Chapters 1 and 2

ST. THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX

THE STORY OF A SOUL: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ST. THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX

SOEUR THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX, THE LITTLE FLOWER OF JESUS

NIHIL OBSTAT JOANNES N. STRASSMAIER, S.J. Censor Deputatus

IMPRIMATUR EDMUNDUS Canonicus SURMONT Vicarius Generalis

WESTMONASTERII, die nonâ Decembris, 1912.

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CONTENTS

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DEDICATION

PREFACE BY H.E. CARDINAL BOURNE

PROLOGUE: PARENTAGE AND BIRTH

AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Chapters

I. Earliest Memories

2. A Catholic Household

3. Pauline Enters the Carmel

4. First Communion and Confirmation

5. Vocation of Thérèse

6. A Pilgrimage to Rome

7. The Little Flower Enters the Carmel

8. Profession of Soeur Thérèse

9. The Night of the Soul

10. The New Commandment

11. A Canticle of Love

EPILOGUE: A VICTIM OF DIVINE LOVE

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THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO THE SERVANT OF GOD, SOEUR THÉRÈSE, IN THANKSGIVING FOR GRACES OBTAINED, AND TO HER “PETITE MÈRE,” MOTHER AGNES OF JESUS, IN GRATEFUL MEMORY OF INNUMERABLE KINDNESSES EXTENDING OVER MANY YEARS

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PREFACE

As we become acquainted with the histories of those in whom, in long succession, God has been pleased to show forth examples of holiness of life, it seems as if every phase of human existence had in the history of the Church received its consecration as a power to bring men nearer to their Maker. But there is no limit to the types of sanctity which the Creator is pleased to unfold before His Creatures. To many, on reading for the first time the story of Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, it came almost as a shock to find a very youthful member of an austere Order, strictly retired from the world, engaged in hidden prayer and mortification, appearing before us to reveal to the whole world the wonders of the close intimacy of friendship to which her Divine Spouse had been pleased to call her. Certainly the way by which Soeur Thérèse was led is not the normal life of Carmel, nor hers the manner whereby most Carmelites are called to accomplish the wondrous apostolate of intercession to which their lives are given. But no less certain is it that, in her particular case, her work for God and her apostolate were not to be confined between the walls of her religious home, or to be limited by her few years on earth.

In the first place, we know that it was by obedience that the record of God’s dealings with her soul were set down in writing. And again, the long tale of graces granted in such strange profusion through her intercession is proof sufficient that it was not without Divine permission and guidance that the history of her special and peculiar vocation has become the property of all Catholics in every land. It is for God to keep, and for Him to make known the secrets of His Love for men. And in the case of Soeur Thérèse it has been His Will to divulge His secrets in most generous consideration for our needs.

What are the hidden treasures which Our Divine Master thus reveals to us through His chosen little servant?

It is the old story of simplicity in God’s service, of the perfect accomplishment of small recurring duties, of trustful confidence in Him who made and has redeemed and sanctified us. Humility, self-effacement, obedience, hiddenness, unfaltering charity, with all the self-control and constant effort that they imply, are written on every page of the history of this little Saint. And, as we turn its pages, the lesson is borne in upon our souls that there is no surer nor safer way of pleasing Our Father Who is in Heaven than by remaining ever as little children in His sight. Doubtless for many of her clients whose hearts are kindled as they read this book, Soeur Thérèse will obtain, as she has done so often in the past, wonderful gifts for health of soul and body. But may she win for all of us without exception a deep and fruitful conviction of the unchanging truth, that unless we become as little children in the doing of our Heavenly Father’s Will, we cannot enter into our Eternal Home.

FRANCIS CARDINAL BOURNE, Archbishop of Westminster.

Feast of the Presentation of Our Blessed Lady, 1912.

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PROLOGUE: THE PARENTAGE & BIRTH OF MARIE FRANÇOISE THÉRÈSE MARTIN

In the month of September, 1843, a young man of twenty climbed the mountain of the Great St. Bernard. His eyes shone with a holy enthusiasm as the splendour of the Alps stirred to the depths his responsive nature. Presently, accustomed as they were to discern God’s beauty in the beauty of His handiwork, they glistened with tears. He paused for a space, then, continuing his journey, soon reached the celebrated monastery that like a beacon on those heights darts afar its beams of faith and magnificent charity.

The Prior, struck by the frank and open countenance of his guest, welcomed him with more than wonted hospitality. Louis Joseph Stanislaus Martin was the pilgrim’s name. He was born on August 22, 1823, at Bordeaux, while his father, a brave and devout soldier, was captain in the garrison there. “God has predestined this little one for Himself,” said the saintly Bishop of Bordeaux on the occasion of his baptism, and events have proved the truth of his words. From this town, by the banks of the Garonne, his parents went to Alençon in lower Normandy, and there in their new home, as in their old one, Louis was the cherished Benjamin.

It was not the loveliness of Swiss lakes and mountains and skies that had drawn the traveller from distant Alençon. He came to the monastery—and his journey was chiefly on foot—to consecrate his days to God. On learning his purpose the Prior questioned him upon his knowledge of Latin, only to discover that the young aspirant had not completed his course of studies in that language. “I am indeed sorry, my child,” said the venerable monk, “since this is an essential condition, but you must not be disheartened. Go back to your own country, apply yourself diligently, and when you have ended your studies we shall receive you with open arms.”

Louis was disappointed. He set out for home—for exile he would have said—but ere long he saw clearly that his life was to be dedicated to God in another and equally fruitful way, and that the Alpine monastery was to be nothing more to him than a sweet memory.

* * * * * *

A few years after the vain quest of Louis Martin, a similar scene was enacted in Alençon itself. Accompanied by her mother, Zélie Guérin—an attractive and pious girl—presented herself at the Convent of the Sisters of Charity in the hope of gaining admission. For years it had been her desire to share the Sisters’ work, but this was not to be. In the interview that followed, the Superioress—guided by the Holy Ghost—decided unhesitatingly that Zélie’s vocation was not for the religious life. God wanted her in the world, and so she returned to her parents, and to the companionship of her elder sister and her younger brother. Shortly afterwards the gates of the Visitation Convent at Le Mans closed upon her beloved sister, and Zélie’s thoughts turned to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. “O my God”—she repeated constantly— “since I am unworthy to be Thy Spouse, like my dear sister, I shall enter the married state to fulfill Thy Holy Will, and I beseech Thee to make me the mother of many children, and to grant that all of them may be dedicated to Thee.”

God gave ear to her prayer, and His Finger was visible in the circumstances which led to her becoming the wife of Louis Martin, on July 12, 1858, in Alençon’s lovely Church of Notre Dame. Like the chaste Tobias, they were joined together in matrimony—”solely for the love of children, in whom God’s Name might be blessed for ever and ever.” Nine white flowers bloomed in this sacred garden. Of the nine, four were transplanted to Paradise ere their buds had quite unfolded, while five were gathered in God’s walled gardens upon earth, one entering the Visitation Convent at Caen, the others the Carmel of Lisieux.

From the cradle all were dedicated to Mary Immaculate, and all received her name: Marie Louise, Marie Pauline, Marie Léonie, Marie Hélène, who died at the age of four and a half, Marie Joseph Louis, Marie Joseph Jean Baptiste, Marie Céline, Marie Mélanie Therèse, who died when three months old, and lastly, Marie Françoise Thérèse.

The two boys were the fruit of prayers and tears. After the birth of the four elder girls, their parents entreated St. Joseph to obtain for them the favour of a son who should become a priest and a missionary. Marie Joseph soon was given them, and his pretty ways appealed to all hearts, but only five months had run their course when Heaven demanded what it had lent. Then followed more urgent novenas.

The grandeur of the Priesthood, glorious upon earth, ineffable in eternity, was so well understood by those Christian parents, that their hearts coveted it most dearly. At all costs the family must have a Priest of the Lord, one who would be an apostle, peradventure a martyr. But, “the thoughts of the Lord are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways.” Another little Joseph was born, and with him hope once again grew strong. Alas! Nine months had scarcely passed when he, too, fled from this world and joined his angel brother.

They did not ask again. Yet, could the veil of the future have been lifted, their heavy hearts would, of a surety, have been comforted. A child was to be vouchsafed them who would be a herald of Divine love, not to China alone, but to all the ends of the earth.

Nay, they themselves were destined to shine as apostles, and we read on one of the first pages of the Portuguese edition of the Autobiography, these significant words of an eminent Jesuit:

“To the Sacred Memory of Louis Joseph Stanislaus Martin and of Zélie Guérin, the blessed parents of Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus, for an example to all Christian parents.”

They little dreamed of this future apostolate, nevertheless they made ready their souls day by day to be God’s own instruments in God’s good time. With most loving resignation they greeted the many crosses which the Lord laid upon them—the Lord whose tender name of Father is truest in the dark hour of trial.

Every morning saw them at Mass; together they knelt at the Holy Table. They strictly observed the fasts and abstinences of the Church, kept Sunday as a day of complete rest from work in spite of the remonstrance of friends, and found in pious reading their most delightful recreation. They prayed in common—after the touching example of Captain Martin, whose devout way of repeating the Our Father brought tears to all eyes. Thus the great Christian virtues flourished in their home. Wealth did not bring luxury in its train, and a strict simplicity was invariably observed.

“How mistaken are the great majority of men!” Madame Martin used often to say. “If they are rich, they at once desire honours; and if these are obtained, they are still unhappy; for never can that heart be satisfied which seeks anything but God.”

Her whole ambition as a mother was directed to Heaven. “Four of my children are already well settled in life,” she once wrote; “and the others will go likewise to that Heavenly Kingdom—enriched with greater merit because the combat will have been more prolonged.”

Charity in all its forms was a natural outlet to the piety of these simple hearts. Husband and wife set aside each year a considerable portion of their earnings for the Propagation of the Faith; they relieved poor persons in distress, and ministered to them with their own hands. On one occasion Monsieur Martin, like a good Samaritan, was seen to raise a drunken man from the ground in a busy thoroughfare, take his bag of tools, support him on his arm, and lead him home. Another time when he saw, in a railway station, a poor and starving epileptic without the means to return to his distant home, he was so touched with pity that he took off his hat and, placing in it an alms, proceeded to beg from the passengers on behalf of the sufferer. Money poured in, and it was with a heart brimming over with gratitude that the sick man blessed his benefactor.

Never did he allow the meannesses of human respect to degrade his Christian dignity. In whatever company he might be, he always saluted the Blessed Sacrament when passing a Church; and he never met a priest without paying him a mark of respect. A word from his lips sufficed to silence whosoever dared blaspheme in his presence.

In reward for his virtues, God showered even temporal blessings on His faithful servant. In 1871 he was able to give up his business as a jeweller, and retire to a house in the Rue St. Blaise. The making of point-lace, however, begun by Madame Martin, was still carried on.

In that house the “Little Flower of Jesus” first saw the sunshine. Again and again, in the pages of her Autobiography, she calls herself by this modest name of the Little Flower, emblematic of her humility, her purity, her simplicity, and it may be added, of the poetry of her soul. The reader will learn in the Epilogue how it was also used by one of her favourite martyr-saints—the now Blessed Théophane Vénard. On the manuscript of her Autobiography she set the title: “The Story of the Springtime of a little white Flower,” and in truth such it was, for long ere the rigours of life’s winter came round, the Flower was blossoming in Paradise.

It was, however, in mid-winter, January 2, 1873, that this ninth child of Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin was born. Marie and Pauline were at home for the Christmas holidays from the Visitation Convent at Le Mans, and though there was, it is true, a slight disappointment that the future priest was still denied them, it quickly passed, and the little one was regarded as a special gift from Heaven. Later on, her beloved Father delighted in calling her his “Little Queen,” adding at times the high-sounding titles—”Of France and Navarre.”

The Little Queen was indeed well received that winter’s morning, and in the course of the day a poor waif rang timidly at the door of the happy home, and presented a paper bearing the following simple stanza:

“Smile and swiftly grow; All beckons thee to joy, Sweet love, and tenderest care. Smile gladly at the dawn, Bud of an hour!—for thou Shalt be a stately rose.”

It was a charming prophecy, for the bud unfolded its petals and became a rose—a rose of love—but not for long, “for the space of a morn!”

* * * * * *

On January 4, she was carried to the Church of Notre Dame to receive the Sacrament of Baptism; her eldest sister, Marie, was her godmother, and she was given the name of Marie Françoise Thérèse.[1]

All was joy at first, but soon the tender bud drooped on its delicate stem: little hope was held out—it must wither and die. “You must pray to St. Francis de Sales,” wrote her aunt from the convent at Le Mans, “and you must promise, if the child recovers, to call her by her second name, Frances.” This was a sword-thrust for the Mother. Leaning over the cradle of her Thérèse, she awaited the coming of the end, saying: “Only when the last hope has gone, will I promise to call her Frances.”

The gentle St. Francis waived his claim in favour of the great Reformer of the Carmelite Order: the child recovered, and so retained her sweet name of Thérèse. Sorrow, however, was mixed with the Mother’s joy, when it became necessary to send the babe to a foster-mother in the country. There the “little rose-bud” grew in beauty, and after some months had gained strength sufficient to allow of her being brought back to Alençon. Her memory of this short but happy time spent with her sainted Mother in the Rue St. Blaise was extraordinarily vivid. To-day a tablet on the balcony of No. 42 informs the passers-by that here was born a certain Carmelite, by name, Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Fifteen years have gone since the meeting in Heaven of Madame Martin and her Carmelite child, and if the pilgrimage to where the Little Flower first saw the light of day, be not so large as that to the grave where her remains await their glorious resurrection, it may nevertheless be numbered in thousands. And to the English-speaking pilgrim there is an added pleasure in the fact that her most notable convert, the first minister of the United Free Church of Scotland to enter the True Fold, performs, with his convert wife, the courteous duties of host.

* * * * * *

It will not be amiss to say a brief word here on the brother and sister of Madame Martin. Her sister—in religion, Sister Marie Dosithea—led a life so holy at Le Mans that she was cited by Dom Guéranger, perhaps the most distinguished Benedictine of the nineteenth century, as the model of a perfect nun. By her own confession, she had never been guilty from earliest childhood of the smallest deliberate fault. She died on February 24, 1877. It was in the convent made fragrant by such holiness that her niece Pauline Martin, elder sister and “little mother” of Thérèse, and for five years her Prioress at the Carmel, received her education. And if the Little Flower may have imbibed the liturgical spirit from her teachers, the daughters of St. Benedict in Lisieux, so that she could say before her death: “I do not think it is possible for anyone to have desired more than I to assist properly at choir and to recite perfectly the Divine Office”—may it not be to the influences from Le Mans that may be traced something of the honey-sweet spirit of St. Francis de Sales which pervades the pages of the Autobiography?

With the brother of Zélie Guérin the reader will make acquaintance in the narrative of Thérèse. He was a chemist in Lisieux, and it was there his daughter Jeanne Guérin married Dr. La Néele and his younger child Marie entered the Carmel. Our foreign missionaries had a warm friend in the uncle of Thérèse—for his charities he was made godfather to an African King; and to the Catholic Press—that home missionary—he was ever most devoted. Founder, at Lisieux, of the Nocturnal Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and a zealous member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, he was called to his abundant reward on September 28, 1909. Verily the lamp of faith is not extinct in the land of the Norman.

The Father of Thérèse, after the death of his wife, likewise made his home in the delightful town which lies amid the beautiful apple orchards of the valley of the Touques. Lisieux is deeply interesting by reason of its fine old churches of St. Jacques and St. Pierre, and its wonderful specimens of quaint houses, some of which date from the twelfth century. In matters of faith it is neither fervent nor hostile, and in 1877 its inhabitants little thought that through their new citizen, Marie Françoise Thérèse Martin, their town would be rendered immortal.

* * * * * *

“The cell at Lisieux reminds us of the cell of the Blessed Gabriel at Isola. There is the same even tenor of way, the same magnificant fidelity in little things, the same flames of divine charity, consuming but concealed. Nazareth, with the simplicity of its Child, and the calm abysmal love of Mary and Joseph—Nazareth, adorable but imitable, gives the key to her spirit, and her Autobiography does but repeat the lessons of the thirty hidden years.”[2]

And it repeats them with an unrivalled charm. “This master of asceticism,” writes a biographer[3] of St. Ignatius Loyola, “loved the garden and loved the flowers. In the balcony of his study he sat gazing on the stars: it was then Lainez heard him say: ‘Oh, how earth grows base to me when I look on Heaven!’ . . . The like imaginative strain, so scorned of our petty day, inhered in all the lofty souls of that age. Even the Saints of our day speak a less radiant language: and sanctity shows ‘shorn of its rays’ through the black fog of universal utilitarianism, the materiality which men have drawn into the very lungs of their souls.”

This is not true of the sainted authoress of the chapters that follow—”less radiant,” in the medium of a translation. In her own inimitable pages, as in those of a Campion or an Ignatius, a Teresa of Avila, or a John of the Cross—the Spirit of Poetry is the handmaiden of Holiness. This new lover of flowers and student of the stars, this “strewer of roses,” has uplifted a million hearts from the “base earth” and “black fog” to the very throne of God, and her mission is as yet but begun.

The pen of Soeur Thérèse herself must now take up the narrative. It will do so in words that do not merely tell of love but set the heart on fire, and at the same time lay bare the workings of God in a soul that “since the age of three never refused the Good God anything.” The writing of this Autobiography was an act of obedience, and the Prioress who imposed the task sought, in all simplicity, her own personal edification. But the fragrance of its pages was such that she was advised to publish them to the world. She did so in 1899 under the title of L’Histoire d’une Âme. An English version by M. H. Dziewicki appeared in 1901.

This new translation relates more fully the story of the childhood, girlhood, and brief convent days of Soeur Thérèse. It tells of her “Roses,” and sets forth again, in our world-wide tongue, her world-wide embassy—the ever ancient message of God’s Merciful Love, the ever new way to Him of “confidence and self-surrender.”

The Editor.

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[1] The baptismal entry, with its numerous signatures, is shown to visitors, and a tablet in the baptistry of the beautiful Gothic church tells the pilgrim that here the “Little Queen” was made a child of God. [Ed.]

[2] “As Little Children”: the abridged life of Soeur Thérèse. Published at the Orphans’ Press, Rochdale.

[3] Francis Thompson.

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THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SOEUR THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX, ENTITLED BY HERSELF: “THE STORY OF THE SPRINGTIME OF A LITTLE WHITE FLOWER”

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CHAPTER ONE – EARLIEST MEMORIES

It is to you, dear Mother, that I am about to confide the story of my soul. When you asked me to write it, I feared the task might unsettle me, but since then Our Lord has deigned to make me understand that by simple obedience I shall please Him best. I begin therefore to sing what must be my eternal song: “the Mercies of the Lord.”[1]

Before setting about my task I knelt before the statue of Our Lady which had given my family so many proofs of Our Heavenly Mother’s loving care.[2] As I knelt I begged of that dear Mother to guide my hand, and thus ensure that only what was pleasing to her should find place here.

Then opening the Gospels, my eyes fell on these words: “Jesus, going up into a mountain, called unto Him whom He would Himself.”[3]

They threw a clear light upon the mystery of my vocation and of my entire life, and above all upon the favours which Our Lord has granted to my soul. He does not call those who are worthy, but those whom He will. As St. Paul says: “God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.[4] So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”[5]

I often asked myself why God had preferences, why all souls did not receive an equal measure of grace. I was filled with wonder when I saw extraordinary favours showered on great sinners like St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Mary Magdalen, and many others, whom He forced, so to speak, to receive His grace. In reading the lives of the Saints I was surprised to see that there were certain privileged souls, whom Our Lord favoured from the cradle to the grave, allowing no obstacle in their path which might keep them from mounting towards Him, permitting no sin to soil the spotless brightness of their baptismal robe. And again it puzzled me why so many poor savages should die without having even heard the name of God.

Our Lord has deigned to explain this mystery to me. He showed me the book of nature, and I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide beauty, and the fields would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living garden. He has been pleased to create great Saints who may be compared to the lily and the rose, but He has also created lesser ones, who must be content to be daisies or simple violets flowering at His Feet, and whose mission it is to gladden His Divine Eyes when He deigns to look down on them. And the more gladly they do His Will the greater is their perfection.

I understood this also, that God’s Love is made manifest as well in a simple soul which does not resist His grace as in one more highly endowed. In fact, the characteristic of love being self-abasement, if all souls resembled the holy Doctors who have illuminated the Church, it seems that God in coming to them would not stoop low enough. But He has created the little child, who knows nothing and can but utter feeble cries, and the poor savage who has only the natural law to guide him, and it is to their hearts that He deigns to stoop. These are the field flowers whose simplicity charms Him; and by His condescension to them Our Saviour shows His infinite greatness. As the sun shines both on the cedar and on the floweret, so the Divine Sun illumines every soul, great and small, and all correspond to His care—just as in nature the seasons are so disposed that on the appointed day the humblest daisy shall unfold its petals.

You will wonder, dear Mother, to what all this is leading, for till now I have said nothing that sounds like the story of my life; but did you not tell me to write quite freely whatever came into my mind? So, it will not be my life properly speaking, that you will find in these pages, but my thoughts about the graces which it has pleased Our Lord to bestow on me.

I am now at a time of life when I can look back on the past, for my soul has been refined in the crucible of interior and exterior trials. Now, like a flower after the storm, I can raise my head and see that the words of the Psalm are realised in me: “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall want nothing. He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up on the water of refreshment. He hath converted my soul. He hath led me on the paths of justice for His own Name’s sake. For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils for Thou are with me.”[6]

Yes, to me Our Lord has always been “compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy.”[7]

And so it gives me great joy, dear Mother, to come to you and sing His unspeakable mercies. It is for you alone that I write the story of the little flower gathered by Jesus. This thought will help me to speak freely, without troubling either about style or about the many digressions that I shall make; for a Mother’s heart always understands her child, even when it can only lisp, and so I am sure of being understood and my meaning appreciated.

If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals, or the storm bruised its stem, if it knew that such were not the case.

The Little Flower, that now tells her tale, rejoiced in having to publish the wholly undeserved favours bestowed upon her by Our Lord. She knows that she had nothing in herself worthy of attracting Him: His Mercy alone showered blessings on her. He allowed her to grow in holy soil enriched with the odour of purity, and preceded by eight lilies of shining whiteness. In His Love He willed to preserve her from the poisoned breath of the world—hardly had her petals unfolded when this good Master transplanted her to the mountain of Carmel, Our Lady’s chosen garden.

And now, dear Mother, having summed up in a few words all that God’s goodness has done for me, I will relate in detail the story of my childhood. I know that, though to others it may seem wearisome, your motherly heart will find pleasure in it. In the story of my soul, up to the time of my entry into the Carmel, there are three clearly marked periods: the first, in spite of its shortness, is by no means the least rich in memories.

It extends from the dawn of reason to the death of my dearly loved Mother; in other words, till I was four years and eight months old. God, in His goodness, did me the favour of awakening my intelligence very early, and He has imprinted the recollections of my childhood so deeply in my memory that past events seem to have happened but yesterday. Without doubt He wished to make me know and appreciate the Mother He had given me. Alas! His Divine Hand soon took her from me to crown her in Heaven.

All my life it has pleased Him to surround me with affection. My first recollections are of loving smiles and tender caresses; but if He made others love me so much, He made me love them too, for I was of an affectionate nature.

You can hardly imagine how much I loved my Father and Mother, and, being very demonstrative, I showed my love in a thousand little ways, though the means I employed make me smile now when I think of them.

Dear Mother, you have given me the letters which my Mother wrote at this time to Pauline, who was at school at the Visitation Convent at Le Mans. I remember perfectly the events they refer to, but it will be easier for me simply to quote some passages, though these charming letters, inspired by a Mother’s love, are too often full of my praises.

In proof of what I have said about my way of showing affection for my parents, here is an example: “Baby is the dearest little rogue; she comes to kiss me, and at the same time wishes me to die. ‘Oh, how I wish you would die, dear Mamma,’ she said, and when she was scolded she was quite astonished, and answered: ‘But I want you to go to Heaven, and you say we must die to go there’; and in her outburst of affection for her Father she wishes him to die too. The dear little thing will hardly leave me, she follows me everywhere, but likes going into the garden best; when I am not there she refuses to stay, and cries so much that they are obliged to bring her back. She will not even go upstairs alone without calling me at each step, ‘Mamma! Mamma!’ and if I forget to answer ‘Yes, darling!’ she waits where she is, and will not move.”

I was nearly three years old when my Mother wrote: “Little Thérèse asked me the other day if she would go to Heaven. ‘Yes, if you are good,’ I told her. ‘Oh, Mamma,’ she answered, ‘then if I am not good, shall I go to Hell? Well, you know what I will do—I shall fly to you in Heaven, and you will hold me tight in your arms, and how could God take me away then?’ I saw that she was convinced that God could do nothing to her if she hid herself in my arms.”

“Marie loves her little sister very much; indeed she is a child who delights us all. She is extraordinarily outspoken, and it is charming to see her run after me to confess her childish faults: ‘Mamma, I have pushed Céline; I slapped her once, but I’ll not do it again.’ The moment she has done anything mischievous, everyone must know. Yesterday, without meaning to do so, she tore off a small piece of wall paper; you would have been sorry for her—she wanted to tell her father immediately. When he came home four hours later, everyone else had forgotten about it, but she ran at once to Marie saying: ‘Tell Papa that I tore the paper.’ She waited there like a criminal for sentence; but she thinks she is more easily forgiven if she accuses herself.”

Papa’s name fills me with many happy memories. Mamma laughingly said he always did whatever I wanted, but he answered: “Well, why not? She is the Queen!” Then he would lift me on to his shoulder, and caress me in all sorts of ways. Yet I cannot say that he spoilt me. I remember one day while I was swinging he called out as he passed: “Come and kiss me, little Queen.” Contrary to my usual custom, I would not stir, and answered pertly: “You must come for it, Papa.” He refused quite rightly, and went away. Marie was there and scolded me, saying: “How naughty to answer Papa like that!” Her reproof took effect; I got off the swing at once, and the whole house resounded with my cries. I hurried upstairs, not waiting this time to call Mamma at each step; my one thought was to find Papa and make my peace with him. I need not tell you that this was soon done.

I could not bear to think I had grieved my beloved parents, and I acknowledged my faults instantly, as this little anecdote, related by my Mother, will show: “One morning before going downstairs I wanted to kiss Thérèse; she seemed to be fast asleep, and I did not like to wake her, but Marie said: ‘Mamma, I am sure she is only pretending.’ So I bent down to kiss her forehead, and immediately she hid herself under the clothes, saying in the tone of a spoilt child: ‘I don’t want anyone to look at me.’ I was not pleased with her, and told her so. A minute or two afterwards I heard her crying, and was surprised to see her by my side. She had got out of her cot by herself, and had come downstairs with bare feet, stumbling over her long nightdress. Her little face was wet with tears: ‘Mamma,’ she said, throwing herself on my knee, ‘I am sorry for being naughty—forgive me!’ Pardon was quickly granted; I took the little angel in my arms and pressed her to my heart, smothering her with kisses.”

I remember also my great affection for my eldest sister Marie, who had just left school. Without seeming to do so, I took in all that I saw and heard, and I think that I reflected on things then as I do now. I listened attentively while she taught Céline, and was very good and obedient, so as to obtain the privilege of being allowed in the room during lessons. She gave me many trifling presents which pleased me greatly. I was proud of my two big sisters; but as Pauline seemed so far away from us, I thought of her all day long. When I was only just learning to talk, and Mamma asked: “What are you thinking about?” my answer invariably was: “Pauline.” Sometimes I heard people saying that Pauline would be a nun, and, without quite knowing what it meant, I thought: “I will be a nun too.” This is one of my first recollections, and I have never changed my mind; so it was the example of this beloved sister which, from the age of two, drew me to the Divine Spouse of Virgins. My dearest Mother, what tender memories of Pauline I could confide to you here! But it would take me too long.

Léonie had also a very warm place in my heart; she loved me very much, and her love was returned. In the evening when she came home from school she used to take care of me while the others went out, and it seems to me I can still hear the sweet songs she sang to put me to sleep. I remember perfectly the day of her First Communion, and I remember also her companion, the poor child whom my Mother dressed, according to the touching custom of the well-to-do families in Alençon. This child did not leave Léonie for an instant on that happy day, and in the evening at the grand dinner she sat in the place of honour. Alas! I was too small to stay up for this feast, but I shared in it a little, thanks to Papa’s goodness, for he came himself to bring his little Queen a piece of the iced cake.

The only one now left to speak of is Céline, the companion of my childhood. My memories of her are so many that I do not know which to choose. We understood each other perfectly, but I was much more forward and lively, and far less ingenuous. Here is a letter which will show you, dear Mother, how sweet was Céline, and how naughty Thérèse. I was then nearly three years old, and Céline six and a half. “Céline is naturally inclined to be good; as to the little puss, Thérèse, one cannot tell how she will turn out, she is so young and heedless. She is a very intelligent child, but has not nearly so sweet a disposition as her sister, and her stubbornness is almost unconquerable. When she has said ‘No,’ nothing will make her change; one could leave her all day in the cellar without getting her to say ‘Yes.’ She would sooner sleep there.”

I had another fault also, of which my Mother did not speak in her letters: it was self-love. Here are two instances: —One day, no doubt wishing to see how far my pride would go, she smiled and said to me, “Thérèse, if you will kiss the ground I will give you a halfpenny.” In those days a halfpenny was a fortune, and in order to gain it I had not far to stoop, for I was so tiny there was not much distance between me and the ground; but my pride was up in arms, and holding myself very erect, I said, “No, thank you, Mamma, I would rather go without it.”

Another time we were going into the country to see some friends. Mamma told Marie to put on my prettiest frock, but not to let me have bare arms. I did not say a word, and appeared as indifferent as children of that age should be, but I said to myself, “I should have looked much prettier with bare arms.”

With such a disposition I feel sure that had I been brought up by careless parents I should have become very wicked, and perhaps have lost my soul. But Jesus watched over His little Spouse, and turned even her faults to advantage, for, being checked early in life, they became a means of leading her towards perfection. For instance, as I had great self-love and an innate love of good as well, it was enough to tell me once: “You must not do that,” and I never wanted to do it again. Having only good example before my eyes, I naturally wished to follow it, and I see with pleasure in my Mother’s letters that as I grew older I began to be a greater comfort. This is what she writes in 1876: “Even Thérèse is anxious to make sacrifices. Marie has given her little sisters a string of beads on purpose to count their acts of self-denial. They have really spiritual, but very amusing, conversations together. Céline said the other day: ‘How can God be in such a tiny Host?’ Thérèse answered: ‘That is not strange, because God is Almighty!’ ‘And what does Almighty mean?’ ‘It means that He can do whatever He likes.’

“But it is more amusing still to see Thérèse put her hand in her pocket, time after time, to pull a bead along the string, whenever she makes a little sacrifice. The children are inseparable, and are quite sufficient company for one another. Nurse has given Thérèse two bantams, and every day after dinner she and Céline sit by the fire and play with them.

“One morning Thérèse got out of her cot and climbed into Céline’s. The nurse went to fetch her to be dressed, and, when at last she found her, the little thing said, hugging her sister very hard: ‘Oh, Louise! leave me here, don’t you see that we are like the little white bantams, we can’t be separated from one another.’”

It is quite true that I could not be separated from Céline; I would rather leave my dessert unfinished at table than let her go without me, and I would get down from my high chair when she did, and off we went to play together. On Sundays, as I was still too small to go to the long services, Mamma stayed at home to take care of me. I was always very good, walking about on tip-toe; but as soon as I heard the door open there was a tremendous outburst of joy—I threw myself on my dear little sister, exclaiming: “Oh, Céline! give me the blessed bread, quick!”[8] One day she had not brought any—what was to be done? I could not do without it, for I called this little feast my Mass. A bright idea struck me: “You have no blessed bread! —make some.” Céline immediately opened the cupboard, took out the bread, cut a tiny bit off, and after saying a Hail Mary quite solemnly over it, triumphantly presented it to me; and I, making the sign of the Cross, ate it with devotion, fancying it tasted exactly like the real blessed bread.

One day Léonie, thinking no doubt that she was too big to play with dolls, brought us a basket filled with clothes, pretty pieces of stuff, and other trifles on which her doll was laid: “Here, dears,” she said, “choose whatever you like.” Céline looked at it, and took a woollen ball. After thinking about it for a minute, I put out my hand saying: “I choose everything,” and I carried off both doll and basket without more ado.

This childish incident was a forecast, so to speak, of my whole life. Later on, when the way of perfection was opened out before me, I realised that in order to become a Saint one must suffer much, always seek the most perfect path, and forget oneself. I also understood that there are many degrees of holiness, that each soul is free to respond to the calls of Our Lord, to do much or little for His Love—in a word, to choose amongst the sacrifices He asks. And then also, as in the days of my childhood, I cried out: “My God, I choose everything, I will not be a Saint by halves, I am not afraid of suffering for Thee, I only fear one thing, and that is to do my own will. Accept the offering of my will, for I choose all that Thou willest.”

But, dear Mother, I am forgetting myself—I must not tell you yet of my girlhood, I am still speaking of the baby of three and four years old.

I remember a dream I had at that age which impressed itself very deeply on my memory. I thought I was walking alone in the garden when, suddenly, I saw near the arbour two hideous little devils dancing with surprising agility on a barrel of lime, in spite of the heavy irons attached to their feet. At first they cast fiery glances at me; then, as though suddenly terrified, I saw them, in the twinkling of an eye, throw themselves down to the bottom of the barrel, from which they came out somehow, only to run and hide themselves in the laundry which opened into the garden. Finding them such cowards, I wanted to know what they were going to do, and, overcoming my fears, I went to the window. The wretched little creatures were there, running about on the tables, not knowing how to hide themselves from my gaze. From time to time they came nearer, peering through the windows with an uneasy air, then, seeing that I was still there, they began to run about again looking quite desperate. Of course this dream was nothing extraordinary; yet I think Our Lord made use of it to show me that a soul in the state of grace has nothing to fear from the devil, who is a coward, and will even fly from the gaze of a little child.

Dear Mother, how happy I was at that age! I was beginning to enjoy life, and goodness itself seemed full of charms. Probably my character was the same as it is now, for even then I had great self-command, and made a practice of never complaining when my things were taken; even if I was unjustly accused, I preferred to keep silence. There was no merit in this, for I did it naturally.

How quickly those sunny years of my childhood passed away, and what tender memories they have imprinted on my mind! I remember the Sunday walks when my dear Mother always accompanied us; and I can still feel the impression made on my childish heart at the sight of the fields bright with cornflowers, poppies, and marguerites. Even at that age I loved far-stretching views, sunlit spaces and stately trees; in a word, all nature charmed me and lifted up my soul to Heaven.

Often, during these walks, we met poor people. I was always chosen to give them an alms, which made me feel very happy. Sometimes, my dear Father, knowing the way was too long for his little Queen, took me home. This was a cause of grief, and to console me Céline would fill her basket with daisies, and give them to me on her return. Truly everything on earth smiled on me; I found flowers strewn at every step, and my naturally happy disposition helped to make life bright. But a new era was about to dawn.

I was to be the Spouse of Our Lord at such an early age that it was necessary I should suffer from my childhood. As the early spring flowers begin to come up under the snow and open at the first rays of the sun, so the Little Flower whose story I am writing had to pass through the winter of trial and to have her tender cup filled with the dew of tears. ______________________________

[1] Ps. 88[89]:1.

[2] This statue twice appeared as if endowed with life, in order to enlighten and console Mme. Martin, mother of Thérèse. A like favour was granted to Thérèse herself, as will be seen in the course of the narrative.

[3] Mark 3:13.

[4] Cf. Exodus 33:19.

[5] Cf. Rom. 9:16.

[6] Cf. Ps. 22[23]:1-4.

[7] Ps. 102[103]:8.

[8] The custom still prevails in some parts of France of blessing bread at the Offertory of the Mass and then distributing it to the faithful. It is known as pain bénit. This blessing only takes place at the Parochial Mass. [Ed.]

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CHAPTER TWO – A CATHOLIC HOUSEHOLD

All the details of my Mother’s illness are still fresh in my mind. I remember especially her last weeks on earth, when Céline and I felt like poor little exiles. Every morning a friend came to fetch us, and we spent the day with her. Once, we had not had time to say our prayers before starting, and on the way my little sister whispered: “Must we tell her that we have not said our prayers?” “Yes,” I answered. So, very timidly, Céline confided our secret to her, and she exclaimed: “Well, well, children, you shall say them.” Then she took us to a large room, and left us there. Céline looked at me in amazement. I was equally astonished, and exclaimed: “This is not like Mamma, she always said our prayers with us.” During the day, in spite of all efforts to amuse us, the thought of our dear Mother was constantly in our minds. I remember once, when my sister had an apricot given to her, she leant towards me and said: “We will not eat it, I will give it to Mamma.” Alas! our beloved Mother was now too ill to eat any earthly fruit; she would never more be satisfied but by the glory of Heaven. There she would drink of the mysterious wine which Jesus, at His Last Supper, promised to share with us in the Kingdom of His Father.

The touching ceremony of Extreme Unction made a deep impression on me. I can still see the place where I knelt, and hear my poor Father’s sobs.

My dear Mother died on August 28, 1877, in her forty-sixth year. The day after her death my Father took me in his arms and said: “Come and kiss your dear Mother for the last time.” Without saying a word I put my lips to her icy forehead. I do not remember having cried much, and I did not talk to anyone of all that filled my heart; I looked and listened in silence, and I saw many things they would have hidden from me. Once I found myself close to the coffin in the passage. I stood looking at it for a long time; I had never seen one before, but I knew what it was. I was so small that I had to lift up my head to see its whole length, and it seemed to me very big and very sad.

Fifteen years later I was again standing by another coffin, that of our holy Mother Genevieve,[1] and I was carried back to the days of my childhood. Memories crowded upon me; it was the same little Thérèse who looked at it, but she had grown, and the coffin seemed small. She had not to lift up her head to it, now she only raised her eyes to contemplate Heaven which seemed to her very full of joy, for trials had matured and strengthened her soul, so that nothing on earth could make her grieve.

Our Lord did not leave me wholly an orphan; on the day of my Mother’s funeral He gave me another mother, and allowed me to choose her freely. We were all five together, looking at one another sadly, when our nurse, overcome with emotion, said, turning to Céline and to me: “Poor little dears, you no longer have a Mother.” Then Céline threw herself into Marie’s arms, crying: “Well, you will be my Mother now.” I was so accustomed to imitate Céline that I should undoubtedly have followed her example, but I feared Pauline would be sad and feel herself left out if she too had not a little daughter. So, with a loving look, I hid my face on her breast saying in my turn: “And Pauline will be my Mother.”

That day, as I have said, began the second period of my life. It was the most sorrowful of all, especially after Pauline, my second Mother, entered the Carmel; and it lasted from the time I was four years old until I was fourteen, when I recovered much of my childish gaiety, even though I understood more fully the serious side of life.

I must tell you that after my Mother’s death my naturally happy disposition completely changed. Instead of being lively and demonstrative as I had been, I became timid, shy, and extremely sensitive; a look was enough to make me burst into tears. I could not bear to be noticed or to meet strangers, and was only at ease in my own family circle. There I was always cherished with the most loving care; my Father’s affectionate heart seemed endowed with a mother’s love, and my sisters were no less tender and devoted. If Our Lord had not lavished so much love and sunshine on His Little Flower, she never could have become acclimatised to this earth. Still too weak to bear the storm, she needed warmth, refreshing dew, and soft breezes, and these gifts were never wanting to her, even in the chilling seasons of trials.

Soon after my Mother’s death, Papa made up his mind to leave Alençon and live at Lisieux, so that we might be near our uncle, my Mother’s brother. He made this sacrifice in order that my young sisters should have the benefit of their aunt’s guidance in their new life, and that she might act as a mother towards them. I did not feel any grief at leaving my native town: children love change and anything out of the common, and so I was pleased to come to Lisieux. I remember the journey quite well, and our arrival in the evening at my uncle’s house, and I can still see my little cousins, Jeanne and Marie, waiting on the doorstep with my aunt. How touching was the affection all these dear ones showed us!

The next day they took us to our new home, Les Buissonets,[2] situated in a quiet part of the town. I was charmed with the house my Father had taken. The large upper window from which there was an extensive view, the flower garden in front, and the kitchen garden at the back—all these seemed delightfully new to my childish mind; and this happy home became the scene of many joys and of family gatherings which I can never forget. Elsewhere, as I said before, I felt an exile, I cried and fretted for my Mother; but here my little heart expanded, and I smiled on life once more.

When I woke there were my sisters ready to caress me, and I said my prayers kneeling between them. Then Pauline gave me my reading lesson, and I remember that “Heaven” was the first word I could read alone. When lessons were over I went upstairs, where Papa was generally to be found, and how pleased I was when I had good marks to show. Every afternoon I went out for a walk with him, and we paid a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in one or other of the Churches. It was in this way that I first saw the Chapel of the Carmel: “Look, little Queen,” Papa said to me, “behind that big grating there are holy nuns who are always praying to Almighty God.” Little did I think that nine years later I should be amongst them, that in this blessed Carmel I should receive so many graces.

On returning home I learnt my lessons, and then spent the rest of the day playing in the garden near Papa. I never cared for dolls, but one of my favourite amusements was making coloured mixtures with seeds and the bark of trees. If the colours were pretty, I would promptly offer them to Papa in a little cup and entice him to taste them; then my dearest Father would leave his work and smilingly pretend to drink. I was very fond of flowers, and amused myself by making little altars in holes which I happened to find in the middle of my garden wall. When finished I would run and call Papa, and he seemed delighted with them. I should never stop if I told you of the thousand and one incidents of this kind that I can remember. How shall I make you understand the love that my Father lavished on his little Queen!

Those were specially happy days for me when I went fishing with my dear “King,” as I used to call him. Sometimes I tried my hand with a small rod of my own, but generally I preferred to sit on the grass some distance away. Then my reflections became really deep, and, without knowing what meditation meant, my soul was absorbed in prayer. Far-off sounds reached me, the murmuring of the wind, sometimes a few uncertain notes of music from a military band in the town a long way off; all this imparted a touch of melancholy to my thoughts. Earth seemed a place of exile, and I dreamed of Heaven.

The afternoon passed quickly away, and it was soon time to go home, but before packing up I would eat the provisions I had brought in a small basket. Somehow the slices of bread and jam, prepared by my sisters, looked different; they had seemed so tempting, and now they looked stale and uninviting. Even such a trifle as this made the earth seem sadder, and I realised that only in Heaven will there be unclouded joy.

Speaking of clouds, I remember how one day when we were out, the blue sky became overcast and a storm came on, accompanied by vivid lightning. I looked round on every side, so as to lose nothing of the grand sight. A thunderbolt fell in a field close by, and, far from feeling the least bit afraid, I was delighted—it seemed that God was so near. Papa was not so pleased, and put an end to my reverie, for already the tall grass and daisies, taller than I, were sparkling with rain-drops, and we had to cross several fields to reach the road. In spite of his fishing tackle, he carried me in his arms while I looked down in the beautiful jewelled drops, almost sorry that I could not be drenched by them.

I do not think I have told you that in our daily walks at Lisieux, as in Alençon, I often used to give alms to the beggars. One day we came upon a poor old man who dragged himself painfully along on crutches. I went up to give him a penny. He looked sadly at me for a long time, and then, shaking his head with a sorrowful smile, he refused my alms. I cannot tell you what I felt; I had wished to help and comfort him, and instead of that, I had, perhaps, hurt him and caused him pain. He must have guessed my thought, for I saw him turn round and smile at me when we were some way off.

Just then Papa bought me a cake. I wished very much to run after the old man and give it to him, for I thought: “Well, he did not want money, but I am sure he would like to have a cake.” I do not know what held me back, and I felt so sad I could hardly keep from crying; then I remembered having heard that one obtains all the favours asked for on one’s First Communion Day. This thought consoled me immediately, and though I was only six years old at the time, I said to myself: “I will pray for my poor old man on the day of my First Communion.” Five years later I faithfully kept my resolution. I have always thought that my childish prayer for this suffering member of Christ has been blessed and rewarded.

As I grew older my love of God grew more and more. I often offered my heart to Him, using the words my Mother had taught me, and I tried very hard to please Him in all my actions, taking great care never to offend Him. And yet one day I committed a fault which I must tell you here—it gives me a good opportunity of humbling myself, though I believe I have grieved over it with perfect contrition.

It was the month of May, 1878. My sisters decided that I was too small to go to the May devotions every evening, so I stayed at home with the nurse and said my prayers with her before the little altar which I had arranged according to my own taste. Everything was small—candlesticks, vases, and the rest; two wax vestas were quite sufficient to light it up properly. Sometimes Victoire, the maid, gave me some little bits of real candle, but not often.

One evening, when we went to our prayers, I said to her: “Will you begin the Memorare? I am going to light the candles.” She tried to begin, and then looked at me and burst out laughing. Seeing my precious vestas burning quickly away, I begged her once more to say the Memorare. Again there was silence, broken only by bursts of laughter. All my natural good temper deserted me. I got up feeling dreadfully angry, and, stamping my foot furiously, I cried out: “Victoire, you naughty girl!” She stopped laughing at once, and looked at me in utter astonishment, then showed me—too late—the surprise she had in store hidden under her apron—two pieces of candle. My tears of anger were soon changed into tears of sorrow; I was very much ashamed and grieved, and made a firm resolution never to act in such a way again.

Shortly after this I made my first confession.[3] It is a very sweet memory. Pauline had warned me: “Thérèse, darling, it is not to a man but to God Himself that you are going to tell your sins.” I was so persuaded of this that I asked her quite seriously if I should not tell Father Ducellier that I loved him “with my whole heart,” as it was really God I was going to speak to in his person.

Well instructed as to what I was to do, I entered the confessional, and turning round to the priest, so as to see him better, I made my confession and received absolution in a spirit of lively faith—my sister having assured me that at this solemn moment the tears of the Holy Child Jesus would purify my soul. I remember well that he exhorted me above all to a tender devotion towards Our Lady, and I promised to redouble my love for her who already filled so large a place in my heart. Then I passed him my Rosary to be blessed, and came out of the Confessional more joyful and lighthearted than I had ever felt before. It was evening, and as soon as I got to a street lamp I stopped and took the newly blessed Rosary out of my pocket, turning it over and over. “What are you looking at, Thérèse, dear?” asked Pauline. “I am seeing what a blessed Rosary looks like.” This childish answer amused my sisters very much. I was deeply impressed by the graces I had received, and wished to go to confession again for all the big feasts, for these confessions filled me with joy. The feasts! What precious memories these simple words bring to me. I loved them; and my sisters knew so well how to explain the mysteries hidden in each one. Those days of earth became days of Heaven. Above all I loved the procession of the Blessed Sacrament: what a joy it was to strew flowers in God’s path! But before scattering them on the ground I threw them high in the air, and was never so happy as when I saw my rose-leaves touch the sacred Monstrance.

And if the great feasts came but seldom, each week brought one very dear to my heart, and that was Sunday. What a glorious day! The Feast of God! The day of rest! First of all the whole family went to High Mass, and I remember that before the sermon we had to come down from our places, which were some way from the pulpit, and find seats in the nave. This was not always easy, but to little Thérèse and her Father everyone offered a place. My uncle was delighted when he saw us come down; he called me his “Sunbeam,” and said that to see the venerable old man leading his little daughter by the hand was a sight which always filled him with joy. I never troubled myself if people looked at me, I was only occupied in listening attentively to the preacher. A sermon on the Passion of our Blessed Lord was the first I understood, and it touched me deeply. I was then five and a half, and after that time I was able to understand and appreciate all instructions. If St. Teresa was mentioned, my Father would bend down and whisper to me: “Listen attentively, little Queen, he is speaking of your holy patroness.” I really did listen attentively, but I must own I looked at Papa more than at the preacher, for I read many things in his face. Sometimes his eyes were filled with tears which he strove in vain to keep back; and as he listened to the eternal truths he seemed no longer of this earth, his soul was absorbed in the thought of another world. Alas! Many long and sorrowful years had to pass before Heaven was to be opened to him, and Our Lord with His Own Divine Hand was to wipe away the bitter tears of His faithful servant.

To go back to the description of our Sundays. This happy day which passed so quickly had also its touch of melancholy; my happiness was full till Compline, but after that a feeling of sadness took possession of me. I thought of the morrow when one had to begin again the daily life of work and lessons, and my heart, feeling like an exile on this earth, longed for the repose of Heaven—the never ending Sabbath of our true Home. Every Sunday my aunt invited us in turns to spend the evening with her. I was always glad when mine came, and it was a pleasure to listen to my uncle’s conversation. His talk was serious, but it interested me, and he little knew that I paid such attention; but my joy was not unmixed with fear when he took me on his knee and sang “Bluebeard” in his deep voice.

About eight o’clock Papa would come to fetch me. I remember that I used to look up at the stars with inexpressible delight. Orion’s belt fascinated me especially, for I saw in it a likeness to the letter “T.” “Look, Papa,” I would cry, “my name is written in Heaven!” Then, not wishing to see this dull earth any longer, I asked him to lead me, and with my head thrown back, I gazed unweariedly at the starry skies.

I could tell you much about our winter evenings at home. After a game of draughts my sisters read aloud Dom Guéranger’s Liturgical Year, and then a few pages of some other interesting and instructive book. While this was going on I established myself on Papa’s knee, and when the reading was done he used to sing soothing snatches of melody in his beautiful voice, as if to lull me to sleep, and I would lay my head on his breast while he rocked me gently to and fro.

Later on we went upstairs for night prayers, and there again my place was beside my beloved Father, and I had only to look at him to know how the Saints pray. Pauline put me to bed, and I invariably asked her: “Have I been good to-day? Is God pleased with me? Will the Angels watch over me?” The answer was always “Yes,” otherwise I should have spent the whole night in tears. After these questions my sisters kissed me, and little Thérèse was left alone in the dark.

I look on it as a real grace that from childhood I was taught to overcome my fears. Sometimes in the evening Pauline would send me to fetch something from a distant room; she would take no refusal, and she was quite right, for otherwise I should have become very nervous, whereas now it is difficult to frighten me. I wonder sometimes how my little Mother was able to bring me up with so much tenderness, and yet without spoiling me, for she did not pass over the least fault. It is true she never scolded me without cause, and I knew well she would never change her mind when once a thing was decided upon.

To this dearly loved sister I confided my most intimate thoughts; she cleared up all my doubts. One day I expressed surprise that God does not give an equal amount of glory to all the elect in Heaven—I was afraid that they would not all be quite happy. She sent me to fetch Papa’s big tumbler, and put it beside my tiny thimble, then, filling both with water, she asked me which seemed the fuller. I replied that one was as full as the other—it was impossible to pour more water into either of them, for they could not hold it. In this way Pauline made it clear to me that in Heaven the least of the Blessed does not envy the happiness of the greatest; and so, by bringing the highest mysteries down to the level of my understanding, she gave my soul the food it needed.

Joyfully each year I welcomed the prize day. Though I was the only competitor, justice was none the less strictly observed, and I never received rewards unless they were well merited. My heart used to beat with excitement when I heard the decisions, and in presence of the whole family received prizes from Papa’s hands. It was to me like a picture of the Judgment Day!

Seeing Papa so cheerful, no suspicion of the terrible trials which awaited him crossed my mind; but one day God showed me, in an extraordinary vision, a vivid picture of the trouble to come. My Father was away on a journey, and could not return as early as usual. It was about two or three o’clock in the afternoon; the sun was shining brightly, and all the world seemed gay. I was alone at the window, looking on to the kitchen garden, my mind full of cheerful thoughts, when I saw before me, in front of the wash-house, a man dressed exactly like Papa, of the same height and appearance, but more bent and aged. I say aged, to describe his general appearance, for I did not see his face as his head was covered with a thick veil. He advanced slowly, with measured step, along my little garden; at that instant a feeling of supernatural fear seized me, and I called out loudly in a trembling voice: “Papa, Papa!” The mysterious person seemed not to hear, he continued his walk without even turning, and went towards a clump of firs which grew in the middle of the garden. I expected to see him reappear at the other side of the big trees, but the prophetic vision had vanished.

It was all over in a moment, but it was a moment which impressed itself so deeply on my memory that even now, after so many years, the remembrance of it is as vivid as the vision itself.

My sisters were all together in an adjoining room. Hearing me call “Papa!” they were frightened themselves, but Marie, hiding her feelings, ran to me and said: “Why are you calling Papa, when he is at Alençon?” I told her what I had seen, and to reassure me they said that Nurse must have covered her head with her apron on purpose to frighten me. Victoire, however, when questioned, declared she had not left the kitchen—besides, the truth was too deeply impressed on my mind: I had seen a man, and that man was exactly like my Father. We all went to look behind the clump of trees, and, finding nothing, my sisters told me to think no more about it. Ah, that was not in my power! Often and often my imagination brought before me this mysterious vision, often and often I tried to raise the veil which hid its true meaning, and deep down in my heart I had a conviction that some day it would be fully revealed to me. And you know all, dear Mother. You know that it was really my Father whom God showed me, bent by age, and bearing on his venerable face and his white head the symbol of his terrible trial.[4]

As the Adorable Face of Jesus was veiled during His Passion, so it was fitting that the face of His humble servant should be veiled during the days of his humiliation, in order that it might shine with greater brilliancy in Heaven. How I admire God’s ways! He showed us this precious cross beforehand, as a father shows his children the glorious future he is preparing for them—a future which will bring them an inheritance of priceless treasures.

But a thought comes into my mind: “Why did God give this light to a child who, if she had understood it, would have died of grief?” “Why?” Here is one of those incomprehensible mysteries which we shall only understand in Heaven, where they will be the subject of our eternal admiration. My God, how good Thou art! How well dost Thou suit the trial to our strength!

At that time I had not courage even to think that Papa could die, without being terrified. One day he was standing on a high step-ladder, and as I was close by he called out: “Move away, little Queen; if I fall I shall crush you.” Instantly I felt an inward shock, and, going still nearer to the ladder, I thought: “At least if Papa falls I shall not have the pain of seeing him die, for I shall die with him.” I could never say how much I loved him. I admired everything he did. When he explained his ideas on serious matters, as if I were a big girl, I answered him naïvely: “It is quite certain, Papa, that if you spoke like that to the great men who govern the country they would take you and make you King. Then France would be happier than it was ever been; but you would be unhappy, because that is the lot of kings; besides you would no longer be my King alone, so I am glad that they do not know you.”

When I was six or seven years old I saw the sea for the first time. The sight made a deep impression on me, I could not take my eyes off it. Its majesty, and the roar of the waves, all spoke to my soul of the greatness and power of God. I remember, when we were on the beach, a man and woman looked at me for a long time, then, asking Papa if I was his child, they remarked that I was a very pretty little girl. Papa at once made a sign to them not to flatter me; I was delighted to hear what they said, for I did not think I was pretty. My sisters were most careful never to talk before me in such a way as to spoil my simplicity and childish innocence; and, because I believed so implicitly in them, I attached little importance to the admiration of these people and thought no more about it.

That evening at the hour when the sun seems to sink into the vast ocean, leaving behind it a trail of glory, I sat with Pauline on a bare rock, and gazed for long on this golden furrow which she told me was an image of grace illumining the way of faithful souls here below. Then I pictured my soul as a tiny barque, with a graceful white sail, in the midst of the furrow, and I resolved never to let it withdraw from the sight of Jesus, so that it might sail peacefully and quickly towards the Heavenly Shore.

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[1] This holy nun had been professed at the Carmel of Poitiers, and was sent from there to make the foundation at Lisieux in 1838. Her memory is held in benediction in both these convents; in the sight of God she constantly practised the most heroic virtue, and on December 5, 1891, crowned a life of good works by a holy death. She was then eighty-six years of age.

[2] This house, an object of deep interest to the clients of Soeur Thérèse, is much frequented by pilgrims to Lisieux. [Ed.]

[3] This first confession was made in the beautiful church of St. Pierre, formerly the cathedral of Lisieux. [Ed.]

[4] It seems advisable, on account of the vague allusions which occur here and elsewhere, to state what happened to M. Louis Martin. At the age of sixty-six, having already had several partial attacks, he was struck with general paralysis, and his mind gave way altogether.

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