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From Father Ducellier to Mother Agnès and sr Geneviève - After February 24, 1895.

    

    

From Father Ducellier to Mother Agnès and sr Geneviève - After February 24, 1895.

Visiting card

Father Ducellier Parish Priest of Trévières

has come to fulfil his promise at last. He sends little Mother Agnès and Sister Geneviève the poor sermon enclosed, together with his affectionate regards in Our Lord.

He hopes that in exchange for these overly numerous pages, they will pray for a holy Lent for him and his parish.

Forgive the crossings-out and omissions, but it would take too long for me to write it out again.

*

FATHER DUCELLIER’S ADDRESS FOR SISTER GENEVIEVE’S TAKING OF THE HABIT

[The passage from Sgs. 2:10-11 was chosen by Mother Agnès and Thérèse (the latter would reuse it in PN-16). To fully understand the references, note that the novice came out in a bridal gown into the outer chapel where her family was waiting for her; that the ceremony was presided by Mgr. Hugonin; and that when a postulant, Céline first called herself “Marie of the Holy Face”.]

5th February 1895

“The winter is past, the rains are over and gone,

Arise, my love, and come with me.”

       This is the invitation that the Holy Spirit addresses to the faithful soul. He is addressing this invitation to you at this very moment, dear Sister, or rather, you are not hearing his call for the first time today, you heard it long ago. But before obeying the divine voice that was speaking to you inwardly [2] and telling your soul, in a language that is not of this earth, of the splendours, beauties, and pure and austere delights of the Carmel, you, like the Bride in the Song of Songs, had to survive the winter, which was a winter of suffering, and your eyes, as a result of the prolonged blows of the trial, must have wept a rain of tears.

         Such is God’s way, from time to time, with souls whom he favours – he wants them to be His, and is jealous to possess them, but in order that the immolation be more pleasing and fruitful, he wants them presented to him at the altar already consumed in their will, hearts, tastes and aspirations, by the sacred fire of sacrifice. Furthermore, the words in the passage I chose are not only the expression of [3] the call from Up Above; the call that inspires a vocation, and which invites the happy chosen soul to: “Surge, arnica mea, et veni”; arise, o soul whom I love, and come to the land you glimpse over there, to a reserved part of my kingdom. There, in the shadow of the altar, in this blessed retreat, I have marked out your place and your place of rest. These words are also the edifying story of a religious vocation.

My dear Sister, it seems fitting that at this time, when you are on the threshold of the Cloister, I speak for a moment about your vocation. It seems to me that I owe this to the memory of that venerable Patriarch, your beloved father, whom we remember on this solemn occasion; I owe it to the edification of the faithful here assembled; indeed, [4] I owe it to all of us. Such selfless people, who suffer resignedly the deprivation of even that which is most dear to their hearts because it is asked by God, are very rare; it is really good, when we come across such people, to speak of them.

As I was saying earlier, the decision to take your place among the virgin Brides of Christ was agreed upon between you and God a long time ago. Seven years ago you spoke of it for the first time to him who rightfully merited all your filial devotion. There was some question, at that time, of whether or not to send you to Paris for further training at painting. More desirous of perfecting the art of painting the image and model of all perfection, our Saviour Jesus Christ, in your soul, you seized the favorable moment for making known your wishes for the future. You knew, without doubt, that the venerable father in whom you were going to confide was, by his unusual sensibility, and by the power and vigour of his faith, well worthy of receiving it. As a matter of fact, scarcely had you spoken - in words that he could not possibly have anticipated - than he took you in his arms and pressed you to his heart. “Who am I that God should shower me with such honour!” he exclaimed. “I am truly an exceedingly happy father.” And he asked you to go with him immediately and kneel before the tabernacle.

“Come, let us go together [6] to thank God for all the special graces he has given our family.” What an extraordinary act of thanksgiving! The Sacred Heart of Jesus must have leapt with joy! The angels in the shrine must have been filled with admiration at the sight of this father who, absolutely forgetful of himself, came to offer of all that he had left, his most cherished possession, and whose fervent and valiant faith recalled to mind that of the Patriarchs of old.        

       This truly enlightened soul understood the greatness of a religious vocation as follows: “God honours me by asking for all my children: I joyfully give them to him. If I possessed anything better, I would be eager to offer it to him”. Well! Even though he had nothing better to offer, and certainly nothing more dearly loved, he did have something more personal, which was himself. He had given everything; it was the only thing he had left to offer, and he did. “God” - he said one day to one of your sisters, with the simplicity that characterises great souls - “God grants me too many consolations. It is too much for this earth. I therefore asked Our Lord when he was going to cease showering me with his favours, because we can’t go to heaven in this way, we can’t go to heaven without suffering, and I have offered myself…” Who can fail to see in these words the language of the great victims of Divine Love?

'I have offered myself.' When these words are spoken by those worthy of Him, God sometimes [8] takes them at their word and, for their eternal glory as well as the world’s salvation, brothers, he answers their prayers in a way which may confound us, with our frail human wisdom, but which will one day be the admiration and joy of his elect. He leads them along the road of sorrows and one would think he enjoys crushing them, like his divine son on Calvary, with the pressure of indescribable torments.

       Dear Sister, your saintly father offered himself as a sacrifice. God judged the victim worthy of Himself. Suffering - accepted with the heroism and tranquility of the Christian, which refers everything to God and accepts, in advance, everything which comes from His paternal hand - suffering came, pitilessly, to crown with its diadem his head of grey [9] hair. How well you understood then where your duty lay – it was by his side. You remained there long years, night and day, until his last sigh, until the grave. It is thus that the Lord, by allowing your father to grow in grace before Him and his angels - this father, whom you surrounded with the most tender and pious care – prepared you for the life of devotion and sacrifice that is the lot of the daughters of Saint Teresa.       

        And now: the winter of suffering is past, the rain of tears is over and gone. Arise and come to me. Come to me: ah! This is the moment you have longed for, the moment to surrender to the voice that delightfully resounded in your soul on the day of your first Communion. [10] Veni; come: you are aware of the feeling that fills the Adorable Heart who lets you hear this. His love is an infinite love, but not an infinite love that he gives to any creature; it is a special love, as is the vocation with which he honours you.

His love is a jealous love that is impatient to give itself wholly unto you, but which, however, wants to possess you entirely and without rival. His love is an immolated love, which only allows those who know how to share in his continual immolation through daily sacrifices enter his close circle of friends.

       Well! In response to the hastening voice [11] of love, you will arise and come. Arise and come to me: you will come in gratitude and humility. These are the two sentiments that inspired the Most Blessed Virgin’s Thanksgiving, when the angel informed the Queen of Carmel of her glorious vocation. (...) Dear Sister, a religious vocation, and especially a vocation such as yours, is always a great honour and manifest blessing. (...) After all, is it not one of the choicest graces [13] to be able to live far from the tumult and material preoccupations of the world, as a stranger to the vulgar and often pitiful interests that govern it? (...) Our destiny is chosen for us by God and He is the One who, with magnificent goodness and wisdom, places everything in us and around us in order to lead us to the goal he has proposed. We merely follow his divine impetus, simply replying to God: “Lord, you are calling me; I see it and feel it. You have chosen me so as to uplift me to a state of existence and to splendours that I never would have dared imagine could be mine. Here I am, your poor and humble servant, here I am, your humble little maidservant, let it be done unto me according to thy sovereign word.” Out of recognition for God’s solicitous goodness to you, you will sing the Magnificat; the song of humility and [15] gratitude. I must add that you should be grateful; you especially, dear Sister, and all the more so considering the great many and very rare favours which your family has already received from heaven.

           You will also come in trust. The life you are embracing is certainly extremely beautiful in the eyes of faith. But it also comes with grave responsibilities. It cannot be denied that it is a heavy burden for human shoulders to bear. To carry this burden, good-will, sincerity and ardent resolutions are not enough; God must be in us and his grace be the source of our strength. Then we can say together with the psalmist: [16] “Dominus illuminatio mea et salus mea...”

         (...) Also, a great many blessings will be given to you. I see you surrounded, at this solemn hour, with heavenly and earthly blessings. The Church will bless you, through the intermediary of the Bishop, who is pleased not only to show, by his presence at this ceremony, the interest he takes in your entry into religion, but also to renew his expression of paternal sympathy to you and your family. You are fulfilling the wishes of your great Christian Father in heaven, and those of your saintly mother, whose unique [17] ambition was to give her children to God, and who only ever desired one thing for them: a saintly life. They both would have been proud to give you to God today. How happily they look upon you at this moment, and how their prayers will accompany you in your first steps on your new path!

             Your relatives, whom I see before me and whose piety and zeal for God’s cause is well known, will bless you also. Your Uncle and Aunt have, with a kindness and devotion for which you will always be grateful, filled the place of those you have lost. I see your dear cousins, who love you as a sister. Beyond the grille, I see the sisterly joy with which you will be welcomed. I say “sisterly”, I should say “sisterly and maternal” because you will be welcomed and blessed by the one who prepared you [18] for your first Communion, and who, in addition to a sister’s affection, holds for you a mother’s solicitude and tenderness. How can such a set of circumstances, how can such a well-prepared path opening before you, fail to inspire you with the gentlest trust? - Surge, arnica mea, et veni. Therefore come, trusting in God and in the blessings of the Church and of all those you love.

         Lastly, you will come in generosity, and wholly give yourself to Our Lord, as he will wholly give himself to you. You will give him your mind, so that you might come to know and meditate on his infinite perfection; your heart, to love him with all your strength; your will, to do his holy will; your senses; your eyes to contemplate and admire his works, your lips to sing his praise. And in return, He will give you his heart, together with the treasure of graces and virtues that it contains.

         The symbol of this mystical exchange, this mutual gift, which Jesus [19] and the religious soul make of themselves, is singularly expressive. It is a piece of clothing. Shortly, you will leave your worldly garments for the Carmelite’s humble habit. When you put it on, dear Sister, remember that you are clothing your body and soul with Jesus Christ. (...) And as this cannot be done without making sacrifices (because even if your calling is beautiful, it requires your nature to make renouncements and suffer trials: it is Jesus Christ crucified, it is his naked cross that you will choose. Yet you have no desire to know any other), love sacrifice, from wheresoever it comes, and in whatever form it takes. Accept it swiftly, joyfully, happy to unite your immolations to those of your beloved Master, and, as a famous Carmelite Sister once said on the [21] very day she took the Habit, when Queen Henrietta of England approached her after the prostration ceremony, and asked: “Are you at ease?”, say “no, not at ease, but happy.”

May this be your reply, dear Sister, at the hour of your sacrifice: “not at ease, but happy forever: happy to be with Jesus, my God, and happy to prove to him, through generous service, my love’s sincerity and to please him; happy, also, to comfort him, and, in my own small way, make amends for the ingratitude of a world that no longer knows Him, or no longer wants Him.” Because that will be a part of your life: making amends! Ah, rarely have we needed it more urgently than now. Well, you will hear the royal prophet’s words: Respice in faciem Christi tui: from time to time you will contemplate the face of Christ; you will see it obscured, hidden by the disgraces of a passion that, afflicted upon him by men, mercilessly continues down the centuries. [22] Following the example of the Saintly lady of which tradition speaks, you will hasten to cover his adorable face, if I may say so, with a veil of adoration, prayers, and proclamations of faithfulness and love. You will entreat our shamefully insulted God to take pity on sinners, you will implore his abundant blessings on his Church, and on us, his priests. You will tell him that, even if he is forgotten by them, betrayed, blasphemed and persecuted by them, there are still some noble Christians on earth who love him. There are still, in his Carmel, souls whose lives belong to him alone. And while his divine image imprints itself more and more deeply onto your heart, you will bring down the effusions of Infinite Mercy upon us.

     And you shall be happy. Yes, you shall be filled with a happiness that the world doesn’t know, because happiness, real happiness, does not come from earth, it comes from Above. It is something [23] divine. Happiness is God, and the more God lives in us, and the closer we are to him, the more his joy abounds in us. That is why nobody here on earth has ever and will ever be as happy as the Saints in their austerities. You will experience this for yourself, dear Sister. It is with the following wish that I would like to finish. Be happy. Be happy and enjoy the happiness of a saintly religious life.

        Finally, I would like to present this wish to you in another form.

       In a very thoughtful gesture, you have been given a name that is piously guarded in the Carmel, and known and venerated in the town of Lisieux. It is the name of the saintly Mother whose mortal remains lie under the flagstones [24] of this shrine. You will be told what elevated virtues this name calls to mind: piety, deep humility, goodness, touching simplicity, consummate wisdom, and heroic courage in suffering

          Born by you, dear Sister, we salute it as a name full of promise. And we say to you: walk in your model’s footsteps, and I add: bring your patron’s virtues to life, and be, in the Carmel of Lisieux, a second Sister Geneviève of St. Teresa.

__________________________

Father Ducellier adds: “Say a rosary, from time to time, for the infirm preacher.”

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