the Carmel

Are Thérèse's last words by Thérèse?

By Claude Langlois, historian

There was no recorder at the monastery in 1897... Neither a dictaphone function on any iPhone, nor a webcam with the possibility of a soundtrack hanging from the bars of the infirmary bed. Moreover, none of the sisters knew shorthand. The question therefore arises: to what extent are these last words from Thérèse?


It is necessary to be clear about the suspicions that weigh on Thérèse's last words. Their questioning closely followed the publication of the Last Interviews (1971). In 1973, in the second volume of her biography, Thérèse de Lisieux au carmel, Jean-François Six, evoking the sources at his disposal, wrote: "We must wonder about this immoderate appetite, in Mother Agnès, for retouching and transformations, on her way of introducing, in Thérèse's last words, a certain tone, rather megalomaniac, in which she no doubt expresses herself much more than she expresses Thérèse". In 1992, in the report of the edition of the complete works (NEC), for the newspaper Le Monde, he denounced more vigorously "words taken up, rearranged, crushed for more than twenty-five years by mother Agnès". As it was impossible, contrary to the writings, to return to the original texts, it was necessary, he concluded, to abandon a polluted documentation at its source.

I took over this file on my own (for a publication made in the year 2000: The last words of Thérèse of Lisieux) and I showed how, by her own admission, Mother Agnès – like other sisters in her wake – reworked Thérèse's words to make them into quasi-slogans which played an important role in her sister's popularity . I also indicated that the majority of the remarks collected had emerged unscathed from the rewriting. Even more, I wondered about the motivations of the pickers of words and their ways of doing things, about the subsequent use of these verbal relics that they had in some way fabricated, about the impossibility also of reaching ipsissima verba. Which did not mean that the words gathered, elicited, even forced, should be abandoned. On the contrary.

I resumed in the sequences which follow several of my initial demonstrations. After more than ten years of new research, I have also broadened the scope of my questions. Why, for example, these abundant words in a community dedicated to silence and in a writer who handles with consummate art the ways of saying I, but who only quotes himself in rare circumstances. I also looked more closely at the immediate progression of Thérèse's words, from the 1898 edition of the Story of a Soul to the depositions of the trials, especially that of the Ordinary. Because the knowledge of the words is inseparable from the use that one has made of them or that one wanted to make of them.

I make no secret of my position as a historian of Thérèse's texts. I recalled how, from the trial of Thérèse's writings, in 1910, to the publication of the autobiographical manuscripts of 1956, the writings of the nun were constantly distinguished from the testimonies of others, including the collections of words. A position that I take up. I see in the insertion of the Words in the complete works of Thérèse, a posthumous victory of Mother Agnès or, if you prefer, the desire to put writing and tradition on the same footing. For me, Thérèse is a writer - a spiritual writer - and her writings are signed, not her words. Not to mention that the term interviews is inappropriate for collections of words taken on the fly in conversations or provoked in a one-on-one. But finally there are words. Thérèse's tomb began to be built during her lifetime, in July 1897, when Mother Agnès buried Thérèse under the abundance of her words.

We will therefore find here a series of small texts written according to a certain order, but which can be read according to another, or according to the questions of each one to better approach the words of Thérèse.

1. Silence and words

One might be surprised that a Carmelite nun, compelled to conventual silence, spoke so much. Carmelite certainly, but not Chartreux!

Let us open the Constitutions: “We must very diligently avoid talking too much.” Wisdom. Chapter 10 evokes silence and retreat to the cells, without insistence. However, it is a serious crime, we read further on, that which would be “customary to break the silence. No joint work at the convent, it would be an opportunity to talk too much. The regulation (Cahier d'exaction) that Thérèse commented on for her novices makes silence the first observance to be appropriated. And to encourage this, he refers to the example of the Spanish foundresses: “It is reported [...] of Mother Isabella of the Angels that she even seemed to speak in silence”; we offer for meditation this statement of Anne of Saint-Barthélemy: silence “is the labor to which we are recommended above all to devote ourselves, and that to which the Rule obliges us more strictly. » Silence of the body so that the soul opens up to the essential.
More precisely, conventual silence has its places and times. Also its uses and its limits. Its places: the cloisters and the dormitories, but still, silence “in the two choirs, in the oratory, in the chapter, in the refectory, in all the hermitages and in the gardens”. Its times, above all the great silence which largely overflows on both sides of the brief night's sleep. Its singularities too, like this “use of several signs, so that we use them instead of words” for brief exchanges. A language, like that of the deaf-mutes, but summary, used above all to identify people (for example, for the sub-prioress, pointing with the index finger to the left eye). It was easier, after all, to slip in small notes, written quickly in pencil.
Silence also has its limits. Common sense - working together requires brief exchanges - is combined with the concern to balance a life full of tension. During the two daily recreations, after the two midday and evening meals, it is therefore necessary to talk – one can also laugh, sometimes sing – for mental hygiene and for cordial exchange. And this desire to create salutary ruptures extends even to holidays when we can even talk in the cells. Thérèse, it is true, took advantage of this to write, especially in the last years of her life. Let's add the permissions, always to ask the prioress. An anecdote related by Thérèse: Agnès of Jesus working with her in the refectory had permission to speak to her, but she, who had asked nothing, felt bound not to answer. Novice stiffness!
Thérèse, in the Carmel, had more precisely several opportunities to speak freely. Firstly because of the close ties maintained with his family outside the cloister. Pauline, as soon as she entered the Carmel, had permission to receive her family in the parlor every week, except during Lent and Advent. This weekly exchange continued when Thérèse entered the Carmel. She herself spoke in this way, for more than six years, with Céline before she joined her.
And then the novitiate. Thérèse decided to stay there after her five years of rule: she gave advice, as the first of the novitiate, to anyone who asked her; she soon saw herself entrusted to the nuns who were entering, to initiate them into good manners. Having become mistress of de facto novices, she instructed day after day, reprimanded, received confidences, consoled, exhorted. Read his latest manuscript! Without forgetting the pious recreations, which she organized from the end of 1893, always with the novices. To perfect them, it was necessary to distribute the roles, prepare the costumes, do brief rehearsals.
Finally, illness. The patient has full permission to converse with those who watch over her, Thérèse, with her sisters. Charity, above all, to soothe suffering and ward off the anguish of death.
On silence, this rare word, on August 6, where she follows in the footsteps of Spanish mothers. “What good it does to the soul, what breaches of charity it prevents and so many pains of all kinds. I speak above all of silence, because it is at this point [of the rule] that we miss the most. »

2. Opening and closing words

“The baby is an unparalleled elf. She comes to caress me wishing me death “Oh! How I wish you were dead, my poor little mother!” They scold her. She said: 'It is nevertheless so that you can go to Heaven, since you say that you have to die to go there'” (Zélie, December 5, 1875).
“You don't know how good Our Mother is for us, especially for our little Thérèse. This dear little one said to her this Morning with her little gracious and smiling air: “My Mother, it is in your arms that I want to die...not on the pillow, but on your heart” (Marie du Sacré-Coeur , July 14, 1897).
Words from a child or words from a dying woman, these are the words of Thérèse that we hear with the same tenderness, whether she is three years old or twenty-four. The same attention given to the first years of life, to the last weeks before death. And if, for Thérèse, the seconds weigh so much, it should however be remembered that the mold in which the imprint of these words is deposited, light here, heavy there, is in principle identical, the correspondence.
This similarity is due, first of all, to a social practice in which as much attention is paid to those entering life as to those leaving it, this quasi-symmetry being made possible by the longer presence of the child in the bosom of the family, at the beginning of its life, and by a death which occurs earlier in life. But this proximity of the beginning and the end is also due to the demographic and medical context of the Martin family. The first steps of the child were taken in the shadow of death – Zélie lost four other young children – and the last weeks of the dying woman can stretch out, in the case of tuberculosis, with painful slowness, but also brief remissions where the desire to live is evident.
These words are exchanged, moreover, within the family framework. Letters from Zélie to her daughters boarding at Le Mans, or, as here, to Pauline alone; daily letters from Marie of the Eucharist to her parents or more occasional letters from a sister of Thérèse, like here Marie du Sacré-Coeur. The exchange concerning Thérèse as a child is the consequence of the separation between Zélie and her elders, in boarding school in Le Mans. The situation is more paradoxical in the Carmel where there are then four Martin sisters and a Guérin daughter. Marie de Gonzague, who knows how much the Carmel owes to Uncle Guérin, her benefactor, made a point of placing, for her last days, Thérèse in the hands of her siblings, mainly Mother Agnès, Sister Geneviève and Marie of the Eucharist. The latter was responsible for keeping the uncle, absent from Lisieux, informed daily of the health of his dear niece.
But the family system got carried away because of the special ties that united Thérèse to Pauline/Agnès of Jesus. Abstain of Pauline, long in boarding school, far from Thérèse as a child, who remained close to her mother. To fill this void, later, Mother Agnès, then a young prioress, asked Thérèse to tell her about her young life, which she did not know. Thus will be born the autobiography (Manuscript A). The situation is comparable, at the end of May 1897. Daily life in the Carmel does not prevent a great purchase to settle down, the last months of Thérèse's life, between the two sisters. Mother Agnès learns, at the end of May, that Thérèse is going to die of tuberculosis, that the disease declared itself more than a year ago and that the patient had not told her sister anything about it. Thérèse had confided in her prioress and she had silenced the evil in the community. Likewise, she knew nothing of Thérèse's most recent spiritual journey, her night of faith and her fraternity with Roulland.
           Hence her initiatives at the beginning of June, because Mother Agnès transformed her violent emotions into immediate action: she convinced Marie de Gonzague to put Thérèse back to writing and, on her own account, she convinced herself to collect all the words of Therese. Absolute urgency, total novelty. The quest for words arises from a possessiveness that does not delight in sickly rumination. To Marie de Gonzague, this testamentary writing, to her the last words, extorted if necessary, like a personal inheritance. As for understanding everything his sister says to him, he will not lack time, later, for rumination and explanation.

3. Words of Thérèse quoted by herself

Does Thérèse quote Thérèse? Does Thérèse give herself the floor easily? Yes, if we consider the omnipresence of je. No, if we stick to explicit statements. It is still necessary to understand the meaning of the rare times, where, in her three great manuscripts, she transgresses a rule that she has set herself.
There are several reasons for the rarity of self-citation. The first reason, the most obvious, is the welcome that Thérèse gives to the word received which comes from elsewhere. Word of God, of Jesus. Words of the psalms, of the Song, of theImitation Also. These words often repeated, feed it, inspire it, soothe it.
The second reason comes from this frontier of the ineffable – from that “which speech and even thought cannot succeed in rendering” (Ms A 14v,5) – which she says she often comes up against. It is the effective incapacity to grasp one's object by words. Let us also add the awareness of the ambivalence of the stolen words which here bruised her (Pauline talking with Marie about her departure for Carmel), but which there too can heal (the remark of her Father, on Christmas Eve).
In the autobiography (Manuscript A), Thérèse's words are concentrated in two important moments. First, at the beginning, her childhood words that she revisits in her mother's letters. We know the best known, “I choose everything”: a word to appropriate Léonie's toys that, by the virtue of writing, the nun makes emblematic and almost prophetic of her very life: “I choose everything. I don't want to be a half saint”, “I choose everything...whatever you want” (Ms A,10,16-10v°,6).
Second moment, the implementation of his vocation. Thérèse first examines, at Pentecost 1887, the interview with her father to whom she confides her desire for Carmel, she has however forgotten what the exchange was: "I would like to remember his words to write them (Ms A 50v,2-3). It was on the occasion of the two decisive meetings, with the bishop, then with the pope, that she noted, here a skirmish with Révérony concerning the seniority of her vocation, there her remarks in the presence of Léon XIII. Note however that, in the first case, she is not sure of having found "exactly the words" spoken and in the second, it is Révérony, again him, who, in two words, sums up to the pope what she couldn't say.
In the September poem (Manuscript B), from the outset she gives herself the floor, but under cover of a dream, where sleep removes all censorship (“I dared to pronounce these words...”). And his questions, addressed to overnight visitors, the foundresses of Carmel in France, which concern the date of his death and the divine satisfaction for his actions and his desires, do not mask a primordial question: the Good God "is Is he happy with me?”, trace of an anguish that crosses a lifetime.
In her latest manuscript, the reader has two opportunities to hear Thérèse's voice directly. The second is made up of exchanges with her novices, but she prefers to let them express themselves. The first comes from the episodes of her life in the Carmel which she presents as examples and which she narrates with relish. We hear the old sister complaining that she is escorting to the refectory ("Ah! my God, you are going too fast, I'm going to break myself!"), defending herself from the novice who disputes with her the privilege of handing over the keys to the sick prioress (“It was Sr. Thérèse of the Child Jesus who made a noise...”), wondering about the sister trapped by her smiles (“Would you like to tell me [...] what you attracts me so much?") or making fun of the one who asked for someone to accompany her ("Ah, I had thought that it was not you who were going to win a pearl for your crown"). Therese responds, but with a gesture, a gallop, a dodge, a silence.
And yet she speaks. Otherwise. First, because the form adopted is that of letters to his prioress, and over the days of June, his tone is freed, writing becomes a game, a challenge, a provocation. Burn, burn my letters! Because, too, her long farewells to her family are backed by those of Jesus on the eve of his death and she even dares, she explains to herself with her Savior, "to borrow the words that you addressed to the Heavenly Father the last night ".
Le je Theresian relies on rare words, all the more significant, and on many silences.

4. Last Interviews: a misleading title

Thérèse of Lisieux is not the philosopher Socrates who, before drinking hemlock, conversed with his disciples. So how did we come to give this misleading title to Thérèse's last words?
In the first edition (1898) of theStory of a soul, chapter twelve, which traces the end of Thérèse, contains five parts: “Testimonies of the novices – Last interviews – A flame of love – Calvary – Rising”. In the second edition (1899), the testimonies of the novices slip into an appendix, chapter XII, which relates the death of Thérèse, begins with the Last interviews. These are actually the last words of the nun, reported by her relatives. We see how very early on the identification between lyrics et interviews.
The prospect of the trial changes everything. In February 1909, Mother Agnès gave the vice-postulator, Bishop de Teil, five green notebooks containing a selection of Thérèse's words during her illness. She wants to make him aware of the pain of the last few months, when he found the way in which theStory of a soul depicted these final moments, presenting them as a "surrender in continual joy and peace". Bishop de Teil wanted to show that the future saint had “labored and suffered to achieve holiness. » This desire for realism sheds light on the title given to the collection by Mother Agnès: « Moral physiognomy of Sr Thérèse of the Child Jesus during her last illness according to her verbatim words ».
Eighteen months later, while telling the court about Thérèse's last moments, the prioress gave the judges a collection of her sister's words to appear in the proceedings. Same title, with this explanation: these words were “collected by me (Sister Agnès of Jesus) from the mouth of the Servant of God and recorded in a notebook as you go along”. Pious inaccuracies, blown by Bishop de Teil, to make believe that Thérèse expressed herself directly through the words collected from the mouth of her sister.
In 1921-1924, when the trial was nearing its end, Mother Agnès edited, for herself, in a notebook bound in light brown verging on yellow, the most complete collection of Thérèse's words and gave her this neutral title: "Words collected during the last months of our Saint Little Thérèse".
In 1927, she gave the public the last words of Thérèse: Novissima verba. Last interviews of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, May-September 1897. This title was blown by Mr. Dubosq, promoter of the faith at the diocesan process. It is completed by a Latin quotation “Colligite fragmenta ne pereant” (Jn 6,12 Gather the pieces so that nothing is lost), which alludes to the loaves multiplied by Jesus and not eaten by the crowd. Thérèse's words, like precious fragments not to be lost! The Latin title of the collection was intended to echo Lamartine's famous poem, Novissima verba, whose subtitle - "My soul is sad unto death" - evoked the agony of Jesus:
Every soul has its secret that it wants to reveal,
His word to say to the world, to death, to life,
Before forever, extinguished, vanished,
She has disappeared, like a fire of the night,
Who leaves behind neither light nor sound!
The letter-preface of M. Duboscq, by evoking Elie, legendary founder of the Carmel, christianizes the dark romanticism of Lamartine: “As Elijah leaving the earth left the fullness of “his mind ” to his beloved disciple (2 Kings 2,9), so in these Novissima verba, your Blessed Little Sister condensed, quite naturally and without realizing it, what would be most exquisite in her way of being to God, spontaneously and out of love. »
When it was necessary, in 1971, for lack of republishing the Novissima verba, to make a critical edition of Thérèse's last words, we eliminated the Latin, and we took note of the plurality of sources - Agnès of Jesus, Geneviève and Marie of the Sacred Heart - by proposing this revised title: Last interviews [of Thérèse] with her sisters. The 1992 edition took up this ambiguous title, reserving the more accurate one of Last words at the synopsis of the four versions of the collection made by Mother Agnès.

5. Chronology of a century of history

The lyrics have a long history: here is the chronology.
- 1897, June-September: words of Thérèse collected by Mother Agnès, Sister Geneviève and Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart during the last months of her life.
- 1897, July-August: almost daily correspondence between Marie of the Eucharist and her parents who were absent from Lisieux on the progress of Thérèse's illness.
- 1897, September 30: death of Thérèse of the Child Jesus.
Story of a soul
- 1897, October: memories of the novices (Srs Geneviève and Marie de la Trinité) written down.
- 1898, October: Story of a soul. Words of Thérèse delivered to the public in chapter XII.
- 1899, June: HA, second edition. Thérèse's words of the last months remain in chapter XII. The others, from the novice mistress in activity, go to the Appendix (Gold flakes: tips and memories).
- 1904-5 (?): Mother Agnès puts Thérèse’s words in order, in a Little notebook of memories also called big black notebook, document subsequently destroyed.
- 1907, October: Mgr Lemonnier, new bishop of Bayeux, asks the Carmelites to write down their memories of Thérèse.
- 1909, February: Mother Agnès gives Bishop de Teil, vice-postulator of the cause, five Green notebooks gathering words of Thérèse. These Notebooks constitute the earliest surviving version of the lyrics.
- 1910, May: trial of Thérèse's writings. Thérèse's “words” do not appear there.
- 1910, September 2: testifying at the Trial, Mother Agnès recalls her sister's last moments and gives the court a copy of Thérèse's words, called Version of the Trial
- 1915: deposition of Mother Agnès at the apostolic process. There Version of the PO is again deposited at the PA.
- 1918: writing by Sr Geneviève of theSpirit of STherese of the Child Jesus. Its publication is suspended pending the outcome of the trial.
- 1921-1923: editing by Mother Agnès of Thérèse's words. This version, later called The yellow notebook, is the one that contains the largest number of Thérèse's words.
 Words of a blessed, then of a saint
- 1923: after the beatification of Thérèse, publication of theSpirit of Blessed Therese of the Child Jesus.
- 1924: Typed copy of the Yellow Notebook, executed at the request of Mother Agnès.
- 1925: canonization of Thérèse.
- 1927: publication of a new selection of Thérèse's words by Mother Agnès: Novissima verba. Last interviews of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, May-September 1897.
- 1928: second edition of Novissima verba, printed in more than 80 copies.
- 1952: Advice and memories of Sister Geneviève.
1956: Autobiographical manuscripts of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, volume I: Introduction. THE Words [...] known by testimonials are presented and clearly distinguished from Teresian texts.
- 1960: the 1928 edition of Novissima verba is exhausted.
scholarly edition
- 1964: decision of the court of the Rota (one of the three courts of the Church, essentially a court of appeal) which removes the obstacle of the prohibition placed by Mother Agnès on publishing the Yellow Book.
- 1969: Conrad DeMeester, Trust Dynamics. Questioning of the lyrics on the small way.
- 1971: Last interviews with her sisters: Mother Agnès of Jesus, Sister Geneviève, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart and various testimonies, two volumes. First volume of the critical edition of the complete works (texts and words) of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus.
- 1973: Jean-Francois Six, Therese of Lisieux in Carmel.
- 1992: Publication of the New Centenary Edition (NEC). The two volumes of the 1971 edition bear two different titles: Last interviews et Last words.
- 1997: Jean-Francois Six, Thérèse of Lisieux by herself. Trial and Grace.
- 1997: For Thérèse's doctorate, the 1992 edition serves as a reference.
- 2000: Claude Langlois, The last words of Thérèse of Lisieux.

6. A century of turbulent history

Thérèse's words strike us with their brilliance, fragments of soul. But they come to us from more than a century away and their ability to touch the reader should not make us forget that they are traces of a documentation whose elaboration was complex. This history of a century is part of a larger history, divided into four periods, if we put aside the months of the collection (June-September 1897).
The first takes place under the patronage of theStory of a soul. It is through this publication that Thérèse's words are presented, disseminated and highlighted. The words that circulate there are confined, in the initial edition of 1898, to chapter XII; in that of 1899, they are distributed differently, words of the last months, in this same chapter, words heard by the novices, in the appendix. These lyrics move from one edition to another. Some become slogans with prophetic connotations, such as the best known: “After my death, I will make a shower of roses fall”.
With the trial, the preparation of which began in 1909, the words became the object of a new challenge. First, by the use that each sister makes of it to feed her testimony, because Thérèse's word is a weighty argument in the quest for the virtues of the Carmelite nun. Then, by the very functioning of the trial. As the holding of the little trial of writings showed (1910), words have no place in Thérèse's texts. [This "trial of the writings" (1910) carried out an inventory of all the texts of Thérèse, producing a notarized copy. This copy is sometimes, if the original has disappeared, the only trace of a text. For example, see letter LT-241.]
Mother Agnès, stubborn, wants to introduce her sister's last words, like a block, into the procedure. It does so first, as privileged documentation, so that the vice-postulator can nourish his Articles, demonstration of a holy life for judges and witnesses; but above all, as a document to be inserted in the acts of the trial, by seeing further, so that the Roman lawyer has the possibility of drawing from it later with both hands.
The culmination of the process, with beatification (1923) and canonization (1925), opened up the possibility of new publications hitherto suspended. It is the time of biographies, that also of confidences and words delivered to the public. Sister Geneviève is the first to intervene, with her Mind (The Spirit of Thérèse of the Child Jesus according to her writings and the eyewitnesses of her life – edited from 1922 to 1946), who, after the beatification, made known the words of his sister. Mother Agnès responded, the day after her canonization, by publishing the Novissima verba. After the autobiographical life of theStory of a soul, here is the time of the ultimate illness, through lyrics with a strong hagiographic content.
The last period begins, in the 1960s, with the entry into scholarly publishing of Thérèse's works. The impeccable critical edition of the yellow notebook, in 1971, opened a paradoxical polemic. The contentious points relate to erudition, methodology, interpretation.
Scholarly: Thérèse's words, in their main version, are delivered in a late document, written more than twenty years after the facts reported. And the suspicion of rewriting - even of falsification - cannot be removed, for lack of recourse to some absent original.
Methodology too: placing the correspondence and the last words as two access routes to Thérèse's texts creates an ambiguity. The correspondence which restores a life, even in dotted lines, always makes possible a permanent dialogue with the texts of Thérèse; THE Last interviews can only be compared with the final letters of Thérèse's entourage, principally Mary of the Eucharist.
Finally, interpretation: we enter the domain of spirituality and theology, as shown by Thérèse's doctorate (1997) which is based on the 1992 edition, integrating the words into the complete works. Are texts and words on the same level, to apprehend an experience, to identify a message? Why - let's put it another way - having cleaned up the texts, and not the lyrics? But did we want it? One would be tempted to think that one wanted to endorse the existence of two sources of Teresian revelation, writing and tradition. In this perspective, Thérèse's words would have another meaning: to uphold Thérèse's reception, which would begin before her death and would have taken place through the privileged channel of Mother Agnès, the one who also brought her sister to the altars.

7. Family writing around a patient

Three sisters and a cousin at Thérèse's bedside (May-September 1897)

At the beginning of April 1897, Thérèse was seriously ill. In May, she no longer goes to the office, the prioress relieves her of all employment, including the care of the novices at the end of the month. However, it was not until July 8 that she was taken down to the infirmary where she died there, three months later. Three sisters, all from his family, approach him every day. The first two are responsible for watching over her. Sister Geneviève was only a nurse's aide, but the nurse in charge delegated her duties to her: “I slept in an adjoining cell and only left it for office hours and some care to be given to other patients”. After July 8, she moved to stay the night in a nearby cell. On June 5, Mother Agnès also moved to her sister's bedside. This is the consequence of the late revelation of her illness and the proposal, approved by Marie de Gonzague, to put Thérèse back to writing. The prioress first delegates to Mother Agnès the care of her sister during Matins. Then, from her transfer to the infirmary on July 8, Mother Agnès watched over Thérèse during office hours and recreation and even during the time available outside her participation in common work. The third, Marie of the Eucharist, daughter of the pharmacist Guérin, has full permission to visit her cousin every day, in July and August, to give daily information to her parents who are absent from Lisieux.
While Thérèse is starting to write again, at the beginning of June, Mother Agnès, for her part, takes the initiative of noting down her sister's words, in pencil, on loose sheets, and takes advantage of the first days when her sister is busy with her manuscript to also record the words she had to him in April and May. She explained this at the trial: “During the last months of her life, I noted, day by day, as I witnessed them, the particularities of her days, and especially the words she said. » Submitting the collection of these words to the court, she presents them as follows: « verbatim words collected by me [...] from the mouth of the Servant of God and recorded as they go along in a notebook, which seemed to her to be a fatigue and paralyzed her outpourings but that she let me do it with simplicity, fearing to cause me pain. » Sister Geneviève certifies at the same trial the importance and accuracy of her sister's notations: « She was writing at the same time what Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus said to those who approached her bed; she wrote it verbatim, as the dear little invalid said it”.
Marie du Sacré-Coeur, who sees her sister at recess, records a few words heard from her transfer to the infirmary on July 8. Sister Geneviève is the last to get started. She was encouraged to do so, on July 18, by a letter from her sister Léonie, living with Uncle Guérin: "If you could put everything she said in writing, how consoling it would be for me to have all this" . Indeed, from July 21, she notes, day by day, the words of her sister, especially for herself. And each goes until the end of September 30.
Mother Agnès, at first, was content to copy in the evening what she had heard during the day. From July 8, more present, she notes, as she said at the trial, word after word, throughout the day. She transforms her long moments of presence with her sister into a continuous interview, of which Thérèse is obviously aware (CJ 18.8.3).
As the trial prepares, Mother Agnès questions Bishop de Teil on how to make Thérèse's words known, in large and in detail. Opportunity for each interlocutor to define how he understands this set of words. Mother Agnès, June 10, 1910: “I had thought of writing the most beautiful words that Sr Thérèse, so to speak, dictated to me during her illness” - Indirect response from Bishop de Teil, June 17: the notebooks where you have collected his words "form as one journal of the last illness", a diary "written every day and almost at the same time". Words therefore, to say dictations, words that can be considered as newspaper. We have not finished wondering about this unusual gathering of noted and extorted remarks, relics and proofs all at once.

8. Why the Yellow Book?

Why did you replace the Novissima verba by the Yellow Book?

It was a decisive step forward in the knowledge of Thérèse's writings to move from the rewriting of the Story of a Soul to the publication of her three great texts, from the authentic manuscripts. Similarly, it will be said, to abandon the Novissima verba for the edition of the yellow notebook. The comparison is valid for the undeniable erudition that is delivered on the period and on the lyrics, but not by an identical return to a non-existent original, especially since the lyrics offered are in no way word for word but always the fruit of the subjectivity of the one who notes them. The chosen version won out because it contained the most lyrics.
Let us explain this paradox. We currently have four versions of Thérèse's words, all after her death. The first two (1909 and 1910) were prompted by the trial and given by Mother Agnès to Bishop de Teil, the vice-postulator, then to the court. The last, the Novissima verba, was published in 1927 to satisfy a public eager to know the last moments of the new saint. And the famous yellow notebook? It presents itself as a treasure that Mother Agnès wanted to keep for herself alone with the authentic versions of the three great manuscripts... even beyond her death, since she wanted to prohibit their publication.
The yellow notebook was written in 1921-1923. Late date, for a source who wants to be sure. It will be answered that it resumed, in a clean presentation, a Little notebook of memories, also called Big black notebook, which appeared in 1904-1905. And the latter had compiled, on that date, the words, collected day by day on loose sheets by Mother Agnès. But the Big Black Notebook has been destroyed and, from the initial loose sheets, only one left(we see it here front / back).
We can see the reasons for this choice: the yellow notebook is the available version of two old documents that have disappeared. But we have no way to verify its fidelity to the sources it uses. The real reason for this choice is that it represents a more complete version. The mass of his 714 words stands out against the two versions of the trial (306 and 275) and even that of the Novissima verba (362). These three versions sorted, the first alone took everything! The choice of the yellow notebook is accompanied by a happy synoptic presentation of the four versions (Last Words, in the NEC edition). Let's put this muddled story back on its feet. In 1904-1905, after the first successes of the Story of a Soul, Mother Agnès picked up the scattered papers on which she had noted her sister's words to put them in a clean notebook... and she destroyed the sheets useless flying... except one. On the occasion of the trial, twice, she selects Thérèse's most significant words from the said notebook. Less than twenty years later, in 1921-1923, the trial coming to an end, she copied the words of the first notebook into a "yellow notebook", indicating, when necessary, the explanatory context... and she destroyed the previous notebook. . As for the Novissima verba, we drew, to gather them, from the version of the trial, via the Summarium and the Spirit of Blessed Thérèse, but also from the new source of the yellow notebook.
This editorial choice calls for two remarks.
The first relates to the supposed anteriority of the yellow notebook. For the words that were not selected from the three other collections, this one does a good job of restoring the way in which Mother Agnès collected Thérèse's words: its quality as a source is undeniable. On the other hand, when it comes to strategic words, concerning for example the delegation made by Thérèse to her sister to publish her writings and the words in which Thérèse projects herself beyond her death, the yellow notebook records the complex ways of Mother Agnès to transcribe verbatim the words of her sister and her habit of adding explanations of her own.
The second concerns the sources used. Without ignoring successive versions of theStory of a soul, the editors of 1971 did not give them enough importance. It is there, however, that Thérèse's first words appear, it is also in this crucible that certain words, quickly put forward, become benchmarks from which the public identifies Thérèse, identifies with her. Like Thérèse's famous saying about the rain of roses, which we are going to study now.

9. I'll make it rain roses

Study of the development of a famous word:  « After my death, I will make a shower of roses fall”.
The whole of Thérèse's posthumous life is summed up in these words which, over the years, take on the figure of a prediction which is more proven every day: it speaks, through a suggestive image, of the activism after the death of the nun, visible by the multiplication of graces and healings obtained by invoking his name. Bishop de Teil wanted, in 1911, a representation of Thérèse which sums up the image we had of her. Sister Geneviève, the official painter of her sister, drew in 1912 a Thérèse “covering her crucifix with roses”. La Thérèse aux roses spreads from then on in beautiful engravings and through the channel ofStory of a soul. From 1923, the beatification authorizing public worship, the sculpture of Thérèse with roses by Father Marie-Bernard, is available for churches and individuals. 300 copies to date have been distributed worldwide. But how did the word that inspired these representations make its way?
In the first Story of a soul (1898), in chapter XII, the account of Thérèse's last moments is followed by testimonies of Carmelites, especially novices, who immediately after her death felt her beneficent presence. It is introduced as follows: “After my death, she had told us graciously, I will bring down a shower of roses ". It should be added that a chapter XIV, in a version not retained, brought together poems by Thérèse under the same title of rain of roses. In the same chapter XII, we find this capital notation: “Our children of the novitiate, accustomed by their young Mistress to throw every evening in front of the Calvary of the courtyard roses stripped from the garden, now brought their pickings to the infirmary; and it was a touching spectacle to see with what piety [Thérèse] still paid this gracious homage to her crucifix”. To understand the meaning of these gestures shared with his novices, it is necessary to refer to the published poems, such as The Leafless Rose, and to this confession made to Jesus, extract from manuscript B (Chapter XI of HA): "I have no other way to prove my love to you than to throw flowers", which means to offer any sacrifice, to make every action out of love. Roses, yes, but with thorns!
From there, further evolution is not linear. There rain of roses disappears from the editions of 1899 and 1900 with the fragile testimonies of the Carmelites on the manifestations of Thérèse the day after her death. In 1901, the word reappeared, coupled with a clearer formulation: "I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth", which had been inscribed on the wooden cross of his tomb in the cemetery. In 1907, under a new heading aptly titled rain of roses, L 'Story of a soul publishes a first collection of miracles attributed to Thérèse. This will be the case in all subsequent editions. From 1910, each year, under this same title, the Carmel published, until 1914, works consisting of increasingly abundant collections of miracles.
The two versions of the words of the trial deliver the date of this famous word (June 9, 1897) and indicate its origin. “Sr. Marie du Sacré-Coeur used to say to him, “We will be very sad when you die” – “Oh! no, you will see, it will be like a rain of roses”. This one, in her deposition, explains: "I read in the refectory a passage from the life of Saint Louis de Gonzague, where it is said that a patient, who sought his healing, saw a rain of roses falling on his bed. , as a symbol of the grace that was to be granted to him. “I too - she said to me afterwards during recess - after my death, I will make it rain roses”. The same collections report the other related word ("I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth"), specifying that it was pronounced later (July 17), in another context, and that it constitutes a separate segment of a more elaborate statement.
Paradoxically, apart from the testimony of Marie du Sacré-Coeur and the collection of words of Mother Agnès, Bishop de Teil, in his Articles, and the witnesses, in their depositions, shun the rain of roses, but take up the other formulation at will (about twenty references). It operates as a division between the two most famous words attributed to Thérèse: the most theologically correct is retained at the trial, the most colorful will soon be used for a graphic transcription which will have the success that we know.

10. Celine's words

The little music of Celine's lyrics

            It was the request of her sister Léonie, on July 18, which led Céline to record, from the 21st, Thérèse's words. But she does it differently than Mother Agnès. This one writes “all the beautiful words” of her sister, Sr. Geneviève reserves “those that are completely personal to me”. These dozens of words are no match for the seven hundred recorded by Mother Agnès. But Céline covers the most difficult months, August and again September.
           Céline also heard, on July 12, a "I'll be back" which she interprets by this other word "I'll pick you up as soon as possible and I'll get Dad on board, you know he was always in a hurry" ; again, from July: “I'll come and get you” with this gloss: “My little Jesus, if you take me, you will also have to take Mademoiselle Lili. It is my condition [...]. No middle ground, take it or leave it. August 20: "I'll pick you up because you don't have eyes to live for when you're cute." The 24th: “I will come to you and cry to you” To fetch you, to look for you. September 11: "I love my bobone very much [...] when I'm gone I'll come and get her to thank her for taking care of me so well".
          Céline does not realize that it is Thérèse who, with her soothing words, calms her sister's anguish, thus watching over her nurse. Thérèse tells him at length – again in August – stories (allegories or dreams) that soothe him. It is true that Céline knows how to listen: thus this confidence of August 16, after a night of anguish: "The demon is around me, I do not see it, but I feel it... it torments me, it holds me as with an iron fist [...], he increases my pains so that I despair...And I cannot pray..." The possibility of confession, slowly, transforms the pain into loving sharing: " I am suffering for you and the demon does not want it”.
           Heard words, encrypted language. Céline enters a secret garden where the two sisters, lifelong companions, to taunt death, draw on their common childhood memories. And first of all the names given yesterday to Céline, Bobonne, Mlle Lili. "Bobonne, no worries of mind" (3. 09) - "It's the measure of Lili, but not of Jesus" (5.09). Introducing a lyric from August 24, Celine notes, “We were talking together a kind of childish language that the others couldn’t grasp.” Unintelligible jargon, according to Sr Saint-Stanislas. On September 11, Thérèse gave the key to it: “My bobonne, you are no longer a bobonne, you are my nurse... and you are caring for a baby who is dying”. Impossible to return to maternal origins.
           A language of complicity, where the patois surfaces, where the intonation is taken as a sign of recognition, where one fears neither innocent puns nor stories of a sparrow's egg transformed, by gift from Heaven, into beautiful bird. Where Thérèse slips her messages: “Bobonne imperfect on earth, you will be perfect in Heaven” (August 4).
           To express the closeness of the two sisters, Thérèse diverted the gospel, when Jesus refused to the sons of Zebedee to be in his Kingdom on his right and on his left (Mt 20,20-23). It is, she says, to reserve this place for children. So, to Thérèse and Céline. A way for the patient to keep in touch with her sister. And Céline got caught up in the game. In the days following Thérèse's death, she wanted to know if she had achieved her goals, to know “to be on God's knees”. She has the assurance of it, three weeks after her death: she has an illumination on hearing the words of the psalm of Tierce " Haec facta est mihi » of which she will check the translation: « This was done to me ». The anecdote closes, in 1898, chapter 12 of the Story of a Soul. But, for the reader, Thérèse's words have been transformed: “everything I wished has come true; it is today that I can sing with more truth than before: “Your love [...] is an abyss whose depth I cannot fathom” (p. 253-254).

11. A Reading Key

Some keys to interpreting the words of Thérèse
Between the assertions of Mother Agnès and Sister Geneviève at the trial presenting Thérèse's words immediately written down as soon as they came out of her mouth and the subsequent accusations of falsification by continual rewriting, how to decide? By listening precisely to the explanations of one and the other.
           Sister Geneviève first. In the new version of Chapter XII of theStory of a soul of 1907, one could read: “A sister spoke to him of the bliss of heaven. She interrupted him saying: “That's not what attracts me... - What? - Oh, it's Love! to love, to be loved, and come back to earth to make love theLove. However, in a letter dated July 22, 1897, addressed to her aunt Guérin, Sr. Geneviève said that she was reading to her sister a work on the beatitude of Heaven. Therese interrupted him. What attracts me: it is love, to love, to be loved and to come back to earth.”
           So how did we introduce this addition “to make love love”? Sr Geneviève explains this late, in 1950. It is Sr Isabelle of the Sacred Heart (entered the Carmel in 1904), in charge of revising the edition of theStory of a soul in 1907, who delivered to the public this embellished word which was immediately taken up in the many publications of the Carmel. It was soon on everyone's lips and Sr. Geneviève could only endorse it in her testimony at the trial; it will appear in the Novissima verba and again in the Advice and memories of Sr Geneviève... from 1952.
           We have the autograph of the 1897 letter: the disputed formula was added by another hand, then scratched out. The transformed word was broadcast in 1907 and its success made it untouchable. Now, remarked in 1950, Sister Geneviève: in 1897, Thérèse was haunted by the desire to return to earth, as evidenced by this statement. At the trial, she adds, this is not the only word thus arranged that she was made to endorse.
           Mother Agnès wrote on April 4, 1915 to her sister Léonie, Sr Françoise-Thérèse, Visitandine in Caen. It evokes a word of Thérèse, pronounced shortly before her death: "If in heaven if I cannot do what I want, give joy to my little sisters by the good that I will do on earth, I will go cry in a little corner. What I underlined is verbatim, I wrote it down when she said it and the rest is entirely meaning”.
           First surprise, this enigmatic word appears neither in the two collections of the trial nor in the Novissima verba. Only in the yellow notebook, dated July 8, in a singular form: "If when I am in Heaven, I cannot come and play little 'games' for you on earth, I will go and cry in a little toin »
           From these two documents, an observation and two remarks. The observation is pleasing: the yellow notebook, for words that have not been made public, retains the original formulation: here a dialectal speech (games, ways of playing) and a hissing pronunciation (toin, corner). The remarks concern Mother Agnès' ways of doing things. what she calls textual doesn't mean anything verbatim, since the brief quotation accommodates three modifications that transform its meaning (notably joy instead of game). Above all, Mother Agnès quotes Thérèse by incorporating two interpretative elements (notably by the good that I will do on earth) intended to make the meaning of the word understood by its correspondent.
           She will make extensive use of these two joint ways of doing things, to explain Therese. Let us content ourselves with an example. On July 10, according to the yellow notebook, Thérèse warned Mother Agnès: “You are like a fearful little bird who has never lived among men, you are always afraid of being taken. I never feared anyone; I always went where I wanted...I would have rather slipped between their legs...".
           Version intended for Bishop de Teil (in italics, the explanatory additions): “ I have always noticed, my little Mother that you are like a fearful little bird that has never, it seems, lived among men. You are always afraid of being taken. I have never feared anyone. When it came to the slightest duty to perform, I went where I wanted... If the creatures got in my way, I didn't try to knock them down but... I slipped skilfully between their legs... you know what i mean by that... »

12. Lyric Picking Time

In the yellow notebook, the first words of Thérèse identified date from April 4, in the two collections of the trial, from May 15. Mother Agnès began to systematically write down her sister's remarks at the beginning of June. Despite everything, two thirds of the more than 700 words collected focus on July and August. Can we put some order in this short story of Thérèse's words while waiting for her death?
           The key moment, that of the crisis between Thérèse and Mother Agnès, is strictly dated, between May 30 and June 4, 1897: late revelation by Thérèse to her sister of her first hemoptysis a year earlier, violent reaction of Mother Agnès , jealousy, tears, reconciliation, action. Thérèse, ill and unemployed, is sent back by Marie de Gonzague to write, Mother Agnès intends to seize on her sister's words.
           With meager immediate results in June (8% of words for this month), because Thérèse is completely writing, because also Mother Agnès is only present, alone with her sister, during Matins. This is catching up by looking back over the last few weeks. Little to glean for April and for the first half of May. Death certainly, but as if in negative. Death "is not a ghost"; "it is not 'death' that will come to get me, but the good Lord" (1er may). Humor again, the sky as a terminus: "I cough [...] like the locomotive [...] when it arrives at the station" (May 7).
           From May 15, abundance of words, seriousness, desolation. Thérèse begins her reflection on the Beyond: "I have such a lofty idea of ​​Heaven...rather than being disappointed, I would rather keep an eternal hope" (May 15). She also observes the conventual reality: “I have been relieved of all employment”. She pleads, in vain: "please don't prevent me from saying my 'little' offices for the dead" (May 18). She comes back to this point, in another way: she has nothing against a mortuary circular concerning her, because “I always thought that I had to pay for the office of the dead that each of the sisters will say for me”.
           And if we look at the last month, yes again, from September 7, death announces itself by gnawing on his lungs, his word is rattling, except remission from the 21st to the 24th, except words of the end, the 30th September, embellished to conform to the hagiographic model.
           The time for abundant words is therefore concentrated over two months, from July 3 to September 5, a long crossing of sixty-five days. The young Carmelite no longer wrote poetry or great texts, except for her farewell letters (July 13-17) and the last exchanges with Bellière (last letter, August 10). The disease, on July 8, is formalized by his transfer to the infirmary where one records the ups and downs, the pain, tamed and always unbearable. And then, Mother Agnès is now all about her sister, except for community activities. That's when she takes out her paper and her pencil and writes down, step by step, her sister's dozen or so daily words.
           Time sharing certainly, since Marie du Sacré-Coeur joins the party on July 8, and Sr. Geneviève follows in her footsteps two weeks later. But very unequal sharing. Nearly nine words out of ten recorded, in these two months, come from Mother Agnès. These two months are therefore, for Thérèse and Mother Agnès, the limited time of dialogue, of outpouring, of remembrance, but also of questioning, of heavy questioning, of extorted remarks.
           And later, after Thérèse's death, it will be the time of the naked words that will have to be dressed like those wooden virgins of the old sanctuaries. Dress as much as explain, in the black notebook of 1904, and even more so in the yellow notebook, twenty years later. Because many of them have fallen into the insignificance that arises from the inevitable oblivion.
           Thus this word of August 22: “No, I must not speak? ...But...I thought...I love you so much!...I'm going to be cute...O my little Mother. “Immediate explanation, probably when putting the net on the black book: She wanted to talk to please me because she could barely breathe. I tell her to keep quiet. Twenty years later, Mother Agnès rereads, remembers, she relives the fleeting moment, emotion and pain: “ She looked at me during prayer, then at her image of Théophane Vénard, with her gaze so gentle and so profound. »  
           Keep yes, all of Thérèse's words, even if they become, over time, so many enigmas to be laboriously deciphered.

13. Last words or final interrogations?

“I'm being harassed with questions, it makes me think of Joan of Arc in front of her court! It seems to me that I answer with the same sincerity”. Word of July 20.
         Sister Cécile, Carmelite of Lisieux tackling the edition of Thérèse's words, notes in 1971 in the introduction to the Last interviews  : “Convinced of the impending death of her sister, [Mother Agnès] does not hesitate to question her at the right time and at the wrong time” and, with an insistence “almost embarrassing [...], to elicit reactions and answers”. (DE, 45). This lucid judgment is corroborated by a late confession of the prioress for life (1930) to her sister Visitandine in Caen, concerning words extorted in the days preceding her death. “We still wanted pull from her [emphasis] something, some new lyrics. »
           The case goes back a long way. It was Marie du Sacré-Coeur who, in January 1895, just after the success of the second Jeanne D'Arc ridden by Thérèse, launched the operation. Our youngest, she says in substance to her two sisters, begins to disseminate her poems here and there, in the Carmel. And we wouldn't take advantage of his talents? This is where the writing of the autobiography started. And in 1896, the same insists, by letter this time. Next year on the same date, you will no doubt be dead – it was in September, she was right! – leave me something of yourself, in writing, during your retirement. And she had the sumptuous September poem (Manuscript B).
           The one her sisters and Marie de Gonzague considered a child prodigy, the one whose loved ones kept, as relics, the little words, the cut hair, even the nail clippings, had only her words to offer, even if the donation was somewhat solicited. And Mother Agnès had the skill to put her sister to the question, wrapping her abrupt questions in her gentle manner.
           For what ? Remorse and anguish, calculation and provocation. Remorse at having missed out on her sister's spiritual development and shameless use of the remaining days for so many remedial sessions. Anguish, of course, of death. How else to understand provocations like that of July 9th. “You will no doubt die on July 16, feast of Our Lady. of Mount Carmel, or August 6, Feast of the Holy Face". Mother Agnès, too involved, would not have been recruited for support in palliative care! Especially since such remarks are calculated, even provocative. Thérèse saw herself dying gently, abducted by the Thief, the previous June 9, for the anniversary, two years earlier of the revelation of Mercy. A month after this missed death, his sister mocks him, you are still there! Here I offer you better dates! Evasion of Thérèse: “Eat dates as long as you want, I don't want to eat it anymore... I was too caught up in dates”. A story that began when she was ten years old...
           But, in the final analysis, isn't it the result that counts? Granted, but rereading these stolen words, in the warm, aren't we participating in some voyeurism, even spiritual? Unless you read these last words as a modernized version of the manuals of the good death. Which would bring us closer to the use that Mother Agnès made of Thérèse's words, intended for the judges of the Trial: see what heroicity in suffering...
           Mother Agnès played, in fact, on two tables: she asked the questions and, if the answers did not satisfy her, she rewrote them. Disturbing practice, when you take it hand in hand. But what reveals, as if by ear, attentive listening to these words, continuously, in a string - about ten a day on good (!) days - is that this work of forger is targeted, therefore quantitatively rare : hearing the daily lyrics most often rings true.
           Especially since Thérèse is not purely passive. She is no longer, as with her pen, totally mistress of the game, but she also knows herself on the last stage. His word is like a source with an intermittent gush, an outcrop of his nighttime ruminations, his fears, his prayers, his pain. We can even hear the "death cheating" that she dares when she sees herself after in of the, active, present to her loved ones or making them quickly reach her, she doesn't quite know it yet... Lucidity and delirium.
           Who controls and who manipulates? It's obviously not that simple.

14. Words Expected, Words Heard

Mother Agnès planned to have the court record her sister's words during the 1910 trial. Bishop de Teil dissuaded him in the name of a procedure where witnesses say what they have seen and heard. If everything was done in writing, what's the point here and now? Why not a trial "in fifty years and in a Carmel of China"? She understood the message, gave the judges her share of words in writing and sprinkled her depositions with the best of them, proof of her sister's virtues. So also did Sr Geneviève and Marie of the Sacred Heart.
           The other sisters did the same. Each had to say. Thérèse of Saint Augustine remembers, during a conversation concerning the threat of exile of the congregations, to have challenged Thérèse by a “What do you think about it? and noted his answer: “I will go to the end of the world [if necessary]; but I am a baby I abandon myself, I will go where the good Lord wills”. She also had, from Thérèse dying, a word in viaticum: it concerned her desire to be “a little nothing” expressed by the patient on an unprecedented floral register. Therese, dying, saw herself in Heaven as "a little sprig of moss among the beautiful flowers of God."
           It is above all her novices who recall that Thérèse's words, which cannot be confined to the last days, had nourished them and made them live every day since her death. So Sister Martha. Thérèse, in her last manuscript, had recounted the way in which she had snubbed her companion, when, being still novices, they had permission to speak together. Thérèse reproached him for loving Marie de Gonzague badly, with an affection messy, like a dog that clings to its master. At the trial, Sister Marthe resounded with Thérèse's admonitions. She even adds to it, painting an intrepid companion ready to sacrifice herself on the altar of truth. That Sister Marthe complained to the Prioress about her rough manners did not matter to her: “I would rather be frowned upon by her and have her send me out of the monastery if she wants to, rather than fail in my duty”.
           Thus, even more, Marie de la Trinité, bruised by having been excluded from Thérèse's last days. Referring to the "Counsels and Remembrances" of theStory of a soul, the essence, she explains to the judges, “comes from the notes that I myself wrote according to my memories and which I use today for my deposition. But the words reported by Marie de la Trinité have a particular tone, they are advice for firmness, wrapped in warm stories that often appeal to the imagination. To read again.
           Marie de la Trinité also presents words in a different tone which, in the course of the trial, marks a turning point. This is Thérèse's message, given as a “little way of spirituality”. Thérèse wanted to be sure that the novices would conform to it after her death: Marie de la Trinité braggart, even if the pope told me otherwise, I would follow her. Thérèse, with humor, retorts that, in any case, she would outrun the Pope. In Heaven “if I learn that I have misled you”, I will come to warn you. “Till then, believe me, my path is sure and follow it faithfully”.
           This insistence on the certainty of the new way prefigures the certification of the Theresian doctrine by two ultimate witnesses, contemporaries of the trial, who reported words addressed to them by Thérèse herself. The first, Mr. Grant, is a Scottish pastor, converted to Catholicism by Thérèse. In his deposition, he reports how his objections - on the cult of the saints (particularly of Mary) and on the real presence - were swept away by interior words attributed to Thérèse, which are always decisive. In the written account of his conversion, which Bishop de Teil includes in the articles on Thérèse's miracles, he reported what Thérèse had told him about how to love the saints: “Listen to me! Choose my little way, because it is safe and it is the only true one”.
           This is also what the Bishop of Nardo intended to put forward by testifying to an appearance of Thérèse at the Carmel of Gallipoli (1909), in southern Italy, based on incredible facts and somewhat solicited words. The bishop reports the central words of Thérèse: “ La mia via è sicura, e non mi sono sbagliata seguendola ". My path is sure, one is not mistaken in following it.

15. Writing and lyrics aside

Thérèse's writings are truthful – because they have essentially been verified on the originals – and therefore they can be worked on, commented on, analysed. His words are dubious, in the sense that they are the fruit of a co-production: that which speaks and that which transcribes. Whoever appropriates them hears a voice which he is never certain has not been dubbed.
Of this fundamental gap, I will take two concrete examples.
The words of June, first. What an infinite distance between the words of Thérèse to reveal the night of her faith, her didactic developments on charity, her inspired remarks on mercy and the rare words that Mother Agnès delivers, as if on the margins of an ultimate daily writing! So with his death, absent from his writing, but omnipresent in his words. Not that her last manuscript is not eminently testamentary, but Thérèse has the elegance of never mentioning the inevitable term. Let's look at this famous June 9th. Single date, written in her manuscript, because closing the account of the test of her faith, which she believed to be also the end of this brief notebook. We know, by a word of July 9, concerning these “dates” which we definitely cannot trust, that she had seen herself die – as raptured in God – on this second anniversary of the revelation of Mercy. As proof, a farewell letter to Bellière – when you receive this word, I will be dead – that Marie de Gonzague intercepts. It is only if we restore the overall context that the words of June 9 make sense. First, there is the first mention of the Thief who “will come and rob me very kindly”. Vain expectation of such a sweet death! She agrees on the 15th: “on the 9th [...], I saw the Thief, now I no longer see him at all [...], the hope of death is worn out. She herself, during this day of dupes, blows hot and cold. She punctuates her hoped-for departure with the promise of future fertility: “it will be like a shower of roses”; she also mocks this death that leaves her on the quay: “I am like a little child on the railway line waiting for his dad and his mom to put him on the train. Alas! they do not come, and the train leaves.”
Second example, from letters of July 1897 from Mary of the Eucharist. This time we can confront two listeners, two different modes of notation too, letters written daily, remarks preserved. These letters from Thérèse's cousin allow the Guérins to know the evolution of the patient from day to day. We hear Thérèse through the prism of a voluble and playful writing. A very different tone from the words that Mother Agnès began to record systematically. An example, July 9. After difficult days, which led to the transfer to the infirmary, an improvement appears. Eight words are reported by his sister, three by his cousin. Of the last three, two that Mother Agnès omitted: an ironic comment on the 2% survival rate for those afflicted with her disease; warm words for his aunt and uncle when his cousin told him she would write to them. Mother Agnès had rather noted Thérèse's bitterness about these vacationers who have "the wedding" at the Musse. In fact, the tone of the words recorded by Mother Agnès is serious, the formulations brief. To Sister Geneviève: “I will come back”; for his interlocutor: "I'm going to manage my little mother"; for herself: "I would like to leave". Mary of the Eucharist, she tells in detail how the chaplain, in front of her good looks, refuses to administer extreme unction to her. Thérèse's feigned fury: "to be polite, I sat down on our bed, I was nice, I courted him and he refused me what I asked of him" And to conclude: "Yes I I can see that I don't know my job, I don't know how to do it”. Mother Agnès noted only the fall: "I don't know le job ". This remains obscure, despite a brief explanation.
What to conclude? The lyrics nest in the margins of the text. But also, a collection of words is not a recording, it is a selection made through the prism of a subjectivity: two people do not translate the same words identically, because they do not hear it from the same way and do not give it the same meaning. We see this every day by commenting, as a couple, on a film we have just seen, an evening spent with friends.

16. Writing and lyrics converging

There is, however, a subject – and a precise moment – ​​where it is possible to relate Thérèse's words to her writings, when she wonders about what will become of her and her family after her death. In fact, the corpus of Thérèse's words on this subject was forged in the middle of July and, for a shorter time, between the 13th and 17th of the same month, she bade her farewells by letter to her relatives outside, to his family and his brothers. If there is convergence, it can only be then and on this serious subject.
What is striking in the words where Thérèse considers the aftermath of her death is the brevity of her formulations, the personal commitment, the assurance too. On July 6, she is still in a hypothetical future. again, the same day: "When I am in Heaven, I will speak the truth...". On the 7th, she gained confidence: “I will remember it...”. On the 8th, she continues her exploration of the future: “if, when I'm in heaven, I can't...” - “Oh! I will certainly cry when I see the good Lord” - “In Heaven, I will obtain many graces”. On the 9th, destined for Céline, this promise: “I will come back”. On the 13th, she replies to her sister who sees her up there in Heaven: “No, I will come down”. Go down ou come back, spatial or temporal reference, it is all one. Come back for what? Céline heard on the 12th: “I will pick you up as soon as possible”. And Thérèse wrote around the same date to Marie de la Trinité: “Farewell, poor little doll that I must take very quickly to heaven! I want to have it all. »
This return, she wrote to Bellière on July 13, would manifest itself as a presence at her side: "When my dear little brother leaves for Africa, [...] my soul will always be with him" and more firmly: “Soon little brother I will be near you”. In Roulland, on the 14th, she indicates the basis of her assurance: “I do not intend to remain inactive in Heaven, my desire is to still work for the Church and souls [...] Aren't angels continually occupied with us without ever ceasing to see [the] divine face [...]? Why wouldn't Jesus allow us to imitate them? »
At the same time, she admits her inability to "enjoy" Heaven. If we refer to the words collected by Pauline, the formula appears on July 13 “I don't make a party of enjoying myself”; it is noted again, identically on the 17th, and again on the 29th, otherwise: "I do not have the capacity to enjoy." However, it is reported on the 16th, in a letter from Mother Agnès to the Guérins: “it is impossible for me to make myself a party to enjoy”. Echoing the blare of the ball on July 14 (“beautiful music”) which reminds him of “the beautiful harmonies” of Heaven. These abrupt remarks are explained to Roulland, again on July 14: "the thought of eternal bliss barely thrills my heart, for a long time suffering has become my heaven here below and I really have trouble conceiving how I could acclimatize myself in a country where joy reigns without any mixture of sadness. Jesus will have to transform my soul and give it the capacity to enjoy, otherwise I will not be able to bear the eternal delights. »
What is problematic is not the consequence that Thérèse draws from it, but the veracity of the amplified formulas attributed to her. To Roulland, in the same letter she said clearly: "What attracts me to the Fatherland of Heaven is the call of the Lord, it is the hope of finally loving him as I have so longed for. and the thought that I will be able to make him loved by a multitude of souls who will bless him eternally. And Pauline, on July 16, transcribed her sister's words for the Guérins: "I can't think much about my happiness, I only think about the love I will receive and the one I will be able to give."