10 - Mother Thérèse and Unanimiter

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Omnes erant perseverantes unanimiter in oratione (Ac 1:14)

All these with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14)

The community of believers was of one heart and mind

(Acts 4:32a)


Our Congregation draws much of its charism from the end of the Gospel of Luke and from the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, in which we see the Apostles with Mary and some women gathered in the Upper Room (the Cenacle), in a union of heart and of spirit. Mother Thérèse speaks in various ways of what creates unanimiter in the Cenacle, of how it declines in relations between religious, of the taste for community life, of the ties within the Congregation whatever the distances and of what founds them.

Community Life

You like community life very much, you tell me, and you consider me happy for enjoying it. You are right, for I am truly happy, and though it is now fifty years since I left my father's house, I have never had a moment's regret - on the contrary, I have always thanked the good God for it, as being the greatest grace He ever bestowed upon me.[1]

You need not be anxious about our invalids, Reverend Mother’s solicitude leaves nothing to be desired - nor her care that they have everything which may help them or give them pleasure. Nothing is neglected. I do not think that any one of them could be better cared for in her own home. One must live in community to know what it is to have everybody at one's service, and to be attended with·the charity and the affection which religion inspires.[2]

Your good and very kind letter was brought to me on the feast of  Saint Thérèse after Holy Mass and my thanksgiving during which I thought much of you, my very Reverend Mother, as also of all my Sisters of the Retreat [the Congregation’s name at that time], those whom I know as well as those whom I do not know, for I love them all very tenderly and desire their perfection no less than my own: hence I begged of God, for all and for each of these dear Sisters, all that I begged for myself. My thanks for their kind remembrances near Our Lord. My thanks especially for your own, my very dear and worthy Mother, I felt sure of them beforehand, but not of a letter; you know well that I love to live in community, and I have the right to hope that you will treat me as all your other children of the Retreat do so hereafter. I beg you, my very Reverend Mother, do not be more kind to me than you should be.[3]


The Spirit of Family and Religious Affection

I have not written to you for a long time; but this does not prevent me from visiting the dear house of Paris often and frequently finding myself in the company of my Mother, in spite of the distance that separates us. There is, however, no distance for the heart, which will always be where its treasure is. It is the good Master who said this and all that He says is true. One feels this religious affection, which He Himself has cemented, in a very lively way, nor can it be altered either by time or by place; whatever may happen it will endure eternally, because its source is in the Sacred Heart, where it will one day be consummated. This is one of the sweetest thoughts of Christian and religious hope.[4]

My worthy Mother, may the religious family that you have chosen for yourself, and in which you are loved and cherished, fill the place of the one that you left to obey the good Master’s Voice, Who wishes to possess you wholly Himself.[5]

My heart […] knows all those who are a part of our dear Congregation, whether I have seen them or not; they have their place in my thoughts as well as a large share of my affection and esteem. I feel that we are united like the members of a family, and this is one of the greatest delights of religious life.[6]

Let all receive hereby a message of religious affection - I do not know them all, but I know that I love them all.[7]

What an agreeable surprise it was to receive a letter from my dear Sister de Roubin. It is the first time that I have received one and also the first time I have had the pleasure of writing to her, but this does not prevent us from feeling religious affection, which easily spans distances.  My own has accompanied you, dear Sister, to the place of your residence, where my thoughts have often sought you, though I did not tell you. One feels that one is united at a distance, as well as close by, and this is one of the great consolations of religious life -a bond, a family bond, that nothing can break.[8]

In the family of the Retreat [the Congregation], writing is scarcely needed to say that we are united though far apart. Whether we are in the north or the south, there is no distance for hearts; and indeed I know that yours often takes the journey to Lyons, as mine travels to Tours, visiting each and everyone of our Mothers and Sisters there. I think of them often and of you, especially when I am with our Lord, and I hope that you will make some little return for it; after all, we must love one another, at least through prayer, if we can do it no other way; in this way we may make good use of the time that is left us, and quickly become saints. It is very sweet to die when one has lived as a good religious.[9]

This morning you had a little consolation, Very Reverend Mother, in seeing your flock increased in spite of the trials of the moment. We are very glad about it and have prayed for all those dear sisters who had the joy of putting on the good Master's livery in the sight of all the world. Please tell them so, and ensure them of our religious affection. The same to each one who has the happiness of being near you, not forgetting the dear novitiate, although I know no one there at present. We know our novice sisters "by heart" as soon as they become a part of the Society.[10]

Of course, the religious should write to one another from the different houses  to communicate news, and this is even necessary, for it is a great consolation in religious life; but to keep up correspondence with each one would be unending.[11]


Union of Hearts

… this dear Congregation in which I would like to see only one heart and one soul…[12]

It makes one very happy to reflect that one has good Mothers and Sisters who are helping us to obtain the graces of which we stand in need from the Divine Bounty. This union of prayer is one of the great consolations of religious life, for it keeps us united in the same goal; in the same feeling, and makes all hearts but a single will.[13]

that union of hearts is so necessary to religious life[14]

This union of prayer and sympathy is one of the great consolations of religious life[15]

Now joy, peace, charity reign in the small community; we are happy to see each other, to gather in recreation without discomfort, without constraint, in the persuasion that there is only one heart, only one feeling.[16]

I would have been glad to share up to the last moment the anguish of those whom I left there. My heart was very heavy in leaving them. It is true to say that adversity tightens the union of hearts.[17]

[1] To her nephew Léon Couderc, Seminarian, January 17, 1874.

[2] To Our Mother de Larochenégly, Oct. 20, 1868.

[3] To Our Mother Marie Aimée Lautier, Oct. 17, 1878.

[4] To Rev. Mother Dambuent, Sept. 8, 1866.

[5] To Rev. Mother Dambuent, March 1 », 1864.

[6] To Mother [Lysie Adam], July 7, 1869.

[7] To Rev. Mother Dambuent [1862].

[8] To Mother Cécile de Roubin, November 11, 1873.

[9] To Sister Marguerite Hérique, Nov. 27, 1868.

[10] To Our Mother de Larochenégly, March 25, 1867.

[11] To Rev. Mother Dambuent [1862].

[12] To Our Mother Marie Aimé Lautier, Sept. 29, 1879.

[13] To Our Mother Marie Aimé Lautier, Oct. 21, 1869.

[14] To Rev. Mother Dambuent, August 30, 1855.

[15] To Rev. Mother Sophie Estienne, Nov. 14, 1876.

[16] To RM Ursule Payan, Assistant General, in Paris, Montpellier, November 18, 1866.

[17] To our Mother de Larochenégly, March 25, 1867.