The Remarkable Friendship Between Blessed Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus (1894-1967)

and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus the Holy Face (1873-1897)

With Their Own Words.

What does a young girl of the late nineteenth century who died, twenty-four years after nine years of life spent in the Carmel of Lisieux, having left Normandy for only one pilgrimage to Rome, and  Father Marie Eugene died seventy two years in 1967, born in Aveyron, officer having lived the two world wars, author of “I want to See God”, spiritual director, preacher having crossed the oceans from Asia to America, having been at the head of his Order, and founder of the Secular Institute of Notre Dame de Vie? [1]

On 3 October 1962, in his homily for the feast of Saint Therese, Father Marie Eugene said with simplicity: “Saint Therese of the Child Jesus is like a childhood friend, a little saint who lived close to us, and who in the measure in which we grew, shared confidences with us and showed us the secrets of her soul”

1-Let our minds wander throughout this amazing friendship history

Father Marie Eugene and Saint Therese could not have met together, as he was only 3 years old when Saint Therese died in 1897. But he was a great friend of the Carmel of Lisieux, during his different missions from 1927 to 1957 he visited the Carmel 33 times. So, he knew intimately Therese’s sisters (on the picture below, we see from left Celine, Pauline and Mary).

Mary who was the eldest Martin daughter, godmother of Therese, in religion sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, Pauline, who was the Prioress of Carmel, in religion Mother Agnes of Jesus and Celine who was only three years older than Therese, in religion sister Genevieve, and died the latest in 1957.

From these many meetings with Therese’s sisters, Father Marie Eugene was able to collect living testimonies from the first hand, and his own knowledge of Therese was enriched.

Blessed Marie Eugene confides: “I often spoke with Celine, sister Genevieve and obviously tried to learn all her secrets about her little sister”.

“I loved and revered Mother Agnes, she was a very holy soul, and the same was true of Mary of the Sacred Heart and sister Genevieve. But Saint Therese of the Child Jesus was a giant in comparison and far surpassed them, in her surroundings Therese was unique”.

Once Mother Agnes of Jesus said “I have never met anyone so much like my little sister as father Marie Eugene”. [2]

In fact, Blessed Marie Eugene discovered Therese from 1912 when he was only 13 years old at the junior seminary of Graves in Aveyron through “a little book of no consequence”, its tittle was “the unpetalled rose” and it was a cheap edition of “The Story of a Soul”, and he was immediately struck by the strength of its message. An amazing friendship between Therese and the young boy was born and will continue until Father Marie Eugene entered in Eternal Life.

In 1912, as a seminarian in Rodez he wrote to a friend : “I found the life of Therese of the Child Jesus’ written by herself admirable, no book has ever made such an impression on me as this one. I have read it many times and bought one copy to read it again very often. I can find no words to express its impact on me. It is wonderful!” [3]. From this moment he will always keep this little book with him.


In 1914 the 1st world war interrupted his studies in the seminary, immediately he enlisted as a volunteer for the front line, carrying Therese ‘s book on himself. As a corporal, he took part in all the great military campaigns, Argonne, Verdun, Chemin des Dames, and in 1918, he came back lieutenant. He always experimented the powerful protection of Therese for him and his soldiers and reported: “Sister Therese has so well protected me and my soldiers, she deflected bullets”.

When the war was over, in 1918 he decided to resume his studies at the seminary, Therese was always at his side. He wrote to the same friend: ”it is good to work alone facing the crucifix and the photo of Ste Therese of Lisieux. Please pray for me that I can be like Therese the little thing of God so that He may do with me as He wishes.”

When he entered the Carmel of Avon near Fontainebleau in 1922, there was a very austere atmosphere, an atmosphere of reparation for the sins of the world, a life of suffering for the body and for the soul. The motto of the Prior was “Nature must be killed”. Jacques Maritain, a well-known French Philosopher, wondered how these young men could stay in such a monastery. Then, Father Marie Eugene discovered a little illustrated book presenting the little way of Therese, and he understood that this was the right path to follow.

On March 1923 Father Marie Eugene made his profession in Carmel and took the name of Brother Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus. In a letter to his sister Berthe, he wrote: “Little Sister Therese will have her share in that, since we shall both be of the Child Jesus. We are totally brother and sister from now on.”

The years 1923-1925 were marked by the beatification and canonization of Therese of Lisieux. As editor of the review Carmel and preacher, he could communicate and spread the teaching of Therese and the saints of Carmel.

On 29 April 1923, the very day of Therese of the Child Jesus’ beatification he spoke out his joy:

Personally, I have the impression that it is one of the most beautiful days of my life. It is the fulfilment of longstanding and deep desires which I have long entertained. This beatification is the seal of this mission’s divine authenticity, what is more, we are now officially encouraged to walk along this path… It seems to me that the mission of the little Blessed is to spread divine love in souls in the form God wills for our times. Among other feelings, there are above all immense, undefined, almost infinite hopes for the future. These hopes nourish my soul…It seems to me that Little Therese has still to pour out floods of divine love over the world.”

This mission of Therese met an intuition of Father Marie Eugene, that of a foundation of a new form of consecrated life organisation where the doctrine of Therese would be lived.

He was convinced that the spirit of Carmel could be put within the reach of everyone and lived in the midst of the world in a form adapted to the needs of our times.

Then, on Pentecost Monday 1929, three young ladies came from Marseille to meet him in Tarascon  in Provence where Father Marie Eugene was the superior of a small Juniorate for young boys named , the Petit Castelet. They have founded in Marseille the first high school for girls in 1929, the Cours Notre Dame de France, and ran it. They have been touched by Ste Therese of the Child Jesus, very eager for spiritual life and filled with a searching desire to commit themselves. They simply expressed this desire to Father Marie Eugene “All we have, we give you!” Immediately he recognized that these were the souls whom God had destined for him. This is the starting point of a foundation in 1932 which will later become the Secular Institute of Notre Dame de Vie. Marie Pila will be the co-foundress of the Institute. (On the pictures below we can see Marie Pila, the three ladies, the shrine of Our lady of Life, Provence)

 So, is realized what Father Marie Eugene had within himself: “When I was in the novitiate, I felt in the depth of myself that I had a mission, that was spreading mercy.”

In 1953, Father Marie Eugene had the chance to see in Lisieux the actual handwritten manuscripts of St. Therese’s Autobiography. It was a revelation for him, he discovered that many modifications had been made by her sisters and superior on the original. With a prophetic vision he already saw her as a doctor of the Church and he invites the Carmelites of Lisieux to bring out the Therese’s texts in their integrity. For this, he appointed a team of members of Notre Dame de Vie with Father Francis of St. Mary to work on it. The finished work as critical edition of the story of a soul will come out in 1956. This publication of the Autobiographical Manuscripts had had an enormous significance in the history of Christian spirituality. The eagerness for truth of Father Marie Eugene was well suited to Therese who affirmed: “I wanted to feed only on the truth”.

Handwritten manuscripts and critical edition

2-The purpose of this friendship between Therese and Father Marie Eugene?

The freely given Love of God, that seized the one and the other and that the one and the other wanted to announce to our time.

In 1987 Father Guy Gaucher, OCD, the French specialist of Therese affirmed:

“it seems that Father Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus must be ranked among the most important disciples of St Therese of Lisieux in the twenty centuries… and in the years to come “I understood the Mercy of God. While Therese felt its sweetness, I feel its power” [4] said Father Marie Eugene. He worked so hard throughout his earthly life to make known the most important and central point of Therese’s message which fulfilled his deepest aspirations “to know Love and to make Love known”, God is transcendent, but God is Love, God is Mercy.

At the Theresian Days of 1947, Father Marie Eugene in his closing conference affirmed: “At each turning point in history the Holy Spirit places a guide, Thus the Church was given St Augustine, St Benedict, St Francis of Assisi and St Dominic, St Teresa of Avila, St Ignatius… and others. it is simply an expression of my thought and conviction when I affirm that Therese will be, in fact already is one of the most proficient spiritual guides of all times.

 At the threshold of this new world of ours, greater and more powerful than preceding ones, more tormented also and more divided , to our sophisticated and jaded civilization which has lost the sense of the infinite and suffers from this, God has sent a child who with the charm and luminous purity of her simplicity brings us once more the eternal message of His love, namely that He has created us in love, that His love is still vibrant and all the more eager in face of our betrayals and that He waits for us to love Him and to let ourselves be loved by Him like very small children.” [5]

Let our souls explore the “History of a soul “in its original version:

Therese wrote ”from my childhood, the Love of God has gone before me, it has grown with me and now it is an abyss whose depths I cannot fathom” …

“To me, God has granted His Infinite Mercy and through it I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections. All these perfections appear to be resplendent with love. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and that it was eternal. O Jesus, my Love, my vocation is Love! I have found my place in the Church and it is You, O my God, who have given me this place, in the heart of the Church, my Mother I shall be Love.” [6]

St Therese of the Child Jesus brought a real revolution at the time when she lived. The concept of God as a figure of Justice was predominant. In aftermath of the French Revolution a sense of reparation, of sins, of guilty was developing in all spirituality. So, the devotion to the Sacred Heart, originally intended to honour Christ’s love became a sign of reparation. There were some Carmel convents where neither the Spiritual Canticle nor the Living Flame were no read for fear of’ illuminisme’. Later after Therese’s death, once when the story of a soul was being read in the refectory, after few pages, there was a rap on the table “close the book, such sentimentality is not for this Carmel” said the Prioress.

In his personal notebooks. Father Marie Eugene writes: “The Mercy of God is infinite as all divine attributes. It is as great as this power which created the worlds, it exceeds human goodness as much as the divine power exceeds human power. This divine mercy even seems to be surpassing the other divine attributes at the present time, for God has imposed upon himself the law of listening to his mercy almost exclusively when he deals with men living on earth. We are living under the regime of mercy.” [7]

Therese continues: ”why I desire to communicate your secrets of Love, O Jesus. For was it not you alone who taught them to me, and can You not reveal them to others? Yes, I know it, and beg you to do it. I beg you to cast your divine glance upon a great number of little souls. I beg you to choose a legion of little victims’ worthy of your Love”. [8]

Father Marie Eugene was always struck by this prayer of Ste Therese, he was sure that the foundation of Notre Dame de Vie was stem from it. He said often: “my vocation is to lead souls to God. … If I only could put the treasures of Carmel within the reach of those who seek God!…

….. in a world that has lost the sense of God and is perhaps losing it more and more, the Institute has its place, it has its mission which is all the more urgent; atheism does not make us run away; on the contrary, it calls us, because it is calling for a testimony. The testimony which asserts the existence of God and of his rights,” and to the members of his Institute: “I would like you to go where we cannot go, on the boulevards, on the high seas, into all social classes and environments.”

Contemplation is a constant simple gaze towards God

In order to revise our ideas about prayer, let us simply read the description that Therese gave of her own prayer through the suggestive allegory of the “little bird”. Therese gave it in her letter on 8 September 1896 to her sister, Mary of the Sacred Heart. Mary knew how to ask Therese for her secrets, because she was her Godmother, her soul understood her little sister and fathomed her holiness.

“I look upon me myself as a weak little bird, with only a light down as covering, I am not an eagle, but I have only an eagle’s eyes and heart. In spite of my extreme littleness I still dare to gaze upon the Divine Sun, the Sun of Love, and my heart feels within it all the aspirations of an eagle. The little bird wills to fly towards the bright Sun which attracts its eye, imitating its brothers, the eagles, whom it sees climbing up towards the Divine Furnace of the Holy Trinity. But alas! The only thing it can do is raise its little wings; to fly is not within its little power! What then will become of it? Will it die of sorrow as seeing itself so weak? Oh no! the little bird will not even be troubled, with bold surrender, it wishes to remain gazing upon its Divine Sun. Nothing will frighten it, neither wind nor rain, and if dark clouds come and hide the Star of Love, the little bird will not change its place because it knows that beyond the clouds its bright Sun still shines on and that its brightness is not eclipsed for a single instant…O Jesus, your little bird is happy to be weak and little… What would become of it if it were big? Never would have the boldness to appear in your presence.” [9]

In the edition of the autobiographical manuscripts in 1956 Father Marie Eugene especially insisted to restore this letter in its full integrity. He said :

Some will be tempted to say “gracious heedlessness, playing the child to make up for her intellectual poverty”. It is remarkable to note that the gaze as she describes it coincides completely with the definition of contemplation given by St Thomas “that is a simple gaze upon truth under the impulse of Love” Therese tells us that it is love which holds her gaze. Her child’s gaze is the gaze of high contemplation.

What light and encouragement there is for us! In the prayer of Therese, we discover something of our own prayer. [10]

Simplicity and depth are the qualities that make the great masters, through them Therese fully enters into the family of the great spiritual masters of all time.

For him, there is no doubt Therese is “Doctor of the Mystical Life”.

In parallel of the allegory of the little bird, listen the own pictorial description of the contemplation given by Father Marie Eugene: “Contemplation is not a vat, a beautiful plenitude which God, the angels and people lean over to admire! It is a torrent; everything flows. God is its source; it will always flow. One goes back to it continually, precisely because it flows and because we are emptied at each moment.” So, Contemplation is always new.

Sanctity is open to all Christians

“What way do you wish to teach souls”? Therese unhesitatingly replied to this question, on July 17, 1897, in her last conversations:

“My way is new, my way is easy, my way is short…. It is the way of spiritual childhood, it is the way of confidence and total abandon” …” Jesus does not demand great actions but only surrender and love.”

In the letter to her sister, Sr Marie of the Sacred Heart, as we mentioned beyond, she explained“What pleases God is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His Mercy. That is my only treasure, dear Godmother, why would this treasure not be yours? Oh, dear sister, I beg you, understand your little girl, understand that to love Jesus, the weaker one is, without desires or virtues, the more suited one is for the workings of this consuming and transforming Love.”

In his homily on 3 October 1962, Father Marie Eugene also said to the members of the Institute of Notre Dame de Vie: ”For us Therese of the Child Jesus is above all a spiritual master. With modesty, but with what certainty she teaches us her little way. She teaches us trust, abandon, after revealing something of what she discovered herself in the Holy Trinity namely that burning heart of Love, that is the Holy Spirit”. Therese went to truth without prejudice. With her purity she perceived the essential and with her generosity she lives it perfectly.

In this detachment from all that is not God, we find the all and nothing of St John of the Cross, the act of perfect confidence which attains all. So, the spiritual childhood leads to the highest summits of contemplation.

Therese presents the divine possession and transformation of our souls as realities which are not remote but available to all. In disengaging the mystical life from all that would draw attention to it exteriorly, she shows that the highest mystical life can be lived in any setting and in all situations, beneath the veil which simplicity casts over its riches

The little way is quite evangelical, it is not reserved for the perfects, it is open to all souls, it is the way to take for our times.

“At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love”

St John of the Cross.

Therese and Father Marie Eugene were both aware of joining te Merciful love.

Therese in her Act of Oblation to Merciful Lovesaid “may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.”

While Father Marie Eugene the day before his death said “for me, I am going towards the embrace of the Holy Spirit” [11]

Before, Therese recognized “In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, to count my works. All our justice is stained in your eyes.”

And in her last conversations, 17 July 1897, she said: “I feel that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I love Him, of giving my little way to souls.  Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.” ….” May all those who were not enlightened by the bright flame of faith one day see it shine. Oh Jesus! if it is needful that the table soiled by them be purified by a soul who loves you, then I desire to eat this bread of trial at this table until it pleases you to bring me into your bright kingdom”.

And still in her Act of oblation to Merciful Love:” I thank you, o my God! for all the graces you have granted me, especially the grace of making me pass through the crucible of suffering. I hope in Heaven to resemble you and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of your Passion.”

From the left: Pranzini, Leo Taxil, Hyacinthe Loyson and Jacques Fesch.

Here is a personal confidence that Father Marie Eugene told us:

“One day I visited the Carmel of Lisieux with the Prioress. As we passed through the older part of the building, she said to me: “where is the statue of the sacred Heart where Mother Agnes came to pray on the afternoon of 30 September 1897”

“What do you mean? I asked. No one ever told me about this”.

“Yes” she replied, “on the afternoon of 30th September, Therese’s temptations against faith were so violent that she was in total darkness. Several hours before her death the perspiration stood out on her forehead. She was agitated and begged them to sprinkle her with holy water, “How we ought to pray for the agonizing!” she said. She was close to despair. At this point, Mother Agnes, seeing her sister in this condition, was bewildered. She knew well that Therese was a saint, but this looked to her more like the death of a sinner. So, she went to pray before this statue of the Sacred Heart of which she was very fond. She pleaded “Oh Sacred Heart of Jesus, I beg you, do not let my little sister die in despair.”

This was the death of Ste Therese of the Child Jesus.

Therese of the Child Jesus and Holy Face had forewarned her sisters: “Do not be surprised; I have asked to die the death of Jesus on the cross”. This was granted her. Until the last moment, her gaze of faith was purified and refined by anguish which beset her soul.

This revealing incident brings us to the ecstasy of the last moment and her last words: “My God, I love you!

Father Marie Eugene in his suffering which led him to Life at the end of Holy Week in 1967 testified clearly to the kinship of grace and spirit which united him with Therese. This “passion” made him truly her “spiritual brother”, capable of manifesting power-fully the strength of her teaching and of stirring up once more the torrent of Mercy which God ever desires to pour out in abundance over the world.

He said: “I am a poor man…  at Notre Dame de Vie you must know for the future that the redemption is accomplished in Gethsemane, you must face it, you must nourish yourselves on it, especially you who are brilliant and strong. Notre Dame de Vie is dejection in helplessness and faith. The Holy Spirit took hold of our Lord for that, to crush him.”

“My God, I love you! Jesus, I love you. It seems that I love you perfectly and that I resemble you! Every minute that goes by enables me to love you more…

The depths of God- they are Love!”.

Pope Francis / Marie Pila

This amazing friendship echoes the words of Pope Francis in “Gaudete and Exultate”, 19 March 2018.

“Every saint is a mission, he is a project of the Father to reflect and incarnate an aspect of the Gospel at a specific time in history…. Allow the Holy Spirit to forge in you that personal mystery which reflects Jesus Christ in today’s world.”

We will conclude with the words Marie Pila addressed to the members of Notre Dame de Vie Institute in December 1971:

“May God fill the future, since it is He who does everything

The big problem is to allow ourselves to be led, for it is God who does everything

It seems to me that all perspectives would change, that our point of view would be different if we were convinced of this great truth. It is God who goes everything.

It is He who chose us. It is he who made us walk, So, do not resist Him. It is God who does everything.



[1] G. Gaucher, “La vie du Pere Marie Eugene de L’Enfant Jesus”, Ed du Cerf/ Ed du Carmel, Paris/Toulouse, 2011.

[2] R. Règue, in Carmel, March 1968.

[3] Letter to G. Saint Hilaire, February 24, 1913

[4] R. Règue, Father Marie Eugène Grialou, spiritual master for our times.

[5] Talk given July 16, 1947 at Notre Dame de Vie, quoted by Marie Pila in Carmel, special issue, March 1968, 114-115.

[6] Story of a Soul p.194.

[7] Cahier de notes personnellesC, p17 in Thérèse Docteur, racontée par le Père Marie Eugène p.64.

[8] Story of a Soul p.200.

[9] Story of a Soul p 198-9.

[10] Under the Torrent of His Love, p.129-130.

[11] R. Règue, Father Marie Eugène Grialou, spiritual master for our times, p143.

[12] Under the torrent of His Love

[13] R.Règue: Father Marie Eugène Grialou, spiritual master for our times p 139-140.