Thursday, October 05, 2006


part five

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

How many souls might attain to great sanctity if only they were directed aright from the first! I know God has not need of anyone to help Him in His work of sanctification, but as He allows a clever gardener to cultivate rare and delicate plants, giving him the skill to accomplish it, while reserving to Himself the right of making them grow, so does He wish to be helped in the cultivation of souls. What would happen if an ignorant gardener did not graft his trees in the right way? if he did not understand the nature of each, and wished, for instance, to make roses grow on peach trees? This reminds me that I used to have among my birds a canary which sang beautifully, and also a little linnet taken from the nest, of which I was very fond. This poor little prisoner, deprived of the teaching it should have received from its parents, and hearing the joyous trills of the canary from morning to night, tried hard to imitate them. A difficult task indeed for a linnet! It was delightful to follow the efforts of the poor little thing; his sweet voice found great difficulty in accommodating itself to the vibrant notes of his master, but he succeeded in time, and, to my great surprise, his song became exactly like the song of the canary.
Oh, dear Mother, you know who taught me to sing from the days of my earliest childhood! You know the voices which drew me on. And now I trust that one day, in spite of my weakness, I may sing for ever the Canticle of Love, the harmonious notes of which I have often heard sweetly sounding here below. But where am I? These thoughts have carried me too far, and I must
resume the history of my vocation. On October 31, 1887, alone with Papa, I started for Bayeux, my heart full of hope, but also excited at the idea of presenting myself at the Bishop's house. For the first time in my life, I was going to pay a visit without any of my sisters, and this to aBishop. I, who had never yet had to speak except to answer questions addressed to me, would have to explain and enlarge on my reasons for begging to enter the Carmel, and so give proofs of the genuineness of my vocation. It cost me a great effort to overcome my shyness sufficiently to do this. But it is true that Love knows no such word as "impossible," for it deems "all things possible, all things allowed." Nothing whatsoever but the love of Jesus could have made me face these difficulties and others which followed, for I had to purchase my happiness by heavy trials. Now, it is true, I think I bought it very cheaply, and I would willingly bear a thousand times more bitter suffering to gain it, if it were not already mine. When we reached the Bishop's house, the floodgates of Heaven seemed open once more. The Vicar-General, Father Révérony, who had settled the date of our coming, received us very kindly, though he looked a little surprised, and seeing tears in my eyes said: "Those diamonds must not be shown to His Lordship!" We were ledthrough large reception-rooms which made me feel how small I was, and I wondered what I should dare say. The Bishop was walking in a corridor with two Priests. I saw the Vicar-General speak a few words to him, then they came into the room where we were waiting. There were three large armchairs in front of the fireplace, where a bright fire blazed. As his Lordship entered, my Father and I knelt for his blessing; then he made us sit down. Father Révérony offered me the armchair in the middle. I excused myself politely, but he insisted, telling me to show if I knew how to obey. I did so without any more hesitation, and was mortified to see him take an ordinary chair while I was buried in an enormous seat that would comfortably have held four children like me-- more comfortably in fact, for I was far from being at ease. I hoped that Papa was going to do all the talking, but he told me to explain the reason of our visit. I did so as eloquently as I could, though I knew well that one word from the Superior would have carried more weight than all my reasons, while his opposition told strongly against me. The Bishop asked how long I had wanted to enter the Carmel. "A very long time, my Lord!" "Come!" said the Vicar-General, laughing, "it cannot be as long as fifteen years." "That is true," I
answered, "but it is not much less, for I have wished to give myself to God from the time I was three." The Bishop, no doubt to please Papa, tried to explain that I ought to remain some time longer with him; but, to his great surprise and edification, my Father took my part, adding respectfully that we were going to Rome with the diocesan pilgrimage, and that I should not hesitate to speak to the Holy Father if I could not obtain permission before then. However, it was decided that, previous to giving an answer, an interview with the Superior was absolutely necessary. This was particularly unpleasant hearing, for I knew his declared and determined opposition; and, in spite of the advice not to allow the Bishop to see any diamonds, I not only showed them but let them fall. He seemed touched, and caressed me fondly. I was afterwards told he had never treated any child so kindly. "All is not lost, little one," he said, "but I am very glad that you are going to Rome with your good Father; you will thus strengthen your vocation. Instead of weeping, you ought to rejoice. I am going to Lisieux next week, and I will talk to the Superior about you. You shall certainly have my answer when you are in Italy." His Lordship then took us to the garden, and was much interested when Papa told him that, to make myself look older, I had put up my hair for the first time that very morning. This was not forgotten, for I know that even now, whenever the Bishop tells anyone about his "little daughter," he always repeats the story about her hair. I must say I should prefer my little secret to have been kept. As he took us to the door, the Vicar-General remarked that such a thing had never been seen--a father as anxious to give his child to God as the child was to offer herself. We had to return to Lisieux without a favourable answer. It seemed to me as though my future were shattered for ever; the nearer I drew to the goal, the greater my difficulties became. But all the time I felt deep down in my heart a wondrous peace, because I knew that I was only seeking the Will of my Lord.