture, the Mother Prioress showed the Community a statue, intended for the director of the too modest postulant who did not raise her eyes. , was obliged to say to her: “But, my Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin, just look! »
Dressed in the liveries of the Carmel, the novice entered more resolutely into the practice of the religious virtues; however, his inexperience would run into many pitfalls. “How many illusions were to fall! she told us in recent years. I had attached myself in an all too human way to the Mother Prioress - the Rde Mère Marie de. Gonzague - and, as a result, many ordeals came to toss my poor basket. Giving a lot, I received very little: I was trying to please, and no one took it into account; one granted to others preferences which excited my envy, from there, a thousand little jealousies and all this procession of weaknesses and sufferings which accompanies them.
However, with this sincere goodwill, which, for sometimes lacking clairvoyance, will never know a wavering, our dear Sister aimed, from that time, to “become a saint.” To this end, she applied herself courageously to combating his faults, among others, who, until the end of his life, would exercise his virtue and, as a result, let's face it, that of those around him... We mean a certain sharp stiffness in her words and her way of acting, which would have inspired, in those who approached her without penetrating her, a first movement of recoil. Already, our poor dear Sister was grieving, and one day opening up to a religious about the reprimands and humiliations that she was thus attracting to herself, she received this encouragement: “Don't be troubled! You speak very briefly, I can see that, but perhaps there is only an apparent imperfection there. However, as it causes suffering around you, put all your efforts to correct yourself. What she did, my Reverend Mother, we hasten to say, with an ever alert perseverance.
She thus took great care over herself to fulfill the rule in all its details, to keep silent, to avoid even a useless look. And, on this point, it is very consoling for us to recognize that the victory will be complete. Our dear Sister will become among us a living and sustained example of regularity, silence and the most exact fidelity to all our Carmel traditions.
It was on May 1, 1877 that she had the grace to make her Holy Vows. The date had been delayed by the Superior of the Monastery, Canon Delatroëtte, unfavorable as we will see for Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, to premature engagements. He would have even liked to wait for the majority of the novice, but had ended up giving in to her entreaties on condition that her mother would ratify this consent. This condition was fulfilled with all the more joy since Madame Leroyer was then thinking of seeking for herself the grace of religious life and would no doubt have joined her dear Julia in Carmel, if authorized advice had not imprinted on her piety. other guidelines. Until her death, in fact, she devoted the resources of her zeal to the beautiful Work of First Communions, with a cloakroom for poor children, which she organized in our city and supported there for a long time.
On this morning of May 1, 1877, the generous mother was fully united in the joy of her daughter, who tasted the cloudless peace of a complete holocaust and could, later, trace her dispositions thus: "I felt above all the things of the earth, my heart soared freely towards Jesus; on that day, nothing captivated me or could disturb me. »
This gentle break lasted for several days, but soon the thousand difficulties and little temptations of daily life resumed for the young professed. “I started again, alas! she lamented, attaching myself to the creature and seeking the joy where I should have practiced renunciation, and I suffered a great deal from it. happiness at the expense of peace! Finally, after many alternatives, grace triumphed. One morning, spontaneously, this prayer had escaped from his heart: “My God, make me suffer all you want, provided that I come to an intimate union with you. Do not listen to my complaints or my tears, but cut everything that can keep me away from you and, even if I ask you to stop, do not do it: it would be my nature that would speak, but not my will. And never, in the sequel, despite very sensible pains, did she contradict his heroic prayer.
Other sufferings, of a spiritual order these, tormented at the same time this completely interior soul, which would have had a tendency to easily take its thoughts for realities, a tendency also to believe that extraordinary states, either as consolation or as hardships, were to be commonplace in the life of a good Carmelite. It was thus that one evening, during her retreat from Profession, she had imagined having had an ecstasy during Matins, when, overcome by sleep, she had had to be recalled to the common attitude by her neighbor. who, discreetly, had pulled out his scapular. As soon as she came to herself, our candid retreatant made sure that her feet really touched the floor! “Because, she said to herself, if they pulled me like this, it was certainly because I was in ecstasy, as must often happen in Carmel”. And she will brighten up our recreations with this story later.
However, right now it was nothing less than ecstasy but a terrible inner ordeal, for thoughts of damnation haunted her day and night. The chaplain of that time, the revered Mr. Youf, led the souls in an energetic way and did not always excel in comforting them. You know, my Reverend Mother, her response to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who spoke to her, on her deathbed, of her temptations against the faith: "Do not stop at these thoughts, it is very dangerous! » And the Saint sighed patiently, after the interview: « See how little I am consoled! Which, moreover, did not prevent the worthy priest from professing an enthusiastic and unreserved admiration for his angelic penitent.
Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin had not been consoled either, it must be admitted, the day when the austere confessor, unaware of her intimate anguish, and no doubt wishing to combat some possible illusions in her, after the sermon of his Prize of Voile, whom he considered too complimentary, had thrown these words at her on dismissal: "My poor child, all I can tell you is that you already have one foot in hell and that, if you continue, you will will soon add the second. » - « I no longer had any other resource, confided to us our dear Sister, than to take refuge in the arms of the Most Blessed Virgin; it was she alone who put an end to my alarms, and delivered me from this frightful obsession. »
We are now reaching the period when the religious life of our venerated Sister rubbed shoulders with that of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and you are no doubt wondering, my Reverend Mother, what were the relations between these two souls, variously privileged. If you had questioned our dear old lady, she would have answered you with conviction: “As soon as we met, my Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and I, we felt an irresistible attraction for each other. For her part, it is true, the first time she had glimpsed, in the parlor, our Saint, still a child, she had remained seized with admiration: “How pretty she is! she exclaimed, and what an angelic air! We read in this connection, in a passage of the Story of a Soul which has not been published, the effect produced by this exclamation on the soul of the little Saint, then nine years old:
“...It was on the day of this visit that I received compliments for the second time. Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin, having come to see me, never tired of saying that I was nice. I didn't count on coming to Carmel to receive praise, so after the parlor I kept repeating to God that it was for Him alone that I wanted to be a Carmelite. »
Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin often evoked for our young sisters, eager for the smallest details, the memory of this vision full of freshness and celestial innocence. She even made a point of mentioning at the Apostolic Process this “supernatural impression that radiated from the predestined child”.
In return, of what nature could be the attraction felt by Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus for this fervent companion of her religious life? A certain page of the History of a Soul would perhaps give us to understand it... if we imagined that at that time, divine grace had not yet penetrated with its sweet anointing some native tendencies, a little disadvantageous in this soul animated however with the best intentions and very often so deserving. She herself would later agree, very humbly, in these terms: “I worked seriously to correct myself of my faults; however, my efforts were not crowned with success; the most salient, the stiffness of my words and my manners, continued to be frequently reproached to me, to the point that I almost despaired of conquering myself, since my good will could not succeed in it... I was also very inclined to impatience: if I asked for a service, it had to be given to me immediately, I didn't know how to wait. And above all, I liked to fight my self-esteem: I remember that having made the vow of abandonment to the good pleasure of God, I did not want to speak about it to anyone, in order not to give others the thought of doing the same, to reserve for me some superiority in perfection. Oh! How I blush at this baseness, my narrowness of views, my selfishness then! »
To complete her touching confessions, our dear Sister, rendered today in the full light of God's truth, will certainly allow us to add that her very way of practicing virtue was not always exempt from a slight lack of appropriateness or discernment. Thus, having practiced a great deal in purity of intention, she had come, after certain circumstances in which she felt she had been misunderstood or judged unfavorably, to want to concentrate in herself all her sufferings which she desired "to be known to God." alone”, wrapping himself, for that, in a somewhat mysterious and solemn reserve, which sometimes harmed a frank and cordial fusion with his Mothers and Sisters. This is what always prevented her, we believe, from opening up to the simple and gentle, but so wise, direction of our venerable and holy Mother Geneviève de Sainte-Thérèse, her Novitiate Mistress, with whom she could never have privacy. As a further consequence of this slight lack of measure – completely unconscious moreover – in the search for perfection, its perfect regularity would have made it less accessible to the demands of charity. The lofty thoughts on which she nourished herself in her numerous readings, and which she appropriated in all good faith and simplicity, led her to believe herself "privileged among the privileged." And that was evident, inevitably, on occasion, from his words or his attitude.
All of this somewhat special ensemble could not escape Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who was very shrewd and intuitive, but she knew how to “delight the Divine Artist of souls by not stopping outside”. And from then on, “trying to penetrate as far as the intimate sanctuary that Jesus, in this one, had chosen for himself as his dwelling, she had, she assures us, admired its beauty”. Alluding to the graces of preservation, to the pampered isolation from which this virginal soul had benefited, she said amiably: “Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin, it is a lily in a pot! thus distinguishing it from other lilies, garden lilies or field lilies, as she knew some, or even lilies growing amid thorns, sometimes beaten by storms on the plains of this world... And she traced, on the vivid, at the same time, perhaps without thinking about it, the solitary character of this flower of choice, so apt to keep away from the contacts and disturbances of common life.
If we judge by the notes of our good old lady, it is pleasant for us to note that her holy little Sister had multiplied in her regard the most delicate testimonies of a supernatural and exquisite affection. Yielding to his entreaties, and solely to please him, she had tried, despite her ignorance of the rules of versification, her first poetry, on a subject that was dear to them both: "The divine dew or the virginal milk of Mary ". To please him too, she had asked her sister Céline, still in the world, for a first sketch of the Virgin-Mother, submitting it to her with joy as soon as it was finished.
For her again, in May 1897, our Saint wrote down one of her very last poetic compositions: "L'Abandon", giving her the original, without thinking of keeping the copy for herself. Finally, in the last weeks of her life, she welcomed the visits of Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin with the marks of such religious tenderness that the nurse and the sisters who witnessed them murmured more than once: “Is she happy to see her!”
It was in the intimacy of their conversations, on days of license, that our dear Sister had received from the lips of her holy companion, in April 1895, this confidence: "I will die soon, I am not telling you that it is in a few months, but in two or three years, I feel it by what is happening in my soul; yes, my exile is about to end. And as her interlocutor, all moved, spoke to her of the glory that awaited her in Heaven, she obtained this sublime response: “Ah! that's not what I want, I've always asked God to be a little nothing. When a gardener makes a beautiful bouquet, he needs moss to fill the gaps between the rich flowers that compose it, and give the whole a graceful shape. This is what I would like to be in Heaven, a little sprig of moss to show off the great saints who are the most beautiful flowers of God. Another time, during her illness, Sister Thérèse of Saint‑Augustin encouraged her thus: “You are suffering a lot, but you will be well rewarded for it! - No, not for the reward, continued the Saint with a smile, but only to please Him.
Our good Sister liked to recall another circumstance in which the humble Saint, opening the bottom of her heart to her, had deeply edified her. It was in September 1897. “One day, is recounted in her Deposition, as I entered the infirmary, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus seemed to me so radiant that I asked her why. She answered me with simplicity: “I have just tasted a real joy and I am going to entrust it to you. I had just received a visit from a Sister who said to me: - If you knew how little you are appreciated here!... Recently, I heard a Sister of the Community address this reflection to another: I don't know why we talk so much about my Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, she doesn't do anything remarkable, we don't see her practicing virtue, we can't even say that she is a good nun... Ah ! resumed the sick angelica, with an expression of unforgettable joy, to hear it said on my deathbed that I am not a good nun. What a grace! »
The Lord, who must have taken pleasure in this exchange of supernatural thoughts and affection, made use of our dear Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin to illumine with a celestial ray the dark interior night which then weighed on the soul of Saint-Augustin. .
On January 8, 1897, she had had this dream: “I found myself, she says, in a very dark apartment, closed by a heavy black door, under which pierced a ray of dazzling light. From the neighboring apartment, which I guessed was dazzlingly bright, a voice spoke: We want Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus! And then I had the impression that beside me, in an even darker part of the dark apartment, my dear little Sister was being prepared to respond to this call. What were they doing to him; I don't know, but I heard the same voice insist: “She must be very beautiful! » And thereupon I awoke, convinced that my Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was soon going to leave us for Heaven. “A few weeks later, in license, I told him the fact. Her countenance reflected a very lively emotion: “O my Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin, she said to me, it is the good Lord who has sent you this dream so that I may be encouraged by you! And she told me about her ordeal of soul that I was completely unaware of, This apartment so dark, this heavy black door, she continued, here is the image of the darkness in which I live. Yes... but this ray of light so close, escaping under the door, this mysterious call, what a consoling omen in my dark night!... And it is through you that the good Lord grants it to me ! She insisted on these words: by you... and tears filled her eyes. »
Until her death, our dear little Saint testified to the one who had thus consoled her, her gratitude and her affection, willingly returning with us, in intimacy, to this delicacy of the good God, who had told her so much about it. in the heart. In return, she was to envelop in a special atmosphere of grace the rest of the life of our Sister, who still had a long stage to go.
From 1898, Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin was placed in the sacristy. It is there that, until the end of her days, that is to say for more than thirty years, she spent herself silently with pious diligence, discretion and, little by little, an experience that made her so precious. There too she will assume, always in the most complete meditation, the preparations for unparalleled feasts in honor of her humble little companion of old, so marvelously glorified by the Holy Church: the Translation of her Relics, her Beatification, the Consecration of our Chapel and the splendor of the Canonization. There finally that, stimulated by her love of regularity and her desire to fully safeguard the silence and peace of our enclosure, she will have to face the new organizations required by the growing movement of the crowds that pour into Lisieux. Ah-! how especially she will enjoy, our dear Sacristine, ‑ counselor since 1902 ‑ the zeal with which the Director of the Pilgrimage will first of all protect our monastic observances against the possible invasion of external ceremonies, and, by rigorously followed instructions, will know combine the free and peaceful development of our religious life with the legitimate and touching expansion of the piety of pilgrims.
But in this year 1898 the concerns of the new sacristan were less extensive. She was delighted to bring to her job a complete knowledge of the work of church ornaments, to which she had devoted herself actively during the first years of her religious life, in order to come to the aid of the Community, of which this work was one of the principal resources. She brought to it, above all, a very lively piety towards the Holy Eucharist, and the desire to make ever more intense her union with the divine Spouse. “I wanted to see Him, Him alone, and forget everything else, she wrote then. One look at Him was enough to immerse me in an ocean of peace. »
She had been struck by the habitual recollection of the young Saint whose existence she had shared so closely, and was inspired by this memory, which corresponded to her personal attraction, consigning it to her notes, to put it in relief later. at the Beatification Process.
“Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, she wrote, lived in constant union with Our Lord. The thought of the divine presence never left her, she had admitted it to me simply, and the recollection of her soul could be read on her countenance. “His face, always calm, even in the midst of the greatest trials, showed no concern. She seemed to live without worrying about herself, putting herself completely in the care of divine Providence... Her demeanor, always so religious, but without anything fancy, had impressed me as soon as she entered our midst. And she added: "The beauties of her life of union, one suspected them by the ascendancy which, in spite of her youth, she exercised around her and also - it is always our Sister who assures us - by this charity so true that she showed on all occasions with a ravishing delicacy and which created a restful atmosphere of peace around her... We felt we were close to "an Angel." »
Another "Angel", Sister Elisabeth of the Trinity, of Dijon, was to, a few years later, encourage our fervent sacristan in the same way in her attractions of "life within", of amorous fusion with the divine Host of her heart: “I, too, she repeated under her inspiration, I want to be with Jesus, in Him and through Him, a praise of love and thanksgiving for the Holy Trinity. »
On the feast of Christmas in the year 1901, following the example of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, she pronounced with enthusiasm the Act of offering to Merciful Love. And from that day flowed the grace of that tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin which, more and more, was to invade her spiritual life, until it became its most characteristic note. But her celestial little Sister at the same time provided her with practical enlightenment on fraternal charity: “Since then, I loved my Sisters more tenderly, she acknowledged with us, and felt inclined to excuse their little imperfections more willingly. This indulgence, I must say, was not natural to me, for I was inclined, by character, to much more severity. But, little by little, I understood that Love can destroy in the twinkling of an eye what appears defective on the outside, that it works many wonders hidden in the secret of souls. So, I said to myself, how to accuse those whom the Lord wants to justify! »
Moreover, she became happy to render small services and she still told us: “While my Sister Geneviève was painting her admirable picture of the Holy Face, I was happy to relieve her as much as possible of her work in the sacristy. Not having his talent, I considered myself very privileged to be able to contribute in this way to making Our Lord loved, and I prayed with all my heart for the dissemination of this work which was to do so much good to souls.
And we owe it to the truth, my Reverend Mother, to recognize that our dear Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin always favored, with her prayers and her encouragement, the artistic works of the youngest sister of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus . The portraits of our Saint, drawn by her brush, seemed to her so well the expression of reality that she often expressed her admiration for them, and heaved sighs of suffering when she heard the authenticity of these documents questioned. She said to us: “Will we ever be able, my Mother, to render sufficiently the angelic air of our holy little Thérèse! His heavenly gaze! It is above all this that struck me, and that the best reproductions could not translate. In return, this Saint so much appreciated by our Sister gently encouraged her efforts in the way of charity towards her neighbour, gratifying her, for example, with a sweet perfume of violets, one day when, in a good hurry, she had overcome a first movement of refusal to then render, with a very good heart, a requested service. "I understood," she wrote, after this favour, in the notes she gladly took, either on her abundant reading, or on the graces received, "I understood that "my little Thérèse wanted to teach me in this way the value that the good God attaches to the virtue of charity. »
She still attributed to him the choice graces with which the death of her pious mother was surrounded. “My Little Queen, she told us, had promised to share with my mother the affection she had for me. And she kept her word, because mum assured me, on several occasions, that she always felt there by her side, like a second Guardian Angel. And our Sister continued: “On January 2, 1911, the anniversary of her birth, our Thérèse wanted to prepare me for the great sacrifice that was soon to await me. In the evening, at snack time, I found on our napkin a thorn so long and so sharp that I had never seen the like. All information taken, we could not know who had placed it there, but as I went up to our cell holding the mysterious object in my hand, I understood, suddenly, that it foreshadowed the death of my mother, and I I felt inclined to pray a lot for her, without suspecting, however, that I was so close to the painful event. The following February 27, after only two days of illness, the one I loved so much left this world, but in such consoling circumstances that, far from feeling the emptiness caused by the separation, I enjoyed her presence with inexpressible sweetness. . »
From this edifying death was to flow, for our virtuous Sister, a powerful grace of detachment and a clearer orientation of all her desires towards Heaven.
Already, the first attacks of a long stomach illness had forced her to withdraw partly from community life, first to the refectory, then soon to the Choir, owing to her weakness. She, who had edified us for so long by her every Friday snack of bread and water, was going to compel herself to a mortification of another kind by an extremely strict diet which was to be reduced little by little to a bowl of liquid, always the same, prepared in the same way, taken at strictly determined times, without bread, without the slightest variation, for almost twenty years!
Despite these exceptions, my Reverend Mother, Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin presented, in all her conduct, such exemplary rectitude that she was able to profitably keep her functions as Angel of postulants: her perfect fidelity, her precise knowledge of our slightest customs, her cult of silence and religious modesty, offered our young beginners a striking and accomplished model of all the external virtues that she had the mission of inculcating in them. They learned from the start, from his example, that "if two words can be enough, we must render to God this fidelity of not saying three", that we must "do what we say without informing something else", and, in recreation, if someone lingered in the conversation to the detriment of her work, she heard her worthy mentor, who had observed her for a moment over his glasses, complacently serve her the ancient adage: "My Sister, speaking and opening can one..."
In the fall of 1919, our valiant Sister, well tried by the first cold spells, had to go down to the infirmary. It is there, henceforth, in a progressive separation from all that is created and in an intimate union with Our Lord and his divine Mother, that the last ten years of his life will pass. She will retain a youthful look – and even a youthful face – as well as a quite remarkable activity, which will allow her until the end to assume her important duties as sacristan.
At that time, comparing the present with the past, from his heart forever fixed in divine love, this cry of gratitude sprang up: "How can I thank the good Lord for the countless graces with which he has showered me up to now? , even though unconscious and fickle, I barely suspected his tender love for me. Ah! I know that when a mother caresses her child who cannot yet understand her, she does not get sad; she foresees that he will grow up, that one day he will recognize her tenderness and will try to return the affection he has given her. May I now repay Him who loved me so much!"
Another time, going over in her mind the misunderstandings of her youth, the illusions that held her captive for a time, the anxieties that she went through before reaching that serene peace, that unique necessity that is now her share, she is tempted to sigh : “Oh! What a waste of time for the good Lord! » But slowly, in his soul, this light is made: « No, this time has not been wasted. Does the plowman think he is losing it by throwing into the furrow the seed which must disintegrate there and die there, seeing so many months pass by without reaping the fruit of his labor?...” Our Lord will henceforth harvest the bountiful harvest brought forth by his patient labor.
First of all, they are fruits of confidence that blossom at ease. She writes, during one of those retreats that she liked to spend in absolute solitude in her infirmary, without even communicating verbally with her Mother Prioress: “My confidence has grown to the point of complete abandonment... my faults or imperfections are no longer capable of troubling me.” And she comments on this passage from the Holy Gospel which encourages her: "Whoever says to this mountain, 'Get out of there and throw yourself into the sea, without wavering in his heart, but believing that everything he says will be done, it will be done in his favour. "I think that these words have been pronounced for all souls without exception, and I hasten to use them, convinced that if my faith and my confidence are strong enough to throw the mountain into the ocean of divine Mercy of my infidelities, she will find herself swallowed up in it forever... Besides, I must admit, she remarks, most often, out of condescension, Our Lord hides the sight of my misery from me. »
It is moreover a fruit of zeal which ripens day by day, in the little sanctuary where his soul lives; as in a "hothouse", exclusively exposed to the fertilizing rays of the Sun of Justice. “I have only one desire left,” she exclaimed, “to think of souls, to devote myself to them, henceforth leaving to Our Lord the care of my own sanctification. »
Sacerdotal souls excite his preferences: "It is in this direction, I feel it, that I must cast the net of my prayers." I ask Jesus, unceasingly, to reveal to the privileged souls of his priests, the secrets of the Little Way of trust and abandonment of our dear Saint, so that they may make known and loved the good God as he wants to be. » And she concludes : « How I love this ignored apostolate that nothing translates outside it is the fire hidden under the ashes which could, under the divine breath, set the universe on fire! »
She also put this power of prayer, effectively, at the service of her Sisters. “Like our little Thérèse, she confided to us, I see that the more my love for the good God increases, the more I love my Sisters; I no longer receive a grace without desiring it for them. I ask that our Carmel be a choir of Seraphim, that each of us play our part in it, quite exactly, for the glory of our Jesus. »
It is with these sentiments, my Reverend Mother, that our fervent former member would reach, on May 13, 1927, the feast of her Golden Wedding. She had prepared herself for it by a life of closer intimacy with the Most Blessed Virgin, leaving to her the care of her preparation, and that of coping with all the worries suggested to her, in advance, by the external apparatus of this ceremony.
Certainly, the day was very beautiful, enriched by the blessing of the Holy Father, presided over by our Vicars General representing SG Mgr Lemonnier, detained by illness, and enhanced by the presence of an imposing legion of priests, whom bonds of veneration or gratitude united to the heroine of the day or to her very pious family; but at the same time, how sweet it was to our souls! An effusion of abundant grace poured over our beloved jubilee who looked fragile, but was still so young, and as if haloed, that day, with a celestial radiance; and, through her, this grace poured out, not only on her Sisters, but on the many relatives and friends who had come joyfully to surround her. We always had so much confidence in his prayers!
The preacher of the glorious days of Beatification and Canonization of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Father Martin, was there to evoke, in very moving terms, the invisible presence and the well-felt protection of our Saint in favor of the one whom we were celebrating.
The peaceful and smiling jubilee was particularly sensitive to the proofs of affection which the Community was happy to multiply for her, and to those which came to her, so delicate, from our dear Carmels. Long after, she still savored its sweetness, and could no longer reread without emotion the occasional couplets which, under the title Ce que j'ai vu, reminded her, with the intimate graces of her existence, of those incomparable solemnities, still so close, who had shone in his last years.
Renewed by the favors of the Jubilee, which she joyfully considered as a second baptism, she returned actively to her work in the sacristy. How I appreciate, she told us, the immense grace that Jesus gave me by choosing me for this office. The ever-increasing number of priests who celebrate Holy Mass in our chapel gives me the happiness of preparing so often and to such a large extent what is necessary for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice. What a joy to be able to contribute in this way, for my small part, to giving Our Lord His Eucharistic life! »
It was in union with Mary, her ever more beloved Mother, that she carried out this pious work, entrusting herself to her, moreover, in every encounter, with the abandonment of a child who no longer has concern, she explained, because she expects everything from her Mother, and cannot doubt her help”. And, visibly, her confidence was not deceived: her young companions in the sacristy noted this to themselves, believing it to be a small perpetual miracle that she could thus bear the responsibility for a job whose responsibilities were becoming more complicated, while her strength bodies were declining, that his eyes were weakening with age, and that it had never been in his character to plan and organize on broad overviews... The Blessed Virgin, discreetly, made up for this: everything was coordinated to the point, and was ready, finally, as it was appropriate, in the most embarrassing conjunctures. She herself was aware of this and said to us with touching humility: "I assure you, my Mother, I wonder how, with my incapacity, I can still be first in line, it is up to the Blessed Virgin how indebted I am! »
At the end of last year, the first symptoms of a dreadful illness which foreshadowed great suffering, came to alarm us, without succeeding, however, in worrying the one who was affected by it. On the contrary, this threat further accentuated his confidence, his abandonment to God, at the same time as vibrating his hope of soon seeing his earthly ties broken.
"I think in my turn, she would say to us quite happy, that here it is at last for me, this distant murmur which announces to me the arrival of the Bridegroom." She added: “I rejoice in this painful preparation for the eternal encounter. My only desire is to glorify the good God, to put no obstacle to the accomplishment of his plans for my soul. »
And, to one of our Sisters who was worried about the prospect of her illness: “I abandon myself to Jesus without fear, I know too well in whom I am confiding! I believe in his love... I expect everything from the help of my Heavenly Mother and my holy little Thérèse. I repeat, after her, that "the good Lord has no reason to be embarrassed with me." »
On October 14, 1928, her celestial Protector had again given her a token of her assistance. As we arrived at the infirmary with several branches of artificial narcissus to wish the feast of our dear Sister Councillor, her last feast here below, she exclaimed, quite delighted: “O my Mother, how good these narcissus smell! And as the nurse pointed out to him that the bouquet was artificial. " Well! she said, so it's my little Thérèse who wants to prove to me that she's there! She was there, of course, until the end, preparing for the eternal nuptials this soul who was dear to her, and fueling more and more her desire to go soon to join the Divine Object of her love. to see God, wrote our fervent Sister Everything that is most frightening about death disappears before the happiness that awaits me! I wholeheartedly accept the sufferings, the anxieties of the agony and of the last moment. I want to glorify God by this atonement which He imposes on us, and I rejoice to give it all to Him. in recent months, his countenance, hitherto marked by a somewhat austere contemplation. This change struck her two companions in the sacristy: “We feel that my Sister Thérèse of St Augustine is ripe for Heaven, they thought, we are not going to keep her for long! »
The winter had greatly weakened her; the fine weather, bringing her a slight revival of vitality, brought her back to her job. But on June 13, a liver attack seriously compromised his condition and brought him to a definitive end. Her weakness was extreme: “This time, I'm really going to Heaven, I can feel it, she confided to one of our Sisters who came to hear from her. And she made us ask for a little talk at once. So, with a charming simplicity and her punctual desire to do well down to the smallest detail, this exemplary patient said to us: "I would like, my Mother, that you now explain to me how I should behave in everything during my last days of illness... So how was our little Thérèse acting? Because, after all – and her gaze was fixed on us with a small flash of mischief – she is such an extraordinary Saint, from all that I see of her, that one might be tempted, it seems to me, to imitate without fear of ever making a mistake...”
On June 9, our Saint had already obtained for her a very precious grace which she recounted thus in private: "That morning, when I woke up, I said to myself with happiness: Today is the feast of the 'Merciful love. And now, all of a sudden, I measured thoroughly, like that. had never happened to me before, the full extent of my misery... I saw all my shortcomings, how disagreeable, tiring I was for my Sisters... but, far from being saddened by it, I I felt as if happy to have all this burden to throw into the brazier of merciful Love, that is to say, of this Love, made especially for our misery, I understood it then, and which even seems to have some need to activate its flames..."
It was not her habit to communicate in this way to her Sisters the unfavorable remarks she might make about herself, and the tone of truth, at the same time as of serene joy, which accompanied these words, gently impressed who listened to him.
For a month, my Reverend Mother, our dear patient continued to get up a little each day. In the morning, at the cost of great effort, she reached the Oratory to receive there, at the gate for the infirm, the Eucharistic bread for which she was holy. She then went back to bed, lending herself with the docility of a child to all the Nursing sister who, for ten years, surrounded her with her provident care, and thus uplifting our Sisters of the White Veil, who came back during the day to dress her and take her to the garden. Faithful to the end to her cult of silence, Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin had contented herself, at first, with thanking our dear Sisters with a sign, but, little by little, she added a gentle smile, and finally , during her last outing, calling her who would have served as her guide, she said to her tenderly: “In Heaven, I will give you back all the consolation you give me by our little daily walks. »
It was July 16; on her way home, she made a point of stopping at the infirmary of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, adjoining her own, and, kneeling before her altar, she fervently prayed to her: "O my little Thérèse, I reminds you of your promise: you assured me that you would come to assist me in my last days, and that you would make me a Victim of love. It is time, come, I beg you, my darling little Sister, get me to die, like you, consumed with love.” Our uplifting patient, my Reverend Mother, had only six days left to spend on earth.
The doctor who followed her with great devotion had declared to us, the day before, his fears of not being able to save her. Although the danger was not imminent, in her opinion, we had seen fit to speak to our dear Sister about the last Sacraments. And she had answered us with transport: “What a surprise the Blessed Virgin gives me, for her feast. It's too much happiness! » And his gaze had stopped with an expression of unspeakable gratitude on the statue of his Heavenly Mother who presided over his infirmary.
On July 18, our good and so pious chaplain, in whom she had absolute confidence and who already assisted her so effectively with his advice and the help of his ministry, came in the afternoon to administer the Extreme Unction and give him Holy Viaticum. The ceremony was marked by peace and serenity. Our venerated Sister was so happy, so well prepared for the great journey. She suffered little and said with gratitude: "How sweet the good Lord is for me!" With my illness I should have suffered so much, and instead I savor my happiness. And another time: "You should never be afraid of death, it's the good Lord who does everything!" See how simple it is for me!”
She welcomed each of our visits with manifestations of filial, almost childlike joy, stretching out her arms to us with the most touching affection and addressing us words like these which confounded us: "O my Mother, my little Mother, what sweets I tasted by you, here below! You have surrounded me with so much care, with such maternal kindness... and now it is you who are going to offer me to Jesus! Oh! That I have confidence in you! »
She, usually so undemonstrative, now responded to all those who approached her with truly heavenly smiles in which one felt a soul very close to God, forgetful of itself, anxious to please, to thank affectionately of the smallest services.
On Sunday, July 21, in the evening, her condition having become much worse, the Community gathered around her answered the Prayers for the dying recited by the Chaplain. The next morning, after a last absolution received in full lucidity, our beloved Sister lost consciousness little by little. Her speech had become slurred...and soon she didn't seem to hear us. This last day, my Reverend Mother, was really painful, and seemed to us like a supreme purification, capable of meriting, for our venerable dying, the immediate sight of her God, on leaving exile, as she had so hoped. .
Around seven o'clock in the evening, we were waiting for the last breath, but the agony lasted until half past eleven and it was then that, supported by the prayers of her Mothers and Sisters, this fervent soul, freed from all shackles , took his flight to the Fatherland. [July 22] The Matins of the Octave of Our Lady of Mount Carmel had just been recited. She was going to close, close to her divine Mother, so prayed to, so loved here below, the solemnities of this beautiful feast whose first Vespers had brought her the announcement of her deliverance.
The burial took place two days later, July 24. The first absolution was given by one of our diocesan Missionaries very well known to our dear deceased, the other two were reserved for the Director of the Pilgrimage and our Chaplain, both of whom gave such deep regret to this faithful nun whose discreet virtue and collected zeal they had so often appreciated in the sacristy.
The ecclesiastical retreat to Bayeux deprived many of the priests who venerated her of the consolation of attending her funeral. But many pilgrims joined in our mourning and that of his family, many even, with a feeling of gratitude for the one who had supported, for so many years, the manifestations of their piety. They made a point of accompanying to her last resting place this companion of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus who, in the secrecy of her monastery, had contemplated such great things and whom many were tempted to question, as the Holy Church does, on Easter morning, with regard to Saint Mary Magdalene: “Dic nobis, Maria, quid vidisti in via... Speak to us, faithful Mary, of the Angel you encountered on the path of your life.. . »
Please accept, my REVEREND AND VERY HONORED MOTHER, the expression of our fraternal respect, and add, if you will, to the votes already requested for our dear Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustin, three invocations to Our Lady of Mount- Carmel, to Our Mother Saint Thérèse, her patroness, and to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, she will be very grateful to you as well as to us, who have the grace to tell us, in Our Lord,
your humble sister and servant,
SISTER AGNES OF JESUS
From our Monastery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Conception
under the protection of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, of the Carmelites of Lisieux
September 8, 1929.