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Father Anthony Ho

Therese welcomes Celine to the convent

Voices April 10, 2018

Therese with her father at age 15 before she joined the Carmelite convent. After his death, Therese strongly desired that her sister Celine would enter religious life, writes Father Anthony Ho. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

For the last two years of Therese’s father life he was completely paralyzed and was looked after by his daughter Celine. During his illness, Louis Martin visited his other three daughters at the Carmelite convent.

It was at first a joyous occasion for the daughters to see their father, but the reality of his bad health really came to light when they witnessed for themselves how frail he really was emotionally and the tears started to flow.

At the moment of parting, as the daughters said goodbye, he raised his eyes, and pointing upwards said in a voice full of tears: “In heaven!” All of them understood that this visit marked the end of their union together on earth.

On July 28, 1894, Louis suffered his last heart attack. On July 29 at 7:45 a.m., Celine noticed that Louis was turning ice cold. After asking God what she should do, she spoke aloud: “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I give you my heart, my soul, and my life … Jesus, Mary Joseph, assist me in my last agony … Jesus, Mary, Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you.”

Louis looked upon her with a loving glance showing her that he understood everything without saying a word. By 8:15 a.m. his breathing slowly came to an end. Immediately after he passed away Celine stood over him, placed her fingers over his eyes closing them forever, and gave him her last loving kiss.

The expression on his face after his death gave her the peace she needed. Celine described in a letter to her sisters: “Papa is in heaven … his expression was that of happiness and profound peace. My heart burst at the last moment, and a flood of tears bathed his bed. But underneath I was really glad for his happiness after the terrible martyrdom which he has undergone and which we have shared with him.”

That night Celine was having trouble sleeping. She got up and looked out her window. She saw a “luminous globe” disappearing into the heavens. It was an affirmation for her that her father had made it to heaven.

After the death of their father, Therese strongly desired that Celine would enter religious life. However, there were obstacles and oppositions. Hence, one day after Holy Communion Therese prayed, “You know, dear Jesus, how earnestly I have desired that the trials my father endured should serve as his purgatory. I long to know if my wish is granted. I do not ask you to speak to me, I only want a sign. You know how much opposed is Sister N. to Celine’s entering; if she withdraw her opposition, I shall regard it as an answer from you, and in this way I shall know that my father went straight to heaven.”

The sister who opposed Celine’s entrance was the first person Therese met after her thanksgiving, and, with tears in her eyes, she told Therese that she had changed her mind and would gladly welcome Celine into the monastery with open arms. Eventually, Celine entered Carmel on Sept. 14, 1894.

Upon entering the convent, Celine knelt before her sister Pauline, who was then the prioress. She was then introduced to the religious sisters. Since, Therese was the assistant novice mistress, Pauline handed over the responsibility of showing Celine around the monastery to Therese. Therese had the honour of being the first one to tell Celine that her new name in religion would be Sister Marie of the Holy Face.

 

                                               小德蘭歡迎姐姐席琳

小德蘭父親類斯生命的最後兩年,完全是癱瘓,由女兒席琳照顧。

類斯抱病到修院作最後一次探訪自己其他的三個女兒。得見父親的喜悅情懷中,三名女兒真的察覺到老父極其虛弱的身體,不禁淚水凝眶。道別的時刻終於來到,類斯雙目仰望,帶淚對女兒們說:「在天堂!」大家都明白,那次是塵世最後的一次聚會了。

1894年7月28日,類斯最後一次心臟病發;次日上午七時四十五分,席琳注意到父親的身體漸漸冰冷,立即向天主請求指示;她大聲祈禱著:「耶穌、瑪利亞、若瑟,我心、我靈、我生命,皆獻於爾等!耶穌、瑪利亞、若瑟,扶助我於臨終之時!耶穌、瑪利亞、若瑟,俾我在爾等中得安死之恩!」父親類斯慈愛的目光看著席琳,默默地示意領略她的禱文。上午八時十五分,類斯的呼吸從微弱到停止。席琳從旁用手指蓋好父親雙目,給了他最後一吻。

父親的遺容,給了席琳所需要的莫大平安。她給姊妹們寫信道:「父親已在天堂了 … 他的表情流露著喜樂和深深的平安!在未一刻,我的心破裂,淚水濕透父親的病榻,但心底卻為他在我們與他分受的可怕殉道之苦後的快樂而感到喜悅。」

當晚,席琳輾轉不能入睡,望向漆黑的夜空,竟然見到一輪發光的圓球,慢慢地升上天上 ── 她肯定父親的靈魂,被提升到天堂去。

父親死後,小德蘭希望姐姐席琳能一起到修院修道;不過,修院內有強大的反對聲音。一日,領過聖體後,小德蘭祈禱說:「親愛的耶穌,祢知道我多麼盼望父親所忍受的考驗,等同他所需要接受煉獄的苦。我渴望知道我這盼望是否成真。我不求祢和我說話,只給我一個徵兆好了。祢知道某修女如何反對席琳入修院,如果那修女改變主意,那我就視那是祢的答覆,我因而知道我父親已直升天堂了。」

在謝聖體後,小德蘭第一個踫到的,就是極力反對席琳加入她們修院的修女。那修女帶淚告訴小德蘭,她已改變初衷,會十分歡迎席琳成為她們的一份子。席琳在1894年9月14日,進入修院。

席琳入修院後跪在時任院長的姐姐寶琳姆姆跟前,然後,她被介紹給其他的修女。當初學師助理的小德蘭,負起介紹修院各處給席琳姐姐的責任。她感到榮幸,能第一個告訴席琳的修道名字是「聖容瑪利亞修女」。