In honor of the 175th anniversary of Bernadette’s birth and the 140th anniversary of her death, her reliquary is making a pilgrimage throughout Normandy. At six o’clock this evening (Wednesday, March 27), the relics of St. Bernadette arrived at the chapel of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen, where the shrine of the Servant of God, Leonie Martin, is located.
A few moments later Leonie’s webmaster over there generously notified me of the visit and sent the first photos of the welcoming ceremony.
In June 1877, when Leonie was 14, she made a pilgrimage to Lourdes with her mother and her sisters Marie and Pauline. The four had gone there to pray that Zelie might be cured of breast cancer. God did not answer “yes” to that prayer. But Zelie poured the Lourdes water on Leonie’s forehead and begged God to open her intelligence and make her a saint. Are we not seeing the answer to that prayer?
The women of the Martin family did not see Bernadette on that visit, for she was then living in her convent in Nevers. But now Bernadette’s reliquary has come for the first time to Caen, where the body of Leonie is now enshrined in the chapel. We cannot all be there in person, so let’s unite with these two holy Frenchwomen and with Our Lady of Lourdes to beg God to pour out his grace on the whole world and especially on France.
The schedule of prayers and ceremonies is below:
Tuesday, March 27, 2019
6:00 p.m. Welcome and presentation of the Relics after the Office of Vespers (Evening Prayer)
8:00 p.m. The Rosary: The Glorious Mysteries
8:40 p.m. The Office of Compline (Night Prayer)
Wednesday, March 28, 2019
8:30 a.m. The Office of Lauds (Morning Prayer)
9:00 a.m. The Rosary: The Joyful Mysteries
10:00 a.m. The Rosary: The Sorrowful Mysteries
11:00 a.m. The Mass in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes
JEAN-CLAUDE BOULANGER, BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE OF BAYEUX AND LISIEUX. Photo credit: Diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux.
[Homily preached January 21, 2017 in the Chapel of the Monastèry of the Visitation in Caen, France by Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, at the Mass celebrating the transfer of Léonie’s body from the crypt to her new shrine in the chapel]
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”
Brothers and sisters,
The one who draws us together this afternoon is not a nun who founded a religious order the way St. Teresa of Avila did. No, she is a child in the Gospel sense, a little sister, named Léonie, Sister Françoise-Thérèse, here at the Visitation. There was, of course, little Thérèse, the youngest; but there was above all poor Léonie. Being little and being poor go together very well. Being little, then, is the opposite of being powerful. A powerful man eventually instills fear. One may admire him, perhaps . . . but for what he does or for what he possesses, much more than for who he is. Yet Léonie has nothing else to offer except who she is. Every human being, therefore, with individual failures and successes, may recognize himself or herself in Léonie. It is in this capacity that the one who accepts being little, being deprived of a thousand things, becomes rich with a thousand relationships, with a thousand bonds . . . Without knowing it, such a person weaves an immense tapestry of a thousand faces. This, then, is what Léonie reveals to us. Only the one who is little is truly a sister, and we can name her Sister Françoise-Thérèse.
Jesus was little because he was fully the Son of God, and he had learned to receive everything from God his Father. He was little. and he was fully the brother of humanity. The perfect example of the little brother is really Jesus of Nazareth. In him all those who search for a little brother have found one. But at the same time Jesus showed who the Father is. The humble, the poor . . . in a word, all those who know themselves to be little even if they have some money, some success, some intelligence, these discover what the Father is . . . a God all-powerful in Love . . . but so dependent on his creatures . . . A God who is capable of suffering before the disfigured face of his creatures… Yes, a God who is a heart marked with a cross. There it is, what we have learned during this year of Mercy. In contemplating Léonie, it is the face of Jesus that we discover.
In 1935 she wrote in a letter addressed to her sisters at the Lisieux Carmel: “I want to be so little that Jesus is forced to keep me in his arms. This, then, is the Léonie who has implemented in her life the little way of spiritual childhood of her sister Thérèse. She adds: “My spirituality is that of my Thérèse, and as a result, that of our holy founder (St. Francis de Sales), his doctrine and hers are all one, she is the soul of whom our great Doctor was dreaming. I am in a state of perfect abandonment…” (Letter of May 3, 1935).
Léonie and the Little Way . . . the way of childhood . . . the little way of confidence.
St. Teresa of Avila wrote in the 16th century: “The Lord is present even among the pots and pans.” Léonie, certainly, was not at Carmel, but she could have written what the reformer of Carmel said. At the heart of the little way that Thérèse described, it is Léonie who understood it best. Léonie wrote: “O my God, in my life where you have put little which shines, grant that, like you, I might go towards authentic values, disdaining the human values for estimating worth and wanting only the absolute, the eternal, the Love of God, in the strength of hope.” It is Léonie who makes herself a disciple of her sister even though ten years separate them. After Leonie’s death, her influence spread very rapidly: letters arrived from every continent, and they still continue to arrive constantly here at the Monastery of the Visitation.
This little way, the way of spiritual childhood, Thérèse discovered at Christmas 1886, when she finally left childishness behind. It is the path of trust and of complete abandonment into the hands of the Father. It is a way where one leaves oneself behind in order to open oneself to others. “I am only a child, powerless and feeble; however, it is my feebleness which gives me the audacity to offer myself to Jesus, to Your Love, O Jesus.” She will write again:
I offered myself to the child Jesus to be his little toy. I told him not to treat me like an expensive toy that children settle for looking at without ever daring to touch it, but like a little ball of no value which he could throw on the ground, kick with his feet, split open, leave in a corner, and even press to his heart if that would give him pleasure.
We find here again Thérèse’s sense of humor. It is through her feebleness, her littleness that she comprehends the infinite nature of the Father’s Love.
I can, despite my littleness, aspire to sanctity; it is impossible for me to grow up. I have to put up with myself just the way I am with all my imperfections, but I want to find a means of going to heaven by a little way that is quite straight, quite short, a completely new little way.
This way is made of trust and of love within the banality of everyday life. “Jesus does not ask of me grand actions but only abandonment and gratitude. It is abandonment alone which guides me. I have no other compass at all.” This little way is a path which everyone can follow, but only while practicing Love, the kind in which “the left hand does not know what the right is doing.” We are all called to sanctity: for this it is enough to put much love into the most ordinary activities of life. “Jesus doesn’t look at the grandeur of the actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which they are done.”
Thérèse is the saint of everyday life. She speaks about the holiness of daily life, about being faithful in small things without making a fuss, about being completely filled with love. She evokes the divine under the most human of circumstances. “Picking up a needle out of love can save the world.” It is also a way within the grasp of little people who express themselves through the ordinariness of life without ever having accomplished exceptional things which would be newsworthy. It is the sanctity that is within reach of everyone. She will speak of the elevator which must bring her up to heaven, and this elevator is not reserved for the wealthy. It is within everyone’s reach; this elevator is the arms of Jesus
It is indeed this little way that Léonie lived. Little people all across the world are rediscovering it through her. Many families who have difficulties with one of their children come willingly to her. Similarly, many young women search for their vocations on a meandering path. They see themselves in Léonie, who found her path in life after three tries. And finally, as Bernanos said: “It is much easier to detest oneself than it is to love oneself with humility.” Léonie was reconciled to herself, and she accepted being different from her sisters. Never does one find a trace of jealousy in her letters. One can say that she learned to love herself with humility and in simplicity.
+ Jean Claude Boulanger Bishop of the Bayeux-Lisieux Diocese
[Note: I thank Bishop Boulanger for permission to translate and publish his homily and for furnishing a photograph; the Webmaster of the Visitation at Caen; and Rod Murphy, who translated the homily.].
For the first time in history, in this lovely video, follow the Visitation nuns through a day in their monastery at Caen: Mass, private prayer, communal prayer, housework, bookbinding, operating a pension for students, study, recreation, conferences, playing volleyball in the garden . . . Experience not only the building where Leonie Martin lived for so long the way of her sister, St. Therese of Lisieux, but also the simple, joyful spirit of the Visitation community. A beautiful way to celebrate Leonie's birthday. 16 minutes long; silent except for music and sung prayer.
The nuns of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen announced that Éditions Emmanuel has published a new edition of the biography of Léonie written by Franciscan Father Stephane-Joseph Piat. Originally published in 1967 as Léonie, the book is now titled Léonie Martin: La sainteté inattendue de une soeur de Thérèse (Léonie Martin: The unexpected holiness of a sister of Thérèse) and features a short preface by Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux.
I am delighted at this long-awaited publication, and I hope that it will serve to make the Servant of God, Leonie Martin (Sister Francoise-Therese) better known in the French-speaking world. Who will be the first to publish it in English?
This short film (3:05) begins with the processional for this historic celebration of the Eucharist, over which Mgr Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, presided. The present-day nuns of the Monastery of the Visitation, where Leonie lived from 1899-1941, are in the front seats on the left. The priests in the processional include, among others,
· Father Jean-Marie Simar, rector of the Shrine of Saints Louis and Zelie Martin at Alencon;
· Father Olivier Ruffray, rector of the Shrine of St. Therese at Lisieux;
· Father Raymond Zambelli, former rector of the Shrine of St. Therese at Lisieux; and,
· walking immediately in front of the bishop, at left, Father Antonio Sangalli, the postulator of Leonie's cause.
Our congratulations to all those who have led the cause and to Leonie's Visitation sisters, whom we thank for the privilege of sharing this film. If you read French, please visit their site, Leonie Martin, Soeur Francoise-Therese.
We give thanks to God for this blessed occasion and pray that the chapel of the Visitation, where pilgrims may now pray at Leonie's tomb, may become a center of grace for the whole world.
Bishop Boulanger presiding at the Mass on January 21, 2017 to celebrate the deposit of the body of the Servant of God, Leonie Martin, in her new tomb at the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen. Photo credit: Archives of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen
"Today, the Eucharist presided over by Monseigneur Boulanger for this occasion before the deposit of the casket of the Servant of God, Sister Francoise-Therese, in her new tomb in the chapel, January 21, 2017."
In the photo above: in the sanctuary, wearing his miter, Bishop Boulanger; at right, Father Sangalli, postulator of Leonie's cause. Leonie's coffin lies in the center aisle, draped in red. The Visitation nuns are visible in the front pews on the right.
Leonie's tomb is now at street level. The crypt was accessible only to those who could handle stairs. What a joy to think that anyone who can travel can pray in the presence of her tomb now! May it be a blessing to the whole world.
Leonie is the only one of Therese's four sisters not buried underneath Therese's shrine at the Lisieux Carmel. Her sister Pauline, then prioress, had offered her the honor of being buried there with her sisters, but Leonie declined. She wanted to remain at the Visitation in death as she had in life. So her tomb, a pilgrimage site, remains in Caen, the city where she found a home and where her father Louis spent his "three years of martyrdom" at the Bon Sauveur hospital.
On June 6, 1941, ten days before her death, Leonie wrote to Pauline that her superior "told me I will be buried in the crypt beside our other revered Mother Superiors, and that she in turn will join me there. Yes, there’s nothing I’d like more, but may it be as late as possible. This decision of the Council encourages me to embrace my insignificance even more." [from the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux]. If the honor of being buried in the crypt with her superiors made Leonie feel insignificant, what would she have felt at the celebrations of today?
TThe Sisters of the Monastery of the Visitation of Caen have the joy of inviting you to the Eucharist at which Monseigneur Boulanger, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, will preside on the occasion of the deposit ot the tomb of the Servant of God, Sister Françoise-Thérèse, Léonie Martin, in her new tomb
Saturday, January 21, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.
In the chapel of the Monastery
3, rue de l’abbatiale
You are also invited, in honor of this feast, to a spiritual concert that will be given by the ensemble Le Diapason under the direction of Jean-François Chenel
Monday, January 23, 2017 at 8:30 p.m.
In the chapel of the monastery
On January 20, 2017, Pascal Simon reported in Ouest-France that Leonie Martin, the sister of Saint Therese of Lisieux, may be the next native of Normandy to be proclaimed a saint by the Catholic Church.
Transfer of Leonie's body to the chapel
Leonie's process of beatification opened in 2015. It reaches a new stage on Saturday, January 21, 2017 at the monastery of the Visitation in Caen, where Leonie lived as Sister Francoise-Therese from 1899 until her death. Her body, which has lain in a tomb in the crypt of the monastery since she died in 1941, will be transferred to a new tomb in the chapel where she professed her vows in 1900. Her new shrine was designed by architect Hervé Declomesnil.
Mass to mark the occasion
Monseigneur Jean-Claude Boulanger, the bishop of the diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux, will preside at a Mass to mark the occasion at 3:00 p.m. He will be assisted by Father Antonio Sangalli, an Italian Carmelite priest who is the postulator of Leonie's cause. Father Sangalli served as vice-postulator for the cause of Leonie's parents, Saints Louis and Zelie Martin.
Progress of Leonie's cause
Father Sangalli told Ouest-France that the diocesan inquiry into whether Leonie practiced "heroic virtue" is still going on. In an interview with TendanceOuest, Father Sangalli said that Leonie's life was full of the spirit of the gospel, of the beatitudes, and that her sanctity was the "heroicity of the everyday." He hopes that this first stage will be completed before the end of "Leonie's year," which opened on the 75th anniversary of her death (June 16, 2016).
Possible miracles identified
The file will then be sent to the Vatican, which might proclaim Leonie "Venerable" (a title given to candidates for sainthood who are deemed by the Church to have practiced heroic virtue). If that were to happen, the next step toward Leonie's beatification would be to identify a miracle attributed to Leonie's intercession, that is, a healing that cannot be explained by science. Father Sangalli said that three possible cases of unexplained cures have been identified: a little boy in Brazil, a little girl in Switzerland, and a little girl in France.
We congratulate Monseigneur Boulanger, Father Sangalli, and the nuns of the Visitation on this happy occasion. How they have labored and prayed to make the holiness of Leonie's life known so that it may inspire us! Let's continue to support Leonie's cause with our prayers.
Left: Carmelite friar fr. antonio sangalli, postulator of Leonie's cause, in the crypt on the day it was reopened. From far right, Fr. Olivier Ruffray, rector of the shrine at lisieux; mgr jean-claude boulanger, bishop of bayeux and lisieux; father Jean-Marie simar, rector of the shrine of sts. louis and zelie at al4encon, with members of the historical commission. photo credit: visitation of caen.
"On April 25, 2015, the body of the Servant of God, Léonie Martin, was exhumed as part of the cause for her beatification. Many people call the monastery or come to the reception desk to ask to pray near the Servant of God, but access to the crypt where Léonie’s tomb is has been closed to the faithful since that date.
On July 18, 2016, in the presence of Mgr Boulanger, bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux; of Father Sangalli, the postulator of the cause; of the members of the historical commission [that has been appointed to inquire into Léonie’s life, writings, and virtues]; and of the Visitation Sisters, Léonie’s body, clothed in the Visitation habit, was deposited in her glass shrine.
Meanwhile, it is again possible for the faithful to enter the crypt, but only under certain conditions:
1. First, please present yourself at the reception desk during the hours indicated.
2. Second, while you are in the crypt, please display all the respect one should show when one prays near the body of someone who has died.
3. Third, accept that Léonie’s body is not visible.
4. Finally, all photographs are forbidden.
These conditions are necessary for the pursuit of the cause for Léonie’s beatification. Thank you for your understanding."
This article is translated with thanks from the Web site maintained for Léonie by the Visitation nuns of Caen. See their post "Réouverture de la crypte." We thank them also for permission to use their photos above.
Important notes from the translator:
The hours presently posted for visiting the crypt (as of August 27, 2016) are:
From Monday through Thursday: 9:10 a.m. until 10:50 a.m. (Mass is at 11:00 a.m.) 2:15 p.m. until 5:15 p.m.
Friday: 9:10 a.m. unjtil 10:50 a.m. (Mass is at 11:00 a.m.) 3:30 p.m. until 5:15 p.m.
Saturday: 9:10 a.m. until 10:50 a.m. (Mass at 11:00 a.m.) 2:30 p.m. until 5:15 p.m.
9:00 a.m. until 9:50 a.m. (Mass at 10:00 a.m.) After Mass: until 12 noon 2:30 p.m. until 5:15 p.m.
Note: I understand that the glass shrine which contains Léonie’s body is in the crypt, but her body is not visible. The body of a person under consideration for sainthood may not be exposed for veneration until the candidate has been beatified. To allow people to pray near Léonie’s body in the crypt again, but to prevent her body from being seen by the faithful who come to pray, the shrine has been covered with a red cloth.
One hundred sixteen years ago today, on Monday, July 2, 1900, the Servant of God, Léonie Martin, made her religious profession during Mass in the chapel of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen. Celebrate this happy anniversary by reliving the day with her in this article.
Léonie was then 37 years old. Having entered the Visitation Monastery at Caen a total of three times, she had received the habit twice before, in 1894 (she left the monastery in 1895) and in 1899. The day of her vows was the happiest day of her life.
Leading up to the happy day of Léonie's profession
On May 12, 1900, the nuns of the Visitation community had voted to receive Léonie, who had taken the name Sister Françoise-Thérèse, as a professed nun. At the request of her superior, Léonie sent a telegram to her uncle, Isidore Guèrin, in Lisieux to announce the happy news. The next day she wrote to her uncle:
My gratitude to our beloved Mother and the whole Community is indescribable. I’d like to be able to describe the joy and deep affection with which I was received. I knew I was well-loved here, but I didn’t imagine it was to such an extent.
One is happy to think that Léonie, for so long misunderstood, was surprised and happy at how well she was loved at the Visitation. Read the rest of Léonie's happy letter at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
When the news reached Lisieux, Léonie received joyful letters from her family. Read the letters of congratulation from:
The vow Mass was to take place at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, July 2, the feast of the Visitation Order. Like Therese, Léonie had to renounce the presence of Bishop Hugonin. Her aunt, Céline Guérin, had died in February. Her uncle, Isidore Guérin, and her cousin, Jeanne Guérin La Neéle, were too sick to attend. Jeanne’s husband, Francis La Neéle, represented her family.
A;tar pf the chapel of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen
Léonie wrote that the altar was "nothing but lilies."
Father Lepelletier, the senior priest of St. Stephen’s in Caen, presided at the Mass. He had been the confessor of Louis Martin, and of Therese from the time she left the Abbey in February 1886 until he entered Carmel in 1888. In 1887, to take a lesson in fishing from Louis Martin, he accompanied Louis and his three youngest daughters on an outing. On that occasion he left us a sketch of Léonie, Céline, and Thérèse in the country (courtesy of the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux; click to see his photo, and then, in the text, click on the word "dessine" in blue).
Canon Levasseur, who had preached at Léonie's reception of the Habit on June 30, 1899, preached the sermon. He had known the Guerin family when he was working in Navarre, near their summer estate, La Musse. He had been Marie Guerin’s spiritual director. According to the custom of the times, a violinist who was a friend of one of the Visitation nuns played several pieces of sacred music, accompanied by a harmonium. Then Léonie prostrated herself (a symbol of dying to oneself and rising to new life in Christ). While she lay under the pall, she wore against her heart the letters she had just received from her sisters.
Finally Canon Ruel, the chaplain of the Visitation, received Léonie's vows. (Her correspondence shows that she was saddened when he was reassign4ed in 1930. Tragically, Canon Ruel died in the bombing of St. Pierre in Caen in 1944).
With her own hand Léonie recorded the formula of the vows in the monastery's book:
I, Françoise-Thérèse Martin, have by the grace of God, this day of 2 July 1900, celebrated my vows to live and die in the Congregation of Our Lady of the Visitation. May my Savior bless this day and render it profitable for all eternity.
Sister Françoise-Thérèse Martin
Under the bridal crown of roses prepared by her sisters at Lisieux, the newly professed was radiant with joy. Francis La Neele wrote to Lisieux: “Léonie was transfigured; she was truly beautiful; it seemed to us that the Holy Spirit rested on her.” As a souvenir of the great day, Léonie distributed holy cards with an image then known as “Thérèse seated in the monastery garden” (in fact, the figure of Thérèse was cropped from a group photo and pasted onto the background).
therese's crucifix, later given to Leonie for her profession
Leonie mentions the surprise of being presented with the crucifix Thérèse had worn throughout her own religious life and had caressed on her sickbed. This was a gift from her Carmelite sisters. Referring to the usual cross worn by all Visitandines, Leonie adds:
When I awoke the following day, I was so happy to be able to press my Profession Cross against my heart. This blessed cross has cost me so much! I said to myself, “I have it this time . . . Nothing can take it from me now!":
Among those who had the joy of celebrating with Leonie in the chapel of the Visitation on July 2, 1900, how many could have guessed that exactly 115 years later that same chapel would see the opening of her cause for beatification?
On this anniversary of the happiest day of Leonie's life, let's pray fervently that God will allow her cause to be advanced so that she may help and console all those who have shared in the trials she experienced on earth. Let's give thanks to God for her and pray for the whole Visitation family.
The Web site "Leonie Martin, Soeur Francoise-Therese," sponsored by the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen, has been opened just in time for the 75th anniversary (June 17, 2016) of Leonie's death. Visit it at http://www.leonie-martin.fr/
For the moment, the site is only in French, but I hope it will appear in English soon. Even if you do not read French, you can enjoy much of the site, which contains previously unpublished photos. The site is simple and short, so you can view it all quickly.
news stories (for example, about the restoration and cleaning of the chapel and of some new publications in French about Leonie)
Directions to the monastery (but note that, while the chapel is being restored, both the chapel and the crypt are closed to the public)
Since July 16, 2013, when "Leonie Martin: Disciple and Sister of St. Therese of Lisieux" opened, until now, I believe it was the only Web site in the world dedicated exclusively to the life and spirituality of Leonie Martin. I am delighted that the Visitation nuns, who have supported this site so generously, now have been able to open their own site, which will be a beacon for the lovers of Leonie everywhere. I congratulate and thank the Visitation nuns of Caen for giving us this beautiful gift for the 75th anniversary of the death of their sister's entering into life. May she bless them.
The Monastery of the Visitation is not a shrine or a pilgrimage office; it's simply a small group of nuns responsible for the old building in which Leonie lived and where people come to visit her tomb. The nuns have no staff and no funding for the work Leonie's cause makes necessary. If the Holy Spirit moves you to do so, please make a gift to the restoration fund in honor of the anniversary. Thank you.
Léonie Martin was born on Wednesday, June 3, 1863, in her parents’ home on Rue Pont-Neuf in Alençon.
15 rue Pont-Neuf, Leonie's birthplace
St. Pierre de Monsort, the church of Leonie's baptism
The family did not move to rue Saint-Blaise, well known as the birthplace of St. Thérèse, until 1871, when Léonie was eight. During their years on rue Pont-Neuf, in a working-class quarter of Alençon (originally a suburb), the Martins were parishioners of St. Pierre de Monsort, a church in that part of the city. The church of St. Pierre de Monsort still exists in Alençon today, but the building, on the site of the old church, is not the one the Martins knew.
The church of St. Pierre de Monsort today
The church in which Léonie was baptized, and which Louis and Zélie and their children attended from the time of the Martins’ wedding in 1858 until their move to rue Saint-Blaise in 1871, was an old building, in poor repair, and too small for its congregation.
A postcard of the church of St. Pierre de Monsort, where Leonie was baptized
Zélie’s confessor, Fr. Crété, launched a drive to raise funds to demolish the old church and build a new one. The neighborhood was becoming more prosperous, with the homes of weavers and the building of mansions for the new class of the bourgeois. Louis Martin’s father contributed to this fund. The Martins left Alençon in 1877, and the foundation stone of the new St. Pierre de Monsort was not laid until 1880. The church was consecrated April 15, 1884. Louis and his daughters would have visited It when they returned to Alençon on visits.
The Baptismal Font
The baptismal font in which Leonie was baptized, in the church of St. Pierre de Monsort in Alencon
The baptismal font of the old church was preserved and installed in the new church. The font, of rose-colored stone, is from the 18th century, given in 1753 by Master Londes Réquier, parish priest from 1707 to 1757. It was in this font. at the old church of St. Pierre de Monsort, that all the Martin children except Thérèse were baptized.
The font in which the Servant of God, Leonie Martin, was baptized on June 4, 1863
The priest who bapTIzed Léonie
Léonie was baptized the day after her birth, on Thursday, June 4, 1863, the feast of Corpus Christi. Canon Lebouc, a friend of Louis Martin’s, who had baptized Marie and Pauline, performed the baptism.
[Canon Lebouc did not forget the daughters of his old friend. Decades later, on April 29, 1915, Marie wrote from the Carmel of Lisieux to Leonie at the Visitation:
Our Mother is sending you something which will interest you: your baptism certificate! Dear Fr. Lebouc, who baptised all three of us, sent us our baptism certificates a while ago thinking we would like to have them. The dear Canon is highly venerated in the diocese of Séez and will soon turn 90 I think! He is the brother of the Miss Leboucs; you must remember those dear old ladies?
Canon Lebouc, born in 1827, died in 1919, so he did live well past his 90th birthday!]
Adolphe Leriche, the nephew of Louis Martin and the godfather of Leonie. Photo courtesy of Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.
Léonie’s godfather was her cousin, Adolphe Leriche, Louis Martin’s nephew. Born January 6, 1844, he was the son of Louis’s deceased sister Fannie. After the death of his mother, he spent his youth in the home of Louis and Louis’s parents on rue Pont-Neuf. He was still part of the household when Zélie joined them after her marriage in 1858. At the time of Léonie’s baptism, he was a young man of 19. He trained as a watchmaker, and, after inheriting some money, purchased Louis’s shop and practiced his trade there until he died in 1894, the same year his uncle died.
Leonie gilbert, later mme jacques tifenne, godmother of leonie martin
Léonie’s godmother, born Léonie Gilbert, is usually called Mme. Tifenne. But, at the time she served as godmother, she was not yet married. She was a neighbor of Louis and Zélie. She lived at 26 rue Pont-Neuf with her parents, who were tanners. (Léonie Gilbert turned out to have a double bond to the Martins, for, three years after the baptism, in 1866, she married Jacques Tifenne, a pharmacist who, while doing his studies in Paris, had become an intimate friend of Léonie’s uncle, Isidore Guérin, who later settled at Lisieux). Louis and Zélie gave all their children the first name “Marie,” and also gave each child the name of one of their godparents. Their daughter Léonie was named for Mademoiselle Gilbert.
The secret of Léonie’s christening robe
Léonie's godmother, who was known for her generous heart, gave the Martins a christening robe on this occasion. Léonie was the first to wear it. After that, it was worn by all the younger Martin children, including Thérèse, at their christenings.
By the time Thérèse, their last child, was born in 1873, Louis and Zélie had moved back to Zélie’s girlhood home on rue Saint-Blaise. Since that house was in the parish of Notre-Dame, where they had been married, Thérèse was the only one of their children to be baptized in that church (Our Lady of the Assumption, raised to the rank of a basilica after the Martin spouses were beatified).
Therese’s baptism is commemorated by a magnificent stained-glass window depicting the occasion, installed in 1925. The window depicts Marie, Pauline, and Céline with Louis. Léonie is not pictured.
Where is Léonie's christening robe today?
At the Church of Notre-Dame in Alencon, above the font in which Thérèse was baptized, the christening robe Thérèse received from Léonie is on display under glass.
The christening robe shared by Leonie and Therese, exposed above the font where Therese was baptized in the church of Notre Dame in Alencon.
Because Thérèse was the first of the family to be raised to the altars, the robe is exposed at the site of her baptism.
Baptismal font of St. Therese, Notre-Dame Church, Alencon
But, if you have the joy of visiting Alençon in the footsteps of the Martins, please, while you are in the Basilica of Notre-Dame, imagine the first appearance of this baptismal garment at St. Pierre de Monsort in 1863, clothing the little blonde, blue-eyed baby girl who, one hundred and fifty-three years ago, was the first to be received into the Church wearing it.
The baptismal garment of the Servant of God, Leonie Martin, handed down to her sister, St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Notre-Dame Church, Alencon
It is characteristic of Léonie’s continued hiddenness that countless pilgrims have prayed in the presence of her baptismal garment without realizing it.
Today, when a child is baptized, the priest or deacon administering the sacrament says:
“You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”
How marvelous to know that the white garment that symbolized Léonie's Christian dignity at her baptism later did the same for Thérèse: a foreshadowing of the fruits of the graces poured out on both girls in the great sacrament of baptism—graces which would lead the two sisters, so intimately united, along the way of confidence and love that opened a new era for souls.
The renewal of baptismal promises
If you have the opportunity while you are in this holy place, please renew the vows of your own baptism, and invite your children to renew theirs. May the prayers of the Martin family help us to continue to clothe ourselves in Christ.
the future site of the tomb of the servant of god, leonie martin, in the chapel of the monastery of the visitation at caen. photo credit: visitation at caen.
"For a long time, our community has wanted to be able to transfer Léonie’s burial place from the crypt to the chapel to make it a more accessible place for the growing number of pilgrims who come to pray and meditate at her tomb. But the high cost of the improvements to our building which are absolutely necessary to carrying out this plan have thwarted our desire. The expense of the construction work is beyond our means.
First, we want to build a sarcophagus in our chapel to receive the shrine containing the body of our sister.
Then there are many repairs to be made in different parts of the chapel. We have discovered that the wood of the balcony overlooking the site for the sarcophagus is filled with worms. We have begun to treat the wood. The pavement of the chapel floor is badly damaged; it would be dangerous for pilgrims.
Once these repairs are complete, we will then clean the Stations of the Cross and the stained-glass windows of the chapel. All of them have gotten dirty from an old, badly regulated heating system.
So we stretch out our hands to our friends, to all those who are kind and caring and who, with us, hope that Léonie may become better known and intercede helpfully for those who are in trouble and in suffering.
If you want to contribute to the costs incurred by the administrative procedures for the conduct of Léonie’s process for sainthood, please send your contribution, however modest it may be, either:
by mail addressed to:
Communauté de la Visitation 3 rue de l’abbatiale 14000 CAEN
"She knew how to welcome what she was. She was poorer in human qualities than her sisters (less intelligent, less beautiful, etc.). She accepted all her limitations with faith and surrender to the will of God. Léonie remained simple and humble, happy with what she was. . . . Her example means that, with what each of us has received from nature and from our parents, a way of holiness is possible for us. . . . Sanctity consists in loving and accepting the will of God. This is what Léonie lived. She loved her inadequacies. . . . She surmounted all her difficulties by faith."
Having read the Supplex Libellus submitted on January 15, 2015 by the Reverend Father Antonio of the Mother of God (Antonio Sangalli), a Discalced Carmelite friar who is legitimately named Postulator, and by Mother Marie-Christine Cottard, Superior of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen and “Acteur” of the Cause, in which they asked us to introduce the Cause of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God, Sister Françoise-Thérèse, born Marie-Léonie Martin (Alençon 1863-Caen 1941), professed nun of the Order of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, in following Christ, poor, chaste, and obedient, with humility and the evangelical spirit of authentic charity, did not through fear, bury the one talent he had received in a hole in the ground, but instead she was able to make this small inheritance fruitful (cf. Mt. 25, 24-27. “I am happy to be only a poor little nothingness and that Jesus is my only treasure.” (Father Piat, Léonie, a sister of Saint Thérèse at the Visitation, Office Central de Lisieux, 1966, p. 198).
It is with confidence that I grant this request, and make the necessary and appropriate investigations, convinced of its solid foundation and of the absence of obstacles to the cause and after my brothers in the episcopate of the Ecclesiastical Province of Normandy, assembled in session on January 22, 2015, issued a positive opinion about its desirability, and after having requested the Nihil obstat from the Holy See, today, according to the Normae servandae n. 11/b, and the instruction Sanctorum Mater art. 43 §3, I have the joy of announcing to the priests, to the religious, and to the laity of our diocesan community, by this
that we have the intention of setting up an ecclesiastical tribunal for the opening of the
CAUSE OF BEATIFICATION AND CANONIZATION OF THE SERVANT OF GOD SR FRANÇOISE-THÉRÈSE. (MARIE-LÉONIE MARTIN)
Taking into account the serious responsibilities which this decision entails,
formally all those who are aware of some obstacle, which perhaps conflicts with the reputation for sanctity of the Servant of God, to give their opinions to me or to the Postulator.
The present decree shall be read at the end of the celebration of each Holy Mass on Sunday, June 28, 2015 and shall remain affixed to the notice board of our episcopal Curia of Bayeux and Lisieux and of all the parishes, the churches, the monasteries, the convents, and the institutes of consecrated life in the diocese. It shall also be published in the diocesan journal Église de Bayeux et Lisieux, the Internet site of the diocese (http://www.bayeuxlisieux.catholique.fr/), the local journals, and the daily issues of La Croix.
We have ordered our chancellor secretary to inform the Postulator of the Cause, the Reverend Father Antonio of the Mother of God (Antonio Sangalli), of our decision and also to announce that
THE SOLEMN OPENING OF THE CAUSE OF BEATIFICATION AND CANONIZATION OF SR FRANÇOISE-THÉRÈSE. (MARIE-LÉONIE MARTIN) WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE CHAPEL OF THE VISITATION AT CAEN ON JULY 2, 2015 AT 9:30 A.M.
Permission is granted to reproduce this decree in its entirety. Please include the language: "English translation by Maureen O'Riordan for http://leoniemartin.org"
We thank the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen for furnishing the Decree.
I asked the Visitation nuns of Toledo, who celebrated the centenary of their monastery on the day Leonie's cause was opened (at that time the Feast of the Visitation) for their comment on the news. They graciously answered:
Let's pray that the community may flourish in Toledo for at least another century. May Leonie, who loved the Visitation so ardently, unite with Jane de Chantal and Francis de Sales to obtain God's graces for it.
At 9:30 this morning, in the chapel of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen, Mgr Jean-Claude Boulanger, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, solemnly announced the opening of the process of beatification and canonization for Leonie Martin, Sister Francoise-Therese, a religious woman, a member of the Order of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary who entered that monastery in 1899 and died there in 1941. Born in Alencon in 1863, she was the older sister of St. Therese of Lisieux and the third daughter of soon-to-be-Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, who will be canonized on October 18, 2015.
"The cause of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God Sister Françoise-Thérèse is actually launched," said Bishop Boulanger. The cause was opened in the presence of Father Antonio Sangalli, O.C.D., an Italian Carmelite friar who has been appointed postulator of Leonie’s cause and who supervised the preparations for opening the process.
In the same chapel, on January 24, 2015, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop Boulanger, presiding at a special Mass, announced his intention of seeking permission from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome to open the diocesan inquiry for Leonie’s beatification. He had received the concurrence of the bishops' conference of Normandy at their meeting on January 22, 2015. Leonie was designated “Servant of God,” which title is the first step the long road to canonizable sainthood.
For the solemn opening of the process, the monastery chapel was full. (See photographsof today's ceremony). For this special occasion the Visitation nuns sat in the front pews. Their community, which is the "acteur" in the cause, joined Father Sangalli in asking Bishop Boulanger to open the cause. In this chapel, 115 years ago today, on July 2, 1900, Leonie made her religious profession. She had entered the monastery twice before (in 1887, staying six months, and in 1893, staying two years) before her definitive entrance on January 28, 1899 at the age of thirty-five.
Bishop Boulanger set up a diocesan tribunal to inquire into the virtues Leonie practiced during her lifetime, and the members of the tribunal were sworn in. The postulator, Father Sangalli, is responsible for advancing the “inquiry” (a kind of trial) to verify that the documents about Leonie are authentic. Without the postulator, no inquiry can be opened. Father Sangalli has served in this role before; he is the vice-postulator for the cause of beatification and canonization of Leonie’s parents, Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin. "I studied the whole biography of Leonie. By reading what she wrote and what is written about her, I got the idea that she might be a saint.” He called her “the saint of the twenty-first century.”
The road to canonized sainthood is long. The Church generally waits at least five years after a candidate’s death to consider such a trial. At the time of Therese’s death, the usual waiting period was 50 years, but Therese was dispensed from that wait. Leonie Martin has waited 74 years. This first inquiry, the “diocesan process,” is also sometimes called the “bishop’s process” or the “ordinary’s process.” It is opened with the permission of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, but under the authority of the bishop of the diocese in which the candidate died. The tribunal is an ecclesiastical court which is granted authority to investigate the candidate's life and reputation for sanctity.
Many witnesses are expected to testify during the inquiry, Father Sangalli said. Since Leonie’s death in 1941, letters have come in from all over the world (the Americas, Africa, Europe, etc.) to ask for Leonie’s prayers and to ask her to obtain graces. “These are the elements of holiness we need to collect. Now the historical commission is going to organize all the archives, collecting all the possible documentation imaginable. It's going to divide the stages of her life--birth, family, adolescence, schooling---from a chronological point of view, to establish vis a vis Leonie whether in her lifetime she truly practiced the Gospel.” The inquiry will determine whether Leonie practiced the Christian virtues to a heroic degree.
The tribunal’s work is expected to take a year or two, after which Bishop Boulanger will convoke a final session of the church court to close this phase of the process. The documentation would then be sent to Rome, where the Church wil decide definitively whether Leonie practiced heroic virtue. If the finding is favorable, she would be called “Venerable.” The decree for Therese’s heroic virtues was promulgated on August 14, 1921 by Pope Pius XI; the one for the virtues of Louis and Zelie, by Pope John Paul II on March 26, 1994. For Leonie’s cause then to proceed to beatification, the Church would need to recognize a miracle attributed to her intercession.
When Leonie died on June 17, 1941, she was given the honor of being buried in the crypt of the monastery. For decades pilgrims came there to pray at her tomb. In view of the process, Leonie's body was exhumed on April 25, 2015. It will not be returned to the crypt, but is expected to be placed in a reliquary in the chapel, which is at street level and more accessible to pilgrims.
"On Thursday, July 2, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. in the chapel of the Visitation Monastery 3, rue l'Abbatiale in CAEN
Mgr. Jean-Claude Boulanger (bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux) will preside at the opening of the process for the beatification of Sister Françoise-Thérèse Martin (Leonie Martin), who died in this monastery on June 17, 1941.
Mass will be celebrated after the opening ceremony.
You are cordially invited to come and unite with us in thanksgiving and to share our prayer."
- From the nuns of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen
The process will be opened on the 115th anniversary of Leonie's religious profession in the very chapel where she made her vows as a Visitation nun on July 2, 1900 Who could have foreseen the fruits of that day? We thank God for drawing so many little souls to the divine Heart through Leonie.
The servant of god, sister francoise-therese (leonie Martin) credit: Monastery of the visitation at Caen
Lord our God,
Through the example of “the Servant of God, Sister Françoise-Thérèse,” Léonie Martin, daughter of Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin and sister of St. Thérèse, You have given us an understanding of the mercy and the tenderness of Your Love.
You watched over her fragile health from the first hours of her life. You supported her in the difficult times of her childhood and adolescence.
You called her to the consecrated life, and You sustained her on the delicate path of her response.
You inspired her to lead a hidden life, humble and a gift to your Love, as a Visitation nun at Caen, accepting her limitations.
Lord, if such is your will, Deign to grant us the grace that we ask of you (…….) through the intercession of "the Servant of God, Sister Françoise-Thérèse.”
May she, one day, be counted among the Venerables of your Church.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Testimonies of graces received should be sent to
Monastery of the Visitation 3 Rue de l’Abbatiale 14000 Caen, France
+ Imprimatur: Jean-Claude Boulanger, Bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux
We thank Bishop Boulanger for his gracious permission to translate this prayer into English and to publish it. Permission is granted to publish this translation of the prayer in its entirety, without alteration. Please include the phrase "translated for leoniemartin.org." If you repost the prayer online or circulate it by e-mail, please include a live link to leoniemartin.org. Thank you.
Léonie Martin, Disciple and Sister of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Léonie Martin, the sister of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, became Sister Françoise-Thérèse of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen in northern France. Léonie led a challenging life: ill from childhood; abused by a maidservant; expelled from school; isolated within her family. She tried religious life three times before she succeeded: in 1899, at the age of 35, she entered definitively the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen, where she died in 1941 at the age of 78.
How did the troubled child and unhappy teenager turn into the sister everyone remembered as so kind, so serene, and so happy that they could not believe she had had a difficult childhood? As a laywoman, Léonie lived at the margins of her family and her society. She found Christ there and made him the center and the source of her life. She discovered God within herself, in her woundedness, and she became the first disciple of Thérèse's "way of confidence and love."
After her death, Léonie was almost forgotten for a long time. But, about 1960, the nuns of her monastery began to receive letters from all over the world asking them to pray that Léonie might obtain graces for those who wrote. Many of these letters came from the parents of special children, from families in conflict, and from persons who, like Léonie, struggle to find and to fulfill their vocations. These were followed by letters of thanksgiving. Pilgrims come to pray at her tomb, to ask for graces and to give thanks. Now she is being considered for beatifcation. Mgr Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux, the diocese where Léonie lived most of her life and where she died, has granted the imprimatur for a prayer asking that Léonie might be declared "venerable" (that is, declared to have practced heroic virtue).
Léonie's mission is to draw souls, especially the wounded, the broken, and those who have not found a place in the world, to God. Invite her to accompany you and to lead you to surrender yourself, as she did, to God's "consuming and transforming love."
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