L E T T E R S

 

Louis Martin, Thérèse's Father

Louis Martin, St. Thérèse's father, was regarded as a saint in his lifetime. The last seven years of his life were marked by a severe trial, for him and for his daughters who loved him dearly. In 1887 he suffered several strokes which led to mental paralysis. Confined at first to a mental hospital, he was then cared by his daughter Céline until his death on 29 July 1894.

On 26 March 1994 Pope John Paul II declared Louis Martin and Thérèse's mother, Zélie Martin, "Venerable", the first step toward canonization.

Three letters taken from General Correspondence Volume Two Translated by John Clarke, O.C.D. Copyright (c) 1988 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications, 2131 Lincoln Road, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 U.S.A.

From Mme. Guérin¹ to Thérèse.

16 November 1891

Dear little Thérèse,

I read and reread your nice letter, and I really do not know how to respond to so much thoughtfulness. I am very much moved when seeing all the affection you are showing me and of which your sisters and yourself have already given me so many proofs.

What have I done, then, that God has surrounded me with such loving hearts! I did nothing but answer the last look of a mother whom I loved very much, very much. I believed I understood that look which nothing will be able to make me forget.2 It is engraved within my heart. Since that day, I have tried to replace her whom God had taken away from you, but, alas! Nothing can replace a Mother!…

However, God has willed to bless my feeble efforts, and today He permits me to receive the affection of these young hearts. He willed that the mother who guided your early childhood be raised to a more sublime glory and enjoy heavenly delights. Ah! it is because, little Thérèse, your parents are among those we may call saints and who merit bringing forth saints.

When I consider this good father, venerable Patriarch we are pleased to call him, bent under the weight of his trial, dragging his cross painfully, and when I remember him as so kind, so happy among his children, taking his dear little queen by the arm, I say to myself: "There must be a beautiful heaven where all this will be rewarded. This good father has given three of his children to God, and there remains nothing in return..."

All these reflections came to me, dear little Thérèse, when reading your nice letter and receiving your beautiful hair so artistically and delicately arranged. I am very happy to possess this souvenir which is very precious to me, and you will thank your good Mother for me until I can do so myself.

I have not written your sisters, dear little Thérèse; you will be my messenger to them, telling them of all the pleasure their affectionate letters gave me, thanking them for their prayers for me and mine, which I beg them to continue.

Remember me to Reverend Mother Marie de Gonzague. I am very appreciative of the remembrance of the entire Carmel. Remember me to Mother Geneviève. In a word, little Thérèse, remember me to all the Sisters, telling them of my gratitude.

I kiss you with my whole heart and your two dear sisters as well.

Your very devoted aunt,

Céline Guérin

1. Céline Guérin was the wife of Isidore Guérin, brother of Thérèse's mother, Zélie. The Guérin helped raise the Martin daughters after the death of Zélie, and generally cared for Louis Martin during his illness.

2 She is speaking of the night before her Mother died, 27 August 1877.


From Céline to her Carmelite sisters

29 July 1894

Dear little sisters,

Papa is in heaven! . . . I received his last breath, I closed his eyes. . . . His handsome face took on immediately an expression of beatitude, of such profound calm! Tranquillity was painted on his features.. . . He expired softly at fifteen minutes after eight.

My poor heart was broken at the supreme moment; a flood of tears bathed his bed. But at heart I was joyful because of his happiness, after the terrible martyrdom he endured and which we shared with him. . . .

Last night, in a sleep filled with anguish, I suddenly awakened; I saw in the firmament a kind of luminous globe. . . And this globe went deeply into the immensity of heaven.

…………………….

Today, St. Martha, the saint of Bethany, the one who obtained the ressurrection of Lazarus. . . .

Today, the Gospel of the five wise virgins. . . . Today, Sunday, the Lord's day. . . .

And Papa will remain with us until August 2, feast of Our Lady of the Angels. . . . .

Your little Céline

P.S.: We shall arrive probably tomorrow. Yesterday Papa received Extreme Unction, Absolution, and the application of the Indulgences. Uncle told me he had never seen so peaceful a death.


From Mme. Guérin¹ to Thérèse.

28 July 1895

Dear little Thérèse,

I want to write you on this sorrowful anniversary. It is already a year since your good father finished this sad life of exile. Everything here speaks to us of him and the last moments he spent in our midst. But do you know how I always like to picture him: taking the arm of his little Benjamin. Undoubtedly, that time is far distant, but it was the moment of his happiness. His little Thérèse!… How proud he was to have her close to him, and did he not have the appearance of a holy Patriarch? That time is already far away and the child has really grown up, and the virtues instilled at so young an age in her heart have grown with her! How happy this good father must be now; if, as I hope, he is in heaven, the sight of his dear children must be a joy to him.

We just returned from High Mass, and M. le Curé announced the anniversary for M. Martin for tomorrow morning.

And here I am forced to be unable to assist at it; I have to remain at home for several days, and we must postpone our return to Lisieux. This is an inconvenience, but if you were with me, you would say: "Little Aunt, God is permitting it this way, do not be upset." Ah! dear little Thérèse, it is because I am far from having the perfection you imagine me to have. On the contrary, I see myself filled with faults, my self-love causes me much trouble in everything, it tortures me. You, you know so well how to pray to little Jesus, ask Him to cure me of this malady. I would need the gaiety of the Carmelite, and to attain it I do not know how to conduct myself. I count on you, little Thérèse, to obtain this grace for me. Tell me how to go about it, but not with just a look…. Ah! you want to call me a saint; you would do well not to dare, for I am a strange saint. I am turning to you, dear little Benjamin, so that you teach me how to become a saint! I would also like to see my little Marie walking in your footsteps. You will be her model! Poor child! How hard these last days are for her! And when she has entered, how will she be? Who will really tell me?… It seems to me the time will never come, and yet it is approaching in great strides. I beg God that she may be a holy religious like yourself, Thérèse. I fully realize that she will have much to suffer, for the little happy faces in the speakroom say nothing of the interior sorrows and sufferings within the cloister. But God will sustain her, I hope, just as He has sustained her dear cousins. I place all my confidence in Him.

Let us speak now about our dear Léonie. Well! really in conscience I do not find her too badly off. The first days she had her ups and downs. Very cheerful for two or three days, she then became very sad. We distracted her and we have done everything to stop her from daydreaming. Marie has entertained her, and she has had a tough one to deal with. Yesterday, Léonie pleased me: she wanted to try doing a crochet design for an altar cloth that she found in a magazine. She has not yet succeeded, which does not surprise me, because it is very difficult and I would not have done better than she, but she has put a lot of time into it, and at least her mind is occupied during this time, and she is not up in the clouds. She is not bored at La Musse any longer, and she seems to be content to remain here a few more days. In a word, the news I have to give you about Léonie is good; tell this to Pauline and my other two dear daughters. If you only knew, Thérèse, what a storm we had on Friday at six in the evening. We were at dinner. Lightning flashes followed each other without interruption, when one flash brighter than all the others lighted up the room, and the clap of thunder resounded almost at the same time. Jeanne was frightened and held on to her father and Marie. Struck by the commotion, I jumped up and cried out: Ah! this time it is the end!" Then I sat down again and said very calmly: "But do not be frightened, we saw the flash, there is no longer any danger." The picture was so funny (if I add here that Léonie, who was not afraid and, dying with hunger, was not missing a bite) that your uncle began to laugh heartily. Then everything came out: my words, my tone of voice, my actions were all reproduced in all kinds of ways. I must add to this that Maria, who died from fright in her kitchen, threw herself in panic on the first person she met, and this was Alexandre! You have now a painting of a storm scene at La Musse…. However, I must add that the lightning struck a tree at La Musse outside the wall of the park on the St. Sebastian side (Celine will understand) and Mother Simon, who was milking her cows at La Vieille Musse, felt the shock and was still upset by it yesterday. Her cows were dancing.

I leave you, dear little Thérèse, kissing you with all my whole heart. Tell little Céline that I am not forgetting her, that she is not to be sad if I have not written her. She was my companion last year, and I am not forgetting her. Hug her very, very tightly for her godmother. Thank good Marie of the Sacred Heart for her very affectionate letter, and tell little Pauline that I love her very much, very much. Kiss both of them for me and offer my respectful wishes to Mother Marie de Gonzague. Your very devoted aunt,

Céline Guérin

Jeanne and Léonie ask me to give their love. Uncle kisses all of you with his whole heart.

I am forgetting to tell you that it was at Navarre that we learned the lightning struck La Musse. M. Le Curé said to me: "It seems that lightning struck a poplar tree on your property." I answered: "No! M. le Curé." When we returned, we examined the trees, and discovered a poplar struck by lightning. We have to go far away to learn the news about home! It is not surprising then that Mother Simon had felt the shock, for she was not very far. And the poor cows that were dancing!… I should have given my pen to Marie to paint the whole picture for you, she would have painted from life and made you laugh.

1. Céline Guérin was the wife of Isidore Guérin, brother of Thérèse's mother, Zélie. The Guérin helped raise the Martin daughters after the death of Zélie, and generally cared for Louis Martin during his illness.