Print

The yellow notebook - May 1897

MAY

 

The correspondence for this month of May is silent on the matter of Thérèse's health. The few details given in the "Yellow Notebook" show that her coughing persisted, exhausting her especially at night. To the painful remedy of the vesicatories were added sessions of what were called "pointes de feu" [a cauterizing remedy for tuberculosis, con­sisting in the repeated puncturing of the skin with red-hot needles]. Her resistance weakened and, in the middle of the month, she had to give up attending the community acts, for example, the recitation of the Divine Office in choir, recreation, etc.

However, all hope of a cure was not given up. During this period of uncertainty, the Saint's abandonment to the will of God reached its highest degree. This is the dominant note of this month. Thérèse wrote eight letters and four poems during the month of May, among which was her Marian testament: Pourquoi je t'aime, ô Marie.

 

May 1

 

1.   "It's not 'death' that will come in search of me, it's God. Death isn't some phantom, some horrible spectre, as it is represented in pic­tures. It is said in the catechism that 'death is the separation of the soul from the body' and that is all it is."

2.   "My heart was filled entirely with a heavenly peace today. I prayed so much to the Blessed Virgin last night, thinking that her beautiful month was about to begin!

"You weren't at recreation this evening. Reverend Mother told us that one of the missionaries' who embarked with Father Roulland was dead before he reached his mission. This young missionary received Communion on the ship with hosts from our Carmel that were given Father Roulland .... And now he is dead! . . . He didn't have to carry out any apostolate whatsoever, nor go to any trouble, for example, learning Chinese. God gave him the palm of desire; see how He needs no one."

I was unaware, then, that Mother Marie de Gonzague had assigned Father Roulland as a second spiritual brother to her. The words I've just reported above were written to her by Father Roulland, but since she was forbidden to confide it to me by Reverend Mother, she spoke to me only about what she had heard in recreation.

Reverend Mother had asked her to paint a picture for him on a piece of parchment. Since I was in charge of painting, she could have profited by the circumstance by asking my advice, thus letting me in on the whole secret. Instead, she hid from me as well as she could, even coming in secret to borrow the burnisher, as I learned later, for polishing the gold and which I kept on the table. She returned it when I was absent.

It was only three months before her death when Mother Prioress told her to speak to me freely about this matter as well as all others.

 

May 7

1.   Seven o 'clock in the morning.

"It's a free day today, and so I sang 'Ma joie' while I was getting dressed."

2.   "Our family won't remain a long time on this earth; when I am in heaven, I'll call all of you very quickly. Oh, how happy we shall be! We are all predestined."

3.   "I cough and cough! I'm just like a locomotive when it arrives at the station; I'm arriving also at a station: heaven, and I'm announcing it!"

May 9

1.   "We can say, without any boasting, that we have received very special graces and lights; we stand in the truth and see things in their proper light."

2.    With regard to certain feelings beyond our control at times, such as, when we have performed a service for someone and receive no thanks:

"I assure you, I too experience the feeling you are speaking about. However, I don't allow myself to be trapped by it, for I expect no reward at all on earth. I do everything for God, and in this way I can lose nothing, and I'm always very well repaid for the trouble I go to for my neighbor."

       

3. "It is impossible, I know, but if God were not to see my good ac­tions, I would not be the least bit disturbed by it. I love Him so much that I'd like to please Him without His being aware of it. When He knows it and sees it, He is obliged to reward me, and I don't want Him to have to go to this trouble."

May 15.

1.    "I am very happy to go to heaven very soon, but when I think of these words of God : 'My reward is with me, to render to each one ac­cording to his works,' I tell myself that He will be very much em­barrassed in my case. I haven't any works ! He will not be able to reward me 'according to my works.' Well, then. He will reward me 'according to His own works.' "

2.    "I have formed such a lofty idea of heaven that, at times, I won­der what God will do at my death to surprise me. My hope is so great, it is such a subject of joy to me, not by feeling but by faith, that to satisfy me fully something will be necessary which is beyond all human conception. Rather than be disappointed, I prefer to keep an eternal hope.

"So, I'm already thinking that, if I am not surprised enough, I will pretend to be surprised just to please God. There isn't any danger that I'll allow Him to see my disappointment; I will be able to go about it in such a way that He won't notice anything. Besides, I'll always con­trive ways of being happy. To succeed in this, I have my little rubrics that you know about and that are infallible. Then, just to see God happy will be fully sufficient for my own happiness."

3.    I was speaking to her about certain practices of devotion and per­fection counseled by the saints, which were a source of discouragement to me:'.

"As for me, with the exception of the Gospels, I no longer find anything in books. The Gospels are enough. I listen with delight to these words of Jesus which tell me all I must do: 'Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart'; then I'm at peace, according to His sweet promise: 'and you will find rest for your souls.' "

She quoted the last sentence, her eyes raised with a heavenly ex­pression in them; she added the word: 'little' to Our Lord's words, thus giving them even more charm : "And you will find rest for your little souls."

4.   She had been given a new habit (the one which is preserved). And she put it on for the first time at Christmas, 1896. This habit, the second since her clothing, did not fit her very well. I asked her if this caused her any annoyance:

"Not the least bit! Not any more than if this were a habit belonging to a Chinese, over there, two thousand leagues from us."

5.   "To the right and to the left, I throw to my little birds the good grain that God places in my hands. And then I let things take their course ! I busy myself with it no more. Sometimes, it's just as though I had thrown nothing ; at other times, it does some good. But God tells me : 'Give, give always, without being concerned about the results.' "

6.   "I would really love to go to Hanoi, to suffer very much for God. I'd like to go there in order to be all alone, having no earthly consolations. As for the thought of making myself useful there, it doesn't even enter into my mind; I know very well I would do nothing at all."

       

          

7. "After all, it's the same to me whether I live or die. I really don't see what I'll have after death that I don't already possess in this life. I shall see God, true ; but as far as being in His presence, I am totally there here on earth."

May 18.

1.    "All my duties were taken away from me; I was thinking that my death would cause no disturbance in the community because of this."

I asked her: "Does it cause you any pain to pass as a useless member in the minds of the nuns?"

"As far as that is concerned, it is the least of my worries; it makes no difference to me at all."

2.    When I saw she was so sick, I did everything possible to have Mother Prioress dispense her from reciting the Office of the Dead. She said:

"I beg you, don't prevent me from saying my 'little' Offices of the Dead; it's the only thing I can do for the Sisters who are in purgatory, and it doesn't tire me out in the least. Sometimes at the end of si­lence, I have a moment; this is a relaxation for me."

3.    "I must always have some work to prepare, for, in this way, I'm not preoccupied and don't waste my time."

4.    "I begged God to permit me to follow the community acts right up to my death, but He did not will it ! I really could have attended them all, and I would not have died a moment sooner. I'm certain of this. Sometimes, it seems to me, that if I had said nothing, no one would have discovered that I was sick."

May 19.

I asked her: "Why are you so happy today ?" "Because this morning I had two 'little' pains. Oh! very sharp ones! . . . Nothing gives me 'little' joys like 'little' pains. . . ."

May 20.

1.   "Someone told me I shall fear death. This could very well be true. There isn't anyone here more mistrustful of her feelings than I am. I never rely on my own ideas; I know how weak I am. However, I want to rejoice in the feeling that God gives me at the present moment. There will always be time to suffer the opposite."

2.   I was showing her a photo of herself:

"Yes, but . . . this is the envelope; when will we see the letter? Oh! how I want to see the letter! ..."

From May 21 to 26.

1. "Théophane Vénard" pleases me much more than St. Louis de Gonzague [St. Aloysius Gonzaga], because the life of the latter is ex­traordinary, and that of Théophane is very ordinary. Besides, he is the one who is talking, whereas for the Saint someone is telling the story and making him speak ; so we know practically nothing about his 'lit­tle' soul !

"Théophane Vénard loved his family very much, and I, too, love my 'little' family very much. I don't understand the saints who don't love their family. . . . My little family of today, oh! I love it very much! I love my little Mother very, very much."

2.   "I'm going to die very soon, but when! Oh! when? ... It doesn't come! I'm like a little child who has been always promised a cake. He is shown it at a distance, and when he approaches to take it, a hand withdraws it. . . . But, at the bottom of my heart, I am resigned to living, dying, being cured, and even going to Cochin-China,' if God wills it."

3.   "After my death, I don't want to be surrounded with wreaths of flowers as Mother Geneviève was. To those who want to give these, you will say that I would rather they spend this money in the ransom of little black babies. This will please me."

4.        "There was a time when I had trouble taking expensive remedies, but, at present, it makes no difference to me ; it's just the contrary. This is ever since the time I read in St. Gertrude's life that she enjoyed these for herself, saying that this would be to the advantage of those who do good to us. She relied on Our Lord's words: 'Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.'

5.   "I'm convinced of the uselessness of remedies to cure me; but I have made an agreement with God so that He will bring profit from them for poor, sick missionaries who have neither the time nor the means to take care of themselves. I've asked Him to cure them instead of me through the medicines and the rest that I'm obliged to take."

 

6.   "I've been told so much that I have courage, and this is so far from the truth, that I have said to myself : Well, then, you mustn't make a liar out of everybody ! And so I set myself, with the help of grace, to the acquisition of courage. I've acted just like a warrior who, hearing himself always being praised for his bravery, and knowing that he's nothing but a coward, ends up by being ashamed of the com­pliments and wants to be deserving of them."

7.   "When I'm up in heaven, how many graces I will beg for you! Oh! I'll torment God so much that, if He wanted to refuse me at first, my importunity will force Him to grant my desires. This story is in the Gospel.

8.   "If the saints show me less affection than my sisters have shown me, this will appear very hard for me . . . and I'll go and cry in a little corner."

9.   "The Holy Innocents will not be little children in heaven; they will have only the indefinable charms of childhood. They are represen­ted as 'children' because we need pictures to understand spiritual things. . . . Yes, I hope to join them! If they want, I'll be their little page, holding up their trains."

10. "If I didn't have this spiritual trial" that is impossible to un­derstand, I really believe I'd die of joy at the thought of leaving this earth."

 

May 21 to 26.

11.

"I was a little sad this morning, wondering whether God was really pleased with me. I was thinking of what each Sister would say about me, if she were questioned. One would say: 'She is a good little soul.' Another: 'She is very gentle, very pious, but . . . ' And still others would have different ideas; several would find me very im­perfect, which is true. ... As for my little Mother, she loves me so much that this blinds her, and so I can't believe her. Oh! what God thinks, who will tell me? I was in these reflections when your little note reached me. You were telling me that everything in me pleased you, that I was especially loved by God, that He had not made me, as He did others, climb the rough ladder of perfection, but that he had placed me in an elevator so that I might be brought to Him more speedily. Already, I was much touched, but always the thought that your love made you see what wasn't there hindered me from rejoicing fully. Then I took my little Gospels, asking God to console me, to an­swer me Himself, and my glance fell upon this passage which I'd never noticed before: 'For he whom God sent speaks the words of God, for not by measure does God give the Spirit." Oh! then I shed tears of joy, and this morning, when awakening, I was still filled with joy. It is you, little Mother, whom God has sent for me; it is you who brought me up, who had me enter Carmel. All the great graces of my life I have received through you. You speak the same words as God, and now I believe that God is very much content with me since you have said so."

May 26. Eve of the Ascension.

"This morning, during the procession, I was in the hermitage of St. Joseph, and I was looking out the window at the community in the garden. It was beautiful, this procession of religious in white mantles ; it made me think of the procession of virgins in heaven. At the turn in the chestnut walk, I saw you all half-hidden by the tall grass and the buttercups in the meadow. It was more and more delightful. But then among these religious, I saw one, the nicest of all, who was looking in my direction, who was bending over, giving me a smile of recognition. It was my little Mother! I recalled the dream immediately: the smile and the caresses of Mother Anne of Jesus" and the same impression of sweetness invaded me. I said to myself: This is the way in which the saints know me, love me, and smile upon me from above, inviting me to join them!

"Then the tears came. It has been many years since I cried as much as I did then. Ah! but these were tears of consolation!"

May 27. Ascension.

1.   "I really want a 'circular,' because I've always been of the opinion that I must pay for the Office of the Dead that each Carmelite nun will recite for me. I don't understand too well why there are those who don't want any circular; it's so sweet to know one another, and to know a little about those with whom we shall live for all eternity."

2.   "I haven't any misgivings whatsoever about the final struggles or sufferings of this sickness, no matter how great they may be. God has always come to my aid; He has helped me and led me by the hand from my childhood. I count upon Him. I'm sure He will continue to help me until the end. I may really become exhausted and worn out, but I shall never have too much to suffer; I'm sure of this."

3.   "I don't know when I will die, but I believe it will be soon ; I have many reasons for expecting it."

4.   "I don't want to die more than to live; that is, if I had the choice, " I would prefer to die. But since it's God who makes the choice for me, I prefer what He wills. It's what He does that I love."

5.   "Let no one believe that if I were to be cured it would throw me off my course or destroy my little plans. Not in the least ! Age means nothing in the eyes of God, and I'd manage to remain a little child, even were I to live for a long time."

6.   "I always see the good side of things. There are some who set about giving themselves the most trouble. For me, it's just the op­posite. If I have nothing but pure suffering, if the heavens are so black that I see no break in the clouds, well, I make this my joy ! I revel in it ! I did this during Papa's trials which made me more glorious than a queen."

7.   "Did you notice during the reading in the refectory, the letter ad­dressed to the mother of St. Louis de Gonzague, in which it was said of the Saint that had he lived to the age of Noah he would not have learned more or become more holy?"

She said this because of some remarks that were made about the

necessity of a long life in the service of God.

8.   With reference to her approaching death:

"I'm like a person who, having a lottery ticket, runs the chance of winning, more so than one who hasn't a ticket ; but still the person is not sure of obtaining a prize. So I have a ticket, my illness, and I can keep up my hopes!"

 

9.   "I recall a little neighbor at Les Buissonnets, aged three, hearing herself called by other children, said to her mother: 'Mamma, they want me! let me go, I beg you. . . . They want me!'

"Well, it appears to me that today the little angels are calling me, and I, like the little girl, say to you: 'Let me go, then, they want me! . . "I don't hear them, I feel them."

  1. 10."At the time when my departure for Tonkin was planned, around the month of November, you recall how we began a novena to Théophane Vénard in order to have a sign of God's will? At this time, I returned to all the community exercises, even Matins. Well ! during the novena precisely, I began to cough again, and since then I've gone from bad to worse. He's the one who's calling me. Oh! I would love to have his portrait; he's a soul that pleases me. St. Louis de Gonzague was serious, even during recreation, but Théophane Vénard was always cheerful.

At this time we were reading the life of St. Louis de Gonzague in the

refectory. [This is the same person as St. Aloysius Gonzaga.]

 

May 29.

"Pointes de feu" [a cauterizing remedy for tuberculosis, consisting of repeated puncturing of the skin with red-hot needles] applied for the second time. In the evening I was sad, and seeking consolation, I opened the Gospels in her presence. My eyes fell upon these words which I read to her: "He is risen; he is not here; see the place where they laid him. "

 

"Yes, that's really true! I am no longer, in fact, as I was in my childhood, open to every sorrow; I am as one risen; I am no longer in the place where they think I am. . . . Oh! don't be troubled about me, for I have come to a point where I cannot suffer any longer, because all suffering is sweet to me."

 

May 30.

  1. 1.On this day she received permission to confide to me her coughing up of blood on Good Friday, 1896. When I showed her how pained I was at not being told immediately, she consoled me as well as she could, writing me this note in the evening:

"Don't be troubled, dear little Mother, because your little girl seemed to have hidden something from you; for you know well enough, although she hid a little corner of the envelope, she has never hidden from you one single line of the letter. Who then knows better than you this little letter that you so much love? To others, I can show the envelope on all its sides, since they can see only this much; but to you! . . . Oh! little Mother, you know now, it was on Good Friday that Jesus began to tear a little the envelope of YOUR little letter; are you not happy that He is getting ready to read this letter you have been writing for twenty-four years? Ah! if you only knew how it will be able to speak of your love all through eternity!"

2.   "You will perhaps suffer very much before you die, ' ' I said:

           "Oh! don't worry about it; I have a great desire to suffer."

  1. 2."I don't know what I'll do in heaven without you!"

© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc 

Back to the yellow notebook home page                  See the next month