FrancieTV reported this morning on the Mass at which the first steps for opening of the cause for sainthood of Leonie Martin were announced yesterday. At three o'clock French time Mgr. Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of the diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux, celebrated Mass in the public chapel of the monastery (where Leonie made her Profession on July 2, 1900) in the presence of many of her Visitation sisters and a crowd that filled the chapel. FranceTV's story "Ouverture du procès en béatification de Léonie Martin, soeur de Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux" includes two short videos.
- The first is a 32-second interview in French with the vice-postulator, Carmelite friar Fr. Antonio Sangalli, who is also the vice-postulator for Leonie's parents, Louis and Zelie Martin. (The vice-postulator is appointed by the Church to keep records and prepare documentation, investigate reported miracles, and promote the candidate's cause for beatification and canonization). .
- The second is a 28-second video showing the Mass in the public chapel, at which Mgr. Boulanger, bishop of the diocese, presides. It also shows another ceremony in the crypt of the monastery, where Leonie is buried and where pilgrims come to visit her tomb. Even if you do not speak French, I recommend watching this short video to see the occasion.
The Visitation Monastery, and this chapel, have seen other important occasions for Leonie. She first entered the monastery on July 16, 1887 at age 24, during the summer in which Therese and Celine were praying so fervently for the condemned prisoner, Henri Pranzini. Note that Therese was also familiar with the chapel and the monastery, for she and Celine took the train to Caen to visit Leonie until Leonie left the monastery on January 6. 1888. Therese entered Carmel in April 1888. In February 1889, Louis Martin was confined to a psychiatric hospital, the Bon Sauveur in Caen, where he spent more than three years. It was a short walk from there to the monastery, and Leonie, coming to Caen with Celine to visit her father, often went to see the nuns and prayed in this chapel. In the autumn of 1890 Leonie's cousin, Jeanne Guerin, married Dr. Francis La Neele and moved to Caen, where Leonie visited them. In May 1892 Louis was released from the Bon Sauveur. On his return to Lisieux, he and Leonie and Celine established themselves in a small house in rue Labbey near the house of Isidore Guerin, Leonie's uncle.
On June 24, 1893, at the age of 30, Leonie left rue Labbey to enter the monastery again. On April 6, 1894, she received the habit in this chapel. Like Therese, she wore a white wedding dress for the ceremony; her bridal wreath was made of orange blossoms. The Guerin family and her sister Celine were present, and the bishop of the diocese, Mgr Flavien Hugonin, presided, as he had at Therese's Clothing in 1889. Leonie took the name Sister Therese-Dosithee after her aunt, who had been Sister Marie-Dosithee at the Visitation of Le Mans. Later, when the community decided to postpone Leonie's profession, she considered asking for a transfer to Le Mans. Therese wrote her: 'I am interiorly convinced that you have found your vocation, not only as a Visitandine but as a Visitandine at Caen." Her words were prophetic, but Leonie, still in poor health, left the monastery on July 20, 1895. Therese writes that at Leonie's first visit to her Carmelite sisters, they were all overcome with tears. Leonie was now aged 32. As Celine had entered the Carmel, she had no home of her own, but joined the family of her uncle and aunt Guerin.
After the death of Therese, Leonie read her sister's Story of a Soul and was deeply moved by it. Finding new hope for her own vocation, she entered the Visitation for the third and last time on January 28, 1899 at the age of 35. On June 30, 1899 she received the habit again. Canon Levasseur, who preached, invoked St. Paul's words: "The grace of God has made me what I am." Leonie took the name Sister Francoise-Therese. He preached again when, on July 2, 1900, Leonie, now 37, made her profession This time he read another line from St. Paul; "The grace of God has not been barren within me." Indeed, it is bearing more and more fruit.
For details of Leonie's life at the Visitation, please see Leonie's life on this Web site or "Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life," by Marie Baudoin-Croix (Dublin: Veritas, 1993). The book is now in print again (as an e-book only) and may be ordered online.