Letter of Reverend Mother Gertrude
of the Heart of Jesus1
to Fr Thomas N. Taylor
(published in the 1912 English translation of the Story of a Soul)
Reverend and dear Father,
I feel that I have neglected a sacred duty by delaying so long in sending you word of the death of our angelic Sister Stanislaus, Philadelphia’s “little flower of Jesus.”
Although full of energy and courage, she had never been very strong, and she died a most holy death on the 10th of this month. This dear Sister was one of those privileged souls who was guarded from sin from her earliest childhood. Born of holy parents2, she, the thirteenth child, seemed specially blessed by God. She entered the Carmel of Boston in April, 1896, and was then in her eighteenth year.
In July, 1902, she was sent to Philadelphia as one of the Foundresses of this Carmel, having left behind her in Boston the perfume of her innocence and virtue. She spent herself for our little Community, and when her brother, Father (Joseph) Kelly, asked her during her last illness if she wished to die, she answered, that if it were equally pleasing to God she would rather live to work for the Community until we were out of debt, but that she left all to God, and only desired His Glory and the accomplishment of His Holy Will.
She was in the Infirmary, and confined to bed from the beginning of December. On Christmas night she was carried to Midnight Mass, for she was unable to walk. We had just finished a novena to the “Little Flower,” and we thought she would obtain our dear Sister=s cure from the Infant Jesus. This, however, was not to be, and she grew steadily weaker. Her illness -pernicious anemia – affected the spine, causing most intense pain throughout the whole body. She had offered herself as a little Victim of Love, and had desired to die a martyr’s death – a desire which was indeed well fulfilled. She received the Last Sacraments on January 26, to the edification of the whole Community and the priest who attended her. All those present felt she was more angelic than human, and could not ask God to spare her precious life. She continued to lose strength gradually, and her powers of digestion were also slowly failing.
On Shrove Tuesday she was seized with a violent spell of nausea and vomiting; the doctor ordered that all food should be stopped, likewise all medicines, excepting by hypodermic injections. Up to this our dear Sister had received Holy Viaticum daily. Our ordinary confessor came on Ash Wednesday, and gave her a tiny particle of the Host, which she retained without difficulty.
From this day, until that of her death included, the Blessed Sacrament was the only food which crossed her lips. On one of those days she told me that she had said to Our Lord that she hoped the day would come when she could live on the Blessed Sacrament alone. So this desire was also granted to her, and she – by name, Stanislaus of the Blessed Sacrament – became, literally, Our Lord=s Tabernacle.
On Friday, the 10th (of March), at half-past nine in the morning, Sister’s brother, Father Kelly, brought her Holy Viaticum. This time she swallowed the small particle with difficulty, for her throat was closing and her breathing had become very labored. He and the Community prayed beside her for three hours, expecting every moment to see her draw her last breath. Each time, Father said “My Jesus, I love You,” she answered quite audibly: “Yes.”
At half-past twelve, Father left the enclosure, and Sister slept for a while. On waking, she said to the Sister who was nearest to her: “Sister, love Him for me.” Shortly afterwards she seemed to lose consciousness, but appeared as though asleep. We remained praying by her side, and whispered an act of love in her ear. Death came as a thief, and all was over at 5 P.M.
In life Sister was very beautiful, but even after those large blue eyes – which revealed something of the beauty of her soul – were closed in death, she seemed yet more beautiful.
Calla lilies, her favorite flower, were sent in abundance by those who knew and loved her, and she, of all those lilies, was the fairest – white as wax, and with an angelic smile, which seemed even more lovely on the fourth day, when she was buried. All who saw her were uplifted, and many rosaries and other objects of devotion were sent to touch her hands1.
She had been Portress, or, as we say, Turn-Sister1, and in this way she, the most humble and retiring Carmelite, was known and revered as a saint2.
Pardon me, dear Father, the liberty I have taken in writing to you, but I know our dear child and Sister was dear to you. I esteem it a great privilege to have been her Mother Prioress during the last years of her precious life, though it was our Mother Prioress(Beatrix of the Holy Spirit)3 of Boston who received her vows.
I beg you to pray for the repose of her dear soul, which we ourselves have done faithfully, even though we feel that Our Lord has granted her that further favor – to have had all her Purgatory here.
The Mother Prioress
(Mother Gertrude of the Heart of Jesus)
1 Prioress (1902-1912) of the Carmel of Philadelphia.
2 A native of Philadelphia, born in 1879, Sr. Stanislaus was Baptized Helen Genevieve Kelly, and was the youngest in her family.
1 It is customary to place the body of a deceased Sister near the Choir grate for viewing by the public. It would have been then that the people passed objects through to touch Sr. Stanislaus.
1 In addition to being Infirmarian and First Council Sister.
2 It is certain that Sr. Stanislaus had wonderful influence on the persons who would come to the Turn asking for prayers. It was in this capacity that she tried to spread the devotion to St. Thérèse.
3Mother Gertrude wrote the full name of Mother Beatrix in her letter, but Fr. Taylor, knowing the mind of Mother Beatrix, suppressed it in the printing of this letter (see letter of March 17, 1913, from Fr. Taylor to Mother Beatrix, below).