SEPTEMBER 30, 1897 – THE DAY THAT ST. THERESE DIED, 115 YEARS AGO TODAY
“When the Angelus bell rang at 6 o’clock, Therese looked at the ‘Virgin of the Smile’ for a long time. She was holding her crucifix firmly. As the community had been almost two hours in the infirmary, the Prioress allowed the Sisters to leave.
Therese sighed: ‘Mother! Isn’t this the agony? Am I not going to die?’
‘Yes, my poor child, but God perhaps wills to prolong it for several hours.’
‘Well, all right! Ah! I would not want to suffer a shorter length of time.’
Her head fell back on the pillow and was turned toward the right. The Prioress had the infirmary bell rung, and the Sisters quickly returned. ‘Open all the doors’, Mother Marie de Gonzague ordered. Hardly had the community knelt at her bedside when Therese pronounced very distinctly, while gazing at her crucifix: ‘Oh! I love Him!’ And a moment later: ‘My God, I love you!’
Suddenly her eyes came to life and were fixed on a spot just a little above the statue of the Blessed Virgin. Her face took on the appearance it had when Therese enjoyed good health. She seemed to be in ecstasy. This look lasted for the space of a ‘Credo.’ Then she closed her eyes and expired. It was 7:20 in the evening.
Her head was leaning to the right. A mysterious smile was on her lips. She appeared very beautiful; and this is evident in the photograph taken by Celine after her sister’s death.
According to the custom of the Carmel, Therese was laid out in the choir in front of the grille from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening. She was buried in the Lisieux cemetery on October 4, 1897.
While in the infirmary, she had written these lines to Father Belliere on June 9: ‘I am not dying; I am entering into life!’
That marvelous life after death of this unknown Carmelite nun was about to begin.” (Story of A Soul, Epilogue, p. 271)
This evening Maria and I attended a mass at the Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia http://www.discalcedcarmelitesphila.org/home.php. It was part of the 88th Annual Triduum of Masses in honor of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. If I counted correctly, that was every year since Therese was canonized in 1925. It was such a holy and beautiful mass and it is always a highlight to see the cloistered nuns behind the grille who are dressed exactly as Therese was over a century ago. The celebrant gave a good homily on the parents of St. Therese, Louis and Zelie Martin. After the mass I had the privilege of venerating a relic of St. Therese.
Ten minutes before the 7:30PM mass started, I recalled the moment at 7:20 when Therese was born into eternal life in 1897. It is a holy moment that I recall prayerfully each year.
We love you, St. Therese, and we look forward to celebrating your Feast Day tomorrow.