Celine continuously updated her sisters at the monastery of
their father’s condition. Her sisters could tell that she was
of seeing her father die. Thérèse saw a remarkable change
in her sisters when she saw her the next time in the parlor.
Thérèse wrote to Céline from the monastery to enlighten
her while she was enduring the pain of seeing her father
suffer and to reaffirm that God is with her. Thérèse wrote:
“Céline, have no fear; He is there, quite near. He is looking
at us. It is He who asks of us this suffering, these tears…He
has need of them for the sake of souls, for our soul, as
He wants to give us so glorious a reward.” (DBT)
During this time of suffering, Céline had still grown in her
artistic talents. On June 16, 1888, it was offered to her by
her father that he would send her to the Academy to perfect
her talents as an artist. But instantly, she refused for fear that
her path to a religious life might be derailed by worldly
temptations. Instead if it was in God’s interest to make her
into a great artist, it was going to be Him who would perfect
her skills. This was the perfect opportunity to express to her
father that she, too, wanted to be a religious. When Louis
realized that Céline was serious about entering into the
religious life, he looked upon it as God’s will for her and each
of his daughters. So, after their conversation, Louis and Céline
went to the Blessed Sacrament to thank God for the grace that
he had bestowed upon his family, all of his daughters to become
a religious. After hearing the news from his daughter, Louis
started the process of trying to separate himself from her
emotionally. He didn’t want to be a burden to her, which he
thought he would be, which would keep her by his side at
home. But as fate would have it, Céline stayed at his side till
the very end.
On June 23, 1888, Céline started her usual routine of going to
morning Mass and then taking care of the household and her
father. Little did she know that while she was taking care of
the house, Louis had wandered off. Once Céline realized that
her father was missing, she became very frantic. She
immediately went to her uncle Isidore to get his help in finding
her father. Isidore and Céline looked everywhere around
Lisieux to find him. She also went to the monastery to let her
sisters know that he was missing. Her sisters prayed for his
return and the prioress of the monastery, Mother Geneviève,
foretold to them that he would return. It was three days of
grief for Céline until they received a telegram from Louis
asking them for money. It was a surprise to find out that he
had wandered all the way to a town called La Havre, about
62 Kilometers away. Once Céline found out where he was,
Isidore joined her and they both went to La Havre to track
him down. After hours of waiting for him to appear, he
finally arrived and they took him home.
During the time of Louis’s disappearance, a fire broke out in
the early morning hours to the adjoining house. Without
knowing of the destruction occurring next door, Léonie was
still in the house. Once alarmed of the situation, she fled to
safety. Later, Louis would buy the property where the
destroyed house once stood.
Louis had received a brass crucifix from his daughter Marie
before she entered the monastery, to which he kept it in his
bedroom. Céline had much admiration for this crucifix and
asked her father if she could have it. With much hesitation
he resisted giving it to her until one day in September of
1888, during Mass; he whispered to her “I give you my
crucifix” and then handed it to her.
It was Thérèse’s desire to have Céline join her in the
monastery as soon as possible but with the current situation
with her father’s health it was unrealistic for Céline to make
an attempt to even enter. With Thérèse’s soul elevating to
new heights in her relationship with God, she, too, desired
that Céline’s soul elevate with hers as well. Céline’s prayer
life had become, for the most part, lifeless; dealing with her
father’s failing health and the past opportunity for marriage
left for the most part aridity in her soul. Even though
Thérèse was not with Céline in person she was with her
always in spirit. Ultimately, she became Céline’s mentor
through visits to the monastery and letters she wrote to her.
Thérèse encouraged her to take in part the “Joys of
perfect immolation”. For Céline, it was to practice many
virtues and to take every opportunity, no matter how small
the virtue was, to please Jesus. Thérèse encouraged her to
start out by making small gestures towards individuals that
surrounded her by either saying something nice to them or
just giving them a smile. However, if Céline did not find
any opportunity to practice these small gestures towards
any individuals at least tell Jesus how much you love him.
Telling Jesus how much you love him as many times
throughout the day as you can, will strengthen the bond
between you and him.
On January 10, 1889, was Thérèse’s clothing day. It was
the last time the entire family would be joined together for
a celebration of this magnitude. As Céline described, it was both
Louis’s and Thérèse’s day. Louis escorting Thérèse, his little queen, to the altar in a beautiful
white gown, the inseparable duel during her childhood, is given away by him to Jesus.
Weeks later, after Louis started to have more violent strokes, Céline had the daunting task of
notifying her sisters that the decision was made to have Louis sent to Bon Sauveur Home (Holy
Savior) in Caen, about 64 kilometer west of Lisieux. Céline wrote: “Beloved sisters, I am calling
to mind these words of the Imitation: I will give infinite glory for a single short-lived humiliation…
Oh! Humiliations! They are our daily bread, but if only you knew what I see hidden in them...
To me, it is a mystery of love. Oh my little sisters do not be grieved, I pray you. I feel that our
Lord is so very pleased when we have unlimited confidence in him, finding all that he does good…
No, I am not going to ask God to relieve me of the humiliations, misunderstandings, heartaches,
anxieties, bitterness…But I do beg God to take all that away from our dear father. He can grant
us this grace, and I am sure that he will.” (C)
On February 12, 1889, the time had come to take Louis to Bon Sauveur Home. It was for Céline
and Léonie a crushing blow to have to escort their father and place him in a psychiatric institution.
There weren’t enough tears to shed that day to change the course of events. Louis didn’t know
he was going until he entered the building. Upon entering, he accepted it with great humility and
grace. A week later, on February 19th, Céline and Léonie returned to Caen and stayed with the
Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul to be nearer to their father. The rules only allowed for them to see
their father once a week. So each day they would communicate with Mother Costard who took
a special interest in their father. Louis believed that his stay at Bon Sauveur was a trial, for he
was always the one who took the lead, now he must be the one to follow and obey. It
strengthened Louis’s spirit to know that Céline and Léonie were nearby and that they inquired
each day, every letter they sent him gave him hope.
When Céline experienced the separation and the witnessing of the deterioration of her father’s
health, she could see it in her father’s eyes that he was in the last years of his life. It was the
same feelings when her mother was in her last days here on earth. Céline wrote a letter
describing her feelings on this: “The longer I live the more I see exile on all sides. The world
seems like a dream to me, immense confusion…The more I travel, and the more I see of things,
the more detached I am from this earth, because, at each instant, the more I observe the
nothingness of what passes away. I am in a real cell; nothing pleases me more than this poverty.
I would not exchange it for the most brilliant drawing room in the world. Suffering accepted in
this manner is an uphill climb. In this rough apprenticeship, the soul is refined and purified. (C)
At this time her only real solace was praying in the chapel, it was for her a safe haven from all
the dramas that were taking place in her life.
Céline and Léonie went to see Mother Costard on May 8, 1889; she suggested to them that they
return to Lisieux. Mother Costard promised both of them that she would contact them if there
were any changes in his condition. The helplessness and the guilt of not being able to take care
of their father directly were taking a toll on their health. Their uncle Isidore and their sisters also
suggested to them to return to Lisieux. Céline writes: “I feel more and more that my duty is to
remain here; yes, it is better to suffer and not to abandon our dear little father. (C) Céline and
Léonie resisted leaving their father but finally conceded and on May 14th, they returned to
Lisieux. To both Céline and Léonie it was a bittersweet departure, for they had to leave their
father behind but they would get to see their other sisters for whom they haven’t seen in months.
Uncle Isidore inherited a chateau called La Musse, located outside of Evreux, about 73 kilometers
east from Lisieux. Once the summer holidays started, they went with their uncle’s family for
some much needed relaxation. When Mother Costard told Louis that Céline and Léonie were at
La Musse, he said: “Oh! How lovely! Tell them to stay there as long as their good uncle thinks
best. I do not want them to return to Caen on my account. I am well, very well here.” (FL)
Céline and Léonie went on several trips with the Guérins including the Exposition Universelle of
1889 (World’s Fair in Paris) where they saw, for the first time, the now famous Tour Eiffel
(Eiffel Tower). They climbed to the second floor to see the view of the very large city they had
visited several times in the past. The family also made a tour of the other places they had once
visited. It was an insight for Céline on the journey that was once taken by her family and a
closure for other of some of the bad memories that were held in her heart.
By the end of the year on the 25th of December in 1889, the lease to Les Buissonnets home had
expired. Céline, wanting a memento from the place that gave her so much joy and so much
sorrow, took ivy leaves instead of flowers. It was a bittersweet parting with several tears to see
their servants being sent to serve in other places; it was like a family once again being separated.
The furniture was dispersed to other members of the family and also to the Carmelite monastery
where Marie, Pauline and Thérèse were residing. Uncle Isidore took Céline and Léonie into his
home along with their dog, Tom.
Uncle Isidore and aunt Céline welcomed their nieces into the family with open arms. It was a
quick adjustment on both Céline and Léonie. Celine, being of strong mind, was the only one in
the family that could argue her point on several issues with her uncle and get her way. It was for
the most part a happy union between the two families.
Daily life for Céline at the Guérins home was filled with numerous tasks. She started her day off
by attending Mass every morning. After returning from church and eating breakfast, she devoted
herself to her “religious themed” artwork. Working in many different styles, she enlisted several
people to pose for her paintings. After lunch, she devoted herself to serving to the needs of the
poor by using her skills at needlework. After every piece of clothing that she made, for a poor
person, another one would soon follow. Somehow, God would match her skills with those who
were most in need. If it was not new clothing that people needed, she also spent her time
preparing children for their First Holy Communion. She taught the most difficult students that
many others had abandoned. Her remarkable patience of finding new ways to inspire and
educate them left lasting impressions on her students throughout their lives. Even ten years later,
one of her students came to her and requested his notebook back of all the sacrifices that he had
made in preparation for his First Holy Communion.
Céline had a drive for learning new things. Her constant motivation to educate herself in different
types of works made her a very well rounded person. In her free time she delved into reading
and researching several literary works which ranged from science to religion. Photography also
triggered her interest, most notably her photography skills would prove themselves ten times
over on behalf of the pictures she took of her sister, St. Thérèse. Later in life and even today,
the images of a great saint that she gave us are still cherished and in use today. She spent time
memorizing poems and verses from the Bible that had a deep meaning for her which gave her
the emotional support when times became unbearable.
Understanding the meanings and lessons of the Old Testament was a welcomed challenge to her.
She embraced it with conquering odds. The books that peaked her interests the most was the
Book of Wisdom (Wisdom of Solomon) which takes on a more traditional and philosophical
approach that your trust and fear in God provides a path for redemption. The Book of Wisdom
was a tool that Celine applied to the obstacles that she faced which gave her the reassurance
that God was always with her. “But the just shall live for evermore; and their reward is with
the Lord, and the care of them with the most High. Therefore shall they receive a kingdom of
glory and crown of beauty at the hand of the Lord; for with his right hand he will cover them,
and with his holy arm he will defend them.” (Wisdom 5:16-17) The Book of Revelations (or
Revelation of St. John) was another one that peaked her interest. Obviously, one of the most
controversial books of the Old Testament, even today the content regarding the “Apocalyptic
events” still has a wide range of interpretations of the actual meanings from the verses. Celine
compiled several notes of the verses from these books as a reference tool as well as quick
guide for her to meditate on.
Céline sought the guidance of canonized saints for answers to her many questions through their
writings. She studied the works of St. John the Cross (known for his poetry and his studies on
the growth of a soul and reformer of the Carmelite Order) and St. Teresa of Avila (known as a
writer of the Counter Reformation and a reformer of the Carmelite Order) Céline analyzed
their works to find out the secrets that were hidden in their message most importantly of
denying oneself of the worldly pleasures of life.
The loss of the immediate presence of Céline’s father was felt by her in more ways than one.
His protection for his daughters from worldly pleasures was no longer there. Living with the
Guérins offered the opportunity for Céline’s soul to be tested more than once. Even though
there was no longer a question of marriage in her future there still were other temptations that
were associated with it when the Guérins held their parties. When Céline felt vulnerable to the
temptations and could no longer fight against them she would leave the party and retreat to her
room. There she would hold on to the statue of Our Lady and pray for her protection. Céline
came to the conclusion that she would take a private vow of chastity on December 8, 1889.
Céline and her cousin Marie developed a close relationship while living together in the Guérin
household. Marie suffered greatly from her internal struggles against living the life of the
pleasures of the world or abandoning it and giving her life solely to God. Céline saw, in her
cousin, the internal struggles that she was facing and offered to guide her through all of the
doubts she had. Céline advised her towards giving herself to God solely and persuaded her to
receive Holy Communion more often as well as perfecting her soul by abandoning all that the
world had to offer. As with most parents they want to see each of their children get married
and have children, Céline’s uncle Isidore and aunt Céline were no different. The idea of giving
up their second daughter to the monastery was not what they had in mind. But Céline persisted
in guiding her and eventually all of her work paid off because five and half years later her
cousin Marie joined Céline in the same Carmelite monastery.
Visiting the Carmelite monastery was a weekly ritual for Céline, not only was it a time for both
her and Léonie to visit and speak with their other sisters, it was also an opportunity for all of
them to worship God together as when they were young. Thérèse took every opportunity to
enrich Céline’s soul to bring her closer to God. Thérèse’s soul was developing rapidly and
as they both thought a lot alike, she wanted Céline to be by her side even though they were
not physically together. This was a challenge for both of them when faced with crisis concerning
their family but it became a welcomed opportunity for them both to perfect their soul.
On September 8, 1890, was supposed to be a very blessed day for the Martin family.
Thérèse was making her profession as a Carmelite nun. However, there was one family member
that was not going to be present for her sacred ceremony and that was her father Louis. It was
most devastating to Thérèse as well as Céline. Both of them agonized over the thought of his
absence. Prior to the ceremony, Thérèse asked Céline if she would take with her on her next
visit to Caen a copy of her vows and have her father bless them as well as the crown to which
she was going to wear and place it on his head. It was very important for them to include him
in the ceremony even though physically he was not going to be there.
Having her father in Caen was a constant trial for Céline. It was difficult for her not to be able
to take care of her father on her own. Sometimes on their visits to Caen, Léonie would stay
behind in Lisieux. Céline would make the weekly pilgrimage and stay with her cousin Jeanne and
her husband Francis. After her visits with her father, she would write her sisters a little note. As
Céline describes of her father’s condition in a letter to her sister Léonie dated November 12,
1890: “Oh! My dear Léonie, when shall both of us be able to take care of our dearest father? I
believe that we would use all our strength and all our love for that. The very thought of it makes
my heart beat with joy. The hardships of the task do not frighten me, and I am ready to undergo
them till death for him. Oh, let us pray very hard that Our Lord may grant our desires, and make
the realization possible. But meanwhile let us learn how to suffer and not lose the merit of so
many annoyances.” (FL)
During the months of staying in Caen, Louis’ health continued to deteriorate, his legs have become
so numb that it was difficult for him to stand up at all. He was no longer able to walk as he once
did. It was the most inopportune moment for Louis physically but it was a welcomed opportunity
for him to be reunited with his family. Céline’s prayers will finally be answered and she would
resume taking care of her father. It was discussed and debated amongst all the parties involved
about bringing him back home. Once it was decided and all the arrangements were made, it was
time to bring their beloved father back into the family realm. On May 10, 1892, Louis was brought
back home. This was a joyous day of all days for both Céline and Léonie.
On May 12, 1892, Louis was given the gift of being able to visit his other daughters Marie, Pauline
and Thérèse in the Carmelite monastery. The entire Martin family was all together again. This
would be Louis’ final visit to the monastery marking the last time the entire family would ever be
together. It was at first a joyous occasion to finally see their father but the reality of his bad health
really came to light when they witnessed for themselves how frail he really was emotionally and the
tears started to flow. Concluding their visit, he remarked to his daughters as he was about to leave,
“In Heaven”. All of them, understanding that this visit marked the end of their union together on earth.
Louis, Céline and Léonie stayed at their cousin Jeanne’s former home for a couple of days before
moving into a house on rue Labbey close to their uncle and aunt. Céline at this point did not care
what the house looked like or what amenities there were, only that she was able to take care of her
father once more. Preparations were made for starting up another household. Servants were
introduced into the household to help assist Céline and Léonie in taking care of their father. Céline
resumed the role of taking care of the household whereby her uncle and aunt were always nearby
if she ever needed their assistance. Céline stated: “It was my joy to be able to take care of my
beloved father myself…I never grew tired of embracing him; I showed him my affection in a
thousand different ways and did everything I could to please him.” (C)
Céline, foreseeing minor problems with one of the new servants, made a novena to St. Joseph for
their conversion. After Céline made her novena to St. Joseph, one of the servants came to Céline
to confess to her, as she told Céline: “I am a miserable wretch; for many years I have been
separated from God, I have committed sacrileges, but I want to change. It is just now, while looking
at the picture of the Blessed Virgin that my heart melted like wax.” (C)
The picture of the Blessed Virgin that Céline painted for her father played an indelible role not
only in the conversion of one of the new servants but in Céline’s life as well. She looked upon the
image for solace in the wake of her decision to tell her father about her entering into the religious
life. It was that sense of security of being in the presence of the Blessed Virgin that gave her the
courage to tell her father of her decision to give herself completely to God.
Isidore saw the dedication Céline had for her paintings. He in turn contacted Flandrin artist Krug.
Céline took lessons from him to enhance her skills in painting. As her father had once before
tried to send her to an academy for art lessons, this situation was more successful. Even after her
entrance into the monastery, Krug would continue to visit her and advise her in her work.
The stressors of taking care of the household, witnessing the digression of her dying father and the
unknown future she was to have all weighted heavily down on Céline. What she knew and already
learned was no longer enough to sustain her. God had started the transition in her life and it was
all out of her control. It was difficult for her to abandon what she wanted to see happen and what
God wanted for her to happen in her life. On December 16, 1892, when the anxiety of her situation
overwhelmed her to the point of tears, the vision of “Our Lady” appeared smiling before her.
Both Céline and Léonie were still afforded the opportunity to go on pilgrimages as well as stay at
their uncle and aunt’s chateau La Musse each summer. In the spring of 1893, while the servants
were taking care of their father, both Céline and Léonie opted to make a pilgrimage to Paray-le-Monial.
It was a place where the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus had gained support through the
years from hearing about the story of St. Marguerite-Marie Alacoque (Margaret-Mary) who was a
Visitandine nun that saw visions of Jesus Christ. The visions revealed to her the devotion to the
Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was especially important to Léonie because of her calling to the Visitandine
Order. Céline was also attracted to the devotion of the Sacred Heart. The pilgrimage and the
introduction to the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus helped strengthen Céline’s soul and inspired
her commitment to perfecting her soul.
It was not long after their pilgrimage to Paray-le-Monial that Léonie herself was set to leave on a
retreat to the Visitation monastery in Caen. On June 23, 1893, Léonie made her second attempt at
the same monastery to enter into the religious life. Once again, Céline was alone with her father.
Even though Céline would have preferred Léonie to be at her side, it was blessing to see her sister
make another attempt to serve and devote herself to God and God alone.
At the end of June of the same year, Louis, Céline and the Guérins went to La Musse. It was the first
time after Louis’s paralytic condition that they were able to clear the obstacles for him to make the
grueling trip. Céline and her cousin Marie would spend time pushing his wheelchair around the grounds
of the chateau. Louis especially loved to look down upon the woods encircling the property and gaze
at the sights below. It was refreshing for both Louis and Céline to travel through the woods and listen
to nature which was reminiscence of the memories they had when they lived in Alençon. She also took
advantage of the time by painting picturesque scenes of the surrounding landscape.
It was always a challenge for Céline when the Guérins entertained at their residence. There were many
temptations that she faced especially at their parties. She took time for herself prior to any social event
to pray. People were attracted to her honesty as well as her great kindness towards the needs of other
people. She avoided hot button issues which would often offend or separate others in their
conversations. Anytime she was placed in a situation which was out of her control she would silently
pray and rub her crucifix seeking guidance. There was one situation where “divine intervention”
played an active part. It was at the wedding reception of one of her relatives, she was asked by a certain
gentleman to dance, when the dance commenced, he forgot all the steps. He immediately became
embarrassed by the awkward situation and left the dance floor. She never saw him again.
Even though Céline spent leisurely time with her relatives at the chateau, her devotion to God never left
her. She still sought him out in everything as he was preparing her soul for the life she was going to live
at the monastery in the future. For in the monastery, you surrender all of your material possessions.
Her interest in material possessions started to lose its appeal. It became more apparent for her after she
immediately lost interest in a bracelet she had just bought as she stated: “What I would have a chain
fastened to my wrist! Am I then a slave?” (C) If she ever surrendered herself to an indulgence, guilt
would soon follow. God would place reminders in front of her to show her what was more important
in life such as her seeing the poor state of the local church they were attending when they stayed at
the chateau or the unsightly state of the living conditions of the poor.
Holy Communion and prayer on a daily basis was her “support” which sustained her throughout the
day. Céline’s outlook on her surroundings were reversing, God was working inside her soul. No more
was success considered to be surrounded by stately possessions but the need for simplicity around her
was becoming a desire. Céline reflected on this by saying: “I thought back to my childhood, when I
used to visit my Thérèse at the home of her nurse, and we were ushered into the one and only room,
which served as the kitchen, bedroom, and parlor all at the same time. The floor was hard-packed
earth…I reflected that truth and freedom, and therefore happiness, dwelled under the old dark beams
rather than under artistic ceilings, and I looked forward to the happy moment when I would be
transplanted to a poor cell.” (C)
Fr. Pichon, Céline’s spiritual advisor, kept in touch with her through letters as he had already
established himself in Canada. He had asked, since she had not committed herself to entering the
monastery, that she join him in Canada to prepare the children there for their First Holy Communion.
He requested to her that she keep this a secret from her sisters so that they would not influence
her decision in joining him. It made it a very difficult sacrifice for her to keep it a secret from her
sisters especially Thérèse. But, as fate would have it, God needed her elsewhere.
Written by: R. Hann
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)
Martin, Céline The Father of the Little Flower (Louis Martin) (FL)
trans: Fr. Michael Collins, S.M.A. Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. 1955
|Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face
Marie Celine Martin
"Beloved Holy Face "
|"God's mercy is better than life. Yes, I rely only on God's mercy and on his compassion; I want to arouse his
compassion by my poverty, for I know that is how I will have gained all." - Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face
|Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face
|© Carmel of Lisieux and Office Central de Lisieux
|"Beloved Holy Face"
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