08 - Praying with Mother Thérèse for France

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Mother Thérèse had composed a prayer for France. Praying for the country has been a tradition particularly present in France and for a long time. Traditionally, the prayer for France takes place on the Day of the Assumption, 15 August, to recall the vow, in 1638, of King Louis XIII to consecrate the country to the Blessed Virgin. This practice was then encouraged by apparitions, mystics and popes.

Each one can be inspired to pray for her own country.


How Mother Thérèse prayed for France

Mother Thérèse’s Invocations for France

Political context

Short analysis of the invocations

The situation of France in Mother Thérèse’s correspondence


How Mother Thérèse prayed for France

A testimony to the beatification process and a letter tells us the circumstances in which these invocations were known.

[… ] “Above all, in this painful year of 1880, one felt in Mother Thérèse, even without penetrating her intimate secrets, a single thought: that of reparation and immolation. Her ever-serious face had taken on an expression of suffering that never left her. We guessed that she was climbing a Calvary and that she had offered herself for the Congregation, for the Church and for France! It was then that she had composed a sort of litany of reparation, very simply given by her to the Reverend Mother de Gaudin [Superior of the House of Lyon]: “Lord, forgive your people. Lord, have mercy on your people. Etc.” [1]

“The little prayer that you will find attached to these lines was composed by Mother Thérèse to implore for France, she gave it to me last night, I find it very beautiful in its simplicity.” [2]

Is it because Mother Marie Aimée, Superior General, had learnt the previous year that Mother Thérèse was praying for France that she asked her in 1881 to pray again for this intention?

“It is said that the Blessed Virgin will give much to those who will ask her much, ask her therefore that her divine Son may have mercy on us, that he no longer allow men to offend him. May He look at France with love and give her His mother to save and govern her.” [3]

Mother Thérèse prayed for France to the end, until a month before her death, on the day of Saint Louis, King of France, she prayed for this intention.

“This morning I was with the good God at her room, and then after lunch I interrupted her thanksgiving: she was praying,” she said to me, “for France on this feast of S. Louis.” [4]

Mother Thérèse’s Invocations for France

There are two versions of these invocations. One was given by Mother Thérèse to the Superior of Lyon. The other is the last prayer of a small manuscript notebook containing various prayers (we have already mentioned this notebook in recent months about other prayers).


Invocations for France


My God, convert Thy people.

My God, pardon Thy people.

My God, be merciful to Thy people.

My God, cast a glance of compassion on Thy people.

My God, abandon not Thy people.

My God, be touched by the evils of Thy people.

My God, come to the aid of Thy people.

My God, fight for Thy people.

My God, show Thy power and Thy goodness in favor of Thy people.

Thy power in succoring them, and Thy goodness in pardoning them


[Version from the small manuscript notebook]

How long, O Lord, wilt Thou be angry with us?

My God, have pity on Thy people.

My God, convert Thy people.

My God, pardon Thy people.

My God, cast a glance of compassion on Thy people.

My God, save Thy people.

My God, come to the aid of Thy people.

My God, abandon not Thy people.

My God, show Thy power and Thy goodness in favor of Thy people.

My God, fight for Thy people.

My God, by touched by the evils of Thy people.

My God, come to our aid; oh, answer the prayer of Thy people who place all their trust in Thee.


[Version given to Mother de Gaudin]

Account of the expulsion of the Jesuits from their house in Fourvière (Lyon) in the newspaper La France, July 1, 1880. Source: Gallica.

Political context

We have just seen that these invocations have been known since 1880. The context at the time was that of political anticlericalism.


“At the Gingerbread Fair. A Distinguished Amateur”.

Caricature of Jules Ferry biting a gingerbread priest, by Gill in the magazine La Petite Lune, no. 42 (1879). Source: BnF.


Since the beginning of 1879, there had been a new government in France that does not hide its anticlericalism. The new Minister of Public Instruction, Jules Ferry, immediately introduced a bill to exclude the Church from the University and to prohibit teaching to members of unauthorised religious congregations. The bill was discussed in the Chamber of Deputies from June 26 to July 9, 1879, then in the Senate from February 23 to March 9, 1880. The law was passed on March 16, 1880.

On March 4, the Sisters of the House of Lyon - where Mother Thérèse was - began a novena to Saint Francis Xavier for this intention. On the 7th, the community prayed 21 rosaries for the same purpose. Prayers and worship continued on the 8th and 9th. The community kept abreast of the votes in Parliament.

The consequences were not long in coming. On March 29, 1880, decrees abolishing the Society of Jesus and against religious congregations were published. Congregations could no longer have schools and were threatened with expulsion. From June to August 1880, the police expelled the Jesuits from their homes. The House Journal of the house of Lyon reported the expulsion of the Jesuits from their house in Fourvière on June 30 (cf. the House Journal -in French- at the bottom of this page). A few friends of the Cenacle were then in our house in case things escalated. In recounting the event, the Superior concluded: "We easily understand how impressed our M. Thérèse was with all this" (letter from Mother de Gaudin to Mother Estienne, July 5).

In October-November, 261 religious houses closed, 6,000 monks were expelled (on Oct. 16, 1880, the Carmellites of Fourvière, for example).

Even after the decrees of March 29, the Congregation was still praying to the Sacred Heart for the protection of the Congregation. One can imagine that Mother Thérèse had these subjects in mind when she prayed for “the conversion of the persecutors of faith and piety” (letter to Mother Marie Aimée, May 18, 1880).

Short Analysis of the Invocations

The version given to Mother de Gaudin begins with “How long, O Lord, wilt Thou be angry with us? \ My God, have pity on Thy people". The first sentence is taken from Psalm 79 (verse 5). The second is similar to the Book of Joel 2:17. Together, they give form to a paraphrase of the Parce Domine, a hymn of Lent. One could therefore suppose that Mother Thérèse had this hymn in mind when she wrote the invocations (We can also note that the Sister who was in charge of writing the house journal wrote on July 2, 1880: "[…] What a stain for the honor of our country. Parce Dominum!" Cf. the House journal at the bottom of this page).

In 1880, Easter was on March 28, and the bill against the Church on teaching is discussed in the Senate and is passed during the same month of March 1880, and in the community of Mother Thérèse the prayers for this intention were intense. On the basis of these elements, we can hypothesize that Mother Thérèse composed these invocations during this period.

The Situation of France in the Correspondence of Mother Thérèse

It looks indeed as though God were not pleased with His people at present; but it is a blessing if He chastises us in this world that He may save us in the next. [To her brother Jean, priest, from La Louvesc, Nov. 23, 1827]

It was a pleasure to see this eagerness to go and pray to the Blessed Virgin. Each one feels the need of invoking Her, and with good reason. We have great need of Her protection for this poor country of France.  [To Our Mother de Larochenégly, August 23, 1869]

So come, Very Reverend Mother, and spend a little while with us until a little tranquility is reestablished in this poor France, which seems to be constantly on the eve of some new and more or less sinister event. Perhaps we have not yet been sufficiently chastised, but let us pray to appease the divine justice, and ,after that, let us rest in hope. [To Our Mother de Larochenégly, March 6, 1872]

What shall I tell you about poor Lyons? It is somewhat frightened at the present time about the state of things, and you probably feel no greater security yourselves in Paris. I beg you, my very dear Mother, if matters become too much involved, leave Paris where you have already suffered so much; it seems to me that all the other houses are less exposed than the one in Paris where wickedness seems to have its headquarters; may the good God deign to come to the assistance of poor France, which is without friends and protectors. [To Reverend Mother Dambuent, Nov. 26, 1872]

We have had a very mild winter this year - no snow and no heavy frost, and yet this cannot be compared with what you tell me about the beautiful climate of Africa - enjoy it to the full and do not feel sorry that you are not in this poor France for the moment, for it is continually threatened with trouble and revolution. I do not know when we shall enjoy a little security - it can only be some time when the good God stretches forth His hand - He will do so when He pleased, but if He sees fit to allow trial and chastisement to continue, He is Master, and se? must submit, and on all occasions, whether pleasant or distressing, we should say "May His Holy Will be blessed." / Goodbye, dear nephew, since I have nothing to offer you in my poverty, allow me to send you a little picture of the Infant Jesus lying on the straw; it will help you to keep in mind our dear France, which you left only in order to do His very holy will.  [To her nephew priest Adrien Rouvier, January 9, 1874]

You thought you would like to enter business, but you must know that business is very bad at present because everyone fears another revolution and more troubles for this poor France, which has no sovereign and no ruler. [To her nephew Alphonse Couderc, January 14, 1874]

I tell you nothing about our poor France; nothing has changed for the better since you last saw it. Let us pray the good God to spare it for it is always in danger of losing its Peace. [To her nephew priest Adrien Rouvier, June 1, 1874]

What news shall I give you now about poor France ? Everything is at the boiling point, and we are continually threatened with new troubles. [To her nephew priest Adrien Rouvier, April 15, 1877]

Adieu, dear nephew – may you have joy and peace in your African mission, for in France we are still expecting troubles. [To her nephew priest Adrien Rouvier, Nov. 26, 1878]

I thank the good God for having allowed me to remain with that dear invalid to the last. I often reminded her to offer her sufferings for Holy Church, for France, and for our Congregation. [To Mother Bertier, May 25, 1879]

When I look into the future, I see only matter for sadness and suffering. The persecutions of the Church, the misfortunes of France which are daily becoming more wicked and more guilty and which God is threatening with His chastisement. This dear Congregation in which I should like to see but one heart and one soul - all this distresses, afflicts me more than I can say! I have to reflect from time to time that God Who is almighty, can bring a remedy to all these evils when He pleases and that if He does not do so, we should submit to His Divine Will, which is always just, always holy and ever to be adored. [To Our Mother Marie Aimée Lautier, Sept. 29, 1879]

My chief prayer for some time past, the one that first presents itself to my mind in all my exercises  of piety, is the conversion of those sinners who are our brothers, especially the persecutors of faith, and piety, - those souls are much to be pitied who cheerfully and with great assurance run to the abyss which is ready to swallow them up, and which they do,not see. I feel great pity for them but alas I have to be satisfied with groaning over them since I am able to do no more. Oh how greatly we need the Spirit of Wisdom and Sanctity to descend once more upon this poor earth which is so destitute. Let us invoke Him well during this Octave and continue after. [To Our Mother Marie Aimée Lautier, May 8, 1880]

As for your longing for the religious life, it is indeed permissible to entertain it and even to carry it out when you are able. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the time for it is not favorable at present, since all religious orders have been obliged to disperse and are not allowed to live in community. Many indeed of those religious have voluntarily chosen to become pastors or vicars so that they may continue to exercise their ministry and thus satisfy their zeal. The best plan, it seems to me, therefore, would be to wait a little longer; but to wait patiently, meekly and in peace. The Lord's times are not always our times, it is true; what does it matter, so long as we are doing His will. At such times, we may say with our Lord in the Garden of Olives: "Let not my will be done, but Thine." Now the will of God is manifested by the events He ordains or permits; let us adore His designs and submit to them with love, and be sure that all things will turn out for our greater good. And then, dear nephew, what should be a consolation to you is the knowledge that though you do not bear the title of missionary, you perform a missionary's functions, since you labor for God’s greater glory and the salvation of souls through your ministry. Courage, therefore, and confidence, in spite of the difficulties and troubles, for though the priest who is in the middle of the world has his crosses, you may be very sure that the religious in his cloister has his too; our good Master's Cross is so all-embracing that it extends over all countries and all situations, and He bestows a particle of it on every one of His beloved servants. We are upon this earth only for the purpose of suffering; so then, let us suffer for our poor France and ask of God that He may have pity upon His people and shorten their time of trial . [To her nephew Abbe Léon Couderc, January 15, 1881]

Mother Thérèse said these days, seeing that we have not yet obtained what we desire for France, that she had thought that either we were not praying well enough, or that we were not asking what was needed, and that the idea had come to her to sum up all these prayers into these two things: "Let the kingdom of God come, and let Him be glorified by all the purposes which He shall desire to accomplish, and let the will of God be done upon all souls and by all souls". [5]

[1] Mother Marie de Vaines at the trial, Malines, 1922.

[2] Letter from Mother de Gaudin to Mother Marie Aimée, without date [probably end of October] 1880.

[3] Letter from Mother Marie Aimée to Mother Thérèse, August 25, 1881.

[4] Letter of Mother Marie Aimée, August 25, 1885.

[5] Note without date, sent from Versailles by Mother de Vibraye to Mother d'Esparbès in Paris, in «Souvenirs de la Rev Mother d'Esparbès written for the most part before the death of Mother Thérèse».