Azelie, the mother of St. Therese, was very sick with cancer. She and her three oldest daughters went to Lourdes to pray for healing. At Lourdes, Azelie was taken into the waters of Lourdes and she also prayed earnestly for a cure. But she also prayed that if it is not the will of God to cure her, to cure her daughter Leonie instead and to make her a saint.
Azelie felt that she would gladly give her life up to God if
Leonie was cured and made a saint. Before Azelie’s death, her daughter Marie
promised her that she would take care of Leonie. Azelie died on Aug. 28, 1877.
After the death of Azelie, the Martin family moved to Lisieux. Leonie’s heart began developing a greater love for her family; changes were taking place in all parts of her life. Everyone in the family saw this positive change in her, especially Marie. She felt that it was their mother who was helping Leonie’s heart evolves into a beautiful young lady. Louis, her father, commonly referred to her as his “Good Leonie.” She made every effort to express her love for others and to continue to make small sacrifices on their behalf.
In October 1886, Leonie decided to enter a Poor Clare monastery. However, the rigors of the rule of the Poor Clares were too much for her physical body to handle. She left the Poor Clares on Dec. 1 of the same year.
On July 16, 1887, Leonie entered the Visitation Order in the city of Caen. However, poor health forced her to return home on Jan. 6, 1888. In the same year on April 9, Léonie’s youngest sister, Therese, entered the Carmelite monastery in Lisieux.
On June 23, 1893, Leonie traveled to Caen to go on a retreat at the Visitation monastery. During her retreat, she approached the Mother Superior and told her she wanted to enter the Visitation monastery again. The Mother Superior agreed and on June 24, 1893, Leonie entered into the religious life once more making it her third attempt.
In early spring of 1895, there was a new Mother Superior for the
Visitation monastery. The new superior decided their monastery should be more
observant to the stricter guidelines of the Rule of the Visitation. As a
result, Leonie, as well as her fellow postulants, found it increasingly
difficult to follow the rigors of the rules. Due to the stricter
adherence to the rule of the Visitation, Leonie, as well as some of her
other sisters at the monastery, were asked to leave.
On July 20, 1895, her uncle, Isidore, went to Caen to pick up Leonie and bring her back to Lisieux. Upon returning, Leonie went to visit her sisters at the Carmelite monastery. This was one of the saddest times of her life. She cried so much that it was difficult for her to speak to them.
Therese continued to counsel Leonie in the way of perfection. She encouraged Leonie to continue to detach herself from worldly possessions. During Therese’s final illness, Leonie asked Therese to plead her case when she reached heaven, requesting that the dear Lord lead her on the path of becoming a great saint.
Some weeks before the death of Therese, she had a conversation with her sister Marie. Therese stated that after her death, Leonie would be reunited with her sisters at the Visitation in Caen. She also stated that Leonie would be there serving God until her death.
After the death of Therese, a new Mother Superior was elected at
the Visitation monastery. She brought a different adaptation to the Visitation
Rule, which in turn allowed Leonie and her fellow sisters who left previously
an opportunity to come back.
Leonie entered the Visitation monastery for the final time on Jan. 30, 1899, and took the name Sister Françoise-Thérèse.