Clarification of the Status of the Cause of the Servant of God, Leonie Martin

 The Servant of God, Leonie Martin, Sister Francoise-Therese of the Visitation at Caen, in 1940, aged 78.

The Servant of God, Leonie Martin, Sister Francoise-Therese of the Visitation at Caen, in 1940, aged 78.

The first reports in the French press stated that Bishop Jean-Claude Boulanger of the diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux was to announce on Saturday, January 24 the opening of the diocesan process for Leonie Martin, the sister of St. Therese.  In fact, he announced that he had requested authorization from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to open the cause.  On January 25, Ouest-France reported in the story "Leonie Martin; En route vers la beatification" that Bishop Boulanger

celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Monastery of the Visitation, on Rue L‘Abbatiale in Caen. He announced that he had responded to the wishes of the people and the religious community where Leonie Martin (Sister Françoise-Thérèse was her religious name) lived from 1899 to 1941. “Bishop Boulanger has already received notice of the Episcopal Conference of Normandy. He will now send a letter to the Congregation of Saints in the Vatican,” said Carmelite Father Antonio Sangalli, postulator of the cause of beatification of Léonie Martin.

When Bishop Boulanger has received the response of the Holy See, he will establish a diocesan tribunal to “conduct a proper investigation and look for any obstacles to the beatification.” In this context, the body of Sister Françoise-hérèse will be exhumed from its place in the crypt of the monastery. Her remains will be exposed in a reliquary which will find a place in the chapel of the monastery.

Ouest-France story by Pascal Simon

When I asked Father Sangalli for a his thoughts about this announcement, he replied:  

Saturday, January 24, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, Founder of the Order of the Visitation, was a good day for all those who are discouraged, who can now find in Léonie a shining example of someone who has overcome the difficulties of her personality, who started humbly in the path of the Little Way traced by the little Therese. Leonie, or the holiness of the last place! Leonie, or the sanctity of the unique talent that is not hidden!

As we wait for the Vatican's decision, let's focus on walking in Therese's way with Leonie. 


"Four saints in one family?" - Video interview about Leonie Martin with Fr. Antonio Sangalli, O.C.D., the vice-postulator of her cause for sainthood. January 29, 2015

On January 29, 2015 RomeReports posted this short (1:54) video chat about Leonie Martin with Father Antonio Sangalli, O.C.D., the Italian Carmelite friar who is the vice-postulator of her cause.  Father Sangalli is already intimately familiar with the Martin family, for he is vice-postulator for the cause of Leonie's parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, who were beatified in 2008.  Here he speaks of the decisive influence on Leonie of the "Story of a Soul" written by her sister, St. Therese of Lisieux, and of the "incredible loyalty" with which Leonie practiced Therese's way of confidence and love.  How has the story of Therese's soul influenced you?  

Father James Martin, S.J. on Leonie Martin: her family as the "proving ground" for holiness

 Fr. james martin, s.j.

Fr. james martin, s.j.

Father James Martin, author of My Life with the Saints, said, "The opening of any new 'cause' is a moment for rejoicing, because it reminds us that saints come in all shapes and sizes.   Léonie's cause is especially significant because it reminds us how much the family is the starting place, and, for some people, the proving ground, for holiness.  Her vocation was lived out in the monastery, but it began around the kitchen table in that holy household."

My Life with the Saints, a best-seller, is a delightful memoir of the author's encounter with various saints, including his favorite, Leonie's sister, St. Therese.  


Video - Bishop Boulanger has requested authorization to open the diocesan process for Leonie Martin's cause for sainthood; he announced it at a Mass at the Visitation of Caen, January 25, 2015

 The sanctuary of the public chapel of the monastery of the visitation at caen.  

The sanctuary of the public chapel of the monastery of the visitation at caen.  

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.

Prayer for the Intercession of Leonie Martin and asking that she might be named "Venerable"

 Leonie Martin, Sister Francoise-Therese, of the Visitation Monastery at Caen, 1940, aged 78.

Leonie Martin, Sister Francoise-Therese, of the Visitation Monastery at Caen, 1940, aged 78.

Now that the bishop of her diocese has requested permission to open Leonie's cause, she has the title "The Servant of God."  If  Rome grants the "nihil obstat," the diocesan inquiry into her holiness will be opened.  The next big step in the process is to be declared "venerable."  A candidate who is called "Venerable" has been found by the Church to have practiced the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude) and the theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity) to an heroic degree.  

On March 25, 2012, Mgr Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of the diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux, granted the imprimatur for a prayer that Léonie might be declared "venerable."  Please recite it in thanksgiving today.  If you want the favor you might receive to be eligible to be accepted as a miracle that could lead to her being named blessed or named a saint, you must ask only Leonie, no one else, to intercede with God for it.  Of course, if you invoke her with others, God may still send an "unofficial miracle!"  

Let's not turn Leonie into a political candidate, but instead ask God for the grace to imitate her virtue in our lives and circumstances and to live in her spirit.  Her life is a testimony to the power of transformation.  She was transformed by reading Therese's "Story of a Soul" and by the spirituality of her little sister, which she incarnated with struggle and generosity.  She is a source of strength to wounded souls and a witness to the power of forgiveness and healing.  About the maid who abused her, Leonie said later "I forgive my tormentor, and I am grateful to her for the care she took of my mother in her last illness."  Although her sisters did not always understand her, she always loved them. 

The prayer for Leonie's intercession,  asking that she might be named "Venerable"

Dear Leonie our Sister,

You have already intervened with God on our behalf,

and we would  like to be able to pray to you officially, 

so that many more might know you.

Come to the aid of parents who risk losing a child, 

as you nearly died at a very young age.

Continue to uphold the families 

where different generations  

have problems living together in peace.

Enlighten youth who question their future  

and hesitate to commit.

Show to all the way of prayer 

which permits you to bear your limitations 

and your difficulties with confidence, 

and to give yourself to others.

Lord, if such is your will,

deign to accord us the grace that we ask of you 

through the intercession of your servant Léonie, and

inscribe her among the number of the venerable of your Church.

Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Imprimatur: March 25, 2012

+ Jean-Claude Boulanger
    Bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux

Persons who receive favors by the intercession of Léonie Martin, 
in religion Sister Françoise-Thérèse, are asked to make them known  to the Monastery of the Visitation:

Monastery of the Visitation 
3 rue de l'Abbatiale 
14000 CAEN  

translated by Maureen O'Riordan.
Permission is granted to reproduce the prayer without alteration.  Please include this language:  "translated by Maureen O'Riordan for"  If you repost the prayer online, please include a live link to

Mgr Jean-Claude Boulanger, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, and Leonie Martin, St. Therese's sister

                                 mgr jean-claude boulanger, courtesy of the shrine at alencon

                                mgr jean-claude boulanger, courtesy of the shrine at alencon

Mgr Boulanger is described as Leonie's "ardent advocate."  Geographically, his life in the last 13 years has followed a trajectory similar to Leonie's.  On April 25, 2002, he was appointed bishop of the diocese of Sees, which includes Alencon, where Leonie was born and lived till she was fourteen.   On March 12, 2010, he was appointed bishop of the diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux, where she spent the rest of her life.  The Monastery of the Visitation at Caen is located in his diocese, and a cause is usually opened in the diocese in which the candidate died.  (An exception was made for Louis and Zelie Martin).  Only two years after his appointment, he granted the imprimatur for the prayer that Leonie might be declared "Venerable."  Read his letter about Leonie in the booklet about Leonie prepared by the Visitation nuns.  This booklet mentions Leonie's "feeling a sharp pain on the day when a bishop of Bayeux, during a homily, named the Carmelite sisters of Thérèse and . . . completely forgot to mention her Visitation sister!"  How generously Mgr. Boulanger has made it up to her.  In the name of all the friends of Leonie, I thank him. 

A sketch of Leonie Martin by Brother Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

With the kind permission of Brother Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS, I have the joy of sharing his sketch of Leonie.  As far as I know, it's one of very few artistic representation of Leonie in existence.  I am happy on the feast of St. Francis de Sales to share this homage to Leonie from her Salesian family.

The sketch of Leonie is not yet available for distribution.  Brother Mickey is the author of "Journey with Therese of Lisieux: Celebrating the Artist in Us All.


He has created several beautiful icons of St. Therese and many of other saints.  His work radiates lightness, joy, and playfulness.  Please see his icons at Trinity Religious Artwork and Icons, where they are available for sale.

Bishop Boulanger requests permission to open diocesan process for sainthood of Leonie Martin, sister of St. Therese of Lisieux; French press reports he will announce on January 24, 2015 in Caen

On Saturday, January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, Mgr. Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, will announce that he has requested permission to open the diocesan process of beatification for Léonie Martin, the sister of St. Therese of Lisieux, according to stories in the French press.  La Manche Libre, Le Pays d'Auge, Normandie Actuand the French Catholic newspaper La Croix reported the news.  According to these reports, Father Laurent Berthout, the bishop's press officer, said:

“For many years, people have entrusted themselves to the prayers of Léonie Martin, coming to her tomb at the Monastery of the Visitation, where she was a nun from 1899 to 1941. These persons witness to graces they have received through her intercession. Léonie Martin lived a simple, hidden, humble life in the shadow of the cloister. She wanted to live the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, doing “all through love, nothing through force” in the words of St. Francis. She was blessed by the spiritual discovery of her sister, St. Therese, who taught her to live by Love in the most humble and the most everyday actions. Leonie gave witness by her life to the possibility of living it fully, even through her limitations: character, health, trials.

The French press reports that, when he celebrates Mass tomorrow at the Monastery of the Visitation in Caen, where Leonie was a nun from 1899 to 1941, Bishop Boulanger will announce that he has requested from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome permission to open the process for Leonie in his diocese.  He has the opinion of the bishops' conference of Normandy, and he is writing a letter to the Congregation asking for this permission.  He will officially confer on Léonie  the title "Servant of God."  Before the process may actually be opened, we must wait for the Congregation to give the "nihil obstat."

The opening of the diocesan process (an inquiry into the life and writings of the candidate for sainthood) is the beginning of a long procedure that, for some candidates, leads ultimately to canonization.  The diocesan process for Therese was opened by an earlier bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux in 1910, and Léonie  testified at it.

"Leonie Martin, A Difficult Life" now available as an e-book

I am delighted to announce that Veritas Press in Ireland has reissued the book "Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life" by Marie Baudoin-Croix, as an e-book.

 "Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life," by Marie Baudoin-Croix is in print again!

"Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life," by Marie Baudoin-Croix is in print again!

Many English-speaking readers are familiar with this book from the earlier edition, translated by Mary Frances Mooney, published by Veritas in 1993 and reprinted by them in 2004.  It had been distributed in the United States by Ignatius Press.  I hope very much that it will be reissued in the United States, but, until it is, you can order one from Ireland by clicking on the image above.  Many people have written me asking for copies.  Many interested in Léonie were "special children" or the parents of special children.  Others have had "late vocations" or, like Léonie, have struggled to find a place in a family, in the Church, and in the world.  Of late, as interest in Léonie has increased and used copies became scarce, their price has risen. Seize the opportunity to get a new one.  Do not be put off by the phrase "A Difficult Life," which might seem depressing.  About this 120-page book, from the introduction by Christopher O'Donnell, O. Carm. of the Milltown Institute in Dublin:

The story of Léonie is told by letters, to her and from her, and about her by other members of the family. Hers is a fascinating story, with an interest even independent of her canonised sister.

She tried religious life four times before she was finally professed as a Visitation Sister. There she achieved a high degree of holiness. From a most difficult childhood and adolescence she overcame her disabilities and reached a mature serenity when she finally achieved her goal of being a religious. This book tells of her struggles, her failures, her disappointments, her dogged perseverance. When we get beneath the language and culture of Thérèse, we find that, for all her charm, she was almost ruthless in her pursuit of holiness in her complete sacrifice to God’s merciful love. Léonie too has something of the hard steel that always lies just below the surface in Thérèse. The reader will find Léonie a fascinating person in her own right, very different from her better-known sister.

This book by Marie Baudoin-Croix is to be strongly welcomed. It does not add to what has been available to specialist scholars, but it will be a revelation to so many admirers of St. Thérèse in the English-speaking world. I warmly compliment the author, the translator, and the publishers for making this important book widely available. It is an ideal companion to the autobiography of St. Thérèse. (p. 6)

Click here to order Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life in Kindle format.  If you do not own a Kindle device, Amazon will send you a free Kindle app for your own computer or mobile device.

See a replica of Leonie's cell in the video "The religious life of St. Therese's sister Leonie"

Susan Ehlert's five-minute video "The religious life of St. Therese's sister Leonie" captures a special evening  at St. Jacques Church in Lisieux at which Father Pascal Marie, a chaplain of the pilgrimage, presents a replica of Leonie's cell at the Visitation as part of an exhibit about the Martin family.  Father Pascal is speaking in French, but you can see the cell and the various objects.  Click on "view at Youtube" to read Susan's explanation of what is happening. 

Louis Martin is found at Le Havre, June 27, 1888 (125 years ago with St. Therese)

Photograph of Louis Martin at age 65

From June 23-27, 1888 (125 years ago), a great anxiety came to the family of Blessed Louis Martin.    Louis, whose health had begun to decline, suddenly disappeared from his family home, Les Buissonnets, on Saturday morning, June 23.  His daughters Leonie and Celine, with the maid, searched everywhere for him.  In town, at the pharmacy belonging to his brother-in-law, Isidore Guerin, he had not been seen.  An anxious night followed; Louis was still missing.  On Sunday, June 24, a letter arrived from him (probably addressed to the Guerins, but now lost), sent from the Post Office at Le Havre, asking for some money.  His three daughters in Carmel were finally told of his disappearance, and began to pray fervently.  On Monday the "intrepid Celine" set off for Le Havre, together with her uncle, Isidore Guerin, and his nephew, Ernest Maudelonde.  They planned to search for Louis, but they had no address for him.

 Except for the maid, Leonie was alone at home when, at five o'clock in the morning on Tuesday, June 26, the small house of a neighbor, very close to Les Buissonnets, burned down.  Le Normand, June 26, 1888: 

This morning (Tuesday), shortly before five o'clock, a fire broke out in Lisieux, chemin des Bissonnets [sic], in a little house rented by a M. Prevost, who had left the previous night for Saint-Martin-de-Mailloc after having shut his door; the house, belonging to Madame d'Angot, rue du Bec, was destroyed, as well as the greater part of the furniture. . . . Under the direction of Captain Lepage, two pumps were put in action and extinguished the fire; the first from the hydrant at the City Hall, brought into action by Corporal Lemineux, was able to preserve the house occupied by M. Martin and his family; a piece of wood in the roof was beginning to burn." 


In July M. Martin bought the burnt property in order ot enlarge Les Buissonnets.  Its site today is occupied by the stairs and the embankment.

Read the letter Mme. Guerin, Louis's sister-in-law, sent later that day to his three Carmelite daughters.  At that time Louis had not yet been found. If you read French, you can also read Mme. Guerin's letter to her husband at Le Havre that same day.

Finally, on Wednesday, June 27, Celine, Isidore, and Ernest found Louis at the Post Office at Le Havre. Although he was lucid, he had become fixated on idea of going away to live in solitude.  They brought him home safe and sound, although he had shaved off his beard. 

[Sources: Letters of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Volume I (1877-1890), tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1982, p. 439, LD, June 26, 1888 from Celine Guerin to her nieces, footnote 3) and Sainte Therese de Lisieux (1873-1897) by Guy Gaucher, O.C.D.  Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2010, pp. 289-290].

A pilgrimage of volunteers to Caen in the footsteps of Leonie Martin and Blessed Louis Martin, June 24, 2013


Mgr Habert with volunteers of the Shrine of Alençon outside the chapel of the Visitation at Caen

An historic pilgrimage in the footsteps of Léonie Martin and of her father, Blessed Louis Martin, took place in France today.  The volunteers of the newly organized shrine at Alencon, who welcome pilgrims who want to walk in the footsteps of the Martin family in and near Alencon, in the diocese of Séez, where Louis and Zélie Martin met, married, and spent their married life, and where Thérèse was born, made a pilgrimage as a group to Caen to visit the Monastery of the Visitation, where Léonie Martin lived from 1899 until her death in 1941, and the Bon Sauveur Hospital, where Blessed Louis Martin was confined from February 12, 1889 through May 10, 1892.


Mgr Habert, bishop of SeezThey were accompanied by Mgr Jacques Habert, bishop of the diocese of Seéz.  Father Thierry Hénault-Morel in the Visitation chapelFather Thierry Hénault-Morel, the rector of the basilica of Notre-Dame at Alençon, was their guide.

The Shrine at Alençon has already posted 94 photos of the pilgrimage.  Although the captions are still in French, it is a wonderful chance to see photos of the Visitation chapel and  the crypt,  Léonie's souvenirs and her tomb, and almost the first contemporary photos of the interior of the chapel at the Bon Sauveur where Louis Martin worshipped. 

The sudden disappearance of Blessed Louis Martin from Les Buissonnets on June 23, 1888 (125 years ago with St. Therese of Lisieux)

On the morning of Saturday, June 23, 1888, there was panic at Les Buissonnets, the little villa where Blessed Louis Martin, the father of St. Therese of Lisieux, was living with his daughters Celine and Leonie.  Louis had suddenly disappeared without notifying anyone.

Photograph of Louis Martin at age 65

Louis was then sixty-four years old.  This photograph had been taken about three years before. In the months of May and June 1888 he had made several business trips to Paris, where he invested (and lost) 50,000 francs on the Panama Canal.

Louis had recently experienced many losses.  A widower, he had given his second daughter, Pauline, to God as a Carmelite nun in 1882.  In 1886 his oldest daughter, Marie, followed Pauline.  On Monday, April 9, 1888, Louis escorted his youngest, Therese, his "little Queen," to the Carmel.   Six weeks later, on Tuesday, May 22, Marie made her vows.  The next day, on Wednesday, May 23, Louis assisted in the public ceremony at the Carmel chapel in which Marie received the black veil of the professed Carmelite choir nun.  Father Almire Pichon, the Jesuit "spiritual director of the Martin family," preached the sermon.

At this time, despite his losses, Louis was experiencing consolation in prayer.  Therese speaks of his eyes being flooded with tears after he received communion.  Referring to an incident in May 1888, a passage inserted into Story of a Soul by Pauline reads: 

"O Mother, do you remember the day and the visit when he said to us "Children, I returned from Alencon where I received in Notre-Dame Church such great graces, such consolations that I made this prayer:  My God, it is too much! yes, I am too happy. it isn't possible to go to heaven this way!  I want to suffer something for you!  I offer myself . . . . the word 'victim' died on his lips; he didn't dare pronounce it before us, but we had understood."1

Sometime in 1888 Louis sent this note to his Carmelite daughters:

I want to tell you, my dear children, that I have urgent desire to thank God and to make you thank God because I feel that our family, although very humble, has the honor of being among the privileged of our adorable Creator.2

This privilege did not come cheap.  On Friday, June 15, Celine told her father that she also had a vocation to Carmel.  She writes: 

"June 15.  I announced to Papa my vocation for Carmel, and these were the circumstances.  I was showing my dear father a painting I had just completed; he was in the belvedere, seated at his little work table, and he seemed to be meditating.  He turned to me, and he studied my canvas with joy and suggested that he take me to Paris to have me pursue a course in painting.  I immediately answered that I would prefer to give up this art completely rather than expose my soul to any danger, that, having given my heart to Jesus a long time ago, I wanted to keep it pure . . . ." (Sister Genevieve, CMG IV, pp. 183-184).3

Louis readily gave his consent.  "You can all leave.  I will be happy to give you to God before I die.  In my old age, a cell will be enough for me."4  In fact, Celine planned to become a Carmelite only after the death of her father.  Deeply moved, Louis pressed Celine to his heart and said, "Come, let us go together to the Blessed Sacrament to thank the Lord for the graces He has bestowed on our family and for the honor He gave me of choosing His spouses in my home.  Yes, if I possessed anything better,  I would hasten to offer it to Him."5

We leave his family searching for him and the Carmelites praying for his safety.  Please return for the rest of this little adventure, which ends on June 26.  

1Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 2005, p. 237.

2A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, 1863-1885 Tr. Ann Connors Hess, ed. Dr. Frances Renda.  Staten Island, N.Y.: Society of St. Paul, 2011, p. 365.

3Letters of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Volume I (1877-1890), tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1982, p. 435 (LT 53, footnote 3). 

4Celine, soeur et temoin de Sainte Therese de l'Enfant Jesus, by Stephane-Joseph Piat.  Office Central de Lisieux, 1964, p. 37 (my translation).

4Story of a Soul, op. cit., p. 239.

The Web site of the Shrine at Alencon was launched today in French; English will follow


The"Sanctuaire d'Alencon" (the Shrine of Alencon) launched its new Web site today in French.  Later on it will launch in English and in other languages.  Since the beatification of Louis and Zelie Martin in 2008 and the reopening of the "Martin family house" (formerly known as the birthplace of St. Therese), a pilgrimage office has been established at Alencon to help the pilgrims find the sites associated with the Martin family and to walk in their footsteps.  The site offers photos and information about the sites associated with the life of the Martin family in Alencon; practical information for arranging individual or group pilgrimages; news about special occasions and events; reflections on the spirituality of the Martin family; and more.  This will make it easy for pilgrims tracing the footsteps of the Martin family to begin at Alencon, where Zelie and Louis spent their whole married life.  Please visit the English site or visit the French site.  As soon as the site opens in English, I will post it.  


The Martin home on Rue Pont-Neuf in Alencon

To give you a small taste of what is to come, I reproduce at left,  courtesy of the Sanctuaire, a rare old photograph that shows the area in back of the house and watch-shop on Rue Pont-Neuf, where Louis and Zelie lived from their marriage in 1858 until 1871.  (Louis bought this house in 1850.  Before his marriage he had lived here with his parents and his young nephew, Adolphe Leriche).  Louis and Zelie spent most of their married life here, and all their children except Therese were born in this house.  It is much less well-known than the house on Rue Saint-Blaise, where Zelie had lived as a girl, but where Louis and Zelie and their children lived for only six years).  Today an insurance agency occupies the ground-floor space where Louis's watch shop was located on Rue Pont-Neuf.   After the Franco-Prussian war,  Louis sold the jeweler-watchmaker shop to Adolphe Leriche and devoted himself to handling the business end of Zelie's lacemaking work, and the family moved to Zelie's childhood home on rue   Saint-Blaise. 

"Marie, Sister of St. Therese of Lisieux" has been published online


Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, the oldest sister of Léonie and of St. Therese of Lisieux, died in the Lisieux Carmel on January 19, 1940. Léonie was to follow her in June 1941.

Their sister Pauline, Mother Agnes of Jesus, as prioress wrote the story of Marie's life to serve as the "obituary circular" to send to the French Carmels, as was the custom when a nun died.  Many people wanted to read Marie's story.  Two American Carmelite scholars, the late Roland Murphy, O. Carm. and the late Joachim Smet, O. Carm., translated it into English, and it was published in 1943 as "Marie: Sister of Saint Therese."  For a long time it's been out of print, and many people have asked for it.  I'm happy to report that, thanks to the generosity of Rev. Robert Colaresi, director of the Society of the Little Flower, and of the Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, you can now read "Marie: Sister of St. Therese" online at the Web site of the Archives of the Lisieux Carmel.

Imprimatur granted for a prayer that Léonie Martin, the sister of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, might be declared "Venerable"


On June 16, 2013, the Shrine at Lisieux announced that the beatification of Léonie Martin, sister of St. Thérèse ofLisieux, is under consideration.  Mgr Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of the diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux, granted the imprimatur for a prayer that Léonie might be declared "venerable."  A person named "venerable" by the Church is considered to have practiced "heroic virtue."  St. Thérèse was declared venerable on August 14, 1921 by Pope Benedict XV, after her life had been examined by a diocesan tribunal (the "bishop's process") and by a tribunal appointed by Rome (the "Apostolic Process").   To be declared "venerable" is a big step in the cause for sainthood; the next two steps are to be named "blessed" and to be canonized.  Léonie Martin, born on June 3, 1863 (150 years ago this month),  became a Visitation nun, Sister Françoise-Thérèse, at Caen, where she died on June 17, 1941. 

Please feel free to offer the prayer below to Léonie for your intentions.  Note that to be accepted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints as the miracle that leads to a candidate's being beatified or canonized, a favor must be attributed to the sole intercession of that candidate.  So, if you want to receive the grace that might make Léonie a blessed or a saint, be careful to ask only her, no one else, to intercede with God for your intention.  Of course, if you invoke her with others, God may still send an "unofficial miracle!" 


Dear Léonie our Sister,

You have already intervened with God on our behalf,

and we would  like to be able to pray to you officially,

so that many more might know you.

Come to the aid of parents who risk losing a child,

as you nearly died at a very young age.

Continue to uphold the families

where different generations have problems living together in peace.

Enlighten youth who question their future and hesitate to commit.

Show to all the way of prayer

which permits you to bear your limitations and your difficulties with confidence,

and to give yourself to others.

Lord, if such is your will,

deign to accord us the grace that we ask of you

through the intercession of your servant Léonie,

and inscribe her among the number of the venerable of your Church.

Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Imprimatur: March 25, 2012

†  Jean-Claude Boulanger

    Bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux

Persons who receive favors by the intercession of Léonie Martin,

in religion Sister Françoise-Thérèse,

are asked to make them known to the Monastery of the Visitation:

Monastery of the Visitation

3 rue de l’Abbatiale

14000 CAEN


translated by Maureen O'Riordan.  Permission is granted to reproduce this translation of the prayer without alteration.  Please include the language "translated by Maureen O'Riordan for"  If you repost the prayer online, please include a live link to


To learn more:

1.  See almost all the information and photos available online in English about Léonie at "Leonie Martin: Disciple and Sister of St. Therese of Lisieux." 

2.  To learn about the spirituality of Léonie's religious community, the Visitation Order, I highly recommend the book "Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction," selected and introduced by Joseph F. Power, O.S.F.S. and Wendy M. Wright; translated by Péronne Marie Thibert, VHM; and with a preface by Henri J. M. Nouwen (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1988).  The Visitation was founded by Jane de Chantal; Francis de Sales, who shared its vision with Jane, was closely associated with the community.  The spirituality of the Visitation was important to the Martin family.  Léonie's aunt Elise was Sister Marie Dosithée at the Visitation of Le Mans, where Marie and Pauline Martin, the two oldest daughters, were boarding pupils.  Léonie was there for a short time, but was dismissed because of her special needs.  Later Léonie entered the Visitation Monastery at Caen several times; her third and definitive entry was in 1899.

This book contains letters Jane and Francis wrote over many years to persons to whom they gave spiritual direction.  It includes many letters from Francis to Jane.  "Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction" is one of my desert-island books.  Wendy Wright's comprehensive introduction is widely considered one of the very best English-language introductions to the spirituality of Jane and Francis and of the Visitation.  It is a remarkable book in its own right and a superb way to understand many of the influences that surrounded Léonie and Thérèse.

"God Made the Violet, Too: A Life of Leonie, Sister of St. Therese" can now be read online


 You can read Fr. Albert Dolan's biography of Leonie Martin, God Made the Violet, Too: A Life of Leonie, Sister of St. Therese(Chicago: Carmelite Press, 1948) online thanks to HathiTrust Digital Library. Fr. Albert Dolan, who founded the Society of the Little Flower, visited France and became acquainted with the sisters of St. Therese; he then spoke and wrote about them in the United States as he spread devotion to St. Therese. You may read the account of his visits with the sisters of St. Therese in his book The Intimate Life of Saint Therese Portrayed by Those Who Knew Her.

Léonie participates in Thérèse's entrance day, with sketches of St. Therese entering Lisieux Carmel on April 9, 1888 - from the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux

Léonie had returned from a six-month stay (her first) at the Visitation of Caen on January 6, 1888, so she was living with her father, Céline, and Thérèse at Les Buissonnets at this time.  She joined her family at Thérèse's farewell dinner there on April 8. Thérèse writes of that evening "My dear little Léonie, who had returned from the Visitation a few months previously, kissed and embraced me often."  When Léonie testified at the diocesan process for Thérèse's beatification in 1910, she spoke about Thérèse's entrance:

"I was present when my little sister left home for Carmel.  I did not enter the Visitation Order definitvely until 1899, but I had made two attempts: one, which lasted six months, in 1887, and another of about two years, in 1893.  So when Thérèse was bidding us farewell, I had returned from my first stay with them.  I found her strength of character particularly striking on this occasion; she was the only one of us who was calm.  Only her silent tears bore witness to the pain she felt at leaving father, whom she loved so much, and for whom she was the only consolation of his old age.

I told her to think well on it before entering a convent, that my own experience had taught me that such a life demanded many sacrifices of one, and was not to be entered into lightly.  Her answer and the expression on her face told me that she expected sacrifices and accepted them joyfully.  

At the entrance to the Carmelite enclosure, she knelt before our imcomparable father for his blessing, but, as far as I can remember, he was prepared to give it only on bended knees.  Only God can measure what a sacrifice he was making, but for that great and generous Christian to know the will of God and to do it were one and the same thing." 

from "St. Therese of Lisieux By Those Who Knew Her," edited and translated by Christopher O'Mahony.  Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1973.


After I published the photo essay of St. Therese entering Carmel, I discovered at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux  the section "St. Therese's Life in Pictures" (103 documents, many never published before, depicting sixty scenes in Thérèse's life).  I post below several sketches of Thérèse's entrance  day. 

At the Archives site the images are a little bigger and are  accompanied by text from Thérèse and some details; to visit them there, please click on the images below



The Martin and Guerin families approach the chapel of the Carmel on the day of Therese's entrance. By Charles Jouvenot.


Therese has just stepped into the enclosure.  Her father is outside with Canon Delatroette.


Therese's first moments in the enclosure.  Unused sketch.


The young man who proposed marriage to Celine Martin, sister of St. Therese of Lisieux, on April 9, 1888


Celine Martin as a young woman

St. Therese entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux after the 7:00 a.m. Mass on Monday, April 9, 1888.  But that was not the only momentous event in the life of the Martin family that day.  That same evening Celine, Therese's eighteen-year-old sister, received an offer of marriage.

For more than a century the identity of Celine's first suitor remained unknown to the public.  The first young man ever known to have proposed marriage to any of the Martin daughters, he was a Man of Mystery.  I'd often wondered who he was and how he had become friends with the Martin family, who led a sheltered life at Lisieux.  In 1997, when Bishop Guy Gaucher, O.C.D., whose knowledge of every detail of the family's life is unparalleled, spoke at a Carmelite conference at Marquette University, I asked him for the name of the young man who proposed to Celine the night after Therese entered.  He answered "We don't know."  Since then, further research has identified the suitor, for both the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux and Bishop Gaucher's exhaustive 2010 biography, Sainte Therese de Lisieux (1873-1897), divulge the name: Albert Quesnel.


M. Albert Quesnel on March 27, 1893, almost five years after he asked Celine Martin to marry him

The Quesnel family, wealthy jewelers, were neighbors of the Martins.  Their house, near Les Buissonnets, was also located in the parish of Saint-Jacques.  Albert, their only son, was born July 16, 1858 at Lisieux, four days after the midnight wedding of Celine's parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, in Alencon on July 12, 1858.  His family were close friends of the Martins, and he had known St. Therese during her childhood and until she became a Carmelite.  He had given Celine advice in drawing and painting, in which he was gifted. 

At the time he asked Celine to marry him, Albert Quesnel was twenty-nine years old.  Although Celine did not seriously consider accepting him, his proposal upset her, making her question her religious vocation.  Years later she wrote in her autobiography:

This piece of news distressed me, not that I was undecided as to what I had to do, but the divine light, in hiding itself from me, delivered me up to my own fickleness; I kept telling myself "Isn't this offer, which is made to me the instant Therese leaves me, an indication of God's will for me, which I hadn't foreseen?"  The Lord may have permitted me this desire for religious life up until now so that, in the world, I might be a strong woman.  So many people tell me I do not have the makings of a religious!  Perhaps, indeed, I haven't been called to that life by Divine Providence.  My sisters never had to choose formally between the two lives; doubtless, God wanted them for himself, and he does not want me!  In short, although my resolution had never changed, my anguish kept mounting and mounting . . . . I could no longer see clearly. Yet, just in case, I responded that I was not willing, that I wanted to be left in peace for the time being, and that no one should wait for me. 

(Celine: Sister and Witness of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, by Stephane-Joseph Piat, OFM.  San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997, pp. 33-34).

Therese was not the only Martin daughter whose vocation was beset with trials! 

After Celine refused his proposal, M. Quesnel decided to study for the priesthood.  He continued to be friends with the Guerin family.  Mme. Guerin mentions him in a letter, and on March 27, 1893, he was photographed while attending a reception at the Guerin home.  See the group photograph at the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.


M. Quesnel carrying the reliquary of his former neighbor, little Therese Martin, who had become St. Therese of Lisieux

He was ordained, and he served as a parish priest in Ranville, where he  died on May 11, 1935, and where he is buried. Celine, who entered the Carmelite monastery in Lisieux on September 14, 1894, more than six years after his proposal, outlived him by  almost twenty-four years, dying on February 25, 1959.

Except the text from Celine cited to Piat, the information in this article is drawn from Bishop Gaucher's Sainte Therese de Lisieux (1873-1897) and from the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux. I thank the Archives for permission to display their photographs of M. Quesnel and of Celine.  To see many more photos and documents, visit the Archives Web site.

An essay illustrated with 19th century photos to celebrate the 125th annniversary of the day St. Therese of Lisieux entered Carmel, April 9, 1888

Therese Martin entered Carmel on Monday, April 9, 1888.  That year April 9 was the feast of the Annunciation, which had been transferred from March 25 because of Lent.  This photo essay is to celebrate the 125th anniversary of her entrance.


Therese a few days before she entered on April 9, 1888

Let's listen to some accounts of her entrance.  First, Saint Therese's own:


"On the morning of the great day, casting a last look upon Les Buissonnets, that beautiful cradle of my childhood which I was never to see again, I left on my dear King's arm to climb Mount Carmel. Chapel entrance of Lisieux Carmel photographed shortly after Therese's death

 As on the evening before, the whole family was reunited to hear Holy Mass and receive Communion.  As soon as Jesus descended into the hearts of my relatives, I heard nothing but sobs around me. 


 I was the only one who didn't shed any tears, but my heart was beating so violently it seemed impossible to walk when they signaled for me to come to the enclosure door.  I advanced, however, asking myself whether I was going to die because of the beating of my heart!  Ah! what a moment that was.  One would have to experience it to know what it is.


Louis Martin, probably at age 58, about 1881

 My emotion was not noticed exteriorly.  After embracing all the members of the family, I knelt down before my matchless Father for his blessing, and to give it to me he placed himself upon his knees and blessed me, tears flowing down his cheeks.  It was a spectacle to make the angels smile, this spectacle of an old man presenting his child, still in the springtime of life, to the Lord!


Space where Louis knelt to bless Therese when she entered, April 9, 1888A few moments later, the doors of the holy ark closed upon me, and there I was received by the dear Sisters who embraced me.  Ah! they had acted as mothers to me in my childhood, and I was going to take them as models for my actions from now on.  My desires were at last accomplished, and my soul experienced a peace so sweet, so deep, it would be impossible to express it." 

(Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of LIsieux, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 3rd ed., 1996.  Used with permission).


Canon Delatroette

St. Therese writes "A few moments later."  She tactfully omits what other witnesses report happened in those few moments.  Canon Jean-Baptiste Delatroette, the parish priest of St. Jacques, was the ecclesiastical superior of the Lisieux Carmel (the priest charged with supervising, from the outside, this community of women religious).  He had bitterly opposed Therese's entrance, believing her too young, but was overruled by his bishop, who left the decision up to the prioress.  Before Therese crossed the threshold, and in the presence of her father and her sisters, Canon Delatroette announced "Well, my Revend Mothers, you can sing a Te Deum.  As the delegate of Monseigneur the bishop, I present to you this child of fifteen whose entrance you so much desired.  I trust that she will not disappoint your hopes, but I remind you that, if she does, the responsibility is yours, and yours alone."  He could not have foreseen that twenty-two years later Pope St. Pius X would call this girl "the greatest saint of modern times."

Much less well known than Saint Therese's account of her entrance is Celine's description of her experience of the same moment. Celine and Leonie were present with their father at the short ceremony. 


Celine and Leonie the year after Therese enteredAfter writing of how inseparable she and Therese were, Celine continued:

It tookmuchyettoget toMonday, April 9, 1888, where the little Queen left her own, after we heard Mass together in the Carmel, to join her two older sisters in the cloister.  When I gave her a farewell kiss at the door of the monastery, I was faltering and had to support myself against the wall, and yet I did not cry, I wanted to give her to Jesus with all my heart, and He in turn clothed me in his strength.  Ah! how much I needed this divine strength!  At the moment when Thérèseentered theholy ark, the cloister door which shut between us was the faithful picture of what really happened, as a wall had arisen between our two lives."  (from the obituary circular of Celine Martin, Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face, copyright Lisieux Carmel; translation copyright Maureen O'Riordan 2013).


The enclosure door which shut between Celine and Therese on April 9, 1888Saint Therese continues, writing of her impressions that first day:  "Everything thrilled me; I felt as though I was transported into a desert; our little cell, above all, filled me with joy."  St. Therese occupied three cells in Carmel, and until now few people have seen even a photograph of that first cell, for the photo commonly published was of Therese's last cell.  Thanks to the generosity of the Archives of the Lisieux Carmel, we can at last see early photos of the room Therese saw that day.  It was on the corridor near the garden:


The corridor with the door to Therese's first cell standing openThis cell looked out on the roof of the "dressmaking building" where habits were made:


Carmelite postulants wore a secular dress with a little capelet, and a small net bonnet on the head.  The photograph below of Marie Guerin as a postulant (she entered August 15, 1895) shows how St. Therese and all postulants dressed until they received the habit.


Learn more about the Carmelite life Therese began to live on April 9, 1888.

The feast of the Annunciation is usually celebrated on March 25, just nine months before the feast of Christmas.  One of the other nuns testified that Therese loved the feast on March 25 "because that's when Jesus was smallest."  Therese began her Carmelite life on the feast of Mary's "Yes" to her Lord.  May each of us enter every day of our own lives with Therese's fervor and joy, for every day is a doorway for each of us to intimacy with God, to wholeness, and to sainthood.

Note: the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux are being digitized and posted online in English at the Web site of the Archives of Carmel of Lisieux.  All the above photos are displayed courtesy of that site.  Please visit it here to see thousands of pages of photographs, documents, and information about St. Therese, her writings, her family, her environment, the nuns with whom she lived, and her influence in the world.  It is a true doorway to Saint Therese!