Céline loved playing with her dolls. She had that insight like
her mother for detail in dressing and arranging them. Thérèse,
her companion, did not share the same insight and relinquish
all of her authority over her dolls to Céline. During playtime,
Céline’s dolls would become her pupils and Céline of course
would be their teacher. She would act out scenes to entertain
both her and Thérèse.
Pets were constant companions with both Céline and Thérèse.
They had a small aviary which consisted of some finches and
later a parrot. One day, Céline and Thérèse captured a magpie
and placed it in a squirrel’s cage. They would release the
magpie while playing in the garden but soon the magpie
became more of a problem than of an innocent pleasure.
The magpie would fly above them and poke them on top of
their heads, having them run around the yard. Pets were
constant companions with both Céline and Thérèse. They
had a small aviary which consisted of some sporadically for
cover. But their adventure with the magpie would soon end
when they found the poor thing had drowned itself in a
container of water.
Céline had reached the age where it was time for her to
prepare herself for her First Holy Communion. Pauline
interceded at home, devoting many hours, helping her
prepare for this event. Pauline prepared a book for her
to record her many thoughts. In this book, Céline wrote down
many of her religious thoughts as well as the many acts of
sacrifices she made for God. In addition, she made a retreat.
Céline’s First Holy Communion ceremony takes place
on May 13, 1880 at the Benedictine Abbey Chapel. Dawned
in a white dress, she received her first taste of communion
bread. It made a great impression upon her soul. Céline states:
“It was with an inexpressible joy that I received my Beloved.
I had waited a long time for him. I asked him to have pity on
me, to protect me always, and never to permit me to offend
him; then I gave him my heart forever and promised that I
would be completely his. I felt sure that he deigned to accept
me as his little spouse and that he would fulfill the role of my
protector that I had confided to him; and I felt that he had
taken me into his safekeeping and would preserve me always
from all evil.” (C)
With complete surrender, Céline also recited the “Act of
Humility” consecrating herself to Our Lady. I give myself
completely to Our Lady. Céline states: “Oh! How happy I
was to say those words in the presence of everyone, in order
to give myself irrevocably to my Mother in heaven, whom I
loved with incomparable tenderness. It seems to me that in
accepting for her own the little orphan who knelt at her feet,
she adopted her as her own child.” (C)
Céline’s confirmation took place on June 5, 1880. The day
happened to be on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Céline recalled: “It seems to me that the Heart of Jesus himself
had come to take the place of my heart by conferring on me
his own Spirit. I was deeply moved by the thought that this
sacrament is received only once in a lifetime and that it was
going to make me a perfect Christian.” (C)
In 1881, Thérèse joined Céline, Marie and their cousin Jeanne
to the Benedictine Abbey boarding school. The union had
changed between Céline and Thérèse. Céline gravitated more
towards Jeanne and Thérèse towards Marie. Céline was very
outspoken. She loved to express her point of view and stood
her ground on certain issues that were brought out in
conversations that they had. She lived up to her name the
“intrepid one” in both conversations and actions.
Céline held onto her father’s persona in respect for allegiance
to France. Like her father, she was very patriotic. During
school, when it was time for them to take their break and go
outside and participate in school games such as war, it was
always in Céline’s heart to be on the side of the French.
When it was not in her favor to represent the French, she
allowed herself to be defeated. She never quelled her thoughts
to the courage and strength of those that represented France in
times of uncertainty such as the French martyr Joan of Arc.
Anything less of heroic virtue was unacceptable to her by
others. Her strength as viewed by many of her peers became
a double edge sword; she was strong and outspoken but suffered
as a result from it because in part she had a very giving heart.
On feast days, it was always a tradition of the Martin family to
give presents to each other. On one particular feast day when
Céline was exchanging her gift to Thérèse, Thérèse was met
with a bit of a shock when she opened her present. Céline had
bought her a toy gun. To the amazement of both Thérèse
and her family, it was decided that another gift would be
more suitable for Thérèse and that the toy gun would be given
to a family friend’s son.
There were times when the Martins, the Guérins and the
Maudelondes would come together to visit one another. During
these times of recreation, the children of each of the families
would reenact scenes together from stories or plays that they had seen previously. Since Céline
was commonly known as the “intrepid one” she would always receive the role as the notorious villain.
Obviously, the role of the villain was not at all her choice for parts, but she conceded and played along.
Afterwards, she paid handsomely for her role as the villain when her family friends and relatives
would tease her using the villain’s name in place of hers. It was for the most part humiliating and
obviously not one of the games that was favored on her list to play.
Through the years from 1878 to 1887, Céline and her sisters would be invited on vacations with
the Guérins. They would travel with them to the seaside resort cities of Deauville and Trouville
located just off the English Channel. There they would relax by the seaside and swim as well as
play games. Céline would take out her sketch book and make numerous drawings of the seascapes
and others with her sister Thérèse in them.
It was not common for the Martin family to put on or either attend social events. Louis did not prefer
either him or his daughters to get caught up into the vanities of society. Instead, the better alternative
was for the family to spend time taking pilgrimages. There was one especially dear to the Martin
family which was nearby. The shrine at the Notre-Dame de la Déliverande, located in the small town
of Douvres-la-Déliverande, just north of Caen. It was a favorite place for the family to visit.
In October of 1882, Pauline entered the Carmelite monastery in Lisieux. She was the first out of the
five sisters to leave the home destined for a new life. It was hard on Céline to see her sister go.
They shared so much together and Céline learned a lot from her. It became especially harder for her
for soon after her departure, Thérèse contracted a mysterious illness. Celine and her sisters, Marie
and Léonie spent many days at their sister's bedside. Marie led in prayer for the intercession of Our
Lady to cure Thérèse's illness. On May 13, 1883, the miraculous cure took place.
The Martin sisters all became members of a group called the “Children of Mary”. They promoted
the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Céline entered the group on December 8, 1882. At a
minimum, the requirement was for Céline to spend two days a week praying before the Blessed
Sacrament. After much hard work and dedication, she rose to the level of president of the group in
Céline completed her studies at the Benedictine Abbey boarding school in 1885. She graduated as an
honor student, taking with her the prize in religious instruction and easily taking the first conduct prize
for the least amount of absences. Céline became the only student in her graduating class to receive
such an honor.
With much amazement at seeing Céline’s drawings, her cousin Jeanne got Louis’s permission to have
Céline enrolled in some art classes taught by Mlle. Godard. Céline learned quickly on how to master
the paint brush. She created her own studio at Les Buissonnets and worked hard at perfecting her skills
as a painter. She painted some seascapes along with some portraits of her sisters as well as of Our
Lady. Later, Céline would reflect back on her lot of paintings as she called it “A museum of badly
painted pictures”. (C) Every artist has gone through that phase where they see the mistakes they made
in previous paintings and Celine was not immune from that.
In October of 1886, the oldest of the five daughters, Marie, left the family and entered into the
Carmelite monastery in Lisieux as well as the third oldest, Léonie, entered into the Poor Clare monastery.
It was now left to Céline to become the “mistress of the household”. Marie had taught her how to run
the household as well as her father. But the presence of her mother Azélie was felt by Céline the
most, as if she never died.
During the Christmas holidays one of the long standing traditions celebrated by the Martin family,
before going to midnight Mass, was gift giving. The children would place their shoes at the foot of
the fireplace in hopes that Père Noël would fill them with gifts. When the Martins came back from
midnight Mass, Thérèse was hurt to see that her shoes were not filled and sadly went upstairs.
Recognizing the disappointment in Therese’s eyes, Céline confronted her father and asked him to
continue the tradition one last time. Unknowingly to Louis and Céline, Thérèse overheard their entire
conversation. Louis conceded, and Céline then went upstairs to comfort Thérèse. Céline told her:
“Do not go down immediately; wait a little while; you would surely cry when looking at the presents
before papa.” (DBT) When Thérèse went downstairs to open her presents, she surprised them both.
As Céline witnessed in amazement, Thérèse was no longer as sensitive as she usually was, she had
regained the character that she once had before her mother died.
Céline’s ambition of becoming a nun was very strong even from an early age; it was, as she saw it,
her destiny. A change was occurring in Céline leading herself away from the attraction to the
material world to a life serving Christ. Even Thérèse saw in Céline a change in her attraction to the
religious life. With Céline only having a familiarity in the Benedictine ways, the Carmelite Order
was for now only an entertaining thought. It was Fr. Pichon, who becoming her spiritual advisor
on October 12, 1887, was the one who helped convince her to enter into the Carmelite Order.
He instilled in her the confidence she needed to enter into such a union. Céline captured her
thoughts daily on the religious life by composing a spiritual diary. She wrote out her desires in her
diary on what it meant to her to be Christ’s bride. But the situations happening at home had put a
temporary halt to her intentions of entering sooner. In her conversations with Thérèse, about the
religious life, she soon realized that Thérèse too wanted to become a nun and desired to enter the
monastery as soon as possible. The entrance into Carmel was for both of them, a means of
displaying to God their ultimate union with Him. As Céline already having the duel responsibilities
of taking care of both her aging father and of the house, she conceded graciously to Thérèse’s
desire to enter first. Céline stated: “The love of God was so intense in my heart, finding nothing
that could bring even the least relief to this need I had of giving, I was happy to sacrifice all that I
held most dear in the world…Like Abraham, I busied myself with the preparation of the Holocaust,
and I helped my sister in all the steps she took to obtain permission to enter Carmel. I took her
disappointments more to heart than had it been my own.” (C)
Receiving Holy Communion was an important event in Céline’s daily devotion to God. During these
times, receiving Holy Communion on a daily basis was very rare for anyone. In order to receive
Holy Communion more than regularly, she had to receive permission from her confessor Abbé
Baillon. Once obtaining his permission, she was able to receive Holy Communion daily. Even when
Céline went on holidays with her family she would make every effort to make up for the days she
had missed. It was a ritual for her to remove whichever bracelet she was wearing just prior to
receiving the sacred host. As Céline saw it, wearing the bracelet was a sign of servitude towards the
material world, while Christ always yearned to be free. (C) She would hum the canticle “Take my
heart; there it is, O Virgin, my sweet Mother” and “It is for its rest that it has recourse to thee. As
for me, it’s because I love her.” (C)
Without knowing the strong desires Céline and Thérèse had for entering into the religious life, Louis
had other aspirations for his two remaining daughters. It was in his interest that both of them be
trained in domestic duties in the hopes that one day they will start a family of their own. But that
idea would soon change for when Thérèse told her father she wanted to enter the Carmel. He went
with her to plead her case before the bishop to enter the Carmel but his refusal as well as from
others was adamant.
In November of 1887, there was an opportunity for Thérèse to plead her case before the pope to
enter the Carmel. On November 4th, Louis, Céline and Thérèse left for Paris to join in a pilgrimage
to Rome. In the three days that they were in Paris, Louis took Céline and Thérèse to Basilique de
Notre Dame des Victoires (Our Lady of Victories Basilica). There they showed their devotion to
Our Lady through prayer and reverence. This was the place where Louis went to pray for his
daughters’ recovery when they were faced with life threatening illnesses.
It was not without any imagination and interest in seeing the sights of Paris. From visiting the many
attractions most notably made famous of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and the Notre
Dame Cathedral to strolling down the Champs Elysées. It was time to begin their pilgrimage on the
7th of November. The rendezvous point for the Martin family to join the others in their pilgrimage
to Rome started at the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) located in the district
of Montmarte. Once the pilgrims had assembled in the Basilica, a religious ceremony was conducted
to consecrate each one of them to the Sacred Heart of Jesus prior to their journey. Once the
ceremony ended, they left the Basilica and headed to the train station. In honor of the pilgrimage
each compartment was named after a saint. Hence their last name being Martin, they were assigned
the compartment for St. Martin.
Their journey on the train was filled with both excitement and amazement. From the different
characters that surrounded them on the train to the tranquil natural scenery viewed by them outside
their window. It was a first for Céline and Thérèse to see the beautiful mountains and the lustrous
waterfalls of the Swiss Alps. After spending numerous hours aboard the train, they finally made it
to their first stop late in the evening to Milan, Italy.
Their destination was to the Duomo di Milan (Milan Cathedral). The next day, they entered from
the piazza into the great Gothic Cathedral, one of the largest Cathedrals in Europe. They showed
their devotion by celebrating Mass with the other pilgrims. They then toured the Cathedral filled with
fine art and showed their devotion to St. Charles Borromeo’s remains, located in one its chapels.
Most importantly, it was a blessing for them to see one of the nails from the crucifixion of Christ
which was housed above the apse, strengthening their devotion even more.
After the Martins visited Milan, they boarded the train and traveled to Venice. Once in Venice, they
travelled the city by gondola. Louis, Céline and Thérèse made frequent stops and toured several
museums like the Ca' Rezzonico and the Torre dell'Orologio (the Moor’s Clock Tower). The
Basilica di San Marco a Venezia (St. Mark’s Basilica) was also one of the stops that they made while
admiring the Christian themed mosaics with their golden and bronze backgrounds. Just north of
Venice, in Padua, the Martins traveled to the Basilica di sant’Anthony (The Basilica of St. Anthony);
there they venerated the saint’s remains in two of the side chapels of the Basilica dedicated to St.
Anthony. The Chapel of St. Anthony houses his tomb and the Treasury Chapel most notably houses
his incorrupt tongue and jawbone.
Continuing on their pilgrimage journey in northern Italy, Louis, Céline and Thérèse reached Bologna.
Bologna, most notably famous for being the home of the Basilica di San Petronio (Basilica of San
Petronio), was one of their first stops. Admiring the works of Francesco Raibolini (Francia) and
Lorenzo Costa, which dawn the walls of the Basilica, they completed their visit and set off for Siena.
Once reaching the city of Siena, Louis, Céline and Thérèse went to the Basilica di San Domenico
(The Basilica of San Domenico or commonly called the Basilica Cateriniana) which houses the partial
remains (incorrupt head and thumb) of St. Catherine of Siena. There they venerated the saint’s remains
and prayed for her intercession.
At the latter point of their pilgrimage in Italy, they reached the hillside city of Loreto. Most notably
famous for being the home to the Santa Casa di Loreto (Holy House of Loreto), a basilica was built
over the Holy House. Mass was held for the pilgrims within the Holy House where Céline and
Thérèse were blessed to receive Holy Communion there. This was the last stop before they reached
the city limits of Rome.
Once entering the city of Rome by train, they checked into a hotel and then proceeded to visit the
famous tourist attractions Rome had to offer. The Roman Coliseum was where the pilgrims along
with the Martins first visited. Inside the Coliseum, it was debated by Céline and Thérèse as to how
they were going to enter the center of the Coliseum where the first early Christians were martyred.
The area where the archeologists were unearthing the ground was coordined off and that is where
Céline and Thérèse wanted to go to kiss the ground. Both Céline and Thérèse entered the restricted
area and found the cross inladed in the stone and kissed the ground nearby as well as praying a
prayer for the early Christian martyrs. After they said their prayers, they reunited with the group of
As they left the Coliseum, they proceeded to the Catacombe di San Callisto (The Catacomb of St.
Callixtus) where there were five levels of galleries containing a half million tombs. As being one of
the largest of the catacombs in Rome, this was the place where sixteen popes from the second to
the fourth centuries were entombed as well as up to fifty early Christian martyrs. One of the tombs
that both Céline and Thérèse venerated was the tomb of St. Cecilia, who was one of the saints, if
not thee saint, that Céline was most devoted to. Even though her remains were removed between
817 to 824 A.D., they each laid down in her Loculi (burial niches) to show their devotion to her.
One of the highlights of their visits to the famous places in Rome was the Scala-Santa (Holy Stairs)
which was brought over from Jerusalem by St. Helena. The stairs are famously known as the steps
that led up to the praetorian of Pontius Pilate which Jesus stood on his way to his trial. For both
Céline and Thérèse, it was an honor to walk up the same steps that Jesus himself walked. Their
next stop was the Mamertine prison, which is best known as the place where St. Peter and Paul
stayed prior to their martyrdom. There the girls both paid their respects.
Their next destination brought them to the Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross of
Jerusalem). The basilica is widely known as the place where pieces of the cross and nails relating to
Jesus Christ, which had been brought back by St. Helena from the Holy Land, and for the relics of
Saints Caesarius and Anastasius. With much adoration, the Martin family viewed the relics of Jesus
Christ with pristine honor and reverence. Thérèse was given the opportunity to touch one of the nails.
On November 20th, it was set for the Martin family and the rest of the pilgrims for the pontifical
audience at the Vatican with Pope Leo XIII. At eight o’clock in the morning, the Pope appeared in
the Sala Clementina (Hall of the Papal Audiences). He ascended to the altar and proceeded with the
Latin Papal Mass. Once the Mass was concluded, the Pope left the Hall and went to an adjoining
room to receive each one of the pilgrims for their Papal blessing. When they entered the Old
Audience Chamber, Céline nudged Thérèse to speak to the Pope about entering the Carmel. It was
Céline who encouraged her to act on this great opportunity to do so. Céline took the lead and went
ahead of Thérèse to receive the Papal blessing first. After Céline had received the Pope’s blessing, it
was Thérèse’s turn. As Thérèse received her blessing, she looked at Céline and then asked the Pope
for his permission to enter the Carmel. Not receiving the answer she expected, her eyes filled with tears
and she was then carried away by the Swiss Guards and escorted out of the room. Both Louis and
Céline tried to console her great disappointment for not receiving the Pope’s permission. Once they
left the Vatican, they went back to their hotel.
The next day, the Martin family left Rome and boarded the train to Montecassino. Upon arriving, they
traveled to the Abbazia di Montecassino (Monte Cassino Monastery). It is most famously known for
housing the relics of St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica. They paid reverence to the Saints’
relics. After leaving Abbazia di Montecassino, their next destination was Pompeii. Due to the inclement
weather in Pompeii, they were only allowed to view the ruins from the devastation of the volcano nearby.
Once viewing the ruins, the Martin family set off for Naples. To their destination, Certosa di San Martino
(St. Martin's Charterhouse), they were able to view the priceless art and artifacts that adorned the
monastery, which now is a museum. When their visit ended in Naples, they traveled back to Rome
where they boarded the train, on November 24th, that would take them back to France.
The morning came and the Martin family got into their carriage to take them to the train station. Once in
the carriage, Mgr. Legoux joined them to speak to Thérèse about the conversation she had with the Pope.
After their arriving at the train station, they boarded the train heading to the Northern part of Italy and
making a stop in Assisi to visit St. Frances’s monastery. There they viewed the priceless frescoes that a
dorned the walls of the church as well as paying their adoration to the relics of the famous saint.
Boarding the train once more, they stopped in Florence. Both Céline and Thérèse kneeled before the
tomb of St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi and prayed for her intercession. The “Pazzi”, which is commonly
known for the religious complex, is now a museum. The pilgrims then traveled back to Assisi where
the train was waiting for them to make a couple more brief stops to Pisa and Genoa. Once in Pisa,
Céline and Thérèse went to see La Torre di Pisa (the leaning tower of Pisa) which is the bell tower
for the cathedral. They climbed the steps of the tower and reached the top to take in the view of Pisa.
After making their final stop in Genoa, they boarded the train home to France. Prior to arriving in Paris,
they stopped in Marseilles and went to the highest natural point in the city where the basilica Notre
Dame de la Garde (Our Lady of the Watch) was located. The basilica, traditionally known as being
dedicated to the “Good Mother” and “Guardian of the Seafarers”, not only allowed Céline and Thérèse
time to pray and pay reverence to Our Lady. It also gave them a breathtaking view of the entire city
that was located below them.
Leaving Marseilles, they made their last pilgrimage stop in Lyons. In Lyons, they went to the Basilique
Notre-Dame de Fouvière (Basilica of Our Lady of Fouvière). The Basilica was erected in honor of Our
Lady as a thank you from the citizens of that city for saving them from the plague in the mid 1600’s.
The Basilica is perched on top of one of the highest points in the city called Fouvière Hill. Céline and
Thérèse were able to view the city with a great view of Lyons and pay reverence to Our Lady.
On December 2nd, the Martin family finally arrived in Paris. They said their goodbyes and boarded
another train back to Lisieux. As soon as they arrived home, Céline and Thérèse went to the Carmelite
monastery to see their sisters Marie and Pauline. Both Céline and Thérèse discussed with their sisters
the highlights of their trip to Rome. But the topic that was focused on most between the sisters was
Therese’s entrance into Carmel.
All of Céline’s sisters encouraged her up to the very end when the date was set for her entrance. Even
Léonie, whom was forced to leave the Visitation monastery in January of 1888, encouraged her
entrance but also reminded her about some of the pitfalls associated with her decision. Each day leading
up to her entrance, Céline and Thérèse were inseparable. Céline helped her prepare as much as possible
all of the things that needed to be done prior to her entrance. When the day came on April 9, 1888, it
was the most difficult time for her to say goodbye to her sister. Céline describes: “I had to support
myself unsteadily against the wall...and yet, I did not cry. I wanted to give her to Jesus with all of my
heart; and he, in return, clothed me with his strength. Ah! How I needed that divine strength! When the
door finally closed at the monastery entrance a wall was raised between our two lives.” (C)
Céline and Léonie attended and helped at their uncle and aunt’s parties, it was an opportunity for them
to get out and mingle with other people. They would not only help with preparation of the food being
served but also attend the dances. After Thérèse’s direct influence over Céline had vanished, due to
her entrance, an unforeseen opportunity had arise. Céline, never considering ever getting married before,
was propositioned on the subject by a gentleman that she knew. But Céline thought she was convinced
that her destiny lie always as a religious and not as a wife. At an unforeseen crossroads, she prayed on
the subject a lot, but without ever receiving any signs from God on what direction for her to go, it
casted a lot of doubts in her mind about being a religious. As Céline stated: “I kept telling myself: Isn’t
this offer, which is made to me the instant Thérèse leaves me, an indication of God’s will for me,
which I hadn’t foreseen?” (C) Céline had no direction on this subject from her sisters, for they never
had the proposition of marriage come across their own paths. So, she leaned on her sister Thérèse and
Fr. Pichon. With Thérèse’s prayers guiding her and Fr. Pichon commitment of persuading her to stay
on the path to religious life, Céline ended the proposal and continued on with her life.
Louis’s health was deteriorating. The signs of all the strokes he had previously, had taken a toll on his
health. Even with Léonie at her side, Céline’s fear of losing her father became for her a very heavy cross
for her to bear.
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.
Martin, Celine. The Mother of the Little Flower Trans: Fr. Michael Collins, S.M.A. (ML)
Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. 1957
Martin, Celine. The Father of the Little Flower Trans: Fr. Michael Collins, S.M.A. (FL)
Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. 1955
Scallan, Dorthy. The Whole World Will Love Me, The Life of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (WW)
Edited by Fr. Emeric B. Scallan, S.T.B. Rockford, Ill. Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. 1954
---. CÉLINE: Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face. Trans: The Carmelite Sisters of the Eucharist of Colchester, Conn. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997. (C)
|Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face
Marie Celine Martin
"Beloved Holy Face "
|"The desire to save souls was like a mania for me and in comparison to a single soul snatched from Satan, all my
difficulties seemed as nothing to me. It was this hope that gave me courage." - Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face
|Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face
|© Carmel of Lisieux and Office Central de Lisieux
|"Beloved Holy Face"
|Eric Gaba (Wikimedia Commons user: Sting)
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