Thursday, October 04, 2007


Pauline (Sister Agnes of Jesus) was the only one who encouraged me in my vocation; Marie thought I was too young, and you, dear Mother, no doubt to prove me, tried to restrain my ardour. From the start I encountered nothing but difficulties. Then, too, I dared not speak of it to Céline, and this silence pained me deeply; it was so hard to have a secret she did not share. However, this dear sister soon found out my intention, and, far from wishing to keep me back, she accepted the sacrifice with wonderful courage. As she also wished to be a nun, she ought to have been given the first opportunity; but, imitating the martyrs of old, who used joyfully to embrace those chosen to go before them into the arena, she allowed me to leave her, and took my troubles as much to heart as if it were a question of her own vocation. From Céline, then, I had nothing to fear, but I did not know how to set about telling Papa. How could his little Queen talk of leaving him when he had already parted with his two eldest daughters? Moreover, this year he had been stricken with a serious attack of paralysis, and though he recovered quickly we were full of anxiety for the future. What struggles I went through before I could make up my mind to speak! But I had to act decisively; I was now fourteen and a half, and in six months' time the blessed feast of Christmas would be here. I had resolved to enter the Carmel at the same hour at which a year before I had received the grace of conversion. I chose the feast of Pentecost on which to make my great disclosure. All day I was praying for light from the Holy Ghost, and begging the Apostles to pray for me, to inspire me with the words I ought to use. Were they not the very ones to help a timid child whom God destines to become an apostle of apostles by prayer and sacrifice?
In the afternoon, when Vespers were over, I found the opportunity I wanted. My Father was sitting in the garden, his hands clasped, admiring the wonders of nature. The rays of the setting sun gilded the tops of the tall trees, and the birds chanted their evening prayer. His beautiful face wore a heavenly expression-I could feel that his soul was full of peace. Without a word, I sat down by his side, my eyes already wet with tears. He looked at me with indescribable tenderness, and, pressing me to his heart, said: "What is it, little Queen? Tell me everything." Then, in order to hide his own emotion, he rose and walked slowly up and down, still holding me close to him. Through my tears I spoke of the Carmel and of my great wish to enter soon. He, too, wept, but did not say a word to turn me from my vocation; he only told me that I was very young to make such a grave decision, and as I insisted, and fully explained my reasons, my noble and generous Father was soon convinced. We walked about for a long time; my heart was lightened, and Papa no longer shed tears. He spoke to me as Saints speak, and showed me some flowers growing in the low stone wall. Picking one of them, he gave it to me, and explained the loving care with which God had made it spring up and grow till now. I fancied myself listening to my own story, so close was the resemblance between the little flower and little Thérèse. I received this floweret as a relic, and noticed that in gathering it my Father had pulled it up by the roots without breaking them; it seemed destined to live on, but in other and more fertile soil. Papa had just done the same for me. He allowed me to leave the sweet valley, where I had passed the first years of my life, for the mountain of Carmel. I fastened my little white flower to a picture of Our Lady of Victories-- the Blessed Virgin smiles on it, and the Infant Jesus seems to hold it in His Hand. It is there still, but the stalk is broken close to the root. God doubtless wishes me to understand that He will soon break all the earthly ties of His Little Flower and will not leave her to wither on this earth. Having obtained my Father's consent, I thought I could now fly to the Carmel without hindrance. Far from it! When I told my uncle of my project, he declared that to enter such a severe Order at the age of fifteen seemed to him against all common sense, and that it would be doing a wrong to religion to let a child embrace such a life. He added that he should oppose it in every way possible, and that nothing short of a miracle would make him change his mind.
I could see that all arguments were useless, so I left him, my heart weighed down by profound sadness. My only consolation was prayer. I entreated Our Lord to work this miracle for me because thus only could I respond to His appeal. Some time went by, and my uncle did not seem even to remember our conversation, though I learnt later that it had been constantly in his thoughts. Before allowing a ray of hope to shine on my soul, Our Lord deigned to send me another most painful trial which lasted for three days. Never had I understood so well the bitter grief of Our Lady and St. Joseph when they were searching the streets of Jerusalem for the Divine Child. I seemed to be in a frightful desert, or rather, my soul was like a frail skiff, without a pilot, at the mercy of the stormy waves. I knew that Jesus was there asleep in my little boat, but how could I see Him while the night was so dark? If the storm had really broken, a flash of lightning would perhaps have pierced the clouds that hung over me: even though it were but a passing ray, it would have enabled me to catch a momentary glimpse of the Beloved of my heart--but this was denied me. Instead, it was night, dark night, utter desolation, death! Like my Divine Master in the Agony in the Garden, I felt that I was alone, and found no comfort on earth or in Heaven. Nature itself seemed to share my bitter sadness, for during these three days there was not a ray of sunshine and the rain fell in torrents. I have noticed again and again that in all the important events of my life nature has reflected my feelings. When I wept, the skies wept with me; when I rejoiced, no cloud darkened the blue of the heavens. On the fourth day, a Saturday, I went to see my uncle. What was my surprise when I found his attitude towards me entirely changed! He invited me into his study, a privilege I had not asked for; then, after gently reproaching me for being a little constrained with him, he told me that the miracle of which he had spoken was no longer needed. He had prayed God to guide his heart aright, and his prayer had been heard. I felt as if I hardly knew him, he seemed so different. He embraced me with fatherly affection, saying with much feeling: "Go in peace, my dear child, you are a privileged little flower which Our Lord wishes to gather. I will put no obstacle in the way." Joyfully I went home. . . . The clouds had quite disappeared from the sky, and in my soul also dark night was over. Jesus had awakened to gladden my heart. I no longer heard the roar of the waves. Instead of the bitter wind of trial, a light breeze swelled my sail, and I fancied myself safe in port. Alas! more than one storm was yet to rise, sometimes even making me fear that I should be driven, without hope of return, from the shore which I longed to reach. I had obtained my uncle's consent, only to be told by you, dear Mother, that the Superior of the Carmelites would not allow me to enter till I was twenty-one. No one had dreamt of this serious opposition, the hardest of all to overcome. And yet, without losing courage, I went with Papa to lay my request before him. He received me very coldly, and could not be induced to change his mind. We left him at last with a very decided "No." "Of course," he added, "I am only the Bishop's delegate; if he allows you to enter, I shall have nothing more to say." When we came out of the Presbytery again, it was raining in torrents, and my soul, too, was overcast with heavy clouds. Papa did not know how to console me, but he promised, if I wished, to take me to Bayeux to see the Bishop, and to this I eagerly consented.

Many things happened, however, before we were able to go. To all appearances my life seemed to continue as formerly. I went on studying, and, what is more important, I went on growing in the love of God. Now and then I experienced what were indeed raptures of love. One evening, not knowing in what words to tell Our Lord how much I loved him, and how much I wished that He was served and honoured everywhere, I thought sorrowfully that from the depths of hell there does not go up to Him one single act of love. Then, from my inmost heart, I cried out that I would gladly be cast into that place of torment and blasphemy so that He might be eternally loved even there. This could not be for His Glory, since He only wishes our happiness, but love feels the need of saying foolish things. If I spoke in this way, it was not that I did not long to go to Heaven, but for me Heaven was nothing else than Love, and in my ardour I felt that nothing could separate me from the Divine Being Who held me captive. About this time Our Lord gave me the consolation of an intimate knowledge of the souls of children. I gained it in this way. During the illness of a poor woman, I interested myself in her two little girls, the elder of whom was not yet six. It was a real pleasure to see how simply they believed all that I told them. Baptism does indeed plant deeply in our souls the theological virtues, since from early childhood the hope of heavenly reward is strong enough to make us practise self-denial. When I wanted my two little girls to be specially kind to one another, instead of promising them toys and sweets, I talked to them about the eternal recompense the Holy Child Jesus would give to good children. The elder one, who was coming to the use of reason, used to look quite pleased and asked me charming questions about the little Jesus and His beautiful Heaven. She promised me faithfully always to give in to her little sister, adding that all through her life she would never forget what I had taught her. I used to compare these innocent souls to soft wax, ready to receive any impression--evil, alas! as well as good, and I understood the words of Our Lord: "It were better to be thrown into the sea than to scandalise one of these little ones." Cf. Matt. 18:6

fragments form "The Story of a Soul" (L'Histoire d'une Âme): The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux With Additional Writings and Sayings of St. Thérèse. Free download available from