Fr. Dolan then went to visit Léonie at the Visitation monastery;
he also introduced the same question to
Léonie  about Pauline’s
holiness. He asked her: “Do you think Pauline is saintly?” (CWc)
Without any hesitation,
Léonie reinforced to him this perception
and went even further to say that she was a saint. “I do not
believe there is a  superior so esteemed.” (CWe)  Decades later
on December 3, 1943, Fr. Dolan would state in one of his books
after the death of
Marie: “St. Thérèse owes much of her sanctity,
to her holy parents as well as to her holy sisters
Marie and
Pauline. I would not be surprised if the Church in the future
would declare both of them saints.” (M)

Many of Pauline’s Carmelite sisters were very loyal to her
especially in her leadership role as prioress. With the  
overwhelming interest in the Carmelite
monastery, the job of prioress was extremely demanding.
Her sisters  witnessed firsthand the day-to-day difficulties Pauline
faced both inside and outside the monastery. She had a duel task
of fulfilling the needs of her Carmelite sisters within the monastery
as well as fulfilling the needs of the  numerous visitors that came
to the monastery. In order to accomplish such an enormous task
as being prioress, she always sought out God for guidance in every
task and practiced both humility and simplicity to fulfill each task.
Once, in a letter to her sister
Léonie, she had remarked: “I do not
know why my sisters love me so much. Since I  have been
prioress, I have never had to say the same thing twice.” (CWc)

Pauline’s little sister became
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus on
May 17, 1925. A beautiful ceremony took place in  Rome to
celebrate the newly canonized Saint. Earlier, Pope Pius XI
extended an invitation for
Marie, Pauline, Léonie, and Céline to
attend the ceremony in Rome. However, all of them declined the
invitation so that they could  continue their work in their
respective monasteries as cloistered nuns thus not interfering
with community life. But in the place of their absence, Pauline
arranged for two Tourière (lay) sisters from the Visitation
monastery to travel to Rome for the ceremony. Pauline made
every effort to notify
Léonie of all the news and events
surrounding
Thérèse’s canonization.

On January 15, 1927, as an added honor to bestow upon her
newly sainted sister
Thérèse, Pauline compiled and  published
the booklet titled: ‘Novissima Verba’ (Last Words). These
were a compilation of her last conversations that she had with
Thérèse. Their conversations were recorded in Pauline’s yellow
notebook from May to September 1897.

One of Pauline’s closest confidants, her sister
Marie, suffered
from a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. On  January 25,
1929 she was placed in the infirmary permanently. Her health
depleted even further and on March 8, 1937, Pauline requested
that the priest give her the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.
But this was not to be her last communion, in fact; she would
live just two years longer.

In December of 1939,
Marie’s lungs had filled with fluid. It was
a great indication that she was gravely ill. The doctors were
summoned at her bedside and their final verdict was that she
was not going to make it much longer. It was very hard on
Pauline because both of them had been through so much
together starting from their childhood while they were at the
Visitation boarding school and then as nuns at the Carmelite
monastery. Pauline and
Céline spent several hours a day at
her bedside while she suffered. They informed
Léonie of the
daily events occurring around their beloved sister.

Marie had managed to make it to the month of January.
Pauline had asked her if she wrote her a letter for her feast
day.
 Marie nodded and acknowledged to her that she did.
Pauline wanted to know from her which Bible verses she used
to give herself comfort when she suffered through so many
challenges in her life. On January 19, 1940 her last audible
words in front of her sisters were, “I love thee” as she kissed
her crucifix. As she was praying the rosary and gazed her
eyes on the statue of “Our Lady of the Smile”, she
breathed her last breath, the time had come for her soul to
ascend to Heaven.

After the community left the infirmary, her sisters prepared
her body for burial. As
Marie’s body lay still in the infirmary,
Pauline found the letter Marie had written to her. As Pauline
sat beside Marie in tears, she opened the letter and read it
out loud.
Marie explained in her letter to Pauline about what
she was going to do for all eternity and in closing what Pauline
meant to her with her beautiful words of endearment to her
longtime faithful companion.   

On January 23, 1940, a Mass was said in the Carmelite chapel
and witnessed by many worshippers including two lay sisters
that were sent by the Visitation monastery in Caen representing
Léonie on her behalf. Marie’s body was then brought down to
a vault located underneath the chapel where her body rests
today.

Four months after Pauline’s beloved sister
Marie died, France
was invaded by Nazi Germany. It was a fear cast down by
many Frenchmen and a fear that would soon be realized on
May 10, 1940. A German dictator by the name of Adolph Hitler
decided to invade France. The French army thought that the
Germans would attack them on the French and German border,
where they had a strong line of defense. However, the Germans decided to attack France through
Belgium instead. The French army made an enormous effort to stop the German army from
penetrating the front lines. However, they were no match to the German arsenal of weapons.
On June 22, 1940 the French and German governments signed an Armistice agreement that called
for two different zones. One zone occupied by the Germans and the other zone occupied by the
French. Unfortunately, Caen and Lisieux were both positioned in the German occupied zone.
The Germans setup outposts in most of the major cities in France, Caen and Lisieux being no
exception.

Léonie’s health started to noticeably decline. She was always plagued with illnesses throughout
her life.  However, it became more apparent to her as well as to her sisters that her current illness
was going to be the one that takes her soul to Heaven.
Léonie wrote to Pauline describing her
declining health and how upset she was that she was longer able to perform her duties in the
monastery. One of
Léonie’s duties that she valued to do the most was chanting in the choir.
Pauline replied to her in a letter: “Oh, do not permit yourself to grieve, my dear little
Léonie.
As long as your heart chants unceasingly the praises of the good God, all is well.” (GV)
Always remember the apparition that you saw of
Thérèse’s hand, it is the same hand now,
which is closing your ‘breviary’ “but it is only to open wider your great heart.” (GV)

On behalf of
Léonie’s 40th anniversary of her profession in June of 1940, Pauline arranged for
Léonie to receive a papal blessing from Pope Pius XII. Unfortunately, due to the occupation of
France, it took a year later before
Léonie was able to receive it on June 3, 1941. Not only did
Pauline send
Léonie a papal blessing on this day but also sent a reliquary to house Thérèse’s
profession cross. As a gift to the Visitation monastery Pauline agreed to allow them to hold
Thérèse’s cross in possession, after Léonie’s death. Years earlier when Pauline first sent
Thérèse’s profession cross to Léonie; she stipulated that after Léonie’s death that it would
be returned to the Carmel of Lisieux.  Pauline also notified
Léonie that she received permission
to have her body placed alongside her sister
Marie in a vault underneath the Chapel of the
Carmel after her death. But
Léonie refused this offer for fear that Pauline would end her
relationship with the Visitation monastery.

During the years of occupation by the Germans as well as prior to the invasion, Pauline had
helped the Visitation monastery on several occasions. It was very important to
Léonie that her
Visitandine sisters were taken care of even after her death especially during the time of war.
Pauline reiterated to
Léonie in her letter: “If you fly to Heaven, I will not fail to communicate
often with your Visitation; furthermore, I, myself, feel the need of such continued intimacy.” (GV)

It was not long after
Léonie’s birthday that Pauline was notified by the Mother Superior of the
Visitation monastery of her sister’s dire health. On June 12, 1941,
Léonie had a stroke and was
found lying on the floor unconscious by one of her sisters. A doctor was immediately summoned
to the monastery to check on her condition. Pauline sent two lay sisters from the Carmel that
afternoon to represent both her and
Céline. Both Pauline and Céline wrote beautiful messages to
their beloved sister as well as picked some flowers at the Carmel to give to her. Days later after
a very difficult struggle, on June 17th,
Léonie’s soul ascended to Heaven. Pauline had two lay
sisters from the Carmel represent them at their sister’s funeral on June 21, 1941.  Even though
everyone felt the presence of the Germans, many people from around the world still came to pay
their respects.

After four years of occupation of France by the Germans, the decision by the Allied Forces to
invade France was imminent. On June 6, 1944, the first course of action by the Allies was the
bombing missions prior to the troops landing on the beaches of Normandy. The barrage of bombs
came several hours later, in the middle of the night, upon Lisieux on June 7th destroying two of
the main churches as well as a couple other monasteries. The first bombing mission lasted for
over forty-five minutes and the majority of the bombs fell on the city center as well as the
railway station. The main objective of the Allies was to destroy the transportation routes of the
Germans but due to the heavy cloud cover over Lisieux the bombs rained down on the small
town indiscriminately.

Later that afternoon the second round of bombings commenced. This time the immediate area
around the Carmelite monastery was on fire and they too were now in danger of losing their lives.  
As Pauline and her Carmelite sisters heard the sounds of the explosions of the bombs, one of the
fathers, associated with the monastery, rushed to find Pauline and advised her to leave the
monastery immediately with her sisters and take refuge at the Basilica. Pauline agreed to his
request and was escorted with her sisters to the Basilica. The only thing Pauline and her sisters
were able to take with them, while they were being bombarded, was
Thérèse’s relics. They were
forced to leave behind all of the other possessions associated with
Thérèse and all of the work
they had accomplished for decades with the risk of losing it forever. About eighty-five bombs
landed in the Carmelite gardens, luckily not dropping on the main buildings of the monastery.
Their gardens were destroyed, leaving them with little food to eat in the coming days. A barrage
of fire had started to commence on the monastery as a result of the bombs. But luckily the fathers
were able to put it out saving the monastery and the chapel.

After two days of bombing raids on Lisieux ended, over seven hundred people died including the
majority of the nuns at the Benedictine monastery, which housed the relics of
Thérèse’s First
Holy Communion.  Despite the dangers that were lurking in their sites, all of the Carmelite sisters
made it to the Basilica unharmed.  Many of the townspeople had already gathered in the crypt of
the Basilica when they arrived. It was for Pauline as well as for
Céline a great culture shock.
They were forced back into the world once more, a world they had abandoned years ago.

Pauline and her Carmelite sisters went to the altar of the crypt and prayed in the chapel dedicated
to Our Lady of the Smile. There they set up a temporary place for them to continue their life of
prayer. Hours upon hours they would pray numerous prayers for their own safety and also for the
safety of all who were involved in the fighting for the liberation of France.

Days after the initial bombings, the German army made their retreat from the Normandy beaches
and set their sights on many small French towns as they retreated eastward. They made several
attempts to regroup their armies so that they could make an attempt to counterattack the Allies
invasion on June 8th. An order was sent to the German Panzer division to regroup in Lisieux but due
to the Allied bombings, the German army became disoriented. German General Speidel changed his
division’s direction from regrouping in Lisieux and turned around and headed to the town of Caen
instead. As the fighting went on, a number of the German soldiers, after being separated by the fighting,
retreated to Lisieux and took refuge in the upper half of the Basilica. The Germans made many
attempts during the fighting to use the townspeople as a buffer between them and the Allies. Pauline
and
Céline as well as their Carmelite sisters and many of townspeople were also used as a buffer from
the Allied forces while they were forced to stay in the crypt of the Basilica.  The Germans also gathered
up many of the townspeople and forced them to repair the roads and bridges that were destroyed by the
Allied bombs.

To get a glance at the town they once knew from childhood, Pauline and
Céline walked up the steps to
the top of dome of the Basilica. It was very heartbreaking for Pauline to see all of the destruction that lay
before them. As tears fell from her eyes, there were only memories left of the town she once knew for
most of it was destroyed.

When fighting had stopped temporarily, the Carmelite nuns grouped themselves into pairs of two, risking
their lives to try and find some food in Lisieux. Pauline and
Céline traveled throughout the ravaged town
several times trying to find anyone, which would be willing to share with them some food to eat as well
as for their sisters. As they went searching for food, they took the opportunity to go to Les Buissonnets
and see whether it survived the bombings, it of course did. When Pauline and
Céline reached the door
of the house that they once spent their childhood in, many of the fond memories that they had shared
resurfaced.

When there was another opportunity for them to venture out in Lisieux, they walked to the cemetery
where their family members were buried. Pauline and
Céline prayed before the graves of their father
and mother as well as their brothers and sisters. They also had the opportunity to see and pay their
respects to the Carmelite sisters they once knew while they were in the monastery. These were the first
and only times they were able to see what they thought they would never see again in their lifetime.

Due to the Germans having a stronghold in and around Caen, it delayed the liberation of Lisieux until
August 23rd. Once the British troops reached the outskirts of Lisieux, word had spread throughout the
town that the Allied forces were nearby. On the 21st of August, the British finally reached the outskirts
of Lisieux. In the distance, they could hear the bells of the Basilica ringing even though the German army
was still occupying the town. Soon, the German army retreated to a ridge overlooking the town, leaving
snipers behind. The Germans waited for the British troops to arrive before they started to commence
firing mortars on them and the townspeople. The rain delayed the British troops briefly but they soon
took control of the town.

When the British troops arrived at the Basilica, their first intentions were to blow it up. Because it was
thought that the Germans were still in the Basilica, however, they had already left. By a miracle alone,
the British commander ultimately changed his mind and spared the Basilica. After the British troops had
complete control of Lisieux on August 24th, it was time for Pauline,
Céline and the sisters to return to
the monastery. On August 27th, a procession carrying
Thérèse’s relics made its way from the Basilica
and back to the Carmelite monastery. It was a day filled with tears by both Pauline and
Céline, the worst
was finally over.

After they returned to the monastery, there was minor damage done to the monastery compound itself
as well as to the Basilica. It was time to repair the damage that was done. Life soon resumed as normal
or at least what could be thought of as normal. For years after, the Carmelite monastery and the town
of Lisieux were still mending its wounds from the devastation that the war had caused. Much had been
lost of the medieval houses that inhabited the town as well as the damage done to the famous Cathedral.  
Life was very hard for all.

As sisters, the relationship between Pauline and
Céline was very close. After the deaths of their beloved
other sisters
Marie and Léonie, the legacy of Thérèse’s life was left in their hands. They both continued
to work feverishly together on books and illustrations to continue the legacy of their beloved sainted sister.
Even after the war, they relied heavily on each other more and more. Pauline once remarked about her
sister
Céline, “I love my little Céline more than anything else on earth.” (c) Pauline and Céline made every
attempt to keep the legacy of their sainted sister as accurate as possible in their publications to the public.
Both of them were met with some resistance from people outside of the monastery for years. Some
authors even made attempts to alter their sainted sister’s ‘Little Way’ but Pauline and
Céline were there
to counteract their false interpretations.

When 1949 reached, Pauline contracted a lung infection. She was to realize that she was no longer the
physically strong woman she was once before. Already, 87 years old, she had to rely on others to help
her do medial tasks.
Céline, her sister, was always at her side aiding her in all of things that Pauline
needed. Pauline became totally dependent upon her sisters. But she surrendered all of her misgivings
and only looked upon God as her source of inspiration and peace. Pauline always echoed the words to
her sisters and those that came to visit her: “Love and Confidence”, now she was living her own words.

As the 1940’s ended and the 1950’s were ushered in, Pauline was reaching the final years of her life.
She battled many illnesses throughout her life but the common colds as well as the influenza outbreaks
were becoming more and more difficult for her to battle. But through it all, she still maintained her
humility as well as her abilities to reign as prioress.

Due to Pauline’s physical infirmaries as well as her illness, she was moved to the infirmary.  This time
would be the last time that she would see her cell, the room that was filled with so many memories of
her and all of her sisters. Our Lady of the Smile was placed in front of her bedside. It was very
disheartening for
Céline to watch her ‘little mother’ suffer so much. Céline wrote in a note describing
Pauline, “She is as sweet and serene as possible, totally abandoned to God.” (C) As
Céline witnessed
previously the physical sufferings of her other sisters
Thérèse and Marie, so now she was to witness
Pauline’s long ascent to Heaven.

Once the middle of July 1951 came, it became more apparent that Pauline only had days remaining
of her life here on earth. A priest gave her, her last confession as well as the Last Rites. She endured
harsh suffering especially when it came to her breathing. It was very difficult for her to breathe because
of the fluid that had built up in her lungs.

On July 28, 1951, just minutes leading up to her death, she made every attempt to pray aloud the prayer,
which she often recited herself: “Jesus, meek and humble at heart make my heart unto thine.” After her
last agony, witnessed by her Carmelite sisters, Pauline’s soul ascended to Heaven.
Céline as well as her
other sisters prepared their ‘little mother’ for her viewing and her funeral. Her body was placed in the
choir of the Carmelite chapel to be viewed by many that had come from around the world to pay their
respects.

On August 1, 1951, Bishop Picaud conducted the funeral Mass for Pauline. After the Mass ended in the
Carmelite chapel, her body was then taken to the vault and placed beside her sister
Marie who was
already interned there.

After close examination of the works of
Thérèse, many theologians as well as biographers have found
“Pauline’s inspiration of evangelism in
Thérèse’s message.” Throughout all of the Martin sisters lives,
many of the visitors who came to see Pauline,
Marie, Léonie and Céline, at their respective monasteries,
were left with the impression that all of them were very holy nuns. There were many blessings bestowed
upon the many visitors who came or wrote letters to all of them about their sainted sister. Some were
simply requests of prayers on their behalf for their intentions and others were relics that were given to
them of their sainted sister.

Written by R. Hann

Bibliography

Abbé Combes, ed. Collected Letters Of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux . (CL)
New York: Sheed & Ward, 1949.
Dolan, Albert H. Rev.. Collected Little Flower Works. Chicago: Carmelite Press, 1929. (CW)
---. Life of the Little Flower (CWa)
---. Living Sisters of the Little Flower (CWb)
---. Our Sister is in Heaven (CWc)
---. Where the Little Flower seems nearest (CWd)
---. The Little Flower’s Mother. Chicago: Carmelite Press, 1929. (CWe)
---. An Hour with the Little Flower (CWf)
---. God Made The Violet Too: Life of Léonie, Sister of St. Thérèse. (GV)
Chicago: Carmelite Press, 1948.
Piat, Stéphanie Fr. The Story Of A Family: The Home of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. (SF)
Trans: Benedictine of Stanbrook Abbey. Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1948.
Baudouin-Croix, Marie. Léonie Martin : A Difficult Life. (LM)
Dublin : Veritas Publications, 1993.
Beevers, John, trans. The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Story of a Soul.  (SS)
New York: Doubleday, 1957.  
Clarke, John, trans. St.Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations. (LC)
Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1977.
Martin, Celine. My Sister St.Thérèse Trans: The Carmelite Sisters of New York. (MST)
Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1959.
Martin, Celine. The Mother of the Little Flower Trans: Fr. Michael Collins, S.M.A. (ML)
Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. 1957
Mother Agnes of Jesus. Marie, Sister of St. Thérèse. Ed. Rev. Albert H. Dolan, O.Carm.
Chicago: Carmelite Press, 1943. (M)
Piat, Stéphanie Fr. The Story Of A Family: The Home of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. (SF)
Trans: Benedictine of Stanbrook Abbey. Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1948.
---. CÉLINE: Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face. Trans: The Carmelite Sisters of the Eucharist of Colchester, Conn. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997. ©
Redmond, Paulinus Rev. Louis and Zélie Martin: The Seed and The Root of the Little Flower   London: Quiller Press Limited, 1995. (SR)
Rohrbach, Peter-Thomas, O.C.D. The Search for St. Therese (SST)
Garden City, New York: Hanover House, 1961
Martin, Pauline. Little Counsels of Mother Agnes of Jesus, O.C.D. (LCM)
Lisieux, France, Office Central de Lisieux- distributed by Carmelite Monastery of Ada, Michigan
Helmuth Nils Loose, Pierre Descouvemont. Thérèse and Lisieux (TOL)
Trans: Salvatore Sciurba, O.C.D. and Louise Pambrun, Grand Rapids, Michigan Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996
Gibbons, James Cardinal. Holy Bible (Douay-Rheims) 1899 Edition. (B)
Baronius Press Unlimited, London, United Kingdom, 2005  
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Patronage:
September 7, 1861
France
Lower Normandy
Orne
Alençon

July 28, 1951
France
Lower Normandy
Calvados
Lisieux

Carmelite Monastery
in Lisieux


July 2, 1874
The Visitation Chapel at
the Visitation monastery
in Le Mans


October 2, 1882
Carmelite Monastery in
Lisieux

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