Devotion to the Infant Jesus calls down protection of God on a courageous Carmelite nun.
Elena Maria Thierry was born in Mexico on August 15, 1879 to a devout family of European extraction. The second to the youngest of twenty children, she received a thorough education, including operatic training, gifted as she was with a beautiful singing voice.
Feeling called to the religious life, she first sought to enter a teaching order. On September 30, 1897, when traveling on a train to the convent, she suddenly found herself face to face with a young Carmelite nun. The nun looked at her knowingly and said, “You will remain there a short time. Then you will come to my order.” The mysterious nun vanished.
Elena Maria was dismissed from the teaching order after a few years and then sought to enter the Mexico City Carmel. On the walls of the Carmel hung a picture of the same nun Elena Maria had seen on the train. She was told it was the Little Flower who was already world famous because of her autobiography and the prodigies which had been worked through her intercession. The day Elena Maria had seen her on the train was the exact day Sister Therese of the Child Jesus had died far away in France.
As a novice, she struggled with doubts about her vocation. As part of a group of sisters learning how to paint statues, she was sent to fetch an ancient statue of the sleeping Infant Jesus, much deteriorated and with the paint peeling off it. Cradling the image in her arms, she silently prayed for a sign to know whether she should remain in Carmel. Then she passed the statue out through the turn. “What!” exclaimed the artist-teacher, “You want me to repaint this? I wouldn’t touch it!” The woman spun the turn back around and the nuns gazed in wonder at the miraculously restored statue. The novice knew she had received her sign.
This beautiful, life-like statue is now at the Carmel of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ada, Michigan. It is displayed for veneration during the Octave of Christmas every year.
In 1910, persecution broke out afresh at the hands of the Communist revolutionaries. During her travels through Mexico, trying to avoid arrest, Mother was on a train, dressed as a housewife. She had the statue of Baby Jesus in her arms wrapped in a blanket, like a real baby. There were revolutionary soldiers on the train. One of them, vigilant for escaping religious, noticed Mother Elias and her little bundle. “That baby is being awfully quiet,” he said, and started over towards Mother. At that moment, the statue of the Infant came to life, and began to wail like a living child. The soldiers left Mother alone.
The soldiers of the Revolution often broke into convents and kidnapped the young sisters. In her monastery there was a young nun of singular beauty whom, it was rumored, the local revolutionaries were planning on kidnapping. In 1914, disguised in wigs, bonnets, and secular clothes over their wool habits, Mother Elias and the younger sisters escaped to Cuba en route to Grand Rapids, MI.
She returned to Mexico to help the older nuns escape; arrested, she was brought before a firing squad of revolutionaries. While she and her companion knelt as the order was given to shoot, Mother interiorly offered a somewhat skeptical prayer: “Little Therese, if you are a saint, as some people say you are, then deliver us, and I promise to found a Monastery in your honor.” Both nuns heard the discharge of the guns, sank to the ground and were left for dead. They later regained consciousness, and although there was blood on their clothes, they were completely unharmed. Six years later she founded a monastery in St. Therese’s honor in Buffalo, NY, on the very day of her canonization.