Marie held many positions in the monastery such as assistant
infirmarian, gardener, refectorian and the office of bursar
(procurator) from 1894 to 1933. Marie’s task also was to
initiate new postulants in the ways of Carmel. (CL) Even
though Marie was united with her blood sisters in the
Carmelite Monastery, there was very little time for them to
interact with each other while taking care of the needs of other
Marie taught her youngest sister when she first entered the
Carmelite customs and her sister remarked to her: “When I
meet you, you seem to me an angel…You, who are an
EAGLE called to fly in the upper air and gaze upon the sun,
pray for the little weak reed in the depths of the valley, the
least puff of wind bends it over.” (CL)
In 1915, Marie wrote to her younger sister Léonie in Caen: “I
suppose that in heaven when we think of our earthly life, it will
appear to us as a dream, a night passed in a bad Inn. Yes, truly
our life here below is just
that, and I feel, as you do, full of courage to climb the mountain
of perfection, for I know well that it is Jesus who will carry me
up in His arms, if I place in Him all my trust.” (GV)
Marie suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and on April 29, 1923,
her arthritis attacked her muscles and severely constricted her
ability to function normally. Her affliction gradually grew worse
as the years went on and she was finally confined to bed in the
infirmary or moved about in a wheelchair. Her inability to
move on her own was the worst penance for her for she was
very generous and independent. (C) She suffered from
rheumatoid arthritis for twenty-six years.
In the latter part of 1924, Marie suffered severely from
pneumonia causing her sisters to think she might die. Marie knew
she was not going to die but expected her life to be more difficult
in the coming years. On January 25, 1929, she was moved from
her cell into the infirmary. Her legs and feet became consistently
swollen and she was riddled with sores for eleven years. (M)
In her last years, Marie allowed many different opinions to be
expressed in front of her during recreation, without making any
verbal judgments for or against that person’s perception, she
maintained her Oblation of Love even through the most difficult
times. (C) When the suffering became too much for her to
handle, she would say: “Prayer is the state of my soul. I cry to
the good God day and night; My God, come to my aid! Hasten!
Hasten to help me!” And to persuade him the more, I add, “Thou
Who art my tender Spouse, have mercy on me!” Marie always
kept the salvation of souls in her mind, stating: “I am as one in
chains. I am fettered and constrained; my arms pain me. But I
offer this to the good God in order that some poor soul may not
be fettered and lost for all eternity.” (M)
Marie could be heard crying in her cell while she was praying for
souls to be converted, using her physical pain as an offering to
God to have mercy on souls that were lost. On October 15,
1936, Marie celebrated her Golden Jubilee. She received as a gift
from one of her Carmelite sisters a watercolor painting of her
youngest sister crowning her on her day of profession with an
autograph from Pope Pius XI on the painting. (M)
On March 8, 1937, Marie was given the Sacrament of Extreme
Unction. She knew her time on this earth was almost over and
strove valiantly to offer her suffering to God to save souls. In
June of 1939, she wrote her last letter to her sister in Caen. In it
she stated: “We shall go together side by side to heaven, and the
road is so long that we feel the effects of the journey. Which of
us shall enter heaven first? It will probably be I, the most infirm.
But I am unwilling to ask anything of the good God, for now more
than ever we have opportunities of saving souls. That is worth the
pain of remaining here on earth for years more, if He wills it.”
Sometime in the latter part of 1939, Marie contracted a cold with
a severe cough, which eventually turned into pulmonary
congestion. She made her final confession during the second
week of January 1940. On January 18, 1940, while Marie was
suffering from illness, she appeared to be in a trance, speaking
very little but focusing on God and her using her suffering to
save souls as she describes: “Souls! Souls! ...There are so many
who do not love the good God! Oh, how sad it all is! Then she
remarked: Ah, how is it possible not to love so powerful, so
great, so good a God Who does all for our welfare? Were I to
go to hell, I would say to Him throughout eternity, My God, I
love you!” (M)
On January 19, 1940, Marie’s last audible words were “I Love
Thee” as she kissed her crucifix. (M) On that same day at 2:30
a.m., while she was renewing her Oblation of Love and saying the
Our Father and Hail Mary, she fixed her gaze on “Our Lady of the
Smile”, as she bowed her head and died. She was seventy-nine
years old. The community was called immediately and they were
struck by her look of great peace and joy.
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
told her that she would spend her eternity making God known by
many, “the only true God, and Him whom Thou has sent. Eternity
is not long enough for us to know the infinite goodness of the good
God, His infinite power, His infinite mercy, His infinite love for us.
These are our eternal delights, which will never be exhausted. Our heart is made to understand them
and to be nourished by them. My only desire is to loose myself in Him.”(M)
On the morning of her death, and in the week that followed, her younger sister, inundated by
mysterious perfumes, understood how “the death of saints is precious in the sight of God.” (C) On
January 23, 1940, Marie’s remains were laid to rest in a vault. She lived in the convent for 53 years
and achieved great holiness. (M) Marie never saw the outside world from the day she entered until
the day she died (M) “Her death, like her life, was very simple and very holy." Her craving for freedom
had been changed into a loving servitude. I have found Jesus within these four walls, and finding Him,
I have found heaven.” (SF) “Broken by rheumatism and crippled with pain, the “dear godmother”
retained to the end, together with her witty originality, her valiant courage, without any pose, and her
passion for souls. She calmly faced the divine tryst, which she liked to call “the day of great mercy”.
(SF) “We are happy to die after having spent our life in loving.” (LC)
Written by: R. Hann
Revised by: Sr. Michael Marie, O.C.D.
Revised by: Sr. Mary Jeanne, O.C.D.
Abbé Combes, ed. Collected Letters Of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux . (CL)
New York: Sheed & Ward, 1949.
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.
Dolan, Albert H. Rev.. Collected Little Flower Works. Chicago: Carmelite Press, 1929.
---. The Little Flower’s Mother. Chicago: Carmelite Press, 1929. (CW)
---. God Made The Violet Too: Life of Léonie, Sister of St. Thérèse. (GV)
Chicago: Carmelite Press, 1948.
Martin, Celine. My Sister St.Thérèse Trans: The Carmelite Sisters of New York. (MST)
Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1959.
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. (C)
Redmond, Paulinus Rev. Louis and Zélie Martin: The Seed and the Root of the Little Flower London: Quiller Press Limited, 1995. (SR)
Sr Marie of the Sacred Heart correspondence, www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr (LOM)
|Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart
Marie Louise Martin
"Divine Diamond of Hope"
|"How I desire to save souls! But for this, one must be holy, for only the saints have power over God's heart"
-Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart
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