Mademoiselle Thomas’ letter said that the night had been fairly calm. But that the weakness was increasing and that this was the great danger. In effect, Father worn out as he was, could no longer fight his illness.
Fr. Chanuet said Mass in the morning. Twice during the day he spoke to him about Extreme Unction. Father said: no, not now.
Father got up to let his bed be made. The evening before, they put a poultice on his neck. In the evening, Melle Thomas sat with Father. Towards midnight she was in the room. The curtains of his bed in the alcove were partly open. A little vigil light placed on the mantelpiece lit up the room. Melle Thomas looked at Father, and saw him gazing attentively at the foot of his bed beside the wall. He was smiling, his eyes animated. He seemed particularly happy. She looked and noticed a cloud of soft light like moonlight, or folds of a dress. Not being prone to being carried away by wonders, she took the lamp and moved it, hiding it in order to be sure that it wasn’t a reflection of the light, the cloud continued. Father was still watching, still smiling. He had a thankful air. These folds, Melle Thomas told me, were like a hanging dress. They could have been a metre high. And the entire cloud stretched from the bed to the ceiling. She didn’t see any shafts, and figures. She told me this. And all who have known her as a teacher, her energetic character, her staunch heart, know that she was not inclined to visions.
She believed deeply that is was the Blessed Virgin who came to advise Father. This belief, far from fading, only increased in her until her death. Melle Thomas sent straight away for Fr. Chanuet who was staying in a nearby house. This time, Father freely accepted Extreme Unction. Fr. Chanuet brought him the Holy Oils. Fr. joined in all the prayers, followed the entire ceremony. It was 2 o’clock in the morning.
The weakness continued to grow. The ideas always perfectly clear. At seven o’clock Fr. Chanuet told Father that he would go to get him Communion. Fr. didn’t seem happy. He would have liked the Mass. Fr. Chanuet was afraid to go against his conscience and Father accepted this new sacrifice. He received his Viaticum. It was seven hours before departure!
After Communion, Father got up again to let his bed be made.At ten o’clock, he embraced his sister saying to her: “So sister, goodbye it is the end!”. Around eleven o’clock, the mustard plasters applied to his legs were no longer holding. Life was leaving him little by little. The blood drained from the extremities to the heart. With Father, probably more that with anyone else, the heart was life. The life fled there at this supreme moment, like in a last retreat.
At midday, they thought it was already finished. A fainting attack seemed like death. It lasted a few minutes. So Fr. Chanuet recited the prayers of the dying for Father. Father joined in them.All those present came to kneel at the foot of the bed. Father blessed them one by one. When he had finished this, he was still looking for someone, he looked from side to side and seemed to be calling. Then he fell asleep again. - Melle Thomas had always believed that it was me that he was looking for. He would have thought I had come back, or had not remembered that he had sent me to La Salette.
Coming up to two o’clock, Fr. Chanuet went to the Telegraph. Some signs of greater prostration did not escape Melle Thomas. She sent someone after Fr. Chanuet. Father wanted to expectorate. Melle Thomas lifted him a little on the pillow. The breath left him. It was finished. He fell back lifeless, or rather, he fell asleep gently. His hand was searching for his handkerchief to spit out. His eyes were fixed on a picture of the crucifixion.Fr. Chanuet had arrived back a few seconds beforehand and had time to give Father a final blessing in articulo mortis from the door of the room. It was about half past two.
I forgot to mention that around midday, when the prayers for the dying were being said, Father seemed a bit tired. Melle Thomas showed him an image of the Sacred Heart with the litanies, asking him if he wanted them to be recited. Yes, said Father, and followed all the invocations with a constant interest and a piety. This was his last prayer here below. - One day Father had said to me “Ah! I owe everything to the devotion to the Sacred Heart, it saved me”. And Jesus came to offer sight of His Heart to this dear dying man to ease his passage and to make him sit down in this boat safe from shipwreck!
It was on Saturday 1 August at half past two that Father passed away in the Lord. It was the feast of St. Peter-in-chains his patron and the time of the first Vespers of Our Lady of the Angels.
After the first moment of sorrow, they thought of undressing Fr. and re-vesting him. It was Melle Thomas and Madame Gras who took on this sad task.Fr. was vested in his soutane, the Alb, the ceinture and a black stole. On his feet he had his socks and his buckle shoes. He was laid out on his bed, the noise having died down in the town, his room began to fill with visitors with tears in their eyes who came to see this respected Father, and less to pray for him than to commend themselves to his prayers.
But whenever these memories are recalled for me, I always note some unimportant details which really struck me after the event.
At the Mass which closed the La Salette Novena, I believed with certainty that Father would get better. I gave thanks to Mary more than I asked her for the favour so deeply wished for.
There was at La Salette, a venerable pilgrim in the Benoit Labre mould, universally venerated. I asked him for Father’s healing without telling him the exact seriousness of the illness. His response was this: “Ah! Sir, when the good God has resolved to call someone to Himself, prayers won’t achieve anything”. But, I said to him this is a saint whom our Lord needs, society and the Church also. “In that case, the old man answered me to comfort me, God may save him”.- I did not pay much heed to these words. In the evening during the Friday instruction, Fr. Pons preached on St. Peter-in-chains saying: “St. Peter seemed very necessary to the early Church and yet God allowed him to be imprisoned. It’s that someone is not necessary for God.” So on Saturday, uneasy at not seeing anyone coming from La Mure, I was unsure whether I should stay or return. Towards half past one, someone came. Father, they said, is no better, go back. - I didn’t believe it. Perhaps, I said to myself, when the person left La Mure this was true, but since then Mary has surely healed Father. I believed it unquestioningly, this is just a test of my faith.
However, I decided to leave. Toward two o’clock I went to say goodbye to our Lord. I made an act of submission to our Lord which I did not fulfill very well, and which drew from me a loud cry of deep sorrow. From the Chapel I went to the place of the apparition. There, I felt I couldn’t ask for Father’s healing. But seized with a gentle peace, an unbelievable calm, looking to heaven I said in my heart without saying a word out loud, “All right when you would like to go, Father, isn’t that what you deserve? Haven’t you suffered enough! Ah! I would be happy for you to be united with your Jesus”. This thought filled me with interior joy and I left without attaching importance to it. It was just past two o’clock on the church clock. A few minutes after that, Father died. All along the way I pondered what I would should ask Father, because I was convinced I would see him again. I brought some crosses for indulgences for 16 francs. However, the sky seemed to be more beautiful than usual. I am not a poet or a dreamer. I looked at it and I said: But what’s happening in heaven? What triumph is up there that the sky is so beautiful, then thinking anew of Father, I thought again of what I would say to him, of the means to save him etc.
St. Chantal knew of St. Francis’ illness. She was in Grenoble. The saint died at Lyon. Our Lord said to her in prayer: “My daughter, your father is no longer alive in this world” and the Saint replied: “Oh no, my God, I know that he is so mortified that everything is death for him and that he lives only for You”. This event, which I read about afterward, explained to me how, in spite of all interior knowledge, I believed Father always to be alive.
However, I took the express. An hour before arriving at La Mure, at Pont-haut, a man stopped me and said: “Father Julien has just died!”
When I got to Father, it was nine o’clock in the evening. Doctor Douillard had come, but too late, from Paris.
I threw myself on my Father and embraced him in a frenzy. Eh! What! Father you are dead without calling me to give me a last blessing! I didn’t stop embracing his venerable face. His eyes were open and also animated as on the most beautiful feast days of our Lord.
During his life, even when Father was happy, his appearance always had a certain veil of melancholy. Here, no more. Peace, smiling peace. His lips smiled. He looked at me to the point where two or three times I said to him: “But laugh, speak, Father, you are not dead, it’s not possible!”. This limpid look, smiling and animated, lasted until near midnight. At that time, Father took on the figure he maintained until burial. His look was always calm, his eyes barely open, but without the life that had struck the helpers during the first hours. What characterised his physiognomy was the calm, the peace, peace from above that nothing disturbs.
I spent the night at the foot of Father’s bed. God knows what recommendations I made to him. I did not forget one of my brothers. I felt what a sacrifice Our Lord was asking of them.
The penitents said the Office of the Dead.
This text is transcribed from a copy preserved in the Archives of the French Province in Paris. The Punctuation has been slightly adjusted for ease of reading.
The copy from the Paris archive has as its title, in Fr. J. Lavigne’s writing, “Notes of very Rev. Fr. Tesniere (Bro. Albert) on the last days of Blessed Peter Julian Eymard”.