Céline and Thérèse of Lisieux, two inseparable sisters

Autobiography of the sister and novice of Little Thérèse, the story of a brand torn from the fire

by Celine Martin

Ed. du Carmel, 386 p., €20

The family history of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus is well known. Her parents, Louis and Zélie Martin, were the first couple canonized as father and mother of a family, the cause for beatification of her sister Léonie was opened in 2020, and little Thérèse herself is one of the saints. most popular in the world.

→ READ. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux honored by UNESCO

We also know the love shared by the five sisters – who will all become nuns – after the early death of their mother. If Thérèse was pampered by everyone, she was particularly close to Céline, her eldest by four years, inseparable from her in games, joys and sorrows, prayer and their love of Jesus. “It is unity rather than union that exists between our two souls”, wrote Thérèse in a letter.

A counterpoint to “Story of a Soul”

The unpublished autobiography of Céline Martin, reading which will delight those interested in the search for holiness, brings a new look at the personality of Thérèse. To the scenes already related in Story of a soul, Céline gives enriching counterpoints, and she confides other anecdotes, in particular about her life in the Carmel, which she was the last to join after the death of their father. In her stories, her little sister holds a central place, so much did she cherish her and admire her virtues, going so far as to see in her a figure of holiness close to the Blessed Virgin: “If I have not seen the model, I like to persuade myself that I have seen the copy. »

When little Thérèse presented herself as a frail reed – she made it her emblem –, Céline said to herself “a brand snatched from the fire”, in reference to the phrase of the prophet Zechariah on spiritual warfare and temptations. In these pages are revealed a spiritual personality in its own right and the testimony of a woman of that time in the world and then in Carmel.

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Discreet confidences in which graces and difficulties are guessed, in particular on the question of chastity, rarely mentioned then. Remaining in the shadow of her younger daughter, Céline shared with her “the thirst for souls” – that is, the desire to save many by their prayer. “I want, in my turn, to remove from the fire the unfortunate embers which are burning there to throw them into the burning furnace of merciful Love”, writes Celine.

Defense of Thérèse’s “little way”

At the Vatican, where they went with their father in 1887, it was she who did not curb Thérèse’s audacity to throw herself at the feet of the pope to implore a dispensation to enter the Carmel. After her death, it was Céline who pleaded her case for canonization by defending her innovative “little way” at the ecclesiastical trial: “It was not my sister that I wanted to raise to the altars, but the instrument that the good Lord had used to show souls “the way of spiritual childhood” so that it would produce all the purpose for which it was created. » By promulgating the decree on the heroicity of the virtues of Thérèse, Pope Benedict XV will salute this “way of trust and surrender”.

→ READ. “Edith Stein”, by Cécile Rastoin: daughter of Israel, daughter of the Church

“Intrepid” Since childhood, Céline had the soul of an artist, and was a talented painter. She is the photographer and portraitist who allowed her sister’s face to appear to posterity. She is also the author of other paintings, including a sweet Holy Face composed from the negative of the shroud of Turin discovered at the end of the 19th centuryand century. Having remained famous, Céline’s drawing will be published as a pious image and distributed in millions of copies around the world.


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