125 years ago with the Martin family: Louis Martin's last visit to his daughters in Carmel, May 12, 1892

An early photo of the lisieux carmel.  visitors entered the speakroom, where louis visited his daughters, through a door at the right of the chapel above.

An early photo of the lisieux carmel.  visitors entered the speakroom, where louis visited his daughters, through a door at the right of the chapel above.

After more than three years in Bon Sauveur (the "Good Savior"), a big mental hospital in Caen, Louis Martin was discharged on May 10, 1892.  At last he returned to his family in Lisieux.  Leonie and Celine, then laywomen, had visited him every week in Caen, but his three Carmelite daughters, Marie, Pauline, and Therese, had not seen him in all that time.  As enclosed nuns, they had had to rely on news from others.  On May 12, he paid them a last visit.

Three days later Madame Celine Guerin, the wife of Zelie's brother Isidore, wrote to her daughter, Jeanne La Neele, in Caen and described this visit:

. . .  it was touching at the Carmel. We took him there on Thursday, and one would say the day was very special, and in fact, I believe God blessed it because it was the best day he has had. He seemed to be aware of everything that was taking place. The Carmelites were happy to see their father again, but afterward the tears they held back flowed freely. They found him very much changed, and nevertheless here we find him less changed than we might have thought. However, all of us are very grateful. It was touching to see the way they expressed their gratitude to your father.

Read the rest of this short note on the Web site of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux.

Louis returned from Caen much thinner and substantially paralyzed.  His appearance after three years in "the asylum" must have been a shock to the daughters, who had not seen him in so long.  In 1898 Pauline added an account of this visit to the first edition of Story of a Soul.  These words were not written by Therese, who omits the visit from her memoirs:

Because of the state of his infirmity and weakness, we saw him only once in the speakroom during the whole course of his illness. Ah! what a visit that was!  When he was about to leave us, as we were bidding him "au revoir," he raised his eyes and pointing to heaven with his finger, he remained this way for a long time, with only these words to express his thoughts, spoken in a voice filled with tears:  "Au ciel!" ("In heaven!")

Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Volume II, tr. John Clarke, O.C.D.  Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1988, pp. 751-752).  

Then Louis was taken back to the Guerin home on rue Paul Banaston, where he lived until, in early July, he moved with his daughters to a small house nearby.  We will meet him again there.  His doctor evidently believed that to visit his daughters regularly would be too emotional for him in his weakened state.  Although he lived more than two years longer, his Carmelites never saw him again.

Louis was able to hear and sometimes to understand conversations, but was hardly ever able to speak, and then only a few words.  Inability to communicate was one of his sharpest sufferings.  His remarkable holiness was forged in a veritable martyrdom. and the words "In heaven!" summed up the faith he lived in every circumstance.