With the end of October, we conclude our themed posts about the lives of Leonie and Therese Martin. This last theme post shows an exchange of letters between the Martin sisters a year after Leonie left the convent for the third time in July 1895, aged thirty-two. The two letters from Leonie are found on pages 65-66 of A Difficult Life by Marie Beaudin-Croix, and the reply from Therese is from a copy of The Story of a Soul that is now in the public domain.
Leonie to Therese, 1st of July 1896.
My dear little sister, if only you knew how often I think of you, and how sweet these thoughts are to me; they bring me closer to God. I understand your desire to go to meet Him soon, to be completely lost in Him; I, too, desire this. But you, my darling, are ready to go to meet God; you will surely be well-received. But I will face Him empty-handed; and yet I have not the temerity to be afraid. Do you understand that? …
If only you knew how much help I need, if I am not to abandon myself to the pleasures and vanities of the world. All the good will in the world cannot prevent one from being almost imperceptibly drawn to them; and if one does not find death there, then at the very least, all one’s piety and love for Jesus are spoiled, and one has nothing left to offer Him but faded flowers – how many have I offered Him! Dear sister, you will prevent me from making my old mistakes, won’t you? I am so weak; you know how I rely on you.
I beg of you, ask God very specially to deliver me from my scruples; I am always turning in on myself, and this does me terrible damage, and hinders my attempts at perfection. You may be sure I am showing you my wounds as clearly as I can.
Your little sister, who loves you with all her heart,
Leonie to Celine, 9th of July 1886.
Only twenty days left in La Musse; I am not unhappy about it, although I have made the same life for myself here as in Lisieux. More and more, I see the meaninglessness of all that passes, and this does me good, gradually increasing my detachment; but there is always this sadness, deep within me, which I can never completely overcome. Although I feel that I am, for the moment, where God wants me to be, I suffer – I suffer terribly – and my exile seems very long to me. Only Jesus knows what it costs… When you write to me, my dear, give me all the news of my little Therese. Please, don’t hide anything from me; I want to know everything.
MY DEAR LITTLE LEONIE, I should have answered your letter last Sunday if it had been given to me, but you know that, being the youngest, I run the risk of not seeing letters for some considerable time after my sisters, and occasionally not at all. I only read yours on Friday, so forgive my delay.
You are right, Jesus is content with a tender look or a sigh of love. For my part, I find it quite easy to practise perfection, now that I realise it only means making Jesus captive through His Heart. Look at a little child who has just vexed its mother, either by giving way to temper or by disobedience. If it hides in a corner and is sulky, or if it cries for fear of being punished, its mother will certainly not forgive the fault. But should it run to her with its little arms outstreteched, and say; “Kiss me, Mother; I will not do it again!” what mother would not straightway clasp her child lovingly to her heart, and forget all it had done? . . . She knows quite well that her little one will repeat the faultâ€”no matter, her darling will escape all punishment so long as it makes appeal to her heart.
Even when the law of fear was in force, before Our Lord’s coming, the prophet Isaias said, speaking in the name of the King of Heaven: “Can a woman forget her babe? . . . And if she should forget, yet will I not forget thee.” What a touching promise! We who live under the law of Love, shall we not profit by the loving advances made by our Spouse? How can anybody fear Him Who allows Himself to be made captive “with one hair of our neck”?
Let us learn to keep Him prisoner – this God, the Divine Beggar of love. By telling us that a single hair can work this wonder, He shows us that the smallest actions done for His Love are those which charm His Heart. If it were necessary to do great things, we should be deserving of pity, but we are happy beyond measure, because Jesus lets Himself be led captive by the smallest action. . . . With you, dear Leonie, little sacrifices are never lacking. Is not your life made up of them? I rejoice to see you in presence of such wealth, especially when I remember that you know how to make profit thereby, not only for yourself but likewise for poor sinners. It is so sweet to help Jesus to save the souls which He has ransomed at the price of His Precious Blood, and which only await our help to keep them from the abyss.
It seems to me that if our sacrifices take Jesus captive, our joys make Him prisoner too. All that is needful to attain this end is, that instead of giving ourselves over to selfish happiness, we offer to our Spouse the little joys He scatters in our path, to charm our hearts and draw them towards Him.
You ask for news of my health. Well, my cough has quite disappeared. Does that please you? It will not prevent Our Lord from taking me to Himself whensoever He wishes. And I need not prepare for that journey, since my whole endeavour is to remain as a little child. Jesus Himself must pay all its expenses, as well as the price of my admission to Heaven.
Good-bye, dearest one, pray to Him without fail for the last and least of your sisters.