In decades of studying Saint Thérèse and her family, I have been especially interested in her middle sister, Léonie, and have wanted to make her better known in the English-speaking world. So, when I was in Lisieux in October 2008 for the beatification of their parents, Louis and Zélie Martin (read my story about this pilgrimage in Carmelite Review), I took the train to Caen to visit the Monastery of the Visitation, where Léonie entered in 1899 and lived till her death in 1941. The nuns received me with the utmost kindness and gave me permission to get the death notice, a "life of Léonie" the Monastery had written and circulated at Léonie's death, translated into English and to publish it at my Web site, "Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: A Gateway." Then they allowed me to pray alone for some time by Léonie's tomb in the crypt of the Monastery. I had brought with me the prayer cards and medals I had touched to the reliquary of Léonie's parents; I spread them out on the tomb and then sat down to pray, seeking to be a channel of the love of so many Americans for Léonie. I was far from expecting any personal graces, but suddenly I remembered all the places in my life where I had been deeply hurt, and I felt Léonie, who was treated so badly, assuring me that the wounds these experiences had left were no obstacle to sanctity. This grace strengthened my desire to make Léonie, so different from Thérèse and yet the fervent disciple of her way of confidence and love, known and loved still more.
Juan Marrero, an American most devoted to Thérèse and to Léonie who has translated important documents for this Web site and for the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, translated into English for "Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway" the "life of Léonie" the Visitation had written. I am most grateful to him for making this treasure available in English. Later, he generously contributed his translation to the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, too. I am most grateful to Léonie's religious community, the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen, for magnanimously allowing me to translate this document and for the many archival photos they gave me to illustrate it. I consider the apostolate of making Léonie, who speaks to so many wounded souls, better known as one of the most privileged aspects of the apostolate of exploring and sharing the spirituality of her sister, St. Thérèse.
When I learned that Bishop Boulanger had granted the imprimatur for the prayer to ask that Léonie might be declared venerable, I felt the time was ripe to give Léonie her own Web site so that she might be considered in her own right. I thank Juan Marrero, who has generously sponsored this new Web site. May Léonie touch many souls through it and draw them along the way of confidence and love she followed so powerfully.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA)
Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
July 16, 2013