Sister Françoise-Thérèse “Léonie” Martin, sister of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, is now a Servant of God. Her cause was opened in Caen, France on July 2, 2016, the anniversary of her profession (1900) in the Order of the Visitation. Léonie Martin was born on June 3, 1863 to Louis and Zélie Martin (now Saints). She was baptized the next day, which was the Feast of Corpus Christi. On this same feast, some 78 years later on June 17, 1941, she received her passport for Heaven, through the Sacrament of Extreme Unction in the Monastery of the Visitation of Caen. Léonie began her life in extreme sickness, a sickness which was miraculously healed through the fervent prayers of her parents. However, her childhood was marked with trial and her family was left with a weight to bear (it is possible that the measles and convulsions she suffered greatly contributed to some minor brain damage, which would account for many of her childhood problems and struggles). At the age of nine, her aunt (a Visitation nun) said of her:
Léonie, for the short time that I have had her, has given me good hope for the future. She is a difficult child to raise, whose childhood will give no comfort, but I believe that later she will be worth as much as her sisters. She has a heart of gold, her understanding is not developed and remains below her age; nevertheless she is not wanting in powers and I find in her good judgment, together with admirable strength of character. When this little one has the use of reason and sees her duty nothing will stop her; difficulties, however great they may be, will be nothing for her; she will overcome all obstacles, which will not be wanting in her path, for she is built for that. Finally, she has a strong and generous nature, entirely to my liking, but if the grace of God was not there, what would she be?
A religious vocation was certainly in God’s plans. It was to this same aunt that Léonie had written these words:
Dear Aunt, when you go to Heaven, ask the good God, if you please, to grant me the grace to be converted, and also to give me a vocation to become a true religious, for I think of it every day. I beg you not to forget my little commission, for I am sure that the good God will hear you.
In 1890, Léonie was on a pilgrimage with one of her sisters there she begged Blessed Margaret Mary to pray for her to receive the grace of belonging entirely to God as a fervant and devout religious. These prayers were certainly efficacious. Her perseverance in the faith stands before us today as an example of what it means to follow God with one’s whole heart. Léonie and her family struggled through her difficult childhood, and she endured much suffering in the pursuit of religious life, and before entering into eternal rest with the Heavenly Father. It is for this very reason that people often send letters and make pilgrimages to Caen seeking Léonie’s prayers for difficult children, family situations, and vocations.
One can define “Léonie” as “the grace of the last place”…the place that no one wants to occupy. We do not know how God distributes our talents, what criteria He employs to give “to one person, five talents; to another, two talents; and to a third, only one.” (Matt. 25:15) Surely, to each, “according to his capacity.” Surely, we often spend our time—for some, their entire lives—by pursuing, if not regretting, the talent that we have not received; while we should be happy for the talent we have received… This is what the Servant of God did all her life, she who had no fear and did not run away to bury her talent in the ground. (Cf. Matt. 25:25)
– Father Antonio Sangalli,
Postulator for the Cause
Léonie made four tries at religious life. One with the Poor Clares – her health broke. Then with the Visitation – again her health gave way. There was a second try at the Visitation. This time she received the habit. The time for profession came and went and eventually she had to leave. Some of her novitiate companions also left, due to the rigors of the life. However, with a new superior and novice mistress from another monastery who believed in gradually introducing the candidate to the religious life, Léonie asked to return and this time she persevered.
Léonie herself wrote in a letter to Mother Marie de Gonzague, the prioress at the Lisieux Casrmel: “Our dear Mistress has told me many times that I was born for the Visitation. When, in the world, people kept telling me I didn’t have a religious vocation, it broke my heart and one day, shortly before I joined, I said to my sisters, “I’ll only believe I’m not called to the Visitation after having made another attempt under the direction of the Mothers of Boulogne.
Therese said that after her death, Léonie would reenter the Visitation; she would persevere; and she would take the name of St Francis de Sales and of Therese. At her clothing Léonie received the name Sister Francoise-Therese.
Monastère de la Visitation 3 rue de l’abbatiale 14000 CAEN France
Thank you to our Caen Monastery for permission to use the photos from their website on this page.
Lord our God,
Through the example of
“the Servant of God, Sister Françoise-Thérèse,”
Léonie Martin, You have given us an understanding
of the mercy and the tenderness of Your Love.
You watched over her fragile health
from the first hours of her life.
You supported her in the difficult times
of her childhood and adolescence.
You called her to the consecrated life,
and You sustained her
on the delicate path of her response.
You inspired her to lead a hidden and humble life,
to accept her limitations and to offer herself
as a gift to Your love as a Visitation nun at Caen,
Lord, if such is your will,
deign to grant us the grace
that we ask of you (……)
through the intercession of Sister Françoise-Thérèse.
May she, one day, be counted
among the Venerables of your Church.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.