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

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What a moving story!

Sister Theresa Aletheia of the Daughters of St. Paul explained the sad, but humbling story about the famous photo of St. Therese of Lisieux dressed as St. Joan of Arc.

St. Therese loved St. Joan of Arc, and had a very deep devotion to her. The photo below depicts her portraying the medieval saint in a play. (St. Therese actually wrote two plays about St. Joan of Arc.)

Here’s the story below:

 

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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.

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Here’s the text of the story:

“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.”

St. Therese, please ask Jesus to give us the strength to endure our trials for love of Him!

[See also: 5 Beautiful Reasons to Love the Miraculous Devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes]

[See also: Call to Resilient Faith: “Choose to Act, Even in Hopeless Moments,” Fr. Mike Schmitz Explains]