"The Unmentioned Martin": Crisis Magazine writes about Leonie, June 22, 2017

 The Servant of God, Leonie Martin, Sister Francoise-Therese of the Visitation of Holy Mary, about six months before her death.  

The Servant of God, Leonie Martin, Sister Francoise-Therese of the Visitation of Holy Mary, about six months before her death.  

 

In "The Unmentioned Martin," Elise Erhard writes about Leonie for Crisis Magazine.  I'm delighted that this article, which will introduce new readers to Leonie, contains two links to "Leonie Martin, Disciple and Sister of Saint Therese of Lisieux.":

Bishop Boulanger's homily at the Mass for the transfer of Leonie's body to its new shrine, 2017.

Léonie: Sister Françoise–Thérèse

 JEAN-CLAUDE BOULANGER, BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE OF BAYEUX AND LISIEUX.  Photo credit: Diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux. 

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.”   

(Matthew 11:24)

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.].

Celebrate Leonie Martin's birthday with a new video, "A day at the Monastery," created by her Visitation sisters at Caen. June 3, 2017

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. 

Video of the Mass to celebrate the transfer of Leonie Martin's body to her new tomb in the chapel of the Visitation at Caen, January 21, 2017

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.  

After a special Mass, Leonie Martin's body now lies in her new tomb in the chapel of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen - January 21, 2017

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."

- translated with permission from www.leonie-martin.fr

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?  

The body of the Servant of God, Leonie Martin, is deposited in her new tomb in the chapel of the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen, January 21, 2017

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

14000 CAEN

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

(admission free)

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.  

For details in French, see "Leonie Martin, future sainte?  Nouvelle etape a Caen" by Pascal Simon for Ouest-France, January 20, 2017 and "A Caen: les Les travaux avancent pour la beatification de Leonie Martin," by Marc Eynaud for Tendance-Ouest.

"Leonie's sanctity was unique to her" - an interview with Father Antonio Sangalli, the Postulator of her cause, July 2, 2015

"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."

Read More

Decree for the Opening of the Cause of the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God, Sister Francoise-Therese (Marie Leonie Martin) - full text in English - July 4, 2015

Jean-Claude Boulanger

By the grace of God and of the Apostolic See

Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux

 DECREE

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

DECREE

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,

WE INVITE

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.

Anyone who has documents or objects relating to the Servant of God Sister Françoise-Thérèse (letters, unpublished material, notes, photos, objects) is invited to send them to the Postulation (Monastère de la Visitation – 3 rue de l’Abbatiale – 14000 Caen –
Tel. 02.31.86.19.40 – http://www.la-visitation.org/les-monasteres/caen - monasterevisitation.caen@laposte.net)
, which will make certified and conformed copies.

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.

 

Diocesan process for beatification of Leonie Martin, Sister Francoise-Therese, to be opened on July 2, 2015 at the chapel of the Visitation Monastery in Caen

altarVisitationCaen.jpg

"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): Bishop Boulanger approves a new prayer to invoke her intercession

 The servant of god, sister francoise-therese (leonie Martin) credit: Monastery of the visitation at Caen

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.

The body of Leonie Martin exhumed at Caen; crypt closed to visitors; Fr. Antonio Sangalli appointed postulator for Leonie's cause

Toward Beatification: The Body of Léonie Martin is Exhumed at Caen, France

Ever since Saturday, April 25, 2015, the crypt where the body of Léonie Martin (1863-1941), sister of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, rested is no longer a place of contemplation and prayer for pilgrims.

 The tomb in the crypt of the Visitation Monastery at Caen where the body of Leonie Martin, Sister Francoise-Therese, rested from 1941 until her body was exhumed on April 25, 2015 

The tomb in the crypt of the Visitation Monastery at Caen where the body of Leonie Martin, Sister Francoise-Therese, rested from 1941 until her body was exhumed on April 25, 2015 

Long a true place of worship located within the Monastery of the Visitation, behind the City Hall of Caen, the place is now closed to the faithful. The exhumation of her body is the first clear sign of the launch of the process of the beatification of Léonie Martin, which was announced in January by Bishop Boulanger, Bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux.

Seventy-three years after her death, the body of Léonie Martin has been exhumed to make “an official examination of the mortal remains,” said Father Olivier Ruffray, rector of the Shrine at Lisieux. An historical commission will also begin work to collect all the documents and all the testimony about Léonie Martin’s life. Theologians will then have the task of examining “Léonie’s reputation for holiness.”

Father Antonio Sangalli, vice-postulator for Blessed Louis and Zelie, appointed postulator for Leonie's cause

“It can take a very long time,” said Father Ruffray. A postulator has been appointed to monitor the various stages of the beatification process. This is Father Antonio Sangalli, a priest of Italian origin. He is also the vice-postulator of the cause for canonization of Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of Léonie and of Thérèse.

- The above story is translated by Mary Davidson with thanks to TendanceOuest, where it appeared 4/29/2015.  Please see the original story in French:  "Béatification: le corps de Léonie Martin exhumé à Caen."

"Sibling-inspired Sanctity: St. Therese and Leonie Show How Brothers and Sisters Cultivate Kindred Holiness." National Catholic Register, April 18, 2015

 Leonie Martin as a laywoman

Leonie Martin as a laywoman

Leonie Martin and her sister, St. Therese, received national publicity in the United States today!  Katie Warner, a correspondent for the National Catholic Register, discovered the Web site "Leonie Martin, Disciple and Sister of St. Therese of Lisieux," and interviewed me for a story about siblings inspiring each other to sanctity. Therese's relationship with Leonie served as a framework for the stories of two contemporary families.  Please read "Sibling-Inspired Sanctity: St. Therese and Leonie Show How Brothers and Sisters Cultivate Kindred Holiness" in the April 18 edition of the National Catholic Register.  

How have your sisters and brothers influenced your journey with God?

Leonie Martin's complete letters to her family (1874-1941) published online in English by the Carmel of Lisieux - April 11, 2015

 The last photo of sister francoise-therese (Leonie )martin), taken in 1940

The last photo of sister francoise-therese (Leonie )martin), taken in 1940

Today the Carmel of Lisieux finished publishing online in English all the surviving letters St. Therese's sister, Leonie Martin, wrote to the members of her family.  The letters are available at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.  Leonie, then aged 10, wrote the first surviving letter to her mother in 1874, when she was at the boarding school run by the Visitation nuns at Le Mans.  She wrote the last on June 8, 1941, eight days before her death, to Sister Marie of the Trinity, who had been a novice of St. Therese.

Relatively few of the letters Leonie wrote during the lifetime of St. Therese have survived.  But the Carmel has today published a treasure trove of her later years: 315 letters Leonie wrote to her family after she entered the Visitation in 1899.  Most of them are to her three sisters at Lisieux Carmel (Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart; Mother Agnes of Jesus; and Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face).  Several are to her uncle, Isidore Guerin.  There are also letters to his wife, Celine Guerin; to their daughter Marie (Sister Marie of the Eucharist); and to Therese's prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague.  These hundreds of letters, never before published in English, contain invaluable insight into Leonie's personality; her spirituality, prayer, and retreats; her daily life and the life of her Visitation community; her relationships with her three sisters in the Carmel;  her reaction to Therese's beatification and canonization; and her response to World War I and World War II.

We congratulate the Carmel of Lisieux and the Association des Amis de Thérèse de Lisieux et de son Carmel on this historic achievement, and we thank them for their generosity.  You will not be able to absorb all these riches at one sitting, so begin!  Dive into Leonie's letters now.

"Leonie!", a feature film about Leonie Martin, the sister of St. Therese of Lisieux, to be released in the United States in 2010

I am delighted to announce that "Leonie!," a feature film about Leonie Martin, the sister of St. Therese of Lisieux, is scheduled to be released in the United States in the summer of 2010.  The film is being shot in Michigan and at the Visitation Monastery in Toledo, Ohio in July and August 2009.  Barbara Middleton is the executive producer, and Joe Maher wrote the script and is directing the film.  For news stories and a radio show about the film, please see below.

"Big project hits big screen," by Catherine Minolli. The Tri-City Times, July 22, 2009.

"Made in Michigan,"by Matt December.  The Source, July 19, 2009.  Read it online thanks to Internet Archive.

"Local girls land leads in major film shot in Romeo," by Chris Gray.  The Romeo Observer, July 2009.

"Film producers find perfect 'set' in Romeo," by Chris Gray.  The Romeo Observer, July 2009.

 For the life of Leonie Martin, read 

Leonie Martin

Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life. by Marie Baudouin-Croix.  (Click on the image for information).

For a reflection about Leonie Martin, see

"Leonie Martin," a spiritual newsletter of Clairval Abbey, whom I thank for permission to post it here.

For more online information about Leonie's life, see

A happy birthday to Leonie Martin, sister of St. Therese of Lisieux

Today is the birthday of Leonie Martin, the sister of St. Therese, who was born at Alencon on June 3, 1863.  Leonie was a special-needs child.  When she was a child, Louise Marais, the Martins' maid at Alencon, abused her.  Leonie had a hard time  finding her place in the world, and entered religious life four times before she finally persevered.  She was an early disciple of the "way of confidence and love" of her little sister. 

In October 2008 I visited the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen and saw the door through which Leonie entered definitively on January 28, 1899, declaring "The next time I leave here, it will be in my coffin!"  Sister Francoise-Therese, the present-day archivist of the community, laughingly pointed out the irony that the body of Leonie, whose religious name was also Sister Francoise-Therese, has never left the Visitation because she was buried in the crypt, where I visited her tomb. 

Praying at Leonie's tomb, I received a unique grace.  Unexpectedly, I remembered the times in my life that I'd been deeply hurt, and I felt Leonie, who was treated so badly and yet grew into a loving, generative person, assuring me that the wounds these experiences had left were no obstacle to sanctity.  I understood why so many parents of special children commend them to her, and why so many people who struggle to find a place in life invoke her prayers. 

To learn more about Leonie's life, please see the "Letter from Clairval Abbey."  Or purchase a biography in English, "Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life" by Marie Baudoin-Croix.

When Therese lay dying, Leonie, then 34, had failed three attempts at religious life and was living as a laywoman with her uncle and aunt. On July 17, 1897, in her last letter to Leonie, Therese wrote:

The only happiness on earth is to apply oneself in always finding delightful the lot Jesus is giving us. Your lot is so beautiful, dear little sister; if you want to be a saint, this will be easy for you since at the bottom of your heart the world is nothing to you. You can, then, like us [like her four Carmelite sisters] occupy yourself with "the one thing necessary"; that is to say, while you give yourself up devotedly to exterior works, your purpose is simple: to please Jesus, to unite yourself more intimately with Him. 

You want me to pray in heaven to the Sacred Heart for you.  Be sure that I shall not forget to give Him your messages and to ask all that will be necessary for you to become a great saint.

Leonie was born in the month of the Sacred Heart and died in the same month, on June 16, 1941.  In this month of the Sacred Heart, may she help us understand "the abysses of love and mercy of the Heart of Jesus."