Mighty St. Thérèse, victim of “fake news” and the cruelty of libs

I am a great fan of St. Joan of Arc, a saint also for our day.  Also, I am indebted to St. Thérèse for help with my vocation in the dark days of my US seminary nightmare.  She was instrumental in my continuation (including sign of roses).

I saw something about St. Thérèse and her photo dressed as Joan of Arc at ChurchPop which I didn’t know.  They picked it up from a tweet or some other such gizmo.

It is poignant.  It is illustrative.

In this brief glimpse into the life of St. Thérèse you can see something of the cruelty of liberals with their “fake news” and others who hate the Church such as those entangled in Freemasonry.

The Surprising Little-Known Story Behind St. Thérèse’s Famous Joan of Arc Photo

I never knew the background of my favorite photo of Saint Thérèse playing Joan of Arc until recently when a friend told me about it. It’s fascinating. Apparently, a man under the name Leo Taxil published a number of autobiographies featuring Freemason conversions to Catholicism. The most popular was an autobiography of Diana Vaughan, whose conversion she said was influenced by Joan of Arc. Diana’s story was wildly popular and made it inside the Carmel walls. Thérèse loved her story and sent Diana this photo of her playing Joan of Arc.
In April of 1897, Leo Taxil called a press conference and revealed to the crowd of 400 people that he was Diana Vaughan. The entire thing was a ruse to demonstrate the gullibility of French Catholics. His prop that evening? A giant projected picture of this photograph of Thérèse, a symbol of the naive religious person. It was a terrible humiliation for Thérèse. She tore up the letter she had received from “Diana.”
Months later, Thérèse would face death. As death approached, she struggled with a great darkness, living the experience of those who do not believe. Certainly this experience was informed by her recent great humiliation. But Thérèse bravely offered this “bread of sorrow” for those who do not believe. Despite her bitter trials, she knew that Light was on the other side of darkness.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. rtjl says:

    So Leo Taxil seems to think it’s a bad thing when one human being trusts another human being. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It may be naive at times but it’s not a bad thing. It’s what humans do. It’s what humans have to do if they are to live together. What is a bad thing though is lying about one’s identity and behaving in an untrustworthy manner. Leo Taxil was the villain here, not Therese.

  2. Diana says:

    This Diana loves St Thérèse!

  3. NH Knight says:

    One of my all-time favorite books is about St Joan of Arc. “For God and Country” by Fr. Michael Cerrone. Outstanding book and impossible for me to put down. Since there was a trial of the French Bishop that sentence Joan to death, practically all of the testimony of that trial in the 14th century is still intact. Fr. Cerrone researched that documentation from the trial which included eyewitness testimony given in court that is amazing.

  4. bobbird says:

    So, may we assume that St. Therese did this while in the convent? I wonder if she needed permission? After all, the exposure of her hair was something to avoid through the wearing of a habit. Perhaps a bit undignified for a nun, but nevertheless telling of a trusting and still-youthful innocence that seeks to provide encouragement. Many recent converts are even now in need of this type of encouragement, which is why she apparently did this, to strengthen a fragile and newly emerging Faith. Ridiculing her was akin to sticking out a leg to trip a blind man and thinking it was funny. Therese had a heart for the remote missions, too, which is why we invoke her as Patroness of our benighted state.

  5. Spinmamma says:

    “The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
    One who walks blamelessly and does justice;
    who thinks the truth in his heart
    and slanders not with his tongue.”
    Just as those who are filled with hatred and lies project such onto others, those who are kind and truthful often project the same onto others. Sad experience forces the latter to become a little more cynical. The shameless Mr. Taxil was greatly lacking in self awareness. I hope he opened his mind and mended his ways before he met his demise.

  6. Fr. Charles A. F. says:

    rtjl: You are quite right; and actually, according to many contemporary reports of the incident, even the atheists Taxil thought he would be ingratiating himself with found the hoax despicable, and he was promptly banished from polite society.

  7. A lot of people can identify with how dear Therese reacted in the first place, and must have felt in the wake of the humiliation. St. Therese was nothing but kind and warm in response to the fake letter. She opened her heart to a stranger. Most people, regardless of their religious faith, can recognize this.

    I would love to go back in time and be in the room when Mr. Taxil pulled his stunt. He may have felt triumphant, but I strongly suspect there were many who thought less of him after this. And I even imagine that this “triumph” served, in some cases, to lead some to faith. If you were comparing Mr. Taxil to Sister Therese, who seems more human, more kind, more loving? (Oh, and it just occurred to me: Mr. Taxil both went to great effort and expense in this hoax: he wrote and published various stories! And, in short, he committed a fraud.)

  8. Gab says:

    St Therese, as with all the saints before her, would have suffered the humiliation gladly for His sake.

  9. JARay says:

    Thank you Fr. Z. This article increases my love of St. Therese. What a warm and trusting lady she was. What a sneaking, conniving, low-life Taxil was.

  10. APX says:


    St. Thérèse’s hair was cut off during her clothing ceremony. What you see is a wig. She wrote plays, one being about St. Joan of Arc, which she and the other nuns performed during Recreation. The photo was taken by her sister, Celine after she entered Carmel.

  11. APX says:

    I have an uncensored translation (it’s a translation of the original manuscripts she wrote, not a translation of what her sister published after having over 20,000 words removed to keep hidden what may be considered unbecoming of a saint) of St. Thérèse’s Autobiography. It makes no mention of this incident.

  12. WmHesch says:

    Please don’t forget this same Leo Taxil is the source of Luciferian/ Gnostic quotes, often circulated in Catholic circles, allegory from the Masonic philosopher Albert Pike.

  13. Benedict Joseph says:

    Bobbird. Saint Therese wrote the play very much with permission. These events in Carmel were known as “pious recreations.” It was staged for the feast day of her sister Pauline who was the prioress. Pauline’s religious name was Agnes of Jesus, and the play was presented the evening of January 21, 1895. There are a number of photographs of Therese in her “staring” role as Saint Joan which were taken by her sister Celine, her religious name was Genevieve of the Holy Face. She portrayed Saint Catherine of Alexandria in the production which was entitled “Joan of Arc Accomplishing Her Mission.” It must have been quite the deal — there are about fourteen speaking parts and most of them are men!
    Therese is wearing a wig. She had been professed for a about five years here and probably had a shaved head. She had been a natural blond.
    She penned about eight plays while in Carmel and numerous poems.
    This Taxil affair really got under skin, but she was young and when we are young we emerge from naivete by bitter lessons. She learned well.

  14. Since we are talking about St. Therese, I want to tell my biggest St. Therese story thus far. I prayed to her to obtain for me a very huge favor at a time in my life when I was about as low and as discouraged as I have ever been. I went as far as to ask her for a sign of yellow roses when God should consent to grant my prayer.

    For a while, all roses of any kind seemed to disappear. Then, one day at adoration, I looked down and saw on the floor, at the foot of the platform containing the tabernacle and monstrance, a vase of yellow roses with red-edged petals. It occurred to me at once that this meant my prayer was granted, but first I had to suffer a penance. It also occurred to me that I was just seeing what I wanted to see in my desperation.

    But, sure enough, the penance came. Then, yellow roses started popping up everywhere. The feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe came, and at Sunday Mass her statue was bedecked by roses, including many yellow ones. Then I received the much-needed favor I had prayed for. I cannot see yellow roses now without thinking of this answered prayer, and I am sure St. Therese sends them now and then to remind me.

  15. APX says:

    She had been a natural blond.

    No, she was a brunette. Her hair is on display along with her personal effects.


  16. Les Buissonets says:

    Ste Therese was also instrumental in my conversion.
    Fr Z: when are you going to write your autobiography? You keep referring to isolated incidents, but I’m longing to read a connected account (and I reckon I’m not the only one!).

  17. Ellen says:

    I read a very good biography of St. Therese by Guy Gaucher and he mentioned this incident. The prioress knew about Therese’s gift of writing poetry and plays and she wrote this play about St. Joan of Arc and played the lead for one of the community recreation periods. The costume was homemade and she wore a wig for the role.
    The hoax shook her up quite a bit and I can’t help but think it contributed to the darkness she experienced toward the end of her life.

  18. BrionyB says:

    Poor St Therese, what horrible bullying of a kind-hearted, trusting young woman. Just goes to show that fake news and ‘trolling’ are nothing new. I hope he lived to be ashamed of his actions.

    I had a great devotion to St Therese as a young girl after reading her autobiography, and believed I had a vocation to the contemplative life too. Sadly I was distracted by the world and strayed away from the Church. When I wanted to come back, I was too ashamed of what I’d become and what I’d thrown away to even think of her. But when I picked up my old prayer book, for the first time in two decades, out fell a faded little card with her picture. Then when I finally got the courage to go to my local church for Mass, there, at the end of the pew I’d chosen at random, was her statue.

    Far from being repulsed by us in her innocence, as I’d feared, the Little Flower is a special friend to the worst sinners, I think. St Therese, pray for us!

  19. So long as we’re sharing St. Therese stories, I have one that is a bit amusing.
    A little over a year ago, I was raising money to purchase two statues of Our Lady of Lourdes to send to a priest at a poor parish in Africa. I started saying a novena prayer to St. Therese every day, my intention being something along the lines of, “That I would raise enough money for the statues by the March for Life.” I meant “enough for the statues and international shipping”, but I didn’t say that, and St. Therese took me literally: I had enough money by the March to buy the statues, but not to ship them. I couldn’t believe it. So, I kept going with the novena, this time to have enough for shipping by Easter. She came through again, and when the priest wrote to me to tell me he had received the statues, I saw that he had been moved to a new parish: St. Theresia of the Child Jesus.

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