A disciple of the way of confidence and love
When Louis Martin was discharged from the Bon Sauveur hospital in Caen in May 1892, he joined Leonie and Celine, for a few weeks, at the Guerin home on Rue Paul-Banaston. Then a small house across the back alley from the Guerins, 7 rue Labbey, was leased for him. Leonie and Celine lived here with him and took care of him together. Leonie lived at rue Labbey from early July 1892 until she re-entered the Visitation in 1893. When she left the Visitation in 1895, her father had died, and Celine had become a Carmelite, so Leonie lived with the Guerin family from then until she entered the Visitation definitively in 1899.
Back door to the Guerin house
The back entrance of Isidore Guerin's house on Rue Paul-Banaston, leading to the garden where Louis Martin often spent his afternoons in 1892-1894. Today this house is a "parish house" and used for parish activities, including the religious education of children.
Rear entrance to Guerin house
The back door to Isidore Guerin's house on Rue Paul-Banaston in Lisieux. Isidore Guerin bought this house on April 20, 1889; the street was then called Rue Chaussee. The Guerin family moved here sometime in 1889, perhaps on their return from their summer vacation at the chateau La Musse. Leonie and Celine lived with the Guerins from then until Louis returned to Lisieux in May 1892.
The back garden of the Guerin house
A few weeks after Louis returned, in July 1892, Louis and his daughters moved into a rented house on Rue Labbey, directly across from Isidore's garden. Louis lived on the ground floor, and often he was wheeled across the alley to the Guerin garden, where he spent many afternoons.
7 rue Labbey
At a door to Rue Labbey. This door did not exist in Louis Martin's time. This house was given up after Louis's death. Between her attempts at religious life, Leonie lived with the Guerin family until she definitively entered the Vistation Monastery at Caen in January 1899.
front door of 7 Rue Labbey
This door dates back to Louis Martin's time. Directly across from the door are the gates leading to the garden of the Guerin house.
Louis Martin in his wheelchair in the garden of Rue Labbey
From left, Celine; the Le Juifs, a married couple who worked for the Martins; and Leonie surround Louis in his wheelchair in the garden of 7 rue Labbey.
Window where Louis Martin was photographed, 7 Rue Labbey
With Mme. Anne-Marie Hervieu, gracious hostess. This is the window before which Louis Martin was photographed in his wheelchair. Today the window is right up against that wall because part of the garden of his time now belongs to the next-door property.
Mme. Anne-Marie Hervieu
The lovely and gracious Mme. Anne-Marie Hervieu, left, in the garden at 7 Rue Labbey. She and her husband, M. Jacques Hervieu, received us with such genuine kindness that I understood the grace of Louis Martin's spirit infused those who live where he once lived.
at the window in the garden of 7 Rue Labbey
The upper garden of 7 Rue Labbey
From the front 7 Rue Labbey seems to be what we would call a "row house," but its back door opens onto a lovely, long garden running far down to a stream. M. and Mme. Hervieu maintain the garden beautifully. They told me that the trees date back to Louis Martin's time.
The lower garden, 7 Rue Labbey
At the foot of this long, narrow garden a stream runs. M. Hervieu told me that although Louis Martin, paralyzed, could no longer fish, he loved to sit near the stream to hear it flowing.
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."