the Carmel

Return of Therese to Carmel

On March 26, 1923, Thérèse's mortal remains were transferred from the Lisieux cemetery to the Carmel monastery. Quite an adventure!

Non-cult: Before the Beatification, the veneration of the remains of a dead person in the odor of sanctity is prohibited. THE Non-cult lawsuit, held from August 30 to September 7, 1911, shows that Thérèse has not been officially venerated in Lisieux since her death.

January 1922: Mgr Lemonnier, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, asks the Mayor of Lisieux for permission to exhume Thérèse's remains so that they can be transported to the Carmel to be venerated there. Read his letter of January 31, 1922 here.

Refusal of the Mayor: He replies (undated - mention in a later letter) that the municipality prefers the status quo of the cemetery, more favorable to the City. 

March 1923: The Mayor of Lisieux has still not replied to Bishop Lemonnier, who writes to him again Monday March 5, 1923. He wants to make money with the exhumation of Thérèse and asks the Carmelites for the sum of 6 million francs.

Pierre Derrien, the sexton of the Carmel, travels through the town declaring that the Carmelites cannot pay such a sum, and that it is thought that Thérèse's body will be exhumed to be venerated in Alençon, her native town.

6 March: A meeting of all the merchants of Lisieux is organized to protest against the possible departure of Thérèse for Alençon.

Thursday, March 8, 1923: The Mayor finally responds favorably to the Carmelites.

Do you know the story of the reliquary? You can read here the work of Father Fernando José Guimarães on the Shrine of Brazil.

Route followed by the procession:

After going down the chemin du Champ Rémouleux, the procession passed in front of the Saint-Jacques church, then joined the cathedral via the Place Victor Hugo. The procession then joined theBenedictine abbey of Notre-Dame du Pré where Thérèse was educated, before reaching her destination: Carmel.

Below are photos of the procession:

contemporary narrative

Report published by M. l'Abbé Bernard, parish priest of Port-en-Bessin, in the Religious Week from Bayeux and Lisieux.

March 26th, 1923

Through the City

LISIEUX had never before known animation similar to that which reigned within its walls, on the morning of March 26, Holy Monday 1923.

Since the day before, the trains have been unceasingly pouring onto the station platform passengers from the most varied directions: pilgrims from Paris, Lorraine, Switzerland, Brittany, Anjou, Belgium and even New World, they spread in peaceful invasion through the flagged city.

There, on all sides, the decorations come to an end. The little Norman town is truly picturesque, with its gabled roofs framed by garlands of roses, its flags and banners waving in the breeze, and its banners bearing inscriptions which, here and there, sway across the avenues.

The looks are happy. One feels enveloped in an atmosphere of faith and piety, and, in front of the gracefully flowered facades, one would believe to attend the awakening of a supernatural spring.

But, for whom these party preparations? What sovereign should we soon acclaim here, what illustrious leader are all these foreigners coming to escort?

Ask the crowd hurrying up the road, towards the sleeping cemetery, over there, on the hillside...

Ah! the pole of this inexplicable attraction, the mysterious magnet towards which all hearts and all eyes converge today, is the humble tomb which, up there, nestles under its white finery, in a modest enclosure. A simple cross dominates it, bearing this name:Therese of the Child Jesus and below, the promise: I want to spend my Heaven doing good on earth. »

That's all. But the virgin - a child - who rests in the shelter of these slabs, has conquered a prestigious empire over the world. A little flower, once blooming in the shade of the altar, then soon withered by death, it has, with its mystical perfume, embalmed the universe. The Church was moved. She has studied the secret of her life, without being able to count her miracles, and tonight she must come to claim her treasure from the earth to enshrine it forever on her altars.

This is why, during these last days, the crowds were more continuous near this tomb, why, yesterday, the pilgrims thronged around it with redoubled fervor, anxious to carry away some debris of flowers, earth, or some other memory, of these places which so many blessings have consecrated.

Of all ranks, of all ages, workers, women of the world, simple housewives, they had followed one another there, on the bare earth, absorbed in supplicating invocations. Then, before leaving, many had kissed this ground, which, for a few more moments, kept "their dear little Sister Thérèse".

In the evening, when it was time to close the doors, there was no longer any ornamentation left on the site. The hundreds of wreaths and various ex-votos had disappeared: everything had fallen prey to popular devotion. But today, since the first hour, the cemetery is closed to the public. Gendarmes guard the entrance, they allow passage only to cardholders.

The chapel of Carmel is also consigned; then the pious crowd, encouraged by a smiling sun, spreads through the city of Sister Thérèse; she goes to Les Buissonnets, the "graceful nest of her childhood", to the churches she once frequented, to the Benedictine Abbey which saw her make her first Communion. But she lingers especially in front of the gate of the Carmel to contemplate, in the entrance courtyard, to the left of the facade, the white marble statue - so expressive in its monastic simplicity - which represents the Carmelite saint covering her crucifix with roses. (This statue is the work of a monk from the Grande-Trappe de Mortagne, Father Marie-Bernard) : the flowers are staged there around the stone plinth, as if for an assault of love and trust. Finally, large groups throng the path to the cemetery; the embankments which border it are soon invaded, they settle down in the surrounding fields with seats and provisions, determined to wait for long hours, and often in prayer, for the passage of the procession.

At the cemetery

Up there, on the tomb: the gravediggers are at work since dawn to clear the vault, with a view to the exhumation.

While they were digging, during the morning, a small invalid's car was brought in. She is a twelve-year-old girl, stricken with Pott's disease, whom her parents, at the cost of a thousand fatigues, transported from Angers on purpose, for this unique day, in order to implore her cure. She enters the enclosure, carried in the arms of her godmother. For a moment, the workers interrupted their work. Then, with the faith of simple hearts which obtains miracles, this woman approaches the pit; she lays her dear burden there, which only thirty centimeters of earth still separate from the coffin. And she prays with touching fervor... After a few minutes, the poor little body, completely folded in on itself, relaxes, and the child, who for many months had not been able to walk, starts all over again. near the beneficent Carmelite, her first steps. However, the work resumed.

“Around 11 a.m., the slabs appear, but orders are given not to remove any of them before the arrival of the clergy and the magistrates. However, the workers loosen the five large stones. A chisel blow digs a crack. A gravedigger straightens up, he asks, "Does any of you wear perfumes on him?" » And, on the negative response of the entourage, he continues his work. Soon, the sweet smell rises stronger, the workers, police officers, gendarmes, notice it; the intermittent scents are undeniable, it is a very characteristic smell of fresh roses. Dr. Lesigne, mayor of Lisieux, arrives, who wishes to control the progress of work.

– “Mr. Mayor, don’t you smell the smell of roses? »

At this moment, a more penetrating perfume exhales from the tomb. The magistrate could not deny the evidence, which so many witnesses attest to.

– “It's true, he replies, we have certainly placed flowers in the vault. (Story by Mr. Roger Yves in La Croix de la Manche).

Yes, a flower had been placed in the vault, but not as the municipal representative intended; it was Thérèse, the fragrant rose, who delivered to the earth some perfumes of paradise.

The mysterious phenomenon continues for nearly three-quarters of an hour, then, this evening, during the procession, it will be repeated in favor of several privileged people.

Around noon, the clergy began to enter the cemetery: they alone, for the moment, were admitted there with the civil authorities and the delegates of the press, the latter personifying the most diverse shades of opinion, for it is indeed one of the characteristics of the holiness of Sister Thérèse to be sympathetic to all parties.

At XNUMX:XNUMX, Mgr Lemonnier, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, arrives, wearing the pastoral stole of gold cloth and the large purple cappa, followed by the representative of the Holy See, the Rev. Father Rodrigue de Saint François de Paule, Discalced Carmelite, Postulator of the Cause; of Rev. Father Constantin of the Immaculate Conception, Provincial of the Carmelites of France, and Rev. Father Fajella, Postulator General of the Causes of the Society of Jesus. Monsignor takes a seat on an armchair, at the edge of the pit, from where he can follow the latest clearing work.

At his side are MM. the Vicars General, Labutte, Dean of the Chapter and Archdeacon of Bayeux; Quirié, Archdeacon of Lisieux and Vice-President of the Tribunal constituted in 1910 for the Informative Trial of the Cause; Théophile Duboscq, Superior of the Major Seminary and Promoter of the Faith, charged as such with ensuring the exact observance of the canonical rules; Brière, Chancellor of the Bishopric. The latter is seated at a small table, for the drafting of the minutes of the acts which are to be accomplished.

Standing, near Monseigneur, we also see the representative of the civil authority, Mr. Louis Lebihan, Police Commissioner of the city of Lisieux, assisted by an agent. A little further back are a few favored ones: the Carmelite Sisters, for example, M. le Chanoine Trèche, Director of Diocesan Works, who had a preponderant part in the organization of the day; M. Anquetil Deputy for Seine-Inférieure, etc...

The Ecclesiastical Tribunal enters into session: the formalities required by the Apostolic Constitutions are about to be fulfilled. The Church has the scruple of truth, and there is hardly any human institution which can rival Her in matters of guarantees. After the reading of the minutes of the last exhumation of August 9 and 10, 1917, we hear the depositions of the witnesses.

Mr. Pierre Derrien, Sacristan of the Carmel, who takes care in this capacity of the maintenance of the tombs of the Community, and Mr. Duhamel, Guardian of the Cemetery, in which he has worked for many years, acknowledge by oath the identity of the tomb of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. The gravediggers and the marble worker give the same testimony; they undertake, moreover, to faithfully carry out the orders which will be given to them. All of them then write their signature on the act of these declarations, which is immediately drawn up.

We can then proceed to the opening of the vault.

But beforehand, Monsignor rises and, in a deep and solemn voice, fulminates the major excommunication, especially reserved for the Sovereign Pontiff, against whoever would remove or add anything to the Remains of the Venerable Servant of God which must be exhumed. The five stone slabs are then easily removed, leaving uncovered, under a layer of coal dust, the thick iron beams which, blocked in full cement, form an impregnable fortress above the fragile deposit.

While work is being done to extricate them, the gates of the cemetery have been released, and the pilgrims, in large numbers, are bursting into all the parts of the ground which the dams of wire allow them to occupy. It is a forest of heads which now emerges above the enclosure. Everyone rushes to miss nothing of the decisive moment which will see the appearance of the coffin.

Ropes are slipped into the bottom of the vault, six gentlemen from the town seize them, then, with infinite precautions and respect, they bring to the surface of the ground the rosewood chest with silver handles which contains the venerated bones of the holy Carmelite.

The hour is impressive. The silence becomes more complete: gripped by intense emotion, everyone meditates and prays. On a copper plate stands the inscription:







The precious beer, very heavy due to its internal lead coating, is not damaged: the ribbons that surround it have hardly relaxed; the wax seals, affixed six years ago, are intact.

With very white cloths, we try to undo the dust that covers it. Immediately, hands reach out to claim the fabric used for the operation and offer, in exchange, other linens which in turn become priceless souvenirs, which we share with greed.

During this time, Monsignor gives the necessary instructions to his clergy. He invites him to go immediately, in the main aisle, in front of the tank, to occupy the places allocated to him. He then instructs her to chant in two choirs, at the start of the procession, the psalms of the Common of Virgins. The Transference, according to ecclesiastical laws, today does not include any song, canticle, or ringing of bells, because the Church has not yet officially authorized the cult of the next Blessed.

Finally, the coffin, now clean and shiny, still receives the legal imprints of the Commissioner of Police; then pious laymen, who insistently claimed this honor, raised it and carried it away. Preceded by Monsignor, envoys from Rome and high dignitaries of the Diocese, he thus left the modest corner of the land which served as his asylum for twenty-five years. He descends the brick steps of the small entrance, and climbs the cross alley to the roundabout where the chariot is stationed which is to take him to Carmel.

It would seem then that nature wanted to address to the virginal despoiled a brilliant and supreme farewell. A fiery sun sets the horizon ablaze, irradiating this admirable valley of the Orbiquet which encircles with so much charm the cemetery of Lisieux. All is light and softness in this spring decor and, on the glorified bones of the holy angelica, a few purer rays play in a halo. Finally, the chariot sets off, the little Queen moves away forever, accomplishing her last journey in splendor.

The chariot which is to bring her back through the city and to her place of rest is entirely draped in white. It's a hearse, but brand new, like the resurrection tomb. By the whiteness of its dome and its plumes, the rich embroidery of its hangings, the smile of the portraits of the amiable Carmelite, which appear in the usual place of the escutcheons, it offers the appearance of a triumphal chariot. It is pulled by four white horses, caparisoned in the same color and guided by piqueurs in colorful uniforms. The coffin is veiled with a magnificent cloth of gold, lined with red silk, which the sun likes to make sparkling.

Preceded by the clergy and immediately followed by the family, the chariot advances to the gate of the cemetery. This is where the procession is organized in its final form.

The procession

In the lead, behind the gendarmes and the agents responsible for ensuring free access to the route, walk the Swiss of the parish of Saint-Jacques with the cross-bearer and the acolytes. After them come the young boys of the Christian schools of the city, the members of the patronages, with bugles and flags, and the gymnastic societies of Lisieux. Then, the students of the various girls' boarding schools.

Nothing so graceful as the white apparition of the little orphans who follow them, in long Roman tunics with a golden nimbus in their hair, the boys holding palm leaves and the little girls lilies. “They resembled, says a witness, those children who, on the canvases of the masters, accompany the last journey of Saint Cecilia towards the Catacombs. »

Behind them, here are now the Congreganists of the Blessed Virgin with their banners, blue ribbons and white veils; the Female Catholic Youth, etc. Next, the altar boys, more than one hundred and twenty grouped in two rows on each side of the roadway, the little ones in cassocks and red camails, the older ones in long albs with sashes of woolen cloth. gold.

And finally, the clergy: nearly three hundred priests of the diocese, in choir habit, canons of Évreux and Séez, several parish priests from Paris, members of almost all the dioceses of France, belonging to the various degrees of the hierarchy ecclesiastical. The American continent itself figures there in the person of several of its priests. Following them are the religious, of all robes, of all families Franciscans, Dominicans, Fathers of the Assumption, Premonstratensians, Trappists, Jesuits, Discalced Carmelites, etc...

In the middle of the way stand out the prelates in mantelletta violet: Mgr Crépin, Superior of the Chaplains of Montmartre, Mgr Moïse Cagnac, Canon of the Metropolis of Bourges, surrounding SG Mgr Chauvin, Bishop of Évreux, who was also accompanied by his Chancellor and the Canon Archpriest of his Cathedral.

Behind, we recognize the Reverend Father Postulator, the Provincial of the Carmelites of France and his Secretary. Finally, presiding over the imposing procession, appears: between his two archdeacons and immediately before the chariot, Bishop Lemonnier draped in the majestic fullness of his great hood.

The tank, ah! the celestial vision! It is he, in his snowy whiteness, who attracts all eyes and all thoughts, he who makes all hearts beat with the most religious emotion. As he passed, silence settled, solemn and absorbing. The foreheads bend, the eyelids become wet, many knees bend and one prays with a restrained fervor which is all the more striking.

In this dense crowd, coming from the four cardinal points and from all rungs of the social ladder, the same supernatural breath enveloped all souls. Many graces are obtained, unforgettable impressions felt. “When, on the road to the cemetery, says a woman of the world – a Parisian – I saw my little Thérèse appear, I knelt down and begged her to grant me my husband's conversion. The dear saint answered me. I had the joy for Easter of taking him to the Holy Table, he who had not approached the Sacraments for more than thirty years. “The little Sister was there, in the middle of us”, attest some. "We prayed, we felt detached from the earth", admit the others. “It was a taste of Heaven...”, concludes a veteran.

In the midst of twelve nuns who, on each side of the chariot, serve as her assistants, Thérèse advances, to the joy of all. It is an episode of the Apocalypse, a scene from the procession of the victorious Lamb.

Framing the virginal troop, this other jewel of the historic crown of the Church, the Chivalry, is also in the spotlight. Alongside the nuns, and protecting them against the possible eddies of the crowd, march past in their warrior uniforms who have rushed to the borders of Lorraine to form a glorious hedge for the one who was their “sweet Protector of the battlefields”. Behind the chariot comes the family of the Blessed, with in the front row Mrs. La Néele, her first cousin. Following, throng the members of all the religious communities of the city, Little Sisters of the Poor, Hospitallers, Sisters of Providence, of Mercy, of Refuge, etc... Then, hammering a parade step, proudly strapped in their khaki uniform, here are American soldiers. Flag at the head – displayed by Captain Huffer, vice-commander of theAmerican legion of Paris – rifle on the shoulder, they are there in the name of their great country to testify to the “little Flower of Jesus” of the devotion which attaches to his memory, over there, in the New World. And yet, some of them are of Protestant religion...

We still recognize about twenty delegations of all kinds and from all origins, the Catholic railwaymen, for example, with their banners of a thousand colors, the students of the Saint-François de Sales College in Évreux, the members of the Souvenir Français, of the Catholic Association of French Youth. All these male phalanxes of young people and men recite, as they do in the front rows, the rosary, which the people pick up on the edges of the sidewalk. And, to finish, follows an innumerable crowd which presses in thick rows. The procession covers a length of more than two kilometers. It progresses to the sound of Ave, in deep contemplation, and it is a unique spectacle.

For this ceremony, almost improvised (because until the last days serious difficulties came to hinder it), organized in haste, in which resound neither music, nor songs, nor bells, nor anything that excites enthusiasm popular; for this ceremony where one hears only the murmur of the prayers, fifty thousand people came running. They are there, confused in the same piety, surrounding the remains of this child whom soon, at the signal of the Church, all voices will proclaim Blessed, but whom hearts alone can acclaim today. It is the triumph of faith. Renan had affirmed in his Studies in Religious History: “Holiness is a genre of poetry finished like so many others. There will still be saints canonized in Rome, but there will be no more canonized by the people. Could one dream of a more dazzling denial than today's demonstration? is here, with the faithful from all over the world, the very people of Lisieux, those who saw Thérèse grow and die.

Along the entire route, a considerable crowd is massed; the grassy embankments which border, outside the town, the path to the cemetery, disappear under clusters of worshippers; wherever a human being could cling, he did. There, on a remote slope, stands a local pilgrim. Following an operation, his right arm is completely stiff, he cannot use it.

So he came to find “the little saint” with the hope of being cured. Here is the tank. Towards her he throws his mute prayer, and the "little Queen" answers him... when he descends from the hill, he can once again move the aching limb, and the next day he is in a condition to resume his work. , abandoned for long weeks.

Still others will carry away, tonight, the secret of their healing. Such was the gravely wounded man who, fifteen months after successive operations, had become unable to walk, and who suddenly regained the use of his legs at Lisieux; this lady who had come from Paris with a serious stomach ailment, which no longer allowed her to absorb any food without suffering, and who returned recovered, able to feed herself normally. Such, finally, is this young blind girl whose eyes will reopen to the light in front of Carmel, at the very hour when the holy Relics will return.

However, the procession lengthens through the city. It passes in front of the church of Saint-Jacques, the parish of the future Blessed, whose steps disappear under an influx of spectators. By the Grande-Rue it reaches the place Thiers: here it is in the axis of the beautiful Gothic cathedral, that of Saint-Pierre, quite surprised by the unexpected spectacle which unfolds in front of its squares. These streets of Lisieux, where, dead, she attracts innumerable multitudes, little Thérèse Martin very often covered them in her childhood on foot with her father and her sisters. Many of those who follow her triumphal chariot today were able to meet her then, a graceful little girl, having "sky in her eyes", but losing herself, very gentle and unnoticed, in the number of walkers. And all those who passed her thus with peaceful indifference were far from supposing that one day, to this stranger, they would raise altars.

After a short downpour, which incidentally did not throw the party into disarray, the sky had become serene again. The streets of Bouteiller, Rempart, Gustave-David, lead the procession to the Abbey of the Benedictines, in the parish of Saint-Désir. Here is the door that Thérèse, less than forty years ago, walked through every morning in schoolgirl's uniform, the chapel which welcomed her at dawn on May 8, 1884, in its celestial whiteness of first communicant. Today, the old walls have been adorned with a youthful adornment to see her pass by, still all white, but in a setting of apotheosis. Over there, behind the gate of their large parlor, the Benedictine nuns smile at the glorious child who pauses for a moment in front of their monastery, while the eldest invoke in a low voice, in advance, a Blessed to whom they taught .

Finally, via Grande-Rue, rue Pont-Mortain, rue d'Alençon, place Fournet, you reach rue de Livarot. All the windows, decorated with flowers and decorated with flags, are studded with heads. In places, the national colors mingle very happily with those of the Holy See. Rue Pont-Mortain, over its entire length, has a marvelous effect: with its aerial garlands and banners, it looks like an immense and very shimmering portico.

At Carmel

At 4 o'clock, the head of the procession arrives in front of the Carmel. The dark and modest hearse which came out of it on the morning of October 4, 1897, led by the Superior of the Monastery and followed only by a few relatives and friends of the one who was called Thérèse of the Child Jesus, then had plenty of room to evolve comfortable. But today, it is a huge crowd that the security service must contain to allow the funeral chariot, which has become triumphant, to return to the entrance gate. To this gate, we cling eagerly, to see the glorious procession to the end.

The chapel, all resplendent with a thousand lights, is only open to the clergy. On the porch, six gentlemen from Lexovian society are waiting. With a powerful effort, while prayers and invocations are strung out with fervor, they remove the heavy coffin, and, preceded by Mgr Lemonnier, Mgr Chauvin and the prelates, they introduce it into the sanctuary. “Move te Sancta Dei... Enter now, Saint of God. Hasten to the abode prepared for you. The faithful people follow your steps with joy.” And you, "Christians, with one heart, these dear remains, acclaim them with your joyful hymns."

The brand new organ, which vibrates for the first time, greets the entry of the little saint with a triumphal march, soon followed by the hymn Jesu Corona Virginum, the first prelude, it seems, of the very next Beatification. . The Relics covered with a sheet of gold are placed on a plinth covered with white, at the very top of the nave, at the entrance to the choir. It was there that often, in the days of her childhood, Thérèse had come to kneel, casting a longing gaze towards the austere gate of the Carmelites...

Monsignor gives, in conclusion, his solemn blessing. He announces for the next day the Recognition of the Remains, strictly private; then calm descends on the little chapel, where the Blessed of tomorrow, surrounded by flowers, is going to pass her night like a vigil of arms near the Tabernacle.

Outside, the crowd flowed pensive... Just now, at the very moment when the body of the amiable Virgin had touched the threshold of the chapel, the sky, darkened by the storm, was marvelously clarified and everyone saw in it sweet omens for the future.

Then, from the evening, seven additional trains partially dispersed the pilgrims across France, but all hearts remained imbued with the imperishable memory of this day. In front of the Carmel, many lingered in prayer and, well into the night, one could still see shadows kneeling on the pavement, in front of the hermetically closed doors, to murmur fervent supplications at length.